The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson

The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson

I don’t often read non-fiction, but I do happen to be a fan of Jon Ronson’s writing, and Psychology is something I absolutely love reading about. I studied Psychology when I was at school, and I also conducted a couple of psychopath-based experiments while I was at university, so when I discovered Jon had written a book all about Bob Hare’s Psychopath check-list, it went straight to the top of my pile of books to read. 

‘Suddenly, madness was everywhere, and I was determined to learn about the impact it had on the way society evolves. I’ve always believed society to be a fundamentally rational thing, but what if it isn’t? What if it is built on insanity?’

Jon travels into a world of madness which begins with the mysterious book ‘Being or Nothingness’ seemingly sent to various academics around the globe, which leads him to ‘Tony’. 
Tony resides at Broadmoor (a psychiatric hospital) after committing GBH twelve years earlier. At aged 17, after attacking a homeless man, Tony faked mental illness to get out of a prison sentence by quoting from the films such as ‘Blue Velvet’, ‘A Clockwork Orange’ ‘Hellraiser’ and even from a biography of Ted Bundy. Twelve years later he is still residing in the DSPD (Dangerous and Severe Personality Disorder) unit at Broadmoor, with seemingly no hope of release. How can Tony prove he really is sane? And more importantly, what is the real reason for keeping Tony locked up in the DSPD unit? Jon tells Tony’s story along with many other stories relating to Bob Hare’s psychopath test. 

‘”Do you feel empathy? I suppose empathy could sometimes be considered a weakness.”
“No” said Toto “I don’t feel empathy.” He shook his head like a horse with a fly on its nose. “It’s not a feeling I have. It’s not an emotion I have. Feeling sorry for people?”
“Yes.”
“I don’t feel sorry for people. No.”‘

A thoroughly fascinating read with rigorous research conducted and explained by Ronson; if you like his writing anyway, you won’t be disappointed.

Love From,

Original Book Girl

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How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

‘No one measures a life in weeks and days. You measure life in years and by the things that happen to you.’

Jill’s father has just died and she feels lost, no longer herself without her best friend; then her mother informs her she’s going to adopt a baby…

Mandy is 17 and pregnant. She’s run away from home, and the only thing she wants is to make sure her baby doesn’t have life like hers.

‘I don’t want this to be a baby from fear and sadness. I want this to be a baby from cornfields and Ferris wheels and stars.’

I was expecting this to be a cheesy predictable ‘family’ story. Well, it’s fairly predictable, but not cheesy, and definitely deeper and more significant than I had imagined. I can see this being a book that ends up on a school reading list. It touches on some key subjects: death, loss, grief, abuse, adoption and teenage pregnancy – all of which are important topics that teenagers should be exposed to in the literary world. The fact that it’s modern and relatable is always a bonus for reluctant readers.

‘Mandy smiles at me and touches her belly. “Thanks”. Her eyes are ice blue, light and clear, the kind of eyes you see on certain sheepdogs. Her smile makes me uncomfortable.’

I had no idea that I would be so unnerved by the character of Mandy, presumably it was Sara Zarr’s intention to give her this psychopathic air about her, and there are significant facts about her past that – without explicitly stating in the novel – perhaps give us an insight as to why she’s become the sort of person she has. The ending is no surprise, but Zarr’s writing is engaging and her characters (perhaps with the occasional exception of Mandy) are relatable. I would definitely recommend it, especially to read during winter given the lovely book cover. :)

Suitable for age 14+

Love From,

Original Book Girl

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Daughter of Smoke and Bone & Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke and Bone & Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

‘Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well.’

Karou lives two lives, she’s a 17 year-old art student living in the beautiful city of Prague, but she’s also an errand girl collecting teeth for a monstrous creature called Brimstone, the closest thing she has to family. Raised half in the human-world, and half in Elsewhere, Karou is plagued by the sensation that she doesn’t really know who she is. Suddenly she is no longer safe, a war is starting in Elsewhere and Karou needs to find the answers…

‘She had been innocent once, a little girl playing with feathers on the floor of a devil’s lair. She wasn’t innocent now, but she didn’t know what to do about it. This was her life: magic and shame and secrets and teeth and a deep, nagging hollow at the center of herself where something was most certainly missing.’

Initially I was quite sceptical about reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I don’t often read fantasy/sci fi, and my least favourite genre is ‘dark romance’ with the usual vampires, angels, werewolves etc. 
After reading this book for a little while, becoming more and more engrossed, suddenly angels appeared in the story, and I panicked! I thought for a horrible moment I’d picked up one of these awful dark romance books, having been lulled in to thinking it was great by the masses (the fifty shades effect, yuck!), but fortunately, this was not the case. This is the good sci-fi, the great sci-fi, the Pullman/Gaiman kind of sci-fi, and I loved it. Who doesn’t want to read about a girl with blue hair collecting teeth, finding wishes, and talking to a half-woman half-snake creature everyday? It is safe to say that the angels play an important role but there are many more creatures besides, including incredible ones Laini has seemingly just plucked out of her imagination. 

‘Revulsion roiled like snakes in the pit of her belly, and from within the deadness of her shock she was lit with fury – at the universe, for this newest cruelty. At him, for being the one left alive.’

The first book is very exciting; starting off with much adventure and many unanswered questions. It turns slightly more romantic towards the end but with a nice big twist to finish it off avoiding that sickly sweet scenario you get with some fantasy books. The second book – Days of Blood and Starlight – amazingly, I found it infinitely better than the first. It was so much darker, more adult, more extreme. There are even more twists, more pain and heartache, but it is brilliantly executed. So often you get the feeling that the ‘middle’ book in a trilogy is just to waste time, just to spread out the story out before you get to the big finish. I definitely did not feel that way with this book. Ultimately it does lead to another cliff-hanger, and sets the plot up very well for the third book, but I didn’t feel cheated. I absolutely loved it. 

I highly recommend these books; whether you read lots of sci-fi, or only a little, this is a fantastic new trilogy, and Laini Taylor is definitely one to watch out for. 

Suitable for age 14+

Love From,

Original Book Girl

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Dolly by Susan Hill

Dolly by Susan Hill

Set in the dank dark landscape of the English fens, orphan Edward Cayley is sent to spend the summer with his Aunt Kestrel, whom he has never met. With him is his spoilt and spiteful cousin Leonora, also visiting for the summer. After Leonora’s birthday wish for a beautiful Indian doll is not fulfilled, the furious rage she unleashes unsettles Edward and haunts him for many years to come. Years later when Edward and Leonora are the only surviving members of the family, he returns to the the fens, and discovers the frightening consequences of Leonora’s actions, which are inescapable…

‘In the distance he heard the sound of paper rustling and the muffled crying of Dolly, buried beneath the earth.’

The problem with reading ghost stories by Susan Hill, is that her fans expect it to be as good (if not better) than The Woman in Black. While I will say this one isn’t quite as frightening, I also don’t think they’re particularly comparable. Dolly is quite a short story, only 153 pages long, but it feels a lot shorter. The majority of the book is leading up to the terrifying consequences of Leonora’s actions, which means that 80% of the story is spent on the edge of your seat waiting…

‘The grasses whisper, the wind moves among the gravestones. And somewhere just about here, by the low wall, another sound, not like the grass but like paper rustling. But there is no paper.’

What I liked the most, were her brilliant descriptions of the English fens, and the old gothic decaying house. Her writing style is such that you could read any of her books and be happy just reading her atmospheric writing, even if the story isn’t perfect. I would however highly recommend Dolly – it is a short but intriguing ghost story, great for reading in front of the fire on a winter’s evening. Just don’t expect it to be the next Woman in Black.

Love From,

Original Book Girl

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The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

‘It seemed like forever ago, like we’ve had this brief but still infinite forever. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.’

As a big fan of John Green’s novels, it might seem strange that I haven’t reviewed any his books on my blog, yet.

In fact, after I read The Fault in Our Stars, I was so blown away that I never quite knew how I could review such a fantastic novel, and I didn’t feel quite right discussing his previous work before I talked about my all-time favourite. I continued to put off writing this review in the hopes that I could find the perfect way to describe the book, but the fact is, you can’t describe it, you can only read it and fall in love with it the way I and millions of others did.

‘But it is the nature of stars to cross, and never was Shakespeare more wrong than when he has Cassius note, ‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves.’

Hazel is a 16 year-old terminal cancer patient whose parents force her to attend a support group to get her out of the house, and socialise with other children her age. There she meets 17 year-old Augustus Waters, an amputee in remission from osteosarcoma – they become friends, and she introduces him to her favourite book: An Imperial Affliction. The book is about a girl with cancer who lives an interesting life, that is until the book ends mid-sentence. Hazel has tried countless times to contact the author but to no avail. However, Augustus has a plan…

‘Tell me my copy is missing the last twenty pages or something.

Hazel Grace, tell me I have not reached the end of this book.

OH MY GOD DO THEY GET MARRIED OR NOT OH MY GOD WHAT IS THIS”’

I loved the plot-line with the unfinished novel, which ultimately creates a brilliant – although somewhat painful – adventure for the teens. The descriptions of Holland are enchanting, and coming from someone who lived there for 3 years, they are also fairly accurate, and for me felt wonderfully familiar.

‘”Do you see that?” I did. There were elm trees everywhere along the canals, and these seeds were blowing out of them. But they didn’t look like seeds. They looked for all the world like miniaturized rose petals drained of their color. These pale petals were gathering in the wind like flocking birds – thousands of them like a spring snowstorm.’

This story may be about children with cancer, but really, it’s not at all: it’s about life. Hazel is a normal teenage girl and Augustus is a normal teenage boy; they just happen to suffer a lot more than most. The characters that John Green creates are so unbearably realistic, and feel so real, that when the book ends you will just be sitting there, wondering what on earth just happened to you.

‘I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, then all at once.’

Ultimately this is a funny, painful, realistic and altogether wonderful book, John Green has truly outdone himself. His style is so unique, it isn’t really comparable to any other YA authors. However, it stands strong alongside my other all-time favourite YA book(s), The Chaos Walking Trilogy. I absolutely cannot wait to see what he brings out next.

Suitable for age 14+

Love From,

Original Book Girl

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The Man Who Forgot His Wife by John O’Farrell

The Man Who Forgot His Wife by John O’Farrell

If you liked the light-hearted, funny yet poignant writing style of David Nicholls’ ‘One Day’, then you are sure to like Farrell’s witty yet emotional journey of ‘The Man Who Forgot His Wife’.

One day, Jack Vaughan suffers a psychogenic fugue; all his personal memories have been wiped, apparently due to ‘stress’. As it turns out, Jack is in the middle of divorcing his wife, a wife he has no knowledge of even having! He sets about trying to work out what went so wrong in his marriage, and blindly wondering if he can salvage his old life.

‘Hang on, you haven’t explained anything… Where are we? Who is that beautiful woman?’
‘That, Vaughan, was the house you lived in for twenty years, and that was Madeline. That was the woman you’re about to divorce.’

This was a very funny and entertaining read. Not ground-breaking by any means, but definitely worth reading on your day off. 
It’s one of those interesting concepts everyone likes to ponder on occasion. What if you did forget your wife, your children and your life completely? What if you met the woman you were in the middle of divorcing only to fall in love all over again?

The story is brutally honest, and doesn’t sugarcoat love and marriage by any means, but it’s engrossing, sometimes laugh-out-loud, and definitely a book I would recommend for someone looking for a ‘holiday read’. 

Love From

Original Book Girl

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The Vanishing Act by Mette Jakobsen

The Vanishing Act by Mette Jakobsen

This is a fairly short but utterly engrossing read.

The Vanishing Act is narrated by 13 year-old Minou, as she tells us the story of how her mother disappeared from the deserted island that they live on, a year previously. It is both magical and tender as we join Minou in her search for the truth.

‘Suddenly it was the loneliest night, and it was Mama’s voice, and it was the saddest song I had ever heard. It sounded as if she was singing from the depths of the frozen sea. My breath was not my own and everything felt wrong.’

Much like ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’, this story is told in a very simple childlike format, which makes you feel all the more for the young naive Minou. She and her father live on the island, and the only other two people also on the island are ‘Priest’ and ‘Boxman’ the magician, and a dog called ‘No Name’. While she is adamant that her mother is still alive and has simply run away, the others on the island are certain she has been drowned at sea. Minou decides to use her logic and compile as many facts as she can to prove her mother is still alive.

‘It is in the heart and not in the words – not even in the most beautiful ones – but in the heart, in the skeleton bird pushing against your chest, wanting to fly, that we know for certain who and what we love. That is all we have, and all there is.’ 

The characters are wonderfully written, and at the same time, both lots and very little happens in the duration of the story.  It is a real gem of a novel. Short, intriguing and ultimately heartbreaking, you will be glad you took a moment to read it. 

It is classified as adult fiction, but I would say it’s very much a crossover book. There’s nothing inappropriate for a younger reader, so I’d suggest it’s suitable for age 13+

Love From

Original Book Girl

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