Category Archives: Literature

The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater by Sian Thomas

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The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater is a four part series with three current instalments and a plot that makes you keep turning the pages until you realise you’ve read a lot more than you originally planned to. Time seems to scarcely exist in the story, and it also scarcely exists as you read it, forgetting more and more about the real world and getting sucked into this one.
The series is about a girl, Blue Sargent, a non-psychic in her psychic family and a girl who has been told her whole life: “If you kiss your true love, he will die.” She eventually meets four boys who quickly become her closet friends. Gansey, a rich boy searching for the lost king Glendower, and also the boy Blue was fated to fall for. Ronan Lynch, also rich, hard on the outside and a secret keeper; Adam Parrish, a poor but fiercely determined to be rich boy who wants to find Glendower as much as Gansey, and Noah Czerny, a mystery, but not for long.
The first book of four is named The Raven Boys. An alluring cover (a picture of a raven in which you can’t see the eyes and a small, wispy heart) drew me to it one afternoon in a rather warm WHSmith. The book starts out almost tentatively, but quickly pulls you in to a world completely different to  your own. The life of Blue Sargent, Gansey, Ronan, Adam and Noah is a tight knot which slowly frays and unravels before your eyes, each thread tracked carefully just in case.
The Raven Boys alone similar to a starter or appetizer meal in a restaurant. Since it’s the first book, it’s mainly dedicated to exploring the characters personalities and backgrounds, but in between, it becomes mostly about plot, all the while shuffling in facts about our main characters slyly.
The Dream Thieves is the second instalment in the series and is a book you could say is centred around characters who aren’t your usual main character/s, but neither are they background characters. The plot continues as does the unwinding coil of secrets, leaving the reader wanting more and more, and having them realise they’ve read over half the book in one sitting, instead of perhaps one chapter, like they had planned. (I speak from experience.).
Blue, Lily, Lily, Blue is the third book out of four in the series, and is the one where the plot immediately starts rolling from start to finish; from the opening sentence to the very, very last one. Its plot is enticing, but can also leave you suspicious as the character begin to feel things are happening too easily considering what their task is. You’re quickly drawn in, hoping that they can do what they must, but praying you’re not nearing the end of the book, even though you so desperately want to find out what happens at the end.
Maggie Stiefvater is an almost sassy author, seeing as in her books she seems to write as if she is there, talking to you personally through the page, in a way in which she uses speech and text not in a brisk, strict story-telling way, but almost as a friend telling you what happened.
As difficult as it is to choose favourites, I think my favourite character out of the series so far would have to be Gansey. Gansey has a number of different personalities to which he uses at different times for specific events. Seeing as he is from a rich family (and his mother is running for Congress in-plot) he has to go to many gatherings where other rich people clink their champagne glasses and talk about things that they probably aren’t really interested in. Here, he has a very formal and straight-forward but not intimidating attitude, however, around Blue Sargent and the rest of his friends, he swiftly relaxes and becomes more of a teenager that you would expect him to be, rather than a glass-clinking-rich-man. The switch can be so sudden and can immediately bring or dismiss tension from a situation which shows how much power he could have by standing up a little straighter and speaking a little tougher.
While it is hard to choose favourites, each character I have been introduced to in The Raven Cycle holds a special place in my heart. If you like sassy and almost spiritual reading material, I recommend this series to you. Maybe you like plain old romance-with-its-issues type of books, this book would still be a great read.
This is a series I will adore for a very long time, and if you read it, I’m sure you will, too.

REVIEW The Heroes of Olympus, Rick Riordan by Bethan Hooton

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The Heroes of Olympus.

This series by far is one of the best spin off series ever.

Rick Riordan has brought so much more to the Percy Jackson world than I thought possible. He has added more complex story lines and has introduced Monsters and Gods that I didn’t know exist.

The overall plot for all 5 books is amazing. The idea of Mother Earth re-awakening and trying to destroy the Gods is brilliant. I love the way Rick introduced us to the prophecy right at the ending of the Percy Jackson series. It got me thinking about the new series. Would it be as good as this series?

The idea of bringing the Romans into this series was Rick’s best idea. He showed that there was conflict between the Greeks and Romans, and that even after thousands of years, things were not properly sorted. I really enjoy the way Rick presents us with Greek and Roman mythology. It wasn’t in huge blocks of text, but within characters’ thoughts and interactions.

I love how Rick brought in new characters, and switched to writing in 3rd person. It gives us different perspectives of the same world. How different characters reacted to finding out that they were demigods. I also like the way he changed the Point of View every couple of chapters. It gave us a better insight of the new characters and the old ones.

The thing that made this series amazing was the characters. There isn’t a useless character or a flat character (although some would argue Piper and Jason are). Each character is different has their own personality. Throughout each book, each character shows character development. I could read The Lost Hero and the Blood of Olympus and I would instantly be able to see how all the characters have changed and I love that. The characters in these books are just so memorable.

I adored the way Rick Riordan used jokes from the Percy Jackson and the Olympian series (The ‘dam’ joke from The Titans Curse). He mentioned old Monsters and characters that had not made an appearance in the Heroes of Olympus series but were present during the Percy Jackson and the Olympian series.

The way Rick wrote about all the different character relationships was amazing! He made it seem so realistic. He showed us that even in books, not everyone is going to get along. There is going to be conflict and jealousy. Not everyone is going to agree, but that’s life. Rick made the characters interact in such a way that you could relate to them, even if they were talking about how to defeat an ancient Greek Monster with Greek fire. You understood how the characters felt and you could empathise with them.

Rick has not only captured the attention of teens, but kids and adults too.

Even though, to me personally, The Blood of Olympus (the last book) was a bit of a let down, this series is by far one of my favourites. Rick has created a phenomenal world, and it will always have a place in my heart. I would recommend this series to anyone. You don’t even need to read the Percy Jackson and the Olympian series to understand what’s going on in The Heroes of Olympus (although I would recommend reading it first).

This series has made me laugh until my stomach hurts and cry until my throat is dry. It’s incredible. I seriously recommend picking up the first book – you won’t regret it!

 

Review The Book Thief, written by Markus Zusak by Sian Thomas

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The Book Thief written by Markus Zusak is a book which at first, I didn’t want to read. Uninterested in war stories and books that get turned into overly popular movies as I may be, reading this has definitely begun to change my mind.
The Book Thief is about a nine year old girl named Liesel Meminger and her foster parents, Rosa and Hans Hubermann, during the time of the Second World War.  Liesel’s parents are taken away to a concentration camp, so she grows up on Himmel Street stealing books, spending time playing football in the street, and dealing with the war any way she can, but with multiple things often stealing her attention away from it.
My friend bought me this book as a late birthday present, and the only things that really drove me to read it was the fact that another one of my friends really enjoyed it, and that the story was told by Death itself. The fact that the novel was narrated by Death made me both curious and compelled. This, I decided, was what made me read the book, but then other things in the book stepped in and caused me to be attached to the plot and characters.
The plot itself was both heart-wrenching and addictive. Every time something intriguing or heartbreaking would happen, I would always thirst for more. The book was difficult to put down and every page had something worth remembering on it. The things that Liesel Meminger and her foster parents did are the types of things I would have expected to find in almost all war stories. Them not going with the flow. And they didn’t, but I enjoyed it. Often I believe that stories involving the war are about the protagonist/s not doing whatever the higher-ups say, and I often predict that I will not enjoy it. (This fact contributes to me not wanting to read war stories.) However, I was wrong. This book was something I loved every second of, every single word was special.
 Learning of the characters and all of their quirks was another thing that led me to be attached to the story. Every single character was special in their own unique ways which I won’t be forgetting any time soon.  Each character was so different from another, yet all of them were extremely likeable. Some of my absolute favourite characters were Rudy Steiner, Max Vadenburg, and Arthur Berg. All of these characters were extremely loveable, in very different ways.
Rudy Steiner, the best friend of our main character, Liesel, was the kind of character somebody would love to pluck out of a work of fiction and have them in their life. A kind and caring person, fictional or real, is worth treasuring – and this, I realise, is what I have done. With “hair the colour of lemons” and an appetite that wouldn’t quit, Rudy Steiner is that kind of person anyone would enjoy knowing, he’s funny and brave and would do anything for someone he holds close and knowing him in a work of fiction is as good as anything.
Max Vadenburg is a Jewish fist-fighter with “feathery” hair who winds up hiding in our main character and her foster parent’s basement. He is a character with a personality which anyone would vow to protect after learning about it. Captivating and sweet, Max Vandenburg is someone who would do anything he could do for someone he loved, just like Rudy Steiner.
Arthur Berg is in a different place on the spectrum. Preferring to come off as hard, but inside is a big softie, Arthur Berg is a top food thief in this novel, and doesn’t appear for very long, sadly. Arthur Berg, someone who says they would leave you behind if you weren’t fast enough, but would come back for you if you did in fact fall behind, is someone who everyone would enjoy being friends with and would most likely enjoy reading about. Arthur Berg reminds me of one of my own friends, which made him doubly special to me.
The book was fantastic and I’m sure anyone who read it would enjoy it. Those I’m close with recommended it to me, and I do the same to you.

Review Dinefwr Literature Festival by Young Critic Hannah Goslin

 

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21/06/2014 – 22/03/2014

In this glorious sunshine, I went up to Llandeilo to the Dinefwr Literature Festival. Well renowned for this yearly display of culture and my lack of festival experience, I was very eager to attend.

The festival is known for its promotion of literature from novels, to poetry, musical displays, workshops, comedy and much much more.

Food stalls were provided from local vendors that made delicious smells across the area with the use of local produce. Little shops including bookshops, tokens from the weekend and a Dylan Thomas styled book van also was a nice addition and admittedly, much of my money went on these, coming away with much reading to get started on! Between this, it was great to meet the sales persons; at times were writers themselves giving inspiration, for example a lady who felt that a poetry book wasn’t for her so made pockets of her collections and hand made them with a sewing machine and a printing kit. Myself as one who isn’t necessarily conventional, felt that this initiative was very appealing.

The variety of mediums gave a great choice throughout the weekend. The ability to also drop into these and drop out when needed gave great flexibility to the weekend. However, the programme itself didn’t give a great indication at times to how long these sessions would last and with so much going on, there were times when I missed events that I wanted to see as I was so interested in the one before that crossed over.

Workshops were also few and far between. Many seemed to only appeal to the same persons to which I lacked interest in. I didn’t manage to attend any of which I am sure they were interesting none the less, but there seemed a similarity to who they wished to appeal to and that wasn’t enough to evoke my personal interest. If more diversity in these workshops and a great deal more workshops overall were offered then I would have attended these.

Lectures and talks also seemed to follow a similar pattern. While, very interesting none the less, such as a combined talk with two novelists on their new books that looked at characters with mental health issues was very interesting, and gave a great insight to anyone at times of stress of need to talk to someone, showing that writing is an excellent medium to express this, the pattern of talking about the books, and for us the audience to watch and listen, waiting for question and answers which were limited in time, felt very routine and almost like a conference, not a festival.

Interjections of music and comedy, however, did give a little break from this. Hilarious feminist comedian Bridget Christie gave a session of work in progress, giving an insight to how comedians write material, giving a good way of audience interaction and us feeling more a part of the event. Adrian Edmondson and the Bad Shepherds ended the Saturday on a high with fantastic covers of well known songs, but with a folksy twist definitely evoking the festival goers inside everyone.

Dylan Thomas’s boat house also made an appearance, with the encouragement for poetry writing from the festival goers. Myself and my friend had a go at this, and my piece on the ‘Voyeuristic Cow’ inspired my younger self inside who used to love and write poetry to now continue this again.

The festival provided a range for all ages, S4C also made appearances for the children and comedians gave risky performances for the adults. As a festival, it was fantastic and completely revitalised my creativity in literature aspects but I wonder, with all the eagerness of participants, more could be gotten out of the weekend if extended so not to go away feeling regret at missing other possible inspiring and interesting activities.

Lord Of The Flies Review By Connor Abbott

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If you haven’t read this review it contains spoilers

Lord of the Flies was built up to me as a must read. An essential to own, a classic of it’s time. Many people have put this book on the status of a classic including peers such as Kingsley Amis who calls the book ‘terrifying and haunting’. The book was written by Sir William Golding and was published in 1954 by Faber and Faber Limited. It has twice been made into a movie, once in 1963 and a reboot in 1990, there are multiple stage adaptations including the ‘Cliff Notes’ version.

Upon reading however I found that the experience of reading it was a bit of a let down. At first we are introduced to a group of boys who are stranded on an island due to a plane crash, I find it strange how all the adults are dead, but the boys are not only unscathed but are seemingly unaffected by the events preceding those in the book.

The characters we are introduced to provided a slight high point for a book that is otherwise lacking “Ralph” is a stereotyped popular 12 year old male with little to no inperfections, the other major character here is “Piggy” a shorter tubbier individual who suffers from athsma and wears glasses, a contrast in the characters which is very necessary in a novel like this. To present the characters as individual’s which provides some justification for their contrasting opinions and personalities which ultimately leads to dispute within the book.

The concept of the book is simple and promising but does not deliver. The concept of the novel is to show how without order everything would descend into chaos. This however does not feel a gradual process and seems to be rushed , one moment they wouldn’t kill a pig the next they are massacring groups of pigs, one moment a group wants to be rescued the next they want to remain on the island forever. The novel is supposed to take place over a number of weeks but instead it feels like it is taking place over a few days. This was due to the sudden changes in morale and objectives within the boys leading to a feeling that these boys have just descended into madness overnight.

The Introduction of the Lord of the Flies, is a moment that could be highlighted as one of the best, yet pointless parts of the novel, It shows a descent into madness within the island. But there is a grey area with the death of Simon, was he murdered or did he just die, either way the death of Simon feels meaningless and seems like an excuse to kill someone in the book and not explain why, or why the others seem so oblivious to his death.

On the subject of death, the two deaths in this novel Simon and Piggy, could be a chance to showcase the madness the boys have descended into, however Ralph seems to react calmly despite being portrayed as the only sane one remaining and in a way this cheapens the use of death within this Novel, it gives an attitude of this happens everyday to the deaths, which had potential to show real turning points within the boys, especially the leader of the savage gang Jack Merridew.

There is also the theme of madness which reoccurs throughout the book, it takes on the form of the beast. I am afraid that this was also a prospect for the book that started well, the beast started as a nightmare that the younger boys believed was real but the older boys did not, over time the older boys become convinced by the idea of the beast, and go searching for it, that is where the good part ends as they actually find the beast (albeit a figment of their madness) which in a way destroys the idea of the beast being a threat as when they find it, that is the last we hear about the beast as they choose to leave it alone.

Finally there was the ending, after a long and quite frankly superhuman effort to evade the savage tribe from Ralph, who somehow managed to evade what I counted as anywhere from 8-10 members of the savage gang, a ship turns up to save the boys and an officer saves the boys who realise what has happened and go home as if Ralph wasn’t being hunted a matter of moments before. A clichéd lacklustre 4/10 finish which once again could have been phenomenal.

Overall, the book is one of the best in terms of it’s potential but the delivery is lacklustre, and therefore not deserving of its status of a classic of it’s time 5/10 at the most is what I would give this book.

Review,To Kill a Mockingbird by Gethin Llewellyn

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Review, To Kill a Mockingbird by Gethin Llewellyn

“You can shoot all the blue jays you want but it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird”. A metaphor that you won’t understand unless you read To Kill a Mockingbird. The author of this novel is Harper Lee who was born on the 28th of April 1926.  This is the only novel she ever wrote among a few fictional tales. No one ever truly understood why Harper Lee never wrote another novel. In this tale of 1930s America in the county of Alabama a father and his two children.Aticuss being the father Jem being the eldest child and Scout (Jems little sister).This tale may sound like a relaxing one but it will have you on the edge of your seat following the antics of the children on their quest to make “Boo Radley”come out. Experience what it was like growing up in these dark times through the eyes of a child. She thought it was a good idea to show what it was like growing up in a period of racism and segregation.

When Atticus is forced to defend a black man in court everything slowly starts to fall apart for him and his children.

The book has definitely faced the test of time it was released in 1960 and is still being sold all around the world in that time over 30,000,000 copies have been sold. In 1960 To Kill a Mockingbird was on the bestseller list for 88 weeks and then Harper Lee won the Pulitzer Prize. As the book looks at an extremely sensitive subject the fun of life still shows because it is being seen through the eyes of a child. In my opinion the book is extremely enjoyable because there are two sides to it.Because in the first part it shows the antics of the children and the games they play. I think these scenes are really uplifting considering the events that are going on around them. Though as every book does it has a dark side. At certain points I felt really frustrated about the level of racism shown in the book which is proven through some of the characters.

When you pick up this book you will not be able to put it down and when you’ve finished it you will be wanting more. As all points have been covered I give this magnificent book an 8/10.Amazing plot, characters you will fall in love with but in my opinion I think they should have tried to reach for a wider audience. I understand it may be difficult to try and reach for a younger age using such a sensitive subject (racism).I understand it may be difficult for them to understand but let’s face it their starting them younger and younger today, So in my opinion I think they should teach children about this book earlier than they do because they are missing out. (So is anyone else who hasn’t read this book).That’s my opinion and you know what they say whether it’s a book film or play nothings perfect. And no matter how good it is there’s always room for improvement.