John Green Looking For AlaskaWarning: This review does contain spoilers. 

Here’s the description from GoodReads:

Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter’s whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the “Great Perhaps” (François Rabelais, poet) even more. Then he heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.

After. Nothing is ever the same.

I’ve wanted to read something by John Green for a while and chose an option that sounded a little less like it was going to make me cry at 2am than some of his other books.

Unfortunately this review does contain spoilers, it’s impossible for me to talk about this book and not spoil it, so if you don’t want to be spoiled I suggest you stop reading now. 

I happened across this book by accident to be completely honest. I went into WH Smiths with every intention of picking up Paper Towns and it was only when I got home that I realised I’d picked up this book.  I don’t know how I did it either. 

I was really drawn into the book by the way chapters were marked in this book. Instead of it being ‘Chapter 1’ or ‘Chapter 2’ it was marked as ‘x days before’ and counted down to the main event in the book, which pulled me in and made me want to know what we were counting down to.

Warning: Spoilers ahead so run away quickly if you don’t want to ruin it. Seriously, don’t read the next line. 

Unfortunately what he was counting down to was the death of Alaska, a girl that our main character Pudge seems to have fallen in love with despite all of her flaws.

After that point chapters begin being marked by counting days after her death as Pudge and his friends try to work out what happened to Alaska: was it a tragic accident or did she commit suicide and why was she in such a distressed state?

I don’t know how John Green did it but he made me feel for the characters without me even realising it. Before Alaska’s death I didn’t feel particularly attached to her but after she died, I felt sad that she’d died and found myself desperate to know what had happened also. It’s like he made the characters disarm me and slowly sneak their way into my feelings.

The characters were extremely well developed and were exactly the way I remember teenage boys and girls being. Though I have never been a teenage boy, I have been a teenage girl and I can definitely relate to this book.

It did contain swearing and some kinda sex scenes but if anything it would probably be unrealistic for a book about teenagers to not contain swearing or something sexual, so I didn’t feel that detracted from the book or was unnecessary.

At points the characters were a little pretentious, but weren’t we all at that age? I went to a Private School, though I wasn’t a boarding student, so this book really bought back some memories for me and made me think about my own time at school.

What I enjoyed most about this book is how much it made me think. It tackled the topic of death and what happens after we die, which kept me pondering Looking For Alaska in the days after I’d finished the book.

After finishing the book I did a bit of research on Looking For Alaska and discovered that it is partly based on true facts. John Green did go to a boarding school in Alabama and there was a student there who died under similar circumstances as Alaska did, which I think is why this book is so well written.

All in all, I loved Looking For Alaska. I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did but it’s definitely one of the best books I’ve read, not just this year but ever.

If you enjoy contemporary young adult novels and / or want to try something by John Green, I really think this is a good place to start.

5 out of 5

Have you read Looking For Alaska or anything else by John Green?

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Legend Marie Lu Title: Legend (Book #1 of the Legend series)

Author: Marie Lu

Genre: Young adult / dystopian / romance

Pages: 320 (hardcover)

Here’s the description from GoodReads:

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem. 

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths – until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

Legend has been on my to be read list for about a year now, so when I rejoined the library last week it was the first thing I took out.

Based in post apocalyptic Los Angeles, Legend is told from alternating points of view; June, a girl from a wealthy background with perfect trial scores who has been brought up to join the military and Day, a boy who failed his trial and was forced to grow up on the streets.

I always enjoy alternating points of view and in Legend it was clearly marked at the beginning of chapters and at the top of the page. The issue I had is that sometimes you had to check the top of the page because both characters were indistinguishable from each other at points. Towards the end you learn something which explains why they may be so similar, but I still expected their characters inner-monologue to be different as they had such contrasting upbringings.

Both characters were likeable and I really felt for Day whereas June came across a little cold at the beginning of the book. This was made up for when we witnessed her development throughout the book which was realistic and interesting.

From relatively early on in the book the ‘whodunnit’ seemed a little obvious to me so it wasn’t surprising, but I was still gripped wondering how the ‘issue’ would be resolved.

The world building in Legend was fantastically done and gave a clear picture of what everything looked like, I felt like I was actually there.

One sticking point for me was the age of the main characters. June was 15 years old and earned herself a brilliant position in the military which was supposed to demonstrate how intelligent and skilled she was but it just seemed too unrealistic. The story would have worked just as well if they were 18 or 19 and it would have been more reasonable for her to have earned herself that kind of position by that age taking into account her intelligence.

It’s key that a book that’s part of a series stands up on its own and Legend does without a shadow of a doubt. I’m excited to find out what happens in Prodigy, where I hope we find out what happened to result in the country being in the state it is.

If you’re looking for a new young adult / dystopian novel you can’t put down, I recommend you give Legend a go. Plus, all three books are out so you won’t need to wait another year or so to see how the series is resolved!

4 out of 5 

Have you read Legend? 

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That’s right guys and gals, I’m going deep and thoughtful on you today. 

I wanted to talk about something I’ve been pondering for a while; do we have a sixth sense?

I’m sure we’ve all had an experience where we’ve had this feeling of dread and something bad has happened.

Two years ago my dog, Roxy, suddenly died. The day before, for no reasonable explanation I was hit with this wave of emotion about how I’d feel if she died. That night when I went to bed I decided to spend some extra time with her because my brain was just telling me ‘what if you never see her again’. The next day I was woken to the news that she’d died.

There are plenty of similar stories where people have just had a gut feeling like this. You hear stories about people on their deathbed who say things to their friends and family about when they think they will die and they turn out to be right.

Now that’s a little different as these people are already very ill but what I’m trying to say is stories where people feel a ‘sixth sense’ or a foreboding about what might happen aren’t in short supply. Though there are times we have a bad feeling about something but everything turns out fine.

Yesterday I read a really interesting (if you like this kinda thing) article on Psychology Today about the sixth sense and studies that psychologists have carried out.

A study carried out by the writer of that piece found that people do react to something bad before it has happened. The article mentions similar studies with similar results, though some of the methods used are flawed.

What do you think though? Do you think we have a sixth sense or is it just pure coincidence or people altering their recollection of an event?

Personally I believe from my own experiences that we do have some kind of sixth sense. The emotions I felt that day before my dog died are nothing like any feeling I have ever experienced.

I’m looking forward to seeing what you all think in the comments.

What do you think? Do you think we have a sixth sense? 

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Darkness Watching - Emma L Adams

This review is spoiler free.

It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a book but I’ve been stealing every spare minute to finish Darkness Watching. 

Here’s the description from Goodreads:

“Eighteen-year-old Ashlyn is one interview away from her future when she first sees the demons. She thinks she’s losing her mind, but the truth is far more frightening: she can see into the Darkworld, the home of spirits- and the darkness is staring back.

Desperate to escape the demons, Ash accepts a place at a university in the small town of Blackstone, in the middle of nowhere – little knowing that it isn’t coincidence that led her there but the pull of the Venantium, the sorcerers who maintain the barrier keeping demons from crossing from the Darkworld into our own world.

All-night parties, new friendships and a life without rules or limits are all part of the package of student life – but demons still stalk Ash, and their interest in her has attracted the attention of every sorcerer in the area. Ash is soon caught between her new life and a group of other students with a connection to the Darkworld, who could offer the answers she’s looking for. The demons want something from her, and someone is determined to kill her before she can find out what it is. In a world where darkness lurks beneath the surface, not everyone is what they appear to be…”

I really enjoyed Darkness Watching and I think if I’d had more spare time I’d have finished it in three or four nights.

In all honesty I’ve never read anything about demons before (because they scare me) but I really loved this book.

Ashlyn was a really likeable person and her super studious ways at the start of the book reminded me a lot of my best friend. Aside from being able to do magic and see demons it was easy to relate to her fears about getting into university, starting university and boy issues.

The other characters weren’t explored as much as I’d hoped but hopefully we’ll find out more about them in the next book.

The way the town was described in the book sucked me in and I had no trouble imagining it, in fact it reminded me a lot of Keele.

Darkness Watching had quite a few nice twists and turns in it and the decisions and reasoning behind things made sense and it didn’t try to baffle the reader with complicated explanations.

I wasn’t at all surprised by the guy who turned out to be ‘the bad guy’ though, I saw that coming a mile off. Aside from that though I didn’t find Darkness Watching to be predictable.

Something that really interested me was the way the author portrayed demons. In my head they were evil looking people with red eyes so the way they’re portrayed in Darkness Watching makes them seem a little friendlier than I’ve always imagined as their eye colour happens to be my favourite colour.

I also really enjoyed that it was set in England which meant I get the education system. I’ve read so many books using the US education system and I still don’t get it, (do you go to college or university? Are they the same thing or does one come before the other?) so it was nice to just be able to read Darkness Watching without having to think about. I’m sure that’s not really a major selling point for anyone but it was genuinely something I liked about it.

The ending felt quite abrupt and sudden, which left me wanting more so I’ll definitely pick up the second book to find out what happens to Ashlyn next.

Darkness Watching is an enjoyable and exciting read about magic and demons that leaves you doing a second take at any ‘dark spaces’ in your house searching them for violet eyes.

If you’re looking for an interesting book about magic and demons, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Darkness Watching.

*I was provided with a copy from NetGalley in return for an honest review.

4 out of 5

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I’m in an ezine! 

Some of you may know I also write about Formula One for a couple of websites and over the weekend one of my articles was published in the Grand Prix Plus ezine.

While I was at the Italian Grand Prix I organised an interview with one of the drivers physiotherapists and had a chat with him about fitness in F1.

After many hours of typing I sent it off to a journalist I met at the British Grand Prix and as a result it ended up in the Brazilian Grand Prix edition of Grand Prix Plus.

Unfortunately I can’t send you a link to the article because the magazine is subscription only but I can tell you I’m feeling pretty giddy about seeing my work in something that’s paid for.

I’ve written plenty of articles for websites but being in an paid ezine to me suggests much higher standards and is something I can begin building a portfolio with.

In terms of writing, this year has been unbelievable for me. If someone had told me when I first set up my F1 blog three years ago that I’d be writing for websites, going to races, interviewing drivers, watching a practice session from a team garage and having my work in a paid publication, I’d have called you crazy.

I’m very grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given and intend to make the best of them.

If there’s a moral to this story, or something that you can take away from it whatever your goal is, it’s this: don’t give up.

Yeah it’s cheesy and it’s been said a thousand times before but I’ve thought about quitting more times than I care to think about but there’s this little burning ‘what if’ inside me that keeps me going when I’m wondering why I’ve not really had a break over the weekend or when I think it’s too hard.

What keeps you going?

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The Elite - Kiera Cass

I read The Selection earlier this year and intended to read The Elite when it came out but ended up forgetting about it until a couple of days ago when I was looking through my to-read list on GoodReads.

Here’s the description from GoodReads:

“Thirty-five girls came to the palace to compete in the Selection. All but six have been sent home. And only one will get to marry Prince Maxon and be crowned princess of Illea.

America still isn’t sure where her heart lies. When she’s with Maxon, she’s swept up in their new and breathless romance, and can’t dream of being with anyone else. But whenever she sees Aspen standing guard around the palace, and is overcome with memories of the life they planned to share. With the group narrowed down to the Elite, the other girls are even more determined to win Maxon over—and time is running out for America to decide.

Just when America is sure she’s made her choice, a devastating loss makes her question everything again. And while she’s struggling to imagine her future, the violent rebels that are determined to overthrow the monarchy are growing stronger and their plans could destroy her chance at any kind of happy ending.”

The more I think about this book, the lower a rating I want to give it.

To me books in a series need to stand up on their own but this really doesn’t. The Selection didn’t really stand up on it’s own but The Elite is practically lying down.

Nothing is resolved by the end of it; we’re still at the same point we were at the beginning of the book minus a couple of characters. It’s just a big infuriating love triangle.

I liked America in the first book but not so much in this book. One moment she was sure she loved Maxon, then she went running off to Aspen and was sure she loved him, then she loved Maxon, then she loved Aspen. You can see where this is going right? Exactly, nowhere.

The image I’ve formed of Prince Maxon in my head is a slightly nicer version of Joffrey from Game of Thrones. I’m not a Team Maxon fan at all (Team Aspen!), especially after the incident with Celeste. Talking of Celeste, she was vicious in the  first book but a bit of a pussycat in The Elite which disappointed me.

Why is no one Team Aspen? I can’t be the only person surely? He’s about the only thing good in his book.

The description promises us some action with the rebels, which doesn’t actually seem to happen. They just kind of pop up a couple of times and then disappear again with no real explanation as to why.

With all of the above said, I did actually finish it in one evening so it did a good job of keeping me hooked.

All of my whining aside I know I will read The One (which is due to come out sometime in 2014) because I need to know how this is resolved. If you’ve read The Selection, I really can’t see that you need to read The Elite because nothing particularly major happens.

I had a lot of hope for The Elite and I’m really disappointed in what a non-event it was. I imagine that The One will be much better as things will need to be wrapped up and we’ll finally get rid of a corner off that love triangle, hopefully.

2 out of 5

Have you read The Selection or The Elite? 

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Arbitrate - Megan Thomason

arbitrate is the third in the daynight series and picks up where daynight ended. (To clear up the confusion, there is a short book called Clean Slate Complex which came second and doesn’t need to be read before you read arbitrate.)

Description from GoodReads:

‘Remember The Second Chance Institute (SCI). Earth’s benevolent non-profit by day, Thera’s totalitarian regime by night. They’ve stepped up their game on Earth and on Thera—infiltrating political parties, preying on the downtrodden, and planning offensive maneuvers. And they’re handing out more “second chances” than ever before. The SCI’s abuse of their charter leads to Arbiter oversight and bitter consequences.

Remember Kira Donovan. Broken, burdened, and evading those who wish her harm, Kira enlists the Arbiters’ help when forced to return to the clutches of the SCI and her angry, estranged love.

Remember Blake Sundry. Exiled, determined, and packing an agenda, Blake seeks assistance on Earth and Thera to use his newfound knowledge to bring down the SCI.

Remember Ethan Darcton. Overworked, emotional, and holding a grudge, Ethan hunts down his stolen property, but finds himself in awkward territory, stuck between the Arbiters and the SCI.’

Like daynight, arbitrate is told from the point of view of three characters; Kira, Blake and Ethan. As I said in my review of daynight, Megan Thomason pulls off multiple perspectives perfectly and it isn’t confusing as you switch character.

As well as being told from different perspectives, Thomason has also introduced past and present points of view from each character which really help develop the characters and fill us in on what’s going on in Thera and Earth. Again, this is easily sign posted so there’s no confusion.

I feel like I’ve been put through the wringer reading arbitrate, I feel emotionally all over the place and I mean that in a good way.

If you’ve read any of my reviews you’ll know that I love it when an author makes me feel the characters feelings and I really did reading this book. Not only did I feel one characters feelings, I felt three! Three! My poor emotions.

Something else I’m a big fan of is unpredictability and this had heaps of that. arbitrate is full of twists and turns and there was no point where I thought I knew what was going to happen and I was right.

The characters were well developed in daynight but they get even better in arbitrate as we learn more about them, especially Jax who isn’t in the first book a huge amount. I really like the way his character developed and I think I love Jax! (Someone get me a Team Jax t-shirt pronto.)

As I turned the last page I was sad that I’d reached the end and excited at the prospect of a another book as the ending threw up a whole load of questions that need answering. As I read through the end notes I was very excited to read that the next book, called generate, will be out in 2014. (I’m waiting very impatiently for this already.)

In my review of daynight I said I’d love to see it be turned into a film and after finishing arbitrate I really, really want it to be turned into a film. (Not just for Jax, honest.)

The idea behind daynight and arbitrate is so refreshing. There are a lot of young adult books out there that use the same kinds of concepts and ideas, so it is so nice to read something completely different.

I really think (and I truly mean this) that arbitrate is the best book I’ve read this year. If you’re a fan of young adult / science fiction / romance novels you need (yes need) to read this book.

arbitrate comes out on the 29th October. 

* – I was given an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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