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Book Reviews

Review of Normal People by Sally Rooney

Hello fellow bookworms! It’s been a while since I’ve written a book review and I keep meaning to review a lot of the books I read and end up leaving it too late. But here we are now, and I have been taking notes as I read to remind myself what to say… I’m trying a slightly new system so my reviews are a bit more structured and brief, only touching on the things I specifically noted to talk about rather than going into loads of detail.

Normal People has been a hit since its release in 2018, and already has a TV series on BBC Three. This story has resonated with so many readers and viewers, and after being recommended to me time and time again, I thought it was about time I read it…

Review of Normal People

About the book

Taken from the back cover…

Connell and Marianne grow up in the same small town in rural Ireland. The similarities end there; they are from very different worlds. When they both earn places at Trinity College in Dublin, a connection that has grown between them lasts long into the following years.

This is an exquisite love story about how a person can change another person’s life – a simple yet profound realisation that unfolds beautifully over the course of the novel. It tells us how difficult it is to talk about how we feel and it tells us – blazingly – about cycles of domination, legitimacy and privilege. Alternating menace with overwhelming tenderness, Sally Rooney’s second novel breathes fiction with new life.

5 Reasons Why I Recommend This Book

1. It’s marketed as Literary Fiction, but I would categorise it more under YA/New Adult

If you went into any bookshop looking for this book, I guarantee you would find it in the Standard Fiction section, or Contemporary Fiction depending on how deeply categorised your local bookstore is! However, while I can understand the writing is more advanced and almost academic compared to what you would find in a standard YA novel, the characters which the book is primarily based around are in their teens and early twenties throughout the entirety of the story, which for me would at least put it under New Adult. I think it’s important to highlight this, as there is a lot of life in this book which readers in the same age bracket as the characters will soak up and learn from.

2. The intelligence of the main characters

I love in books and TV when the characters are smart and work hard to be where they want to be. I found Connell’s character especially motivating, the way he studies hard to get the results he wants, and ends up realising what he wants and going for it, without worrying about gaining approval from others. Educational settings is one of my favourite tropes, particularly in YA fiction, so the parts which touched on Connell and Marianne at college/university was really interesting to me.

3. The subtle details

This book is short, but by no means rushed. After the first few chapters, I was expecting the 260 pages to span from their school days all the way to adulthood (and that may in part be the fault of the genre categorisation) but while the novel is fast paced, Rooney also packs in so many minute details which bring the story to life in ways you don’t realise writing can. There were parts I read and could clearly see what the character was doing. The author records the smallest of movements which you would do in your daily life and wouldn’t think twice about. In that way, the book is highly immersive.

4. The story tackles issues such as mental health, domestic and sexual abuse, and grief

This book should definitely come recommended with some trigger warnings! I wasn’t necessarily shocked to find the author documenting these issues, as they appear quite frequently in current literary fiction, but I don’t think I was prepared for how they would be expressed. As I said above, Rooney goes into quite a lot of detail in her writing which makes it quite raw, and she definitely doesn’t sugar coat anything. This did mean it was hard to read at times (more on this below) but it was also incredibly well communicated and really explores what can happen behind closed doors.

5. The plot was very human

I think this final point encompasses all of the above. This book should not be taken lightly. It does not hold back on anything and it really does make you think about your relationships with family, friends, and other people around you, and what it feels like to be human.

5 Reasons Why It’s Not 5 Stars

1. The strange chronology

I found myself quite often having to skip back and check I hadn’t missed something because the transitions between present and past seemed very sudden and sometimes unnecessary. I thought it was structured in quite a strange way which stunted the flow of reading on occasion.

2. This is more of a character or life study, as opposed to an actual story. There was no driving plot line to keep me motivated to read

My advice to you if you’re going to pick this book up would be: don’t go into it thinking it will be an unputdownable story with loads of plot twists. I found this book to be more driven by the characters that by an actual plot line. It very much examines them and their lives and isn’t necessarily following some highly crafted plot line. As I said above, I would recommend this book for the human aspect of the writing, but this isn’t something that kept me motivated to pick up the book and read it.

3. The events could be quite repetitive

This ties in with the fact that the book is more of a character study. Due to there being no plot as such, and we just following the very ‘normal’ lives of these characters, the things that happen in the book could get quite repetitive. This is mainly in the case of Connell and Marianne’s relationship and the constant back and forth, but there were other small things that happen a bit too frequently which makes you think the characters don’t learn from their mistakes…

4. Aside from the two main characters (and Lorraine, I loved Lorraine!) there was no real character depth, which meant their actions were often unexplained and confusing

Besides Connell, Lorraine was my favourite character. But apart from the two of them and Marianne, I found the rest of the characters lacking in back story and depth to really get to know them enough. I completely understand this book is very much Connell-and-Marianne-centric, but it’s nice to have some backstory as an explanation as to why characters do certain things and act certain ways.

5. It wasn’t necessarily the most enjoyable book to read at times

As I said above, this book tackles some issues that were at times difficult to read. The way Rooney writes and frames the narrative makes everything feel so real and sometimes hard to read, especially if readers have previously experienced any of these issues, no matter how severely. I wouldn’t necessarily say this was something that made me knock off a star, but I thought it should be mentioned in case there are readers who don’t want to read about certain things.

Have you read Normal People? What did you think? I’d love to know if any of our thoughts coincide, feel free to leave a comment below and we can discuss!

Take care everyone.

Until next time…

Jade 🙂

Categories
5 Muffins Book Reviews

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

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Hello fellow bookworms! I’ve really been slacking on reviews lately (and blog posts in general!) and I feel like I say this at the beginning of every post I’ve written recently… However, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to tell you my feelings towards the critically acclaimed Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. It’s a book that is everywhere at the moment, and probably hasn’t escaped the grasp of many book lovers across the globe, and after reading, I can absolutely understand why this book has been so incredibly successful! Below is my review, plus a sneaky peak at the front cover and description and places to buy:

About The Book

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Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live. Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend. Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything. One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life. Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than . . . fine?

My Review

Genre? Literary Fiction

Setting? Scotland, UK

Predictable? From the very beginning, Honeyman starts to set up for a twist in the plot line, but what I predicted wasn’t even close to what actually happened! While some smaller points were more predictable, Eleanor as a character is used to such a rigid daily routine that anything she does which is out of the ordinary for her is unpredictable.

Plot Pace? Due to the writing style, the pace was both steady and fast at the same time. It mirrored Eleanor’s feelings and emotions towards her day, being a bit more pedestrian when her life was normal, but speeding up when things started to get exciting, especially when Honeyman slipped something interesting into a seemingly normal scene.  

Favourite Character and why? This is a complex book with very well developed and complex characters. Eleanor was quite relatable in many ways, and I think a lot of people who read this book will think that, because there are so many pieces to her personality. I adored Raymond as a character who developed slowly over the course of the book as Eleanor accepted him into her life more and more.

Least Favourite Character and why? While the main characters were intensely recognised in the story, there were only a few of them, and the majority of them were extremely likeable. I have to make a point that Mummy’s character shocked me, and I was deeply horrified at some of the things she says and the way she says them. There’s a lot of history with her character and the relationship she has with Eleanor as well which made me dislike her even more.

Did you guess the story? Absolutely not! There were so many small parts that were obvious when it came to reading them, but if I was asked what I thought would happen when I started reading, it wouldn’t have been that! Honeyman managed to draw the story out right until the very end of the book which was very skilfully done.

Favourite part of the book? When Eleanor and Raymond visit Sammy, I had no idea what his reaction would be, so it was such a warming and happy scene the way it turned out. There were some hilarious scenes, in particular when Eleanor goes shopping, gets her make up and nails done, etc. which were quite uplifting.

Least favourite part of the book? Moving into the Bad Days section of the book, without giving too much away, was written so well I felt I was in Eleanor’s character, which was quite depressing and disheartening, especially when we had such a great first part during Good Days.

Well written? Absolutely! I can’t remember the last time I read a book with such depth in the story line and characterisation. The writing itself wasn’t complex in terms of vocabulary, but the way the sentences, paragraphs, and chapters were formed made the book move easily yet slightly uncomfortably, reflecting the nature of Eleanor’s character.

Emotional? Yes! I experienced I every emotion possibly reading this book, through awkwardness, embarrassment, happiness, sadness, and hysterics on both ends of the spectrum!

I will happily sing this books praises everywhere I go, and highly recommend to all for true insight into loneliness and the heartfelt meaning of friendship and kindness. A raw, emotional, and heartbreaking read.

My Rating: 5 Muffins out of 5

Where To Buy

If you like the sound of the book, here is where you can buy the book (including, but not limited to):

> Amazon

> The Book Depository

Cover photo and description taken from Goodreads (view book profile here)

Categories
4 Muffins Book Reviews

Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

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About The Book

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Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

My Review

*Please be aware of minor spoilers*

Genre: Young Adult

Setting: Creekwood High School, Atlanta

Predictable? There were hints throughout the book as to how it might end and who the mysterious Blue might be, but it was a nice surprise when I did find out.

Plot Pace? Quite fast paced, really quick and easy to read with short chapters and plenty going on all the time. I like the way every other chapter or so was an email conversation between Simon and Blue. It broke the story up a bit and allowed us an insight into their online relationship.

Favourite Character and why? Simon was obviously such a lovable character, but I also loved Abby’s character, and Nora as well. Their personalities were well written and developed into really relatable characters.

Least Favourite Character and why? I know he apologised in the end, but Marty was my least favourite personality wise, he was a bit of a dick (excuse my language!)

Did you guess the story? I knew what was going to happen, I knew we would end up finding out who Blue was in the end, and that they would meet and everything would be happily ever after, but there were a few unexpected twists at the end which was a nice touch, and of course the actual revelation of who Blue was ended up being a nice surprise.

Favourite part of the book? I found myself smiling ridiculously and making little squealing noises when Simon and Blue eventually ended up and meeting and going out together (especially in the supermarket!). It made me so incredibly happy, it’s been a while since a book has done that!

Least favourite part of the book? When Marty posted about Simon and outed him to the entire school, that was possibly the worst thing he could have done, and it made me feel awful for Simon, and for Blue as well. Their relationship was happily anonymous until this…

Well written? Absolutely!

Emotional? Definitely, I did manage to avoid the tears, but only just, but my mouth was aching from smiling so hard in the end!

Gripping? It was an easy book to read, I wouldn’t necessarily say it was gripping like a thriller novel, but the short chapters and the way it was written made it flow well and read easily enough for me to fly through it.

Overall, this book was one of the top YA novels I’ve read in a while, Albertalli definitely understands how to write to make you feel all fuzzy and warm on the inside, as well as bringing every character to life in a unique way. I would highly recommend to every YA lover who hasn’t already read this book (there’s probably not many of you left now!)

My Rating: 4.5 Muffins out of 5

Where To Buy

If you like the sound of the book, here is where you can buy the book (including, but not limited to):

> Amazon

> The Book Depository

Cover photo and description taken from Goodreads (view book profile here)

 

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4.5 Muffins Book Reviews

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas: Fact File Review

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Hello fellow bookworms! This is my first review of 2018, and I’ve decided to spruce it up a bit this year to make things a little bit easier for myself, and hopefully for all you lovely readers as well! Reviews, while they are a great way to reflect back on a book you’ve just read, are a pain to write, and can sometimes be very long winded and a bit boring to read. My new-and-improved recipe for reviews is a fact file format to quickly break down my favourite and least favourite parts of the book, as well as briefly reflecting on the writing style and storyline. It will be easy to skim through, and will save me a lot of writing time, especially with an extra busy uni schedule! So, without rambling on much longer, I have just finished ACOTAR and have to talk about it!

Below is my review, plus a sneaky peak at the front cover and description and places to buy:

About The Book

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A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Feyre is a huntress.

She thinks nothing of slaughtering a wolf to capture its prey. But, like all mortals, she fears what lingers mercilessly beyond the forest. And she will learn that taking the life of a magical creature comes at a high price…

Imprisoned in an enchanted court in her enemy’s kingdom, Feyre is free to roam but forbidden to escape. Her captor’s body bears the scars of fighting, and his face is always masked – but his piercing stare draws her ever closer. As Feyre’s feeling for Tamlin begin to burn through every warning she’s been told about his kind, an ancient, wicked shadow grows.

Feyre must find a way to break a spell, or lose her heart forever.

My Review

Genre: Fantasy/YA (Contemporary Beauty & the Beast retelling)

Setting: The Mortal Lands & Prythian

Predictable?: Parts of the story were semi-predictable because it is modelled around Beauty and the Beast, but there were a lot of twists and turns, especially towards the end, which were quite unpredictable

Plot Pace: A but slow starting, but the middle and end really picked and there were points I didn’t want to put it down!

Favourite Character and why?: Of course I loved Feyre! Tamlin took some warming to but I did really like his character by the end, and I automatically fell in love with Lucien! Rhysand is also a curious character, I’m not quite sure to feel about him, it’s a love hate relationship at the moment, we’ll see what the rest of the series brings!

Least Favourite Character and why?: Amarantha was a nasty, evil b****, some of the things she did was disgusting!

Favourite part of the book?: The beginning when Feyre first got into Prythian was great, I love setting the scene for the main parts of the book, especially fantasy novels when you get the world building! The end as well, of course, was incredible, and I am very excited to start ACOMAF!

Least favourite part of the book?: When Feyre went back to the Mortal Lands, I understand why it had to happen, but I preferred the parts in Prythian, and here’s to many more!

Well written?: I’ve never read any Sarah J. Maas books, but her writing is amazing! The world building is on par with Cassie Clare, I cannot wait to see how it develop as the series continues.

Emotional?: There were parts that made me laugh, there were parts that made me squeal, and there were parts that made me cry… an emotional rollercoaster, and longing for more!

Gripping?: Absolutely! I wish I had less work to do so I could’ve read it faster, but very gripping!

Review round up: Perfect for all lovers of fantasy, but not suitable for younger readers! If you love Cassandra Clare and other YA fantasy writers, or have enjoyed Maas’ writing in the past, definitely pick this one up!

My Rating: 4.5 Muffins out of 5

I hope you like the new review format, I’d live to hear your thoughts! Also, what do you think of the ACOTAR series? No spoilers please (obviously!) but would love to know your opinions on the series!

Until next time…

Jade 🙂

Categories
4 Muffins Book Reviews

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

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Like so many others, I am jumping on the Orient Express to find out who did ‘it’ before I see the movie at the cinema. I’ve been desperately wanting to read Agatha Christie’s books for a while, and there was no better one to start with! (very minor spoiler ahead that you might not spot but hey I’m warning you just in case!)

Below is my review, plus a sneaky peak at the front cover and description and places to buy:

About The Book

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Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

“The murderer is with us – on the train now…”

Just after midnight, the famous Orient Express is stopped in its tracks by a snowdrift. By morning, the millionaire Samuel Ratchett lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside. One of his fellow passengers must be the murderer.

Isolated by the storm and with a killer in their midst, detective Hercule Poirot must find the killer amongst a dozen of the dead man’s enemies, before the murderer decides to strike again..

My Review

Murder on the Orient Express is a classic crime thriller, and one of Christie’s many Poirot novels. Set primarily on a train called, you won’t believe this, the Orient Express, travelling to England, the story follows Poirot when it comes to his knowledge that someone on the trains been murdered. Temporarily employed by Company Director, M. Bouc, Poirot sets about interviewing the passengers and gathering evidence that will ultimately solve the crime. Everything that happens in the book has been meticulously planned, like any good crime novel should be, and we are shown through Poirot’s though process as he works his way through the evidence. The ending was certainly not predictable, and the ending was definitely climactic. I almost thought it would end on a cliffhanger, but it reigned in on the very last page. Christie really does leave you having until the last moment, which is a very clever writing skill to have. Everything mentioned throughout the fast paced plot was brought together at the end, nothing was left for us to wonder.

It is difficult to get attached to any characters in these sorts of books, as they all seem guilty until proven innocent. There is something very much reserved about all the passengers on the train, and M. Bouc didn’t seem the friendliest at times. I did find it strange in parts when we read Poirot’s thoughts as though he were speaking out loud, and he could also seem a little bit closed off at times, but as with many great detectives, they need time to organise their thoughts to solve the crime. The characters were certainly given plenty of background to their passenger personalities and their real identities, which made them feel a lot more realistic than some characters in crime novels can be. Especially seeing as this book is under 300 pages, it is packed with at least 12 very well developed characters.

As mentioned earlier, I was constantly trying to guess throughout the novel who the murderer was, and there were times when I guessed correctly, but when you’ve read the book you will understand why that’s the case! I felt like Poirot’s sidekick, trying to work through the evidence and unfold the crime. My favourite part was definitely the end when you finally find out who did it and how it all happened, it was extremely clever and well constructed on Christie’s part! The entire book was very well written, if a little difficult to grasp the wording at times, but this is probably due to the lack of classical literature in my read pile, and through no fault of the author. I was certainly gripped, and wish I had more time to sit down and really get deep into the novel, rather than reading it chapter at a time.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of crime novels, and all Christie fanatics who haven’t got to it yet!

My Rating: 4 Muffins out of 5

Where To Buy

If you like the sound of the book, here is where you can buy the book (including, but not limited to):

Amazon

The Book Depository

  Cover photo and description taken from Goodreads (view book profile here)

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5 Muffins Book Reviews

Turtles All The Way Down by John Green

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This was my most anticipated read of the year, and I have to say it did not disappoint! John Green is one of my favourite authors, and his books give you so much to think about, and this one was no different.

Below is my review, plus a sneaky peak at the front cover and description and places to buy:

About The Book

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Turtles All The Way Down by John Green

It all begins with a fugitive billionaire and the promise of a cash reward. Turtles All the Way Down is about lifelong friendship, the intimacy of an unexpected reunion, Star Wars fan fiction, and tuatara. But at its heart is Aza Holmes, a young woman navigating daily existence within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

My Review

Turtles All The Way Down is the long awaited YA novel from John Green since the release of The Fault In Our Stars. We follow a young girl named Aza, her best friend Daisy, and son of millionaire, Davis Pickett. Set in Green’s home city, Indianapolis, the story follows these characters through life, loss, and friendship. For me, the characters made the story, and while the plot was important, and very well developed, the characters, particularly Aza, were the stars of the book. Green’s writing always tackles issues in life in very particular but extraordinary ways, and Turtles even more so than others, in my opinion. His mind works in complex but incredible ways that forms characters and stories that make you think about the book days after finishing. His way with words is highly commendable, and an absolute joy (sometimes, they can also destroy your life) to read. The underlying plot that runs alongside main issues tackled through character relationships was interesting, adding a mysterious vibe to the novel, and while it wasn’t the central point of the novel, it drove the narrative well, and everything was tied up at the end.

It’s so difficult to not fall in love with all of the characters that John Green writes into existence. And it really does feel like they are in the room with you! Aza’s charcater was incredibly well developed and made the book such a powerful novel. The way Green has written about mental health in such a sensitive and important way really translates what he has experienced in his own life, and helps any reader understand what it’s like to live with OCD and anxiety. This was the most powerful, creative, and informative book tackling mental health I’ve read to date.

I could not put it down, and there was always this nagging sensation that kept me guessing where Pickett Sr was, even with everything else going on around it. My favourite part of the book was all of it. No seriously I can’t choose! It was all written so well, and I did find that times when Aza was arguing with her conscience were particularly powerful, as it put OCD compulsions in perspective for someone who may not suffer from it.

There were several humorous points throughout the novel, little tidbits that Green added that just made me giggle, but overall, the book stirred a lot of different emotions. The power behind the writing made me feel sad and anxious and worried, but also made me feel happy and warm on the inside. John Green books have a way of making you feel like you are on a literal emotional rollercoaster!

I learnt a lot reading this book, not just about mental illness, but also about life in general. As with many of his other books, Green has laden Turtles with quotes that will soon become some of the most important quotes in YA literature. As I said earlier, John Green’s mind and way of thinking is so vast and extraordinary, I swear there is not a lot this man doesn’t know, therefore it is such an experience reading his books. I can highly recommend Turtles All The Way Down to anyone who is a fan of Green’s writing, or of YA and books that tackle mental health issues in general. Go out and buy this book now, because I believe everyone should read it!

My Rating: 5 Muffins out of 5

Where To Buy

If you like the sound of the book, here is where you can buy the book (including, but not limited to):

Amazon

The Book Depository

Cover photo and description taken from Goodreads (view book profile here)

Categories
4 Muffins Book Reviews

Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy

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Hello fellow bookworms! I finally got round to finishing Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy, and thoroughly enjoyed it for the most part, but of course, being a short story bind up, it was difficult to love every single story. I will be doing short overall review, plus a brief look at what I thought about the stories individually as well…

Below is my review, plus a sneaky peak at the front cover and description and places to buy:

About The Book

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Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson and Robin Wasserman

Ten illustrated stories following the adventures of Simon Lewis, star of the #1 New York Times bestselling series The Mortal Instruments, as he trains to become a Shadowhunter. Simon has been a human and a vampire, but after the events of City of Heavenly Fire left him stripped of his memories, he isn’t sure who he is any more. When the Shadowhunter Academy reopens, Simon throws himself into this new world of demon-hunting, determined to find himself again. Whomever this Simon might be… Join him on his journey to become a Shadowhunter, and learn about the Academy’s illustrious history along the way, through guest lecturers such as Jace Herondale, Tessa Gray, and Magnus Bane. The series features characters from Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments, Infernal Devices, Dark Artifices and the upcoming Last Hours series.

My Review

Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy follows on from Clare’s fantasy books, The Mortal Instruments, The Infernal Devices and The Dark Artifices (although having read Lady Midnight before this, I recommend reading this before the TDA books!) Set mainly in Idris, at the centre of education and training for young and aspiring Shadowhunters, this set of stories was the perfect way to see Simon in his new life after The Mortal Instruments, as well as getting to know some characters we didn’t get the the chance to meet in the books beforehand.

Favourite story: The Whitechapel Fiend or Nothing But Shadows

Least favourite story: The Evil We Love or Bitter of Tongue

Favourite new character (not appearing in previous books): James Herondale or George Lovelace

Welcome to Shadowhunter Academy

I really enjoyed this introductory story to set the scene at the Academy, and also introduce us to some amazing characters we get to know over the rest of the stories. Didn’t have the history like the other stories did, but still a great story!

My Rating: 4 Muffins out of 5

The Lost Herondale

It was great to be able to link this story to what I had read in Lady Midnight and Lord of Shadows, and Catarina is such an interesting character. Slightly confusing at times, could do with a Herondale family tree, but a good story nonetheless.

My Rating: 4 Muffins out of 5

The Whitechapel Fiend

I loved this story, I didn’t realise how much I missed the Infernal Devices gang! Jem, Will and Tessa are such a perfect team, and I loved having the British history of Jack the Ripper behind this one! A definite favourite of mine!

My Rating: 5 Muffins out of 5

Nothing but Shadows

Another story I thoroughly enjoyed, with the very relatable James Herondale, and a perfectly formed friendship in the end. This one also raises interesting questions for series to come, with the Shadowhunter-Warlock combination.

My Rating: 5 Muffins out of 5

The Evil We Love

Not my favourite, I must admit, but still had some Shadowhunter history and a good storyline. It was one of the longer stories, but I feel like I already know a lot about Valentines Circle, it just didn’t spark my interest like some of the other stories did.

My Rating: 3.5 Muffins out of 5

Pale Kings and Princes

This was an interesting story on the faerie front, as we get more insight into what happened to Andrew and Arthur from The Dark Artifices, and how they came to know the faeries they way they did. Intriguing, and I’ve always loved Helen’s character throughout the books, it was great to read more about her life during the Cold Peace.

My Rating: 4 Muffins out of 5

Bitter of Tongue

I was a bit disappointed with this one, I felt very confused by the whole kidnapping fiasco, but I think I find faerieland in general a little bit confusing and overwhelming. Also, why is Izzy always there? Not that I’m complaining, but sometimes it didn’t make much sense to have her turn up out of the blue.

My Rating: 3.5 Muffins out of 5

The Fiery Trial

Having read Lady Midnight and Lord of Shadows beforehand (which isn’t recommended but it doesn’t matter too much!) I knew and loved Emma and Julian’s characters so much already. It was great to see more of Clary, and to also experience a Parabatai ceremony! There are also glimpses of Julian’s feelings towards Emma, but those are to be revealed in TDA!

My Rating: 4.5 Muffins out of 5

Born to Endless Night

Hooray for Malec!! I absolutely adore Magnus’ character, and his relationship with Alec is so perfect! This was another one of the longer stories, but I felt like this had more content that leant itself to future books, rather than expanding on information in previous books like The Evil We Love. The Lightwood family were a great addition to the story, and Simon’s relationship with Magnus and Alec was strengthened as well.

My Rating: 4 Muffins out of 5

Angels Twice Descending

This was definitely the most heart-wrenching story of them all! We get an insight into what happens when a mundane ascends and becomes a Shadowhunter, and how they are feeling leading up to that point when everything in their life is going to change. Also, for those who have read it, you will understand why the end was just too much for me to bare!

My Rating: 5 Muffins out of 5

 

Where To Buy

If you like the sound of the book, here is where you can buy the book (including, but not limited to):

Amazon

The Book Depository

What were your favourite stories from the Shadowhunter Academy? Did we enjoy the same ones? I’d love to know what you thought in the comments!

Until next time…

Jade 🙂

Categories
5 Muffins Book Reviews

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

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What a well known book, and I've only just got round to reading it! I can tell you, I'm so glad I picked it up! Miss Peregrine's was a story I knew I always wanted to read, and it had been there on my shelf for a while, along with it's sequel, Hollow City, but it always seemed to get overlooked when I was choosing what to read next… not this time!

Below is my review, plus a sneaky peak at the front cover and description and places to buy:

About The Book

9460487

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that Miss Peregrine's children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

My Review

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is a Young Adult novel, but first and foremost follows the fantastical paranormal genre. Set partly in America, but mostly in Welsh territory, we follow Jacob on his journey as he discovers that the stories his grandfather, Abe, told him as a child, were true. Unbelievably so! In and out of another time, Jacob learns more about the children labelled 'peculiar' and also learns they are in great danger. As Jacob delves deeper into the world of peculiar, and into himself, he understands this is just the beginning for his relationship with the peculiar children that take shelter with Miss Peregrine.

The events throughout this book have been so carefully thought out, introducing the reader to a new realm of magical happenings. It is incredibly unpredictable, possibly because we are so unfamiliar with this new world Riggs has created, and finishes with a climactic ending to lead perfectly on to Hollow City. There is never a dull moment in this book; every part is as thrilling as the last, making it a fast paced, compelling story line. The addition of photographs throughout the book also drives the story and makes it a faster read. Despite being a newly formed world, everything is logical and, although threads are left untied at the end, we know there will be questions answered in the following books.

We are introduced to so many characters throughout the book, mainly the family of peculiar children. I loved Millard, I thought his character was so quirky, and him lacking any physical form made his actions even more hilarious at times. Emma and Jacob's relationship grew on me, and was such a delight to read when it was fully developed. It wasn't the kind of relationship that was all 'in your face' like some books, but very subtle among the other events, that just adds a bit of light-heartedness to the story. Despite the paranormal traits of the peculiar children, Riggs has done a great job of merging fantasy and realism, making it seem more realistic. The blend of present and past, and making the reader understand that the peculiars live in the past, makes it feel like it's real, rather that placing them in another world that is less realistic.

From the moment the monsters were mentioned, and when Abe speaks to Jacob in the beginning about them, I was constantly trying to guess what they were and why they were so frightening. There was plenty more to keep me on the edge of my seat as well, trying to figure out what would become of the peculiar children. My favourite part of the book was when Jacob travels through the loop for the first time, and meets the peculiar children. Emma and Millard are amazing at this point, already so well characterised for people we've just met. The end was also extremely thrilling and spiked my excitement for the next book! The action scenes were really well written, describing everything that was going on and striking fear through me as if I was there! The entire book contains extremely good writing, especially with the incorporation of photos to bring the writing to life even more. I found myself laughing at several parts of the book; there were some pretty humorous parts in the story, particularly, as I mentioned earlier, Millard and his invisibility!

There were times when I could not put this book down! I found it so captivating and unlike anything I've read before. I cannot wait to finish the trilogy and find out how it ends (here's hoping that I don't use any of these beloved peculiars on the way, because I fear for their lives now I know what they're facing!)

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fantasy or paranormal writing, or even just a fast paced book with eccentric, peculiar characters, because you will find all of that in Miss Peregrine's!

My Rating: 5 Muffins out of 5

Where To Buy

If you like the sound of the book, here is where you can buy the book (including, but not limited to):

Amazon

The Book Depository

  Cover photo and description taken from Goodreads (view book profile here)

Categories
4 Muffins Book Reviews

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

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I’ve had this on my shelf for a while now, and wanted a short book to read and try to catch up on my Reading Challenge. This one only had little over 300 pages, so I was hoping to whizz through it, and it was a fairly enjoyable read in the end.

Below is my review, plus a sneaky peak at the front cover and description and places to buy:

About The Book

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

“Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos. A profoundly moving story of family, secrets, and longing, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.

My Review

Everything I Never Told You explores the YA genre, with a strange mystery vibe. It definitely contributes tropes of YA fiction through the characters age and issues the story tackles, but there is always the mystery of what happened hanging over the plot as well. The narrative is more of an exploratory one, rather than investigative as I initially thought.

Set in Ohio during the 1970s, we follow the Lee family on their journey to discover why their daughter Lydia was found at the bottom of a lake. The story jumps backwards and forwards in time, the changes of which were written extremely well written, and explores their family history, and what it was like for them to live as a multi-cultural family in those times. The story very much focuses on decoding the Lee family, finding out what goes on in each of the characters minds and how this affects their family life. The main focus is, of course, on Lydia, and life leading to her death in particular.

Everything that happened to each of the characters throughout the book was shown through their eyes, even if the story was written in (a sometimes confusing) third person. As we see things through many different points of view, not many things that happened were predictable, although James could sometimes be a guessable character. The most unpredictable turn of events was Lydia, which made sense seeing as she was the main focus of the story. There was nothing particularly climactic about the ending, but it was an overall interesting book with plenty happening at most points in the story. The plot was fairly fast paced because of this, and everything was logically set out to reveal important parts at just the right time. Nothing was included that necessarily seemed out of place, and by the end, everything was resolved.

With such a small cast of characters, each of them had a fully developed history and storyline which made them equally interesting. I found Lydia to be an extremely relatable character in terms of working hard to get what she wants and eventually breaking under the pressure put on her. She had a rebellious nature that became a seemingly large part of her the further into the book I got, and that seemed to be the case with many of the characters. Having characters like these, who are perfectly flawed, show us that no one in the world is perfect and everyone has their secrets. Due to this, the characters definitely felt real to me, because they were so relatable and didn’t seem polished in any way.

I was not necessarily kept guessing throughout the book, but I was constantly intrigued by the characters that continued to unfold and develop throughout the story. Eventually towards the end, you understand what happened to Lydia through her perspective, which was incredibly interesting. My favourite part of the book was when Nat was accepted into Harvard and the whole family make a fuss of him, when Lydia comes out and confesses she is failing Physics. This is quite a small section in the book, but I just felt it really demonstrated and embodied the feelings of each family member. Nat had finally achieved something his parents were proud of, and he was in the spotlight. His mother and father were pleased with his achievement, and Lydia finally shows that, as hard as she tries, she cannot be good at everything, no matter how much pressure is laid on her. The scenes that were written particularly well were those that really got into the depth of a character and understanding their history, and how that has affected their present. For example, understanding Marilyn and the relationship with her mother helped me to translate how Marilyn felt in the present day when mothering Lydia.

I possibly shed a few tears throughout this book, especially when Lydia was struggling with the pressure that has been put on her by her family, just because I found it very relatable, not because my family pressure me, but because I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well, and feel knocked down when I don’t reach my goals. I feel as though there are many points in this book which other readers will connect with in different ways, and will strike people emotionally, but this was just one moment that really go to me personally. I wasn’t necessarily gripped by the story itself, but the characters made me want to come back and find out more about them. It was an overall quick read, with a lot of depth packed into just over 300 pages.

There are very few books that I have read lately where I can say I really learnt something about myself, but this was an exception. This book taught me that pressure is not always a good thing, especially in high doses, and that we can’t always be good at everything. The best we can do is always strive to do the best we can do, and not be put down if what we get in return was not up to our high expectations.

I would definitely recommend this book, especially if you are lover of character driven novels, rather than plot driven ones. A solid YA book but with plenty to capture older readers as well.

My Rating: 4 Muffins out of 5

Where To Buy

If you like the sound of the book, here is where you can buy it (including, but not limited to):

Amazon

The Book Depository

  Cover photo and description taken from Goodreads (view book profile here)

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Categories
4 Muffins Book Reviews

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart: Q&A Review

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This is a slightly different type of review for this week’s post, styled as a Q&A. My best friend and I had both read this book, and obviously, if you have read We Were Liars then you will understand, we had very mixed feelings about this novel! I thought it would be a good idea to have a more structured discussion, like a Q&A session, about the events in the book and how we felt about them, and see how far you all agree or disagree with what we thought

Please do not read any further if you have not read We Were Liars! This post will contains spoilers!

About The Book

we were liars

‘We Were Liars’ by E. Lockhart

We are the Liars.

We are beautiful, privileged and live a life of carefree luxury.

We are cracked and broken.

A story of love and romance.

A tale of tragedy.

Which are lies?

Which is truth?

You decide.

Q&A Discussion Review

How would you describe the genre of this book?

Silence. When you start to really think about it, this question is a toughie. When we first picked it up, we thought YA and mystery, but there is so much more too it than we initially thought. It could potentially be classed as a thriller novel, as it has the shorter chapters, but it’s more of a psychological read, because it doesn’t have the drive that comes with a thriller, like a whodunnit vibe. A young adult psychological mystery was our final verdict. New genre on Goodreads, perhaps?

Where is this book set, both physically and mentally?

What is meant by this question is of course where it is actually set physically, but also where we are in Cadence’s mindset, as we are reading from her point of view. How is she feeling at different points in the book? So we know it’s set on the island and in various houses on the island, as a main physical setting. It’s tough to tell the first time you read the book to tell where we are with Cadence mentally, but it’s important to think about this because of the nature of the storyline. In the beginning, it all feels very real, but after the accident, and as the storyline unravels, we start to question Cadence’s ability to tell the story, and the mental setting becomes questionable, not unlike the unreliable narrator technique. Also, we know Cadence’s character is under a lot of pressure with everything that has happened in her family with her dad leaving, and also her thinking about going to college, and we thought about whether this possibly hindered her ability to come to the final realisation faster.

What do you think of the series of events that happened throughout the book?

So at the start of the book, we see Cadence’s dad leave her and her mum, so why is this relevant? We think it’s symbolic of the beginning of so many bad things happening to her, and also showing that she has lost the strength of the support system she had with two parents. She has her accident, she has to stay away from the Liars for a few summers, and her relationships falter with a lot of people. Thinking about Cadence’s relationship with Gat, it’s tough to say why it was included in the storyline. It was an addition to carry the story, but would anything have been different if the relationship was taken away, and they were just friends? It never seemed to develop into anything.

Where the events predictable?

Did we know anything going into this book? No! It is so much better to go into this knowing as little as possible, which of course makes all events unpredictable. After she has her accident, you start to see some relevance to the story, but the ending was such a shock. Everything was condensed into such a small book, you need to read it again and pick it apart to find the clues hidden within that you may not have seen the first time round.

Did you find the ending climactic?

In most mystery and thriller novels, the beginning sets the scene, the middle holds the investigation and the ends tells us who the culprit is, along with an epilogue or final chapter which wraps everything up. With We Were Liars, everything seems to merge, and because there wasn’t really any defining investigation to follow the story- it all seems quite mundane in a way- there is even more of a shock when everything comes to light. After finding out everything that happened, their lives seem to go back to normal in the last few pages, which is really strange, because what Cadence has learnt and come to terms with is far from normal. There is also a very strong sense of forgiveness in the end, considering the events. When everyone on the island finds out that Cadence knows, they seem very quick to forgive, almost like they have had the time while she has been recovering to learn to forgive what her and Liars did.

Did you have any theories about what might have happened?

I had one theory, because I always like to try and guess. My theory was maybe someone was waiting for Cadence to try and drown her, because she was the eldest grandchild and heir to the estate. I always thought it had something to do with the water, and I never imagined that the major event in the book wouldn’t be linked. There was also suspicion when Mirren was ill, and questions and theories surrounding that, which brings us to our next question…

Hints towards the ending? Did you spot them or did they contribute towards your theories?

Mirren being ill is now an obvious hint towards the final verdict of the storyline, but nothing ever had a lot of emphasis on it to draw your attention, which was probably done on purpose, to detract from that fact that it may have been a clue. The same thing with the Liars not replying to Cadence’s emails, and Mirren saying she never received her gift. The rebuild of the house was a massive hint, I can’t believe I didn’t pick up on it!

What was your reaction to the plot twist?

It was the most dramatic part of the book. There wasn’t much of a build up which is what made it more effective and in-your-face woah!

Did you find the plot quite fast paced, or was it slow at times?

A mix of both. There were some parts that dragged on a lot, like Gat and Cadence spending time together. I was initially planning to read this in one day, but it took me almost a week! The chapters made it feel slightly faster paced because they were so short, but there were some parts that were quite repetitive and therefore slowed the pace a bit. This could have been done to make you pay attention to the important parts, by using repetition within scenes, even though they seemed mundane. It has been very cleverly written.

Did the author tie up all the loose ends that were introduced throughout the story?

Pretty much, we can’t think of anything within the plot that we’re still questioning.

Thoughts on the sentence and paragraph structure?

Why did the author split longer sentences into different lines? My idea was it could mirror the Liars on the different levels of the house at the end, by having different parts of the same sentence on a separate line. It could also hint towards the very broken family that you find out the Sinclairs are. Shorter sentences seemed to be fact, the piece of information that Cadence knows, whereas the longer sentences are more Cadence trying to figure out what has happened, which is why it seems more bulked out in the middle, and the broken sentences appear more at the beginning and end of the book.

Thoughts on the language and style of language used?

We’re thinking here about the very dramatic use of language for less dramatic circumstances. For example ‘He took out a hand gun and shot me in the chest. I was standing on the lawn and I fell.’ Language like this appears throughout the book and it is extremely metaphorical, because it isn’t actually happening. But we feel like nothing in this book is actually happening in a sense; therefore the language could mirror this in some way. Also, Cadence uses very specific and poignant language to describe the Liars in the beginning, such as describing Gat as ‘ambition and strong coffee’. We thought this could be written so specifically because the Liars do end up being characters in her head, and she therefore knows them as well as an author knows her characters, like she has built their personalities.

Who was your favourite character, and why?

All characters had a part to play, but none seemed significantly important at the same time. You can sympathise with Cadence because it is written from her point of view, but if I had to choose, I would choose Mirren, because she seemed the most chilled, and I know how important it is for a girl to have another girl to bond with. Gat didn’t seem real enough, and his relationship with Raquel was a strange addition, possibly to distract Cadence from him, and stop her falling for him too much. If she had fallen too hard, she may have figured things out sooner.

What did you think of the different characters in the story? (the Aunties? the Littles? Grandad?)

The aunties didn’t have a massive role to play until the end when they had the fight. Their characters developed into very selfish ones, and we found them quite distracting from the main plot, but again, this could have been another technique that Lockhart used to keep the reader from guessing the ending too quickly. There was one part regarding the Littles that stood out to me, which was when they had just finished a family dinner and Cadence asks the Littles to tell her about what happened, which is when she finds out they have been forbidden to say anything to her about the ‘accident’. I feel like people that young wouldn’t be able to understand, or even keep their mouths shut about what happened, so the aunties must have quite a strong influence over them. Grandad was a very mixed character, because at some points he could be the adorable, loving Grandad, and the next he could snap and be quite aggressive when people were only trying to help him.

Did the characters feel real to you?

The story was a lot more focused on the progression of events, rather than the character development. However, the situation the family was in was a very realistic situation.The Liars are more well developed, so they were the most real. The characters, while they did’t have a lot of development, they did have the background and family setup that made it feel more real. They didn’t have a perfect family.

What was your favourite part of the book, and why?

Probably finding out what happened, and Cadence actually having her accident. So kickstarting and rounding off the storyline were the favourite parts, because they were important parts in the plot. Her accident is a trigger for the reader to explore the story further.

What was your least favourite part of the book, and why?

THE DOGS DYING! They didn’t deserve it! Also the slower parts of the storyline that dragged on a bit.

Were certain types of scene written particularly well?

There was nothing that jumped out in particular, but at the same time, it was all, to some extent, written really well, for the author to be able to hide such a big surprise at the end through seemingly ordinary writing about realistic family disputes.

Did the book make you feel any particular emotions? Did you cry at any point?

The writing wasn’t necessarily emotional enough to cry (although tears may have been shed when the dogs die, just saying!) There was some anger when the aunties were arguing, or when Grandad lashed out when people were trying to help, but no particular rush of emotion.

Did the story grip you and keep you turning the pages?

Yes! But also, because of the way it was written, with no cliffhangers at the end of chapters, it seemed like a normal story. It wasn’t being told to create a climax at all because everything in the end is so sudden. This happened more towards the beginning transitioning to the middle.

Did you learn something? Morally or academically?

Don’t get four people to start a fire on different floors of a building!

Seriously though, we learnt that sometimes, it isn’t always about having material possessions, but building memories and moments with the people you love most in your life. This was most prominent when Cadence was getting rid of her things, and you can see her survive without them. You can have a minimalist lifestyle and still be happy.

The type of reader you’d recommend the book to?

We would recommend We Were Liars to readers around the 20 year old age range, similar to ourselves, and of course anyone older who appreciates this genre of literature, but not suitable for young readers. Anyone who enjoys a quick read.

 Are there any books or series you would compare it to?

There is nothing we can think to compare it too, it is such a unique story. It can loosely be compared to The Fault In Our Stars just for the plot twist and the shock of thinking one thing, and the opposite happening.

My Rating: 4 Muffins out of 5

Where To Buy

If you like the sound of the book, here is where you can buy it (including, but not limited to):

Amazon

The Book Depository

  Cover photo and description taken from Goodreads (view book profile here)

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