Sunday, 31 January 2016

Book Review: The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.

My Review:
This is the fifth John Green book that I have picked up and only the second one I have finished. I DNF the three books because I hated the characters and didn't get what the author was trying to show the reader. It seems impossible to believe that those books were written by the author who brings us this beautiful piece of writing with characters that you love and root for throughout.

Hazel has had terminal thyroid cancer with lung mets for as long as she can remember and hates being forced to attend a cancer support group for kids. Her friend at the group, Isaac has eye cancer, losing one eye already and nearing surgery to remove the other. Things are about to change when Isaac brings his best friend Augustus to the group and an instant attraction happens with him and Hazel. Hazel fears getting too close to him as she fears she is a grenade who will some day explode and destroy the lives of those who love her but Augustus is not put off by her fears. He lost a leg to bone cancer but has been clear for 14 months.

Hazel is the only female character (other than Lindsey in An Abundance of Katherines) that I actually liked in books by the author. She has come to terms with her fate better than her family and she fears more for how they will cope when she is gone. She is quirky and brave, smart and the kind of character you want to have that miracle cure by the end of the book. Isaac is such a nice guy and my heart broke for him as he faced the surgery that could cure him but will leave him blind, especially after the Monica incident. I just wanted to hug him.

Augustus is the kind of teenage boy that every girl would want to have as their boyfriend. Cute, intelligent, funny, sweet and would do anything he could to make Hazel's life better. He knows that her last wish is to discover what happened to the characters after the end of her favourite book and he is determined to find the reclusive author and find out for her. How many teenage boys would do that for you even if you weren't dying? At school, I would have loved to have an Augustus to spend time with, talk books with etc. He is also the perfect best friend, there for Isaac in his time of need as he struggles to learn how to be blind and still play his beloved console games. I swear that even as an adult I never found that Augustus!

You know from the moment you pick up the book that the subject matter will make this a tough book to read. This shows the evil that cancer is, the lives it destroys, the dignity that it robs you of, shown through the experiences of teenagers at a cancer support group and their suffering families. In particular, Hazel's poor father and his failure to cope just tore me apart. It is painful, heartbreaking and leaves a lump in your throat like a tennis ball. I spent most of the book gripping the paper hankies that I knew I was going to need at some point. And when that moment came, the floodgates opened. I sobbed from then to the end of the book.

The progression of the relationship between Hazel and Augustus felt realistic instead of the way YA books usually introduce the dreaded instaluv. These kids are all felling as if they are on borrowed time but even then Hazel refuses to rush into anything until she is sure that it is what she wants. The friendships where they joke about each other's cancer is also realistic as I feel that teenagers would do this with friends who are going through the same thing. At no point did I feel that the characters were fake. I believed in them and their story, and that is down to how well the author crafted this story.

In amongst the pain was humour and just getting on with life the best they could. It really is a great book despite the pain that it brings to the reader. I recommend it to fans of contemporary, YA or who has had cancer blight their lives. Even if you have previously not enjoyed a John Green book, read this one. It is by far his best. Now I have to face the agony of watching the film and I know it is going to be an ordeal... 
star rating photo: Four Star Rating 4stars.png

Reading with Chuckles

I have renamed my TBR Reading Challenge and changed it back to Reading with Chuckles as it sounds better, especially at times when I have no specific challenge running. So this is where I'll share what I read and abandoned each week, and I'll give the odd update on the state of my poor TBR! It does suffer at times...! The link under the book takes you to the Goodreads page for that book so you can decide whether to read it, and see my reviews when they are posted.

This week I switched to Contemporary Week, to clear a big pile of books I gathered over last summer from sales and charity shops. I looked at 40 books in total, some I started and disliked, a few I read and completed, some I deleted afted Goodreads reviews indicated that they were not going to be my thing. My abandoned books this week reflect only the abandoned books that I plan to write reviews for. The good news is that I found three I enjoyed and now want to see the film of, and I got my tbr reduced quite a bit! Yea! 

I also realised that other than the odd book, I have kind of moved on from this genre. By this I mean I want fast paced action books with zombies or danger or raging pandemics or kickass urban fantasy. I no longer like the slower paced books I used to read. So I'll only read the odd book in the genre that I REALLY want and move back to my favourite genres.


Matthew Quick-The Silver Linings Playbook 

John Green-The Fault in our Stars 

Lisa Genova-Still Alice 


Gayle Forman-I was here 

Gail Giles-Girls Like Us 

John Green-Looking for Alaska 

RJ Palacio-Wonder 

Nathan Filer-The Shock of the Fall 

John Green-Paper Towns 

Rainbow Rowell-Eleanor & Park 

Brian Conaghan-When Mr Dog Bites 

Gayle Forman-If I Stay 

JK Rowling-The Casual Vacancy 

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Book Review: Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

Meet Pat. Pat has a theory: his life is a movie produced by God. And his God-given mission is to become physically fit and emotionally literate, whereupon God will ensure a happy ending for him -- the return of his estranged wife Nikki. (It might not come as a surprise to learn that Pat has spent time in a mental health facility.) The problem is, Pat's now home, and everything feels off. No one will talk to him about Nikki; his beloved Philadelphia Eagles keep losing; he's being pursued by the deeply odd Tiffany; his new therapist seems to recommend adultery as a form of therapy. Plus, he's being hunted by Kenny G!

In this enchanting novel, Matthew Quick takes us inside Pat's mind, showing us the world from his distorted yet endearing perspective. 

My Review:
Pat has been released from a mental institute thanks to his mother and her lawyers but homecoming proves tough when his dad refuses to talk to him and nobody will even mention his estranged wife Nikki who is determined to win back. He is being stalked by a hallucination of Kenny G, and pursued by Tiffany, the strange sister of his best friend's wife. He is trying to get fit and read literature to make Nikki see that he is a changed man and that apart time should finish so they can be together.

This is not normally the kind of book I would read but I was pleased to enjoy it. Pat is a nice guy who is having trouble adjusting to being home. He has to come to terms with the shock that he has been in The Bad Place for 4 years, not the few months that he imagined and so much has changed since the. Even the comfort of his beloved Eagles is tough because they have a new stadium and new players that he doesn't know. It is the football that helps him reconnect with his brother, father and old friend, and gradually he starts to get used to having a memory loss. He worries about his anger issues and Kenny G appearing, his mother gets upset when Nikki is mentioned and he just wants Tiffany to leave him alone.

I had questions at this point. Did Nikki exist? I was thinking about the lack of photos and wedding video that Pat searches for. Was Nikki a girl that Pat was stalking? Is she a wife who left him? Did he leave her but doesn't remember? Why is he scared of Kenny G? What did he do to end up in The Bad Place? What is Tiffany's story? Thankfully we do get all the answers through the story and it was wanting to know all of this that kept me so interested in the book. I liked Pat as a person and wanted to know what happened to him.

Tiffany was a bit of an enigma. We know a few facts about her-her husband died and she lost her job after screwing around with all the men there. This is what Ronnie, Pat's friend tells him but I liked the fact that Pat wondered why Tiffany slept with the men-was she hurt or upset or angry at the time? What was she thinking? What was she feeling? Pat doesn't judge her actions but is compassionate about her instead, which I liked. And so begins a strange friendship where they barely talk but they both know what it is like to be regarded as unstable, to need therapy, to feel like outsiders even amongst friends and family. Tiffany is the only one who is blunt enough to tell Pat that Nikki hasn't bothered about him and won't come back.

There is so much to enjoy in the book-the strange friendship of Pat and Tiffany, the strained relationships in Pat's family, the bonding between strangers over a shared love of a sporting team, the interesting dynamic between Pat and his therapist Cliff. I love when Pat's friends meet Cliff's friends at the game. The Asian Invasion are brilliant! It was poignant and sad to discover Tiffany's story and it explains all her behaviour. And of course, finding out about Pat, Nikki and Kenny G was satisfying.

I liked the way that this book explored mental illness, not just through Pat but through everyone connected to him. The way Veronica doesn't trust him to be alone with her child in case he does something mad, the gaps in Pat's memory and how people are trying to shelter him from it, the constant fear of going back to The Bad Place, the obsessive behaviour, the therapy sessions, the ups and downs of mood swings, the anger and frustration of having an illness like this. IT was so well written and the characters felt real to me so I cared about them. That helps to enjoy the book so much more.

There is also plenty humour despite the subject matter. When he and Tiffany start training to dance, the Pat montage from Rocky thing is so funny. I laughed so hard at bits of this: 'Pat, will you please stop humming!' That just cracked me up. Cliff was lovely and his Asian Invasion were funny. It added the perfect lightness to the plot, as did the crazy behaviour of the football fans when they met each other.

I can't really say there was a negative to the book. I would have liked to know more about why Pat's father behaved the way he did but that is a minor thing. Other than that we do get all the answers. Pat refers to the plots of several 'classic' books so if you are planning to read these books, be aware that Pat tells you the endings! ie The Great Gatsby, Huck Finn, A Farewell to Arms, The Scarlet Letter, The Bell Jar, The Catcher in the Rye. So approach that with caution. Looking at the cast for the film, I am now really looking forward to seeing it! 
star rating photo: Four Star Rating 4stars.png

Stacking the Shelves #119

Stacking the Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks! Click on the link under the book to find its page on Goodreads or Smashwords. 

Please note that I always leave a message on your STS/SP if you visit me, but if you use DISQUS or a similar third party I will not be able to leave a comment on your page. I don't allow any company access to my social media accounts and I certainly don't allow them to edit and take over my accounts. So if you use DISQUS, I can't visit you! And sometimes, I have problems leaving messages on blogs hosted by Wordpress so you might get a double message sometimes! Blame them, not me!
So we're approaching the end of January and I have enjoyed my month of reading. This week, I decided to tackle all the contemporary books that I grabbed in sales and charity shopps over the summer and autumn. I admit for the most part I found them to be way too slow and full of characters I hated. However, every one I DNF was one off the tbr which has dropped to a much healthier 560 books to read. Last week it was at 603 so that's an improvement! I did find two books I enjoyed out of Contemporary Week-The Fault in our Stars and The Silver Linings Playbook, so it was worth it for that and a reduced tbr. I have a few more to tackle tonight and that will end my week. I am going to try and read a few historical fiction books next to reduce that shelf which has quite a few unread, before I go back to my beloved zombie books!

On the book buying and downloading side, I had a nice week! The books shown here in the downloads are a mixture of last week and this week and were all free or under £2. The paperbacks are from series I've started and enjoyed so I'm excited to have them. I had the fun of spending a few Amazon vouchers from trading the unwanted contemporary books so that was spent on zombies for next week's STS! I do like to plan ahead and I hate it when I just have a small haul!



Friday, 29 January 2016

Book Review: We all looked up by Tommy Wallach

Before the asteroid we let ourselves be defined by labels: The athlete, the outcast, the slacker, the overachiever. But then we all looked up and everything changed.

They said it would be here in two months. That gave us two months to leave our labels behind. Two months to
become something bigger than what we'd been, something that would last even after the end. Two months to really live.

My Review:
If you are expecting this to be like the plot from Deep Impact where everyone watches disaster coming towards them while scientists battle to find a way to destroy, you will be very much disappointed. This is not a survival story. It's about a bunch of teens with their petty fights and young love angst and there just happens to be an asteroid in the sky which is mentioned in between the teenage school stuff. The book blurb even annoys me now, talking about how these kids had the chance to leave their labels behind and I quote 'become something bigger than what we'd been, something that would last even after the end.' Right. And when Earth is destroyed, who exactly is going to remember these awesome things they achieved or what great kids they become? Hmmm?

Peter the popular jock is wondering if a life as a top sports star and hot girlfriend Stacy would mean he is wasting some other potential. He sights and bleats over how difficult it is to be so popular and talented as it might not be the right path in life to take. Oh get over yourself you clown! Either embrace your gift and go to college to follow your sporting dream, or stop moaning about it and do something else! Dump Stacy, the bimbo bitch from hell, if you don't like her but just stop whining! Eliza's life was ruined when Peter kissed her in front of a friend of Stacy and he stood back and did nothing while Stacy's gang made her life a misery. Now she has to deal with her dad's cancer. Andy wants to get out of school and be a professional waster who does nothing while the world hands him everything. Anita wants to be a singer but her dad is obsessed with her academic future. It takes to page 79 before the asteroid is even mentioned seriously rather than a pretty light in the sky. At page 100, the asteroid might be a problem but all Andy cares about is impressing a girl and Peter is still whining about how tough his life is. Never mind kid, you'll all be dead soon!

I swear that every kid in this book is obsessed with sex or cheating on their partner or getting into love triangles or fighting with said partner. Ugh on a massive scale! There is a bloody asreroid coming to wipe out the planet and all you can think about is 'does he/she fancy me?' Get a grip! I thought the book was some inspiring do something with the limited life you have left instead of everyone getting their hormones in a twist. This was so boring on an epic scale and I wanted the asteroid to move faster and get rid of them all.

And by the time the book is ending, we're still no closer to the armageddon I was wishing for. I found this book slow and boring, full of hormonal angst and love triangles, with characters that drove me crazy. This book was a huge let down from what I hoped it would be.

star rating photo: 1 star orange-1star.jpg

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Book Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

When Eleanor first meets Park, she thinks he's obnoxious. When Park first meets Eleanor, he thinks she's weird. It is hate at first sight. But as they suffer each other's company in silence on the bus rides from and to home every day, Eleanor and Park realise that first impressions can be deceiving.

My Review:
Don't be fooled by the fact that I've rated this 2 stars as it is a much better book than that. I'd realistically give it 2.5 stars if I could and even that would be mean. Yeah, I know I'm sounding a bit mixed up huh and you must be wondering what I'm on about!

OK let me explain. I'm not a fan of contemporary books that feature romance. I wouldn't have bought this book for myself and it was actually a gift so it would've been rude not to at least try it.  And there is a lot going for this book. The author has a great deal of talent as a storyteller. You can tell that from the beginning, as she really gets into the head of two teenagers who are in the school misfit category. She slowly builds up a friendship and then a romance from two kids who ignore each other and makes is real and believable. It is beautifully written and I can see why so many people rave about it.

Poor Eleanor is such a lovely girl who has been dealt really bad cards by Life. Her mother's husband is a brute and a thug who once kicked Eleanor out of her home and is not happy to see her back, making her life miserable. As she has nothing of value and few clothes, the bitches at school make her life a living hell and even Park to begin with won't even look at her. Your heart breaks for the poor girl and you just want things to change for her. It does when Park becomes her friend, along with a couple of girls at school.

Park knows that he is on the borderline of being targeted by the bullies so you can understand him being reluctant to be nice to Eleanor to begin with, to be seen siding with the 'weirdo'. Gradually his kind nature has him reaching out to her and the friendship is sweet and touching. He wants to protect and save her.

The book is slow and not much really happens in it, just the gradual relationship building and causing a ripple through the life that Eleanor has to become something more. I just personally found it too slow for my tastes as this is not the kind of book I generally choose and that is why I didn't finish it. My rating is certainly no reflection on the book or the author and if this is your genre, I recommend that you try it.

Book Review: When Mr Dog Bites by Brian Conaghan

Dylan Mint has Tourette's. Being sixteen is hard enough, but Dylan's life is a constant battle to keep the bad stuff in – the swearing, the tics, the howling dog that seems to escape whenever he gets stressed... But a routine visit to the hospital changes everything. Overhearing a hushed conversation between the doctor and his mother, Dylan discovers that he's going to die next March. So he grants himself three parting wishes or 'Cool Things To Do Before I Cack It'. But as Dylan sets out to make his wishes come true, he discovers that nothing – and no-one – is quite as he had previously supposed. 

My Review:
I so much liked the sound of this book, especially with the setting being pretty close to where I live, so I had high hopes for the book. And it was a HUGE disappointment.

I really don't like Dylan at all. He is a very immature and annoying character who is more like 6 than 16 year old and I don't really think it's related to him having Tourette's, just being a strange invention by the author. So let me give you a few examples. Some of his favourite phrases are things like 'wowee zowee', 'bonkerinos', 'holy moly'. He sounds more like Robin in the old Batman tv series! He refers to the love of his life Michelle as 'sex on wonky donkey legs'. Yes Michelle has different sized legs so I get the so called pun but it is mean of Dylan to say this when he gets upset at him and Amir being called horrible names by the school bully. So no, I don't much like him.

He also throws in random Scottish words to remind us that Dylan is Scottish, a reminder we need in amongst the weird things he says. Then random cockney rhyming slang a lot which I thought was bizarre for a boy from Glasgow plus he refers to himself as a geezer who likes to chillax and we get random foreign phrases too. Right, whatever. I don't think the author could make his mind up what nationality he wanted Dylan to be so made him a strange mix of everything. And for me it didn't work on any level. In fact it was a relief when Dylan had a Tourette's outburst because it was the only bit of language coming from him that I found in any way believable.

And of course every conversation was sex related. I swear that the author wanted to get in every possible word used to describe any kind of sex and I found this boring on every level. Yes kids talk about sex but really, do we need it on pretty much every page? It doesn't really add to the story, it just makes it drag along. I also got a bit annoyed at the amount of name dropping from British pop culture that seemed to appear randomly in the conversation. Yes I did recognise who was being talked about and that's a change from reading American books and wondering who this presenter or comic is that the characters talk about. But I felt there were too many mentioned and for no real purpose than to just mention them. This didn't add anything to the story.

I was also pretty mad that Dylan was slagging off Scottish sprinter Allan Wells who won Olympic Gold in the 100 metre final in Moscow, who was my childhood hero. In fact he was the childhood hero to lots of kids growing up at my age, watching him on TV. So to have a Scottish boy slagging him off by saying he only won because of the boycott really made me mad. It doesn't matter that it was true, as the nations who chose not to compete are irrelevant to Allan Wells achievement as he still had to beat everyone who was there that day! Does it mean less to win gold because a rival can't take part due to injury or whatever? No because stuff like this happens and I get sick of the attitude of downplaying our achievements because we like to put fellow Scots down. Allan Wells inspired a generation and I don't care who wasn't there in the race that day! HE won, end of! And it was a damn proud day for Scotland!

It's a pity that I found so much annoying in the book because I believe more should be written about things like Tourette's to get people to see behind the condition to the person. I thought the Tourette's outbursts were actually well written. Dylan's family discoveries were interesting and Amir's racism worries could have been further explored. These things should have been the focus of the book rather than the dumb sex plot. It would have been a better read.

This book is regarded as young adult but I'd caution parents about giving it to young YA readers. It has a very high sex and swearing content and that is in the bits without the Tourette's. Caution advised.
star rating photo: 1 star orange-1star.jpg

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

The Chuckles Book Cull

So I was doing my Contemporary Week at The Book Cave, trying to get a lot of these books that are sitting on my shelves looked at to see if any of the books or authors were to become new favourites. Like I said before, it's not my favourite genre but I liked the sound of these books or grabbed them cheap or had them recommended by friends. 

My first two days have not uncovered anything I enjoyed and I have tried a lot, but that is not a reflection on the books themselves. I used to like this genre but now I am finding the books too slow or I have less patience with horrible characters, instaluv, YA angst and love triangles. I still have a few to look at this week so I might yet find a few good ones. I've saved the ones I most liked the sound of so fingers crossed that I might 3 star a few of them!

However I did go and do one of my famous book culls! Every so often I find it helpful to go back and read the book blurb and then look at Goodreads reviews of the books by other readers. This time I looked at what was on my Contemporary and Dystopian shelves and searched out the 1-3 star reviews to see WHY people didn't like it. If there were a lot of reviewers saying it was slow or not much happened, contained lots of YA angst/instaluv/love triangles, or described the kind of characters that I really disliked, I chose to delete them from my Goodreads shelves and hopefully I'll get an online swap or donate them to charity shops.

I know some people can't bring themselves to DNF a book so The Book Cull is probably not for these people of a nervous disposition! *grins* But if you can bring yourself to do it, it reduces your tbr and stops you wasting too much time on reads you are less likely to enjoy. I'm happy with the results, having removed nearly 40 books from the tbr in the last two days through DNF or deleting.

I think I've decided that my days of contemporary books are behind me-I'm just not enjoying them the way I enjoy other genres. I don't feel the experiment was wasted though, and I might still pick up the odd one AFTER reading the Goodreads reviews first!

Monday, 25 January 2016

Book Review: Looking for Alaska by John Green

Before. Miles "Pudge" Halter's whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the "Great Perhaps" (Fran├žois Rabelais, poet) even more. He heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.

After. Nothing is ever the same.

My Review:
What is it with this author and dreadful characters? Yet again we have an Mc that I don't like. Miles seems to think that he is superior to other people which is obviously why he has no friends and virtually nobody came to his leaving party. The two people that came to the party out of kindness and seemed nice people were sneered at by Miles as not being interesting enough for him. He has no social skills and a self obsessed manner that I didn't like. He was off to college for some fancy version of an adventure and realises when he gets there that dorm rooms are not 5 star accomodation. His room mate Chip is self obsessed, bossy and full of himself, ordering Miles around and insisting on being called The Colonel. Alaska wants to tell everyone she knows the story of her boob being honked. Bloody hell, spare me.

I'm thinking that expanding my reading to try these popular contemporary authors has been a bit of a failure so far. Still, I bought the things and I will read them and look for the good ones!
star rating photo: 1 star orange-1star.jpg

Book Review: The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

'I'll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name's Simon. I think you're going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he'll be dead. And he was never the same after that.'

Debut novel about one man's descent into mental illness, following the death of his brother in childhood. Filer is a mental health nurse with a unique and startling insight into mental illness, and this book highlights a much-neglected subject.

My Review:
I was frustrated by this book. I loved the idea of the story and I was interested in seeing how the author decided to tackle the issue of mental illness after a family trauma. The blurb sounded good and I was very keen to read it. It didn't turn out to be quite what I expected.

The book itself is not a bad book. I thought that the author had some really good ideas in the book and he really brought the character of Simon to life, although he is not there much. You can see why his family loved him and why losing him ripped the guts out of this family. Matthew holds on to so much guilt over the actions that he felt led to Simon's death. I thought the gradual breakdown of the family was written well, especially the way that his mother starts to behave, dragging him to the doctors every few pages. From what I read of the book it looked as if the whole issue of mental health was well written.

So what was the problem then? Frankly, I didn't like the style that the author used to present the story. The plot feels really confused and jumps back and forward to before, during and after Simon's death with no cohesion or flow. I never enjoy books that do this. We get the little girl's story, which then jumps back to finding out that Matthew got in trouble and being rescued by Simon (we don't know why) then forward to just after the girl incident where Matthew and his mum make up, then we are at the part after Simon dies, then forward years to the mental institution, then back to the funeral and the family problems, then the institution...but I wanted to read the events as they happened! Or have Matthew tell the whole story from the institution in ordered flashbacks, not this mixed up carry on. I just wanted to know what accident Matthew had on that holiday and WHAT HAPPENED TO SIMON!!!

On the what happened to Simon front, I had to look ahead in the book long after I had decided to stop reading, just to have that question answered because it was bugging me. It's page 246 before we get to that memory so it's a long wait. This book had so much potential to be really good but having this constant back and forward between past and present with no real order to events was just too frustrating for me to deal with and enjoy. It is such a pity! 
star rating photo: Two Star Rating 2stars.png

Book Review: Wonder by RJ Palacio

You can't blend in when you were born to stand out.

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

August Pullman wants to be an ordinary ten-year-old. He does ordinary things. He eats ice cream. He plays on his Xbox. He feels ordinary - inside.

But Auggie is far from ordinary. Ordinary kids don't make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. Ordinary kids don't get stared at wherever they go.

Born with a terrible facial abnormality, Auggie has been home-schooled by his parents his whole life, in an attempt to protect him from the cruelty of the outside world. Now, for the first time, he's being sent to a real school - and he's dreading it. All he wants is to be accepted - but can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, underneath it all?

Narrated by Auggie and the people around him whose lives he touches forever, Wonder is a funny, frank, astonishingly moving debut to read in one sitting, pass on to others, and remember long after the final page.

My Review:
Auggie was born different from everyone else and regards himself as ugly. He is used to the staring and whispering although the mean comments still hurt. Now after years of homeschooling, his mother wants to send him to a mainstream school, with all the challenges that will present for him.

For me, this wasn't actually a bad book. It was well written and it focuses on the whole family and how they respond to Auggie starting school for the first time-their hopes and fears, and wondering if they are doing the right thing. Auggie learns how to deal with the unwanted attention and is able to make a few friends. I liked his character. He is the right mix of accepting his lot in life yet hoping for a bit more and wishing he could be like everything else. And you want him to be accepted. And maybe to punch Julian a few times. I liked his friends, who accept him for who he is and can even joke with him about how he looks.

However the book is pretty slow and there is not a great deal happening as Auggie goes from misfit to friend status. It is very repetitive, telling the reader every time someone stared at him, which happens every few paragraphs, and that became pretty boring as the chapters progressed. I had just hoped that I would be more gripped by his story but I just didn't feel that it was going anywhere fast.

Like I said, a decent book but just not my thing after all.
star rating photo: Two Star Rating 2stars.png

Book Review: Girls Like Us by Gail Giles

Quincy and Biddy are both graduates of their high school’s special ed program, but they couldn’t be more different: suspicious Quincy faces the world with her fists up, while gentle Biddy is frightened to step outside her front door. When they’re thrown together as roommates in their first "real world" apartment, it initially seems to be an uneasy fit. But as Biddy’s past resurfaces and Quincy faces a harrowing experience that no one should have to go through alone, the two of them realize that they might have more in common than they thought — and more important, that they might be able to help each other move forward.

Hard-hitting and compassionate, Girls Like Us is a story about growing up in a world that can be cruel, and finding the strength — and the support — to carry on.

My Review:
I had really liked the sound of this book but did not enjoy it when I started reading it. Unlike other reviewers I didn't have any issues with the accents of the characters or the way they 'spoke'. Maybe it's because I'm from the UK and don't really know what an authentic Southern accent for special education kids would be. I just went with it.

I did actually like Biddy. Dumped on her grandmother because her mother didn't want a 'retarded' child-and her grandmother doesn't exactly shower her with love either. Her pretty looks and lack of knowledge lead her to boys who take advantage of her and get her pregnant. When her child was removed from her, she gets fat to avoid the boys touching her again. She is not smart but she is sweet and kind. So who do they put her with? Quincy.

Quincy has physical injuries after being hit by a brick by her mother's boyfriend and taken into care where she has learned life skills like cooking. It's a pity she didn't learn kindness. She is a real bitch to Biddy, referring to her as a white, fat, stupid ho. She is racist, rude to everyone, mean, unpleasant and I didn't like her at all. She moans about where they live, moans about sharing with Biddy, moans about her chores...I wish she'd just disappear.

As much as I wanted to see how Liz could help Biddy, I had no interest in having to put up with Quincy in every other chapter. 
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Book Review: I Was Here by Gayle Forman

This characteristically powerful novel follows eighteen-year-old Cody Reynolds in the months following her best friend's shocking suicide.

As Cody numbly searches for answers as to why Meg took her own life, she begins a journey of self-discovery which takes her to a terrifying precipice, and forces her to question not only her relationship with the Meg she thought she knew, but her own understanding of life, love, death and forgiveness.

A phenomenally moving story, I Was Here explores the sadly all-too-familiar issue of suicide and self-harm, addressing it in an authentic way with sensitivity and honesty.

My Review:
It only took me a few pages to consider that Meg might have killed herself because she had such a terrible best friend in Cody. Actually I never did find out why Meg killed herself because Cody annoyed me so much that I didn't want to read about her any more.

In the aftermath of Meg's death, I found Cody to be self obsessed, cold and selfish. Everything had to be about HER. Why didn't Meg tell me what she was thinking, why do her parents have to keep asking me over to their house when I don't want to be there, how can I forgive Meg for doing this to me, how could Meg be so selfish as to subject me to a funeral and all these memorial services...did she actually care about Meg as a person? I started to wonder.

Then we get into their friendship and how Meg went to college and Cody would do courses at home and then move out there to live with Meg. How Cody promised to visit every month but only went once and moaned the entire trip about how uncool everything was. How she made up the excuse of being ill to go home early and then had excuses each month as to why she couldn't visit Meg. Some friend! She moans about people showing sympathy about Meg dying then gets angry when a few people are rude about it. She even gets hurt and offended because Meg never told her about adopting kittens. Cody is the most self obsessed and selfish friend ever. I hated her.

When you get an MC you don't care about, it makes it harder to follow their story. I didn't feel that Cody was telling us who Meg really was-just a few random thoughts and pieces of stories. She never really said WHY they were best friends, what she'd miss about her...she didn't seem to really care about Meg being gone forever-she was more obsessed with how it was impacting her and why she wasn't confided in. Maybe all of that changes later in the book but I wasn't really bothered about finding out.
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Chuckles Goes Contemporary

I used to read a lot of contemporary books especially when I first joined bookcrossing and wanted to try every genre! In recent years I have concentrated more on urban fantasy, dystopia and horror as these are my favourite books. However when I visit blogs I see all these books and authors I don't know and I thought it might be nice to go and try a few, taking a look at the new contemporary authors out there. Who knows, I might find a few I enjoy and sometimes a change can be nice!

Last night I decided it was finally time to get a few of them read to see what I think so this is the start of Contemporary Week at The Book Cave. The plan is to read as many as I can until I get fed up with them or the week finishes!

Based on the ten books I looked at last night, it was NOT a good experiment! I didn't like any of them, mainly due to the story being too slow or not liking the characters. I still have a pile to read as I grabbed quite a few in charity shops and sales so maybe I'll find some good ones later.

If not, well my tbr will lose a few books so it's pretty much a win-win!

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Book Review: Rain by Shaun Harbinger

The dead rise...
A doctor returning from the mountains of India unknowingly brings a deadly virus to the western world. The nightmare begins. Society crumbles... 

Alex Harley is hiking with three friends when all media channels shut down to be replaced with the Emergency Broadcast. Civilians are warned to stay in their homes. Isolated and afraid, the four friends begin a fight for survival. The end of the world is here...

The military sets up Survivor Camps to separate the infected from the uninfected. As a U.N. rescue mission is put into operation to save survivors from the clutches of the zombies, Alex and his friends must deal with the undead and power-crazed soldiers. But while they fight to survive, the authorities consider drastic measures to rid the world of monsters...

My Review:
Four friends are on a hike in the Welsh mountains when the zombie apocalypse occurs. All they can think of is to get away from the Army forces who are detaining all civilians in camps until they see who turns, and of course the deadly zombies. The plan is to get to the coast to find a boat and safely plan what they are going to do next.

It's nice to see a few more zombie books set in the UK, where guns are in short supply and zombies need to be taken out in close combat. Most UK zombie books seem to be unfunny Shaun of the Dead type plots but thankfully this was a nice, tense, zombie book with some interesting scenes and lots of zombie action. It was well written and kept me interested the whole time.

I admit that in the beginning I didn't like Mike and Elena much. Bringing their unfit friend on a hike that was obviously beyond his fitness was bad enough but then continually going faster, mocking him for not keeping up and risking him getting lost on the mountain is just nasty. I was annoyed that they didn't seem to believe anything Alex says about the madman attacking hikers, even when evidence from online seems to indicate an emergency situation. However, this part is not dragged out for ages and they quickly witness the zombies themselves so I can forgive the annoying bit! For the rest of the book, they have to work out a way to stay alive through each dangerous situation and they grew on me.

I liked Alex because he is a normal guy who is not superfit but has a brain which helps the group survive. Lucy was a nice character and at least believed what Alex told her, unlike his closest friends. The four of them can't always agree on the best way forward, which again is realistic when you have several people that all think their idea is best. It doesn't descend into chaos or a lot of bitching which is good. I also liked the fact that their plans were not perfect and they weren't always sure of their next move.

I also liked that the author introduced a slightly different zombie. In this book they do not come out in the rain as that causes their bodies to decay quicker. In theory that should help our characters, allowing them to move freely outside when it is raining without fear of attack, and it does help them a bit. However it does work against them in places as well. It was an interesting plot development which I enjoyed and I think this will make things very interesting in the rest of the series. It gives our heroes an even chance as they don't have the same access to guns compared to those in American set books. We also have the threat faced by various humans ie the Army and other survivors, leading to danger for our MCs, which I always like in my zombie books!

There was more than enough in this book for the zombie fan to enjoy and I would certainly recommend it. I am intending to read the rest of the series when I get the chance.
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Book Review: Dusty's Diary by Bobby Adair

One Frustrated Man's Zombie Apocalypse Story

I played all those cool video games. I watched all those movies. I read all those books. In most of those, the hero of the story kills all the zombies, drives a sweet car, has plenty to eat, and always seems to get laid by the end. Yeah. Whatever.

I gotta be straight with you about why I wrote this journal and it comes down to one thing, the apocalypse kinda sucks.

It doesn’t meet my expectations at all.

And I honestly have to tell you, I was looking forward to it. I mean, I really was. It’s not that I don’t like people. I do. But holy crap, I was so tired of all the crap I had to put up with back in the old days, paying a mortgage, high interest rates on my credit cards, high cholesterol, thinning hair and a thickening midsection. I was tired of dealing with jerk-off drivers during rush hour and I was tired of my ex wife yammering at me on the phone until my brain turned to jelly. I was tired of things always getting more expensive and my paycheck always staying the same. I guess from back in all of that, a zombie apocalypse looked like a pretty good future to me.

Well, here’s my story. Read it. Let me know what you think.

My Review:
This was a massive disappointment from an author that I have enjoyed reading in the past. There is nothing interesting in this short story and I wondered what the actual point of it was. It is set in the same world as The Last Survivors series and is meant to be the prequel that explains? Um, no I don't think so....

We are supposed to be reading about a man who has survived in an underground bunker, writing about his experiences. I expected him to tell his story about the breakdown of society or at least the events which led up to him choosing to hide. Instead we get him wittering on about a load of rubbish that had no relation to the story.

He starts a sentence then mentions blogging. He then feels he needs to explain what that is, in case someoneone is trying to read this thousands of years in the future and needs help to understand what he is talking about. He then goes on to explain the meaning of terrorists, dipshits, first person shooters, pornography, DIY, nudists, swingers, epiphany, Charlton Heston...Yet he fails to explain clearly what caused the virus or what the enemy actually were. Calling these things Shroomheads didn't help! That was more important to me than going into detail about the number of people on the street who were nudists and had swingers parties, but it seems that having this guy talk about sex and pornography all the time was more important than telling us about the disaster. No surprise there.

I was so bored by all the uninteresting waffle that I only made it halfway through this 70 odd page book and the time I did waste on it dragged. A massive disappointment from a good author. I suggest you could happily live without going near this book. I certainly have no intention of reading The Last Survivors based on this offering. If you want to read this author I suggest reading his excellent zombie series Slow Burn.
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Book Review: Aisle 13 by Zachary Stone

A meteor shower brings to earth an infectious disease which causes many people to die and become flesh eating monsters. Hank, a grocery store meat cutter, finds himself responsible for the protection of his co-workers, customers and friends, and he embarks on a dangerous mission to find a place of safety for them.

My Review:
Hank is at work in the supermarket when the zombie apocalypse comes, trapping him with his boss, several co-workers and a few customers. There is debate over whether to stay and try to secure the building or get out to find their families. There is debate over seeking out and helping nearby survivors who may be infected already or looking after themselves.

I admit that when I saw the series title was 'Don't dare call them zombies', I thought this was going to be one of those unfunny comedy zombie books that would fall flat on it's face. However once I started reading, I was pleased to see that this is a serious and decent zombie book. The people are trapped in a supermarket which has a lot of useable supplies but a lot of windows for zombies to smash through if enough of them gather. You can understand the dilemma of the survivors, who are all anxious about their families.

The characters are all nice enough and at least there are no serious morons to spoil the story. Everyone works together to secure the building and all of them are nice normal people who react to the apocalypse in expected ways, making them seem real. I liked Katie and Ms Suzy the best. Ms Suzy is very cool and I'd have liked to work with her in the supermarket. There is a lot of good stuff in the plot-the diversions that they use when anyone needs to go outside are interesting and inventive, giving the reader some good entertainment. There are plenty of zombies in the book though there is less graphic content than some books I've read recently.

My one issue was that Hank was the one who persuaded a few people to stay at the supermarket in safety while the others made their escape in a bus, then within hours he decided he had to find his mother and persuades the others including the reluctant Katie to join him on the dangerous journey. I found this a bit annoying, that every decision is based around what Hank wants to do at a certain time and not what is best for the group. I'm not sure I'd be greatly keen to leave without a better idea of what I was going to face! The budding romance with Hank and Jennifer fell flat for me. We get told countless times how Hank pursued Jennifer who was never interested in him-but now the apocalypse is here, Hank is suddenly in with a chance. Oh please! It's not that I don't like Jennifer-I just don't find that scenario plausible.

This was a pretty well written novella with some decent entertainment. I've got no immediate plans to continue with the series as there are other series that I liked better, but at some point I might go to the next book to see what the standard is.
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Reading with Chuckles

I have renamed my TBR Reading Challenge and changed it back to Reading with Chuckles as it sounds better, especially at times when I have no specific challenge running. So this is where I'll share what I read and abandoned each week, and I'll give the odd update on the state of my poor TBR! It does suffer at times...! The link under the book takes you to the Goodreads page for that book so you can decide whether to read it, and see my reviews when they are posted.

I've been reading like something possessed since New Year and long may it continue! Reading with Chuckles will now be set firm for a Sunday unless illness or something gets the way. I've been on the zombie and apocalypse books again all this week which has been fun! I still have to write some reviews which I hope to catch up on during the week. I'm reading faster than I can review! 


Zachary Stone-Aisle 13 

Rick Jones-The Valley 

Eric A Shelman-Dead Hunger 

Stephen Knight-The Gathering Dead 

Horror Within anthology 

Iain McKinnon-Remains of the Dead

Bryan James-LZR 1143

Bobby Adair-Dusty's Diary

Roger Hayden-The Decay

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Book Review: Southern Zombies by Ann Riley

Our outbreak started with a recall of beef and pork suspected of being contaminated with the toxoplasmosis parasite. This toxoplasmosis epidemic hit around the same time as the flu vaccine season got started. Although live vaccines don't cause disease in the people who get them because they are made with weakened viruses and bacteria, there is always a concern that someone with a severely weakened immune system could get sick after getting a live vaccine. That is why live vaccines are not given to people who have a weakened immune system
People who were infected with the toxoplasmosis parasite displayed symptoms of the influenza virus. So almost everyone thought we had a flu epidemic going around. People getting the flu vaccine already had a weakened immune system thus pushing them further into sickness with the live flu vaccine. This somehow sent the toxoplasmosis parasite into over drive and caused it to wreak havoc. 

This is the story of my family and how we are surviving this epidemic. We live in the South and we like to sit on the porch and drink sweet tea. We use the word “yall” in every sentence almost. We have a dreaded high humidly and summers that feel like you are baking in an oven. We live life at a slower pace, not because we are “slow” as some people think, but because we like to enjoy life and the pleasures it gives. We wave at everyone we see regardless of if we know them or not and we love our southern cooking.

This is our story of how we are dealing with our new world.

My Review:
The boring blurb gives you an idea of exactly what you are in for with this book. It opens with a big info dump which gives every detail of what this bacteria is when all it had to really say is that pork and beef were contaminated by a known toxic parasite and those who had a flu vaccine became ill. I found it a bit offputting that this medical info dump was taking place for the reader while the zombie is trying to break into the MC's house. I don't like things like that interrupting the flow of the story.

It didn't improve from there. Our two sisters decide to leave their men guarding the property while they go to collect another relative who is multi-miles away. Trusting these two to look after anything on a normal day is a stretch never mind in a zombie apocalypse. We are told what they see and what has been happening but we aren't shown anything interesting in the first few chapters. The only time we get conversation and 'show' is when the idiot sisters are bickering constantly. That was not interesting or entertaining. It added nothing to the story and irritated the heck out of me. They bitch, whine and fight non stop instead of working together to silently evade the zombie threat. Even when they stop for supplies, all they grab is cigarettes and Pepsi. Oh yeah, that will help you survive. Idiots.

With the sisters from hell, a lack of interesting description and action, no smart dialogue and an emphasis on over describing things that are not relevant, this was a poor book. It's one of the poorest I've read this year so far.
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