Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Review:Between-Jessica Warman

book cover of   Between   by  Jessica Warman

'Between' isn't actually released in the US until August and October over here but I thought I'd review it now whilst it's fresh in my mind. Perhaps once I've been blogging longer I might have the foresight to make notes as I read but at the moment I'm just winging it!

'Between' arrived with a plain blue cover with hardly any blurb and comparisons to 'Before I Fall' and 'The Lovely Bones' (both books I really enjoyed), so expectations were high. At over 400 pages in paperback 'Between' is something of a beast and pacing-wise it's a bit uneven. I don't think I'm spoiling anything to say that the book starts with a bang as at the end of the first chapter Elizabeth discovers she has died, but after this initial revelation the book spends the first 100 pages dragging its feet until picking up again around the 150 mark.

My initial problem was with the character of Elizabeth Valchar herself. She's the typical mean girl those of us exposed to American teen books and movies know so well, a spoilt brat who thinks the world owes her a favour. She's similar to the protagonist in 'Before I Fall' in her selfish popularity but rather predictably she starts to grow as a person as she learns a few life lessons.

To begin with the aspects I've outlined above felt too familiar and left me frustrated, however as Elizabeth became accustomed to her existence as a spirit and began to remember more of her life before things became intriguing. Crafting the idea that after death Elizabeth and her companion Alex's memories of their lives are hazy was a clever turn as the reader fits the pieces together at the same pace as the characters do.

'Between' is a difficult book to discuss without giving away surprises the plot hinges upon but I really enjoyed seeing Elizabeth develop beyond a spoilt stereotype into a traumatised girl who spends much of her time feeling lost. The love story element referred to in the press release also took me by surprise and doesn't follow the usual path of the anguished paranormal love story.

By the end once all of the pieces were firmly in place I felt quite touched by Elizabeth's sad story and was really glad I'd persevered through the difficult beginning to get to the heart of the story beneath. 'Between' is a different take on the life beyond death theme and has shown me there is breath left in the telling of paranormal stories.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Monday, 13 June 2011

Books Quiz

I've seen this in various places but please let me know if there's someone to credit!

Rules of this survey - no two answers can be the same book, all books must be fiction.

Book next to your bed right now: I have a massive stack of books next to my bed, two I know are near the top are 'Hunger' by Michael Grant and 'Pretties' by Scott Westerfeld.

Favorite series: I love the Harry Potter series but the series I've enjoyed most in the last couple of years is the Wicca series by Cate Tiernan. I enjoyed all 14 books in the series and the last one was an incredible ending to it all.

Favorite book: I have quite a lot of books that are really special to me but my favourite is 'The World According to Garp' by John Irving. To me it's the perfect book, funny and absurd and moving and unpredictable.

The one book you would have with you if stranded on a desert island: I'd probably take something huge like a complete works or 'Shantaram', something I'll probably never get around to reading otherwise!

Book/series you would take with you on a long flight: Probably something fairly long by an author I can rely on to deliver or a good book I've already started reading. One of the best books I've read whilst on a long journey was 'My Name is Memory' by Ann Brashares.

Worst book you were made to read in school: I usually came to appreciate books I had to study so on reflection I'm glad I read them all. That said I didn't enjoy Pat Barker's 'The Ghost Road' too much the first time around.

Book that everyone should be made to read in school: I think both are now studied for GCSE/A Level but definitely 'Animal Farm' and '1984' by George Orwell. I read both when I was 14 and they are still amongst some of the most powerful books I've ever read, not to mention that they seem to become more and more relevant over time.

Book that everyone should read, period: I'm a big fan of cult classics so if someone is looking for something to read that's slightly off the beaten track I'd recommend 'The Dice Man' by Luke Rhinehart or 'The Catcher in the Rye' by J.D Salinger.

Favorite character: This is a hard one! I absolutely fell for Henry from 'The Time Traveller's Wife', I love his bookish nature and the tragedy of his condition- he's my ideal book crush!

Best villain: Not too original here but I'd have to say Voldermort, he is menacing and creepy beyond words.

Favorite invented world: This is a hard one! I tend to favour books with fantastical elements in an urban setting rather than a whole new world, but I'm a massive fan of Alice in Wonderland so I'll go for Wonderland!

Most beautifully written book: I've found all of the books I've read by Alice Hoffman completely beautiful, in particular 'The Skylight Confessions' which is beautiful from cover to cover and made me cry.

Funniest book: The funniest book I've read recently is 'Domestic Violets' by Matthew Norman which has several laugh out loud moments. I also remember laughing out loud at 'Things my Girlfriend and I Have Argued About' by Mil Millington, I love down to earth books with characters arguing over pointless every day things!

Friday, 10 June 2011

Did You Miss Me? Plus: Flyaway Review

My apologies for my lack of blogging business lately, I tend to run out of steam with things sometimes but I'm determined to try and keep this blog going, even if I don't update as regularly as I might like. I have been reading rather a lot so I have some books in my mental archive.

Anyway, it's on with business for a bit!


I got hold of this book via Netgalley, I'm always on the lookout for interesting YA books on there, particularly as a lot of American titles I might not be aware of otherwise turn up on there. 'Flyaway' was just such a title and one I started reading after noticing one of the reviews mentioned Ellen Hopkins.

'Flyaway' introduces us to Stevie, a fifteen year old free spirit who thinks her Mom is the greatest person on earth. That is until her Mom disappears for three nights with no warning, leaving Stevie forced to stay with her uptight and interfering Auntie Mindy.

In many ways Stevie is the archetypal teenager with problems: moody and angsty with a fair bit of door slamming and resentment on top. As Stevie gradually rebuilds her life without her Mom around and comes to terms with her Mother's flaws and drug addiction, she manages to blossom into her own person.

'Flyaway' is a really sweet story that deals with difficult issues in a way that manages to avoid oversimplifying or becoming too dark. Stevie's work at the bird sanctuary is a really nice aside as is her burgeoning romance. I think this book would have benefited from being a little longer but that aside I have no criticisms and it certainly left me with a smile on my face. Plus kudos on the cover it is lovely!

Thanks to Netgalley for allowing me access to the book.