23 February 2015

TV REVIEW: Reasons not to watch Made in Chelsea


Made in Chelsea: London’s answer to The Hills and the ‘classier’ version of The Only Way is Essex. We were all taken in by the glitz and the glam of London’s ‘elite’ when the show first debuted back in 2011, but the question is, why are we still watching it? The show is infamous for its ridiculously long awkward silences that make it glaringly obvious that the show is scripted and that the cast are terrible at acting. But we still come back for more. 

Essentially, MIC follows the lives of an affluent bunch of young twenty-somethings who seem to lay idle for most of the day, talking about relationships and bitching about each other. Most of them met at school (the likes of Harrow, Eton, Radley, Downe House etc.) and it’s very much of a case of everyone knows everyone. The general vibe of the show has slipped into the realm of we’re-doing-absolutely-nothing-but-at-least-we-look-pretty-doing-it, but given that heartthrobs Spencer Matthews and Jamie Laing are heirs to the Eton Rock Hotel and McVitie’s respectively, I guess these guys don’t need jobs. 

This is the sort of show that advertises the name of each and every bar or restaurant at the bottom of the screen with each scene change, but as each new season has aired, this feature seems to have become more and more obnoxious. They also seem to have forgotten that there are other places to hang out in London that aren’t Bluebird in Mayfair. What’s worse is that numerous tour companies have taken advantage of this and for a mere £20 you can even go on a Made in Chelsea Walking Tour around London’s SW3. Bargain. Another company is advertising a tour that begins in Sloane Square and ends up in, you guessed it, Bluebird. 

There are numerous completely unnecessary characters that aren’t part of the core friendship group on the show, and are hated by everyone. They seem to be quite obnoxious and yet are still on screen each week. Why hasn’t Victoria hit the road yet? She serves no purpose except to bitch about everyone and everything – but we get plenty of that from the rest of the cast anyway. Victoria’s only friend on the show, Mark Francis, is equally useless but a thousand times funnier so I’ll forgive his continued presence. He’s the sort of guy who, when asked what sort of book he’d be, replies “Well, I’d probably be the Bible”. Modest, as ever. 


There was even the spin-off, MIC: NYC, where the gang headed off to New York for a season in which absolutely nothing changed. Series 7 was the first series of Made in Chelsea to average over 1 million viewers for each episode whereas spin-off series NYC had a series average of over 1 million viewers, which just goes to show that MIC is heading downhill. What is frustrating is that, this show was actually good at one point. It’s even won a BAFTA. Gone are the days of the Caggie and Spencer drama when the show was still vaguely based on reality (even if it had been filmed for the 6th time that afternoon). Now, everyone’s dated everyone, everyone’s cheated on everyone and everyone’s broken up with everyone. The cast of MIC is possibly the most incestuous bunch of friends that television has ever seen and there’s no sign of them stopping anytime soon. 


I’m not going to pretend like I still don’t love the show, but I kind of hate myself for it. I know that it’s all complete and utter rubbish and yet I still find myself tuning in to E4 on Monday nights to catch the latest episode. Not only that but I follow the more interesting characters on Instagram anwd Twitter because my weekly one hour fix just isn’t enough. This needs to stop. It’s all just one big PR stunt and we need to stop buying into it. Imperial students see MIC characters walking around South Kensington all the time. If you live in London, you probably know someone that knows someone that knows a member of the cast. These people don’t lead lives that are nearly as extraordinary as television makes them out to be so we should stop treating them like celebrities and accept that they are actually normal people who just happen to have a lot of money. 

 Series 9 airs on the 9th April 2015.
My reaction to most of the show

15 February 2015

FILM REVIEW: Fifty Shades is more sadistic than sexy


 

Given the hype and anticipation surrounding the release of the Fifty Shades of Grey film, I was surprised to find myself in a near-empty cinema screen on the date of its release. This is particularly perplexing given that according to the ticket-selling site Fandango, Fifty Shades of Grey is the fastest selling R-rated title in the site's history. Perhaps we’re a little more prudish here in Britain than audiences in the States. It's also rather embarrassing on the part of British cinemas given that most of them had between seven and fifteen screenings of the film scheduled per day in the opening weekend. #awks


Fifty Shades of Grey follows the relationship between Christian Grey, a young and sexy eligible bachelor, and Anastasia Steele, a shy and rather plain girl. They are instantly attracted to each other, however Mr Grey has a darker side, one that he'd like Ana to be a part of if she'd only sign his contract. (Yes, a sex contract). As the man himself says, Grey's "tastes are singular". Translation: he's massive control freak who is really into BDSM so when the Anastasia, innocent and virginal, stumbles into his office one day, he can't help but try to get into her into his Red Room of pleasure (or is it pain?)

This film is full of cliché after cliché and I honestly could not believe how predictable some lines were. I laughed out loud on several occasions because I was utterly astounded by the shoddy script. It's difficult to say whose fault this is, however, as the dialogue in the book is much the same. The film is much more creative than its paperback counterpart but the dialogue is still laughable.

Dakota Johnson plays the shy and innocent Anastasia Steele but I don’t think I’ve ever been more irritated by the protagonist of a film in my life. That said, the Anastasia Steele from the books is similarly irritating, so perhaps Johnson actually deserves a round of applause for being able to translate that irritability onto the big screen. Her co-star, Jamie Dornan, most definitely fits the bill physically for the role of Christian Grey. However, no matter how devastatingly  mysterious and handsome he is, there was just no way that Dornan could make the dialogue sexy, rather than absurd.


One of the biggest issues this film has had to face is how to take E.L. James’ erotic novel and put it on the screen in a way that stays true to the novel, without being too pornographic. Unsurpsingly, the producers failed miserably. There's not enough sex to excite fans of the books but there's too much nudity for the average cinema-goer. This film is advertised as having a whole twenty minutes of on-screen sex in it, but I have to say that thinking back, I can’t really remember there being that all that much of it. What I do remember, however, is that the sex scenes were incredibly repetitive and escalated quite rapidly away from the realms of a little BDSM to borderline torture. Not sexy. What's worse is that Anastasia questions Mr Grey’s twisted nature on several occasions but still does not cut ties with him. We're presented with a story about a woman who knows that her ‘boyfriend’, if we can call him that, is deeply troubled and likely to hurt her and yet she does nothing and continues to obey him. No wonder Cuntry Living has gone crazy.


There was one moment where I definitely saw way too much of the general pubic region of both protagonists but (thankfully) these moments were fleeting. There is a fair bit of nudity in this film, which is to be expected, however the ratio of female to male nudity is incredibly unbalanced. There’s just so much boob. Dornan is topless in many scenes but he's got nothing on Johnson who probably spends more of the film completely naked than she does clothed so it's not surprising that feminist viewers are outraged. 

Whilst the sex scenes leave something to be desired, what is incredibly sexy is the soundtrack. Most aspects of this film fail to live up to expectations, but the soundtrack most certainly does not. Featuring songs from Ellie Goulding, The Weekend, Sia, The Rolling Stones, and, of course, Beyoncé it's not altogether surprising that the soundtrack has received generally favourable reviews from critics.

All in all, Fifty Shades of Grey is a substandard film that breaks the bounds of what is acceptable a few too many times. The book did not strike me to be quite as sadistic or anti-feminist as the film is, but when blown up on the big screen, Christian Grey comes across, not as a sexy bachelor, but as a twisted man who derives pleasure from another’s pain. That said, the film is probably still better than the book, but that's not saying much. Let's face it, who wouldn't rather watch two attractive actors get hot and heavy on screen than read E.L. James' pathetic attempt at erotica in a book?

*This review was first published on The Oxford Student


Don't forget to enter my Valentine's Day giveaway to win a selection of books up to the value of £20/$30 (INT). Enter via rafflecopter below:




a Rafflecopter giveaway

9 February 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Losing It by Helen Lederer

Title: Losing It
Author: Helen Lederer
Genre: Comedy
Publisher: Pan Books UK
Publication Date: 12th February 2015
Goodreads Summary: Millie was at one time quite well known for various TV and radio appearances. However, she now has no money, a best friend with a better sex life than her, a daughter in Papua New Guinea and too much weight in places she really doesn't want it.

When she's asked to be the front woman for a new diet pill, she naively believes that all her troubles will be solved. She will have money, the weight will be gone, and maybe she'll get more sex.

If only life was really that easy. It doesn't take her long to realize it's going to take more than a diet pill to solve her never-ending woes...





[ Review ] 

Losing It by Helen Lederer is the comic tale of a middle-aged Z lister, Millie. She was once a celebrity of sorts but those days are gone and she is now in debt, divorced and desperate. Just as things are starting to look really bleak for Millie, a fantastic opportunity comes her way, giving her that chance to finally sort her life out. She is offered £20,000 to lose weight. Seems like a pretty good deal right? The problem is, Millie has absolutely no willpower and cutting down on the amount she eats proves to be pretty difficult for her. But no weight loss, no money. After an eye opening trip to Papua New Guinea to visit her daughter, Millie truly begins her weight loss journey. It's full of ups and downs (mostly downs), but will she pull it together and meet her weight loss target and get the money she so desperately needs?

Losing It reminds me a lot of Bridget Jones. She's just a little bit (*very) tragic and I think every woman will be able to see a bit of themselves in Millie. She's desperate, single, and she can't keep her hands out of the fridge. We relate to her because she's human. Maintaining a household, keeping a steady relationship, having a successful career and staying fit and healthy are all difficult things to do individually, let alone all at once, which is what a lot of women are expected to do these days. Millie fails and fails again, but she doesn't stop trying so you find yourself rooting for Millie, willing her to succeed as if her success will guarantee yours too. If Millie can do it, there's hope for us all. 

Although the novel focuses on Millie's life, the host of supporting characters are all incredibly entertaining in their own ways as well, which makes the story far more interesting. There are numerous sub-plots including one about Millie's daughter and one about her best friend. Her daughter's boyfriend, a Papua New Guinean, Eugene, is just very strange and doesn't speak particularly good English and you can imagine being thoroughly weirded out by him if you were to meet him in real life. There's also Millie's boss, Esther, who is stern and unforgiving, but you (unexpectedly) grow to love her by the end of the novel. 

The plot doesn't have all that much to it really as it's Millie as a character that is the main focus of the novel. Sure, lots of funny things happen, but they're all pretty mundane things that would happen in day-to-day life that are only made funny by the fact that they all happen to Millie. There are some laugh out loud moments, however, and you can't get through a single page without Millie blundering something or other. Lederer's sense of humour is great and it really shines through in this story. Whilst some moments are laugh-out-loud hilarious, readers will go through the majority of this story silently mocking Millie and scoffing at how pathetic she is at times. That said, it will no doubt be in the back of every woman's mind that she could very well be in the same position as Millie one day. 

In conclusion, Helen Lederer's Losing It is a great read for those looking for some light entertainment. The story is an easy read that you'll easily get through in just one short afternoon. This will probably appeal most to middle aged women, especially those going through a bit of a crisis, as Millie embodies the everyday woman. Perfect for fans of Dawn French and Sue Townsend, this is a great piece of women's fiction that you will no doubt enjoy. 

4 February 2015

Valentine's Day Giveaway! Win a selection of books up to the value of £20/$30!


It's giveaway time again! To celebrate Valentine's Day, I'm hosting a giveaway of romantic books. Although you can pick any books of your choice, I would highly recommend picking one of the following titles which are great reads for this time of year!


All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Where Rainbows End by Cecila Ahern
Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James

All The Bright places is a top YA release this year, which I've only just started reading but has all the book bloggers raving about it! Where Rainbows End is the book from which the recent film Love, Rosie (starring Lily Collins and Sam Claflin) was adapted. Who could forget that the Fifty Shades of Grey film comes out on Valentine's Day this year? If you haven't already read it, I would recommend reading it just so you can read for yourself the novel that took the world by storm! 

WIN A SELECTION OF BOOKS OF YOUR CHOICE FROM THE BOOK DEPOSITORY UP TO THE VALUE OF £20/$30 
Open Internationally as long as TBD ships to your country 
04/02/15 - 18/02/15

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 :(

mobilemadhouse.co.uk


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

FILM REVIEW: Gone Girl


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

Disturbed.

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!