Review of ‘Day 21’ by Kass Morgan

Day 21Thanks to Bookbridgr and Hodder & Stoughton for the ARC of this book.

WARNING: This review contains spoilers.

I finished The 100 at the weekend, it ended with a huge cliffhanger so I wanted to move on the next book straight away. This book also ends with a bit of a cliffhanger but it has a feeling of greater resolution which I thought was missing at the end of the first book. However, I’m not sure that the resolution was a good thing because, in contrast, this book felt a little too much like the relationship loose ends had been tied up a little too conveniently and it ends with everyone holding hands with the person they love. It’s a little twee.

Overall, I found this book as quick, easy and readable as the first in the series. However, it was not quite as compelling. The story on Earth did not move along as much as I had hoped and again the book felt a little too much like set-up for the next in the series. The middle section was a little repetitive and felt a little like filler.

I’m enjoying the Clarke/Bellamy relationship; although their conflicts are resolved a little too easily in general. I hope that the characters of the Earthborns are fleshed out a bit in the next book as they felt a little cardboard in this book.

I was glad that the book ends with the rest of the colony coming down to Earth as I felt the split narrative did not work completely. I didn’t really care about what was happening in Space, I just wanted to read about the characters on Earth. I can see why the TV series has eschewed the character of Glass, as she is definitely the least likeable of the main characters.

This series is perfectly fine, it’s fluffy, easy to read teen girl junk food, but it doesn’t have much depth and while it’s enjoyable enough while you are reading it, I don’t think I’ll be rushing out to buy the next in the series.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Autumn TBR list

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s theme is ‘Top ten books on my autumn to be read list’. As usual my real-life list is waaaay longer than 10 books, but I’ve picked the 10 I think I’m most likely to read in the next couple of months. 1-34-6 7-10

  1. The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion – I was so excited to be approved for a Net Galley ARC of this book this week! I loved The Rosie Project and, although I really didn’t think it needed a sequel, I can’t wait to read this!
  2. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – I loved Eleanor and Park which I read earlier this year and I’m keen to read more by this author.
  3. The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey – I received a free copy of this at YALC in the summer and I’m looking forward to reading it as there’s quite a lot of buzz around this series.
  4. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell – A second entry for this author on my list.
  5. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd – I’m going to be on holiday in South Carolina this autumn and I’m going to read this then as it is set there.
  6. Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple – I picked this as a light read for my holiday.
  7. The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness – This has been on my TBR list for a while, I love Patrick Ness but I’m a little worried I might not like this book so I’ve been putting off starting it.
  8. Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness – I really enjoyed the first in the series a couple of month ago an need to find time to plow into this hefty tome.
  9. Pop Goes the Weasel by MJ Arlidge – I read the first in the series last month and I’m interested to see how the series progresses.
  10. Conquest by John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard – I received this from Bookbridgr, I’m a fan of John Connolly and this new series is intriguing.

What’s on your autumn TBR list? Have you read any of these books?

Review of ‘The 100’ by Kass Morgan

The 100Thanks to NetGalley and Little, Brown for the ARC of this book.

I’ve been watching and enjoying the first series of the TV show based on this book and I’ve received the second book in the series from Bookbridgr, so I was excited to see the first book available on NetGalley.

It was really interesting to read this book and see the differences between the book and the TV series. The basic premise and some of the characters are the same, but the TV producers have made some fascinating decisions about where to deviate from the book, all of which made a lot of sense to me. As a result, it’s easy to enjoy the book without the storyline being spoiled by the TV series and vice versa.

The book follows four characters: Wells, Clarke, Bellamy and Glass (yes, they all have stupid gender-indeterminate names). The first three are amongst 100 juvenile delinquents sent down to Earth from a space colony 300 years after a nuclear cataclysm on Earth to test whether it is habitable. The fourth character, Glass, manages to escape the dropship to Earth and remains on the spaceship. Each character has secrets and guilt over things they have done in the past and is trying to start afresh with this new opportunity.

The book is incredibly easy to read. It has several cliffhangers and lots of action. The characters are fleshed out with flashbacks to their past on the ship and they are all quite likeable in spite of their past misdemeanors. The teen romance element is enjoyable, with a fun love triangle developing between Clarke, Bellamy and Wells.

However, I did find this book incredibly flimsy and lightweight. It’s so clearly the start of a series which aims to get teenage girls addicted and sell as many copies as possible, it doesn’t really have a stand-alone storyline. I don’t have a problem with series as such but I think they should be more than a serialisation of a single story; each book should have a purpose and have a start, middle and end and an individual storyline which sits solely within the book while the book fits into the wider world of the series. This book just felt like setup for the rest of the series and there was no resolution of anything at the end, just a giant cliffhanger.

That’s not to say I don’t want to read further books in the series, I definitely do, but I’m not sure I would want to invest my own money in these books because they are so lightweight. I’m glad I already have a copy of the next book in the series, because I think it would have been very frustrating to reach the end of the book and not be able to continue to read on.

Review of ‘Plenty More’ by Yotam Ottolenghi

Thanks to NetGalley and Ten Speed Press for the ARC of this book.

This is a beautiful vegetarian cookbook. It has a wide range of vegetarian recipes inspired by all corners of the globe. The recipes are illustrated by stunning colourful photography, with lovely full page photos which make the food look very attractive.

The recipes are divided into the following sections by techniques:

  • Plenty MoreTossed (salads)
  • Steamed
  • Blanched
  • Simmered
  • Braised
  • Grilled
  • Roasted
  • Fried
  • Mashed
  • Cracked (recipes with eggs)
  • Baked
  • Sweetened (puddings)

I thought this seemed a slightly odd choice. It probably would have been more useful to divide them by seasons, or into meal planners, such as whether they were everyday options or food for friends.

Th introduction isn’t particularly interesting. It felt more like an advert for Ottolenghi’s London businesses rather than an insight into his food ethos or what the recipes in the books were suitable for.

The recipes seem quite simple. In spite of the fact that they often seem to have a large number of ingredients, the instructions are usually very short. There are short introductions to each recipe with information on what to each the recipe with or explanations of strange ingredients or the heritage of the dish.

There’s not a great deal of additional information with the recipes, for example there is no nutritional information such as calorific content.

The ARC I received must be the American version of the book as it used ingredient names such as arugula and cilantro rather than rocket and coriander. It also has American measurements such as cups. As Ottolenghi is based in London, I assume there is a British version of this book with English ingredient names and weights.

Ottolenghi is renowned for using hard to find ingredients. I don’t this most of the recipes in this book are too bad. Although there were a few which contained ingredients which I would not be able to find in my local supermarket/town such as daikon, kohlrabi, barberries, pomegranate molasses, tofu puffs, labneh and pandan leaves. There were also a few which contained ingredients I had never heard of such as dakos (Cretan barley husks), brown beech  mushrooms, panch phorah, shiso leaves and lemon geranium water. So it would be important to read the recipe and plan some of the ingredients before trying to cook anything.

None of the recipes appealed to me enough to make me want to cook them. However, I’m pregnant at the moment with cravings for carb-heavy bad for you food and an aversion to anything green, so these vegetable-heavy recipes which would normally appeal to me are less attractive at the moment.

However, I may try out some of the strange sweet dishes. I like the sound of Grilled banana bread with tahini and honeycomb.

Overall, this seemed like an interesting recipe book which would be a good addition to any veggie’s shelf.

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors only read once

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s theme is ‘Top authors I’ve only read one book by but NEED to read more’.

Here’s my list with the picture of the book I have read and enjoyed.

Wonder1. R J Palacio

I thought Wonder was amazing and would love to read further books by this author if they are anywhere near the same standard.

Eleanor and Park2. Rainbow Rowell

I really enjoyed Eleanor and Park earlier this year and have Fangirl high up on my TBR pile.

The Rosie Project3. Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Project is a brilliant book and I’m very excited to hear that the next in the series is coming out soon!

The Night Circus4. Erin Morgenstern

I thought The Night Circus was very original and exciting and would be interested to find out what this author will do in the future.

A Discovery of Witchs5. Deborah Harkness

A couple of months ago I read and really enjoyed A Discovery of Witches. I’m looking forward to finding the time to read the next in the trilogy.

Before I Go to Sleep6. S J Watson

Before I Go To Sleep is going to be a pretty tough debut to follow up. I think Watson has a new book due out next year, I hope its as good!

A Fraction of the Whole7. Steve Toltz

A Fraction of the Whole is a weird, eccentric and funny read. I couldn’t quite figure out why I liked it, but I’d be interested in reading something else written in this voice.

The Sisters Brothers 8. Patrick DeWitt

I found The Sisters Brothers an interesting and original read. I don’t know much about this author’s other works, but I might check them out if I get the chance.

 The Family Fang9. Kevin Wilson

The Family Fang is another quirky, original and funny read. It was quite unlike anything else I have read and if this author writes anything further I’ll definitely give it a go.

 Outlander10. Diana Gabaldon

I read Outlander a few years ago, I found it compelling but for some reason I haven’t quite got around to reading the second in the series. Probably because it is so long!

Have you read any other books by these authors; which of their books would you recommend?

Review of ‘Panic’ by Lauren Oliver

PanicThanks to Bookbridgr and Hodder and Stoughton for the ARC of this book.

WARNING: this review contains spoliers.

I was excited to read this book because the blurb sounded quite similar to The Hunger Games. However, I was very disappointed; Panic never comes anything close to having the pace, tension and compulsion of The Hunger Games. To be fair very few books do, even The Hunger Games‘s sequels don’t come close to it. Yes, Panic is about a group of teenagers playing a game with potential fatal results, but the crucial difference is no one is making them do it, they can stop at any time and if any of them had any sense they would stop.

It took me ages to finish this book, not because it’s a difficult read but because it was so unengaging. The characters are flat and one dimensional and the setting is lifeless. It takes about 250 pages before anything remotely interesting happens in the plot. The idea of the game panic is stupid and doesn’t really make sense as a concept. It’s impossible to empathise with the characters because they have no depth beyond their motivation to participate in the game. The book is humourless but also lacks the extreme sense of desperateness which makes proper dystopias so compelling.

I completely guessed the big plot twist of Bishop being a judge early on in the book. The other characters never even ask him why he’s not playing panic so it’s obvious that he must be involved in some way and the other characters seem very stupid.

The book has an oddly hopeful ending, considering its dour premise and the unfortunate circumstances of many of the characters. Why should these people have happy, hopeful endings? One of them sets fire to a house and could have killed several people; another puts a bomb in a car in order to kill someone in revenge and only doesn’t go through with it because he is kidnapped and tied up not because he realises it’s the wrong thing to do. There are no consequences to their actions. I didn’t like any of them enough to be relieved that they had a happy ending.

This was a most disappointing read, goodness knows how it managed to get the ‘this book is brilliant’ quote from The Guardian on the front cover. It is not brilliant, it isn’t even average; it is sub-par, dreary YA fiction and I don’t think I’ll bother with any of Oliver’s other work.

Review of ‘The Silkworm’ by Robert Galbraith

The SilkwormI listened to the audiobook version of this book, which is very well read by Robert Glenister.

This book is very similar to Galbraith/Rowling’s first book in the series. There is a mysterious death, the police blunder around and Comoran Strike steps in to solve the case and get the police off the hook, with the occasional spot of help from his assistant, Robin.

These are very standard, quite readable crime thrillers. I think Galbraith/Rowling is proficient at writing in this genre, but not exceptional. When reading both I have guessed the killer, in both I think the important clues are quite glaring and the red herrings are easy to dismiss. However, it’s probably more satisfying to have a crime novel with enough clues to guess the villain rather than one where the the final reveal comes totally out of the blue.

Spoiler alert! In this book as soon as Strike ponders something along the lines of ‘How would you dispose of a human’s intestines’, I said out loud ‘Feed them to my dog’ and from that moment I knew who had done it. There was only one character with a dog and that dog had been shown being sick at the beginning of the book. Obvious really.

For me the crime elements of Galbraith/Rowling’s plots work better than the secondary storylines of Strike and Robin’s personal life. Particularly the plotline about Strike’s ex Charlotte. She’s not an interesting character and is not in the slightest bit fully-rounded, whenever she is mentioned my eyes glaze over, I hope Galbraith/Rowling leaves her out of the next book. Robin’s boyfriend Matthew is also pretty repetitive and dull. I’m still trying to figure out whether Galbraith/Rowling is paving the way for Robin and Strike to get together in the future, they don’t seem like they would be very well suited.

Also, I don’t believe Strike as a 35 year old, he sounds so much older. I’m 35 and don’t feel any empathy with his voice. If Galbriath/Rowling didn’t tell us his age I would assume he was in his fifties.

I expect I will continue to read this series, but I won’t be running out to buy the books on their release date as I did with the Harry Potter series, these books aren’t nearly as compelling, but they are a pleasant enough was to pass some time.

Review of ‘Me Before You’ by JoJo Moyes

Me Before YouWow, I’ve seen a lot of positive reviews of this book. I thought it was  awful.

It may not have been helped by the fact that I was listening to the audiobook version and the woman who read the main character, Lou, did so in such a babyish voice that to start off with I thought she was supposed the be a 13 year old not 26. Her voice annoyed me throughout the tediously long 16 hour book. Every time my husband walked in on me listening to it, he made some comment like ‘Was this written by a five year old?’.

However, I don’t think it was just the narrator’s fault. This book is truly flawed. The characters are totally unlikeable. The lead male is cruel and selfish; the lead female is ignorant and naive. I didn’t like or sympathise with any of the supporting characters either.

The plot is inevitable and completely predictable from the start, but it takes so long to get to the obvious conclusion.

Mostly I hated it because Lou is such a stupid character. The basic premise that she thinks she can stop Will, a quadriplegic, from being suicidal by taking him on a few nice day trips is such obvious nonsense that I just wanted to scream at her throughout the book. I don’t understand why we are supposed to root for her. At one point Will says she is one of the smartest people he has ever met. Are you serous? She is so dumb, she doesn’t even know Pimms is alcoholic for Heaven’s sake.

Will and Lou are so mismatched in intellect, experience and social background that nothing rings true about their romance. Lou has no redeeming features, the only interesting thing about her is an eclectic dress sense.

I’m totally baffled by the rave reviews this book has got. Yes, it is emotionally manipulative, but I didn’t actually care about what happened to any of the characters. I expected to be in floods of tears by the end of the book but it actually left me completely cold.

If you want to read a good book about assisted suicide, read ‘The Universe Versus Alex Woods’ by Gavin Extence, not this trite rubbish.

Review of ‘The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August’ by Claire North

Harry August coverI listened to the audiobook version of this book. I’m not sure it was the best way to read this book as most of it is written in quite a dense monologue so the audiobook is just a man droning on about his life (or lives in this case) which can become quite tedious. There’s not enough variation or dialogue to make it suited to the audio form.

The book itself has a very interesting, if not a little mind-boggling, premise. Harry August is a man who on his death is reborn as a baby and lives his life again with the accumulated memories of his previous lives. In one life, on his deathbed, a girl comes to him to tell him the world is ending faster than it should and he must find a way to figure out in his future lives what is causing the future to go wrong.

This is an amazing hook, but there is quite a lot of meandering and switching back and forth through Harry’s various lives before we get to the actual discovery of what is the problem is and his attempts to reverse this. Sometimes I just wished Harry would get to the point or follow through one train of thought to move the story along. This was probably exacerbated by listening to it as an audiobook, which left me with the impression ‘this man really loves the sound of his own voice’.

Claire North is an incredibly talented writer to be able to make this book work with its inter-woven timelines, clever premise and complicated science. At some times I did find myself questioning the basic time-travel premise, but if you just go with it, this is an impressive and interesting read.