These Shallow Graves – Jennifer Donnelly

Josephine Montfort is a young woman from one of New York’s most elite families. At the beginning of the book, she discovers that her father has died. Was it an accident? Suicide? Murder? Jo decides to find out.

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This book has had loads of really positive reviews on Goodreads, so I had fairly high expectations going into it. I had been informed it was an utter page turner, with a really immersive setting; a true thriller.

Overall though, I though this book was just a bit meh. I would say it was pretty similar to Philip Pullman’s The Ruby in the Smoke, but not as good. I certainly didn’t feel particularly thrilled. The setting was good, a classic turn-of-the-century New York, with contrasts between the grand upper class houses, and the crime-ridden slums, but for some reason, I just didn’t feel excited about it.

In the first 100 pages I just found myself feeling quite apathetic towards the characters and the plot – they seemed quite wooden and predictable. The whole trope of intelligent woman who has to give up all her ambitions because of her class is an important one, but I just felt like I’d heard it all before.

On top of this, the characters were just SO STUPID. It took them ages to figure out really obvious clues. For example, when they rule out that the death wasn’t an accident or a suicide, they genuinely are stumped as to what else it could be. A lot of the “dramatic twists” in the story were so drawn out that they lost all excitement and impact.

One character I did really like was Fey. I was surprised that she warmed to Jo as much as she did, but she ended up being a real hero, going out of her way to help out with her badass thievery skills. She actually seemed a lot more intelligent than Jo, despite her lack of education, and wise from having had to fend for herself.

Having said that, I did find that the story picked up again towards the end. In the last 100 pages or so, I became more gripped, and actually began to find it a bit more exciting. I certainly didn’t anticipate all the twists that happened. The ending was satisfying – not too clichéd (but probably headed that way).

A slight pet peeve of mine that popped up a couple of times in this is when characters in books scoff at something, saying that only happens in books. For some reason I find it incredibly cringey.

I think perhaps this book was just aimed at younger readers than me. Having read some adult thrillers, such as Gillian Flynn, I simply failed to muster up much excitement for this fairly predictable plot. Perhaps I have become cynical and withered in my old age.

⭐️⭐️⭐️3/5

XxxooXOo

Cover design: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

This book needs no introduction, obviously.

Harry potter

I took this picture in the library of Trinity College Dublin, and I think it’s the most amazing library I’ve ever seen. I love the way there were giant books at the bottom, tiny books at the top, and the ladders for getting to the higher shelves.

Anyway, it reminded me a bit of the Hogwarts library (although that’s actually filmed in Oxford). The library plays quite an important part in the first Harry Potter book, since it’s where they go to try and find out about Nicholas Flamel, and where they eventually find the answer, which is in one of Hermione’s “light reading” books.

I also like the bust, which definitely hints at “philosophers”, even though there probably wasn’t a bust of Nicholas Flamel in the Hogwart’s library! I can’t actually remember who the bust is of in real life though.

XxoOxOxx

Top 10 Tuesday Tag – Summer Reads

I first saw this tag on Books for Thought, which lead me back to the original creator of the tag, The Broke and the Bookish.

I realise I have kind of missed the Tuesday boat, but oh well, these things happen.

The theme for this week is “Top Ten books we plan to put in our beach bag this summer”. I don’t actually think I’ll be going to the beach this summer, but in any case, I am (obviously) not the kind of person who only reads on the beach! So I’ve adapted this to “Top Ten books I plan to read this summer”! 🌸 🌞 🐳

I’m not someone who massively goes for rigid monthly TBR lists – I tend to pick each book as it comes. But nevertheless, here are 10 books I would really like to get to this summer!

  1. Scarlet – Marissa Meyer 13206760.jpg

I read Cinder, the first book, last summer. I quite enjoyed it, although I was on a long distance walking trail at the time, so was quite distracted at the time of reading. However, although the first book didn’t leave a massive impression on me, I’ve heard people I trust absolutely raving about this series, so I’m determined to give it another go!

2. Aristotle and Dante discover the Secrets of the Universe – Benjamin Alire Sáenz12000020.jpg

This one’s been on my TBR list ever since I first started watching Booktube videos. It seems to be on SO many people’s top favourite books lists, but I’ve just never managed to get round to it!

3. The Enchanted – Rene Denfield 18090147.jpg

Another Booktube-originating recommendation (from Regan I believe), this is a magical realism novel set in a prison. I’ve always been slightly fascinated by prisons, in a weird kind of way.

11486.jpg4. The Colour Purple – Alice Walker 

This one’s been on my bookshelf at home since at least last year. It’s about civil rights/ racism in America, and it’s on a lot of lists of “important” books.

5. Room – Emma Donoghue 7937843.jpg

EVERYBODY has been talking about Room. And if the book didn’t already sound amazing enough, the film is also supposed to be incredible.

13477676.jpg6. Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock – Matthew Quick

This is another book that I’ve been meaning to read for ages. I think it’s just the slow trickle of positive comments that have finally won over my curiosity. Also, apparently the formatting is really cool.

7. The Girls – Emma Cline26893819.jpg

This is a really new release, coming out this month I think. It follows the girls involved in a cult in America in the 1960s. I’ve seen it on a few people’s blogs, but it was Candice’s review that really convinced me.

23592235.jpg8. Am I Normal Yet? – Holly Bourne

This one was recommended to me by an IRL friend. Sounds like a hilarious light summer read. Also nominated for the 2016 YA book award (ooh).

9. White Oleander – Janet Fitch32234.jpg

This is a book I picked up in a charity shop at some point last year, and have just never quite got round to reading. One of Stories for Sophie’s posts has pushed this one back to the front of my mind in the past week or so.

16068905.jpg10. Fangirl  Rainbow Rowell

It has taken me along time to admit that I want to read this book. I will basically admit that I found it quite embarrassing to want to read a book called “Fangirl”. I don’t really classify myself as a fangirl, which for me draws to mind images of screechy, hysterical, young teenagers. I pigeon-holed it in my mind along with “Girl Online” and other “internet-y” books. BUT this book has just had TOO MANY positive reviews from people I trust, and I am beginning to think I misclassified it. I simply must find out what all the fuss is about (plus, Eleanor and Park was fantastic).

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So that’s it, the top 10 books I plan to get to this summer!

If you fancy giving this tag a go yourself, then I tag you! The original creators just ask that you make sure to link back to their blog in your post.

XoXOXOoX

Chasing the Stars – Malorie Blackman

Chasing the Stars is Malorie Blackman’s newest novel. It’s described as a YA-Sci-Fi retelling of Othello, mostly set on a space-ship. 🚀

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I don’t want to give too much away in my synopsis, because it’s one of those books that withholds background details and then reveals them later on, but basically, Vee and her brother Aidan are the only two remaining survivors on their spaceship, after a mysterious virus wiped out all the other crew members. Near the beginning of the book, they end up rescuing a group of people from a planet, where they’re under attack from some malicious aliens called Mazon. The rest of the book takes place on the spaceship.

The narrative alternates with first person chapters from the main male and female characters, Vee and Nathan. I’m not too familiar with Othello, but I think Vee is Othello, and Nathan is his lover Desdemona (so the genders are swapped round).

I’m not quite sure how closely the plot of Othello was followed, but there were definitely quite a few of the same plot devices, including the planting of an incriminating object on someone under false pretences, and the classic Shakespearean pre-arranged eavesdropping session. The writing was also peppered with cheeky Shakespearean quotes, although not all from Othello.

The setting on a spaceship was quite cool. I’m not really into that kind of thing usually, so I was a bit sceptical at first, but it seemed to work out. Malorie Blackman is good at writing about computers and robots, perhaps partly due to her her background in computer programming! The gadgets and cool futuristic stuff on the spaceship was fairly stereotypical though – nothing especially original.

I definitely found similarities to the Noughts and Crosses series – the way the characters were so stubborn and held quite unreasonable grudges against each other (although this might partly have been dictated by the plot of Othello). The first person narrative lead to quite a lot of ranting and complaining inside the characters’ heads, as well as harping on about how much they fancied each other. They definitely weren’t especially “likeable” characters.

The book could definitely be accused of insta-love, although since Vee’s been marooned on a spaceship for years, perhaps it’s understandable for her to fall in love with the first other person she sees. There’s definitely self awareness of the insta-love though, with both characters reflecting on it, and whether it was real (a lot) throughout the book.

All in all, an interesting and engaging read. I was certainly drawn along, following the trail of hints at future reveals of background information, despite getting a bit sick of the characters’ inner monologues.

Thank you very much to Penguin for sending me a copy of the book 🐧

⭐️⭐️⭐️3/5

XoXOXOOooo

May Book Haul – 2016

Hello, I’m here today to tell you about the books I have obtained in May!

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It’s been a fairly hectic month because of exams, but obviously as soon as I finished, I went out on a celebratory book buying expedition. I’ve split the haul into categories based on the place I got the books from.

(Click on the images to take you to the Goodreads pages!)

  1. Library

I literally walked straight out of my last exam and straight to the city library to borrow some books. It’s actually the first time I’ve borrowed physical books from this library – in the past I’ve used their eBook services, and borrowed physical books from my College library, but there’s a lot more choice here. 

Will Grayson, Will Grayson – John Green and David Levithan17208924._UY200_.jpg

I’ve been meaning to read this for a while – it’s the last John Green book I hadn’t read. I’ve actually already read this one, and you can read my review here.

These Shallow Graves – Jennifer Donelly 29908288.jpg

This is a new historical thriller set in 1890s New York. I’ve seen it around a bit on bookish social media, and it caught my eye from the shelf.

 

  1. Penguin

Chasing the Stars – Malorie Blackman28693621.jpg

This is another new release, and it’s a Sci-Fi retelling of Othello, set in space.
I was actually sent this book as an ARC by Penguin. Not for professional book-bloggery reasons – I’m a member of a website called Bookmarks, and I earned a free book by filling in so many surveys! I was mildly sceptical at first, but I’m currently about 100 pages in, and really enjoying it.

  1. Waterstones

The Outsiders – S. E. Hinton32946.jpg

Described as “the original teenage rebel story”, and complete with some moody-looking boys on the front. I feel this is something of a modern classic.

 

  1. Oxfam Books

I love buying books from Oxfam – they’re so cheap, and since the money goes to charity, I seem to be able to justify buying way too many. Every time you go in there’s a different selection of books, and you never know what you’re going to find!

Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe37781.jpg

This one is on so many “must read” lists. It’s about the colonisation of Nigeria, written by a Nigerian author. I think this is quite an important book. Particularly relevant at the moment, with all the “de-colonisation” movements in student politics.

The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver5220.jpg

Carrying on in the colonial vein, this one’s about a family of missionaries who travel to the Belgian Congo in 1959. I’m not sure where exactly I’ve heard of this before, but it sounds familiar somehow. Very interesting blurb anyway.

The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More – Roald Dahl2016767.jpg

Ah, Roald Dahl, one of my favourite childhood authors. I’ve long been meaning to pick up some of his adult fiction, which I’ve heard is utterly bizarre.

Howard’s End – E.M. Forster3102.jpg

This one was recommended to me by one of my best friends, who read it last summer. It’s about life on a Hertfordshire estate at the turn of the century. I’ve read three other books by E.M. Forster, which I have enjoyed by varying amounts. So we’ll see about this one!

The Viceroy of Ouidah – Bruce Chatwin79913.jpg

This is a title I recognised from my Massive Book List. The Massive Book List is a huge list of “good books” given to us in Year 9 at school, which was basically translated in my head as Massive Reading Challenge. I’ve been working my way through them gradually since then. Maybe I’ll do a future post on the Massive Book List.

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So that’s all folks! Let me know if you’ve read any of these books, and what you thought, or if there are any you plan on reading!

XXoOXOOO

Will Grayson, Will Grayson – John Green & David Levithan

This book is about two characters called Will Grayson, one written by John Green, and the other by David Levithan. The book alternates in point of view, with half the chapters being from one Will Grayson, and the other half from the other. They start off as completely separate stories, and then begin intertwining.

WillGrayson

John Green’s Will Grayson is a classic John Green guy, introspective, geeky, moanily lusting after a female love interest. David Leviathan’s Will Grayson suffers from depression, and has a lot of anger towards the world and the people around him, with his only solace being a character called Isaac he’s met online. Both Will Graysons go to different high schools, and have never met at the beginning of the book.

There were certainly aspects of the book that I really enjoyed, particularly David Levithan’s Will Grayson. I’ve never suffered from depression, but I think these chapters gave insight into that kind of trapped mind, and the rage and helplessness he feels. His chapters, particularly the early ones, felt raw and shocking. A really interesting aspect of this portrayal was the fact that the chapters from this Will Grayson’s point of view were written all in lower case letters. As well as making it really clear which person’s point of view I was currently reading, I think this added to his hopelessness and low self esteem.

There’s also something about books with alternating chapters which means I can’t stop reading them. I think it’s often the way the author can leave you on a cliff hanger, and then you know you have to read the next chapter to find out what happens, by which time you’re then on a cliff hanger for the next chapter, and so on, in a massive cycle until you finish the book. Both authors were certainly very compelling.

One of the main problems I had with this novel was the character Tiny. He’s the best friend of the John Green Will Grayson, described with terms like “fabulously gay”, and “the world’s gayest person”. In keeping with this weird stereotype, he prances around the book like a unicorn drunk on pink champagne, and of course, puts on a massive musical at the end about his “gayness”. I don’t know how qualified I am to comment, but I feel as though this is a massive stereotype that really doesn’t fit with any of the gay people I know, and I don’t think it’s helpful to take these characteristics and describe them as “gay”. Gay means homosexual. Not glittery Madonna-loving sparkle queen. There are straight people who act like that, and gay people who don’t.

I also found the idea of a character like Tiny in a high school quite unrealistic. High schools are fairly unpleasant places, and I can’t really believe that Tiny didn’t get more stick for his flamboyant ways. I know there are a few jabs throughout, and the issue when the football team don’t want him in their changing room, but people were generally quite accepting. I know this is a good thing, but I just think it probably isn’t that realistic.

I in no way wish to slate this book, as I did actually really enjoy reading it. It’s definitely made me want to investigate more of David Levithan’s writing (I’ve already read all of John Green’s other books). Although I did find the ending really stupid.

⭐️⭐️⭐️3/5

XxooXoXoO

Booktube Statistics!

Hello people,

Today I’ve made something I’ve been meaning to make for a while… In order to satisfy the cravings of my inner Microsoft Excel nerd, I’ve produced a graph of all the Booktubers* with over 30K subscribers (otherwise it was really long) with their number of subscribers they have! 📊📚📷

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I would like to say though, this is purely for interest. I rarely look at how many subscribers a Booktuber has – if I like their videos, I’ll watch them, regardless of how popular they are. Booktube isn’t a competition about having more subscribers than everyone else, it’s about producing interesting content and having interesting discussions. I think it’s a really positive aspect of Booktube, that people aren’t always harping on about how many subscribers they have, and being all high and mighty about it. 💕

In making this graph though, I obviously had to look at a lot of people’s subscriber counts, which threw up quite a few surprises! Some of my FAVOURITE Booktubers had comparatively very few subscribers, and many aren’t even close to being on my graph! Which I suppose, just goes to show that number of subscribers doesn’t necessarily equal better Booktuber. That’s not to put down the people with a bazillion subscribers though; they’ve all worked incredibly hard to acquire their audiences.

Another surprising thing is the stepwise way that the bars descend. 2 Booktubers have in the region of 300K subscribers, then the next one has nearer to 200K, then there’s a cluster at 150K, and everyone else is below 100K. It’d be interesting to know how the subscribers are divided up: are there thousands of viewers ONLY subscribed to polandbananasBOOKS and abookutopia? Or perhaps more likely, these people’s subscribers form overlapping groups subscribed to all the other Booktubers in various combinations, with no other Booktubers in common to all of them. I wonder how many regular Booktube viewers there are…

In terms of other aspects of the graph, the blue bars are people living in the USA 🇺🇸, red= Canada 🇨🇦, Purple= Australia 🇦🇺, and Green = UK/Ireland 🇬🇧. Only 3 are boys, and the rest girls (21).

Anyway, sorry for the rambling 🙃

In CONCLUSION, I think this graph is interesting, but I don’t want anyone to judge the “worth” of anybody by it, because you’re all fantastic 😊

Let me know if there are any other groovy Booktube graphs you’d like me to make! Also, if I’ve left anybody off, I’m really sorry! Let me know and I’ll add them to the list!

xoXOXoX

* For those that don’t know, “Booktubers” are people who make videos about books on Youtube. If you’ve never watched any, I recommend checking them out!

Cover design: Lolita

Hello! You may be pleased to hear (or may not be), that I haven’t completely abandoned my new blog, but I do have finals starting in two days, so writing book reviews hasn’t exactly been top priority 🙁

For the time being I’ve got another book cover design – I got really enthusiastic and made a few a couple of weeks ago, but didn’t want everyone to get sick of them if I posted them all in quick succession.

Anyway, this one is for the modern classic Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov, which as most probably know, is about a middle aged man who falls in love and fantasises over a teenager (called Lolita).

Lolita

I chose the childish underwear to emphasise Lolita’s young age, but also show her sexualisation by the author. The black tiles and the printed letters look a bit like a blackboard too, again pointing to her youth.

I know my past few posts have all been cover designs, but I’m planning to do more texty posts after exams finish. This blog is supposed to be about entire books, not just the covers!

XoxoxxX

Cover design: Gormenghast

The next book cover design I’ve done is for the classic fantasy book Gormenghast.

It’s part of a trilogy following the Royal family of an enormous castle called Gormenghast, which has existed for thousands of years, and is full of strange rites and rituals. It’s an intriguing series, which I’ll probably do a proper review of once I’ve finished the third book (which I’m partway through).

Gormenghast

The black bird (which fortuitously landed on my windowsill!) reminded me of the Countess Groan, who has a great affinity for birds, and has flocks of them following her around all the time. The bricks in the background represent the constant presence of the castle walls, which nobody ever leaves, and the dark lower half of the image suits the book’s sinister themes.

XooXXXoO