Alan The Christmas Donkey | Recent Reads

​Recent Reads: Whilst on the train back from Wales recently,  me and my mom ended up reading Alan The Christmas Donkey by Tracy Garton. 

It’s a sweet, funny book all about the donkey sanctuary the author set up twenty years ago, and the donkeys she adopts along the way; the most mischievous of all being Alan. 

It’s a quick read and a good laugh, and quite an eye opener to the amount of work that goes into these sanctuaries. Worth a read! 

They have a website where you can learn a little bit more about their donkeys: http://www.radcliffedonkeys.com

The Fault in Our Stars | Book Review

tfios-melissaholden94I spent a long time avoiding this book, and I feel like an idiot for it.

I did cover the topic briefly in my John Green article I posted a couple of weeks ago, but the general premise is that I was swayed by other people’s opinions and basically didn’t get John Green’s work a chance.
I didn’t give his books the time and devotion to reading that they deserve, and believe me when I say: I regret that and I plan on catching up pretty damn quick.

The Fault In Our Stars was first published January 2012 under Penguin – the sixth book by John Green -, and has since sold 10.7 million copies worldwide.  The movie adaptation came out in 2014, and the screenplay was co-written by the author himself, which attests for how close a resemblance the screen version has to the original novel.

green_2The plot (in case you’ve been living under a rock – as I have!): (Sourced from Amazon UK)

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

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Hazel: 16-year-old Hazel-Grace has accepted her cancer-ridden fate and is pretty much living in her day to day routine, waiting for death. Her coddling mother thinks Hazel has depression so often forces her to socialize with other ‘cancer kids’.

She has been living with cancer for a long time, so has since grown used to life with rubbish lungs. She gets on with school and reading and seeing friends when she can, and is pretty settled – if unhappy – wth her routine. But when she meets Augustus Waters at a ‘cancer kids’ meeting, all that goes out the window.

03f45905f29d65c365f67d5498014173Augustus Waters: Originally introduced as your typical tall, dark and handsome, Gus is a one-legged cancer survivor and romantic lead of The Fault In Our Stars. He is quick to admit his attraction to Hazel, and is not deterred by her initial rejections of a relationship.

Originally introduced as your typical tall, dark and handsome, Gus is a one-legged cancer survivor and romantic lead of The Fault In Our Stars. He is quick to admit his attraction to Hazel, and is not deterred by her initial rejections of a relationship. He is weird as he as beautiful, so he’s a perfect match for our main girl.

Van Houten: Van Houten, the author of Hazel’s favourite (fictional) novel, An Imperial Affliction, is the typical example of ‘never meet your heroes’. He’s a drunk, a fool and a rude old man who doesn’t feel he should waste his time writing a sequel to Hazels’ cherished book, let a lone answer some of her questions. He has some secrets of his own, but they aren’t revealed until later on, making him somewhat of a bitter but one-leveled character until the end.

3f10f7365f73d9b28ffccb50e24a844d1eb8755616c22a72abb09a3ec295b4bdRomance: Neither Gus or Hazel are your typical love interest, however – which makes this a far more interesting read. It’s not just your average star-crossed lover’s tale (although there is some element of Shakespearean tragedy towards the end of the book).

Cancer: I can’t review the book without mentioning one of its main themes: cancer sucks. There is no beautification of cancer in this book as far as I am concerned, and I am so glad for that.

John Green wrote from experience about the issues and pain and day-to-day suffering of a ‘cancer kid’, so it stands to reason that his depiction of two teenagers with cancer would be more or less accurate.

I personally knew someone who had this sucky illness, and there were places in this novel that sent a shiver down my spine: because I had seen them happen in real life. It cannot have been easy for Green to write this, and particularly as there was such a backlash concerning it, so for that alone; I applaud him.

The Fault in Our Stars continues to raise money for The Teenage Cancer Trust, click here if you would like to find out a bit more about the charity. 

Overall review: I really wish I hadn’t waited four years to read this amazing novel, and I am happy to say that it’s up there with my favourite novels. It is a heart-wrenching, beautiful novel that is very hard to put down. So for god’s sake – read it. download

Other Recommendations:

If you’re interested in reading books about Cancer and how disastrous it can be from a true-life perspective, I recommend Discussing Wittgenstein by Ann Drysdale.

Plot: (Sourced from Amazon UK)

Launched at the 2009 Hay festival, Discussing Wittgenstein picks up the story of Philip Grey and Ann Drysdale after their near death-bed marriage and Philip s return home. It is the end of a remarkable love story, but it is also much more; a tender, poignant testimony to how personal mythologies are built and survive. Discussing Wittgenstein is an elegy to the human spirit and to our quest to shape experience into meaning.

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children: Movie Review *SPOILERS*

miss-peregrines-photo1Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is one of those wonderful books that make you feel like the author is running around inside your imagination.

I have already written a full book review, which you can read here, but suffice it to say, this series has found its way into my heart, and I can’t wait to read Hollow City.

Now on to the movie adaptation:

I went to see it last night (the movie’s second night on the big screen in the UK), and whilst I was amazed by the casting, I did have just a couple of issues with the movie (but it was still amazing!)

Jake’s best friend

Not read the book, and you’re wondering who I’m talking about? EXACTLY! Jake has a moody best-and-only friend back home in the States…who doesn’t exist in the movie. He plays a pivotal role in Abe Portman’s death scene in regards to actually getting Jake there, and yet in the movie he has been replaced by a random female co-worker of Jake’s.

Smart-Aid

Speaking of work, they have glazed over the very reason Jake works for Smart-Aid… his family own it. It is seen as a rite of passage within the family to work in a branch of Smart-Aid before you are eventually promoted upward into the offices, just like his mother.

In the movie, he’s just a shelf-stacker with a businesswoman for a Mom and a flaky, bird-watching Dad.

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Emma and Olive

Unless I read the book totally wrong… Emma has switched peculiarities with another character. In the book, Emma has control over fire, meaning she uses a fireball to help defeat a Hallow, guide them through the bogs in the dark, and set a building on fire.

There is even a very touching comment about the warmth of her hands on Jake’s face as they embraced. Olive was the one with the air control.

This article explains more in-depth as to why their powers were swapped for the movies.

Dr Golan

…Is a woman in the movie and a man in the book. There is also a much smaller focus on the Golan-Jake relationship than there is in the book, although that is not necessarily a bad thing as it gives us more time to focus on Jake and the peculiar children.

Jake and Emma

Although I still like the teen-electricity between these two characters in the movie, the book adds a completely different layer to their budding-yet-complicated romance.

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The book contains much more teenage angst and awkwardness, whereas in the movie, Emma seems a lot more angry towards Jake rather than clumsy and romantic.

The book lets us see how Jake feels about Emma, and how weirded out he is that he is falling in love with someone that could possibly have been his Grandmother if things had gone a little differently.

The movie adaptation also has a lot less kissing – there is A LOT of kissing in the book – which is probably due to more of an emphasis in the movie that the peculiar children are just that: children.

Overview:

I love the book, I love the movie… just in different ways. Both mediums are worth delving in to, but I can definitely see some readers not liking the movie, and vise-versa. There have certainly been some questionable changes, and some aren’t really worth the big-to-do. But can we have more romance in the sequel, please? I liked that part.

John Green: From Loathe To Love

When I first heard about John Green, it was in 2012 when The Fault In Our Stars was released, and I immediately hated him. Let me explain before you stone me.

I was always on the lookout for young adult books that weren’t vampires, because vampires were getting boring, fast. So here comes this decent author with a book about kids with cancer, and I thought ‘hey, if it’s a good story and it raises awareness, this is going on my to-read list.’

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So with my brand new copy of The Fault In Our Stars, I settle down in my communal living room to start reading, tea in hand and then I hear a screech from my wonderfully-vocal Italian housemate and best friend. I then spent the next two hours receiving a lecture from her about how John Green was profiting from cancer and that the medical aspects of the book were completely outrageous. So the book went on my shelf and hasn’t been opened since.

So four years pass, I get a degree, move back to my home town, get a job, blah blah blah, and then I hear about this edgy indie book with a bad-ass female lead with a weird name and an amazing metaphor: Paper Towns. Three guesses who it’s by, *drum roll* John Green.

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In the four years, I had pretty much forgotten about my hatred for John Green, as I had since learned that my loud friend’s opinion of TFiOS was just that, an opinion. But still with this ingrained fear of reading the book, I skipped it altogether and dove head first into Paper Towns. I finished it in less than a week.

Safe to say that since then, I’ve been pretty happy to hear about John Green’s work, particularly when I realised he is the older brother to Hank Green, and that they co-created YouTube channel vlogbrothers, the world of Nerdfighteria, and are ultra nerds that are so cool and the human embodiment of tumblr.com.

I now spend nearly all of my spare time attempting to catch up on the 10 years of vlogbrothers videos, and am eagerly awaiting payday so I can buy all of John Green’s book and add them to my copies of Paper Towns and The Fault In Our Stars. I’m also desperately searching for a copy of John Green reading TFiOS audiobook.

I have officially become a fan, and I wish I had had the balls to stand up for The Fault In Our Stars when I first bought it all those years ago… and I shall be reading it tonight!

So, I have one thing to say to you John Green and other members of Nerdfighteria (if you’ll forgive my stupidity): Don’t forget to be awesome! 

Me Before You – Jojo Moyes *BOOK REVIEW*

Amazed. Utterly amazed.

Never have I been so taken with a book from the off. I, being a true indie weirdo, tend to avoid ‘trendy books’, but when I saw the movie trailer on YouTube: I just had to read it.

The irony was – I’ve had this book on my shelf since 2012, buying it just after the ‘3 million  copies sold’ mark. Now, ME BEFORE YOU has sold over 5 million copies; just a few short years later.

I posted this mid-read review on my Instagram page the other day:

Me Before You @melissaholden

***MIDREAD BOOK REVIEW*** Started reading this last night after I saw my friend @melissawood1 couldn’t put it down… and now neither can I! (Which is really bad of me, as it’s been on my bookshelf for at least two years…) I was hooked on the first page: the characters are so raw and unromantic that you’re instantly intrigued.
I’m only on Chapter 5 and I’m 80% sure this will end up on my Fave List!
Don’t think it will take too long to finish this one! #mebeforeyou #bookstagram #books #booktag #bookreview #bookhaul #jojomoyes #romancereads #amreading #instareview #vintage #bookclub

I ended up staying awake until 6 am to finish the book  – and I don’t regret it one bit!

***END OF READ BOOK REVIEW*** The last time I cried this much at a book was at #theperksofbeingawallflower.

I read ME BEFORE YOU in about 9 hours… and it was worth staying up until 6am to do so. I rarely come across books that effect me, but this is a game changer.

I won’t give anything away. Just go and read it, now.

#mebeforeyou #bookstagram #books #booktag #bookreview #bookhaul #jojomoyes #romancereads #amreading #instareview #crying #stayinguplatetofinishabook

It’s been a few days since I finished reading, but I still can’t get Lou and Will out of my head. It was such a beautifully harsh story. It’s not just about love or romance: it’s about the hardships life throws at us.

It’s the only book I’ve read that tells the truth: life really isn’t fair. And sometimes, even the love of your life can’t change that.

 

Funnily enough – not one of my 16 Books In 2016… oops! But I have just started reading BILLY AND ME by Giovanna Fletcher.  Keep an eye out for my review!

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16 Books I Want To Read in 2016

Hey guys! I know, it’s been a while… life got in the way again. But I’m back and I’m bringing books with me for a good ol’ fashion TO READ list!

I was sitting in my room yesterday, scrolling through my Amazon Book Wish List when I (suddenly) realised that I had literally no space for the books I already owned, let alone any *inevitable* future purchases. 

SO, I’ve decided to start reading the books I already owned, and coveted for so long. This list is made of books that I waited ages to buy, but never got around to reading.

And of course, because it’s 2016: there HAD to be 16 books on my to-read list. (I’ve included some interviews, book trailers and movie trailers just to keep things interesting…) So, here goes:

16 Books in 2016

Alice In Wonderland – Lewis Carroll (that’s the one on the Kindle)

Funny Girl – Nick Hornby

A Tiny Bit Marvellous – Dawn French

All I Know Now – Carrie Hope Fletcher

BINGE! – Tyler Oakley

The Amazing Book Is Not On Fire – Dan Howell/Phil Lester

The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton

Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell

Billy & Me – Giavanna Fletcher

Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell

The Shock of The Fall – Nathan Filer

Inkheart – Cornelia Funke

Collected Stories – Dylan Thomas

The Stand – Stephen King

All The Bright Places – Jennifer Niven

The Woman Who Stole My Life – Marian Keyes

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Keep an eye on the tag #16BooksIn2016 on my website and Instagram for updates over the year on my reading selifes and reviews from this list! 

THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING Movie Review (Blogmas Day 4)

[Originally published this on my Readwave page.

The Theory of Everything is the purest thing I have ever seen. No exceptions. Stephen Hawking is widely known to be the greatest mind of his age, but before the release of this hidden tale; we weren’t to know about Jane.

Mrs Hawking, as she later became, is the strongest soul I have ever encountered in a story. And she’s real. She hurts and she cries. She loves another and cares for Stephen regardless. She is loyal and never spiteful.

Any woman would have stopped at the sound of “motor neuron disease”, but not Jane. She is far too stubborn to quit on the love of her life. The father of her children. The god-ignoring genius she had respected and admired from the get-go.

The Theory of Everything shows us two things:

1. Stephen Hawking is pure brilliance. 

2. Jane Hawking is the most selfless human, ever. 

She gave up her twenties, her passions – and possibly even her sanity – to care for her husband. I have no doubt she truly loved him, always has. You can see it in her eyes (I, of course am referencing an actress – but even an actor has to draw from the truth.)

When Jane Hawking wrote the book [Travelling to Infinity: The True Story Behind the Theory of Everything], she had no idea what she would be doing to a world of readers. We are all curious about the famous Brit with the American robot computer speaking his beautiful science, but little did we know: he was part of a love story.

Now, I’m sure there must be a few embellishments – as every love story must have – but there is only so much love you can fake. And she doesn’t fake a single day.

I’ve seen the film twice now, and there is one thing I can confess for sure. I’ve cried both times. Never, ever, have I felt so immersed into a film as I have with The Theory of Everything. Seeing a bio-pic of a man we have all, always, admired; played by an award-winning actor (and my own personal crush): it’s awe-inspiring.

Go see it. Now. Before your time runs out.