Sunday 30 August 2015

Girl Online by 'Zoe Sugg'

*I have put the name 'Zoe Sugg' in quotation marks in the title due to the controversy surrounding the actual author of the book which surfaced in late 2014 when Girl Online was released. I will go into it in more detail later in this review but my use of quotation marks is not any kind of personal attack on Zoe Sugg or the 'Zoella' brand*

344 Pages

Rating: 2/5

Format: hardback

Girl Online follows Penny, your average unlucky and a bit clumsy teen, on a family trip to New York after things go from bad to worse with her 'friends'. Penny struggles with anxiety and panic attacks and uses her online blog, 'girl online', as a way to vent her emotions and create an online community to support each other in similar circumstances. While in New York, Penny meets Noah who seems almost too perfect to be true and the love story spirals from there.

I'm sure from that summary you can see just how stereotypical young teen romance this book is. I really wanted to like this book as, while I'm not necessarily an active 'fan' of Zoe's, I do watch her videos and read her blog. I purposely left it a while before reading it to allow the controversy involving her use of a ghostwriter to die down a bit so I could read it with an open mind. The way I viewed it was Zoe still had some role in the book and she is certainly not the first celebrity to use a ghostwriter, so I personally felt the attack she got as a result was unfair.

Zoe clearly did have some undeniable role in this book as Penny holds a startling amount of parallels to Zoe herself. Many (if not all) of the tips she talks about for dealing with anxiety or panic attacks are ones that have been shared by Zoe in some form over the last few years and one of the 'blog posts' in the book in particular reminded me a lot of one Zoe has published in the past. Zoe's stamp is definitely on the book and it does, without a doubt, fit with the Zoella brand in terms of subject matter and the way it deals with topics like this. 

That being said, from reading the 2 page acknowledgements at the end of the book it becomes highly questionable whether Zoe actually physically sat down and wrote any of the book. The writing in Girl Online does not read even remotely in the same way Zoe's writing does. Zoe has a unique voice when she writes, which I personally found was one of the reasons I first started reading her blog, and that just isn't there in Girl Online. It frustrates me that Zoe Sugg is a good writer and I fully believe she is  capable of writing a book, yet a book was published that wasn't written by her and her name was stamped on it instead of allowing her to write it herself. 

With the issue of who wrote the book aside, I'd like to discuss the book itself.

I'm going to be brutally honest here: I do not think this is a good book and it does not fit the age group Zoe and the publishers have stated it was aimed at.

The stated age group is 12-16 year olds, meaning, as an 18 year old, I shouldn't have felt like I was reading a book aimed at people way younger than myself. It felt like I should've been reading it at the same time as I was in love with Jacqueline Wilson, which would've been when I was around the age of 8-10. The voice of Penny which narrates the novel sounds less like a 16 year old, more like a 13 year old and because of that it seemed odd that the team behind the book feel it should be aimed at people up to the age of 16. John Green has often stated that teenagers are not given enough credit by publishers etc and that they are more intelligent than they are assumed to be. While John writes his books fully aware of not patronising his audience, it felt like Girl Online did the opposite. 

In addition to this, the plot was so stereotypical and predictable that I could've told you what would happen in the next chapter for the entirety of the book. It's a very standard love story with one thing added, that Penny runs a blog. Other than that, it's the same thing that has been published hundreds of times before (often better).

There were also several moments where I had major issues with the book and I've decided to share two examples with you. Since I had issues with both some of the ideas/areas of the plot and some of the grammar used, I've picked out one of each.

  1. The idea I have an issue with: When she sees her in a 1920s style flapper dress, Sadie Lee (Noah's grandmother) says to Penny 'You look just like a picture I have at home of my grandmother. She was one of the original flapper girls.' This means Noah's Great, Great-Grandmother was one of the original flapper girls. My issue I have with this is that it relies heavily on all of the generations between his Great, Great-Grandmother and himself having had children fairly young. I know that my Great-Grandfather was the right age to fight in World War 2, and for Sadie Lee's Grandmother to have been one of the 'original flapper girls', she would've had to be late teens-late 20s during the 1920s. While it is plausible when the argument is made that everyone between Noah and his Great, Great-Grandmother could've had children during their late teens-very early 20s, it would have made it much more believable had she said her mother instead of grandmother. This might sound like a tiny point to pick up on but as someone extremely passionate about history I feel we often think of it as more distant than it actually was, which is exactly what this comment does, for no reason.
  2. The sentence I have issues with the grammar of: Towards the end of the book this sentence pops up: 'Do you want to come here and I'll show it to you if you like?' There are so many extra words in that sentence that make the poor grammar stick out like a sore thumb. 
While I know some people would argue that mistakes are made in books all the time and that's just something that needs to be looked past, there were too many in this book for me to do that. Penguin are the largest publishing house in the UK and it was fairly obvious to everyone that this book was going to sell a ridiculous number of copies regardless of whether it was good or not which makes me angry that they didn't check it more carefully before putting it out into the world. There are people whose job it is to proof-read books, particularly for spelling and grammar errors, before they are published, so why did so many mistakes fall through this net?

I think it speaks volumes that I, someone who hates writing in books or marking them in any way, could not stop myself from writing little sarcastic comments in pencil at various points in the book, something which has never happened before. You may ask why I gave it 2 stars and that's because the concept was generally promising and there were, believe it or not, moments in the book I did enjoy. They were just few and far between. For example, while I liked the character of Elliot, the way he is basically forgotten about fairly often is something which annoyed me, meaning the initial positive was turned into a negative.

If this was an average book, I would be able to deal with the issues it has. What I can't deal with is the amount of copies this sold and records it broke for such a painfully average (if not below average) book. 

Have you read Girl Online? Do you think I'm being unfair and should just ignore its issues? Did you also find the issues in it too much? Let me know in the comments, I'd really love to have a discussion about it.

Lucy x

Thursday 27 August 2015

Bout of Books 14 *COMPLETED*

Okay, I'll be the first to admit that this was not really my most successful readathon and I absolutely did not hit my target of 700 pages. That being said, my 319 page effort is by no means my worst readathon effort (who remembers the 120 page effort of Booktubeathon 2013?). 

I managed to finish How To Build A Girl by Caitlin Moran and I started reading both Girl Online by Zoe Sugg and Wicked by Gregory Maguire. Since my copy of Girl Online is hardback I decided to read a paperback alongside as I don't like carrying hardbacks around with my if I can help it. I'm also feeling extremely let down by Girl Online so far and I needed something else to distract me from it at times, but there will be a full review up when I've finished it (at the moment reviewing it is what is getting me through reading it which speaks volumes and is a real shame but more on that when you get the review).

So although it didn't go to plan I'm not too bothered, especially with BookTubeAThon 2015 being my most successful readathon to date. My main aim with these summer readathons is to make sure I've got a few books read ready to review, especially during the first few weeks of term, so I don't have to worry about my lack of reading when I start university at the end of September. I didn't really think you'd want to read reviews of my textbooks etc!

Did you take part in Bout of Books 14? How did you do? Let me know in the comments below!

Lucy x

Saturday 15 August 2015

Bout of Books 14!

Following a pretty successful BookTubeAThon I have decided that after a week away from intensive reading I'm going to go back to it with the Bout of Books readathon this week. I've participated in a few of these readathons before and have always enjoyed them so why not!

Bout of Books

What is Bout of Books I hear you ask?

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 17th and runs through Sunday, August 23rd in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 14 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

I've always loved how low-pressure Bout of Books is which is why I've decided to participate again. While most people will aim to read a certain number of books, I'm going to aim to read a certain number of pages because I find myself only reading short books and ignoring anything over 300 pages otherwise. I want to ideally read more than 100 pages a day so my target for myself is 700 pages in the 7 days. 

I'm not going to tell you what I'll be reading as I'm just going to pick up whatever I feel I want to read at the time to keep myself interested and to stop myself getting bored but there will definitely be a wrap up post at the end of the week for you to see what I've read!
Are you participating? Let me know below and we can motivate each other!
Lucy x

Monday 10 August 2015

BookTubeAThon 2015 *COMPLETED*

Despite not being entirely optimistic about BookTubeAThon due to most readathon's I've participated in before not going all that well I'm happy to say I'd definitely count the week as a success! While I didn't quite complete all the challenges I read way more than I'd usually read in a week and, more importantly, it definitely achieved my personal goal of kick starting my reading.

Now to run through the challenges now and decide which were a success and which weren't:

1) Read a book with blue on the cover
I successfully completed this one by reading Animal Farm by George Orwell as my copy has a mostly blue cover!

2) Read a book by an author who shares the same first letter of your last name
Although I did search my shelves in the hopes of finding a book by an author who shares the first letter of my last name I couldn't find anything so I decided to cheat a little bit by using Look Who's Back by Timur Vermes and changing it to be the first letter of my last name being the same as the first letter of his first name. So that challenge is a success if you don't mind my cheating!

3) Read someone else's favourite book
As Ariel said in one of the BookTubeAThon YouTube videos that Animal Farm is her favourite book I think this one is a success!

4) Read the last book you acquired
The last book I acquired was Look Who's Back when I impulsively bought it from my local book shop a few weeks ago so this one is a success!

5) Finish a book without letting go of it
Although I thought I'd struggle with this one, I did actually manage it by reading Four Warned by Jeffery Archer which was one of the World Book Night books I got in 2014. For such a short book it took me a very long time to get around to reading it!

6) Read a book you really want to read
This is a bit of a different one but as well as really wanting to read Animal Farm I've been meaning to read Ed Sheeran: A Visual Journey since I got it for Christmas. Since about half of the book is images  I found this to be a really good readathon book because I just sat down and read it easily without having to focus too much. Some of you may know I'm a musician which made this especially interesting for me but there will be a full review up soon!

7) Read seven books
If we're taking this one to mean 'finish seven books' I didn't achieve it. I had already started Look Who's Back and All I Know Now by Carrie Hope Fletcher before the week started and finishing the week I still had a long way to go with Landline by Rainbow Rowell. If we're taking it to mean 'read at least part of seven books' I did complete it (full list of what I read is below). My own personal target was less about reading seven books and more reading 1,000 pages in the week which is far more than I'd ever normally read and I'm very happy that I beat that by reading 1,120 pages in the week!

Books read/part read:
(Click titles to buy on thebookdepository)

1) Look Who's Back by Timur Vermes
2) Four Warned by Jeffery Archer
3) All I Know Now by Carrie Hope Fletcher
4) Animal Farm by George Orwell
5) Chickenfeed by Minette Walters
6) Ed Sheeran: A Visual Journey by Ed Sheeran and Phillip Butah
7) Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Overall this was definitely the most successful I've been with a readathon and it's really made me get excited about reading again so I think it was a success!

Did you take part in the BookTubeAThon? Were you successful? Let me know in the comments below!

Lucy x

Sunday 2 August 2015

BookTubeAThon 2015

As those of you who have noticed the lack of posts on here in the last few months will probably have guessed, I'm still yet to get back into reading properly after exams and revision. For a while I wasn't bothered by it and just gave myself a break from staring at words on a page (I think I needed it!) but I've now got to the point where I really want to be reading but I'm just not. In a spur of the moment decision on Sunday night I've decided to participate in the BookTubeAThon which starts tomorrow (Monday) and runs for a week.

Readathons have never really gone too well for me in the past but I thought it might be a good way of encouraging myself to read and the timing seems to have worked well for me. While I'm not sure I'll stick it out until the end of the week and I'm sure I won't complete all of the challenges listed below if I read more than I have been recently I will be happy.

The challenges for the BookTubeAThon 2015 are:

1// Read a book with blue on the cover

2// Read a book by an author who shares the same first letter of your last name 
3// Read someone else's favourite book
4// Read the last book you acquired 
5// Finish a book without letting go of it
6// Read a book you really want to read
7// Read seven books

While I might attempt some of these challenges I'm not going to be too worried about completing them all. I see them as more of a guideline than a set of rules to follow which is, I am sure, what the hosts of the readathon want.

Are you participating? Let me know below!

Lucy x

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