Monday, 31 December 2018

The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

The Girl in the Tower
by Katherine Arden

Summary: For a young woman in medieval Russia, the choices are stark: marriage or a life in a convent. Vasya will choose a third way: magic...  
The court of the Grand Prince of Moscow is plagued by power struggles and rumours of unrest. Meanwhile bandits roam the countryside, burning the villages and kidnapping its daughters. Setting out to defeat the raiders, the Prince and his trusted companion come across a young man riding a magnificent horse.  
Only Sasha, a priest with a warrior's training, recognises this 'boy' as his younger sister, thought to be dead or a witch by her village. But when Vasya proves herself in battle, riding with remarkable skill and inexplicable power, Sasha realises he must keep her secret as she may be the only way to save the city from threats both human and fantastical...
It took me the longest time to get into this one, with many false starts, but when it finally did hook me...it was brilliant. It was a different sort of wonderful than the first book was, but I loved it.

The world Katherine Arden has created is one of the richest and most distinctive I've read in years, and I'm in love with the way she has woven folklore into the story.

And the characters...I love them, they're all so interesting and complex -- even Vasya's horse had his own unique, and lovable, personality. Vasya was an excellent character in the first book, but I think I liked her even more in this one.

I can't really think of what more to say about the book except that I loved it and it firmly cemented this series as one of my favourite book series ever. I'd rate it 5 stars out of 5 -- in spite of the slow start, it definitely didn't suffer from middle book syndrome.

I cannot wait to read the third book (one of the only reasons I'm glad it took me so long to finish this one is that I don't have too long to wait, thankfully).

Later.

Friday, 9 November 2018

Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

Northern Lights
by Philip Pullman

Summary: When Lyra's friend Roger disappears, she and her dæmon, Pantalaimon, determine to find him.

The ensuing quest leads them to the bleak splendour of the North, where armoured bears rule the ice and witch-queens fly through the frozen skies - and where a team of scientists is conducting experiments too horrible to be spoken about.

Lyra overcomes these strange terrors, only to find something yet more perilous waiting for her - something with consequences which may even reach beyond the Northern Lights...

Well... This book was, in a word, disappointing.

I've been hearing so much hype about the book from pretty much everyone for years and years, and I don't know if that was part of the problem or if it's just one of those book series I'd have liked more had I grown up reading it.

But yeah, it was pretty thoroughly underwhelming.

I won't deny that it was well written or that it had an interesting cast of characters and elements of the story that were appealing (loved the daemons, for example) but overall I found it to be a bit on the boring side most of the time.

I am going to stick with the series, because I hate leaving them unfinished once I start, but the book didn't really leave me craving more or particularly caring about what happens to the characters after the first book ended.

I didn't feel invested in it and I'm hoping that maybe the second book will make me get what all the fuss was about.

My overall opinion of this first book can be summed up in three letters: meh.

It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't the spectacular read it was made out to be by everyone that spoke to me about it. I'd rate it 2.5 stars out of 5.

Later.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Sadie by Courtney Summers

Sadie
by Courtney Summers

Summary: Sadie hasn't had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she's been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.

But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie's entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister's killer to justice and hits the road following a few meagre clues to find him.

When West McCray—a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America—overhears Sadie's story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie's journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it's too late.

I'm not sure how to even begin to review this book. Given the subject matter, to describe it as good or great or whatever -- it just doesn't feel like the right words. But I don't have the right words.

Basically, this was one of those books that cracks you right open. It makes you care and it makes you hurt.

I loved the format of it, the way it did the Then vs Now thing in a different way than I've read before. And I really cared about the characters a lot, especially Sadie. I always love Courtney's characters and these were no exception -- she writes them raw and rough around the edges, and thoroughly impossible not to care about because she makes them feel so human.

The ending of the story bothered me. But I think maybe it was supposed to bother me. In real life, cases like this do haunt you. They do keep you up at night wondering about the what's and the why's and the how's. And this book was like that too -- it left me wondering, and it haunted me a bit. It was more realistic for that, so I can appreciate it even though it was frustrating.

To sum up: this is one of the best books I've read this year (and I've read quite a few good ones), I'd rate it 5 stars out of 5. It proved, once again, why Courtney Summers is on my insta-buy list.

Later.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Summary: Reclusive Hollywood icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant to write her story, no one is more astounded than Monique herself.

Determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career, Monique listens in fascination. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ‘80s - and, of course, the seven husbands along the way - Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. But as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.
This book is definitely one of my favourite books of the year so far. It's one of my favourite books in general really, and I could tell that was going to be the case very quickly (like, do you ever get a little bit into a book and just know that it's going to be one of the ones that sticks with you? that was me with this one).

I sat down thinking "I'll just read a chapter, just to see what it's like" (because I'm already juggling way too many Currently Reading books) and ended up reading the entire thing in one sitting because I was just so caught up in the story and entranced by the characters.

Also, it made me cry multiple times (about five times), which not only hasn't happened in quite a while, but it doesn't happen often at all but this one really got under my skin and made me care.

I loved the cast of characters, they were complex and flawed and I adored that. I think the characters were what made the book for me really. 

The book had a really diverse cast too. There were multiple gay characters, lesbian, and bisexual characters. And there was racial diversity too with the main characters being a mixed race woman with a black father and white mother, and a Cuban American woman. I will note though, none of it is own voices and being white I can't really speak for the groups being represented to say whether or not the representation was flawed or not.

Another thing I want to mention that I haven't really seen talked about much in any of the reviews is that there is an element of the Bury Your Gays trope in the book. Personally, the way it was written felt like it was nuanced and handled pretty well -- but it is A Thing in the book that I wanted to acknowledge because I know for some people it will be a deal breaker, and others would just like to go into it prepared rather than being surprised by it.

But yes... I really did love this book, a lot. It's one of the ones that I desperately want to be adapted into a mini-series (I say mini-series, because I feel like that would do more justice to the story than a movie could), partly because I want more of the story in any form I can get it, partly because it was so easy to visualize the story while reading it. 

I'd rate the book 5 out of 5 stars.

Later.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

The Phantom of the Opera
by Gaston Leroux
Summary: First published in French as a serial in 1909, "The Phantom of the Opera" is a riveting story that revolves around the young, Swedish Christine Daaé. Her father, a famous musician, dies, and she is raised in the Paris Opera House with his dying promise of a protective angel of music to guide her. After a time at the opera house, she begins hearing a voice, who eventually teaches her how to sing beautifully. All goes well until Christine's childhood friend Raoul comes to visit his parents, who are patrons of the opera, and he sees Christine when she begins successfully singing on the stage. 
The voice, who is the deformed, murderous 'ghost' of the opera house named Erik, however, grows violent in his terrible jealousy, until Christine suddenly disappears. 
The phantom is in love, but it can only spell disaster. Leroux's work, with characters ranging from the spoiled prima donna Carlotta to the mysterious Persian from Erik's past, has been immortalized by memorable adaptations. Despite this, it remains a remarkable piece of Gothic horror literature in and of itself, deeper and darker than any version that follows.  

I don't review many classics on here. Mainly because I don't read them that often. They can be more time consuming than non-classics, and the writing can be a little on the clunky side, and overall reading them can be a chore.

I say "can be" because there are exceptions. And, for me, this was one of the exceptions. It surprised me in a good way.

I mean, it definitely had its moments where it dragged because of the writing style, and there were plenty of scenes that could've been cut or edited down to improve the pace of the story without losing any of the quality...but for the most part, it was surprisingly addictive.

I read it in three sittings, but I probably would've read it cover-to-cover in one if I hadn't been tired. It was fun and funny and even though I was familiar with the story, it had me hooked.

I only really had two big issues with the book:

First of all, the representation of disfigurement/deformity. There's a trope in fiction of giving the bad guys some sort of disfigurement and there are a lot of issues with that trope (Jen Campbell explains better than I can -- about 6 minutes into the video, she discusses the topic). In saying that, the book really is a product of its time, so I can forgive its use of this literary trope because it was born of ignorance, not malice. I just wanted to acknowledge that it is an issue with the book and I'd expect better of a story written now (or of retelling's -- which I really want).

The second issue I had with the book was Raoul. He was such an immature and inconsistent character. He would be sweet and kind one minute, then he'd suddenly get really whiny and judgmental and revert to being more of a petulant toddler throwing a tantrum than a grown man. I found him quite pathetic half of the time to be honest.

Anyway, to sum up, I really did enjoy the book. I didn't have many problems with it, and when I finished it I started digging through my classics shelves because it put me in the mood to read them. 

I'd rate it 4 stars out of 5.

Later.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Every Breath I Take by Claire Wineland

Every Breath I Take
by Claire Wineland
and Chynna Levin


Summary: What is the experience of a child with a life-threatening illness? It can be so hard for parents, family, and friends to understand, because the experience of serious illness is so hard to articulate. That’s why Claire Wineland’s memoir, Every Breath I Take, Surviving and Thriving With Cystic Fibrosis, is so important. 
Claire describes with precision, honesty, and a remarkable sense of humor just what it’s like to live with an illness that is so often fatal. Claire explains exactly what it’s like to live as normal a life as possible while taking care of a condition that requires constant treatment and frequent hospitalization. 
Yet there’s nothing grim about Claire’s journey as she describes it. Claire finds the sunny side of life and the spirituality of her experiences in ways that captivate and amaze the reader. It’s impossible to come away from the book without a renewed sense of compassion and sensitivity toward anyone suffering from a serious illness.

I first found out who Claire Wineland was about three years ago, back when I started watching a show called Red Band Society. It was a show about sick kids living in a hospital, one of which had Cystic Fibrosis. Claire had Cystic Fibrosis and she would make videos about the representation of CF on the show and the portrayal of what it's like to be a sick kid spending a lot of time living in a hospital. 

I followed her videos long after the show ended, and she branched out making videos about her life and about CF and other topics. She made videos for a while on a youtube channel called The Clairity Project but later moved to another channel after the people who helped her set up that channel basically hijacked the channel, content and funds she'd make from it (I'm mentioning that specifically so if you check out her older videos, you know to support her actual channel, not the one stolen from her).

I guess what I'm getting at is, I stumbled across Claire and her story by chance but her and her story and her words got under my skin and stuck with me for years. 

You may know who she was too, or may have just seen her name trending recently on Twitter, but Claire died about a little over a week ago. She got the call that she was getting new lungs, and while the transplant went well, she suffered a massive stroke after the surgery and didn't recover. She was 21 years old.

I just felt that a little context was important before I got to talking about the book. The surgery, getting on the transplant list, the waiting for the call -- all of that happened after this book was written.

It probably seems like a horrible cliche to say a sick kid was wise beyond their years or that they were inspiring, but that really is a fitting way of describing Claire. Or at least the version of Claire she presented online (I have no doubt there was a whole other world to her that only people close to her got to see). 

She was genuinely inspiring -- and it feels okay to say that because that was one of the things she wanted for her life. She discusses it in the book, she discussed it on her social media, and her loved ones have discussed it since her death. She's one of the rare people that actually accomplished that want, and not even because she was a sick kid, but because of who she was and how she chose to deal with being a sick kid.

The book is short, but it explains in easy terms what CF is. What it's like to grow up with CF, as well as Claire's personal experiences of being a kid growing up with CF and being in a coma on the brink of death and what it taught her. She had a really unique outlook on life -- a clarity about life and death that so many people struggle to find, and that some never do.

Now seemed like an appropriate time to talk about her book. Her words, and her videos, and her foundation -- they are the legacy she leaves behind and they matter. 

I'm not sure what else to say really. If you want to know more about Cystic Fibrosis, or about Claire, or about what it's like to grow up with an illness like that then check out her book or her videos. And if you're able, check out her foundation. She was only 15 years old when she started it, but it has grown and flourished and done so much good, and her wish was for it to continue to do good even after she was gone.

Later.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

The Changeover: Book vs Movie

The Changover was released on DVD from August 27th and I was sent a copy to review -- so I figured it would be fun to do a book to movie comparison.

Let's start with the book...

The Book:

The Changeover
by Margaret Mahy 


Summary: 'A clammy hand pressed Laura down to her knees beside Jacko's bed. It was the hand of terror, nothing less.'

It was a warning. Laura felt it when she looked in the mirror that morning. There had been others: the day her father left home, the day she met Sorensen - the boy with the strange silver eyes.

But nothing had prepared Laura for the horror of today. And now her little brother, Jacko, was fighting for his life after being sucked dry of his youth by the sinister Carmody Braque.

Laura knows there is only one way to save Jacko; she must join Sorensen and use his supernatural powers to change over if there is to be any hope for her little brother.
This was quite a strange little book, and I did mostly enjoy it. I just think I'd have enjoyed it more if I'd read it when I was a kid.

I loved that really the heart of the story is a sisters love for her little brother. There aren't many YA books that revolve around family and sibling relationships like that, and I loved that this one did.

And the plot -- it was really quite original, I can't say I've read any books that I'd compare it to, it just did its own thing without really putting me in mind of anything else. 

I had a love/hate relationship with the way it was written though. Parts of it were well written, but the dialogue could be quite clunky and awkward at times (particularly Kate's, Laura's mums, scenes). Parts of it were just so normal, and it could drone on for pages and pages about regular day to day things then it would abruptly switch to scenes that were totally bizarre...which isn't a bad thing exactly, it just messed with the pacing a bit. But then I also appreciated that so much of the story was rooted in the realm of normal.

The main issue I had with the book was that it really showed its age (not even with the phone thing -- which was quite weird to read), but with the way Laura and Sorry's relationship was written. He's 18, finishing high school. Laura is 14 years old -- and he talks about wanting to have sex with her. He just randomly touches her boob without consent and that whole scene is just weird. He makes a comment about how she "must be asking for it" by walking alone at night when a girl was raped doing the same thing not too long ago.

All of that? I didn't like it, but it felt very much like the book was written when that sort of stuff would've been brushed off as okay. A relationship like that in a YA book these days would be thoroughly called out for how creepy and problematic it is. 

So...overall, interesting read but it wasn't without its flaws and it did feel quite dated in some ways. I'd rate it 3 stars out of 5 (would've been 2.5 but Jacko was adorable so his character gets a whole half star added).  

The Movie:


Like I said, it was quite an odd book, so they didn't have the easiest source material to work with for the movie but I think they actually did a really good job adapting it, and I really enjoyed the movie. I loved the setting and the cast and the atmosphere and overall vibe of the movie.

There were some things the book obviously did better, because there was more freedom in the book to explain things more thoroughly because they didn't have the time constraints that a movie has. Like the thing with the stamp -- the book had a few extra scenes that gave a bit more context and made it seem less random than it does in the movie.

I think overall I preferred the movie though. The romance in the movie felt less weird/creepy than it did in the book, because the age difference isn't as big and the weirder scenes got cut (can't remember if they actually aged up Laura or if it's just the actors that seemed closer in age). The dialogue in the movie felt more natural too, and the relationship between Laura and her mother.

The movie gets 4 out of 5 stars.

Later.



Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Top Ten Hidden Gems

I really like this topic, it reminds me of Julie's Quiet YA thing.

I'm going to go for ones I don't see talked about often in the book community on social media, and I'll aim for ones with less than a thousand reviews on Goodreads (though some may have more, because a book that's been out for years with 2000 ratings vs a book that's been out for a few months with 2000 ratings are different).

Anyway, enough rambling and onto the books. They're in whatever order I think of them, not in order of preference.

1. We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

This isn't exactly a "hidden" gem based on how many ratings it has, it's just not one I see talked about much. It's a beautiful book and I didn't expect to love it as much as I did (total cover buy), but I adored it. It's about grief, and family, and friendship. The main character is a lesbian and there's bi rep in there too, and it's really not made into A Thing. Like, it's just this thing that quietly exists in the book without the book revolving around it, and I really loved that.

2. The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein


There was a lot of hype surrounding her book, Code Name Verity, and rightly so -- it's fantastic. But I really don't see very many people talking about this little prequel. I loved the book. It's the first book I've read set in Scotland that really felt authentic (often non-Scots can't quite get it), and it has representation of the Traveler community (and shows the prejudices they faced back then and still face to this day). And, my favourite part of all, a lot of readers thought Julie wasn't straight in Code Name Verity (myself among them) and this book makes that canon and again, it's not made into a huge deal and I loved that.

3. You Were Here by Cori McCarthy

This book is about grief and friendship (and a little romance) and it's executed beautifully. Some of the character POV's are in an illustrated format rather than written and I loved that, it fit the characters so well (and also made the POV switches more appealing -- I'm normally quite put off by books with multiple narrators but this worked).


4. Made for You by Melissa Marr

I've had issues with some of Melissa's previous books, but I remember really enjoying this one. It was a pretty fun thriller read. It's about a girl who wakes up in hospital to find someone tried to kill her.

5. Jessica's Guide to Dating On the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey

Like We Are Okay, this one isn't really unheard of. But it's not talked about much anymore because it was released back in 2009. I remember really loving the book at the time, and I still think it's one of the more original vampire romance novels I've come across. I really want to reread it at some point, just to see if it's as good as I remember.

6. Nevermore by Kelly Creagh

I rarely ever see this one talked about/recommended (probably because it came out in 2010), but I loved this book. It has one of my favourite romance tropes -- the popular kid and the outcast -- and one of the most original fantasy/urban fantasy twists I've ever read. It revolves around Edgar Allan
Poe's work and it's just...I loved it.

7. Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves

I don't remember much about this book except that I really enjoyed it and it had vague Alice in Wonderland vibes. And, again, there was just something really original about it (it's another 2010 release -- the post-Twilight and Hunger Games years, where the shelves were flooded with supernatural romance and dystopian fiction, and a lot of them felt quite similar, so anything that did something different stood out to me).

8. Peter and Alice by John Logan

I don't see many plays recommended and discussed in the book community, especially not the YA one, but this one is really really good -- and it's a particularly good one because even if plays aren't your thing, it's about the real kids Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland were based on so it has those literary references to make it interesting.

9. The Year of Secret Assignments (a.k.a. Finding Cassie Crazy) by Jaclyn Moriarty

I really didn't expect to enjoy this series as much as I did, but it's really good. This is technically the second book, but it can be read on its own. The book is told through letters and diary entries and messages between three friends in Australia and three boys from another school in town as part of a pen pal thing their English teacher sets up (the letter style usually isn't my thing, but it's done really well in this one).

10. Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein

Second of her books on this list. This one is about an adoptive brother and sister. One is black, one is white. Their mothers were best friends (tbh, I think they were more), and when one dies, the other raises her son. The book is about family, and female pilots and about war and Ethiopia.

Bonus: The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta

I was surprised this one didn't have more reviews (only 1320 and it's been out for 7 years), it's one of my favourite Melina Marchetta books (it's a companion to her earlier book, Saving Francesca).

Later.

Monday, 10 September 2018

That's Not What Happened by Kody Keplinger

That's Not What Happened
by Kody Keplinger

Summary: It's been three years since the Virgil County High School Massacre. Three years since my best friend, Sarah, was killed in a bathroom stall during the mass shooting. Everyone knows Sarah's story--that she died proclaiming her faith.

But it's not true.

I know because I was with her when she died. I didn't say anything then, and people got hurt because of it. Now Sarah's parents are publishing a book about her, so this might be my last chance to set the record straight . . . but I'm not the only survivor with a story to tell about what did--and didn't--happen that day.

Except Sarah's martyrdom is important to a lot of people, people who don't take kindly to what I'm trying to do. And the more I learn, the less certain I am about what's right. I don't know what will be worse: the guilt of staying silent or the consequences of speaking up . . .

I'm not sure what to say about this book really. It wasn't bad, but it was a little disappointing. I wanted to read it because it sounded like it was inspired by the stories of two of the Columbine victims* and I thought it would be interesting...and it was, to an extent, but I had some issues with the book.

On one hand, I loved how diverse the book was. I particularly loved that it was representation for people that often don't get representation in YA (i.e. people who are blind, people who are on the ace spectrum). I mostly loved the characters and how complex they were. And there were definitely other parts of the story I loved too.

The story -- it was one of those gut wrenching ones. Especially given how real it is, how frequently school shootings in the US do happen. I think it did a really good job of representing that. By making it about the victims and not the shooter, by not glorifying what happened, by putting more focus on the After part and by showing how caught up the world can get in tragic stories to the point where it's like we let the truth get lost and forget that there are real people who lived it and are still living with it.

But the execution of the story felt lacking (and normally I love Kody's books) and was where it fell flat for me.

It felt really slow and dragged out and repetitive, and it felt quite disjointed. And something about the narration was off. For Lee's parts, it tried to just narrate the story like it was any other novel but then at other parts it would remind us that it isn't, it's a letter to set the record straight. Except that doesn't work because there are details and huge chunks of her narration that wouldn't be included for that purpose.

I feel like I'd maybe have liked it more if the story didn't try to pull Dear Reader thing and was just narrated normally, with the letters interspersed throughout and with us going along on Lee's journey of revealing the truth with her rather than it trying to juggle making it feel like we're doing that with the "if you're reading this then you already know..." vibe. I just found it hard to buy that.

And the ending, while realistic, was really unsatisfying so the book just left me feeling quite hollow whereas books I love would leave me filled with happiness or pain or sadness or hope or a mix of all of those things. But again, I think that's partly to do with the way the narration was done.

I guess what I'm getting at is that it wasn't a bad book and it did a lot of things so well, but it just wasn't for me. I was quite disappointed by it considering how much I'd been wanting to read it and how much I've loved Kody's previous books.

I'd rate the book 2.5 stars out of 5.

*Note: I don't know if the book actually was inspired by Cassie Bernall and Rachel Scott. It's not really mentioned in the acknowledgements or anything, but it just reminded me of the stories surrounding those two.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare

I'm not going to include the summary or anything given this is the last book in the series. I don't really have much to say about this book...but I wanted to write a review anyway because I finally finished this freaking series and I wanted a post to acknowledge that because omg did it take forever.

For context: I read the first book in 2007 or 2008. So it has literally taken me pretty much a decade to finish this series. It's not even one of those ones I still felt invested in (like Harry Potter), I was just too stubborn to quit on it and people told me it's better to finish before reading the spin off.

I loved the original trilogy and, even now that I've finished the last book, I still think it would've been better off remaining just a trilogy. The extension of the series from three books to six just felt dragged out rather than a necessary and welcome continuation.

This book is definitely the best of the additional three books, but it still felt a little flat because so much of the book was spent setting up for the spin-off series or adding cameos from the prequel trilogy. The book was 637 pages long, that's a lot of book.

It was also quite jarring when there were reminders that the time span from book one to book six was only 6 months. And yet the series dragged on for a decade (i.e. readers who picked up the book when it first came out may have started out the same age as the characters but by the time the series ended those readers were in their mid 20's while the characters were still stuck at 16).

I did like the book though, in the end. I was happy with the endings a lot of the characters got, even if the story did feel quite stale and like half of it could've gotten axed in the editing stage and the book would've been better for it...but overall, it was okay.

I guess that's all I have to say about the book. Like I said, it's not so much a review as it is a celebration of finally finishing it. I'm intrigued by the spin off series, but I think I need a break from this world before diving back into it again.

I'd rate the book 3 stars out of 5.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

The Changeover UK Giveaway: Win a Young Adult DVD Bundle

The Changover is out on DVD from August 27th, and to celebrate I have a giveaway for all you UK folks at the end of the post.

The Movie:


The Book:

The Changeover
by Margaret Mahy 


Summary: 'A clammy hand pressed Laura down to her knees beside Jacko's bed. It was the hand of terror, nothing less.'

It was a warning. Laura felt it when she looked in the mirror that morning. There had been others: the day her father left home, the day she met Sorensen - the boy with the strange silver eyes.

But nothing had prepared Laura for the horror of today. And now her little brother, Jacko, was fighting for his life after being sucked dry of his youth by the sinister Carmody Braque.

Laura knows there is only one way to save Jacko; she must join Sorensen and use his supernatural powers to change over if there is to be any hope for her little brother.
I haven't read the book yet (ordered it after watching the trailer and it hasn't arrived yet) but I've seen nothing but good things about it.

When I've read it (ordered it as soon as I saw the movie trailer), I'll do a book to movie comparison/review post.



The giveaway:


I have three bundles of the DVD's to giveaway. Again, this is a UK only competition as I'm not the one mailing the prizes out. To enter just fill out the form below:


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Ryan's Bed by Tijan

Ryan's Bed
by Tijan

Summary: I crawled into Ryan Jensen’s bed that first night by accident. 
I barely knew him. I thought it was his sister’s bed—her room. It took seconds to realize my error, and I should've left... 
I didn’t.I didn’t jump out.I didn’t get embarrassed.I relaxed. 
And that night, in that moment, it was the only thing I craved.
I asked to stay. He let me, and I slept. 
The truth? I never wanted to leave his bed. If I could've stayed forever, I would have.He became my sanctuary. 
Because—four hours earlier—my twin sister killed herself.

So I've been reading Tijans books for years and years, since way back when they were posted on fictionpress. She's always had a knack for writing stories that I can devour in one sitting and writing complex characters and relationships that thoroughly get under my skin.

This one was no exception. I really loved the story (and I've loved sticking with an authors work long enough that you really see them evolve as a writer).

I loved the relationship between Robbie and Mackenzie -- I can't think of many books off the top of my head that really make sibling relationships a central part of the story but this one did and I loved that. 

As for the romance, I loved Ryan and Mackenzie together. I don't know why, but I went into this book expecting the romance to be all angsty af but it wasn't. It was actually much sweeter and a much more healthy relationship than I was expecting it to be.

The darker, more angst ridden parts of the story came from Mackenzie's grief. I really liked the way grief was handled in the story. Sometimes it feels like books just use grief in a shallow sort of way -- purely for it to be an angsty plot device or because the author thinks it will make the character seem more interesting or something, without actually putting in the work to make it seem authentic. Without really grasping how much it hurts and how it throws your whole world off its axis and changes you in ways people who haven't gone through it can't understand.

But it felt like this book got it, and got that grief is a lifelong thing, not just a plot device that can be thrown in and fixed with a love story. It was one of my favourite parts of the book -- the way the fall out of her sisters death was handled (especially the way she died, it felt like that was written with more care than some authors take when writing the same subject matter).

The book did have some tropes in it that are typical of the genre (not necessarily a bad thing). Some people love them, some hate them. The only one that irritated me in this was the catty girl trope. I've never been much of a fan of that one but I did like that it wasn't all like that in the book and some of the characters did redeem themselves, so it wasn't the usual all the girls are pitted against each other except for the main characters one designated female friend thing that a lot of books with the trope go for.

The book also thoroughly shocked me at the end. It's rare for a book to have a twist that totally blindsides me in a way that I didn't see coming at all, but this one pulled it off right at the end and I was pretty impressed by that.

Overall, I'd rate the book 4 stars out of 5. Maybe 4.5 (it was really good, it just isn't my favourite of her books -- but then I'll probably always have a sentimental attachment to the first stories of hers that I read). 

Later.

Friday, 10 August 2018

Corrupt by Penelope Douglas

TW: I'll be discussing (or rather, ranting about) the sexual assault that happens throughout this book.

Corrupt
by Penelope Douglas

Summary: Erika -- I was told that dreams were our heart’s desires. My nightmares, however, became my obsession. His name is Michael Crist.  
My boyfriend’s older brother is like that scary movie that you peek through your hand to watch. He is handsome, strong, and completely terrifying. The star of his college’s basketball team and now gone pro, he’s more concerned with the dirt on his shoe than me. But I noticed him. I saw him. I heard him. The things that he did, and the deeds that he hid…For years, I bit my nails, unable to look away. 
Now, I’ve graduated high school and moved on to college, but I haven’t stopped watching Michael. He’s bad, and the dirt I’ve seen isn’t content to stay in my head anymore. Because he’s finally noticed me.  
Michael -- Her name is Erika Fane, but everyone calls her Rika. My brother’s girlfriend grew up hanging around my house and is always at our dinner table. She looks down when I enter a room and stills when I am close. I can always feel the fear rolling off of her, and while I haven’t had her body, I know that I have her mind. That’s all I really want anyway.  
Until my brother leaves for the military, and I find Rika alone at college. In my city. Unprotected. The opportunity is too good to be true as well as the timing.  
Because you see, three years ago she put a few of my high school friends in prison, and now they’re out. We’ve waited. We’ve been patient. And now every last one of her nightmares will come true.

Review:

So. This book was completely infuriating. It was also entertaining -- I'll give it that, but my god did it make me mad.

Michael was an abusive douchebag through like 95% of the book. He treated Rika like crap. He allowed other people to treat her like crap. He literally stood there and did absolutely nothing while his friends assaulted and sexually assaulted her on multiple occasions. Great love interest, right? No.

I'm all for dark and twisty romances, but all of that stuff I mentioned isn't attractive. It's toxic. And there was barely any redemption (which is part of the appeal of dark and twisty romances -- the idea that people can change for the better, that redemption is possible). Even after he screwed up massively (like really, really, really massively) he didn't even muster up a decent apology.

I also understand the appeal of bad boy love interests (I've liked my fair share of them outside of fiction too), but there is a world between being a bad boy and a guy who is just a bad person and most of the time, Michael fell into the latter category.  

Because of that, it made Rika really infuriating too. It made her seem like a complete doormat. Dude literally tries to ruin her whole life, does unforgivable things, allows his friends to hurt her and then asks her to promise she'll never say no to him (wtf?!)...and then worse, she just goes along with that. It just made her seem totally spineless.

So many scenes made me absolutely ragey. Like when they find out she'd been roofied and his reaction is to practically be mad at her for that and demand to know why she didn't tell anyone (not to mention the scene that follows where they basically peer pressure her into confronting her would-be rapist and it leads to her being almost raped again because they took so long coming to help her). I guess the scene was supposed to be empowering or something but it was just sickening.

And there's a scene where one of his best friends is literally sexually assaulting her (while she's 16, and he's nearly 20) and he sees it happening and doesn't stop it. His justification for this was "I'm not your saviour, you handled it yourself" and just... No. That is not okay. Again, I think it was aiming to be empowering and to have a "you don't need a man to rescue you, you can do it yourself vibe" but that doesn't change how awful it made his character by having him stand back and allow it.

Would he have stepped in if she wasn't strong enough to overpower the guy? Maybe. I don't know. But even if he would have, that doesn't make it okay. He also remains friends with the guy, had zero issue with him for doing that...again, not okay (the guy makes really awful rape jokes too and his friends just brush it off like "welp, he probably hasn't acted on it, he's probably all talk, so we're good" -- like they're actually content being friends with someone who they think could be capable of that).

The way sexual assault and rape and consent is treated so flippantly in the book made me so beyond angry. Someone forcing you to kiss them, touching you, groping you against your will -- it's not okay. It is literally a crime and can be traumatising af, but this book treated it in a "well, it's not like it was rape" kind of way (when it was even acknowledged at all).

There's also a lot of "we're not going to hurt her" in the book...and then they proceed to hurt her over and over again and it doesn't even acknowledge that sexual coercion is rape and that is a form of hurt too. If you deliberately pressure and blackmail someone into having sex with you, and make it seem like they have no choice or you'll do something bad to ruin their life or hurt someone they care about -- that is not consent. That is coercion and sex without consent is rape. Pretty much 99% of the guys in this book are sexual predators.

Beyond that, the book also introduced me to a new pet peeve: writing what song the characters are listening to. I hated that so much and it stuck out like a sore thumb the whole time (it really dates the story and makes it seem more "hey, the author likes this song and listened to this playlist while writing" than "this is a song the characters would believably be into and the mention fits organically into this scene"). It happened a lot in this book, and it wasn't done in a natural way except for one scene where it made sense (because the characters were discussing music).

Basically, this book and these characters were absolutely infuriating. I don't think I've thoroughly hated a bunch of characters so much in a long time. 

In saying that, the book did hook me and it was entertaining even if I did want to punch all of the characters at least once (abuse is not sexy, allowing your friends to sexually assault and abuse a girl is not sexy, being controlling and condescending is not sexy...as far as love interests go, Michael is toxic -- dude makes Christian Grey look like Prince Charming).

It wasn't all bad, there were some parts I did like, they were just thoroughly eclipsed by the stuff I didn't like.

This has been way more rant than review. At the end of the day, the book just wasn't for me. It hasn't made me write off Penelope Douglas as an author though, because it does take some talent to keep me turning the pages in spite of all the issues I had with the book, and I have enjoyed her previous books much more in the past and I'll probably enjoy more of her books in the future...this particular one just was not my cup of tea at all.

I don't know if I'll read the sequel or not. The sequel is about the character than angered me the least (and the one that redeemed himself the most -- though that's not saying much, the bar was pretty low) so it might work out a bit better for me. We'll see. I'd rate the book 1.5 stars out of 5.

Later.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Books I'd Mash Together

Well then, hello there. It's been a while (I seem to be saying that a lot these days), but I love the topic of this weeks Top Ten Tuesday: books you'd like to see mashed together (i.e. pick two books you think would make an epic story if combined).

It reminded me of my fanfic days and all the crossover fics I used to see. So:




1. Twilight x The Mortal Instruments



Why: mostly because it'd be funny. Can you imagine a Jace Wayland reaction to vampires that sparkle? Or Luke's pack meeting the pack from Twilight (Leah so deserved better, so I'd totally be down for her meeting a nice girl or dude from TMI and living happily ever after). A war between The Clave and The Volturi? Something tells me that would be way more interesting than everyone standing around on a field and nothing happening like in Breaking Dawn. I can see some characters getting along well, some hating each other. 






2. The Host x The Lux series



Why: because I want a sequel to The Host  because they're both stories about aliens on earth and it'd be interesting to see the aliens of The Lux series reacting to the invasion of The Host. Whether they'd fight back or be vulnerable too, would they be part of a resistance... I'd love to see the characters all meet and interact and the way the world would change if they managed to get it back.




3. Harry Potter x The Mediator series


Why: It'd be interesting. Suze visits the UK...there's a lot of new ghosts showing up all with weird stories about men in masks killing them with a flash of green light from a stick. Can you imagine her trying to cross over Moaning Myrtle or Nearly Headless Nick? Or finding out the reason she can see ghosts is because she's a witch/squib?





4. The Iliad x The Lumatere Chronicles



Why: This one is cheating a bit...because it's not so much a crossover I'd like, as it is a retelling of The Iliad done by Melina Marchetta in the style of her Lumatere Chronicles series. I would love to see how she'd write the female characters in particular, especially Briseis, Helen and Andromache.






5. On The Other Side x Code Name Verity



Why: On one hand we have a whimsical story about the afterlife, on the other there's a WW2 story that destroyed my soul. I think a certain character from Code Name Verity thrown into the On the Other Side World (written in Elizabeth's style, because it'd feel more fitting) would be really interesting. In this one, I wouldn't so much like the characters to meet (maybe cameos?), more just seeing the characters from one exist in the world of the other. 




6. Ten x There's Someone Inside Your House


Why: Both of these are YA murder-y/slasher stories. There were elements I loved about both books but neither were perfect, and I feel like a mash-up would fix the issues. Ten was better at the thriller murder aspect, while TSIYH had more memorable characters...so if I could get a sequel, with a mix of the characters but a slasher plot more along the lines of how Ten did it, it'd be excellent.






7. Ruby Red x Pride and Prejudice



Why: Ruby Red is a story about time travel. I just think it'd be interesting and hilarious to see the Pride and Prejudice characters react to these teenagers from the future landing in the middle of a ball or something (would remind me a little of the mini-series, Lost in Austen).




8. Tomorrow When the War Began x Jellicoe Road



Why: I love both of these books. Jellicoe Road is contemporary fiction, Tomorrow is an invasion story. Both are set in Australia and I think it would be quite an interesting story if we saw how the Jellicoe characters handled the invasion in their part of the country (especially because a bunch of the characters are from a cadet camp). 





9. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender x When the Moon Was Ours



Why: a girl with wings meets a girl with roses who grow from her wrists. Ghosts and birds who used to be boys and magic pumpkins that turn to glass and a boy who hangs moons all over town. Two wonderful magical realism stories...I think they'd fit together beautifully. 





10. The 100 x The Illuminae Files



Why: I could just see a crossover of these two working well...both are set in space, though one is partially set on earth. It'd just be interesting for the paths to cross and for the characters to meet. 

Agree/disagree with any of them?

Later.

Monday, 6 August 2018

Turtles All The Way Down by John Green

Turtles All The Way Down
by John Green

Summary: Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis. Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

Review: I have mixed feelings about this book, but overall, I did really like it.

The highlight of the book for me was the portrayal of OCD/anxiety. It's genuinely one of the best fictional portrayals of that I've read -- at least for me and the way it manifests for Aza was so relatable to me because it's so similar to how it is for me and even in the ways it's different, I still got it...if that makes sense.

So the representation of mental health was excellent. The story was well written as John Green's books always are, and the characters were just as John Green as ever (the Dawson's Creek-ish type where they're all making literary references and giving big philosophical speeches)...some people hate that, some people love it. I fall into the latter category.

The lower rating is down to the plot, which was simultaneously dull and bizarre. On one hand you have this super realistic portrayal of a person dealing with an anxiety disorder and grief and how it impacts her relationships...on the other, there’s this weird mystery revolving around a missing billionaire and his lizard, and it wraps up way too conveniently and unbelievably. 

The way it wraps up way too conveniently was the part that bugged me the most. I could handle the weird billionaire and his lizard part if it weren't for that...it's one of those ones where the character just happens to be in the exact right place at the exact right time, and it's such a random place, to figure out what happened. It's very Scooby Doo. I didn't like that.

In saying that, it really wasn't a bad book. I still finished it with that good book ache (you know the one -- where you finish the last page and there's this ache in your chest because it's over or because it made you feel something). It's just that that feeling didn't linger the way it did with better books (and John has written a few of those better books for me).

I'd rate it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Later.

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Eve of Man by Giovanna & Tom Fletcher

Eve of Man
by Giovanna & Tom Fletcher


Summary: AGAINST ALL ODDS, SHE SURVIVED. THE FIRST GIRL BORN IN FIFTY YEARS. THEY CALLED HER EVE . . .

All her life Eve has been kept away from the opposite sex. Kept from the truth of her past.

But at sixteen it's time for Eve to face her destiny. Three potential males have been selected for her. The future of humanity is in her hands. She's always accepted her fate.

Until she meets Bram.

Eve wants control over her life. She wants freedom. But how do you choose between love and the future of the human race?
It took me a long time to get through this book. I started reading it before the release date and it took me until today to finish it, so 1-2 months. In the end, I will say I did quite like it though and it did leave me wanting to read the sequel -- just getting that out of the way now because the review will probably be more negative than positive.

There were parts of the book I really enjoyed and loved reading and for the most part, I did really like the main characters. I loved Eve's relationship with the Mothers and the version of London in the story was fun to imagine.The concept was intriguing and elements of the world really interested me, but then there was quite a lot of it that dragged. Bit's that were boring and too slow paced, bits that felt rushed (the contrast between the slow/rushed bits made it worse).

There were some things I wish they had explored or acknowledged more -- like Eve's sexuality. The book strongly hints that she's pansexual (or bisexual but the way it was presented in the book seemed like pansexuality) and I loved that but it was never really acknowledged. As it is, I don't even know if the Fletcher's intended to write Eve as pansexual or not or if it was an accident of plot convenience.

Suspension of disbelief was difficult too, especially when it came to the fertility stuff (more the way they went about dealing with it and that fact that it was never really acknowledged that it's the genes of the sperm that determines the sex of a child, not the egg from the women, but the testing seemed to only be done on the women and there wasn't really any talk of deliberately implanting only female embryos via IVF or anything in the 50 or so years that the story takes place in).

On one hand, I get that to an extent it's an unreliable narration, in the sense that the characters only know what they've been told, but it was still frustrating.

I wasn't fond of the sort of preachy aspect of Eve's narration in the latter part of the book, it seemed weirdly out of place in the story and for that character given the world she was raised in. And Bram's part of the story was a bit too effortless, everything would fall into place a little too easily.

Basically, the story was pretty good overall. It was entertaining but lagged in certain parts. If you like stories where the science is very sound and believable and makes sense, maybe give this one a miss, but if you're just in it for a fun dystopian read with similar themes to The Handmaid's Tale without all the darkness, then this is a good choice.

For the sequels, I'm hoping for a bit more to the scientific side of things and a bit more of Eve figuring out who she is and her sexuality. I'm pretty sure I know what one of the big plot twists of the next book will be too, so I'm excited to find out if I'm right or not.

I'd rate the book 3 out of 5 stars.

Later.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Top Ten Best Character Names

I haven't done one of these posts in a while, but the theme of this weeks Top Ten Tuesday is top ten best character names and I love names. Partly it's because I'm a writer, so I sort of collect names, partly because I just love names in general (the etymology of names, the trend of them, etc.).

I'm probably going to cheat with some of these and have some be a book with a group of the best character names rather than have just 10 individual names.

Top 10 Best Character Names 
(or books with the best character names)

1. Harry Potter series:

  • I would have just included Hermione (which has Shakespeare and Greek Mythology literary origins too) but I think the series as a whole does quite well with names (I mean, except for Albus Severus -- poor fictional kid). The names in general just fit so well with the characters and usually gave hints about their character. Like Luna (means moon, it's such a dreamy name and so fitting), or Sirius (a star know as the "dog star"), Severus (means "stern"), Draco Malfoy (Draco meaning dragon/serpent, and the prefix -mal meaning bad/wrong). 
2. The Twilight series:
  • Not only were the names very good at creating a distinction between the immortal characters and the mortals, there were just some beautiful name choices in general: Isabella, Alice (double points for the Wonderland connotations too), Jasper, Rosalie, Esme... Renesme was the one that ruined an otherwise good list of names (totally Stephenie Meyer's Albus Severus).
3. Gwendolyn Shepherd from The Ruby Red series by Kerstin Gier. I adore the name Gwendolyn...they actually, for some inexplicable reason, changed the name to Gwyneth in the English translation (which I hate). But her original name? Lovely and balanced out really well with a simple surname.

4. Alaska Young from Looking for Alaska. Maybe the name does add to the manic pixie dream girl thing the character had going on, and maybe it's a really weird name and probably sounds quite tacky for someone who lives in or near Alaska (in the way names like London and Ireland would sound tacky and weird to me)...but it stuck with me. I also love the use of nicknames in the book, not a lot of books seem to do the nickname thing but my friend group and I used nicknames and I liked that.

5. The Mortal Instruments series.
  • This one is actually less about the first names and more about the surnames. I love the surnames from this series: Wayland, Fairchild, Morgenstern, Lewis, Fray... The first names are nice enough, but the surnames are what make the names memorable. 
6. Sarah Dessen books.
  • Sarah's books have some of my favourite character names from books: Remy, Halley, Scarlett, Dexter, Auden, Harriet, Olivia, Stella, Owen, Wes, Ruby l...
7. Karou and Akiva from Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I just really liked that name pairing. *shrug*

8. Ava Lavender from The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. I don't like those names individually, but the name as a whole just works so well and it sounds just as whimsical as the story and character.

9. The Hunger Games.
  • I don't necessarily love these names in the way that I think they'd be good for an actual real child...but the names were very distinctive and memorable. Katniss Everdeen, Primrose Everdeen, Gale Hawthorne, Peeta Mellark, Finnick Odair, Cinna... And they all fit well together (it bugs me when an author has say, Gaelic inspired names and then randomly has an out of place name that sticks out, especially if it follows a different set of pronunciation rules).
10. Alanna from The Lionness Quartet. I haven't actually read this book yet and it's less because I love the name and more because it's my name and I pretty much never find characters with my name (funnily enough, the character is also a short redhead like me).

Honourable mention: A Thousand Splendid suns with Laila, Tariq and Mariam -- lovely names.

Second honourable mention, because why not: Shakespeare. Dude was good at names: Viola, Olivia, Helena, Lysander, Demetrius, Ariel...the list was too long to include.

Later.

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