Friday, 20 January 2017

Life and Death by Stephenie Meyer: Book Review


Celebrate the tenth anniversary of Twilight! This special double-feature book includes the classic novel, Twilight, and a bold and surprising reimagining, Life and Death, by Stephenie Meyer.

Packaged as an oversize, jacketed hardcover “flip book,” this edition features nearly 400 pages of new content as well as exquisite new back cover art. Readers will relish experiencing the deeply romantic and extraordinarily suspenseful love story of Bella and Edward through fresh eyes.

Twilight has enraptured millions of readers since its first publication in 2005 and has become a modern classic, redefining genres within young adult literature and inspiring a phenomenon that has had readers yearning for more. The novel was a #1 New York Times bestseller, a #1 USA Today bestseller, a Time magazine Best Young Adult Book of All Time, an NPR Best-Ever Teen Novel, and a New York Times Editor’s Choice. The Twilight Saga, which also includes New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn, The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner: An Eclipse Novella, and The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide, has sold nearly 155 million copies worldwide.


SPOILER FREE REVIEW
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I just want to start off by specifying one major detail: if Twilight had not been the one book that introduced me to the world of sleepless nights and days (months) of carrying Breaking Dawn around high school like my own little bible (my mum actually confiscated all my Twilight books off of me eventually because she thought I was acting too much like Bella and it was taking over my life–to be fully honest, it kind of did), then this review may not have been so difficult to write. So I’ve decided to keep it as simple as I can by critiquing the simple things I found did and didn’t work–considering the fact that I don’t want to be overly biased by my love for the original series and still be thought to be a mostly reliable reviewer–but also state exactly why I ended up loving Life and Death much more than I thought I would.

I’ll start off by explaining why I did not start reading this book months earlier when I actually first received my review copy from Hachette NZ. I was caught up with so much university work, as you might have expected, that I was stuck on other books for a while and never got around to it.
The second reason was because I had heard a few complaints from a few other original fans of Twilight that made me feel worried that it might ruin the whole vibe for me and wouldn’t be the same.
The third reason is because when I first read Twilight, I read it with a new and innocent perspective – at that time I wasn’t exactly aware of any cheesy and typical tropes that may have already presented themselves in YA literature many times before then. At that time I had no clue about how to review a book then and–with full disclosure: because I don’t want to be lying to y’all about my supposed advanced skills with literature–I didn’t actually learn how to critique a piece of writing until I took my course in applied writing at university last year.
So with full honesty, I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will try to explain why without spoiling it for anyone that may feel like they want to give it a try.

It is a known fact that the prime reason this book exists is because Stephenie Meyer needed to come up with something new and interesting to present her readers with for Twilight’s 10th year anniversary – this eventually transformed into her idea to completely flip the story by retelling it through swapping the gender of almost every character within. Surprisingly enough, she was able to pull it off successfully by editing the same version, taking a bunch of the main facts and switching them around to ensure the scenario where Bella would be a boy named Beaufort “Beau”, and Edward would be a girl named Edythe. At first I was too nervous to go any further than the first few chapters because it felt like an awkward move from the original to a weak and slightly altered story of a human boy that fell in love with a female vampire, which included a lot of the original dialogue and descriptions. Fortunately I decided that I was dedicated enough to my very first favourite YA series and its author to see how the rest would play out, which was when I also started to notice that Stephenie had gone to further lengths to actually change a lot more than words like he/his/him to she/hers/her, etc. Dialogue had been added along with scenes and actions altered that may not have been in Twilight. I didn’t really start to realise how much I would regret not having any more of Life and Death to read until I got closer to the end. If I say too much I might spoil it so I’ll just leave you all with that and a quick reminder that I am literally tearing my skin off trying not to explain myself. How are you meant to write a review about a book stating why you loved it if the main reason you loved it the most would spoil the whole thing? I guess I’ll only be able to say to read it and find out – you will be absolutely satisfied if you are an original Twilight fan! Shutting up exactly at this moment about this particular thing that I cannot say. Zipped!

Things that I LOVED about Life and Death!


·      CHAPTER 24. That is all I can say (*Laughs evilly and waits for everyone to read Life and Death too so they finally get in on the punch line*).
·      Edythe was so much more likeable than Edward in my opinion. She seemed to fit the emotional PMS episodes a little more so it was less annoying and more understandable. I felt less relatable to Beau, not just because he’s a boy. He overthinks things a lot less than Bella and is a bit rude to his friends when discussing Edythe or anything that he doesn’t want to talk about. Edythe made the first half of the book interesting and helped me feel like I wanted to read more.
·      Jessamine was also a bit more likeable and fit a bit better into the story than Jasper did (again, my own personal opinion!). I don’t know whether it was the whole female thing that made me like him better as a girl but it just fit much better to me and less distant. Archie, who is the male version of Alice, is a very relaxed and emotionally flexible individual so there was a smoother flow to the storyline and characters. Archie was intriguing as well but I wouldn’t say he or Alice were better than each other – both were awesome to read about.
·      McKayla (Mike), Erica (Eric), and Taylor (Tyler) all make really annoyingly funny girls. One of the things that really got my mind in a twist was trying to remember who was who but the fact that the guys from Twilight finally got their five minutes of fame as girls in their alternate universe made everything so much more worth the read. McKayla ended up being really emotional, jealous and overprotective over Beau, Erica was simply the same as Eric but just a little more female-like, and Taylor, just like Tyler, was the one who was cool and good looking and knew it too. Jules was the female version of Jacob and unfortunately we don’t get to see much of her but she is pretty similar to her original in the way that she is young, innocent, and has a major crush on Beau.
·      Like I said before, much of the content has either been re-edited or had stuff added in, which completely transforms the story into something beautifully new but still a classic. I will always love the original Twilight, but Stephenie has taken the time specially to provide her fans with content that is not exactly new or what we wanted, but it has refreshed our minds in a different way and allowed us to re-live the story that changed our lives for the better in a slightly different context. Now I will be patiently waiting for either Forever Dawn to be published or Renesmee’s and Jacob’s story to be written (which apparently Stephenie has already written a few chapters for and actually plans to come back to one day so keep your fingers crossed that it’s very soon!). Either way I’ll be happy to have more Twilight related content and more from Stephenie Meyer who is one of the most underrated authors of the 21st century.

Things I didn’t LOVE about Life and Death

·      Some of the content seemed a bit cheesy and not exactly as delicately written as Twilight once was. It could just be plainly because it has been at least eight years since I read Twilight with fresh eyes, not being as particularly picky as I’ve most recently become. I tried to see past it so that it would help my enjoyment of the story a little more, which seemed to work because I ended up loving it but I still had to mention it because it might be slightly annoying to others. However it is hardly a reason to not read it, it’s just my silly mind being influenced by the culture of reviewing and being overly accurate with literature. It could also be because Stephenie has had a lot longer to think about her fantasy world and come back a whole new, and much more experienced, author. Maybe she felt the mood needed to be a little lighter and not so typically old fashioned like the Brontë sisters’ or Shakespeare’s works, some of which Stephenie had been profusely influenced by originally.
·      Beau was a very fussy and clumsy male, which was a little hard for me to accept after being so used to Bella. Though this was the case, I felt like I needed to drop the expectations of perfect male characters–especially since I hardly read books with male protagonists–and realise that there are actually many males out in the real world that struggle with basic co-ordination and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder every day. Beau seemed a bit like a loose cannon though and felt he could have been a bit more respectful towards his friends. Stephenie did state that he did overthink things a lot less than Bella so maybe that was the reason he didn’t care too much about his random outbursts, saying what he truly felt rather than just quietly informing them later like Bella would to prevent a scene; Beau didn’t seem to mind the popularity as much.
·      That we’ll get no more of Beau and Edythe! For once I actually enjoyed reading about the love interest (I wasn’t ever Team Edward or Team Jacob – I was Team Bella haha) so it’s a little disappointing that this is all we get of their story. It is no secret that the possibility of Renesmee happening in their reality is officially void due to the fact that Edythe’s vampire body would not be able to change like Bella’s human one. I’d love to read some fan-fiction just to continue on the feels, but I know in my heart that it would feel wrong as Beau and Edythe belong to Stephenie and no one else. I’d rather leave their story where she left them – you never know what she may decide in the future. I mean, we never saw this novel coming, right? So yeah, now I’m Team Edythe and I’m totally fine with it.

I have decided to give this book a 4.9 out of 5 stars. What, no 5 stars, Ella? Are you serious? Well I did say that I wanted to remain as a reliable reviewer and be completely honest about how I felt about the book. There is always going to be something about a book that isn’t perfect or up to everyone’s standard but I feel like if you enjoy a book enough from its plot, characters, themes, and vibe, then that is totally fine. With Life and Death, I wanted to enjoy it and then try think back about the things I didn’t quite like, rather than going in with a critiquing mind, which might have ruined everything for me. It’s hard to remember to enjoy a book when you know you’re just going to have to let the world know your thoughts afterwards but at least with passion and the thrill of a read, you can easily write a review off of that – unfortunately writing about the spoilers can’t exactly help your case, especially when they’re the reason the book was so good (Yes, I’m still trying to explain to you why it is a perfectly good idea that you go buy the book now and read it. * Links are below if you decide to do so!).


So now that the excitement of the gender-swapped reimagined version of Twilight is over, it is time for me to start another book of Stephenie’s - a highly anticipated sci-fi thriller novel called The Chemist. It is the first book of her third YA series and I am super excited to read something new and read a genre I don’t normally pick up. Here’s to an author who started her career thanks to the inkling of a dream and decided that she would continue writing no matter what anyone thought of her. I guess there is really no shortage of inspirational authors in the world for me to follow after!


Thank you Hachette NZ for the review copy!

Like and follow their links here:

Official Website: hachette.co.nz

Go add Life and Death to your Goodreads list HERE

Go buy it on MightyApe with 1 day delivery in New Zealand HERE
Buy it on Book Depository with free shipping world wide HERE
Find it on the Hachette NZ website HERE



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Sunday, 15 January 2017

January/February TBR + Quick Life Update: Where Have I Been?

(Please feel free to skip the update but it will help explain my long hiatus! I miss you guys!)

Before I can even start telling you all what I have planned for the coming year of 2017 (sigh... time is getting on and I'm getting old), I need to explain where on earth I have been for the past few months; why haven't I been uploading videos and many posts, why haven't I been online much or tweeting every hour like I used to, why did I go quiet and didn't explain myself until the following year? WELL HERE WE GO! (I'm scared to explain myself because my excuses are pathetic but true...)

What happened was that our internet cut (we've had a bit of struggles with money lately because the price of everything in Auckland is super expensive and hard for us to afford now but we can't really move away either) and we couldn't have the internet reconnected until we paid the outstanding amount first. As you may have figured out, we still have not found the applicable funds but I'm waiting on a miracle or two that might happen soon otherwise it'll be back to the library for me to study this year.

That brings me to my second point: I was constantly bombarded by university work and everything was almost unbearable to handle thanks to the stress of everything - mostly considering my ADHD making it really hard to concentrate when I actually wanted to. It was my fault that I fell behind and therefore my extra time that I would usually use to read had to be used to catch up majorly on school work. However, by the grace of God, I managed to pass both semesters and (at this point I'm 99.5% sure I did) earn my Diploma in Applied Writing for level 5! Now I'm waiting on my level 6 course this year which sounds super fun! I'll give you guys a list of what I'll be doing this year so you can be excited with me - it's literally the type of papers that will help kickstart my career as an author!


Semester One:

  • 601 Business and the Writer
  • 604 Project - Planning
  • 613 Research for Writing
  • 605 Project - Execution

Semester Two:


  • 605 Project - Execution (continued)
  • 603 Practice of Selected Genre(s)
  • 619 Publishing eBooks
  • 602 Personal Career Plan


So in terms of my videos, my phone broke... twice. That's why I haven't been able to film or upload. I did have a couple of videos I could have edited and eventually uploaded with some weak wifi at the library but I get a bad feeling about old videos after a while and I just want to re-film them. There's something about uploading a six-month-old video that makes me feel like I'm lying to y'all about my current place in life (I'm just strange so I hope you guys can understand!). I plan to either get my phone fixed or try get another one soon but I'll let you know when something does happen. I'm planning to write more updates since it's easier for me to upload at least least twice every month so I hope that is alright with you until I get back on to my feet!

So enough with the boring information and know that my resolution for this year is to create a world of literacy for myself that will one day support my passion for writing books. I wanted to list a bunch of the books sent from multiple publishing companies in New Zealand that I've chosen to review next . You might recognise a few of these, if not all of them, so feel free to comment your thoughts and feelings down below (no spoilers please!) so that we can fangirl together!



Title: Life and Death
Author: Stephenie Meyer
NZ Publisher: Hachette NZ
USA Publisher: Little Brown Book Group






Title: The Chemist
Author: Stephenie Meyer
NZ Publisher: Hachette NZ
USA Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers





Title: The Severed Land
Author: Maurice Gee
NZ Publisher: Penguin Random House NZ





Title: A Million Worlds With You
Author: Claudia Gray
NZ Publisher: HarperCollins NZ
USA Publisher: HarperCollins





Title: Moon Chosen
Author: P.C Cast
NZ Publisher: Lighthouse PR
USA Publisher: St. Martins Press
AUS Publisher: Pan Australia (Paperback)





Title: Stealing Snow
Author: Danielle Paige
NZ Publisher: Allen and Unwin
USA Publisher: Bloomsbury




*****


Those are all the books I hope to read over the next couple of months! I may not finish them all as usual, especially since half of these books are considerably large and I start back university on the 20th of February, but I am super excited because they're all books that I really want to read!

Aside from everything else, I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year! Please ask me anything you would like to know and I will try respond as soon as I can. Try to keep your New Year's resolutions and I'll try to be a bit more active this year (God help me succeed haha).

See you all real soon!

Bellz x






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Holding Up The Universe by Jennifer Niven: Book Review


Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed “America’s Fattest Teen.” But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to know who she really is. Following her mom’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for every possibility life has to offer. In that moment, I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything. 

Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin, too. Yes, he’s got swagger, but he’s also mastered the impossible art of giving people what they want, of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a newly acquired secret: he can’t recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He’s the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything, but he can’t understand what’s going on with the inner workings of his brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don’t get too close to anyone.

Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game—which lands them in group counseling and community service—Libby and Jack are both pissed, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world, theirs and yours.

SPOILER FREE REVIEW
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Knowing this was the first ever contemporary novel that I have read made me feel slightly uneasy, but my lack of faith in my uncommon interests set me up for a roller coaster ride of a story filled with meaningful themes, fascinating facts /insight about having prosopagnosia, and quotes that you would want to use out in the open world just to prove that you are a cool kid who reads real awesome (and beautifully diverse) modern novels. At this point in time I am honestly shocked at the revelation of my enjoyment during my reading Holding Up The Universe – this was honestly not what I was expecting and I am happy to know now that my two weeks of trying to finish this novel wasn’t exactly wasted (I am absolutely terrible at making myself think that I won’t enjoy a single bit of a book or even a movie).

As I finished the story, the ending acknowledgements hit me right in the heart as I was informed that this book had been inspired by the author’s own childhood – struggling with her weight and being bullied for it, though she continued to do what she loved most: dancing. Libby is the exact embodiment of someone who has gone through absolute hell and back but knows how to put a good fight and speak her mind because who has time to just sit back and take shit anymore? She is basically the chick that everyone would love if they just got to know her and I love that she doesn’t let anyone tell her what she can and can’t do. Through this book we go through her journey of learning to stop hiding behind a tough appearance and start to embrace the beauty and grace she has, while also still being a really awesome chick that doesn’t take shit from anyone. Jack is probably the one male character that isn’t vampire, werewolf, zombie or any other type of supernatural species that you can fall in love with and realise he’s a better male hero than any other with any fancy super powers. Check it out – this guy has prosopagnosia (a condition where a person can’t recognise faces) and he is glad that he is able to spot Libby easily because of her weight being her ‘identifier’. They are literally so perfect for each other!

Now one thing that blew me away was the fact that this book was the most diverse I had ever read. Since slowly easing away from the hurt that was the hate against Sarah J Maas and her most recent release, Empire of Storms, I’ve realised that Holding Up The Universe would appeal to almost anyone in or out of the book community because of how diverse the characters and themes are – including disability, LGBT, ethnicity/people of colour, families that aren’t completely functional or perfect, and even one where the devout Christian isn’t the most annoying character. In fact she is a girl who felt like she failed at being a good friend to Libby years ago as kids and wants to improve now that they’re reunited. Reading it again I might find many more I didn’t realise I’d missed but I honestly feel like this book is one of the most influential and empowering novels of 2016 and if not out of the whole 21st century. Props to Jennifer Niven for using her experiences to inspire a tale that will one day inspire many others to feel more confident like Libby and Jack for being different.

✨ 
Things I LOVED about Holding Up The Universe! 


·      Libby and Jack are couple goals for every reason in the universe and they literally ‘hold it up’ for each other! Being the complete opposites of typical ‘American standard’ cool kids, it’s heart-warming to finally read a book that takes these tropes and absolutely thrashes them out of style. We need plenty more books like this one in the world because I will be absolutely devastated if I don’t see other authors following suit or even if I don’t get to see more of Jack and Libby (Jennifer, if you’re reading this, please tell me we get at least another couple of novels!).
·      Can I just mention that Libby is absolutely talented in dancing and she won’t let a damned thing stop her from doing it! I am literally falling to pieces waiting for the announcement of Holding Up The Universe to be a movie – I need to see those dance moves that Libby is so famous for and it would just make it all the more beautiful and meaningful. Finally a coloured boy, Jack, is introduced as the popular guy but with a face-blind disability that no one but him knows about. But when he gets to know Libby and sees her dance, he can’t help but fall harder for the only girl he can easily recognise for who she really is. DREAM GOALS!
·      The best and worst thing is that I actually was pretty excited about the way this story played out that it will most likely be optioned to be a movie but it won’t happen for a long while. Since the book only released last October, it burdens me to come to the reality that being a fan of something so life changing will eventually break me. But the only thing I can do now is know that Libby and Jack will eventually return one way or another and continue to read a bunch of other life changing novels until it does happen!
·      The one and only contemporary novel that I’ve ever read is now my favourite contemporary novel and it’ll take pretty much the world to change my mind. I know I still have books like John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars, Looking for Alaska, and Paper Towns to read–though two of them I’ve already watched as movies–I’m doubtful that I’ll ever find another contemporary novel as satisfying as this one. Which basically means that I’m all the way back to square one and thinking that I’ll never enjoy this particular genre as much as I do fantasy. Technically that is true anyway but you get what I mean and I need to wrap this up so there. Suck it up – normal human lives usually seem boring to me but feel free to challenge that if you dare (inserts an overly creepy picture of me winking here).

Things I Didn’t Love About Holding Up The Universe…


·      I’ll sum this up quickly… I felt a lot hadn’t been tied up in terms of other issues that had been brought up closer to the end. Plus I need more Jack and Libby together. So if I find out that this is a stand-alone novel then I will not be overly content. That is all. Thank you!


If I had to really give my absolute honest opinion of this book, I would give this book 4.75 stars because there were a few tiny things I noticed were not optimal in terms of accuracy or time or whatever on earth it was. But to be totally fair, due to the beautiful and honest nature of the author being able to provide her readers with such a powerful and informative YA novel using every theme that we’ve all been asking for, this book truly deserves a 5 star rating just for satisfying our community just the way we needed it. Authors needn’t worry too much about overly accurate detailing or forcing themselves to describe every scene in profound detail that our minds bleed. They just need to focus on writing the story with a great plot, relatable characters, and themes that appeal to the target audience. Jennifer Niven has excelled with this task and I have never been more grateful than to have been sent this book by Penguin Random House NZ.



Thank you Penguin Random House for the review copy!

Like and follow their links here:

Official Website: http://penguin.co.nz/


Go add Holding Up The Universe to your Goodreads list HERE

Go buy it on MightyApe with 1 day delivery in New Zealand HERE
Buy it on Book Depository with free shipping world wide HERE
Buy it on the Penguin Random House NZ website HERE

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