Series Review: ‘Girl Online’ by Zoe Sugg [Spoilers!]

Warning, warning! This review contains spoilers!

I’ll admit it. When I found out that Zoe (Zoella) Sugg was releasing a novel, I rolled my eyes a little bit. It just felt like a publicity ploy. But I watched her channel a lot when I was younger and I love seeing how successful she is now, so I didn’t hesitate to buy her books when they were released. As I’m writing this, the series stands at three books: Girl Online, Girl Online: On Tour, and Girl Online: Going Solo.

My honest opinion is that people tend to be either too generous or too harsh in their reviews, usually in response to Zoe herself. If they’re diehard fans, they’re very happy to rate them five stars without even having opened them, and if they’re more skeptical of Zoe and her fame, they’ll a little bit mean. As for the supposed ghost writer drama? I don’t really care. If the ghost writer herself doesn’t care, why should I?

The books follow a teenage girl, Penny. She’s a little awkward, but finds solace on her online blog. Then she meets superstar, Noah, and they fall madly in love. But their relationship is hardly perfect, and they both have a lot of other stuff going on.

After reading the first book, Girl Online, I had one immediate thought. And that thought was simply that I wish that the main character, Peggy, felt a bit further removed than Zoella’s online personality. Like Zoe, Peggy is a blogger. She suffers from anxiety. She lives in Brighton. She’s extremely family-orientated. She has a gay best friend.

I mean, I feel like I have to qualify this a bit. Because you know what? I get it. Representation is important. And it’s great to see that Zoe used her book to represent things that are important to her. Anxiety, I suppose, being the big one here. But it would’ve nice to see more of a distinction between Peggy and Zoe.

And I wish that Zoe hadn’t tried to fit so much into such a short series. Following a fairly standard romance plot, I feel like she didn’t have the opportunity to explore those important matters. Since the books focus so much on the romance, there’s little room for Zoe to really develop Peggy’s relationship with her anxiety. The blogging aspect falls to the wayside. And her bestie, Elliot’s, problems also jump up from time to time with little consistency.

When discussing these with a friend (who has also watched a fair few of Zoe’s videos), I said: I mean, sure, it’s not really my kind of book. But it’s quick. It’s fun. And it’s exactly what a lot of her viewers will want from her.

Having now read all three, I still stand by that. These aren’t the kind of books that are going to make you think deeply about life. The romance is too clichéd, the characters lack depth, and the writing style is far from poetic. But I don’t really think her fans were expecting the next Booker prize winner.

In the end, it’s a simple book. But it has enough of that Zoella charm to make you smile once in a while and has a pretty cute romance to boot. And the anxiety aspect, close to Zoe and many of her fans’ hearts, is likely to win over many a reader.


I do have to say that the last book, Going Solo, is probably the one that disappointed me the most. Why? Because it fell into one of my least favourite traps: the unnecessary love triangle. In my mind, an unnecessary love triangle is when despite multiple love interests, everyone knows who is going to end up with who. Seriously, with Noah and Penny’s break-up at the end of On Tour, there was a great opportunity to make this all about Penny. Penny and her blog. Penny and her life with anxiety. Penny and her friendship with Elliot. But nope. We had to throw in Callum. We had to throw him in, bring Noah back, and suffocate in the drama.

A lot of books aimed at younger audiences have this kind of love triangle, and I just hate them. I feel like it’s a total waste of time. For me, it’s the kind of device that adds little to the plot and absolutely nothing to character development. And, to be honest, for a book titled Going Solo, the huge focus on romance did seem a bit out of place.

Overall, these are a quick and sweet read. I didn’t love them, but I can see how they’re popular with younger readers. I just thought there were a lot of promising aspects sacrificed in the name of romance. In regards to the possibility of continuation? Well, I think it’s all wrapped up rather nicely now, but I wouldn’t say no to a completely new series.

How did you feel about this little trio? Do you think reviewers are being too harsh or too kind? Would you be happy to see this series continued?


Reading Chinese Classics: ‘The Art of War’ by Sun Tzu

Okay, okay. I’ll admit it. I’m currently making my way through Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin. It’s one of those pesky Four Chinese Classics and one of the obvious picks for this personal challenge of mine.

It’s also super long. So I’m working my way through it slowly (very, very slowly) and decided picked up something a little shorter during one of my breaks. And so, I picked up a copy of The Art of War by Sun Tzu.


The Art of War is undoubtedly a book that I never thought I was going to read. I mean, a book all about battling? That’s not exactly up my alley.

On a non-content based note, I also just want to talk about the copy that I picked up. I picked up Watkins’ The Art of War: The New Illustrated Edition translated by Samuel B. Griffith. Guys, this copy is freakin’ beautiful. The red is this beautiful fabric, the characters are a stunning shiny gold, the pages are thick and glossy… Is it obvious that I’m swooning? It even has one of those fancy bookmark things attached (…what are those called, anyway?).

This edition comes with a great introduction. It includes a brief overview of China at the time and a biography of Sun Tzu. The contents itself is heavily footnoted. It has useful clarifications, references specific characters… I just can’t imagine how it could possibly have been better done.

On to the content! This definitely isn’t like anything else I’ve ever read. Essentially, it’s a list of guidelines on how to successfully win battles. I’ll admit that it didn’t exactly thrill me, but I did genuinely find it super interesting.

I mean, it’s been around a long time. And because of that, there wasn’t exactly anything that I hadn’t heard before. But I can definitely see how something like this was once revolutionary.

Overall, I’m really glad that I looked a lil outside my comfort zone and picked this up. Although I was more than skeptical, I actually really enjoyed this.

Let me know if you’ve read this before! Did you love it? Hate it? And if you haven’t read it, do you think you’ll ever be inclined to do so?

Reading Chinese Classics: ‘The Dream of the Red Chamber’ by Cao Xueqin

In my first post of this series, I talked about reading Six Records of a Floating Life. My next pick was a recommendation from my father, The Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin. It’s what I (and no doubt, many others) would call the Chinese classic.

The copy that I decided to go for is translated by H. Bencraft Joly. It took me a while to realise that this version only has the first 56 chapters on this massive saga, and I had to pick up three volumes from Penguin to finish it off.


I’m not going to beat around the bush on this one. This took me ages to get through. I was reading 100-150 pages a day and even though that’s not usually too much for me, I really struggled.

And so, I found myself breaking this book up a lot with graphic novels and comics. I guess I just needed a break. Seriously, no matter how much I read, for a while there it seriously felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere.

this was just a hard read for me. I found it hard to get involved in the story, I found it hard to keep up with all of the characters (trust me, there are a lot)… And I’ll be honest. I found it hard to keep up with the story and may have opened a CliffNotes tab or two to make sure I was on the right track.

But I was dedicated. I wanted to read it. I wanted to make sure I was understanding the story. I made sure to pick it up at least once a day and to just give it a go.

By the time I’d made my way through Tuttle’s publication and picked up Penguin’s, I was well and truly exhausted by this story. But Penguin’s edition really surprised me. The translation was just so much better.

I just loved it. I loved the characters. After 900 pages of feeling… well, not a lot,  I was finally able to totally fall in love with the romance. I was able to appreciate the characters and what they were going through. I began to see just how far these incredible families were falling. How they were struggling with less cash than they were used to, but had no desire to give up on the high class customs they had grown up with.

Honestly, I just began to recognise it as a damn good story. Who doesn’t love the story of a fall from grace? Who doesn’t love a forbidden romance? Who doesn’t love reading about some poetry, drinking games, and a good old devious plot or two?

This book ended up surprising me in all the best ways. I only wish that I’d started with the Penguin translation!

Have you read this Chinese classic? How did you fare juggling all the characters? Let me know your thoughts!

From Manga to Anime: ‘Orange’ by Ichigo Takano [Spoilers!]

Warning, warning! This review contains spoilers!

A few months ago I was sitting on a plane and happened to watch the film, Orange directed by Kojiro Hashimoto. In the next few months, the manga and the anime became wickedly popular. So while my first encounter with the tale was with the film, I thought I’d share my thoughts on the two more popular mediums.

Knowing that the anime was months away from being released, I took the plunge and Orange: The Complete Collection Volumes 1 and 2 during a visit to Dubai.

With the manga, I fell in love with the story all over again. It follows Naho, a relatively girl with a few close friends, who gets a letter from her future-self. The letter, in short, gives her instructions on how to save her new classmate (and crush!), Kakeru, from himself. Add in Suwa, her bestie who’s been in love with her forever, and three other friends (who, to be honest, mostly feel like comic relief) and it all makes for nice story about friendship and romance… it just has a wee bit of a twist.

Can we just talk about Suwa for a minute? Suwa is the freaking MVP in this story, guys. This applies to both the manga and the anime (even  more so with the anime, to be honest), but I just couldn’t wait to talk about him. He is the best flipping friend on the planet.

Like, come on. He’s fancied Naho forever! Then he befriends this new guy, fully knowing that Naho is going to fancy the new guy. Then he helps said new guy hook up with her. Even when new guy flounders and asks him advice a thousand times, Suwa is calm, cool and collected. He just wants his pals to be happy.

I mean, plot-wise? Yeah, no one knows why all the friends didn’t just add a little P.S. to the end of their letters. A little Hi! Everyone wrote letters, by the way! would have gone a long way, am I right? And yeah, there were definitely times when… well, it felt a little contrived. If I were Kakeru, I definitely would’ve questioned why all my pals were suddenly volunteering to run a relay with me. Like, surely a relay isn’t such a big deal, right?

But who cares a few plot-holes? …well, I do. I do a lil. But the rest of the story was enough to make me forget about that for the most part. It was sweet! I loved the friendships and thought the romance was adorable. And it had enough depth to make it more than just a rom-com.


A couple of months later, the anime was released and I pretty much lost my mind. I liked the anime. I really did. I loved the art, I loved the music, I loved the voice actors. There were definitely moments when I thought the pacing was off and the art dipped in quality, but overall I thought everyone did a super good job.

If I’m going to be critical, I did feel like the anime focused a little too much on the romance. Even though it didn’t really stray from the manga all that much, I just sort of got that vibe. A terrible description, I know.

But that extra focus made me feel like the story was almost taking a manic-pixie-dream-girl approach. Even though Naho isn’t that chirpy girl that we associate with the trope, the focus on the romance did imply that she is going save him. That it isn’t going to be the friendship or the memories. That it’s simply because fancies him back.

Maybe I’m looking into it too much. With the Athletics Day and the final episode, the anime definitely redeemed itself on that front, but… oh, there were just moments. There were moments when I was thought: Really? Is the crush really that important?

But overlooking that, I really liked it. I thought it was a really great adaptation of the manga. I especially liked how they handled the time-jumps. I loved the confession scene. Like, come on. Whose heart wasn’t beating through their chest at that one?

Ultimately, I probably enjoyed the manga a touch more than the anime, but I’m still super happy that I watched it. While it had its ups-and-downs, that final episode totally sold it for me. I finished the anime completely and utterly satisfied.

Did you read/watch Orange? Did you think it was worth the hype?

Review: ‘She-Hulk, The Complete Collection: Volume 1’ by Dan Slott

Some of you may recognise this from one of my hauls earlier this year. I’ve read bits and bobs about Jennifer Walters, but never picked up one of her own comics. But I totally loved the idea of her as a character, and was super keen to get into Dan Slott’s She-Hulk, The Complete Collection: Volume 1.

For some reason, Dan Slott’s She-Hulk really just didn’t do it for me. Chiefly, I didn’t find myself loving the character as much as I thought I would. Even though I still adore the concept, I found myself getting more and more irritated with Jen. I didn’t find her humorous or endearing. I didn’t feel sympathetic towards her and I certainly didn’t feel as though I connected with her on any level. I just wasn’t invested in her.



The art was nice. I didn’t hate it. I didn’t fall in love with it either, but that’s fine. It was just nice.

As for the issues themselves, there were some hits and misses. That’s always expected. The collection starts with Jen as a hot mess. She’s partying hard, shirking her responsibilities as a lawyer, and annoying her fellow Avengers to the point that they decide to boot her from the team. The rest of the collection follows her as she… well, as she gets her shit together. She learns to balance Jennifer with She-Hulk, and combine her abilities as a lawyer with her superhuman strength.

I particularly enjoyed reading the parts where She-Hulk and Spiderman got to interact. Although I wouldn’t call any of the collection overwhelmingly serious, their conversations and quips brought a nice light-heartedness – a nice humour – to the collection. I also really loved the dynamic between She-Hulk and Southpaw. Again, it brought a great humour to the collection.

Overall, I guess I didn’t dislike this collection. There were some really excellent issues. It had me smiling, it had me laughing. Jennifer Walters was totally kickass as She-Hulk and totally kickass as her lawyer human self. But it took me a long time to read, y’know? I wasn’t dying to pick it up whenever I had a spare moment.

But even if it didn’t reel me in, I’d still recommend it to anyone who wants to find out a little more about Jen. It’s a mammoth collection and includes nice little snippets about her origin story and all that good stuff.

There was humour! There was action! There was even a little bit of sex. It had all the right ingredients for a wicked awesome story. So sure, it didn’t exactly hook me, but I did enjoy reading it and I imagine that many people will enjoy it way more than I did.

Let me know if you’ve read this and enjoyed it! I’m tempted to pick up Scott Byrne’s The Sensational She-Hulk, because I’ve heard so many good things about it. I’m hoping that I fall in love with his run in that same way I’d hoped to with Dan Slott’s!

A Chatty Review: ‘Micro’ by Michael Crichton and Richard Preston [Spoilers!]

Warning, warning! This review contains spoilers! It’s also going to make more sense if you’ve already read the book!

I picked up up Micro on a whim. I knew of Michael Crichton, but had never read anything up him. Besides, it was on sale. It seemed like a win-win.

Micro follows the story of seven graduate students. Peter, under the impression that powerful CEO has arranged his brother, Eric’s, death, goes after said CEO. Vin Drake doesn’t respond to this too kindly, and shrinks Peter, the other graduate students, and an employee, down to a size that is smaller than an insect’s. Desperate to get back to their normal size, they struggle through the Hawaii’n forest. But the students are essentially easy prey in this new world, and Vin Drake will not rest till they are all dead.

It follows the same formula as many other stories of its genre: each student gets picked off… one by one. So while I was scared that the sci-fi element would put me off this book, I was soon thoroughly enjoying it.


I liked reading about all the students as they battled giant bugs and whatnot. I thought it was fun and exciting. And, much to my surprise, I actually really enjoyed the characters. I liked that Peter became brave enough to take on a leadership role, that Danny was revealed to be a total butthole when he let Jenny die, that Karen and Rick had an undeniable chemistry the entire way through.

But can we just talk about the deaths for a moment? I mean, it’s not like I expected everyone to make it through alive, but some of deaths really upset me. …okay, only one death really upset me. So, the students are basically in the mess because Peter believes that Drake has killed his brother, Eric, right? When I realised that Eric was actually alive? And then when Peter died? Honestly, I almost lost my mind. It was also when Peter died that I realised that anyone was fair game. It became much more exciting to me. I’d always assumed that Peter, if anyone, was going to make it out alive, so his death made the rest of the book feel more unpredictable.

In regards to the plot itself, I’ll admit that I could take it or leave it. Like I said before, it’s very typical of its broad genre. A few people are in a scary situation, and some of them die. The ins and outs of it all don’t really matter, do they? But all the bug stuff was super interesting. I mean, I was cringing the entire time and desperately trying not to imagine it (ew!), but it felt new to me. I’ve done the shark-invested waters, the dinosaurs, the abandoned house… bugs? Not so much.

I’ve since looked up a few reviews, and was surprised to see that a lot of people really hated this book. Like, hated it with a passion. People hated Preston’s voice in the novel, they hated the plot, they hated the characters…

I didn’t have such problems. I really liked a lot of the characters. Karen and Rick? I thought they were a super cute couple. A bit predictable, maybe, but cute all the same. Sure, the characters weren’t super developed. But there were quite a few of them… and it’s a novel fewer than 400 pages that’s more guided by a sense of adventure than character. For a novel of its kind, the characters were distinct enough for me.

My major qualm with this book was that the major villain, Vin Drake, had no real motive other than greed. And I know! I know. That’s a legitimate motive. People kill for money. But it’s also the most boring motive, in my opinion. I mean, come on. Surely we can do better than that?

So overall, I ended up really enjoying this book. A bit formulaic and simplistic, I can see why some people didn’t enjoy it as much as I did, but I just thought it was a really fun read. I thought the characters were cool and had interesting relationships with each other and I totally loved the concept. All in all, I’m super glad that I picked this up and can’t wait to hunt down more of Crichton’s works.

Did you enjoy Micro? Or do you think it pales in comparison to Crichton’s other works? 

British Comedians and their Memoirs: Miranda Hart and David Mitchell

Celebrity memoirs are all the rage, so it’s no surprise that some of our favourite British comedians have released their own in the past few years. A huge fan of British panel shows, there are a few that caught my eye. For each one, I had mammoth expectations. I was then gifted Miranda Hart’s memoir, Is It Just Me? and David Mitchell’s Back Story.

To be honest? Miranda Hart probably isn’t my favourite comedian. That did probably influence my opinion on Is It Just Me?. I didn’t think I was going to like it, and I didn’t.

I don’t want to talk about it that much, because I didn’t like it. There’s just not much point in going on about it, especially because the reason I didn’t like it was the humour. And I know! I know that so many people love her humour.

If you’re already a fan of Miranda and her work, you’re probably going to love this book. There are a great anecdotes and her humour does come out really nicely. I particularly enjoyed the chapter in which she talks about the reality behind the clothes on photoshoots: they never fit and making it look like they do is an experience in itself.

Moving on! I love David Mitchell. Love him. Really, he never fails to make me laugh. And so I was surprised when Back Story disappointed me a little.

It was nice to find out a little more about him. Currently a university student myself, I found reading about his days at Cambridge particularly interesting. My favourite chapter though? By far, it was one of the later chapters that talks about meeting his wife, Victoria Cohen. It’s sweet and romantic and personal. It’s the kind of story that people dream of reading when they pick up a memoir from their favourite celeb.

I think I just found the humour a little disappointing. Sure, there were funny anecdotes here and there, but while reading them all I could think was: Wasn’t this funnier when he told this story on Would I Lie To You? Maybe it was hearing the story for the second time, maybe it was the fact I was reading instead of hearing it… It just didn’t have the same oomph. It didn’t make me laugh as hard as it did before.

So yeah, I did actually really enjoy it. It had the personality and intimacy that you really want in a celebrity memoir. The lower rating is simply because I had such high hopes, and it didn’t quite match up.


I do get the feeling that I would have enjoyed both of these books a lot more had I listened to the audiobooks and am tempted to actually do so, especially in the case of Back Story. Anyway, I wasn’t terribly excited by these two choices, but there is still hope!

There are loads more memoirs by British comedians out there that I’m looking forward to reading. Not to mention, both David Mitchell and Miranda Hart have since released two other books: Thinking About It Only Makes It Worse and Peggy and Me respectively. The former is already sitting on my shelf and I can honestly say that I am very excited to read it.