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S. Shamma "Suad" (Abu Dhabi, UAE)
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The Paper Magician (The Paper Magician Series)
The Paper Magician (The Paper Magician Series)
by Charlie N. Holmberg
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.64

4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent first installment, 24 Feb. 2015
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This book was a very pleasant surprise, even though I gave it four stars, it was a book that I devoured in one sitting and quickly moved on to the sequel. I love that it is a story weaved around magic and fantasy based in Victorian London!

Ceony is such a strong female character that you learn to like her almost immediately, and even though she has always dreamt of specializing in the magic of metal as a Smelter, she finds herself stuck with Magician Emery who as his apprentice, is bound to him and to his magic as a Folder - the magic of paper. She's bitter and angry, but she has no choice. However, she soon finds that there is a lot more to paper than she ever hoped to know. In a few days, Emery Thane teaches her an abundance of tricks and even creates her very own paper dog that acts exactly like a normal dog would - only it cannot eat or drink.

In a crazy twist of events, Emery's crazy ex attacks their quarters and snatches his beating heart right out of his chest and escapes with it. Ceony, having just discovered several things about this man, who she thought was eccentric and a recluse, is intent on saving his life now. She goes after his ex and discovers that the only way to save this man is to literally go into his heart to keep it beating for him.

The reason I gave it 4 stars is because I felt the writing wasn't up to par just yet. I believe this is Charlie Holmberg's first book, and although I'm a huge fan of the plot and storyline and characters, I think she still has a way to go with her writing. It needs a lot more editing, and it needs more skill and smoothness in terms of flow. That did not stop me from reading the sequel immediately after finishing this one.

I must say, although a lot of readers have described the love story element as sudden and unrealistic and even rushed, I found it to be heartwarming, and perfect really. What better way to know a person - really know a person - and love him so truly and unconditionally than to find yourself locked in the chambers of his heart? The fact that she's 19 and he's 30 is trivial, given the fact that this is based in Victorian times. Their relationship reminded me of the likes of great romances such as Jane Eyre and Rebecca.


Who is Tom Ditto?
Who is Tom Ditto?
by Danny Wallace
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pure entertainment with one huge dash of wit and a pinch of mystery, 24 Feb. 2015
This review is from: Who is Tom Ditto? (Paperback)
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, more so than I had expected going into it. The premise of the novel is interesting, but not very interesting. A guy returns home to find a note from his girlfriend telling him that she left, but she didn't leave him. That's it. There's no information on where she went, or with who, or when she's planning on coming back.

Tom, a radio host, decides to investigate the disappearance of his girlfriend, Hayley. He takes offense on her sudden departure, and finds it unlikely that she didn't actually "leave" him. In his journey of finding out where she left and who she's been in contact with before she left, he finds himself in the midst of a strange support group - of sorts. They "follow" people they find interesting and imitate them for the duration that they are following them (and that duration could vary), so if that person is having a tuna melt at a cafe, they'll order the same thing, they'll pay the same exact amount, and even tell the same stories (if they are close enough to hear them speak). It sounds bizarre and very creepy, yes. Tom, thinks so too. He is astounded to find out that Hayley was part of that group, and leaves in a rush, only to be followed by Pia.

In the next weeks, Tom and Pia form a very strange friendship based on her following him, and even gets him to join in on her adventures of following people. These adventures lead Tom to meeting an abundance of new and interesting people, experiencing new things, and even improves his career immensely. He almost forgets about his problems with Hayley...almost. And just when he was starting to find his footing again, Hayley barges back into his life.

He thought he had Hayley all figured out once he found out about her habit of following people to the point of impersonating them completely, but upon her return, he soon finds out even more than he ever bargained for.

I found the humor of Danny Wallace very entertaining and clever. I loved the characters, and I loved the relationship between Tom and Pia. The conclusion was absolute perfection in my opinion, and I'm glad Wallace tied all the loose ends the way he did. I wouldn't have had it any other way.

Great entertainment. Highly recommend this book.


Blankets
Blankets
by Craig R. Thompson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £18.29

3.0 out of 5 stars Just OK, 24 Feb. 2015
This review is from: Blankets (Paperback)
This was my first Craig Thompson graphic novel, and I must admit, it did not touch me in the way that it did other reviewers. In fact, it kind of left me a little cold. I finished it relatively quickly (it IS a big book for a graphic) and it struck me that there wasn't much memorable or profound content in such a big book. I wasn't a fan of either of the characters, and their love story - if you want to call it that - seemed lacking in depth and plot. I went in with high expectations, and I was left unimpressed.

In fact, I was more interested in the story that lies between the brothers, Craig and Phil, than I was about the relationship between Craig and Raina, but I did not get enough of Craig and Phil. Their story was stilted, incomplete, unfinished. There were so many holes in it that storyline that I was just frustrated at not knowing enough. On the other hand, Raina as a character came across the pages as unsympathetic, and sometimes, immature. I know that may not be the right term to describe her given the fact that she's looking after her family and her siblings who both suffer from Down Syndrome, however there was just something about the way she acted around Craig that just struck me as silly rather than sweet.

That isn't to say that I didn't think this was a good book, but it just wasn't great. It did not leave me with any food for thought, or any feelings of nostalgia for romance or first-love. It was just...OK. Just OK.


Books that Changed the World: The 50 Most Influential Books in Human History
Books that Changed the World: The 50 Most Influential Books in Human History
by Andrew Taylor
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting collection, 7 Jan. 2015
This is a really interesting book, and pulls together a very solid collection of influential reads throughout history. Some I agreed with, and others not so much. I was a bit confounded at why some books were included while others weren't, and how some books made the list in place of others.

I loved the Greek and Roman history, although at one point it felt a bit repetitive - Homer, Herodotus, Plato, Horace etc. I wasn't too fond that instead of going by his actual name Ibn Sina he went with Avicenna. Some books I hadn't really heard of and I was a bit confused as to why he included them such as the Sorrows of Young Werther and Lyrical Ballads, and I definitely wasn't a fan of all the economy books, but all in all I appreciated the effort.

I was a little surprised he included Harry Potter on there and not Lord of the Rings. I didn't think he needed to put in the Atlas and Geographia, but I did like the Dictionary and the Telephone Directory being on there because you wouldn't expect them to be.

An interesting read to say the least.


Eleanor & Park
Eleanor & Park
by Rainbow Rowell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

5.0 out of 5 stars I Wanna Hold Your Hand, 7 Jan. 2015
This review is from: Eleanor & Park (Paperback)
This is a book that struck gold with me because of the mood I was in. Had I been in any other mood, I probably would've found many things lacking and frustrating about the storyline and some of the characters. However, I was in the mood for romance and love and heavy amounts of cheesiness and that's exactly what you get from reading Eleanor & Park.

I finished it relatively quickly and although I was deeply disappointed with the ending - which I won't ruin for anybody, except to say it was the most unemotionally evoking ending EVER, what the hell Rainbow?

The progression of Eleanor's relationship with Park was so smooth that you barely blink before you find them holding hands and talking sweet to each other. That scene where they first held hands, it made my heart absolutely melt in my chest! That must seriously be, the BEST holding hands scene that I've ever read! I mean, a gesture as simple and as sweet as holding someone's hand became one of my favourite romantic scenes and moments ever. It's definitely my favourite moment of this book for sure.

So some of things that I liked and disliked about the book. I loved Park's family, his mom and dad were so great in so many ways. Even though Park himself had several issues with his dad, I loved that at the end of the day, no matter what, his dad will always be on his side on more than one occasion. In contrast, I could not stand Eleanor's family. Yes, the WHOLE family, and not just her horrible stepdad. Her mom frustrated me in so many ways, and I could not respect her at all for choosing to live in this ridiculously insane conditions with this abusive man. Her sister Maisie was annoying, I sympathize with their situation but for God's sake, what an annoying sister. Even Eleanor herself at certain moments bothered me with her constant doubts and repeatedly questioning Park's every word and every move.

Like I said though, I was in the ideal mood to read this book. So all of that said, I found it incredibly enjoyable, except for the ending. I was utterly put down by how cold the ending was in comparison to all the major heat of the rest of the novel.

My sister suggested there may be a sequel. I sure hope so - if only to amend that ending.


The Year I Met You
The Year I Met You
by Cecelia Ahern
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Ordinary, but great nonetheless!, 5 Jan. 2015
This review is from: The Year I Met You (Hardcover)
In recent years I've realized that Cecelia Ahern has slowly started to move away from the fantastical into more ordinary contemporary novels. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but it does make me miss her old work, what with an angel/homeless man showing another man the right path (The Gift), to an exciting place where all lost things go (No Place like Here), to Life paying you a visit (Time of My Life), to falling in love with an invisible friend (If You Could See Me Now), Cecelia Ahern has inspired us time and again with the breadth of her imagination.

I fell in love with each and every one of those books.

The Year I Met you seemed like the perfect book to end the year with. In fact it was the last book I read in 2014, and I finished it within a few hours of starting it. It was utterly enjoyable, albeit ordinary (in Ahern standards), but I loved the moral of the story. I loved the message that it tried to convey, and I loved that it was written in a way where the protagonist, Jasmine, is speaking directly to Matt, a radio DJ who has his own talk show and is quite famous in Dublin. Jasmine however despises him due to one of his sessions from many years ago where he seemed to undermine people suffering from Down Syndrome, her older sister being one of them.

He happens to be her neighbour, and seems to be suffering from wild drunken nights and family problems. Jasmine herself has hit rock bottom when she loses her job and is on gardening leave (meaning she is not allowed to find another job for another year), which drives her absolutely insane and leads her to some actual, literal gardening.

When Matt's wife walks out on him, he finds solace in Jasmine's company, even though they spend most of their time bickering and biting each other's heads off. They form a friendship that surprises them, and it surprises me as well. Because this friendship goes absolutely nowhere as they simply remain very good friends, and nothing else.

The reason I'm surprised is because reading fiction, chick-lit, contemporary novels - whatever you want to call them - with two protagonists, you simply expect them to end up together. Especially when two people start out hating each other as much as Jasmine and Matt did. And especially when Jasmine is writing the whole story TO Matt. I mean, I was reading it and with every page I turned I was waiting for something to happen. Then Monday shows up. Yes, Monday's his name. He takes her breath away, and I'm a little confused, but I think, of course, a little jealousy, a little rivalry will push Matt to take that step needed for them to get out of the friend zone. Surprisingly, that does not happen. They remain very good, supportive friends, who try to work on their problems and help each other out.

And I liked that. I liked that Cecelia toyed with our expectations and changed it up from the overly ordinary, and into something with a little more Ahern in it.

It's a really good story. Nothing extraordinary about it, but that doesn't mean it's not a good read. I enjoyed it.


Of Love and Other Demons (Marquez 2014)
Of Love and Other Demons (Marquez 2014)
by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars "There has been no greater tale of woe than that of Sierva Maria and her Cayetano...", 3 Jan. 2015
This is perhaps the most disturbing love story that I've ever read. EVER. But that's what makes it so hauntingly great.

I have slowly been working through Gabriel Garcia Marquez's books, and I've yet to be disappointed by his work. This is such a fascinating tragic tale of love that it completely supersedes Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet in my opinion.

A tale that brings to question love, faith, parenthood and so much more. You have a young girl, thought to be demonic and possessed, who was bitten by a dog and said to have rabies, then the atheist doctor who believes there is nothing wrong with the girl, the neglectful parents and down on his luck father who decides to put his faith in the church, the conflicted priest who falls in love with the girl, the savage nuns, and the rebellious slaves all play a part in this tragedy.

I don't want to go into it so much because it is a short story and the experience of reading it should not be altered by my retelling of it, but I do highly recommend this book. Gabriel Garcia Marquez shines in this book.

"There has been no greater tale of woe than that of Sierva Maria and her Cayetano..."


The Strange Library
The Strange Library
by Haruki Murakami
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.09

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Slightly confusing, highly enjoyable., 3 Jan. 2015
This review is from: The Strange Library (Hardcover)
Despite other reviews, I enjoyed this book very much. Yes, it is a very small book, and an even shorter story with pages filled with illustrations, but I thought it was a really good concept for a story. It doesn't take more than 30 minutes to read, tops, but it did leave me wondering and thinking about what happened, trying to figure out what it all means.

I admit this is only my second Murakami book - the first being Norwegian Wood, which is one of my top favourite books of all time. So this is drastically different than his usual style of writing, but it doesn't take anything away from the story itself. You may think of it as a children's fable, or a graphic novel even, whatever you want to categorize it as, it remains a good, solid story.

I'm still confused about how it all ended though.


The Bloody Chamber And Other Stories (Vintage Magic)
The Bloody Chamber And Other Stories (Vintage Magic)
by Angela Carter
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful!, 3 Jan. 2015
This was my first ever book by Angela Carter and I absolutely loved it. It was thoroughly enjoyable, and her writing is incredibly engrossing and easy to read. First and foremost, my favorite story was the title story - The Bloody Chamber. I did not see that coming, I read it in one complete sitting and I was so invested in what was happening that I could barely breathe.

The other stories though were just as good. I wasn't too fond of the wolf stories, some were interesting adaptations of old stories, but others were not very exciting. I did like that she would take the same fairytale and write two or three different versions of it. You think there can't possibly be any other way to tell the story but Angela Carter surprises you with the wealth of imagination that she has.

I see myself reading a lot more for Carter. A great gem of a book, I recommend it to all.


Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock
by Matthew Quick
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing., 3 Jan. 2015
I have to admit, I was let down enormously by this book. From the first page, you know what this kid is up to. He wants to go to school, give out several gifts to special people in his life, then shoot his nemesis and finally shoot himself - all on his birthday.

However, I finished this book feeling this guy is a complete idiot. I was annoyed and frustrated at how this story went, I felt like the whole idea of shooting someone, of being raped, of family abuse was undermined by this book. I expected Leonard to get through his plan in the first 2 or 3 chapters, and then have us deal with the aftermath of this miserable situation. I expected to read a book in which I am trying to understand the reasons someone would get to that point of despair and how it affects everyone in the aftermath. Instead, all I get is chapter after chapter of Leonard going up to people, who we then realize aren't even close friends or of any importance, and giving them random - almost silly - gifts. In the meantime, bits and pieces of why he reached this point are revealed to us.

We realize that his mom is a complete b***h, that she neglects him, and does not even live with him. We realize that his former best friend (whom he wants to shoot) has been raped by his uncle, and therefore begins taking what his uncle was doing to him and performing it on Leonard himself who was too young to understand what was happening and was afraid to lose their friendship. Eventually, that happens anyway, and his former best friend threatens him with a recording he had taken when Leonard was unaware.

This begins a series of violence and bullying towards Leonard at school.

Then there are those special people in his life, an Iranian guy who is a musical prodigy, and Leonard is fascinated by the music he makes with his violin. Then there's a random Christian girl he sees on a train station, who tries to invite people to believe in Jesus, which he simply just wants to make out with. Then there's his history teacher or World War II teacher or something, who he actually likes and respects and enjoys the class.

Absolutely ridiculous in my opinion. We go through the whole book reading about THOSE people rather than getting on with the actual story. Especially the story with Lauren, the Christian girl, I just wanted to bang my head because it was leading us nowhere. I kept hoping, and I kept expecting the book to get better, for some major twist to occur, but nothing.

At the end when he gets to finally shooting his friend, he backs out, which is great. Then tries to shoot himself anyway, but the gun doesn't work. Then he calls his teacher, who he confesses everything to, and sleeps at his place, and then his teacher speaks to his mom, and his mom comes back all bothered and annoyed because he took her away from her very busy schedule in New York. Instead of the teacher actually telling his mom everything that happened and why it was happening, he just leaves it to Leonard to do - which surprise surprise, Leonard DOESN'T do. Then his mom gets all busy with a phone call, and Leonard has breakfast on his own and walks out of the house to go sit at the park.

Oh, and I forgot to mention all the future letters he wrote himself from his future family, which somehow imply that he doesn't end up killing himself. However, that was no consolation for me, because nothing was resolved. Nothing. I hate reading a book in which you try to get invested with characters only for it to lead nowhere.

I felt like so many important topics were dismissed and undermined. When discussing it with my sister, she said it reminded her of the Perks of Being a Wallflower, which I expected her to say, and I expect a lot of people somehow make that connection but I completely disagree. Perks was unique, the way it was written was innocent, and troubled, but left you in the dark until the very end. You go on this journey with this seemingly normal kid only to find out that he's been through hell and back and he didn't even realize it himself. It's shocking. And that shock factor was highly lacking in this book because you know what's happening from the very first page, only it leads you nowhere.

Disappointing.


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