Negative reviews: Are they worth it?

I’ve been thinking on this for a while. It started when I was at my best friend’s house, picking books from a selection that her and her Mum were giving away (keep your friends close and the people who give you free books closer). Many of them were books that she had enjoyed when she was younger, and we were both reminiscing over the tropes and themes we loved as preteens but have now grown to despise and laugh at. Armed with several bags full of YA books and some other pretty hardbacks, I started reading from my now dangerously high TBR pile.

I’m going back to University next month, and yesterday I dumped half my belongings into my new room, along with a pile of unread books to keep me going through the term. I had decided to divide my pile between YA and older reads, as I’m currently lending books to a 14 year old and making the most of being able to be a human library. It’s safe to say you all probably know what genre I’m reading lately.

I may be out of the age range, which is probably why I’m not enjoying a lot of YA books anymore, but some of the things I’ve read are cliche and boring, and characters have been incredibly one dimensional. As a result we hit the million dollar question: is it worth writing a review about them?

I started this blog to write about books I enjoy, and to write about a mixture of books that have become popular or have been highly anticipated, and books that I was pleasantly surprised about or took me out of my comfort zone in a good way. I’m struggling to justify writing a review about a book that’s almost entirely negative.

Don’t get me wrong, few books are perfect, and it is all down to interpretation. I like to be able to write a review that highlights positives and negatives. On the other hand I feel like if I want to write about a book it’s because I want to recommend it or share it. Maybe if there’s an aspect that bothers me I’ll write about it, but that would mainly be regarding an issue or theme rather than the book itself.

If I haven’t got anything nice to say is it worth saying anything at all? Or is it important to see all interpretations and opinions regardless of how negative they could potentially be?

I need a cup of coffee.

Perspectives are important // Oh Dear Sylvia Review

It seems to be a running theme these days that I pick a book that I’m either indifferent or have low expectations of. There also seems to be a running theme where I’m pleasantly surprised. Oh Dear Sylvia was no exception.

The beginning did drag a little. I suppose it could symbolise Sylvia’s vegetative state, but it doesn’t make good reading. Once I got into it (which was about a third of the way through) I was hooked. The perspectives are interesting and the plot was intriguing, and there were many twists- some were predictable, but others were a complete surprise. My opinions on characters were changing constantly throughout the story and it was fascinating to see such a diverse range of characters.

What made this book stand out to me was the fact that the protagonist played no role in the actual story, but somehow the plot seemed to revolve around her regardless. We learn about Sylvia from the perspectives of the visitors that come to see her, including her ex husband, her friend-turned-lover, her sister and her maid. It goes to show how they all have different versions of the same person based on their memories, and it’s a very good reflection on real life. It almost reminds me of high school in the sense that everyone had a different twist on the same tale, to the point where sometimes it’s blown completely out of proportion, and it further highlights the perception of character.

There was an underlying mystery to this story, and it was evident from the start that her fall was more than just an accident, however as the characters’ backstories were uncovered it was evident who was behind it. It was also nice to see closure for some of the characters as well who suffered from the hands of Sylvia (even though we later learn this was through no fault of her own). It’s easy to hate Sylvia at the start as one may feel sympathetic for Ed and her kids. However, the fact that the change in character seems so unnatural based on Ed’s marriage, makes the eventual revelation seem almost forced and again, unnatural.

I did like the fact that there was a good representation of characters, and it was evident that research was done into different cultures in order to execute this diversity well. I think it’s important that we continue to see this kind of diversity in all fiction.

Overall, I liked it. It’s funny and interesting and somehow manages to be lighthearted yet also thought provoking, addressing a variety of issues.

If you’ve read it feel free to share your thoughts!

Reading, escapism and distractions

A Level Results Day is tomorrow, and for the first time in two years it’s not me that’s receiving them. This time last year I was lying on the floor in my bedroom using all my willpower to avoid looking at grade boundaries and frantically trying to distract myself.

This year, Wordery have launched a new campaign called Around the World in 80 Books, and there’s nothing like a book to distract you from real life. Looking at it, I’ve realised I’ve only read a pitiful amount of books on here, so I’m going to talk about some of the ones I have read, and the ones that I am definitely adding to my wishlist.

Let’s visit Denmark, the home of Lego and my favourite Shakespeare play, Hamlet. Not only has it influenced my favourite Disney film The Lion King, but Hamlet is such an interesting and complex character that it’s earned the prize of being the only written work that I truly enjoyed when studying works for my English Literature A Level.

Travelling not too far across, in the pretty land known as the Netherlands, we find the setting for John Green’s most well known novel, The Fault in our Stars. It deals with the very delicate topic of cancer, but I feel like it’s important to address these things in novels in a way that doesn’t only show the illness itself. Hazel is a likeable, funny, intelligent person and it goes to show that your illnesses and problems don’t have to define you. A good book to read if you missed the bandwagon when the film came out a couple of years ago. John Green’s other books are cool too.

Lastly, I’m going to head to the homeland of some of my family: Germany. This country is the backdrop to The Book Thief. What’s interesting about this book is that it’s told from the perspective of Death, and the personalisation of death itself makes it feel more surreal, witty and intriguing. If you’re a fan of history, people growing up and complex relationships, then you’ve come to the right place.

There are also many books on this list I want to read. Coincidentally 100 Years of Solitude (Colombia) is on my booklist for one of my modules in University next year, and Evita (Argentina) interests me as I saw the musical many years ago so it would be interesting to go back to the roots of the story. What I love about this list is that it gives people the opportunity to experience stories from all over the world, and not just British and American books.

Long story short, if your summer reading isn’t going to plan, here’s a thing that might kickstart a reading binge. You’re welcome.

PS: Shoutout to Wordery for including a Welsh book in their list. I’m a patriotic soul.

Memoirs are underrated // Spectacles Review

I am usually very reluctant to stray from the safe, comforting realm of fiction. Fiction is an opportunity to escape, and a way to explore worlds without leaving the familiarity of your beloved armchair.

I surprised myself when, during a late night book swap between me and my Mum, I was offered Spectacles, a memoir by Sue Perkins. Since I am an avid Bakeoff fan and it was a rather attractive looking hardback, I shrugged and added it to my pile. Besides, after the reading disaster that was late June/early July I needed to get back on track with my Goodreads challenge, so the more the merrier really.

I found that, once again, leaving my safety zone isn’t always a bad thing. When you are given books to try you have nothing to lose. A new world is at your fingertips, you’ve been handed an opportunity. If you don’t like it, you haven’t wasted a tenner on something that will gather dust on your shelf until you manage to subtly “gift” it to a friend. Not that I’ve ever done that.

I knew this book was great when I was literally laughing out loud. Normally I can get away with sitting quietly in my claimed armchair while my parents watch tv, but I was sniggering to myself constantly. The way it’s written made it strangely relatable for me, despite being part of a different generation to Sue Perkins herself, and the blunt way in which she writes made me snort with laughter.

It also tugged at the heartstrings too. It just goes to show that life is a story of its own, it’s just real. I have never had a problem with reading stories based on a true story, but when it’s absolutely and positively real, warning lights would flash and I’d rush to the safety bubble that is my beloved fiction. Despite this, Sue Perkins proved me wrong. If memoirs are written well they can spin a tale that is very thought provoking. This book is light hearted but heart breaking. I would look for traits like that regardless of the genre of a novel.

I do feel like memoirs are often riddled with morals and life lessons in a way. You learn based off their experiences, and you question life choices. You get an insight into another person’s thoughts, something which will always intrigue me. A memoir is personal in a way fiction never well be, and you get to relate more because the person is real. The way you get to know a fictional character doesn’t change when you read a memoir.

Long story short: Memoirs are underrated, I’ve broadened my horizons and this book is hilarious, and seems to mirror Perkins’ personality (well, from what I’ve seen on TV anyway)

As usual, your insight is valued and welcomed.

Untitled Thoughts // Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Review

PLEASE NOTE: This review will probably be riddled with spoilers. Save yourself. Save your families.

This is it.

The big one.

The one we’ve all been waiting for.

It has been almost a decade since I read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on a holiday in York back in 2007. It’s been 5 years since the last film. So when J K Rowling announced the play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child just over a year ago, and later on the book of the script, I was excited. I was more than excited. Also, let’s face it, books are exciting in general.

Last night was a whirlwind. After waiting dutifully in my armchair all day, reading Game of Thrones to distract myself, the parcel arrived through my letterbox. I didn’t even bother tweeting or instagramming that I’d received, it, that’s how desperate I was. I was back in my armchair and wasn’t to be disturbed for two hours.

I’m still trying to organise my thoughts, but they’re much less fuzzy than yesterday, so here I am. I’m going to talk about the good things first, since I’ve read many negative reviews and I don’t think it’s that disappointing. What we have to bear in mind here is that THIS IS A SCRIPT. It’s obviously going to be more limiting than the play itself. It’ll never be the same as the books we know and love.

If you’ve read my previous post regarding my expectations, you’ll know that I was hoping it wouldn’t be predictable and repetitive. I’m glad to announce that it’s not. We see a new side to the trio now that they’ve grown up, and also a new side to the other characters we love like Draco and Ginny. The friendship between Albus and Scorpius is heartwarming, and although there are hints that there’s more to their friendship than seen, it’s also left open and ambiguous. It reminded me a lot of Season 3:1 of Sherlock, The Empty Hearse, in the sense that it seemed like a lot of scenes were written to satisfy fans. Harry finally confronts Dumbledore, Snape is given a sense of redemption, and we get to explore a lot of alternate universes.

I’m also going to talk about Ron Weasley. I disliked him as a character in the books, especially in the later ones, and I was also a little annoyed that he gets paired with Hermione at the end. However the play completely redeemed my opinion of him. It just goes to show how people mature as they get older, and he was the most chilled and level headed while everyone else was getting worked up and fighting amongst themselves. He didn’t have a major role, and therefore he could be seen as merely a comedic crutch, but it just goes to show that not everyone has to get involved in everyone’s business, this was mainly a story about Harry and Albus struggling to let go.

There’s only one main thing that really bugs me is the introduction of Voldemort’s daughter, Delphini. Lord Voldemort was the product of a love potion, therefore it was known that he was incapable of love, which is the cause of his downfall. So how has he been able to produce a child?! Also when she was conceived he would have been 70. That seems too old to suddenly have a child- and as my friend said when we discussed this last night, it does seem to be a way for Harry to not be isolated as an orphan, and for him to be able to relate to someone. I feel like there could have been a better way to find an antagonist in this story.

Overall, it was great. It was sweet, and it did tie up a lot of loose ends that were somewhat abandoned at the end of Deathly Hallows, and it was nice for characters to receive closure. I’m still not sure how I feel about it in a lot of other aspects, but I do think one would have to see the play to get a full perspective.

I would love to hear your opinions if you’ve read it!

PS: I’m very glad I’m not the only one who’s scared of pigeons. Those things are vicious.