Perfect (Flawed #2)

“It can take a lifetime to build up a friendship – it can take a second to make an enemy.”

Last year romantic fiction writer, Cecelia Ahern, released her debut YA novel, with the first in a two-part series, Flawed, in which Celestine North, a young woman with a bright future finds herself charged with being Flawed, in a society where anything less than perfection is punishable by law.

Now, a year later, the follow-up, and highly-anticipated conclusion to the duology, is here in the form of Perfect.

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Look at that oh so dramatic cover!
You just know some serious shizz is about to go down!

Following on from where Flawed left off, Perfect opens with Celestine on-the-run and in desperate need of some allies, as she attempts to overthrow the very organisation that landed her there.

I went into this book with high hopes; Flawed showed real potential, very much akin to a modern-day 1984, with a well-paced plot that made for an extremely addictive read, and I expected Perfect to continue in the same vein.

Sadly, that is not the case.

Instead we are left with a story that feels muddled and rushed. Whereas the fast pacing worked well for Flawed, here Perfect suffers because of it; Ahern seems desperate to tie off every scene as quickly as possible, allowing no time for the emotional moments to have any impact. This book either needed to be a lot longer, or extended into a third, because the entire thing feels like a roller-coaster ride you’re clinging onto with your fingertips.

The pacing is not helped by the writing. I am a big fan of Cecelia’s past works, having relied on her early books to get me through high school, and I have always found her writing a joy to read. Here, however, I find myself wondering whether she was forced to rush this out earlier than planned, because I just don’t want to admit to myself how badly written it actually is. It’s clunky, awkward, and even embarrassingly cringe-worthy at times. There are moments when her usual calibre shines through, but those moments are few and far between, and go further towards highlighting the poor quality of the rest of it, than anything else.

And then we come to the plot, which makes this a three-star rather than a two-star review, because, regardless of the aforementioned problems I had with it, I did actually race through this book, and not just because of it’s pacing.

Like Flawed, and in spite of it’s flaws, Perfect is an addictive read. You do want to know what happens next, you can’t predict what’s coming, and, at the end of the day, it is a fun read. Perhaps then, despite it’s faults, that’s why it’s one of the few series I would’ve preferred had been extended into a third book, because this story did deserve better than it got.

There were a few oddities that did confuse and irritate me about the plot, but I have included them at the end of this review, as they contain spoilers

Overall, this series had so much potential. With an intriguing storyline, and in the hands of an imaginative writer like Cecelia Ahern, it seemed a shoe-in for a successful series, but the poor writing and structure of this concluding part let it down, and what could have been something really gripping ultimately ended up feeling like a bit of a damp squib.

3/5

Perfect is published on April 4th

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

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*SPOILERS AHEAD*

Firstly, Bahee. Here you have a nasty piece of work who has shown in the past he’s willing to do anything to save his own hide, so I was rather surprised how nonchalantly they dismissed the very idea that he wouldn’t even consider dobbing in Alpha, Professor Lambert, and the rest of the gang, after they dumped him at the side of the road. This just seemed like a really big, obvious, plot hole that was poorly filled.

Secondly, during the parade when the various members of the group are admitting why they were branded Flawed, Kelly, Carrick’s mother, admits that she and Adam were branded because they wrote anti-vaccination papers about the dangers of vaccinations. This seemed a really weird reason to give them, because I thought we were meant to be sympathetic towards them? I can only presume Ahern is an anti-vaxxer herself, because I honestly kind of found myself agreeing that they should have been branded for that.

Thirdly, at one point in Perfect, Celestine says,

“I have grown to love my Flawed world…I feel at peace in my scarred skin.”

and honestly, to me, this only came across as sounding really green. It may have been that Ahern was trying to convey the ultimate moral of the story, that being flawed is being human, but I don’t think it comes across like that. In contrast, she just sounds naive and priviledged. She keeps meeting people who have been branded Flawed and on-the-run for decades, people who’ve told her about the painful sacrifices they’ve had to make in order to survive, and yet she wants to live like that, having lived like that for a grand total of three weeks? I just found that rather ignorant.

Finally, Art. For 90% of this book I just found him a pointless annoyance, and then finally he does something decent, I begin to not mind him again, and she goes and abandons him in the hospital, while he’s asleep, and just after his father has been taken away. The guy is going to wake up in pain and totally alone. I just ended up feeling really sad for him, and really annoyed at Celestine, which wasn’t the best way to end the book!

Putting Down The Book

Before I started book blogging, reading was a very solitary experience for me; I walked into the bookshop, I bought the book, I read the book. That was it. What I never realised was that there was this whole side to reading that I was missing out on; this wonderful world where people shared and revelled in their love of the written word.

Finding that world was like falling down the rabbit-hole into Wonderland, or stepping through the wardrobe into Narnia. Suddenly I found myself in this place where there were people everywhere with whom I could share this passion, and they helped me find a new joy in reading that I had never experienced, and for which I will be eternally grateful for.

The best part was that I never expected any of it. Four years ago, when I first started posting book reviews to Tumblr, to YouTube, and, finally, to here, I did so for the pure enjoyment of it, and so what began as an outlet of expression, turned into four years of making friends, getting invited to publishing events, and even, somehow, becoming an advocate for my favourite book series.

It blows my mind to think about everything I’ve got to do and be a part of because of what essentially started out as a hobby, and I’ll never regret any of that for a second.

But four years is a long time.

I’ve spoken a few times about my struggles with my mental health. It’s something I was battling long before I started blogging, and for the most part, it was something I was able to keep a handle on and not let affect the things I enjoyed doing, but over the past eighteen months I’ve found it increasingly hard to manage.

I made the decision last summer to put my BookTube channel on hold for a while, because, even though I loved doing that more than anything, I no longer had the energy to film videos. Instead, I decided to focus on written blogs, which seemed like a manageable way of keeping up with this thing that I loved. Unfortunately, however, over the past few months, that too has become difficult to cope with.

The simple fact is, what started out as something I did for love, has descended into something I now have to force myself to do, and I just don’t have the energy to do that right now.

So, I’ve decided to put this blog on hiatus for a while.

I still love writing, that hasn’t changed, but when you have an inner critic living in your head telling you everything you write is trash, it gets harder and harder to hit the ‘publish’ button.

And I still love books, that will definitely never change, but I’ve only read one book so far this year, and I know a lot of that is because the books I should read, aren’t necessarily the same as the books I want to read. Until those two things align again, I need to take some time for myself for a while.

I’ll probably still pop in every once in a while, and I know there are books coming out soon that I will want to write about, but for now, I will say thank you, to every single person who has read a blog, or watched a video, of mine over the past four years, to every blogger or BookTuber who has welcomed me into this community, to every publisher who has sent me books, invited me to events or to take part in blog tours, and to every author who inspired me to do this thing.

Thank you for these four years.

*

“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.”

GIVEAWAY: The Bone Season

Next month sees the release of The Song Rising, the third book in The Bone Season saga, from Samantha Shannon.

This gloriously-written dystopia, set in the year 2059, follows Paige Mahoney, a young clairvoyant living in Scion London, a city where clairvoyance is illegal on pain of death. Paige spends her days working for the underground clairvoyant syndicate, under the watchful eyes of Mime-Lord, Jaxon Hall, a sardonic and ruthless gang leader, who you will come to love and hate in equal measure.

But when Paige’s clairvoyance is uncovered by Scion, her world will be flipped upside down, and everything she thought she knew will be tested.

I know, I know, I talk about this book series a lot, but there’s a reason. This seven-part series is honestly one of the best I’ve ever read, and the third book isn’t even out yet! It’s a truly imaginative story, incomparable to anything else out there, and, in all honestly, before I’d even finished reading the first book, I’d completely and utterly fallen for it.

If you like brilliant world-building, wonderfully complex characters, and a story that has so many twists and turns you just can’t predict where it’s headed, then you need to check this one out.

To celebrate the release of The Song Rising, the wonderful folks over at Bloomsbury have very kindly given me two copies of the flashy new edition of The Bone Season to giveaway!

To be in with a chance of winning, all you have to do is follow me on Twitter and retweet the following tweet by 23:59pm on February 22nd!

Good Luck!

(Unfortunately this giveaway is for UK residents only, but you internationals might want to keep an eye out on this blog over the next few weeks…just sayin’!)

#TimeToTalk

Depression has stolen my smile, and replaced it with an apology.

I’ve been noticing a lot lately how my social media presence has been very very negative. I just had a brief look at my Twitter timeline, and only 3 of my last 18 tweets were positive, and at 18, I just stopped counting, because the impact of Depression was clear.

The sad thing is, I find myself wanting to apologise to my followers for that, for spreading that negativity, and somehow this makes it even worse.

I have no reason to apologise; I have an illness that I have no control over. You don’t apologise for cancer. You don’t apologise for asthma, or chicken pox, or heart disease. So why do I feel like I should apologise for my broken brain?

But there is a reason, there’s always been a reason.

Over the past few years, the conversation in this country surrounding mental health has changed considerably, but that’s only a recent thing. I’m only in my twenties, and yet I grew up in a world where mental illnesses was stigmatised beyond belief. I look back at some of the stuff I watched as a kid, and realise how much ignorance and misinformation there was about it.

Even now, it’s still there. Far too often Hollywood presents the idea that mental illness is treatable through romance. In the real world, whenever news outlets report on murders or terrorist attacks, their default is to imply mental illness caused them to do it.

The stigma is still there, and we may not be chucking people into Bedlam, or trying to cure them with electric-shock therapy, but even in this form, it’s still having an impact, and until it goes away, everyone who struggles with their mental health has another hill to climb on top of the mountain they’ve already been dealt with.

I don’t want to feel guilty every time I post something negative on Twitter. I don’t want to have to ban myself from Facebook, because I struggle to see the bright side anymore. Right now though, I do, everyday, because I’m worried about how people view me as a result of my illness more than I am concerned about fighting the illness itself.

So if you know someone who struggles with their mental health, know that you’ll never be able to fully understand what they’re going through, but that trying to understand will not only make you a better person, but it will help your friend more than you can possibly know.

*
Links you might find useful:

A Letter To Teachers From an A+ Student

How To Talk To A Friend With A Mental Illness

Relationships and Depression: How To Support Each Other

Types of Mental Health Problems

32 Things People Don’t Know About Taking Medication For Mental Illness

 

Being Critical of The Things We Love

There’s been a lot of discussion within the book blogging community lately about judging and pre-judging problematic books.

I’m not going to go specifically into that today, (you should read this, though), largely because I don’t think my voice is relevant in that conversation, but I do want to talk about a trend that I have noticed because of it.

It’s not uncommon, when you find a book you love, to form a certain appreciation for it’s author. I’m not just talking about the acknowledgement of their talent here, I’m talking about forming a level of gratitude for them because they wrote a book that meant a lot to you. It’s understandable; after all, reading a book is an investment of your time, energy, and emotion, and you never know what you’re going to get from it, so when a book turns out to blow your mind, there’s an invisible bond created between reader and author.

You form attachments to authors you love, and you nurture that attachment through buying more of their books, until you reach the point where they become an auto-buy author: one who’s books you always pre-order and read on the first day of publication, because you just know their books are meant for readers like you.

And, surely this is one of the best things about being a reader? Finding a new author you love, and knowing that there are going to be (hopefully) many more times in the future where you will spend hours revelling in the writing that you love so much.

happybearIt’s a wonderful feeling.

Except herein lies the problem, because what I’ve learnt from the aforementioned discussions, is that it’s very easy to become blinded by this faith in an author; to fail to acknowledge the issues a book has, because, in your mind, this author could do no wrong; to miss it’s problems, because you already convinced yourself before you even picked the book up that you were going to love it. After all, how could the same author who wrote that book you fell in love, that book which spoke to you, also write a book that’s problematic?

I count myself in this as well, by the way, because I know I’ve been guilty of doing this. Hell, I’m reading a book right now which I know I would be judging a lot more harshly if it wasn’t written by an author I grew up with.

We all do it.

The problem comes when we don’t acknowledge it. When we ignore what other people are telling us, because it feels like they’re not only attacking an author we love, but attacking us. It feels personal, but it’s vital we overcome that.

Being critical of the things we love is just as important as being critical of the things we hate, perhaps even more so, because if an author writes a problematic book and we, their stalwart readers, don’t question it, they are going to do it again, and again, and again.

BUT #1

…but I still enjoyed it, I didn’t notice anything problematic, why should I be critical of something I didn’t even notice?”

And that, right there, is exactly why you should.

We live in an unequal world, that’s a fact (an actual fact, not an ‘alternative’ one), and that inequality is so ingrained in our society that often those of us unaffected by it don’t even see it. In these situations, our voice doesn’t matter, it is the voices of those that aren’t being treated equally, the voices which the book you’ve read doesn’t treat equally, that matter. If someone with that voice tells you it’s problematic, you listen, and you learn, and you don’t help to promote the voices that silence theirs.

BUT #2

…but it’s just fiction. It’s not real life. It can’t be problematic if it’s just fictional.”

A short history lesson.

In 1915, a film came out called The Birth of a Nation. In it there were depictions of Ku Klux Klan members burning crosses. Up until this point, the real-life KKK never burned crosses. After this film came out, they started burning crosses.

My point is, films, television, books, are incredibly influential. The fact the majority of them are fiction means nothing. In fact, psychologically speaking, if you create something that triggers an emotional connection with the consumer, they are more likely to agree with it’s views, whether it’s fictional or not.

We live in a very divided world right now, and, without sounding too much like a fortune cookie quote, it’s so important we allow everyone’s voices to be heard. So when, and I say when because it will happen, someone raises concerns about a book by your favourite author, listen to them, learn from them, and allow yourself to be critical of the things you love.

5 books I really, really NEED to read!

My TBR* is currently over 400 books long, and one day I will get around to reading every single one of them, but until that day, there will always be some of them that manage to creep their way up the list, on the basis of being made of awesome. These are five books that have pushed their way up so far that I cannot wait to read them!

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I’ve never been a loud woman. Even when I manage to get a handle of my social anxiety, I doubt very much I will be a loud woman, but this book isn’t so much about being an extrovert, as it is about finding your own voice: the one that’s buried beneath decades of ‘that’s not very ladylike’, and your endless apologies; the one that’s convinced you you’re not worth anything because of how you look, and the one that’s taught you how ‘we don’t talk about that’.
Shrill is about women, regardless of shape, size, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender, binary or non-binary, finding their voices from buried below the ones that have kept us quiet for centuries.

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One of my favourite things as a reader is unexpectedly falling in love with a book. Last year, that happened to me with Max Wirestone’s The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss, an unashamedly geeky and hilarious murder mystery, which celebrated the eccentricities of fandoms, with a fish-out-of-water tale of a woman who unexpectedly finds herself embroiled in the weird wonderful world of MMORPGs. I gave it four stars, and ended my review with the phrase ‘[I] really, really hope we see more of Dahlia Moss in the future!’ Thus why I’m so excited for this follow up, The Astonishing Mistakes of Dahlia Moss. I cannot wait to read more of the ridiculous but wonderful circumstances Dahlia ends up in.

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Another sequel to one of my favourites of 2016, Now I Rise is the second in The Conqueror’s Saga by Kiersten White, which started last Summer with the wonderful, And I Darken. This is an AU story about what would have happened if Vlad the Impaler had actually been a woman. The result is the effortlessly vicious, Lada Dracul, who is the kind of leading lady protagonist I worship. She’s such a dark and complex character, which you simply cannot predict, and who never betrays her own morals and beliefs. We need more ladies like her in the realms of fantasy fiction!

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This is one of those books I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t read yet. Me, who laps up epic fantasy like a cat drinking milk.
If you, like me, have failed at life, because have so far not read this book, The Name of the Wind is the story of Kvothe, an all-powerful wizard, told in the style of a coming-of-age story, through the eyes of the character himself.
I’ve heard nothing but great things and five-starred reviews about this book, and the glorious style in which Patrick Rothfuss writes.
The question is: do I read it or listen to the audiobook?
As always, thoughts always welcomed!

 

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Every once in a while you hear about a book you just know you’re going to be willing to do anything to get your hands on. This year, for me, that book is Lisa Lueddecke’s debut novel A Shiver of Snow and Sky. Everything I have seen and heard about this sounds amazing, and also, incredibly beautiful. The first page preview Lisa shared back in October only confirms that. I love it when authors write with that lyrically poetic style, there’s something magical about it that only helps to further immerse you into the world they’ve crafted. The writing, the cover, EVERYTHING about this book is beautiful, and I cannot wait to read it!

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*My Goodreads TBR, at least. My actual list of every book I want to read doesn’t exist as it would make me cry every time I looked at it and realised that I’ll never reach the end of it!

Literary Disappointments

Is there anything worse for a bookworm than a disappointing book?

Whether it’s a book that doesn’t go anywhere; a book that starts off well only to fall apart later; or a book that was simply over-hyped, however they disappoint, it can be really frustrating realising you’ve wasted precious hours of your life on a story that failed to inspire you.

So, with that in mind, here are a selection of books that disappointed me, that you might want to think twice about reading in the future.

Beware, I’m about to get controversial in 3…2…1…

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Why not throw myself right into the lion’s den with this, my first choice:
The Selection by Kiera Cass.

I read this book solely because of the hype surrounding it, only picking it up last summer because by that point the series had reached it’s fifth book, and so there had to be something worth reading there, right?

Well, it’s fair to say, I really didn’t get the hype.

It’s essentially a royal version of The Bachelor*, set in a dystopian America.

I can understand why some readers might love it, and perhaps if I had been 10/ 15 years younger I might’ve loved it too, but as it is, I just don’t think it was meant for me.

I found it too fluffy, even though it was clearly trying to be something more than that, instead of just accepting it’s fluffiness, which might have made it less annoying.

It was over-long; the fact that there are four more books to this story completely confounds me, because this story could, and probably should, have been wrapped up in one.

And finally, it has one of the most frustrating lead protagonists I’ve ever encountered, who really needs to talk to a therapist about her self-esteem issues (and that’s coming from someone who talks to a therapist about her self-esteem issues).

*

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Next up, possibly the most over-hyped book in recent years:
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard.

For about a year prior to release, this book was being proclaimed by publishers and ARC reviewers alike, that it was going to be the next big thing, and perhaps that was why I was disappointed, because it needed to be pretty amazing to live up to expectations, and, put simply, it wasn’t.

The general basis for the story is a world where people are divided into Silvers: rich; magical; upper-class, and Reds: poor; powerless; lower-class, until Mare, a Red discovers she has the powers of a Silver, thus throwing the entire system into disarray.

Nothing about this book is original. In fact, it feels like a cheap knock-off of every dystopian fantasy from the past ten years.

As a result, the story is entirely predictable. There is just nothing new to get excited about, because, well, you’ve read it all before!

*

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Next up we have a book that was not only disappointing, but also problematic:
Holding Up The Universe
by Jennifer Niven

I’ve written about this one before, so I’ll try and keep it brief**, but this book frustrated me, and, quite frankly, angered me, on so many levels.

This is a story about a girl once named “America’s Fattest Teen”, and a boy with Prosopagnosia, which means he can’t remember people’s faces, so he literally couldn’t pick his own family out of a line-up.

The trouble is, it’s essentially a love story, and that’s where the problems start, because here you have a boy who basically becomes obsessed with a girl solely because she’s the only person he can recognise due to the fact that she’s fat.

If that wasn’t problematic enough, at one point he literally physically assaults her in the middle of the school cafeteria.

I couldn’t get past that, because there’s no real apology; he has some pathetic excuse for doing it, but it’s just that, pathetic.

After that, their whole relationship is pretty much entirely based on the fact that she’s the only one he can recognise, and I just kept wanting her to wake up and realise that she deserved so much better.

I was disappointed, but I was also angry, because I know there will be teens out there, who struggle with their weight like I did, who will read this book and think that’s all their worth.

It’s not.

They’re worth so much more.

*

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Last, but by no means any less disappointing:
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

I kept hearing about this, and kept hearing about this, and then in the lead up to the publication of the second book in the series, I kept hearing about this so much that I finally read it, and, well, I really do not get why I kept hearing about this!

Set in a post-apocalyptic world, Cassie is trying to save her little brother from the very aliens who have destroyed their world.

This book actually starts off quite well, which I think is why it was ultimately such a disappointment.

I was hooked; for the first third of the book it was enjoyable, not exactly great literature, but it was a good, fun, post-apocalyptic thriller.

Then, however, our lead character, who up until this point has been really focused and determined on saving her younger brother, suddenly meets a guy she likes, and she goes from being a pretty ruthless badass warrior woman, doing everything she can to survive the end of the world, to a character from a high school movie that most definitely didn’t pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test.

Of course, when you realise it was written by a middle-aged man, it suddenly makes a lot more sense, because it soon becomes very clear Rick Yancey has no idea how a teenage girl thinks. I’m pretty sure, if the world was ending, even the most lovesick, naive, teenager would be more concerned with saving her younger brother from an alien race, than some pretty guy she just happened to bump into in a shack in the woods!

From this moment on, the book fell apart: reading these characters was like watching humans devolve into cavemen, as they pranced around lamely in a plot filled with more holes than Swiss cheese.

* * * * *

*If you want a less fluffy, albeit still problematic, but more adult version of this storyline, I recommend checking out UnReal Season 1, which is almost exactly this, but with murder, alcohol, and extreme bitching.

**I failed.