Review

Review: Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen

 

18404312.jpg5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

Forget what you know about Neverland, and what you know about the story of Peter Pan.

Opening with a scene of carnage, akin to nothing like we know from J.M. Barrie’s tale, Alias Hook takes the traditional story of Peter Pan and turns it on its head. It’s not a retelling as such, but an extension of the original from a different point of view. For starters, it’s set about forty years after Wendy, John and Michael have left Neverland. It’s also told from the point of view of the infamous Captain Hook.

From the very beginning Hook feels like a real person, albeit a rather unfortunate one, whose mistakes have led him to where he is now. He’s nothing like the nasty pirate captain we know, but instead he is resigned to this eternal life that never moves forward. A well-rounded and deep character, we learn more of his history as the book goes on, thanks to chapters set in London, Bristol and Jamaica – these also serve to remind us that perhaps Hook, or James as he should really be known, is not the villain here.

In fact, the most villainous character was Peter himself. Constantly taunting Hook, commanding his boys to kill Hook’s men whilst he himself watches and laughs, killing Hook again and again with glee, Peter is a malicious and spiteful little brat that you feel absolutely no sympathy for. He is a coward (a codfish!), attacking and taunting when and where he knows Hook is weakest. Lisa Jensen has brilliantly reversed the roles, and as a reader you really begin to feel for Hook, whilst hating Peter – who is quite frankly a little bit creepy.

Everything changes in Hook’s life when a grown woman suddenly appears in Neverland. Stella has no idea how she got there, or why she is there, but her very presence changes Hook’s outlook. Their relationship had its odd moments, but there was a scene where they were discussing swearing – ‘God’s wounds’ and the like being very offensive in Hook’s day, Stella explains modern (or rather 1950s) swearing whilst claiming that it’s no longer inventive – that I really enjoyed. I have to say that was one of my favourite scenes, with its contrast between the two time periods, and these two people from such different eras bonding over something like cuss words!

As you’ve probably guessed by now, this is definitely an adult retelling – Hook wonders through the forest and finds fairies having orgies, indulging in drugs and generally doing the sort of things you might see in town on a typical Friday night… But this sudden shift of the traditional tale from children to adults allows for so much more; it opens up a chance for a real exploration of the darker elements of Neverland, a land built from the imagination of children, yet very adult in appearance.

Although the story is quite slow-paced, with a lot of reminiscing, and not particularly hugely eventful, it really drew me in with its solid character building and play on a well-loved story. It was a really interesting perspective, filled with all the familiar denizens of Neverland. Unfortunately the conclusion, whilst satisfying, wasn’t quite what I wanted – but not all fairytales have that perfect, happy ending.

Review

Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

Whilst not my usual type of book, I thought I’d give Fangirl a chance as I’d seen it EVERYWHERE, with such glowing reviews and praise – and who could resist a title like that? I have fangirled over many a book, TV series, video game, film, you name it, and quite honestly reading about someone else doing that was quite appealing.

I won Lianne’s blogoversary giveaway, and chose this as my prize (thank you, Lianne!). It came in the post on Friday morning, and by Saturday night I had started reading. I was absolutely shattered, but I kept telling myself ‘just one more chapter… they’re only short… just one more’.

I think it’s safe to say that I was already a bit of a fangirl by that point.

It was so fantastic to read about this character and completely and utterly relate to her. I’ve met many people in my life who don’t understand why I enjoy the things I do, or think I’m childish for liking them. Sometimes I actually feel kind of embarrassed for liking those things, which is really rubbish because they’re an important part of my life, and I shouldn’t let what others think dictate what I enjoy. Rainbow Rowell really hits the nail on the head with the way that she shows Cath being completely and utterly in love with the Simon Snow series, and really passionate about writing fanfiction for it – but also reluctant to tell anyone in the ‘real world’. Even though she’s a talented writer, chances are people will look down on her for writing fanfiction of ‘children’s stories’. Like me, Cath was often caught between wanting to express her love for something, and hide it deep down so as not to embarrass herself. It’s a painful feeling.

Cath also frustrated me at times. She was a bit of a hermit, hiding away in her room all the time, then wondering why she was lonely. And then I realised that was me at the beginning of uni, in a way – I think I made most of my friends through chance, and I only ever had a small group of friends – I certainly didn’t go out with the aim of meeting lots and lots of new people. So once again, the story felt very relatable, and has also urged me to make sure I don’t do that when I go off to university again after this summer.

As for the other characters – Levi was ADORABLE. Wren partly irritated me, but I also understood why she acted like she did. Unlike Cath, she desperately wanted to shed the fangirl image so as to blend in, whereas Cath hung onto it because of everything it meant to her. Reagan complemented Cath nicely, and Nick… well Nick felt a bit pointless to be honest. He just kind of disappeared for the last third and there was no mention of him until the very end. Art, Wren and Cath’s father, had an important role to play that kept Cath grounded, and also helped to show the reader perhaps just why Cath was so obsessed with the Simon Snow series.

Fangirl was an utter delight to read. I loved how Simon Snow was pretty much Harry Potter – it made the story even easier to relate to. Rainbow Rowell has perfectly captured that feeling of loving something, but also perhaps being a little bit (unnecessarily) ashamed of that love for it. The relationships in the book were some of the best I’ve read in contemporary Young Adult fiction, and felt very natural. The ending felt a bit open, and left me wanting more, but I’m not sure if there will be a sequel. Perhaps I’ll have to turn to fanfiction instead.

Review, Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month: Review of Bowl of Heaven (Bowl of Heaven #1) by Larry Niven & Gregory Benford


Today’s Sci-Fi Month post is a review of Bowl of Heaven by Larry Niven and Gregory Benford. Don’t forget to check out the schedule for the rest of today’s posts. You can also Tweet about the event using the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

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2 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

Imagine you’re the captain of a spaceship.

Your ship, due to some technical errors, only has enough rations to last five hundred years. Your destination is at least five hundred and fifty years away. On the way to your destination, you spot a strangely shaped star/planet/spaceship. You’re worrying about the lack of rations, you don’t want to wake up any more crew members than necessary from cryo because that would mean even less rations.

So, what would do you do?

Why, you head towards the strange, unknown object on which anything could happen!

Yes. That’s precisely what happens in this book. Whilst I understand the allure of the strange and unknown in this period of space exploration, why would you knowingly put the lives of thousands of crew members in danger, when you’re already in trouble, to go and check it out?

There is quite a wide range of characters in this story – two teams go off to explore the Bowl, but one gets caught by the aliens whilst the other escapes. The two main characters are Cliff and Beth, but we really learn absolutely nothing about them, no back story, no character development. All we know is that they’re in a relationship. And apparently both very unloyal. They are separated when one group gets caught, and Cliff spends a lot of the time moping after Beth and missing her. So what does he do? He sleeps with another female member of the team because he misses sex. Beth has similar thoughts. So I felt I could not connect to these characters in any way at all.

The book is clearly written by an experienced science fiction writer, but at times it felt a little too technical. The descriptions of the Bowl made me imagine a fantastical, more varied and colourful version of Earth. However, in comparison to the description of the Bowl and the ship, the aliens felt a little amateur. Giant intelligent birds, wearing tool belts? Their hierarchy was interesting though – each is first born as a male, and then becomes female as they age.

I was really looking forward to this book, as I’ve been recommended Larry Niven’s Ringworld and The Mote In God’s Eye so many times – and this was just a major disappointment. Whilst the writing was beautifully descriptive, the characters were completely flat, the plot made no sense and I just… found it a little dull, in all honesty. And there were so many moments where I just wanted to scream at the characters – experienced space travellers apparently – for making really stupid moves, like drilling a hole in the side of the Bird Folk’s ship to try and speak to them. Because that’s a peaceful approach.

Overall, sadly disappointing. It won’t put me off reading any of Niven’s other work though. Apparently there is a second book but this was only made clear at the very end of the first – and I’m not too bothered about finding out what happens to Cliff, Beth et al next.

Giveaway, Review

Review + Giveaway: Rip It Up by Richard Wiseman

I don’t know a thing about psychology. Or rather, I didn’t before reading this book. Richard Wiseman sets out to write a new type of self-help book, and although I have never read any before so have nothing to compare it against, I really did enjoy this one.


The basic premise is that you read through each chapter, which sets up each task in the book, and complete various tasks as you go through. Many of the tasks involve – as the title suggests – ripping pages out of the book, writing on the book; this is something that many readers will be quite uncomfortable with.


But the brilliant thing is, that’s the whole point. Wiseman wants to lure people out of their comfort zones, encourage them to act in ways that they wouldn’t, which in turn enforces his ‘As If’ method. He states that it is not the way that we think through which we can change ourselves, but the way that we act. Want to be more confident? But on a brave face and soon you will find yourself feeling a lot better for it.


Whilst some of these ideas are a lot easier said than done – if it was that simple, no-one would have reason to be shy – he brings up some very interesting theories and I really believe that if you keep trying them out, there’s no reason why you couldn’t make yourself more confident, or increase your self-control, or become a more organised person. I have used this sort of technique before when talking to large groups (or even small groups, I’m quite the introvert). I often find that if I go up there thinking in a confident manner, I develop that confident manner.


Don’t be put off by the label of a ‘self-help’ book. I was actually more interested in the psychology side, something that Wiseman really provides. He wrotes about so many past experiments and theories, and there’s a lot about the history of social psychology – to me, it was all so fascinating. It is also written in a way that is completely accessible to someone – like myself – who has never studied psychology in any way. His historical anecdotes go all the way from ancient Greece and Rome to modern day experiments. The history lessons also set up the experiments and tasks for the reader to complete very nicely.


As for the tasks themselves, I was expecting more when I started the book – there seems to be a larger concentration in the last few sections. The variety is great, from basic surveys and pages asking you to pick out adjectives to describe yourself, to asking the reader to deface a photograph of the author’s grandfather (yes, really!).


The section on attraction was fascinating – I think I’m going to have to try and use it to my advantage! Another part that really amazed me was a story of a patient with Urbach-Wiethe disease, a condition that causes that part of the brain central to emotional experiences, particularly fear, to deteriorate. There was also a really interesting study on how the appearance of avatars in online games might cause people to perceive themselves (perfect for people like me!).


I would have loved to have read more on how dancing can make people happier than any other exercise, as it is something I really enjoy – and actually started doing when I was going through a hard time, because it made me feel so much better. I’m also a bit skeptical about the idea for helping depression – a sort of think positively, and you’ll feel positive idea – because having gone through it myself, I don’t think it’s that simple. 


The interactiveness of the book, combined with the easy to read writing style and occasional humour really makes this one a great read, whether you’re looking for some ‘self-help’ or not. If you’d like to learn a little more about social psychology, especially if you know nothing of the subject, I would also highly recommend this book.


So aren’t you lucky that I have a copy to give away? Look below for the widget!

a Rafflecopter giveaway