penguin books

BOOK REVIEW – Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman

Like me, you will no doubt have an interest in books (not sure how you’d have got here otherwise!). Those brilliant, often mysterious objects that sit on our shelves…sometimes never being touched, but strangely always being loved. Books are one of those things that really will always be there; despite the growth of the Kindle over the past few years or so.

So we’ve established that I (and you) like books. So how about books about books? Even better! Ex Libris is a quaint little book about books. Anne Fadiman has done a brilliant thing by encapsulating what it is about books that people just love. Under the premise that Anne and her husband had decided, after numerous years, to mix their books together, Ex Libris is a collection of essays that range from the surreal to the bizarre and all the boring (in a good way) bits between.

The essays within the book range from topics such as book classification, how to order correctly, the joy of reading aloud and many others. This is one of those small books that you’ll either pick up based on a recommendation from a bookseller (like myself) or just because it catches your eye. Trust your eye with this one, its a cracker of a read and not one that will disappoint. A brilliant little tome of snippets that you’ll find yourself smiling and nodding along with in agreement. Not one that will have you laughing out loud but one that you’ll surely enjoy.

It now sits proudly on my bookshelf with the other ‘books about books’.

Buy from Waterstones.com
Out now from Penguin Books
ISBN: 9780140283709

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GUEST BOOK REVIEW – I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

Guest Reviewer: Ami  (@mama_roach)

This fast-paced science-fiction novel tells the story of teen alien John Smith (Number Four), who is living on Earth after his home planet, Lorien, was destroyed in a devastating war. Accompanying him is his guardian Henri, who helps John to live on the run from the evil alien race, the Mogadoriens. They come across a small-town ‘Paradise’, Ohio, a perfect place to settle temporarily, where he meets the girl of his dreams, Sarah and his best friend, sci-fi nerd Sam. However, the Mogadoriens are still after him!

Not only does John have to contend with secret identities and romance, he has started to develop his Legacies, which are unusual powers that could help defend against the Mogadoriens, or reveal who he truly is. Three have already been killed, which means that Number Four is next.

The plot itself sounds predictable, the characters are fairly stereotypical (cheerleader girl-next-door Sarah, nerdy Sam and football player bully Mark) and the writing is straightforward, but I really enjoyed this book! As I read, I wanted to know more about the planet Lorien, about the Legacies and whether John Smith’s real identity would be revealed. The pace is quick, there’s plenty of action and there’s lots of special effect sequences. Yes, it does get a little silly, but if you read it with an open mind, you do begin to appreciate the bigger picture.

The main characters are quite likeable – my favourites being Henri and Bernie Kosar (the dog). They don’t give up in the face of evil and they always have hope, despite the circumstances being less than favourable. As well as the themes of hope, good vs. evil and friendship, I enjoyed reading the descriptions of Lorien, the conspiracy theories and the surprise near the end.

I am looking forward to reading the next stories in the series to find out more about the Loriens and whether they make it back home. I think many teen science-fiction fans would like this one, as it includes fantastical creatures and weird happenings, but is also action-packed from start to finish.

Buy from Waterstones.com
Out now Penguin Books
ISBN: 9780141330860

GUEST BOOK REVIEW – Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan

Guest Reviewer: Ami  (@mama_roach)

Having never read anything by John Green or David Levithan before, I was certainly shocked when I read Will Grayson, Will Grayson, and I don’t know whether in a good or bad way.

As the title suggests, there are two people called Will Grayson, who meet in an ‘unexpected’ place in Chicago; their paths cross and their lives change. The narrative stance alternates throughout the novel, which is something I loved from Nick Hornby’s About A Boy, as it shows the contrast between the two characters, but also changing as time goes on. Having Levithan-Will’s viewpoint written in lower-case was an interesting symbol of how his character feels lower status, but I much preferred Green’s Will, mainly because he didn’t want to kill everyone he met.

Tiny, despite the name, is a very ‘large’ character in the novel – not just in physical size, but his presence in the story did start to annoy me as I read further. I found him too selfish and over-powering at times and if you read the book, you will either love him or hate him. He is a necessary link for the two Wills, but the story wasn’t really about them in the end- it was all about Tiny.

I just didn’t ‘get’ the ending, which is a shame, because the writing is comical, edgy and at times, poignant. The weird ending spoilt it for me and so did some of the ‘wacky’ plot lines, such as Plain Jane’s unrealistic connection with someone from the world of fake ID and lower-case Will’s all-of-a-sudden friendship with Gideon. The writing itself made me feel like something was about to happen, but nothing much did in the end.

Although the story is about teenagers – who, by the way, are spoilt-rotten, made of money, get to go out all night and drive around in their parent’s cars – I wouldn’t want younger teens reading this. This is simply because of the grim depiction of depression, the futile bad language and the *ahem* sexual references. If Green and Levithan were trying to be ‘honest’ and ‘raw’, it made me wonder what life is like for teens in America! An unusual read, but overall fairly enjoyable, even if it didn’t have the same resonance for me that it would for other people.

Buy from Waterstones.com
Out now Penguin Books
ISBN: 9780141346113