Wonder – R. J. Palacio

WonderYou can’t blend in when you were born to stand out…

My name is August. I won’t describe what I like look. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.

When I recently attended a Malorie Blackman talk, she recommended this book… and recommendations don’t come much better than that!

I had been meaning to read the book following it’s nomination for the 2012 Goodreads Choice Awards. When Malorie mentioned it, the audience responded positively which acted as the catalyst to me reading it. I am so glad I did!

Wonder follows August Pullman, an eleven year boy who has ‘lost’ in the genetic lottery. He has a one in four million facial syndrome as a result of which he has suffered through countless operations.

August knows his face marks him as different, although his parents have tried to protect him from the world. However, now they have decided it is time for August, or Auggie, to start school.

After years of homeschooling, August is reluctant to leave his comfort zone. However he is soon persuaded after meeting some of his classmates and touring the school.

The book then follows his journey through the fifth grade. During this year he learns a lot about friendship and life skills as well as the more common place academic knowledge.

The book is written from several characters point of views, however it is clear when the perspective changes. The grammar and writing style subtly changes as well as a title page for each new character – I think this demonstrates the skill of the author. It was really interesting to read the same story from several perspectives as it furthered my understanding of the characters and the plot line. The characters include August’s sister, her boyfriend and August’s friends.

One element of this book I really liked were the Precepts. August’s English teacher has a precept for every month, an inspiring phrase which he uses to encourage and educate his class. He also instructs his pupils to write or find their own precept over the summer holidays, which are then listed in the appendix. I thought this was a really great idea and one which I found very thought provoking. I will definitely be more interested in finding my own Precepts now.

I really enjoyed this book, the subject matter is so unique; I have never read a book similar which furthered my enjoyment. The book was also inspiring, not only was August a character full of determination, courage and kindness, but his friends and family were also inspirational.

This is R.J. Palacio’s debut novel, which I find shocking considering how well the book is written. Surely, with a debut novel as good as this, R.J. Palacio will go on to write many more books – all of which I hope to read.

I recommend this book to everyone – adults and young adults alike. Although the main characters are all children, there is a lot for everyone to learn from August and his story.

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Love At Second Sight – Cathy Hopkins

Can the love of your past life be the love of this life too?

The story begins at a summer fair when Jo, the main character, has a sitting with a clairvoyant who tells Jo that in a previous life she was a governess, named Harriet, and was denied being with her soul mate, Howard.

Jo is sceptical and disregards the information, but her best friends Effy and Tash take it seriously and begin investigating.

Jo discourages their investigation but they continue regardless. They eventually manage to trace both Harriet & Howard and Jo begins to believe and joins in the investigation.

Jo is then faced with the task of deciding who is Howard’s present day counter-part. There are three candidates, who are all very different from one another.

The characters are all well written and the plot is engaging. Jo and her friends are relatable characters and allow the book is be a great teen chick-flick.

The downside of the novel was how obvious the choice between the boys was, to me it was obvious who Jo’s soul mate was yet the characters were almost oblivious.

All in all, a great quick romantic book which I would recommend to any teen readers as a quick, light, holiday read.

Abandon – Meg Cabot

AbandonShe knows what it’s like to die…

…Now death wants her back.

After reading The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot, a few years ago, I became a fan and have since read several of her other books and was excited to begin this new series.

The beautiful cover intrigued me and the story sounded great.

Abandon is the first in a trilogy following Pierce, an American teenager.

She drowned in her home pool and visited the Underworld, yet she managed to escape and returned to life, which is now very different.

She remembers all about her death and the people she met in the Underworld, especially John Hayden, a sinister male character.

And somehow in her new town she meets him again…

The book features Pierce’s flashbacks which allows the reader to gain a greater insight into her life and to predict the conclusion of the novel. The plot is slightly predictable but for the most part there is an element of intrigue.

Pierce was a great character, an independent teenager with great strength of character.  The chemistry between Pierce and John was exciting throughout. John was a mystifying character, who kept me engaged in the book, at first his “true” identity wasn’t obvious yet it became clear during the plot .

The book is a paranormal romance but it is darker than others in the genre, which I think makes it a great read.

This book takes influence from Greek mythology and I would recommend it to any Percy Jackson lovers.

Ultimately, a fresh new look at YA Paranormal Romance which has me looking forward to the sequel.

The Raven Boys – Maggie Stiefvater

The Raven BoysIf you kiss your true love, he will die

I first read Maggie’s book, Shiver, a few years ago. I immediately fell in love with the series, and indeed the author. I have since read all her books, which are all written so beautifully.

Whilst visiting The Hay Festival earlier this year, I was lucky enough to listen to Maggie speak and promote her new book, The Raven Boys. I was excited for the release of the book and I got my hands on a copy as soon as possible.

The books follows Blue, a teenager with a psychic mother which has ensured a somewhat different upbringing for Blue. Blue has been told countless times that she is to kill her true love, and this has left a shadow hanging over her life as she doesn’t know why or how this is to happen.

However, Blue’s life becomes more interesting when she finally tastes a bit of magic. She sees Gansey’s soul, a boy who is destined to die. Blue is told she was able see him as she will either love him or kill him.

This leaves Blue wondering how this is to happen, yet when she meets him she is disappointed. Gansey is a Raven Boy, a  pupil at the local private school for boys. These are boys who Blue has been warned off all her life. Yet when she finally interacts with them, she realises that they are not as bad as their reputation would have them.

She makes friends with a group of Raven Boys, Gansey and his three best friends. Together, they then explore the possibility of true magic in the world. This involves hard work and a lot of new discoveries!

I thought this book was written in typical Maggie style (e.g. descriptive and magical), the descriptions allowed me to really visualise the events of the book.

At the start of the book, the numerous characters confused me as I struggled to remember which character was being referred to, however this may just be me.

Also the blurb was slightly misleading – it seems to be more of a blurb for the series rather then the book, this is something that could be improved.

Overall though, it was a great book, which has left me expectant for great things in the sequel, where I hope the story continues and the characters develop further.

I would definitely recommend this book, anyone with a love of adventures involving magic should read it!

The Catastrophic History of You and Me – Jess Rothenberg

Dying of a broken heart is just the beginning.

I saw this book on my friend’s bookshelf and immediately knew it was my next read! My friend said it was great and I couldn’t wait to try it for myself!

It didn’t disappoint!

The book begins with Brie watching her funeral, an experience its hard to imagine  Brie’s death is the “trigger” for the book, with the story line following her new “life” in heaven. Brie blames her ex-boyfriend for her death, as she died due to a broken heart.

During the book, Brie passes through the 5 stages of death, under the watchful eye of Patrick (who I loved throughout the book). Brie grew a lot over the book, at some points her actions annoyed me as I thought she was particularly mean, but I suppose these were the things that she learnt from.

I thought the format of the book was interesting, with Brie living her “death” and experiencing flashbacks to when she was alive, this was an original concept which worked for me.

I also thought the chapter titles were good choices, with each being a song lyric. The song was referenced in the chapter, or the lyric was obviously related to the events.

All in all, a great book I would definitely recommend to everyone! It was a great Young Adult Romance novel with a great paranormal twist.

I can’t wait to read more books by Ruth Rothenberg!

Oh and finally I want to say thanks to my friend for letting me borrow her book! 😉

London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay Finale – Hyde Park, London

On 26th July, my family and I travelled to Hyde Park for the concert to celebrate the end of the Olympic Torch Relay.

The sun was shining and it was a lovely day – great weather for a concert in a park!

The atmosphere at the concert was great – most audience members were families and the air was very celebratory.

All of the artists performed well and the acoustics were good.

My highlight of the day was the performance by You Me At Six’s. They performed Loverboy (the lead single from Sinners Never Sleep), Reckless and Underdog.

All the songs were performed brilliantly, and the audience’s reaction was surprising to me as I didn’t realise how many “Sixers” were in the crowd.

Frontman, Josh Franceschi got the crowd going and seemed quite genuinely surprised when he realised how many people knew of the band.

The only downside was that they only performed three songs.

Rizzle Kicks also performed well, they performed their best known songs as well as a new single – this was my third time seeing them live and I am always impressed! They are always so enthusiastic and also hyper – especially in their dancing.

All in all a wonderful day and a great experience of the Olympics!