Random Book Reviews #4

Beauty – Robin McKinley

There are two problems that I had with this book.

1. I should have read this when I was the age demographic that this book is aimed at.
2. I think I just have a problem with the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ fairytale.

The book wasn’t bad, and I’m sure I would have loved it a long time ago, but now I just find it creepy. Why does Beauty ever fall in love with this creepy guy? He threatens to kill her dad! He keeps her locked away against her will! He does not explain any of this!

Why oh why would she fall in love with this guy? Yes, I get it, he’s under a curse, I know I know, but she doesn’t know that. Like seriously.

The novel was filled with lovely ideas and new interpretations but I just can’t get over the source material.

2 shuriken stars.

Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel

I really don’t get the hype over this book. I’m sorry, but I don’t.

It’s a good book, but it didn’t blow me away. At all. I really don’t get it.

Maybe it’s the fault of the dystopian trend that has numbed me to re-imaginings of the apocalypse, but I feel like I’ve read it all before. The writing is good, but not awe-worthy. The story-telling device was interesting, and there was nothing that irked me about it, but I really don’t understand the hype.

4 shuriken stars.

Girl Meets Boy – Ali Smith

I’m falling in love with Ali Smith’s works.

There is something about her writing that makes me automatically trust her. I trust that she can tell this story to its best potential, and I trust that I will love her work, and I do. I have to say that I wasn’t familiar with the myth of Iphis before reading this, so I can’t say how well the interpretation has been done, but I will say that I really love this novel.

5 shuriken stars.

Random Book Reviews #3

A Darker Shade of Magic – V.E. Schwab

While amazing (and yes, it was really really brilliant) most of my exposure to this type of fantasy is from Brandon Sanderson, and I feel like that comparison hurt this book, because following the Mistborn trilogy is a really, really, really hard thing to put on a book. So yes, brilliant, but not quite the absolute mind-blowing incredible-ness that was Vicious.

4.5 shuriken stars.

The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt

Good thing I read this before The Secret History, right? While great, I don’t love this nearly as much as Tartt’s debut. Her writing is definitely more refined, and it is a very different story, however I just don’t care as much as I did with TSR. Theo Decker, while a lovely kid, does not hold my attention nearly as strongly. The prose is what kept me reading, and while the book is long it flies by because Tartt has a way of writing that makes reading so absolutely effortless.

4.5 shuriken stars.

Like Water for Chocolate – Laura Esquivel

This was a brilliant, wonderful novel. Packed full of fun and laughter and over-the-top drama and magical realism, it’s a really lovely, fun, ridiculous read. Plus, recipes.

5 shuriken stars.

how to be both – Ali Smith

I can find no fault. No flaw. No nothing. This book transcends easy critical reading, because it is so damn weird. In like the best way possible. It is, as I’ve heard people describe in the past, a ‘novel novel’. Smith takes the conception of a novel and goes ‘hey, let’s play with this why don’t we’ and proceeds to stretch it in every direction. The writing is wonderful, the story is wonderful, the tone is fun and playful and brilliant, and it is, simply, so damn good.

5 shuriken stars.

The Book Courtship Tag

This tag was created by this person, and we were tagged in it by no one except my own procrastination. Also, it looked cool.

Phase 1 – Initial Attraction: A book that you bought because of the cover?
The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer – usually I know something about the books that I’m buying, but I’d heard next to nothing about this book when I first found it. I was seduced by all the prettiness on this cover that I bought it.

Phase 2 – First Impressions: A book that you got because of the summary?
The Night Circus by Erin Morgernstern has a brilliant blurb which is lifted from the first three lines of the book.

Phase 3 – Sweet Talk: A book with great writing?
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor – I feel like I’ve talked this book down because I wasn’t in love with certain romantic subplots which ended up becoming the main plot but holy damn this book is worth reading for the writing alone. The book is great, I swear, it’s just personal preference when it comes to certain creepy love interests.

Phase 4 – First Date: A first book of a series which made you want to pick up the rest of the series?
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan – I read this book quite a while ago but I remember reading it and planning to take the next four books out of the library immediately.

Phase 5 – Late Night Phone Calls: A book that kept you up all night?
Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake – technically I had to put this book down once it got super late because it was kind of terrifying to be reading it alone in the quiet and the dark, but if I wasn’t so scared, I would have kept going all the way into the morning.

Phase 6 – Always on my mind: A book you could not stop thinking about?
Vicious by V.E. Schwab – This book has so many interesting facets to it and different interpretations and as soon as I finished it I wanted to reread it.

Phase 7 – Getting Physical: A book which you love the way it feels?
I… I have never thought about this before.
The Colossus by Sylvia Plath? I really like these cool paperback editions that have the flappy bits of a hardcover, are slightly more sturdy, but still are light and portable which is what I love about paperbacks. But the feel? I dunno.

Phase 8 – Meeting the parents: A book which you would recomend to your family and friends?
Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo – I recommend this book to everyone. However, maybe I was supposed to pick a novel. Trying again.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – I feel like this is a really obvious choice because it works for a really wide range of ages, has sad and happy moments, only problem is it might put off some people with it’s size.

Phase 9 – Thinking about the future: A book or series you know you will reread many times in the future?
How to be Both by Ali Smith – I have not thought that far in the future yet, and I don’t reread most of my books, but this is the only book that I’ve actually planned to reread sometime in the future, because its format begs to be read again.

Phase 10 – Share the love: Who do you tag?
I tagged myself, and you can too.
Here, look, I’ll tag you right now. Go do it.🙂

Random Book Reviews #2

Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell

I had to put this book down so many times to stop myself from crying. I mean the writing was gorgeous and the relationship formation was the most adorable thing I have ever read in my life and the character situations were tragic and contrasting and I loved the dual POV and the character diversity.

So yeah: 5 shuriken stars.

Anna and the French Kiss – Stephanie Perkins

This book is like a big stinking pile of sugar. It’s like a sugar high. I don’t know if that makes any sense, but it’s just so cheesy (oh god, look at me, mixing flavours like that). Didn’t stop me from reading it, though, because it was very fun (and very frustrating – like come on Anna of course he fancies you you’re the protagonist). But I was looking for a cheesy rom com and I found a cheesy rom com so I can’t really complain.

3.5 shuriken stars.

Hollow City – Ransom Riggs

I like this series, but I’m still not in love with it. It’s all quite calm at the moment. I never feel very much tension in anything that’s happening, and I don’t feel particularly invested in any of the characters (though I do like Olive and Horace).

I still want to pick up the next book, because it’s an enjoyable series and I love the format of the photographs in the story, but I am still waiting for that emotional click.

4 shuriken stars.

Nimona – Noelle Stevenson

Where have you been all my life?

The world was clever. The dialogue was amazing. The drawing style is fantastic. The characters though… don’t even get me started on how much I love the characters and their relationships. I was also really impressed by the plotting, because I came for the humour, but I was blown away by the themes and where the story went. Oh, and I was close to tears by the end.

The best part is that you can preview it online for free right now, so go do that if you haven’t!

5 shuriken stars.

The Shock of the Fall – Nathan Filer

I’m wary to tell you anything about this one, but I really liked it. There’s a ‘twist’ (though quite an obvious one, hence the air quotes), and it’s good. Also another really emotional one, with an interesting unreliable narrator and I liked the use of time-jumps (though are they called flashbacks if the whole book is technically a flashback?).

4.5 shuriken stars.

The Book Combo Tag

I’m pretty sure this tag was made by this lovely person and we were tagged in it by no one. But that’s never stopped us before, and it’s not going to stop us now.

What two authors would you like to see put their writing skills together to write a book?

So immediately my mind goes to Markus Zusak and Patrick Ness because they are two of my favourite authors and I would buy that book in a heartbeat. Can you imagine it? Can you? It would be ridiculously amazing.

What is your favourite author collaboration?

I haven’t read many author collaborations, so this one might be tricky.

Okay, we’re going to half-cheat this one and say The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories Volume 1 which is a collection of stories and artwork by the hitRecord community. Maybe not what the question was asking but I’d say that counts.

If you could combine two stories and make them a book of their own, which would they be? And what would the reworked title be?

Ooooh….

Oh there are so many possibilities!

Okay, let’s go with:

The Angel Wave – The 5th Wave meets Angelfall because I read those around the same time and I remember thinking how similar they were in terms of plot and characters and character motivations and structure. Wouldn’t it be so awesome to have a story about two teenage girls trying to survive within a simultaneous alien and angel apocalypse. I think Cassie and Penryn would have a really interesting dynamic being so similar to one another and trying to remain allies while also looking for their siblings and god just make this one book already.
(If I was good at photoshop I would make some gorgeous redesigned book cover for this, but even my paint skills are pretty bad, so sorry :()

What two characters from different books do you ship?

I don’t know if I ship any characters from two different books but let’s see. Who would make a good pair…

I’m trying to think of characters that don’t have canon ships within their books, which is proving to be difficult, but maybe Reyna (from the Heroes of Olympus series) and Fletcher (from the Skulduggery Pleasant series)? That seems like a pretty stereotypical match, but we’ll go with it, because I’m bad at ships.

What two worlds from different stories would you like see come together to be one epic world?

This was my other choice for two books being combined into one:

A Darker Shade of War – A Darker Shade of Magic meets Warbreaker. I love love love the use of colours in both these stories and while I do prefer them separately, I think they kind of work together. The Grey London lacks magic, obviously, and the colourful London’s are bursting with it. Black London was so saturated with the stuff that it destroyed itself. It kind of works.

What series would you have liked to see be combined in to one book?

Well…

They could have made Delirium by Lauren Oliver one book/duology. And by that, I mean just cut the last few sentences off Pandemonium and pretty much all of Requiem and I would have been a whole lot happier with the series.

No, but seriously, maybe the Underdogs trilogy by Markus Zusak? I’m biased because I read it in a bind-up form, but the books are pretty short and I think they work well as three parts of one story.

The Secret History – Donna Tartt

I’m sort of in love with this book.

I only read it yesterday, so I’m not sure how long it’s going to hold onto me, but right now I still feel like I’m inside the book even though I’ve finished it. There’s no more story left and yet I can’t stop thinking about it.

Summary

An elitist group of classics students murder their friend. Don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler, that’s in the prologue. It’s discovering the why of the murder instead of the who.

At least, I was.

Pros

Addictive

The first few pages or so of this massive book is quite light, comparatively. Then, as the murder creeps closer and closer, we watch things slowly and predictably spiral out of control. Gradually, the story builds in intensity, and you are sucked into it, unable to stop reading.

This is a 600+ page book that I read in, like, a day?It flies by. Don’t be put off by the size, you will read it so quickly that you won’t even notice you’re at the end until you keep trying to flip pages but there’s nothing left.

Characters

I am not even going to try to explain how much I cared about these characters.

They are not good people. They are really not good people. Donna Tartt makes this clear that these characters are incredibly problematic, yet you want them to be as happy as possible. You wince when bad things happen to them. They are all incredibly flawed, and it’s not the type of fault where it strengthens another part of their character or comes as a consequence of some overwhelming good quality. Genuinely, you would not want to get close to any of these people. And not just because they might murder you.

And yet you still love them so much. Almost irrationally so. I don’t know how she does it, but it worked.

The Writing

Was gorgeous. Her writing has some quality to it that makes you want to keep reading the next sentence, and the next one, and the next one. It seems to have some rhythmic quality, some inner momentum, which keeps everything moving and you want to keep reading right along with it.

I don’t know what it is about it, but I love it.

This book, by the way, is so damn quotable. I wanted to underline everything, but then I was too invested in the story to stop and get a pencil.

The Greek

I feel like I learned stuff when I read this. I think. Or at least I’m interested in finding out stuff about it now. God, they make Greek sound so damn cool. It’s like when Sherlock first came out and everyone was buying those long black coats.

Cons

This will consume all of your time. It may ruin you for whatever other book you want to read.

Also, if you don’t like pretentious kids not doing much for 600+ pages, then this might not be for you, because yes, it’s mostly build up. You know how it’s going to go. You know who they murder and it’s not really a mystery why they murder him.

But read the first chapter or two, see what you think. See if you get sucked in too.

(PS If you are instead looking for a dark college story full of action with problematic characters and supernatural elements  then you should look into Vicious by V.E. Schwab which is incredible and beautiful and awesome)

Quotes

  • “I suppose at one time in my life I might have had any number of stories, but now there is no other. This is the only story I will ever be able to tell.”
  • “Does such a thing as ‘the fatal flaw,’ that showy dark crack running down the middle of a life, exist outside literature? I used to think it didn’t. Now I think it does. And I think that mine is this: a morbid longing for the picturesque at all costs.”

This next one is long but bear with me. It’s the first quote I saw from this book, and it’s what made me immediately want to read it.

  • “It’s a very Greek idea, and a very profound one. Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it. And what could be more terrifying and beautiful, to souls like the Greeks or our own, than to lose control completely? To throw off the chains of being for an instant, to shatter the accident of our mortal selves? Euripides speaks of the Maenads: head thrown I back, throat to the stars, “more like deer than human being.” To be absolutely free! One is quite capable, of course, of working out these destructive passions in more vulgar and less efficient ways. But how glorious to release them in a single burst! To sing, to scream, to dance barefoot in the woods in the dead of night, with no more awareness of mortality than an animal! These are powerful mysteries. The bellowing of bulls. Springs of honey bubbling from the ground. If we are strong enough in our souls we can rip away the veil and look that naked, terrible beauty right in the face; let God consume us, devour us, unstring our bones. Then spit us out reborn.”

Overall

The real mystery here is what I’m going to rate this book because I didn’t make it obvious at all throughout all my raving.

5 shuriken stars.

Top 2 Books From 6 Genres Tag

Who has been watching too many booktube videos? I have been watching too many booktube videos.

If you want better recommendations then go to our top tens page for a full list. These books will be the ones that didn’t make it there but are still worth your time.

Dystopian

Fearsome Dreamer by Laure Eve – I think this is dystopian? Or is it fantasy? Or is it both?

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro – At least watch the movie for this one, because it is really great.

Romance

The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan – Probably one of the tiniest books I’ve read.

Lips Touch by Laini Taylor – this one is more of the relationship between lust and love with lots of fantasy thrown in there, but I haven’t read enough Romance to recommend you much else. So there.

Fantasy

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson – I didn’t include graphic novels in the top tens because they would take up too much space, so I’m saying it here: Nimona is bloody fantastic. And you can read it online, for free, legally, right now. So go. Go!

Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson – This is also available online, for free, legally, right now. And it is damn good, so go read it.

Sci-Fi

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey – It has just occurred to me that I haven’t read much science fiction. Huh.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer – I haven’t read the rest of this series yet (I plan to! Promise!), but I like fairytales, and I like this.

Paranormal

Antigoddess by Kendare Blake – This has greek gods in it. Is that paranormal? I feel like paranormal refers to ghosts/vampires/werewolves but I haven’t read that much of that stuff. Oh wait, I know!

Angelfall by Susan Ee – This is paranormal, right? I’m saying this is paranormal. Also haven’t read the second book yet, but I’m getting to it, I swear!

Historical

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan – How predictable.

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys – I didn’t know much about this book when I first read it, but I flew through it.

We’re adding a category because why not. We can do what we want here.

Non-Fiction

How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran – While I’m probably not going to do everything this book encourages, this book is great because it is so damn quotable, Caitlin Moran is brilliant, and it is a big ball of fun (and also anger, but angry fun).

Escape From Camp 14 by Blaine Harden – And once you’re all riled up and angry, read this harrowing and horrifying story of one man’s escape from a labour camp in North Korea. Who needs dystopians when the real world is worse?

What a cheerful note to end on. I hope you find something in all of this to read, and we will see you next time!