Why me visiting a bookshop is basically the same as a kid in a candy store

I am a self-proclaimed lover of books and recently I have been wondering just why I love them so much. There is no shop that I love more than a book store; I go in and have to be dragged out with people having to stop and double check I haven’t run off again- I’m pretty much the two year old sister my best friend never had. I’m not quite sure why but seeing books makes me so excited and happy and being around other people who feel the same just makes me feel so at home. But ultimately it is just a few hundred pages filled with words so why is it I spend so much of my life looking at them, reading them, maybe even attempting to build a career around them?

Books have had a huge effect on my life; they have taught me a lot. They have opened my eyes to entirely new perspectives: they mean I can visit a different century, planet, and an entirely different lifestyle. I’m sure if I read the same genre by the same author from the same year, I wouldn’t think this and there are definitely books that don’t teach me as much but I can read a book and gain an understanding on something I knew nothing about like psychology books that explore introversion and mental illness. I finish them feeling like I’ve gained knowledge.

Books are educators, they preach acceptance and to me are the physicality of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. They build bridges between people, some of my strongest friendships have been built on a similar taste in books, I love talking about them and sharing them, comparing thoughts and seeing how the same book can take on a different meaning depending on the reader. They are such a personal form of education, I don’t think that there’s any format that you can see into someone’s brains and really understand an idea as much as you can through reading. Certain books can change a generation or flip a view on its head- books have made me more open-minded like The Outsiders by SE Hinton as before reading that I think I would have prejudged people more, now I think anti-heroes are important.

Books are relatable- I honestly think there is a book out there on every problem I’ve ever had or ever thought of. I’ve learnt things about myself through reading about these characters that I relate to and when I see them in an entirely different situation to my own, it inspires me to change. Seeing a character develop through the course of the story makes me want to develop as a person and makes me feel like I can too, there are countless books that have made me feel braver or made feel like I can do something: Evie from Am I normal yet? made me see that mental illness should be talked about, not made fun of and hidden, Frankie from The disreputable history made me realise that girls should not hide their intelligence to make boys like them, Blue from The raven cycle helped me understand that we can’t always follow the path that our parents want for us and that first impressions are often wrong. That is to name a few, there are countless books and characters that have given me infinite lessons that I use in my life.

A teacher told me the other day that books and other forms of printed word were a thing of the past- they are to be replaced with documentaries and films. Don’t get me wrong I do love films as well; I do however think that a world without books would be sad. Maybe it’s the hoarder in me but I love being able to archive things and being able to actually hold my thoughts and ideas or someone else’s in my hands.  So I suppose this post is me asking for books to stay circulating, for bookstores to remain open and for stories to continue to be shared through a few hundred pages and a few million pairs of eyes.

London Belongs To Us by Sarra Manning Review

‘Bitch is just a word that boys say when they don’t have the power to hurt you anymore’

London Belongs To Us is a contemporary, centring around Sunny, a 17 year old planning to meet up with her long term boyfriend to lose her virginity. However instead she is sent a picture of said boyfriend on the other side of London kissing another girl and a wild goose chase with two French boys, a girl band and a broom ensues. What I was expecting from this book was a light hearted, typical teen romance and it was all of those things but with so much more. The book discusses feminist issues, issues around race, gender, sexual orientation, divorce, unconventional families, to mention a few.  Not only does it discuss them, it bluntly confronts them; there is no sugar coating in this book. Our main character, Sunny, is mixed race, and this becomes a main focus of the book, one of the scariest scenes being when Sunny is harassed and sworn at in the street for being seen with Jean-Luc and Vic, two white French boys.

One of my favourite things about this book was the way it tackled slut shaming and girls putting other girls down. Sunny is not perfect, for half of the book she refers to the girl her boyfriend kissed as a slut. While this really irritated me when she said it, she was called out on it which I appreciated. There was a really touching point in which she finally meets the girl and rather than starting a fight, they end up complementing each other, a girl supporting other girls is a message that cannot be spread enough. Another interesting feature in this book was that at the start of each chapter there was a couple of paragraphs describing the history of each place she visited; I think this would be a great book to read in London or just before visiting because the descriptions made me want to go so badly. Before the chapter started there was usually either a pie chart detailing what was going on in her head at that point or a background story like ‘A history of my hair’ which was really helpful as the book only spanned over a night so it was a really good way for the reader to understand the backstory and motivations of the characters.

Okay, now I’m done raving about this book, I’m going to go into the few criticisms I have.. While most of the book was written well: it was easy to read, the characters voices felt real etc. near the middle of the book it kind of lost its way for a little while. A few of the characters voices became weirdly irritating, and seemed like the dialogue of entirely different characters rather than the ones that had been there from the start. I think around this point the author was trying really hard to make her characters sound like typical teens but because she hadn’t set out to do this from the start, it just felt weirdly out of place. Luckily, this only lasted for a few chapters and there voices returned to normal after that. Another problem I had was that while I loved what we did see of Jean-Luc’s character, he wasn’t really developed enough, we got a few hints into his life but mostly his plot didn’t really have the space to grow with all the crazy plots and events the author was focusing on instead. It was definitely a busy, sometimes vaguely confusing plot. A lot was happening over these 12 hours but with the character development of Sunny being so drastic, they needed a lot of craziness to make her personality change make sense.

Overall, I adored this book and would probably give it 4/5 stars. I have been searching so long for a book that spanned over a night or a day that was actually well executed and this is it. The characters were weird and wonderful, especially her badass best friend who was brutally honest in the best possible way because she reminded me so much of my own best friend.  I loved the crazy events, the important life lessons and the conclusions this book came to. Next time you need a pick me up with a message, give this one a go.

Stars Above by Marissa Meyer Review

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Stars above is a collection of stories set in the Lunar Chronicles world and featuring some of the Lunar Chronicles characters. As a whole I would give this book 5 stars and I see it as an essential part of the series as a whole and would recommend it to anyone who has finished Winter and is craving more Lunar Chronicles. However my opinions on the stories did vary so here is a broken down review.

The keeper (3/5):

This one centred around Michelle Benoit (Scarlet’s Grandmother) and gave some much needed background to how Cinder was cared for before she moved in with her adoptive family. While I didn’t love learning about Michelle’s past and the romantic aspect fell a bit flat for me, I did enjoy learning a little bit more about Scarlet’s relationship with her dad.

Glitches (4/5):

This story told us the tale of how Cinder met her adoptive family and became the Cinderella style character she is. I love Peony so it was really nice to see how she and Cinder’s relationship differed from Cinder’s relationship with Pearl.

The Queen’s army (5/5):

So long story short, I am a huge Wolf fan, he was in fact my favourite of all the guys in this series. Therefore I loved this one. This was all about how Wolf became part of Levana’s army and how he ended up becoming Alpha. While there was a lot of fight scenes (too many maybe) and I would have liked to see more conversations between him and his brother, I did enjoy the insight on exactly what Levana created and I liked seeing it from Wolf’s perspective.

Carswell’s guide to being lucky (4/5):

Another long story short: I am not the biggest Thorne fan (shock, horror) so I was actually pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this. It was a nice relief from all the seriousness of the other stories before it and I have to admit I did laugh once or twice. This one was centred around Thorne when he was younger and how he helped a girl called Kate Fallows. It was interesting to find out about his background even if he did annoy me a little at times.

After sunshine passes by (3/5):

This one is about how Cress ended up on the ship alone and why she ended up there. While it did drag a little, I did like Cress more afterward. When you see her as a child and see what her aims were, it’s more difficult to find her annoying.

The princess and the guard (5/5):

So I love, love, love Winter and Jacin (almost as much as I love Scarlet and Wolf) so I enjoyed this one very much. This was the backstory as to why Winter stopped using her gift. And it was actually quite thought provoking and approached the topic of freewill and freedom of choice in a really difficult scenario. We saw more of how Jacin and Winter’s relationship has changed over the years which is always good.

The little android (3/5):

This was a retelling of The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen but with an android rather than a mermaid. I actually didn’t like this one very much. It didn’t really have any relevant characters, instead it was trying to compare androids (with glitches that have effectively made them into artificial intelligence) with humans and it made me weirdly uncomfortable. In my opinion at least, this one didn’t really grasp what it is to be human, the transformation from android to ‘human’ was just a more realistic looking body. On top of all this, the main character had random violent thoughts and the crush she had was rather disturbing and I just found the whole thing kind of creepy.

The mechanic (4/5):

This was pretty much just Cinder and Kai being Cinder and Kai. It was their first meeting told from Kai’s perspective and while it was just a conversation, I really enjoyed it.

Something old, something new (5/5):

This was the ending to the Lunar Chronicles I had wanted at the end of Winter. It wasn’t dramatic, instead it was wonderfully mundane, just a long reunion and wedding scene. I had really wanted to see all the characters together again and where they are now and reading the interactions between them all was just perfect. I couldn’t have asked for a better conclusion to the series.

Queen Of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas Review

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*Spoilers ahead, you have been warned*

‘Then she smiled with every last shred of courage, of desperation, of hope for the glimmer of that glorious future. “Let’s go rattle the stars.”’

I loved this book. It was probably my favourite in the series so far, yet it has taken me an entire year to read it. I picked it up when it came out, then again in February until I finally got into it two weeks ago. So why did it take me so long? I think it was because it felt like the characters and their relationships with each other had really changed from the previous books, so much so that it really threw me off to begin with. We start off with Chaol and Aelin flat out hating each other, Dorian as a demon prince, Rowan not even there what so ever and Aedion just being Aedion. Funnily enough the character change that sucked me in the most was Lysandra, for the first couple hundred she was what kept me reading and by the end she was one of my favourite characters.

One of the many things Sarah J Maas can do really well is write balanced, realistic characters. She doesn’t have any character that is all good, just the same as she doesn’t have any character who is entirely evil. Aelin herself is a brilliant example of this. While Aelin is the main protagonist, we are still given things to dislike about her and the other characters are given space to dislike certain things about her too. For example, there is a point when she has to go back to being Celeana and even Rowan was worried because you see just how horrible she used to be and how she has grown from the beginning of the series. This character progression is key as what she’s been through would change her and to make her character a lot more believable we need to witness that change. The change in relationships is also essential as it shows that yes, not every relationship lasts forever but that doesn’t have to lead to full on hatred. Long ago, in the first book, there was a romance between Dorian and Aelin and we hear nothing of that now, they are now best friends instead and that’s fine. Just the same as Chaol and Aelin don’t get along very well anymore; having the main character always have the exact same opinion on everyone the whole way through the series would be rather boring.

Even though at the time I hated the slow start, I understand now why it was there. We needed to see the change and get to grips with all the points of view and the new characters added like Elide and Nesryn. Elide and Nesryn, winners of most boring characters in this book. I found them both to be completely two dimensional, especially Elide. Despite having read all of her chapters, I still can’t picture or care for her much at all, the same goes for Nesryn. I understand that we needed Nesryn to try and bring some of the old Chaol back but Elide seems to have no purpose as of yet other than to help us like Manon. Manon is another character I had a problem with as she felt far too much like Aelin in parts. Her friend Asterin however is absolutely wonderful so I’ll tolerate my issues with Manon because Sarah J Maas created Asterin.

For all my moaning, the other 3 quarters of this book was amazing. I loved the action scenes and she had the perfect balance of dialogue and plot. The conversations between the characters are always my favourite parts, particularly Aedion and just about anyone. The relationship between Rowan and Aelin was absolutely adorable and it provided the relief from all the (needed) doom and gloom in this book. The humour came through in these parts and Sarah J Maas can definitely make me laugh. On top of all of that good stuff, at no point was I confused. Sarah J Maas has made a complicated plot and a complicated world but it is all explained so well that she doesn’t leave the reader confused. The use of multiple perspectives is executed perfectly and I understood exactly whose perspective it was and what was happening.

How could I review a Sarah J Maas book without raving about her beautiful writing style? Every sentence is crafted so brilliantly and she uses certain phrases to pack such a punch and put across so much emotion. The line at the top of this review honestly gives me goose bumps every time I read it and there are so many beautiful sentences like that throughout. You can always feel the personalities of her characters coming out through the narrative and I will forever be in awe of her.

The best part of this entire book was its conclusion. The characters shone and the plot came together beautifully. I was up at two in the morning sat reading the last 100 pages because you honestly can’t put it down. The conclusion quite honestly had the best few action scenes I have ever read. This is coming out in a jumbled mess because I honestly have no words to describe how I felt about those last 100 pages. All that is left to say is that the second that 5th instalment comes out, I will be running to the bookstore and I’ll be the first one to buy it.

It’s kind of a funny story by Ned Vizzini review

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‘It’s such a silly little thing, the heart. Badoom. It feels good the way it cleans me. Badoom. Screw it. I want my heart. I want my heart but my brain is acting up.’

‘It’s kind of a funny story’ is pegged as ‘a beloved book about a teen grappling with suicidal thoughts’ and as ‘funny and disarming’ which is quite a strange combination. It follows Craig Gilner’s life before his suicidal episode and the week following it in which he is admitted onto a psychiatric ward. For me this book wasn’t laugh out loud funny but at the same time it wasn’t half as upsetting and disturbing as you may expect. Does it have an intricate beautiful writing style? No. Does it make you laugh with every line? No. Should every teenager who struggles with or is merely curious about mental health read it? Yes, definitely.

As someone who does have quite a lot of knowledge about depression and who has read a variation of books and articles on the topic, it showed a new angle. I’ve never felt I understood the thought process of someone struggling the way Craig is struggling as much as I did with this book. Ned Vizzini makes depression into this almost physical, visual thing. Craig describes his triggers as ‘tentacles’, this includes his school work, his worries about money etc… and he describes the things he enjoys as his ‘anchors’ which includes riding his bike and watching people play video games. Then possibly the most helpful term was ‘the Shift’ which is for lack of better words a cure, a switch that would make the depression disappear and return him to the way he was a year before. All this helps you understand him and really relate to the book, as well as helping you evaluate the tentacles and anchors in your life.

This book did take a while to properly start, it does say in the blurb that Craig spends time on a psychiatric ward; this however doesn’t happen until almost a third of the way into the book. While I hate to criticize this book, I do think it could have done without a lot of the first 100 or so pages, especially when talking about his time with Aaron. As a character, I didn’t particularly like Aaron, he lacked personality and I found myself bored when any of his parties or any conversations with him were described. The same goes for Nia, who I found completely insufferable but more on that later. It did go into a lot of descriptions about Craig experimenting with drugs with Aaron which while I understand is necessary to mention, I did get a bit sick of it.

I enjoyed this book much more once he’s in the psychiatric hospital because the characters introduced were just amazing. You have Armelio who has proclaimed himself the president, Humble who is a confusing character but my personal favourite, Noelle who has scars all across her face and is kind of a mystery for most of it and a few more strange and wonderful characters. After he is admitted it feels like a series of interesting life lessons which I suppose for Craig it is. For example a lot of his issues come from school stress and it does really help put things into perspective and explain what’s really important. As well as this, the way it goes into so many different characters lives, each one giving a slight moral to it, really helps you see a variation of accurate representations of mental illnesses. It teaches you that there isn’t just some miracle cure that it is something that some people struggle with for their whole lives but that you can find ways of coping and that most of all you can find ways to live.

Despite romance not being a central plot of the book, I did love the romance between Noelle and Craig. It wasn’t overdone or melodramatic; it was, like this entire book, realistic and that was the beauty of it. Neither of one of them is perfect, they’re flaws kind of complement each other and their conversations are some of my favourite parts. Initially it does seem that Aaron’s girlfriend, Nia, is going to be the main romance and unfortunately she is in it for quite a while. She kind of served to show how you shouldn’t react to someone telling you they have depression and continues to serve this purpose most of the way through. I suppose in that way she was necessary but that didn’t stop me wanting to drag her out of the book and scream at her (not my finest moment I’ll admit).

At the core of this book is hope, it’s a positive, encouraging and understanding story. You put it down and you feel a little bit more determined, a lot less judgemental and a lot more open and ready to talk about mental health and I think all of us need that in our lives.