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

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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.

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children | Book Review

If you haven’t heard of this book, you’ve either been living under a rock or living in a 1940’s time loop *spoilers*. 

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16-09-16 via @melissholden94: I’ve just got a comfy new bed, so what better excuse to spend the evening in it – than a book!? Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
I’ve had this beauty on my book shelf for a while now, but I’m itching to read it before the movie comes out.

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs has blown up in the most beautiful way. It is rare to find a teen-fiction-lit book that can capture an adult reader so easily; but perhaps it’s because only one of the children is actually a child… 

This book is right up my alley; fiction, weird kids, superpowers, a talking bird with a cane and a creepy dude who’s out to kill everyone. Can you say ‘perfect read’?!

And the fact that a movie is about to join the delivery option of this tale is fantastic! I cannot wait to see how they transposed this to the big screen, and with such an amazing cast. 

Back to the book itself, I will confess: it was a hard start for me. I think it was a mix of life distracting me and the annoying best friend to Jacob that made me put the breaks on reading this book several times. However once I reached the peculiar part of the story; you could not pry it from my hands. I even considered taking it to the gym with me: I was that hooked! 

missperegrine_334x518.jpgOUTLINE (CONTAINS SPOILERS!) 

The basic premise of the book is this: sixteen-year-old Jacob Portman watches his grandfather die at the mercy of a mysterious creature that no one else can see.

Convinced their son has gone crazy, Jacob is sent to the therapeutic care of Dr Golan, who listens to Jacob’s retelling of his grandfather’s supposedly tall tales about children with strange gifts who lived on an island.

Guided by Dr Golan, Jacob and his father visit the island, and Jacob is immediately in search for any evidence of Grandpa (Abe) Portman’s time on the island, and the intriguing Miss Peregrine. 

Jacob therein discovers the children’s home that Abe had grown up in, along with evidence that the peculiar children weren’t in fact just stories to keep Little Jacob listening. He also discovers that they are still alive and young, and ready to share their tales with Jacob. And the infamous Miss Peregrine, is very much real – and ready to tell him everything he’s ever wanted to know… 

I won’t spoil anything – just in case you’re one of those readers that ignores the *SPOILERS* warnings in book reviews, and believe me when I say: I have but scraped the surface of the plot line with that description. 

THE COVER / PHOTOGRAPHY:

miss_peregrines_photo2I enjoy the fact that the cover image is NOT of the main character, Jacob Portman. They could easily put the resident heartthrob of the story on the front of the book, but instead they maintained the eeriness of the in-lain sourced photography that is threaded – quite naturally, might I add – throughout the entire book. 

The photos in the book are all real and all sourced by the author, hence the inspiration for the book itself. Creepy kids and shadowy characters add an extra layer to an already amazing read. The maintaining plot line that the photos are picked from Miss Peregrine and Abe Portman’s photo albums is simple yet stunning. It’s very natural and very in-character for these two to have kept pictures of the peculiar children and their talents, so it’s very fitting for them to also be displayed in the book.

There is something almost magic about the way Ransom Riggs describes a character or photo, allowing you to conjure up your own image, and then having it revealed to you on the next page. It makes you, the reader, feel a sense of accomplishment when your image matches his image. Some might argue that it takes the imagination away, but I think it’s quite unifying to know that we’re all seeing the nightmare monsters and the strange children all in the same way. 

All in all, it’s a charmingly dark book and I can’t wait to read the sequel, HOLLOW CITY. 

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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Me, Earl and The Dying Girl: Book review

BOOK REVIEW! (Originally published on my Instagram page: http://www.instagram.com/melissaholden94)

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I only started this book this morning and I’ve already finished it! I’m in a YA mood after Paper Towns, so this was perfect! It was rather surreal and the writing was real.  Real as in no attempt at love, or poetry. Just raw, honest selfish pain and emotion.

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The author covers a risky subject in a risky way. There’s violence,  drugs, cancer. It’s hard hitting. I admire that amount of Real Life Bullshit Honesty. We need more writers like this. Selfish and petty and fucking brilliant. 

Add it to your To Read List. This book’s too real not to read.

A Half-Way Through Book Review | Paper Towns by John Green

I was dubious to get involved in the fandom-surrounded world that is a John Green novel, but Paper Towns intrigued me from the get-go.

For the those of you that have been living under a rock, Paper Towns is about neighbors Margo and Q going on a midnight adventure around Orlando to avenge Margo against her friends. But the next day, Margo is nowhere to be found and she chose Q to spend her last night with. Margo becomes the mystery story she craves as her friends try to track her down. But it won’t be that easy.

*Confession* although I haven’t seen the film, I have seen the Paper Towns movie trailer, so of course Cara Delevingne’s face is Margo’s face. And Q is Nat Wolff (who first came to my dewy-eyed attention in ‘Stuck In Love’.)

Amazing casting choices, and I am more than happy to have their voices in my head whilst I read Paper Towns, but I do wish I had put my blinkers on and just read the book without and intervention from movie trailers!

I am in love with Q. There, I said it! He is a fantastic character: weak, confused and utterly in love with Margo Roth Spiegelman. He’s a real teenage guy: I’Ming all night, but sticking to his dream of going to Duke University.

When Margo runs face-first back into his life, he can’t help but let go of his fears and grab Margo’s dreams head on. Margo isn’t your typical female lead character, which seems to be a theme for John Green.
Margo is strange, lonely and rebellious. She’s popular and loved, but she doesn’t care about her preppy wannabe school friends, she wants to live dangerously and enjoy the risks. She sees Orlando as what it really is: a paper town. All fake and built to please, but not strong enough to hold her down.

paper towns by john green: a review by @melissaholden94

I’m not finished reading Paper Towns yet, but I am loving it so far! I almost don’t want to reach the end because I adore Q and Margo and don’t really want to close the book on them. But let’s see how it goes!

I still won’t go anywhere near The Fault In Our Stars for fear of being beaten to death by academics, but John Green has won me over.