Thursday, 5 April 2018

Sam & Ilsa's Last Hurrah by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Sam & Ilsa's Last Hurrah
by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Summary: Sam and Ilsa Kehlmann have spent most of their high school years throwing dinner parties, and now they’ve prepared their final blowout, just before graduation. The rules for the twins are simple: they each get to invite three guests, and the other twin doesn’t know who’s coming until the guests show up at the door. With Sam and Ilsa, the sibling revelry is always tempered with a large dose of sibling rivalry, and tonight is no exception.

One night. One apartment. Eight people. What could possibly go wrong? Oh, we all know the answer is plenty. But plenty also goes right – in rather surprising ways.

I'm not really sure what to think about this book. There were parts of it I loved...but then there was something about it that just fell short of being great and being what I needed it to be. Like there was just something lacking from the story and I can't pin point what.

I think maybe part of the problem was that the story was quite short and takes place in one night. That worked spectacularly for Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (by far my favourite collaboration
between these authors) but it didn't work as well in this. It felt like the story introduced issues and relationships and plot points that couldn't really get the development and justice they deserved in such a short book.

It wasn't that any of the plot points were done poorly, it was just a lot to pack into one night of a story and such a short book -- especially when it had to be balanced out with lighter, more comedic stuff.

Like both Sam and Isla were dealing with finding closure to their old relationships, while juggling potential new relationships as well as dealing with family issues and personal issues and identity issues and in-the-moment party issues and it was was a lot. Which made it not feel like enough, if that makes sense.

I loved that Isla's sexuality was explored in the story but in such a casual, non-issue way rather than having it dominate the whole story (representation like that is just as important as books revolving mostly around that). The only issue, again, was that the actual relationship felt underdeveloped, so I was rooting more for the idea of them than actually feeling a real connection between the pairing.

I loved the overall vibe the story had. I loved that the setting was practically a character in its own right (that was one of the things I loved about Nick & Norah) and I loved that it made me laugh and smile quite a bit. And I loved how utterly bizarre some parts were.

I loved that the book gave me that goodbye feeling. You know the one -- when you're leaving a place or a person or a particular point in your life and you feel this heavy mix of hope and happiness and sadness and fear and nostalgia all at once right in the heart of your chest? The book gave me that feeling, I was feeling it right along with the characters.

I guess what I'm getting at is that it's a really good book. It just felt like it bit off a bit more than it could chew with the issues and relationships it tried to cram into a few hundred pages.

I'd rate the book 3.5 stars out of 5. It's not the best book these two have written together but it is worth reading.


Tuesday, 3 April 2018

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

The Poet X
by Elizabeth Acevedo

Summary: Xiomara has always kept her words to herself. When it comes to standing her ground in her Harlem neighbourhood, she lets her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But X has secrets – her feelings for a boy in her bio class, and the notebook full of poems that she keeps under her bed. And a slam poetry club that will pull those secrets into the spotlight.

Because in spite of a world that might not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to stay silent.
This book randomly showed up for review one day and I'm shocked by how much I enjoyed it. Novels told in verse are usually not my kind of thing at all -- if I find out a novel is in verse, it's usually one of my deal breakers that pushes a book from my Want To Read to my Nope list.

But this one...the fact that it was in verse just worked. It didn't feel like the book was less because it was told in verse, it felt like more and like no other written format would've made as much sense for this story and this character. Like poetry was Xiomara's voice and anything else wouldn't have felt as genuine for her.

I struggled to put the book down once I got into it. It's definitely more of a character driven story than plot driven, but that worked out too because I loved the characters. It takes real talent to show such complex family dynamics in so few words but Elizabeth Acevedo managed it perfectly and she had me hooked on her words and the lives of these characters. I kept telling myself just one more poem over and over until I'd reached the last one.

I don't know what it's like to be a woman of colour. I don't know what it's like to grow up with strict religious parents. I don't know what it's like to grow up and find myself questioning the religion I'd been brought up with. I don't know what it's like to have a twin.

Basically, that's the case for so much of what this book was about: I can relate to some things, but for a lot of it, I just don't know what it's like. And reading this doesn't change that--it's not for me, I'm not supposed to see myself reflected perfectly in these characters--but it did give me a glimpse into lives so different from my own and hopefully made me a bit less ignorant and helped me understand some things a bit better.

And hopefully it'll be much needed representation for the teenagers who do know what it's like to be like Xiomara or her brother or to grow up in a family just like theirs.

I'd rate the book 4.5 out of 5 stars.


Monday, 2 April 2018

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

The Cruel Prince
by Holly Black

Summary: Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.
Well then. This is definitely my favourite book in a long time. I loved it so much that before I'd even finished reading it, I bought four more Holly Black books (this was my first -- how have I waited this long to read her books?!).

The characters and relationships were wonderfully complex and the story was delightfully dark and twisted. I was thoroughly addicted from page one.

I adored Jude as a narrator -- she was a bit of an antihero and I loved that so much and I loved the way it showed how she and her sister learned to navigate this world in such different ways. I loved the way it showed that they didn't fit in because they weren't fae, but they didn't fit in with humans either because they were raised as if they were fae.

I really, really loved the messed up relationship between Cardan and Jude too, hate-to-love relationships are my favourite and this one was particularly twisted and definitely a slow burner -- I need the next book to see what happens there.

If you've ever finished a book and just wanted to cry because you desperately need the sequel right then and there, then you'll know how I felt finishing this book. Waiting a whole year for the next one is not going to be fun (but hey, at least I have a stack of Holly's other books to read until then).

I'd rate this one 5 stars out of 5.



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