Sunday 29 April 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades #1)

Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades #1) by E.L. James
Paperback, 514 pages

Published 12th April 2012 by Arrow Books

My shelves: adult-fiction, books-i-own, erotica, imm, not-for-me, read-in-2012, realistic-fiction, series-or-companions
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:
When literature student Anastasia Steele interviews successful entrepreneur Christian Grey, she finds him very attractive and deeply intimidating. Convinced that their meeting went badly, she tries to put him out of her mind - until he turns up at the store where she works part-time, and invites her out. Unworldly and innocent, Ana is shocked to find she wants this man. And, when he warns her to keep her distance, it only makes her want him more. But Grey is tormented by inner demons, and consumed by the need to control. As they embark on a passionate love affair, Ana discovers more about her own desires, as well as the dark secrets Grey keeps hidden away from public view...
 Please note that this book is classified as Erotica. If you're under 18, or likely to be offended by sexual themes, it is recommended that you do not read this review.

I probably would have never have picked this book up if it there hadn't been such fuss made over it in the book blogosphere and the news that it was going to be made into a film (What kind of film it will be, I really don't know...). All I knew about it when I picked it up was that it was once fan fiction and had erotic themes. I also knew that there must be something about it that made it so controversial.

I'll admit that I was a bit nervous when I was starting the book. I haven't read erotica before (unless you count that scene in Tipping the Velvet) and whilst I am certainly not a prude, the thought of reading a load of BDSM sex scenes did, for some reason, unnerve me. Thankfully, when I got used to it, it didn't really bother me at all. There are some pretty strong images, a lot (expectedly) involving sexual restraints, sexual torture and the like, so if you're not comfortable with those ideas, you're really not going to be comfortable with the book. There are no holds barred with the descriptions of the sex scenes, apart from when our protagonist, Ana, mentions her 'sex' or 'down there' - for some reason, she can't give it a proper name, which I found strange and a little immature, considering what she was doing. Though I don't have any other experience with erotica to compare it to, it did sound quite amateur because of the writing.

Speaking of Ana, I thought that she was so frustrating and frankly, at times, downright stupid. She couldn't seem to make her mind up about anything at all. I understand that accepting a contract to be a sex slave would be a very big decision, but it wasn't only that that she couldn't agree to or decline. She didn't seem know what she wanted and so a lot of her behaviour made her look really hypocritical. At some moments, she was sure that she didn't want to be dominated, but her actions really didn't reflect that. Her relationship with Christian Grey was just, in general, disturbing. I don't mean that by the fact that they're indulging in BDSM sex, but rather because although they both claim to want to avoid it, they are constantly mentally manipulating each other.

I can understand why people find Christian Grey attractive (and hey, if he's played by Ian Somerhalder in the movie, I probably would too), but I, personally, find his lifestyle to be degrading to his sexual partners and I found him to be disgustingly controlling (not just in his 'Red Room of Pain'). I will admit that I did like his joking in his e-mails and his slight charm, but I can't really excuse his mood swings just because he had a certain cheeky humour. It's certainly up for debate and I am sure that a lot of people will think 'he's messed up, has issues and it's not his fault', but I can't buy in to that - there's still no excuse to act the way that he does with Ana.

So why the two and a half stars? Despite being really quite irritated by the ever mood-changing characters, I still managed to get hooked into the book and found it to be quite addicting, probably because (once I had read a few chapters), I found it easy to read. If you don't look too deeply into it, it's not completely terrible - I think that this is something that you've got to be quite open-minded to read and enjoy. If you push some things aside, it's easy to get engrossed. As a reviewer, I thought that the quality of writing was rather poor and I just didn't like or connect with the characters. I didn't hate this book, though and I certainly don't regret picking this up as I did need to make my own decision about it. Do pick it up to make your own decision, but this book is not for the easily embarrassed or the overly critical.

Stacking the Shelves/Showcase Sunday (1)

Stacking the Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga's ReviewsShowcase Sunday is a meme hosted by Books, Biscuits and Tea.
These memes are is a replacement of The Story Siren's In My Mailbox.

Stacking the Shelves and Showcase Sunday make a place to showcase your new books,
whether you obtained them through the post or otherwise.

Due to all of the drama in the book blogosphere this week, and the accusations that the host of In My Mailbox has plagiarised some of her content, I have decided to stop supporting In My Mailbox and instead, I will now be using the Stacking the Shelves and Showcase Sunday memes to showcase my book haul from the past week!

 This week, I received three books in particular that I'm very excited to read because of the fantastic ideas behind them! Those three books are The Glimpse, the extremely long titled The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In a Ship of Her Own Making and the book with awesome title appeal, Adorkable
I also received the first two books in the Goddess Girls series, Athena the Brain and Persephone the Phony as well as Back and Deader than Ever (Monster High 4). I'd also like to say many thanks to the author Allison Rushby for kindly sending me a copy of Shooting Stars.

I bought one book this week as it was on offer for £3 and I needed to see what all of the fuss was about - Fifty Shades of Grey. I should probably have a review of this up either later today or tomorrow. 

Thursday 26 April 2012

The Pledge (The Pledge #1)

The Pledge (The Pledge #1) by Kimberly Derting
Paperback, 352 pages

Published 26th March 2012 by Allison and Busby

My shelves: arc-or-review, better-than-expected, books-i-own, dystopian, fantasy, read, read-in-2012, really-good, series-or-companions, young-adult
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:
Words are the most dangerous weapon of all.

In the violent country of Ludania, the classes are strictly divided by the language they speak. The smallest transgression, like looking a member of a higher class in the eye while they are speaking their native tongue, results in immediate execution. Seventeen-year-old Charlaina has always been able to understand the languages of all classes, and she’s spent her life trying to hide her secret. The only place she can really be free is the drug-fueled underground clubs where people go to shake off the oppressive rules of the world they live in. It’s there that she meets a beautiful and mysterious boy named Max who speaks a language she’s never heard before... and her secret is almost exposed.

Charlie is intensely attracted to Max, even though she can’t be sure where his real loyalties lie. As the emergency drills give way to real crisis and the violence escalates, it becomes clear that Charlie is the key to something much bigger: her country’s only chance for freedom from the terrible power of a deadly regime.

My thanks go to Allison and Busby for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

I wasn't sure what to expect from Kimberly Derting's The Pledge. The premise of it sounded absolutely fantastic, but I didn't know whether it'd be able to hold my attention - it sounded slightly confusing, what with the mish-mash of themes. There is a feel to this book that I haven't experienced with others and I found it difficult to categorise it. There are both dystopian and historical elements to this book as well as others and thankfully, they all worked together in a very interesting and compelling way. 

The story is set in Ludania, a country which is divided by the different languages that the different classes speak.  The country is overruled by a tyrannical Queen who has no hesitation to execute anyone who looks into the eye of someone who speaks a different language to their own. We soon discover that our main character, Charlaina (Charlie), has the ability to understand every language, which is deathly dangerous. Things start to get slightly confusing for Charlie when she meets two guys - Max and Xander. Max seems to know something about Charlie, and it's not just her ability to comprehend different languages. The story gets very addictive as things start to unravel and we get to learn more about Charlie, the Royalty and the society in general. The setting, plot and subplots were very inventive and enthralling.

All of the characters in this book were mysterious. Although the characters certainly weren't poorly developed, it was clear that we weren't getting the full picture which was very intriguing. I really liked Charlie - she wasn't overly confident, nor was she a pushover, she was just like an average teenage girl, but one with a secret. Her relationship with her family felt natural, despite it being strained due to her 'gift'. Angelina, Charlie's younger and mute sister, was certainly special - I adored her and her bond with Charlie. Angelina's development is something that I can't wait to see. I loved Charlie's best male friend too, Aron, and it's a shame we didn't get to hear that much from him, I'd love to see him developed more in the next books. I didn't, however, like  her best girl friend, Brooklyn (Brook), all that much. I found Brook to be a little too out-there and she didn't seem very loyal - I certainly wouldn't want to be friends with her. I also found her transformation to be unrealistic, one of the weak points of the book. I did find the love interest, Max, to be a bit one-dimensional - the storyline seemed to take more of a lead than his character development, and perhaps his romance with Charlie was a little too fast. Both Max and Xander were fascinating though and so I'd love to find out more about them.

The Pledge has given me a great introduction to a very different setting and to some characters with great potential. This is the book by Kimberly Derting that I've read, but it certainly will not be the last! She has a fantastic imagination and I can't wait to delve deeper inside it with the  next instalment of this series. This is a book that I'd recommend to anyone who likes young adult literature, regardless of whether you prefer historical, dystopian or other story lines - this series will hopefully appeal to most of you. I am really looking forward to seeing how this series will progress. 

Sunday 22 April 2012

Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different

Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different by Karen Blumenthal
Paperback, 320 pages

Published 16th February 2012 by Bloomsbury

My shelves: lasting-impression, memoirs-biographies-etc, non-fiction, read-in-2012
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:
Inventor. Visionary. Genius. Dropout. Adopted. Steve Jobs was the founder of Apple and he was all of these things.

Steve Jobs has been described as a showman, artist, tyrant, genius, jerk. Through his life he was loved, hated, admired and dismissed, yet he was a living legend; the genius who founded Apple in his parent's garage when he was just 21 years-old, revolutionising the music world. He single-handedly introduced the first computer that could sit on your desk and founded and nurtured a company called Pixar bringing to life Oscar wining animations Toy Story and Finding Nemo.

So how did the man, who was neither engineer nor computer geek change the world we live in, making us want every product he touched?

On graduation day in 2005, a fifty-year-old Steve Jobs said: 'Today I want to tell you three stories from my life, That's it. Just three stories'. The first story is about connecting the dots. My second story is about love and loss. My third story is about death.

This is his story...
My thanks go to Bloomsbury for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

I'm writing this review on my MacBook Pro, whilst listening to music on iTunes. My iPhone sits beside me and my mum is currently using my iPad. I love Apple products and I use them everyday - in fact, I'd feel lost without them. Most of you will either own at least one of Apple's products, or know somebody who does. Even if you don't, you surely must've watched or heard of a Pixar film, such as Toy Story or Finding Nemo. It's pretty clear what sort of impact that Apple and Pixar have had on the world of technology today. 

I'm a huge fan of Apple, and as soon as I heard of the biography, entitled Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, I really wanted to pick it up and read all about the company. However, as much of a fan as I am, there was, to simply put it, no way that I was going to read a 600-750 page biography. The book is huge and I'm afraid that I just wouldn't have the patience to read it all - I was intimidated by it. When I was told by Bloomsbury that Karen Blumenthal had written a biography that was aimed at the 'iPhone texting, white-headphone-listening, iTunes downloading generation', I absolutely pounced at the chance to read it. At a much more digestible 320 pages (including photographs) and straight to the point, this gave me just the insight that I wanted into Steve Jobs and Apple's life.

I admit that at the start of the book, I wasn't really getting into it. I think that this was partly because I was learning things that I didn't really know about Jobs - he certainly had a bit of a dark side and was quite fiery, but not in a very good way. I think that it's fantastic that Blumenthal did include all of those harsher details though, as it helped me to get to know what Jobs was really like behind the scenes. I went from somebody that, before opening the book, admired Jobs and his creativity, to taking quite a strong dislike to him. However, I came to understand that he was young, he had a strong personality and was determined. Although he wasn't always the most socially acceptable, he had faith in himself and what he was doing, something to admire. I'm glad to say that when I hit the half-way part of the book, I had learnt why he was acting the way he did and began to honour him a lot more. I felt as though Blumenthal was giving him a fair representation, showing both his good and bad sides - of course nobody is perfect.

I thought it was really interesting to see how both Jobs and his companies progressed. It was inspiring to see that although Jobs did hit a lot of difficulties, he still kept going and wasn't afraid to take many risks. I also learned a whole lot things that I had no idea about before reading the biography, some facts were really quite surprising. Alongside the facts about business and technology, particularly towards the end, we learned more about how Jobs dealt with the news of his very poor health and the fact that he had cancer - it was incredibly heartfelt, and I was shedding a tear by the end. It's so sad that such a hugely creative mind is no longer with us, but through learning about him and his products, I'm sure that Apple will still have even more genius to unveil.

Steve Jobs once said "Your time is limited... have the courage to follow your heart and intuition" - no other words could be more appropriate to his actions in his, sadly shortened, life. Blumenthal has done his story justice though, and has certainly made me want to abide by his words of "stay hungry, stay foolish." A fantastic biography, for both teenagers and adults alike, that I'd recommend to anyone wanting to learn more about Jobs, Apple and/or Pixar.

Here's some facts about Steve Jobs that you may not 
  • As of October 2011, Apple reported that the total number of iPods sold worldwide was 300 million
  • Over 15 million iPads were sold between April 2010 and March 2011
  • Pixar's 10 feature films to date have grossed a combined $5.5 billion at the box office
  • In 2003 iTunes sold over 275,000 tracks in its first 18 hours of launch. It has now sold over 10 billion tracks worldwide
  • The iPod was selected by Stephen Fry as the 3rd greatest gadget in history, beaten only by the wristwatch and the lighter
  • Steve Job's famous 2005 commencement speech has been viewed over 13.5 million times on Youtube
...pick up the book to learn more!

In My Mailbox (21)

In My Mailbox (IMM) is hosted by Kristi @ The Story Siren
In My Mailbox is a place to showcase your new books,
whether you obtained them through the post or otherwise.

 I received some great ARC/Review books this week. I am so excited to read Black Heart Blue and Geekhood - they sound really interesting and I've heard really good things about them! I'd like to thank the author for providing a copy of Someone Else's Fairytale. Whilst I'm yet to read the first books in the two series, I also received Until I Die and We'll Always Have Summer - I really need to get around to starting those! 

 I picked up brand new copies of Secret Hour, Blue Noon and Touching Darkness - the three books in the Midnighters trilogy for just £5 and the three books in the Uglies series that I didn't have, Pretties, Specials and Extras for another £5, so needless to say that I wasn't at all disappointed with my book purchases this week!

What did you get in your mailbox this week?

Monday 16 April 2012

Fever (Fever #1)

Fever (Fever #1)  by Dee Shulman
Paperback, 400 pages

Published April 5th 2012 by Puffin

My shelves: arc-or-review, better-than-expected, books-i-own, cover-appeal, death, fantasy, historical, if-i-were-a-boy, read-in-2012, sci-fi, title-appeal, young-adult
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:
A fearless Roman gladiator. A reckless 21st century girl. A mysterious virus unites them . . .

152 AD. Sethos Leontis, a skilled and mesmerising fighter, is unexpectedly wounded and lies dangerously close to death.

2012 AD. Eva is brilliant - but troubled. Starting her new life at a school for the gifted, a single moment in the lab has terrifying results.

An extraordinary link brings Sethos and Eva together, but it could force them apart - because the fever that grips them cannot be cured and falling in love could be lethal . . . Can love survive when worlds collide and threaten time itself?
My thanks go to Puffin for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Once again, this book was a case of me being completely won over by the shiny, attractive cover - I  just thought that it looked gorgeous. I'm happy to say that the contents were just as pleasing as the cover as I was easily sucked into this story of a Roman gladiator, Sethos, a present day girl, Eva, and how a fever brings them together. This was a really enjoyable, well flowing story that I found difficult to put down.

It was really easy to get sucked into this story. I thought that I may have found it difficult to swap from reading about present day to Roman times, but it was surprisingly easy to go from chapter to chapter. I was very worried that the time-travel aspect would be confusing (as they often are), but thankfully this was super easy to follow, with the two settings being very different and the time periods clearly marked at the beginning of each chapter. The chapters were often short and action packed, which made the pace of the book brilliant. 

I loved reading about both Sethos and Eva as well as their environments. I personally found Eva to be the more interesting character of the pair, but reading about Sethos and his Londinium (Roman London) setting was really captivating. I felt as though I was there with Sethos, checking out all of the Romanesque architecture and feeling edgy during his fights. I did like him, but I found him to be a little compulsive and perhaps irrational at points. 

Eva is a very talented teenage girl (with a penchant for computer hacking) who has transferred to St Magdelene's, a private school on a full scholarship due to her intellect. Of course, she's not perfect though, she hates spending time at home with her mother's partner and she's never really had many friends, though she has no problem making them at her new school. I found Eva to be quite likeable and although she was portrayed as quite a shy, quiet person, she didn't seem to be reclusive - she did seem confident in herself at points, which was nice to see. I really liked her friendship with Astrid and it was interesting to see how she interacted with others at her new school.

I thought that the romance aspect of this book was a little disappointing, only because it happened too fast. I thought that the relationship between Eva and Seth felt a little rushed and that Eva 'fell in love' with Seth quite randomly - it was although it suddenly just clicked, after no real reasoning, that she loved him. I do realise that there is certainly potential to see their relationship develop in the next two books and I look forward to seeing how it all pans out.

Fever is just the start of what looks to be like a very promising trilogy from Dee Shulman. The story has only just really begun in this book and I'm looking forward to seeing how it progresses in the rest of the trilogy. I think that this trilogy is sure to become a hit with a lot of young adult readers. 

Check out the book trailer for Fever:

Sunday 15 April 2012

In My Mailbox (20)

In My Mailbox (IMM) is hosted by Kristi @ The Story Siren
In My Mailbox is a place to showcase your new books,
whether you obtained them through the post or otherwise.

 I received some amazing ARCs this week! I love the cover of Bringing the Summer. I've been desperate for Picoult's Between the Lines ever since I heard about it and an ARC of it is finally in my hands, I can't wait to read this one! I also got a copy of Graffiti Moon which will be published here later in the year - I've only heard good things about it from International reviewers, so I'm hoping that I'll love it!

 I made three swaps this week and I received Hunting Lila, Identical and Catching Jordan in exchange for 3 of my books. I'm really happy that I got the opportunity to swap for these 3 books as I've been wanting to get my hands on them for a while.

 I bought 3 books that were on sale this week. Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend is compared to Room and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, so I just had to pick it up. I've read some rave reviews for Genesis and I just loved the idea of Love Virtually.

Last but certainly not least, I received a pre-ordered copy of Please Ignore Vera Dietz which I won!

I'm very pleased with the books that I was given this week, and can't wait to get stuck into them.
What did you get in your mailbox this week?

Friday 13 April 2012

Follow Friday (9)

Follow Friday is hosted by Parajunkee & Alison Can Read
The question that everyone was asked this week was:

What is one book that you would be nervous to see a movie adaptation of because you think the movie could never live up to the book?

Every book. I am always nervous to see a film adaptation of a book that I've read because I've already got it all imagined in my head and it couldn't possibly be portrayed exactly the same way on screen. Although I was majorly excited to see The Hunger Games recently, I was also a little scared incase I didn't like it as much as I loved the book. I didn't enjoy the film as much as the book, yet I still loved it (much like the Harry Potter series and films).
Anyway, to answer the question properly, I am most nervous to see my favourite book adapted into a movie, The Perks of Being a Wallflower. IMDB states that filming has been completed, but it isn't released until earlier this year. I don't quite understand how they'll do this story justice on the big screen, but I do hope that they manage it.

Sunday 8 April 2012

UK & International Giveaway

To celebrate the UK release of Insurgent on May 1st, I am holding a UK AND INTERNATIONAL giveaway in honour of the fantastic book (it really is every bit as good as Divergent!) and the faction that I was appointed a leader of - Amity!

For more information about The Amity Faction, please [click here] or click 'Amity Faction' on the above toolbar.

We would love your support. 
Being Amity, we are very friendly and welcome anyone of any faction to enter this giveaway!

All you have to do in order to win four Amity/Insurgent-related bookmarks is fill in a Rafflecopter form below.

I am giving away 3 to those who live in the UK and 1 internationally - please ensure you fill in the correct form!

As all of the bookmarks are handmade, they may vary slightly from the picture.

Remember to use the hashtag #INSURGENTUK and  #AMITYUK when tweeting!

Add the AMITY UK Badge to your blog: