Just Listen – Sarah Dessen

Everybody has those ‘lighter’ books they read – the easy, light-hearted reads which require little concentration. Just Listen was to be my lighter read.

Having heard praise of Sarah Dessen I was happy to be finally reading one of her books. However, I have to say that this book did disappoint me.

Just Listen follows teenage part-time local model Annabel in a new year of her High School. Her summer was life-changing for her, she fell out with her best friend which meant a new life style. Instead of partying every weekend and hanging out with the popular crowd, she now spends most of her time alone.

Or she does, until she begins talking to Owen. Owen is a mysterious figure, little is known about him other than rumours. Annabel begins to befriend him and find out the truth behind the rumours.

Annabel’s character was a large factor of my disappointment in this novel, I didn’t like her as I found her selfish and self absorbed. I also disliked Owen though, he was too intense and unrealistic to me.

The book was written with extended flashbacks to earlier events which made reading confusing sometimes, because it wasn’t always clear when the scene was occurring.

The book also deals with challenging issues which makes it less of the light-hearted novel I was expecting. Perhaps this is ultimately where my disappointment lies, it wasn’t what I anticipated which made me passive towards the characters and plot line.

However there were also elements of the book I enjoyed, the ideas Owen presented were original and there were deep thoughts sprinkled throughout the narrative which I found intriguing.

Ultimately it is a book I had to finish and whilst it was not a favourite of mine, I hope to try Sarah Dessen’s which will hopefully be more enjoyable for me.

I encourage others to read this book to make up their own minds and please share your opinions with me.

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Fury – Elizabeth Miles

Sometimes sorry is not enough…

I love the Percy Jackson series, so when I heard this book was a modern version of the tale of the Furies (greek mythological creatures), I knew I had to read it.

Fury is set in a small American town, Ascension, during the school winter break.

The book closely follows Em and Chase. Em is a the stereotypical teenage girl, self-absorbed and majorly crushing on a boy. However her crush is her best friend’s boyfriend, Zach. Whilst Gabby (the best friend) is abroad on holiday, Zach finally starts to pays attention to Em…

Meanwhile, Chase lives on the otherside of town. He is the star basketball player of the school who puts on the perfect act yet feels his life is spiralling out of control. He is being haunted by his conscience following a cruel joke he played.

Both Em and Chase feel guilty regarding these events yet not guilty enough to own up or admit to their mistakes. However this all changes when Chase meets Ty, a mysteriously beautiful girl who he soon becomes obsessed with…

Initially, I did not enjoy this book. The characters all seemed shallow, conceited and naive which stopped me from liking them. The plot also seemed to drag on with no exciting events occurring for stretches of time.

However as I continued to read I began to enjoy the book more. The plot thickens and the pace accelerates,  the characters’ back stories were also explained which added character depth, making the characters more likeable.

Hence, I enjoyed the ending of the book, which ended quite abruptly, encouraging me to read the sequel.

This will never be one of my favourite books yet I shall definitely endeavour to read the rest of the series, in order to learn what happens to the characters following Fury.

The Fault In Our Stars – John Green

The Fault in Our StarsI am ashamed to say that this book was sitting on my to-read pile for months, having been told it was a tear jerking book, I couldn’t quite bring myself to read it.

However, I eventually worked up the courage and I am so glad I did. This is my book of the year without a doubt.

The books follows Hazel Lancaster, a teenage girl living with terminal cancer, following her diagnosis her life changed.

She now attends a Cancer Support Group somewhat reluctantly, her only friend in the group Isaac, a teenage boy with cancer in his eye.

However, one week everything changes when Isaac brings along his friend Augustus Waters, known as Gus. Immediately Hazel and Gus grow close and share their thoughts, including Hazel’s favourite book, An Imperial Affliction – which both Hazel and Gus can easily relate to.

However, the book ends suddenly and Hazel is desperate to know what happens to the characters. Henceforth, Gus and Hazel embark on a journey to Amsterdam to meet the author.

This trip allows Hazel and Gus to grow even closer with some shocking truths being revealed…

From the start of the book I thought Hazel was a brilliant character, as it is written in first person readers immediately grow close to the character and in my case, grow to care for her. (I don’t care if she is a “fictional character”). Gus was also instantly likeable, with his humour and quirkiness I often found myself laughing out loud. Both characters had real depth and showed unusual viewpoints, for example their ongoing jokes revolving around”cancer perks”.

John Green writes this book beautifully, his prose allows readers to truly visualise the scenes which further adds to the emotions felt during the book.

With an unexpected twist that with leave all in tears, this book is  the most tear jerking and heart wrenching novel I have ever read, yet I would not hesitate to read it again.

TFIOS has secured it’s place upon my list of favourite book and the plot and characters will stay with me for a long time. It stands out from other books as it is so different, the characters seem so real and the plot line is so realistic coupled with beautiful prose this book will tug at your heartstrings.

Ultimately, I would recommend this book to all and encourage all to read John Green’s other books.

The film adaption is currently being filmed with a release date set for next year which I am awaiting with excitement, hopefully the film will live up to my expectations following the novel.

I cried and I’m sure you will too, so get your hankies ready…

My Sister Lives On The Mantelpiece – Annabel Pitcher

Ten-year-old Jamie hasn’t cried since it happened.

I had heard many good things about this book, a lot of people had told me it was a “must-read” book so I decided to try it for myself…

The plot follows ten-year-old Jamie and his life after he moves house to the Lake District. Jamie struggles to understand his family and the loss which tore it apart.

Five years ago, Jamie’s older sister, Rose, died in a terrorist bombing. Now, Rose lives on the mantelpiece in an urn; Jamie’s Mum has run off, his Dad has turned to alcohol and his remaining sister, Jasmine, struggles to become her own person.

At Jamie’s new school, he struggles to fit in, but manages to find a friend in Sunya – who he knows his Dad would disapprove of, thanks to her ethnicity.

Throughout the story, readers can’t help but sympathise with Jamie. He is written as younger than many readers which allows them to understand him and his viewpoints.  To this extent, I thought Jamie was a great character.

The central plot of the story is Jamie coming to terms with the move and his family, though racism and grief are also main themes. Its a book which really makes you think – just how would you cope in the situations Jamie faces?

Ultimately, I found it a very moving, heart-warming book which I would recommend for anybody. I was in tears at the end!

I will definitely try to read other Annabel Pitcher books, including her new book – Ketchup Clouds.

The Hunt – Andrew Fukuda

The games are over, let the hunt begin…

When the sun goes down. Start running…

The main character of the book, is Gene. He is 17 and a heper – otherwise known as a human. However with the general population of the world being vampires, Gene has had a very disrupted upbringing. Hepers are all but extinct, as they are the vampire food of choice. To survive Hepers either disguise themselves as vampires or are killed, apart from the few left in captivity.

As with all those who disguise themselves, Gene must remove all traces of his humanity to ensure his survival, he attempts to lead a quiet life, trying not to draw attention to himself.

However, the spotlight it thrust upon him when the The Heper Hunt is announced. It is the biggest event of the decade it begins with a lottery draw, with the winners being granted the ultimate privilege of becoming a hunter in the Heper Hunt.

The Hunt is the only opportunity for vampires to feast on the hepers, therefore they all take the event seriously and act very competitively.

Gene is chosen as one of the lucky winners, meaning he is escorted to the Heper Institute. Here he is expected to become almost crazy with hunger for the hepers, but his true nature is becoming clearer and suspicions begin to arise about him…

Gene is a fantastic character, throughout the book is it easy to relate to him and his thoughts. All the other characters are also great and enrich the book to make it as wonderful as it is. Gene has quite an ironic sense of humour which adds lighter moments to an otherwise fast-paced, action book.

Its an action packed plot and very fast paced and it becomes un-put-down-able.

I found this book brilliant. Vampires are now common place in teenage books, yet this story bought a new side and a very original idea. The plot is gripping and with a male main character, the book is appealing to both genders. In my opinion, this book is a must read for any teenager!

I can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel, The Prey!

Smuggler’s Kiss – Marie-Louise Jensen

Smuggler's KissIts not a crime to steal a heart

The book begins with Isabelle walking into the sea – fed up with life and ready to give up. However, when faced with the reality of her decision, she changes her mind and regrets her choice. She believes it to be too late to be saved, but fortunately for her, she is chanced upon by a band of smugglers and they drag her from the water.

A great argument then ensues regarding Isabelle’s future – they must decide whether to return her to shore, throw her overboard or keep her on-board their ship. Isabelle refuses to tell the crew her story and this encourages some of the men to distrust her, this leads to a very heated argument with Isabelle genuinely fearing for her life.

Fortunately, the eventual decisions swings in Isabelle’s favour.

Isabelle is grateful for the reprieve however she is accustomed to a life of luxury and getting her own way; She struggles to adapt to her new way of life, without extravagance.

Isabelle eventually settles into her new life and begins to interact more with the crew and make real friends. Isabelle is shocked to learn more about ‘how the other half live’ and begins to disregard the stereotypes she has grown up with. She also aids the crew in their illegal exploits when she helps to smuggle lace into the country, which she is surprised to find she rather enjoys.

Throughout the plot, Isabelle grows closer to one smuggler, Will. I thought Will was a great character, he was very mysterious and constantly kept me guessing as to his “identity”.

However, I found Isabelle annoying at points; At the beginning of the book, she was very selfish and spoilt. Thankfully though, she dramatically matured throughout the plot and she really grew as a character.

The mysterious nature of the book kept me engaged the whole way through, I couldn’t bear to put it down. The book combines so many different aspects wonderfully; Romance, mystery, adventure, intrigue and the historical detail.

I would definitely recommend this book to everyone, and now I am going to try Marie Louise-Jensen’s other books – I hope they live up to my expectations!

I Was Jane Austen’s Best Friend – Cora Harrison

Jane says that if I am to be the heroine of this story, something will throw a hero in my way…

I Was Jane Austen’s Best Friend is the diary of Jenny Cooper, set in 1791. Jenny is an orphaned girl who has become best friends with her cousin, the famous writer Jane Austen.

Being in a diary format really allows readers to understand the character – although I found it a little perplexing when on occasion it suddenly swaps to a third person narrative, before again returning to a diary format.

The book is set when both girls are teenagers, and this was a great, original idea. Jenny was a great character and so was Jane, both seemed like teenagers whilst at the same time they also acted younger – as girls in that time period did. I think the author did well to factor in this and make it work so effectively.

The book begins with both girls ill at boarding school, however fortunately, Jane’s parents collect both girls and nurse them back to health…

The girls are taken to the Austen family abode, which is also a boys, boarding school. This makes for a great atmosphere which all the characters enjoy growing up in.

During the summer, Jenny and Jane attend their first ball, where they catch the eye of several gentlemen and so the two girls learn about romance and fall in love…

The love interests of the girls were definitely justifiable, they all seemed so gentlemanly and kind.

It was easy to see how the author had incorporated Jane Austen and her novels in to the story, the book has taken facts and wrapped fiction around them. This makes the book perfect for any younger readers and teenagers wanting to read about Jane Austen and get a taste for the style of novels she writes.

Ultimately, the book was  a great, girly read and I would recommend to anyone who loves a good period drama.