14 January 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Be Careful What You Wish For by Jeffrey Archer

Title: Be Careful What You Wish For
Author: Jeffrey Archer
Genre: Drama, business, family, politics
Publisher: Macmillan
Publication Date: 13th March 2014
Goodreads Summary: Bestselling author Jeffrey Archer's Be Careful What You Wish For opens with Harry Clifton and his wife Emma rushing to hospital to learn the fate of their son Sebastian, who has been involved in a fatal car accident. But who died, Sebastian or his best friend Bruno?

When Ross Buchanan is forced to resign as chairman of the Barrington Shipping Company, Emma Clifton wants to replace him. But Don Pedro Martinez intends to install his puppet, the egregious Major Alex Fisher, in order to destroy the Barrington family firm just as the company plans to build its new luxury liner, the MV Buckingham.

Back in London, Harry and Emma’s adopted daughter wins a scholarship to the Slade Academy of Art where she falls in love with a fellow student, Clive Bingham, who asks her to marry him. Both families are delighted until Priscilla Bingham, Jessica’s future mother-in-law, has a visit from an old friend, Lady Virginia Fenwick, who drops her particular brand of poison into the wedding chalice.

Then, without warning, Cedric Hardcastle, a bluff Yorkshireman who no one has come across before, takes his place on the board of Barringtons. This causes an upheaval that none of them could have anticipated, and will change the lives of every member of the Clifton and Barrington families. Hardcastle’s first decision is who to support to become the next chairman of the board: Emma Clifton or Major Alex Fisher? And with that decision, the story takes yet another twist that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Be Careful What You Wish For showcases the master storyteller’s talent as never before – when the Clifton and Barrington families march forward into the sixties, in this epic tale of love, revenge, ambition and betrayal.

[ Review ]

Be Careful What You Wish For is the fourth book in The Clifton Chronicles by Jeffrey Archer (something that I didn't realise until I'd finished reading the book so silly me). It begins with a car crash involving two young men, but we are uncertain as to which one was killed in the crash. It turns out there is a feud between the families of the two boys and Don Pedro Martinez is trying to bring down the esteemed Barrington family. Throughout the book we see various different plots to destroy the Barrington's family shipping business but whether Don Pedro Martinez is successful in his plans will remain a mystery... 

I have to be honest, I didn't think that I was going to like this book before I started reading it, nor when I had read 150 pages of it. It was not until after I'd read about a third of the book did it really begin to pique my interest. This book contains several passages which have either strong political or financial themes and I found these parts of the books much less accessible as a reader. That said, I haven't read many political novels or anything of the sort so this was very much a new reading experience for me and I imagine existing Archer fans would've greatly enjoyed these details passages.

The plot gets more and more complicated as time goes on and you begin to see how all the different characters fit into the action but Archer keeps the motives and relations between characters under wraps for the most part of the book. Archer is incredibly good at keeping the reader in suspense and weaving a tale so thick that it's impossible to predict what's coming next. There's a lot of two-ing and fro-ing in this novel as you see the Barrington's and the Martinez's fight to destroy the reputation of the other and there's absolutely no way of predicting the results of each party's ploys. This story gets more and more exciting as it goes on, constantly surprising the reader with new and game-changing information that throws what you thought you knew about the story out the window. If you like to be kept on your toes, then this is the series for you.  

Perhaps this was because I haven't read the previous books in the series, but I didn't really feel like I connected with any of the characters. This is not the story of one person, but the intersecting and overlapping stories of many, many characters. As a result, it is not only hard to to wrap your head around who's who, but also to form any sort of emotional attachment to any character. This was a disappointment, but did not necessarily let the book down. The complex nature of the plot means that this book is very much about what is happening, rather than what each character feels about what is happening. Another factor is that the character's don't have very strong relationships between each other so there isn't anything for the reader to connect with. Instead, you remain removed from the busy plot but your interest is still maintained because you want to find out which character's plans will ultimately succeed. The characters have a business-like relationship with each other and thus I felt like I had a business-like relationship with the book. This story was created to entertain me and entertain me it did.

All in all, Be Careful What You Wish For was a highly entertaining novel (once it got going) and I would highly recommend it to existing Archer fans and to those that have never read his books I suggest you pick one up. This book ends on one hell of a cliffhanger so I am eager to get my hands on the next instalment of The Clifton Chronicles (released in February this year). This book takes quite a bit of time to get your head around but if you're a fan of political or business-related drama, entwined with family drama, then this is the series for you.


I received this book as part of the #StressFreeReading campaign a long time ago and it's taken me ages to get this post up but I'd just like to say thank you to everyone behind the campaign at StressFreePrint, Kristina Bergwall in particular. Along with this book I received a gorgeous tin full of different teas, no doubt an essential for stress free reading, as well as a hot water bottle. I wouldn't say that Be Careful What You Wish For is the most suitable read it you're looking for #StressFreeReading, but what better way to start the new year than with a curled up with a  cup of tea, a hot water bottle and a bestselling book?

25 December 2014

iPhone 5 cases: Trust Me You Can Dance -Vodka (Mobile Madhouse)

It's Christmas Day and I'M BACK. Sorry to all my followers for my prolonged absence (I think it's been over a month?!), but my university workload is much heavier this year and I have no time for reading/blogging during term time :(


Having a phone case that is deemed 'fashionable' or 'edgy' has become an issue for anyone with a smartphone. There are so many different types of cases out there and most major fashion houses have created their own designer cases too. Whilst street vendors used to be seen selling pirate DVDs, they're now selling knock-off phone cases, and more and more of them are appearing with each passing day. For those of us who can't afford a Moschino iPhone case - never fear! Mobile Madhouse has lots of snazzy phone cases that you can get your hands on.

About the case
This case, made by Caseflex, is for the iPhone 5/5S made of a tough, lightweight polycarbonate shell. It's dark blue/purple in colour with multicoloured bubbles covering it and the quote 'TRUST ME YOU CAN DANCE" -Vodka on the back. 

What's good about it
The case wraps snugly around the iPhone and is cut perfectly around the edges so your phone remains thin and sleek. What's most annoying about these cases that just wrap around your phone is that they're usually incredibly hard to put on and remove but surprisingly, that is not an issue at all with this case. It snaps on and off very easily, without much bending so I doubt there's much risk of it breaking in the process. This is most convenient if you, like me, have a large collection of phone cases and like to change them frequently. 

Although this case is made from a hard plastic material, it is still incredibly light and doesn't really add any weight to your phone which is a major plus. I've been using this case for a few days now and it's constantly being thrown in and out of my bag but so far it has remained unscratched with no chips. In addition, all the ports and buttons around the edge of the phone are still accessible and the case does not get in the way at all. 

What's not so good about it
This isn't really a negative point, just something to note: the case is significantly darker in colour than in the picture on the website. In addition, the case is shiny and has a 'gloss' finish, as opposed to a matte one as the picture indicates. The edges of the case do not rise above the screen which means that your screen is virtually unprotected with this case so I would highly recommend getting a protective sticker for your screen, just in case. 

Final thoughts...
This is a fun case that is evidently also of a very good quality - a rare combination these days. I have ordered a Caseflex iPhone 5 case from Mobile Madhouse before, which I was very pleased with (see review here), and I am currently alternating between that one and this new one. I love the quote on the back and this is the perfect lightweight case for carrying your phone around on a day-to-day basis. What's more, there's free delivery if you purchase it from Mobile Madhouse! 

Get yourself this case here, or to see their other iPhone 5 cases, click here.

*This case was provided by Mobile Madhouse in exchange for an honest review. All opinion are 100% my own. 

8 November 2014


Only one word can really describe how I felt leaving the screening of Gone Girl this week.


The story begins when protagonist Nick Dunne (Affleck), receives a call from a nosy neighbour whilst at work, alerting him to the fact that his front door is wide open and his cat is sat outside the house. Nick returns home to find his wife, Amy (Pike), gone and glass tables overturned. It’s Nick and Amy’s fifth wedding anniversary and something is amiss.

The police are called and an investigation follows. This investigation soon becomes America’s biggest news story as the media discovers that Amy, a beautiful New Yorker, and the inspiration for America’s favourite children’s books, Amazing Amy, is presumed to have been murdered by her cool and calm husband, Nick.

I did not kill my wife. I am not a murderer.

These two phrases are repeated again and again by Nick as he becomes the primary suspect in the investigation into his wife’s disappearance. As time goes on you begin to hate Nick more and more as it becomes glaringly obvious that he has been lying to the police and is withholding information.

True to the book, this film is told from the alternating perspective of Nick and Amy. Nick’s narrative is told in the present, whilst Amy’s gives us a glimpse into how the relationship between Nick and herself has developed over the course of their marriage. It is from Amy’s narration that you begin to see the cracks in Nick’s story – or is it the other way round? Is Nick lying? Or is Amy lying? Maybe they’re both lying? (Good luck trying to wrap your head around this one.)

You ever hear the expression that the simplest answer is often the correct one? Actually, I’ve never found that to be true.

Keep this in mind when you think of Gone Girl, because I guarantee that you will not be able to predict the outcome of this film. Around half way through this film, a huge plot twist is revealed that changes everything. Prior to this game changer you’re probably thinking that you’ve got it all sussed and wondering how they could possibly drag out the outcome of this story for another one and a half hours. Perhaps if you’re a thriller fanatic, you’re still not quite convinced that all is as it seems, but either way, you won’t be prepared for just how dark and disturbing this film gets. When you think that this story has reached its peak, it just gets darker and darker and darker to the point where you begin to seriously question the mental stability of the scriptwriter, and author, Gillian Flynn. How could someone write a tale this disturbing? Possibly the most disturbing thing, however, is that this film ends with a cliff-hanger – the story is not over and I dread to think where Fincher and Flynn will take us next.

Quite simply, this film is a masterpiece. Gone Girl combines a darkly chilling tale that cleverly analyses some of the big questions of our time (including gender stereotypes, marriage, even the obsession with celebrity) with a near perfect cast and script, all of which is delivered under Fincher’s brilliant direction. Rosamund Pike’s performance as Amy will stay with you long after you have left the cinema screen in what is probably one of the most mesmerising performances of the year, which places her as a serious contender for ‘Best Actress’ at next year’s Oscars. Gone Girl also stands in good stead to be nominated for numerous other awards, Best Score, Best Editing, Best Director and Best Picture just to name a few, but with a few months to go, we’ll just have to wait and see. Impeccably crafted, this is not one to miss.  

28 October 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Never Too Late To Be Great by Tom Butler-Bowdon

Title: Never Too Late To Be Great
Author: Tom Butler-Bowdon
Genre: Non-fiction, Self-help
Publisher: Ebury Publishing
Publication Date: 22nd March 2012
Goodreads Summary: Never Too Late to be Great is about the power of thinking long. Exposing the myth of 'overnight' success, author and motivational speaker Tom Butler-Bowdon shows us that contrary to popular belief, people, companies, products and ideas invariably need a long time to realise their potential.

Highlighting the importance of the 'ten-year rule' as referred to in Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers, which suggests that significant achievements rarely happen without a decade of intense work and practice in any given area, Never Too Late to be Great offers inspiration for the impatient or disheartened to stay the course, and gives reassurance to us all that we have more time than we think to achieve our goals. 

{ Review } 

So as I've said in previous reviews, I'm currently making my way through books that I've found at the back of my bookshelf that I said I'd reviews years ago - literally years ago. I received Never Too Late To Be Great back in 2012 as part of the Goodreads First Reads programme but I've been putting it off because I was the greatest fan of non-fiction back then and I thought this book looked dull and uninteresting. How wrong was I! Never Too Late To Be Great has actually proved to be pretty inspirational so it's true - never judge a book by its cover. 

Never Too Late To Be Great is, as you can imagine, a non-fiction book about how it's never too late to achieve your dreams and that despite what popular opinion is about numerous billionaires who were 'overnight successes', it takes years and years of work and effort, even if it's subconscious, to achieve one's goals. This book is made up of nine chapters, each one discussing either how important a certain decade in one's life or how one's potential in life progresses, through the use of numerous examples of celebrities and million, even billionaires. Each chapter begins with the thoughts of the author, followed by examples of others who exemplify what he has said, ending with a brief summary of many other achievers. 

Never Too Late To Be Great gets off to a great start. I was completely sucked in by the opening pages as it seemed to be a really good, but most importantly, different, look at success. I've never read anything of the sort before but I am aware that there are hundreds and thousands of books out there targeted at people trying to 'get rich quick' or find easy routes to success. Butler-Bowdon's book does the complete opposite. The saying "slow and steady wins the race" couldn't be more appropriate for this title. The author dismisses the myths that people like Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg were overnight successes and explains that every single successful person has dedicated years and years to their craft, whether they're aware of it or not. The beginning chapters are the best in my opinion because all the advice given is directly from the author, who writes in a very persuasive and understanding manner.

Whilst the book got off to a flying start, I was slightly disappointed by the rest of the book as it became more and more about listing examples of people to back up the author's point. At first this was inspiring, but as the book progressed this became repetitive and I have to admit that I skim read through several passages, especially if they were referring to successful people that I had never heard of. The majority of the chapters followed the format I stated above: a short introduction by the author, followed by a detailed look into the lives of several successful people and ending with pages and pages of short summaries of other successful 'celebrities'. I actually quite liked this general format, it was just that it was repeated again and again with each chapter and it started to feel like I was reading a condensed biography of every successful person of the last century.

That said, the examples provided were (mostly) of people that are still relevant in today's society or are people that are very well known for what they created, though perhaps not known at all for how they got there. Butler-Bowdon stresses time and time again that one should look at how successful people got to where they are and not what they did after their initial success. All these stories were fascinating, but as I said, there were just a few too many of them which meant that reading about that became a little tedious after a while.

Despite the negatives, overall my impression of this book is very positive. It achieved it's goal of inspiring me and giving me fresh hope that success may still come in the future. At only 18 years old, this book is definitely not aimed my age group as the author's measure for potential only begins at 20 years old though I still found it to be a thoroughly encouraging read. I would say that this book would suit those in their 40s the best or anyone else who's going through a bit of a slump and ready to give up on their dreams. Don't give up! This book will show you that you've still got years of potential left in you, even if you and those around you feel 'old'. A lot of successful people actually didn't find their true success until they were well into the second half of their life and there really is no such thing as 'too old'. Reading these stories should help anyone kick start their ambitions and get themselves back on track. 

All in all, Never Too Late To Be Great is a refreshing read that is suitable for those of all ages, though clearly targeted at those who have already lived a great portion of their lives. I found this book to be really uplifting so if you or somebody that you know are in need of a life then this is what you should be reading! As I said, I haven't read any other non-fiction books about how to be successful, though I'd say that this is a pretty good guide and is probably one of the forerunners in this genre. So, if you're in need of inspiration, pick up a copy of Never Too Late To Be Great and change your attitude today! 

21 October 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Title: Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian
Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books 
Publication Date: 7th November 2013
Goodreads Summary: In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue--Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is--she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are--and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, Tris also learns that her secret might help her save the ones she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

{ Review }

I've taken my time with getting to the Divergent series by Veronica Roth because I was afraid of all the hype surrounding it but boy do I regret it. I have just finished reading this book and I can't believe that I put it off for so long! This book isn't quite what I expected but it's certainly action-packed and I never knew what was going to happen next. 

Divergent follows the story of Beatrice (Tris) Prior in a new dystopian world. In an attempt to proven the outbreak of war, humankind broke into five different 'factions': Erudite, for the clever, Amity, for the peaceful, Candor, for the honest, Abnegation, for the selfless and Dauntless, for the brave. Children grow up in whichever faction their parents belong to, but at the age of 16, they go through an aptitude test to show them which faction they belong in and the following day, at the Choosing Ceremony, they must decide the path for the rest of their lives. Tris knows that she doesn't belong in Abnegation like the rest of her family and so she makes the difficult decision to leave her family behind and join a new faction, Dauntless. A tough initiation process follows - one that not everyone will survive. As Tris tries to fit in among the Dauntless she struggles to figure out who she is and who her real friends are. As if finding herself in a new faction wasn't difficult enough, Tris has a secret that she learned about herself during the aptitude test. A secret that she has been warned to never tell lest it destroy her. 

What I love about this story is that it doesn't seem fantastical in the slightest. The characters and the setting all felt very real to me that's all down to Roth's genius. Each character is flawed, some more than others, and this made it easy to relate to them as a reader and I found that I actually cared about what happened to the characters. When they felt sad, I felt sad; when they felt pain, I felt pain and when they felt happy, I felt happy. It is rare that you find a book in which you can truly share your emotions with the characters but Divergent is one of those gems. The book is written in the first person from the perspective of Tris herself. She often finds herself torn between what she thinks she should do and what she actually wants to do and isn't afraid to admit that she is sometimes selfish. I really loved this about her because, let's be honest, very few of us can say that we don't often have selfish thoughts no matter how hard we try to be moral people. Tris isn't afraid to admit it when she's afraid or weak but she's also strong-willed and determined not to be beaten. She is well aware of what her short comings are and that she hasn't been blessed with the best physique for a member of Dauntless, but she tries her hardest and at the end of the day, that's all that matters right? 

The character of Four was also really interesting because his emotions were always undercover and you could never really tell what he was thinking. Four isn't a difficult character to love but because he doesn't show his true emotions very often, you're also sort of frightened and unsure of him for a large part of the novel. I guess this is perfect because that's pretty much how Tris feels about him for a large part of the story too so the reader and Tris really are as one on this adventure. I love that Roth didn't make him the stereotypical 'bad boy' (I guess that's what he is) but made him a real character that has much more to him than meets the eye. He does what he wants and he isn't easily influenced by the opinions of others. 

Sometimes I felt like the characters seemed a little deadpan but I suppose that's all part of the 'dauntless' act and it made the moments when the characters were happy and laughing all the more special. This certainly isn't a happy story and it isn't one that suddenly retreats in a world filled with fluffy clouds. There is a darkness lining this book that is ever-present, even when the story takes a more positive turn. It is evident that there is more going on in this story than meets the eye but Roth has carefully staged this story so that the reader has absolutely no idea what's going on until it hits you in the face. The reader is on a level with Tris throughout the story - what she knows, we know, what she doesn't know, we don't know. At least, that will be the case if you have been completely unexposed to the spoilers that are just about all over the internet. I knew very little about Divergent prior to reading the story so I found all the twists and turns to be incredibly shocking and exciting. 

There's no insta-love in this story! I think this book deserves a big fat hooray just for that. It's hard to find YA books that aren't centred on romance that still get the romance perfect but I think Veronica Roth may have done it. The chemistry between Tris and Four takes a backseat in this story, but it's always there lurking in the background. There aren't any PDAs or sexual scenes, in fact, the romance is rather chaste which I guess can be put down to the factions in which the characters were brought up in and the ones they currently reside in. 

The story doesn't exactly end on a cliffhanger so you could almost read Divergent as a standalone novel and be satisfied at the end. That said, this almost certainly won't be the case because you'll want  to find out more about this phenomenally interesting world. I did find the ending to be a tad abrupt as I turned the page on my kindle expecting to find more story when, in fact, it was already over. There were no clues whatsoever as to how this story will continue so you really are in the dark and I can't wait to get my hands on a  copy of Insurgent! This is, I think, one of the keys to this story's success. This book wasn't predictable in the slightest and never knowing what was coming next made me desperate to keep reading. 

All in all, Divergent is a fantastic and captivating read that I would highly recommend to all fans of dystopian novels. The combination of very real characters and an original plot make this an absolute must read and I understand now why there is so much hype surrounding this series. If you're looking for a YA book that stands out from the rest, then this is your book. I absolutely cannot wait to read Insurgent now and watch the Divergent film, which I've heard is actually better than the book, believe it or not! 

14 October 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Crow's Revenge (Keeper of the Realms #1) by Marcus Alexander

Title: Crow's Revenge
Author: Marcus Alexander
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: Puffin Books
Publication Date: 2nd February 2012
Goodreads Summary: I've just had a flesh-eating giant tearing around my house and now I'm in this strange land I don't know anything about'!
Before she can untangle the mystery that will save Bellania, Charlie Keeper needs the answer to a life-changing secret her guardian, the dastardly Mr Crow, has been keeping from her ...Just who is Charlie Keeper?

{ Review }

I recently became aware of this series when I won a copy of The Dark Army (Keeper of the Realms #2) from Goodreads and whilst I wasn't too keen to get started on Crow's Revenge, I was surprised to find that I was actually quite drawn into it from the opening pages. 

In Crow's Revenge, we meet Charlie Keeper, a young teenage girl who has lost her parents and lives with her grandma in a big shabby house. Her lawyer Mr Crow is a selfish man who constantly makes her sign forms without telling her what she is signing and she is convinced that he is stealing her family fortune. One day, Charlie finds a strange creature in her home, Jensen the treman. Of course, Charlie has no idea what a treman is but after going through several doors and corridors she has never explored before in her house, she discovers herself in Bellania, a whole new world, that she has entered via a portal in her house. She learns that she is a Keeper of the Realms which means that it is her duty to guard the portal between the human world and Bellania where magic exists. Trouble is brewing in Bellania though as Bane, an evil spirit, tries to capture Charlie and the pendant which is so precious to her. Just as Charlie was starting to think her life in London was really dull, she is thrust into a whole new world with new responsibilities. 

The plot is really well thought out and there are several major twists along the way. I was constantly wondering what was going to happen next and begging for someone to explain how things worked in Bellania, a new world. It is impossible to know which characters are the good guys and which are the bad guys which keeps your attention focussed on looking out for the smallest clue that might help you figure it out. There are several plot strands working throughout this story, all involving Charlie Keeper but also many other characters as well so there's always a lot going on. My only complaint would be that I think the plot could've been condensed and the end of the book could have been reached a lot sooner. There was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing with the plot line and some parts seemed a little repetitive to me, despite the fantastic amounts of detail. There were a few parts that I thought were unnecessary that didn't progress the plot in any way and I think I would've enjoyed the book a bit more had these extra parts been removed. 

The characters were all really likeable, those you were supposed to like anyhow, which made me really root for these characters and their cause. The main character, Charlie, is an admirable character who has such spunk for someone so young. I felt like I'd gotten to know her character really well quite early on in the novel which made me feel closer to her as a character. She's not a perfect character as she has her strops and can be a little selfish at times but she's a young teenage girl so it seems justified. The fact that she's not a perfect princess makes her all the more likeable and young girls reading this story will no doubt want Charlie Keeper to be their new best friend. 

The description of the bad guys is really quite creepy and scary and the pictures to go alongside them don't make me feel any less uneasy about them! There is such a great atmosphere in this book and I was spooked out by several of the creepier passages in this story. The characters of Mr Crow and Bane, two of the most evil characters in the story, are also really fascinating and although you can't like them as characters, I greatly enjoyed reading about them. 

Marcus Alexander really does need to be commended for his excellent use of description. The world of Bellania, or even the ordinary London, is so vividly described that you can visualise every last detail of this new setting. There are also a few pictures along the way in this book which gives you even greater clarity as to what the different beasts and species are supposed to look like (rather helpful in some cases where the description was so in depth that my mind couldn't keep up!). He has created so many different creatures, places, and ways of life that all need to be explained and he manages to do this without overloading the reader with new information. 

What I would say, however, is that this book is aimed at the lower end of 'young adult' readers I would not recommend this book for children over the age of around 17. Although I could still appreciate the detailed descriptions and the intricate world that Marcus Alexander has built up, I did find the whole book rather childish at times and this made me feel a bit bored, but I think this was down to my age rather than the content itself. I imagine that a 14 year old would find this to be an incredibly interesting and stimulating read, however, in my opinion, this book is largely inaccessible to those that have progressed beyond their teen years. 

All in all, Crow's Revenge is a great read that has perhaps passed a little under the radar and should definitely be picked up by those interesting in fantasy in their teen years. Crow's Revenge ends on a cliffhanger and there is clearly much more to come which I am rather excited for. I can't wait to get started on the second book to see what new adventures lay in store for Charlie! 

7 October 2014

BOOK REVIEW: The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

Title: The Importance of Being Earnest
Author: Oscar Wilde
Genre: Play, Comedy, Farce
First published: 14th February 1895
Summary: Oscar Wilde's madcap farce about mistaken identities, secret engagements, and lovers entanglements still delights readers more than a century after its 1895 publication and premiere performance. The rapid-fire wit and eccentric characters of The Importance of Being Earnest have made it a mainstay of the high school curriculum for decades.

Cecily Cardew and Gwendolen Fairfax are both in love with the same mythical suitor. Jack Worthing has wooed Gewndolen as Ernest while Algernon has also posed as Ernest to win the heart of Jack's ward, Cecily. When all four arrive at Jack's country home on the same weekend the "rivals" to fight for Ernest s undivided attention and the "Ernests" to claim their beloveds pandemonium breaks loose. Only a senile nursemaid and an old, discarded hand-bag can save the day!

[[ Review ]]

I was under the impression that The Importance of Being Earnest was a serious piece of work for some reason but I couldn't have been more wrong. This play, written by Oscar Wilde, is incredibly funny farcical comedy that was written in the late 19th century. It follows the story of two men, John and Algernon who both have separate identities for when they are in town and when they are in the country. When John is in town, he goes by the name Ernest and claims to be in love with a young lady named Gwendolen, whom he wishes to marry. The problem is that the name Ernest is of great importance to Gwendolen, but of course, it isn't his real name. Algernon usually resides in town but upon hearing that his friend John has a young ward by the name of Cecily in the country, he takes on the persona of John's fake brother 'Ernest', and goes to visit John's house in the country. As you can imagine, numerous funny incidences occur as there is more than one man named 'Ernest' and people are not who they say they are. 

This play is rather short and I managed to read the entire play in about an hour. There are very few stage directions in The Importance of Being Earnest, but this play is all about what people are saying, rather than what they are doing. Everything the characters say is either nonsense or completely backwards which is very funny for the reader. I must admit that even I got a little confused with all the identity switches but this short and sharp play keeps you entertained the entire way through and laugh-out-loud funny. Reading this play was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and I would imagine that seeing this played out on stage would be even better. I haven't read any of Wilde's other plays but I can't imagine them getting much better, or funnier, than this. 

Of course, whilst it is incredibly funny, if you read between the lines this is a satire of society and social commentary  with Wilde making remarks on love affairs and marriage in the 19th century as well as the vanity of the upper classes. Of course everything the characters say is quite ridiculous and you absolutely cannot take them seriously and yet I suppose the idea of these characters being real people is not funny at all. 

All in all, Wilde is a master and The Importance of Being Earnest is a must read/watch for all. Having read the play, I am now desperate to see it performed on stage which will no doubt be down right hilarious. This play is very short and easy to read so there are absolutely no excuses. Although written over a century ago, this witty play is a timeless classic that even modern readers will appreciate. 

25 September 2014

15 DAYS TO GO - Book review + Giveaway: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Title: The Maze Runner
Author: James Dashner
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopia
Publisher: Chicken House
Publication Date: September 2014
Synopsis: When the doors of the lift crank open, the only thing Thomas remembers is his first name. But he's not alone. He's surrounded by boys who welcome him to the Glade - a walled encampment at the centre of a bizarre and terrible stone maze. Like Thomas, the Gladers don't know why or how they came to be there - or what's happened to the world outside. All they know is that every morning when the walls slide back, they will risk everything - even the Grievers, half-machine, half-animal horror that patrol its corridors, to try and find out.

[[ Review ]]

The Maze Runner is a young adult dystopian story and if you haven't already heard of it, you're going to be hearing a lot about it soon. The film adaptation of this story has already hit cinema screens in the US and is scheduled for release in the UK on the 10th October 2014. It's not hard to see why this story was snapped up by 20th Century Fox as it's a gripping story full of twists and turns set in a world that will no doubt make an impression on the big screen. 

This story starts when Thomas arrives at the Glade in the box. Thomas has absolutely no memories about his past or who he is and is very confused by his surroundings, which is to be expected given that the Glade is occupied up of a small group of teenage boys (no adults and no girls) and is enclosed within the confines of massive stone walls. Thomas soon discovers that these boys are trapped in the Glade, which is surrounded by a huge maze, full of dangerous creatures called Grievers. Everyday, the walls open, revealing the Maze and the Gladers send out 'runners' to try and figure out a way out of the Maze. The Gladers have already been trapped for two years but they still haven't found a way out. Why? Because every night, once the stone walls close, the walls of the maze change. Escape seems futile. Everyday is the same in the Glade, that is, until Thomas shows up, when everything starts to change. Ordinarily, only one new person arrives at the Glade a month, but the day after Thomas arrives, another person is delivered via the box. A girl. A girl that recognises Thomas, no less. Things are changing in the Glade and it seems like the time to finally escape has come - but only if they can figure out the code - and their escape mission will not be easy. 

Although the story is written in the third person, it follows Thomas as he tries to figure out what the hell is going on - what happened to him (and the other boys), where they are and what their purpose is. I didn't connect as much with Thomas as I expected to but he is definitely a strong male lead and a great character to read about. Not all of the characters in the story like Thomas and I think that that feeling rubbed off slightly on me as there were times when I questioned whether I really trusted him. With so many character with little to no memory of who they are and where they've come from, it can be a little difficult figuring out which characters to trust and the success of this story is probably down the huge amount of suspense that the reader feels. It is not until the very end of the story that anything really becomes clear and when it does, you kinda wish you hadn't found out what's really going on. 

Dashner has created a unique and terrifying world which will probably haunt me in my dreams tonight. It's very Hunger Games-esque as you've got a group of young kids fighting for survival against what they assume is a system adults created to test them. (Why they are being tested, they have no idea). The difference is however, these kids are working as a group to try to survive so themes of friendship and how a society should function are important. Although all the main characters are children, if their age was never mentioned, I could very well believe that this was a tale for adults. This is classified as a YA novel, however, there is nothing remotely 'childish' about this book. This is a serious tale of survival and I have to be honest, Dashner's imagination frightens me. 

There isn't much romance in this story but you can see that there is something developing between Thomas and Teresa, the only girl in the camp. There are some nice moments between these two but this definitely isn't one of the main plot points though I look forward to this blossoming in the future books. I am a big fan of romance in YA books, but in this case, I didn't really care that there wasn't all that much of it because there was so much going on in terms of friendships and the developing ties between different characters. 

All in all, The Maze Runner is definitely up there with top YA titles such as The Hunger Games and The 5th Wave and if you haven't read it yet, then you absolutely must pick up a copy before the film comes out next month. The cliffhanger at the end of The Maze Runner makes sure that readers will want to pick up the next book and I cannot wait to see how the plot develops from here. I absolutely tore through this book and finished it in no time, desperate to find out what was going on. Dashner has now been added to my list of favourite authors and I would give this story 5 stars simply for the terrifying world that Dashner has created. 

The Maze Runner out now in paperback (£7.99, Chicken House)

Check out the trailer for the film adaptation of The Maze Runner, starring Dylan O'Brien, released in UK cinemas on the 10th October 2014.


Win a SIGNED copy of The Maze Runner by James Dashner courtesy of Chicken House! (UK RESIDENTS ONLY)
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15 DAYS TO GO - #Win a SIGNED copy of THE MAZE RUNNER by James Dashner (UK)

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 The Maze Runner out now in paperback (£7.99, Chicken House) 

Watch out for my book review, being published later today! 

If you haven't already seen it, check out the trailer for The Maze Runner film, released the 10th October 2014 (UK) below: 

23 September 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Half Bad by Sally Green

Title: Half Bad
Author: Sally Green
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Puffin
Publication Date: 3rd March 2014
Goodreads Summary: Half Bad by Sally Green is a breathtaking debut novel about one boy's struggle for survival in a hidden society of witches.

You can't read, can't write, but you heal fast, even for a witch.

You get sick if you stay indoors after dark.

You hate White Witches but love Annalise, who is one.

You've been kept in a cage since you were fourteen.

All you've got to do is escape and find Mercury, the Black Witch who eats boys. And do that before your seventeenth birthday.


[[ Review ]]

Half Bad follows the story of Nathan Byrn, a half White, half Black witch. White witches are good. Black witches are bad. That's what he's been told anyways. He's always been discriminated against for his entire life, by his classmates and even his half-sister, Jessica. Nathan is the son of the most powerful and most feared Black witch of all time - Marcus - and because of this, the Council, made up of White Witches, have been keeping a very close eye on him for his entire life. As time goes on, people become more and more suspicious of Black witches and Nathan knows that before long he'll have to leave home and find his father. There are so many things that Nathan is kept in the dark about and he's desperate to find out about his past and his family before he turns 17 - when the Giving ceremony is performed (by a family member) and he officially becomes a witch. Nobody will give him the answers he is looking for so only one solution remains - find his father. The most powerful  and dangerous Black witch of all time. 

I must admit that Half Bad was nowhere near as good as I was expecting it to be. Although I found it to be an interesting read, I wouldn't describe it as particularly exciting. The plot isn't chronological and the book begins in the middle of the story. The first 50 pages are very exciting and are full of suspense so at the beginning stages, this book was un-put-down-able; however, after this point, the plot moved back to the present and slowed down considerably. A lot of the middle section describes Nathan's home life and how he grew up which is great for setting the scene and you get a really good sense of what it's like to be someone like Nathan in the world that Sally Green has created, however, I wouldn't say that all that much happens in these parts. The last fifty pages are also really exciting as things really start moving for Nathan so the book ends with enough of a cliffhanger that leaves you want to read more. It's a shame that the middle passage is so slow as the beginning and the ending are really superb. 

I think one of the main reasons that I didn't enjoy this book all that much is because although you emphathise with the protagonist, Nathan is not a particularly likable character. You certainly feel sorry for him as he is treated incredibly badly and you're willing him on because you want him to find out more about himself, mostly so you can understand what's going on, but you don't really end up 'liking' him. He is not a happy character, understandably given his circumstances, however, this makes for a rather somber read. I suppose it was refreshing to read a young adult novel, featuring a male protagonist who wasn't a vampire, or incredibly hot, that the reader doesn't end up falling head over heels for so I'll give the novel brownie points for being different and refreshing. 

I'd say that one of the best aspects of this book is the character development, both that of Nathan, and all the other characters. We see Nathan as he ages through his teenage years which are the most interesting years and the discrimination he faces as a half-black, half-white witch is comparable to modern day racism which is fascinating. Nathan is the only sibling in the family who is the son of Marcus so his relationship with his siblings is really interesting to read about. Whilst he gets along really well with Arran, his half brother, his half sister Jessica despises him, despite their blood ties. You're never really sure which characters Nathan can trust and which witches are working for the Council which means that the reader is kept in suspense for a large part of the novel. Even when you think you can finally trust someone, don't, because something will happen soon after to make you doubt everything you know. 

There is a slight romance aspect to this novel but it very much takes a backseat compared to the theme of discrimination. This is not your typical young adult novel in the slightest, it is a lot darker and some quite deep themes are discussed. There are some unpleasant scenes in which Nathan is treated very badly and basically tortured, so this is definitely an upper young adult novel and I'm sure adults will be able to enjoy this story too. There seems to be a dark cloud covering this entire novel and there aren't really any happy moments. You will definitely find your mood subdued when reading this, so I would recommend reading this on a rainy day. 

All in all, I think Half Bad did a really good job of introducing the protagonist of the Half Life trilogy, Nathan, and setting the scene for the rest of the books. Although I wasn't completely taken with Half Bad, I think that there is the potential for the next two books to be really great so I'm still really looking forward to reading Half Wild.