Friday, 2 December 2016

Dream a Little Dream & Dream On by Kerstin Gier

Dream a Little Dream
(& Dream On)
by Kerstin Gier


Summary: Mysterious doors with lizard-head knobs. Talking stone statues. A crazy girl with a hatchet. Yes, Liv's dreams have been pretty weird lately. Especially the one where she's in a graveyard at night, watching four boys conduct dark magic rituals.

The strangest part is that Liv recognizes the boys in her dream. They're classmates from her new school in London, the school where she's starting over because her mom has moved them to a new country (again). But what's really scaring Liv is that the dream boys seem to know things about her in real life, things they couldn't possibly know--unless they actually are in her dreams? Luckily, Liv never could resist a good mystery, and all four of those boys are pretty cute....
I'm reviewing the first two books in this trilogy together because I read them back to back, and because...well, I just don't have much to say about them.

I liked both books a lot, but the first book is better. The second feels very much like a filler book -- there is a plot to it, but it's one of those ones where the actual plot is overshadowed so much by the characters and filler stuff to the point where it feels like nothing much happens. The first book had more of a balance.

I really loved Kerstin Gier's Ruby Red trilogy and this series, while not quite as good, has a lot of the same elements that made me love that series. It's cute and fun, with a great cast of characters. I love the sibling relationships, I love that it shows step-families in a positive light instead of vilifying them the way a lot of stories do...the only thing that would make me enjoy it a lot more is to have more good female friendships, but I've seen reviews that promise the third book delivers on that.

My main issue with the books, although it doesn't bother me that much, is that the main character seems to have way more chemistry with her soon-to-be step brother than her love interest, especially in the second book (which I don't think was intentional, it might even be something that came across differently when it was translated to English from German). I'm hoping so much that that changes in the final book.

To sum up: these books are really fun, quick reads that make me laugh and smile, and I have high hopes for the third and final book which is releasing next year. Kerstin Gier is quickly becoming one of my go-to authors to snap me out of a reading slump (perhaps not a good thing seeing as I need to wait for her books to be translated from German before I get to read them).

I'd rate the first book 4 stars out of 5, the second 3 stars.

Later.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

The Hungry Ghost Festival by Jen Campbell

The Hungry Ghost Festival
by Jen Campbell


Summary: The Hungry Ghost Festival concerns misremembered and strange things. It's about girls praying to The Angel of the North. It's about a mermaid born in the river Tyne. It's about Chinese lanterns, teenagers at the beach, and a family who run a sacred farm.

You pick my arms up and spread them outso we are matching. Our woollen scarvestouch our noses - catch our breath
like cloth balloons. We dig our feet into the soiland stamp down into the very deep.
Somewhere below, the river sleeps with a lady
screeching. She has arms that could carry boulders
to the edge of cliffs. We wait for herto throw us down...
I'm quite fussy with poetry. If I love a poem, then it'll stick with me, the lines of it rattling around my head and coming to the surface randomly for years to come. But there is way more poetry that I don't like than poetry I've loved.

And I had such high hopes for this collection. I was so convinced it was going to make it onto the small list of poetry I've loved. I've watched a few videos of Jen's where she reads/performs some of her poems aloud and I've adored them. I've read a few she's posted online and it was love at first line. I thought her poetry was exactly my cup of tea, so I expected greatness from this collection.

But...I didn't like it. There was only one poem I sort of loved (the one quoted in the summary). None of the other poems had any of the things that make me love a poem, or any of the things that made me love the poems of hers I'd read/heard before picking this up. I don't know if maybe it's because this collection came first and her style has evolved over time or if it's just that the themes of this collection didn't click with me or went over my head.

Quite a few of the poems were the type that make me feel stupid because I just didn't get them. I hate that feeling so much when I'm reading poetry. I couldn't even begin to interpret those ones or find a meaning in them (and I can forgive that obscurity in poetry, or feeling like the point went over my head, if I like the writing or find my own meaning in them but that didn't happen with those ones).

Some of them felt like maybe they might be beautiful had I heard them read aloud by the author who would get the rhythm of them just right but I stumbled over the lines clumsily in my head (worse when I tried to read them aloud) and got frustrated because it was more like tripping on stones in a stream than words flowing like water.

This is all just my long winded way of saying that this collection was not my kind of thing. I still think Jen is a wonderful writer and poet (and person, based on her youtube channel), but this wasn't the right collection for me. I just didn't get it, or find anything much in it to love. Hopefully the next book or poetry collection of hers will be more my kind of thing.

I'd rate it 2.5 stars out of 5. It wasn't bad, just not right for me personally but I've seen many 5 star ratings and reviews so I'm probably in the minority.

Later.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Burial Rites
by Hannah Kent


Summary: Set against Iceland's stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution.

Horrified at the prospect of housing a convicted murderer, the family at first avoids Agnes. Only Tóti, a priest Agnes has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her. But as Agnes's death looms, the farmer's wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they've heard.
I both loved and hated this book. It took me over a year to read it. Granted, I was listening to it on audiobook and I am a lot slower with them than I am with regular books, but still, it took a long time to get through. It was one of those books that was really, really easy to stop reading and difficult to pick it back up again.

What I loved: It was a really, really beautiful book. The writing was wonderful and so atmospheric. The way Hannah Kent wrote the setting turned Iceland into almost a character itself. And the actual characters? They were very real and complex and I loved that.

I found the story of Agnes really interesting, and the book made me care about her. Made me frustrated by her and angry on her behalf, but mostly just really sad for her. She was written so convincingly that sometimes I forgot I was reading a fictionalised version of a real woman, rather than a book about the real Agnes.

My problem with the book was that it was very, very, very slow.

Nothing much actually happens in the book until near the end. It's very much a character driven story. We go into it knowing how it's going to end, and it's just this slow build up to that, and we learn the Why of it all at a snails pace, little details of Agnes's life before her arrest dripping into the story, taking forever to get to the part we (or I) actually wanted to know about: the night of the murders, the reason they happened at all.

As for the format...it took me a really long time to listen to it on audio, but I'd still recommend it. The narration was fantastic (and, if you're like me and stumble over pronunciation of Icelandic words and names, it really helped hearing them said out loud by the narrator rather than trying to figure them out on my own).

Basically, the book was beautiful in so many ways and really interesting (the real story of Agnes is fascinating and haunting), and if you're the type of person who loves character driven stories then this is definitely one worth picking up, but if you like your stories fast paced and plot-driven, it might not be for you. I'd rate it 4 stars out of 5.

Later.

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