Monday, 30 November 2009

Review: Monkey Taming

Sorry this is a day later than originally planned. I ended up sleeping in on Sunday and only just completing my homework in time. Today's review is of the book "Monkey Taming" by Judith Fathallah. Here is the blurb:

When Jessica was thirteen years old, she met the Monkey.

The Monkey lived inside her: a driving, fiery voice telling her than thinness was the only way to be safe, to be acceptable and, above all, to escape from the looming threat of approaching adulthood. Jessica listened to the Monkey, and it consumed her.

Through memory, reflection and enduring black humour, this is the illuminating story of a teenage girl's wanderings in darkness: the spiral down into madness, the terrible realities of an adolescent psychiatric unit, and the final stark choice - either tame her monkey or die.

I picked up this book from the library when I saw it on sale. It was 10p (can't beat a library sale) and the cover initially intrigued me.

The main character in this book is Jessica, a thirteen year old anorexic girl. She wasn't always anorexic but she convinced herself that if she was slimmer, everything would be better. Jessica thought she was fat and was determined to lose weight. But then she started hearing the Monkey, a voice in her head, and it became an obsession. Jessica was struggling with emotions before she started her starvation regime. And everytime she wanted to get better, for other people rather than herself, the Monkey won.

Jessica's mother is also quite a big influence on Jessica. She used to be slim herself and initially encouraged Jessica to lose weight. I don't think she is mean at all when she said that Jessica should start doing something about getting slim rather than keep going on about it. No one really knows what impact their words will have. She also supports Jessica and tries to get her the help that she needs.

The plot of this story follows Jessica's downward spiral in to anorexia and the obsession food became with her. I don't feel I'm ruining the story for you by typing this next bit as it's in the blurb, Jessica is admitted to an adolescent psychiatric ward. Just reading about the ward I knew why Jessica hated it. Some people there cared about those who were admitted whilst others just seemed to be cruel and vindictive, particularly a woman nicknamed Eleanor the Troll. Eleanor seemed to think that Jessica could just decide to eat again, when in reality, it's not that simple. Hearing about others who had been admitted i.e. other anorexics and one girl called Bethany who was a self harmer, I felt that it was so sad these people weren't receiving the help they needed. The amount of anger Jessica has at the psychiatric ward and their unfair treatment sucks in the reader to agreeing with them. I felt that the emotions that were conveyed were so strong that it must have come from Judith Fathallah's own experience in a psychiatric ward and suffering from anorexia. It was truly powerful writing.

This book was impossible to put down. It really was. I read this book about 3-4 months ago and I still remember it. It is a book that will linger in your mind. I really recommend you read it.

And a really powerful paragraph from the book can be found here.

5 out of 5 stars.

(I'm currently thinking of changing my rating system, so it'll be out of five stars for the time being).

Saturday, 28 November 2009


I know it isn't Teaser Tuesday. But I'm going to give you a paragraph from a book called "Monkey Taming" by Judith Fathallah. My review for this book will be up tomorrow. I thought this paragraph was so beautifully crafted and carried so much meaning that I knew it had to be shared.

"Ten per cent of anorexics die. There is no getting around that, no returning from it, no use in its denial. Mental illness can be fatal, and the degeneration of a once bright, happy person is no easier to watch than death by cancer. So don't invite it. Because there is a time (for me, about October) when you know it isn't normal any more, but you encourage it for kicks and in hope of thinness. It's the hate-love of the matador for the bull. But it isn't a bull, it's a monkey, and monkeys swing and jump and run and trick you from behind. Then one day they have you by the throat with long, strong, clawing fingers, and you cannot get free any more."

Friday, 27 November 2009

Review: Dancing with Ana

First and foremost, I just want to say how pretty Dancing with Ana looked when it arrived. I don't know if the author personally sends out the copies but it was packaged really nicely (had its own plastic wallet). And the letter was printed on that posh paper (there's probably a name for it but I don't know it).

Dancing with Ana is written by Nicole Barker and if you don't know what it's about, here is the blurb:

Beth is a lucky girl... She comes from a loving family. She has three best friends. She loves to surf and lives five minutes from the beach. She also recently discovered that the boy she's grown up with has the most amazing green eyes... Beth has every reason to smile. Every reason to be happy. Every reason to feel blessed.

Then why is she sticking her fingers down her throat?

There is no girl called Ana in this story and I didn't really expect there to be. When I read the title I thought of anorexia nervosa. Some people with eating disorders shorten or, in my opinion, humanise their demons by giving them a name. Ana can be short for anorexia nervosa whilst Mia can be short for bulimia nervosa. Upon reading the blurb, I thought this book would be much darker than it actually is. It definitely touches upon anorexia nervosa but I felt that there was something it lacked. I can't put my finger on it though. By all rights it was a good read. I think that it may also have something to do with the length of the book. Granted, it was 170 pages but the font was relatively large compared to most books I've read.

I liked the characters in this book. Jeremy, Beth's best friend (or is he something more?), cares about Beth. He notices the change in her and tries to stop her on her ultimately destructive path. As do Beth's friend's, Jenny, Melanie and Rachel. They all agreed to diet but stop when they've reached their target weight, which is in the healthy range. Beth doesn't. I particularly liked Rachel. She had her own problems going on in the story but still found the courage to fight back.

I didn't really understand Beth's path in the story but then again, I don't think you really can unless you've been down that path yourself. It started off as a diet and then spiralled out of control. She was determined to exercise self-control to the point where I don't think she even knew why she was doing it anymore. One of the reasons that is hinted at is the pain from when her father left. But it was many years ago and it is only mentioned a few times and then largely at the end of the book. I think this is the something I didn't like about the book. I didn't think it was believable that she would suddenly do it because she was dealing with her father's abandonment years after it had happened. I'm not saying it couldn't happen, I'm just saying I didn't find it believable.

The plot itself is interesting. I wanted to know what what would happen to Beth. Would she be able to overcome her obsession with food? Would her friends notice how much the "diet" meant to her? There's a scene where Beth collapses because her body just can't take it. But a more poignant scene is the first time Beth gives in to eating when she isn't meant to. She feels she has to make herself sick to get rid of it. The words afterwards describes some of the horrors of what she has just done, "Her belly felt empty again, but her throat felt raw. So raw."

Did this book keep me reading? In a word: yes. Even though I read this during the read-a-thon, I wanted to keep reading. I needed to know how Beth would turn out. Would Jeremy be able to help her? Would her mother or brother notice? There were so many questions I wanted answered. But the one question I don't think was answered was simply, why?

I would recommend this book, contrary to my rather mixed review. I would just advise you that it focuses more on one girl's journey with anorexia than the reasons behind it.


Reviews Coming Soon to a Blog Near You.... (Or err, this one)

I was off of school today (ill) so I thought I'd catch up on reviews. I've got one coming tonight. And I've prescheduled reviews over the following days. I ouldn't be totally unproductive today.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Review: Fallen

As promised, here is my review of Fallen which is written by Lauren Kate. Fallen was the first book I read as part of the read-a-thon. It's taken a long time to get this review up! Here is the blurb:

Daniel's gaze caught hers, and her breath caught in her throat. She recognized him from somewhere. But she would have remembered meeting someone like him. She would have remembered feeling as absolutely shaken up as she did right now.

But what do you do when the person you've spent your whole life looking forkeeps slipping out of your grasp? What if the person you are meant to be with can never be yours?

Dangerously addictive and darkly romantic, FALLEN is the ultimate gothic love story - a page turning thriller about fallen angels.

I. Loved. This. Book.

You can't comprehend my love of this book! I just... argh... what I mean to say is, I am sorely tempted to re-read this book. And I shall be getting it as a present for my friend for Christmas. It is also exactly a month until the release of Fallen in shops!

Characters? The main character is a girl called Luce. She is a very likeable character who has been sent to Sword & Cross by her parents. Sword & Cross seems to be a school for those who have had, or caused, bad things to happen. It's like a reform school. Luce was sent there after the night of the fire, but I won't say anymore than that. You'll have to read the book to find out what happened that night.

Cam is a good looking, sweet guy. He takes an interest in Luce and is always looking out for Luce. Unfortunately, everytime Luce wants to have a proper conversation and get to know Cam, she is interrupted by Gabbe, a blonde girl who Luce can't help but take a bit of a dislike too.

The other main male character is Daniel. He is "sublimely gorgeous". And Luce feels like she knows him, even when she believes she would remember someone like him. But any attempts to get to know Daniel are shunned by his outward attempts at distancing himself from her. So why does Luce feel drawn to Daniel if he clearly doesn't want to get to know her?

The plot of this book is amazing, I never would have guessed the truth of what was happening! It had me hooked until the end and I had to take a minute at the end of reading this (during the readathon) to just smile and remember how great the book was - and maybe some squealing and yearning for the next book Torment.

The ending? I'm sorry but if you choose to buy this book and read to the end, you will be left in suspense for the next book, Torment.

Overall, this book was superb! I loved, loved, loved, loved, loved it! And I'm buying it as a present for my friend for Christmas!

Characters - 10/10 (and I've worked out that I'm not a good judge of character)

Plot - 10/10 -but I'd give it more if I could-

Hookability (ability to keep you reading) - 10/10

Yup, that's full marks - 30/30
I really did love it =)

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Oh Dear

That blog everyday until Christmas didn't go well. Oops. And the annoying thing is I have half of some reviews written for posts. I'm back at school this week. What's been happening with me recently?

On Sunday I was in a dance show at some theatre whose name escapes me! It was really fun (and scary)! I was in two dances. One was a street jazz dance. The other was contemporary. It was nerve racking but I enjoyed it =)