London: A Travel Guide Through Time – Dr Matthew Green

Like your history? Then here is a book that takes you through the history of London in a completely unique way

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I first came across Dr.Green’s book London: A Travel Guide Through Time last year when I was spending a lot of time in London. I was not entirely sure what to expect from the book, but reviews boasted that this was a great book when considering the history of London. When I bought the book, I was not sure what to expect. I was not aware whether it had fictional characters and a completely fictional story, or whether it was more like a textbook. What I found upon reading the book though was a slight mixture. Dr.Green’s work takes you through six time periods of time, using you, the reader, as the central character who is navigating through these worlds. As a result, you learn the ins and outs of these different London worlds, through your own eyes – so to speak.

Although this, A Travel Guide Through Time, has a lot of history and a lot of information in its pages I do not feel like I was bombarded with content. Because of this I found myself thoroughly enjoying Dr.Green’s book. Each era that Green delves into is extremely descriptive and informative which allows you, as a reader, to truly feel as though you are on this journey travelling through London. Alongside this though, I really liked how Green would continuously reference London as it is in the present day, and how we would recognise it today. This I loved as it allowed me to have things to compare to, to create a full image of what Green was describing to me in my own head.

My only complaint when it came to the reading of A Travel Guide Through Time was that Green did not use a chronological order when exploring the different eras. For example, the first few section of the book go from 1603 to 1390 then all the way back to 1665. This may not be an issue for some readers, but for me I found that this approach made following the changes between eras a little more difficult. This is because the portrayal of London goes in and out between how developed it was becoming as time continued. Rather than either going back in time one step at a time, or moving forward to the present day one era at a time, which I would have preferred. As I feel this would have been far more effective in understanding how London has progressed through time, to the 21st century London we know today.

If you are looking for a more informative read, full of real life knowledge and a bit of an adventure then this book is worth a read. I read Dr.Green’s London: A Travel Guide Through Time over an extended period of time, simply because I wanted the information to soak in, rather than skim over everything that was being told to me. Though you may have a different experience, and find your way to the end of this adventure in a matter of days.

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The Wolf of Wall Street – Jordan Belfort

Seen the 2013 Scorsese film? Why not try the book it originated from?

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I have previously seen the Martin Scorsese film of the same name, starring Leonardo Dicaprio, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. So, when I came across Jordan Belfort’s book The Wolf of Wall Street, I knew I just had to purchase it. For the simple fact is, the films are never an accurate representation of a book, and this being a ‘memoir’, I felt there must be so much more to the story than what Scorsese could portray. I was one hundred percent right with my assumption that the book format of The Wolf of Wall Street would provide more information, and a more rounded picture. I did not think it was possible but Belfort’s book was far more shocking and disturbing than the story that Scorsese portrayed.

Though for a heads up if you have not seen the film, the books title will have you believe the book will predominantly be about the stock market. However, this is not the case. Belfort’s memoir is more focused on his drug and alcohol consumption, so much so that it leaves you questioning how he is still alive. – A question I believe he must ask himself. It is interesting that Belfort’s novel refrained from focusing on the struggles through the stock market, to reach his millions, like so many millionaires memoirs are. Instead, The Wolf of Wall Street gave us insights into the troubles and bad choices that can often be made once you have reached your millionaire status. The book perfectly demonstrates the excessive behaviour, the ungratefulness, and the constant need for more that comes with being a member of the super-rich.

I enjoyed The Wolf of Wolf Street, if only for the shock factor. The fact that it is a true story makes Belfort’s tale even more intriguing. Having said that though, the writing is very basic, it will not offer you a challenge and it will not take you on a journey of self-discovery. So, if you enjoy books that do just that, then maybe pass on reading Belfort’s book. Having said that though, this book did not take me long to read, and I found myself finishing it in days. This was even more of a surprise for me as I tend to struggle to read books that I have already half experienced through their film adaptations. So, if you are looking for something a bit different, something a bit shocking, or simply a true story, I would recommend you reading this book.

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Duma Key – Stephen King

A Stephen King fan? Have you read the 2008 novel Duma Key?

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Duma Key is the 2008 psychological horror by Stephen King. Although I have read a number of King’s short stories, Duma Key is only the second novel of King’s I have read. And again, King was proven that his work is worth the hype that surrounds his back catalogue. The novel centres around Edgar Freemantle, a self-made millionaire, who survives a horrific accident at work. The severity of the accident leaves him with an amputated arm, speech, visual and memory problems and causes him to have terrible mood swings. Following his accident, Edgar moves to a small island in hope an extended vacation will help in his recovery. This island is Duma Key.

I usually get put off by long books, as I find that a novel has to work hard to keep my attention for a long period. Duma Key was around 611 pages and I was a little bit apprehensive as to whether I would successfully complete the novel before boredom stroked. However, I was pleasantly surprised that King was able to keep me interested and engaged throughout the entire novel. Which, I am happy to say, has made me far more open minded when it comes to other books that may be of a longer length.

Duma Key reminded me of King’s short story ‘Obits’. This was due to the way that Edgar was able to make things happen through his paintings. Similarly, in ‘Obits’ the main character was able to kill people by writing up their obituaries. I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Obits’ therefore I was more than happy to read an extended piece of work that had a similar concept. This was because the novel was able to explore the concept in more depth, and we saw Edgar using his new found ‘abilities’ in a variety of ways. This I found to be so much more interesting as we were not just seeing deaths. We were seeing also things like the erasing of a brain tumour, which for me, was far more intriguing of a concept.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed Duma Key, I do feel as though the ending was slightly anticlimactic. I simply felt that there was something missing from the ending chapters of the novel. So, upon finishing the novel I was disappointed. And there’s nothing worse than investing so much time into a novel to only be left disappointed at the end.  I do however realise that I am such a harsh critique when it comes to the end of a story. I am rarely satisfied with a story’ ending, usually because I have already realised where the author is taking me. To King’s credit though I did not guess where he was taking the story of Duma Key, so the ending was a little bit of a surprise.

Although this was the case, I would still recommend Stephen King’s novel, Duma Key. If anything, it is an interesting concept and will truly have you thinking about life. And if you’re somebody who may be put off by King’s work due to his famous psychological/horror approach to his stories, be assured this one will not give you too much of a fright. I believe it is one of his tamer works, though i’m no King expert…so don’t hold me to that.

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The Road – Cormac McCarthy

Here i review McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic novel

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The Road is a post-apocalyptic 2006 novel by Cormac McCarthy. The story focuses upon a father and son who are travelling through a burnt out America, with their sights set on reaching the coast. The duo have nothing but the clothes on their back, a pistol with limited bullets and a small supply of food to keep them going along their journey. The novel sees the pair scavenging through the derelict, burned out towns and cities whilst trying to avoid running into ‘bad guys’ who stalk the roads.

In The Road we are presented with a truly disturbing and terrifying scenario. There are few people left in the world, and some of those left are savage beyond belief. We are not explicitly told what happened to cause such a brutal world, though I believe this leaves for a much more haunting story as so many scenarios could have led to the ultimate downfall of humanity. In all the savagery that we witness though, it is clear that this is a book that acutely portrays the best and the worst of mankind. From the unbreakable, trusting and loving relationship of the father and son to the ‘bad guys’ who we witness keeping prisoners for their cannibalistic needs. With this McCarthy offers us a magnitude of characters that portray how far humans can be pushed.

I finished The Road in two sittings, but if I had had the chance I am certain I would have finished the novel in one go. McCarthy writes with no chapters and allows his novel to flow with the progression of the father and sons travels. So, you find yourself turning page after page with no thought of having a break. Usually, I am all for chapters, and cannot comprehend a novel that does not use them. However, I felt this style was extremely effective for this novel and I truly felt that I was a participant in the journey across America. Not only that though McCarthy’s language and imagery creates some fantastic scenes, so it is difficult not to picture yourself alongside this family.

McCarthy created characters and a novel in The Road that kept you routing for a positive outcome. So much so, that it is so easy to forget that such a terrible situation has already been thrust upon the father and son. Like most, the ending of a novel is something I always battle with. I rarely find that the finishing pages of a novel end in a good or satisfactory way. On the one hand, with McCarthy’s novel, I feel exactly this way. I feel that McCarthy has left so much unsaid, and left me wanting so much more from this world and his characters. However, on the other hand, the journey has been completed, the goal has been met, and in the end we are given a positive outcome. So, it is difficult to argue that The Road ends on a bit of a flat line.

The Road is a novel unlike any others that I have read, and I am a little annoyed at myself for letting McCarthy’s novel sit on my bookshelf for as long as I did. So, I would recommend it to you all without a doubt. Although if you’re currently looking for a light read, something to relax by the pool with on holiday, maybe try something a bit lighter than McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic novel.

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The One – John Marrs

Eager to find your perfect match? Well, here Marrs explores the idea of developing our perfect match through our DNA

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John Marrs 2017 novel The One is a story about finding your perfect match. In Marr’s world there has been a development in the world of love which can genetically match you with your perfect match. The novel follows the lives of six individuals who have applied to find their match. Each character takes us on a journey of the positives and negatives of the idea of a perfect match.

I think a novel like The One is very current in where we currently are in the dating world. From apps and websites, to unique dating events like being matched through a scent, it’s safe to say that the dating world has progressed majorly. And, with science continuously moving forward, it’s not difficult to imagine a world whereby we could be matched with a significant other through our DNA. It seems like an easy solution, right? Avoiding any time wasters, eliminating the anxiety of meeting new people, saying goodbye to potential heartbreak because you are not actually suited and you get all this for just a small fee. However, if you’ve ever thought something like this would be a good idea, Marrs novel will surely prove you wrong – or at least question your views. This is because she fantastically emphasises that you never know what somebody is really like, and what is really going on behind closed doors. Therefore this ‘perfect match’ could be exactly what your genetics requires, but they could be the opposite of what your morals and mind wants. – which you will see evidence in this novel.

When I found Marrs novel The One online, I was immediately drawn in by its concept. So, I was very excited to get my claws into this novel. However, it is not just the idea that I loved, the structure and style is something I really enjoyed too. Each chapter focused on a different character, but also some of these characters could be paired off as couples. For example the chapter’s focusing on Amy and Christopher, demonstrate the two sides of a matched couple. This enabled a more rounded picture regarding the matches, as we were seeing both sides of the match, and their feelings and thought processes towards it. It was interesting to read the two sides as one would try to keep a secret from the other, and we are able to witness first hand these secrets ruining the matches.

I found Marrs novel to be a real page turner, but I think this was solely because I enjoyed reading about some character’s stories more than others, so I wanted to get to their chapters quickly. That being said though, I did find the novel to be an easy read, each story flowed well, and the jumping between each character was pretty smooth. So, even though I was drawn to some characters more than others I did not struggle to get into all of the separate stories. The only thing that I would mention about this style of writing, whereby Marr focused on different characters in different chapters, was that at times I found myself having to go back and double check who I was reading about. Because there is so much going on in The One, I found that when you start reading the novel it can be a little complicated to keep up, though with perseverance you get the hang of it!

I would a hundred percent recommend this book, read it if you like a suspense novel, read it if you like the concept of having a genetic match, or read it if you like a quick read. Because if you like any of those things you are sure to get on well with Marrs The One

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The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde

Like a good classic? Why not check out the 19th century novel from Oscar Wilde

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The Picture of Dorian Gray is one of Oscar Wilde’s only novels. It is a gothic novel which follows the character of Dorian Gray and his demise after he sells his soul to the devil for beauty. Written in 1890, this novel is an interesting read as it was used as evidence during Wilde’s trial for gross indecency and relations with another man. At the time it was claimed that Wilde’s work emulated his own feelings in regards to homosexuality. Wilde even went on to add a prologue, which argues against the idea that his novel demonstrates his homosexual feelings. He argued that art can be created for the sake of it, that often there are no deep meanings behind art; it is just there to be enjoyed.

Believe it or not, previous to my introduction to The Picture of Dorian Gray I have not had much experience with Wilde and his work. I personally struggle to connect with literature which is regarded as being ‘classic’. This may be because I have been continuously made to study them, and thus have found myself not enjoying them. However when I came across Wilde’s book I was pleasantly intrigued. I love a good gothic novel anyway, but the concept of selling ones soul for the sake of beauty was truly intriguing. I mean, I’m sure we all know somebody that would seriously consider this to stay young and beautiful forever, right?

The Picture of Dorian Gray is only a short novel, so I found myself getting through it quite quickly. This is helped by how well written and fluid Wilde’s work is. The speed that I got through it even had me questioning how it could be a 19th century novel. Though, that’s because of my personal experience with novels from this time period.

What I liked most about The Picture of Dorian Gray though was the character of Dorian himself. I loved how over such a short novel we saw such a progression in his character. The novel is set out over the course of many years, and in this time Dorian goes from a very well respected young man to a soulless murderous villain. And for me, this was exciting to read, to discover how far somebody can fall when they have made the decisions that Dorian had made. It was interesting to read how his decisions over this time were haunting him both mentally and physically. Wilde certainly has you questioning some of the decisions you go on to make after reading this novel.

I lack any negative comments regarding this book, though this may be because of how happy I am to have found a ‘classic’ that I love. I definitely think this Wilde’s novel is worth a read, whether you like the classics or not. It is a novel that leaves you reflecting on numerous themes, such as beauty, youth and greed. And, any novel that keeps you thinking and reflecting on what has been discussed is definitely a book worth reading.

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Everything Everything – Nicola Yoon

Have you seen the trailer? Well, here I review the novel by Nicola Yoon

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Everything Everything is the 2015 debut novel by Nicola Yoon. It has recently come back into the ‘limelight’ due to the soon to be released film adaptation. The novel tells the story of a young girl, Maddy, and her budding relationship with the boy next door, Olly. The twist with this first love story is that Maddy suffers from Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID), an illness which means she is allergic to everything and is unable to leave the house.

I do not know a lot about SIDC, so I cannot comment on its portrayal in this novel. However, I thought the story itself provided an interesting and thought provoking read. Everything Everything is simply an exploration of the lengths we will go to, and the risks we take, for love. One of my favourite aspects of the novel was this progression in Maddy. Somebody, who at the beginning of the novel simply accepted her situation, locked in the confines of her house. Yet, by the end of the novel we see how she has progressed into a life loving, adventure seeking woman with a thirst for life. Maddy was certainly a character that I routed for throughout the novel, one that I felt very much invested in. This, I must add, is a reaction to a character I have not had in a while. So, thank you Nicola.

I found Everything Everything to be a very quick read. Alongside a fantastic story, which leaves you wanting more, it has a very unique style and layout. The chapters of the novel are often very short, with some ‘chapters’ only last a few lines. So, if you’re somebody is conscious about paper wastage, maybe this book is not for you. Yoon’s husband, David Yoon also provided the novel with many great illustrations, which you will see throughout the novel. With the illustrations and the often extremely short chapters it is understandably why you may finish this, as I did, in one sitting.

I found this style that Yoon used to be very refreshing, and a very accessible way to write a book, as you are not bogged down by pages and pages of complicated writing. This I feel makes Everything Everything a perfect read for young adults. And with the novel focussing of young and first love I feel this book will appeal even more for young adult readers!

The only problem I found with this novel is that I found the ending and its twist to be very predictable. This appears to be happening very often to me, that I am finding myself disappointed as I have already worked out the plot. Maybe I will have to stop expecting unpredictability, or maybe I’m just not reading the right novels. Either way, I was a little disappointed that the story was so easily guessed. On a positive note though, because I had routed for Maddy’s character and for her journey so much, I was equally pleased with how Yoon closed the novel. So maybe shocking, unpredictable, wow factors are not everything?

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