Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

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.

Advertisements

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.

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 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.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown – Holly Black

12813630I have not read much vampire fiction other than Twilight, so I’m not well-equipped to review this book, but screw that, I’m doing it anyway.

I finished this book a few minutes ago, and I’m still trying to process thought and put my mind back into reality, so I’m finding it hard to see how to describe this book.

Visceral is the first word I think of. Or maybe dark and seductive, though that sounds like I’m describing erotica (which I’m not – teen fiction, people). It was a strangely intense experience. Very rich and languorous and indulgent and impossible to say no to. It begs and begs for you to keep reading and you do, because, much like the characters, you have succumb to this gorgeous, horrific world.

Where was I going with this? Oh yeah, this book is damn good.

Summary

I’d rather give you the blurb I read, because it is perfect, and sums up the book better than anything else could.

“Coldtown was dangerous, Tana knew. A glamorous cage. A prison for the damned and anyone who wanted to party with them.”

I think that’s all you really need to know.

Cons

Other than it ending?

Other than me wanting a sequel super badly?

But yeah, I didn’t realise how interested I was in these characters until they disappeared. While it is a very good standalone, and the plot definitely has been concluded, the characters have a lot of potential for growth and I am desperate to read more.

Pros

 The writing

Oh my god that writing.

I am obviously not going to cover all the pros but this has to be said.

Oh my god can Holly Black write.

This is the first book by Holly Black that I’ve read, and I don’t know much about her books other than people like them. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it was not this. It was not gorgeous sentences and vivid imagery and me wanting to quote everything.

That should be enough of a reason to read it.

All the Other Usual Stuff

Plot was awesome, characters were awesome, world was awesome, everything was awesome.

Especially liked the treatment of Gavriel and Tana’s relationship because thank god that was refreshing. There was acknowledgement of the difference between love and lust and the characters ended up actually being friends and there was a massive emphasis on the monstrous nature of Gavriel. Yes yes yes to all of it.

Quotes

  •  “Death’s favorites don’t die.”
  • “Clever girl. You play with fire because you want to be burnt.”
  • “We all wind up drawn to what we’re afraid of, drawn to try to find a way to make ourselves safe from a thing by crawling inside of it, by loving it, by becoming it.”
  • “Even from the beginning, that was the problem. People liked pretty things. People even liked pretty things that wanted to kill and eat them.”
  • “She wished it was an unfamiliar feeling, that ache, the urge that made her hit the gas when she ought to hit the brake.”

Overall

Holly Black makes me want to read vampire fiction. She also makes me want to avoid vampire fiction because I’ll constantly be comparing whatever I read to this book.

She also makes me want a sequel very, very badly.

5 shuriken stars.

Antigoddess – Kendare Blake

13246736I absolutely love the Anna Duology (Reasons why: Anna Dressed in Blood, Girl of Nightmaresand that was the only reason I picked up this book.

So I went into this with the intention to fill the Cas-shaped hole in my heart. Percy Jackson meets Kendare Blake’s slick characterisations and awesome humour. I was excited.

Summary

Like Percy Jackson but gruesome and somehow more hilarious. (Review of the first PJO book here)

Yeah, I know, I’m only comparing it to PJO because it’s greek mythology, but we all knew it was inevitable. Percy Jackson is massive. It was going to happen as inevitably as people calling The Hunger Games the next Twilight.

By the way, I love Percy Jackson. This is a compliment, if you guys aren’t sensing that yet.

Cons

Am I supposed to like Aidan?

Because I really don’t like Aidan.

Actually, most of the romances felt very weird. I guess Gods + Mortals isn’t going to be the next paranormal romance craze for me, and I think it’s the mere fact that they are gods, and I found it really difficult to imagine them looking like teenagers when you’re like “But you’re a GOD.”

Anyway, Aidan made my skin crawl. I did not like his romance with Cassandra at all after the revelation. Maybe that was intended. Maybe not. We still have another two books to find out.

And Cas

I MISS CAS SO MUCH.

YOU HAVE NO IDEA.

Well, no, if you’ve read Anna Dressed in Blood you probably do, so all I could think about whilst reading Antigoddess was how much I wanted Cas back.

Pros

We all know that Kendare Blake can WRITE.

I trust her plotting and her character development and her dialogue and her writing style and just everything. Kendare Blake is amazing and we just have to accept that.

Also the references to Anna Dressed in Blood made me smile with glee.

Quotes

  • “For the record I don’t believe in Fate. I believe that the pieces have been placed. The ending hasn’t been written yet.”
  • “The Mustang growled into reverse, aiming straight for the old lady.
    Cassandra would have winced, even if she had been the most evil old woman on the face of the planet. Even if she had been granny-Hitler, she would have winced at the idea of running her down. But the thing standing in the road looked nothing like an old woman anymore.”
  • “This is what men risk so much for; this shiver, this acute heat and desire. This is what they think eternity feels like.”

Overall

4.5 shuriken stars. Perhaps if I hadn’t read Anna I would have given this 5. I am very excited for the direction that this series is heading in, and I will hopefully get to the second book ASAP.

 

2014 Wrap-Up

Before we set out in trying to somehow distil this year into five books, I’m going to say:

  • Each author can only appear once
  • It must be a novel (i.e. fiction, one story, mainly words)
  • One book per place

Now, without further ado, here’s my top five.

1. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides – I kept going back and forth between this one and The Virgin Suicides, but in the end, this one won out. All I have to say is READ IT.

2. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler – I didn’t expect the book to tear my heart out, but it did. Multiple times. I love the narrative style, and the concept, and the twist. Oh man, the twist.

3. Vicious by V.E. Schwab – I honestly did not know whether this book was going to live up to the hype or not, but it exceeded expectations, and I want a movie. Or a sequel. Or both.

4. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart – Another one with a lot of hype, and for a good reason. This story combines fairytales and messy, wealthy families and gorgeous prose and it is probably the best young adult fiction I have read this year.

5. The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson – I could not exclude this amazing, spectacular, wonderful ending to a superb fantasy trilogy. I was so blown away by how well everything was wrapped up, and the bravery of the choices made in this series.

Unlike last year, I have quite a few honorary mentions.

In the non-fiction sphere, I fell in love with Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo, and I have not ceased to recommend this book to absolutely everyone.

In the graphic novels category, the winners are Blankets by Craig Thompson and The Arrival by Shaun Tan, which are both well worth your time. There were a lot of strong competitors in this round but I did my best to narrow it down to those two which have gorgeous art styles, really interesting themes, and brilliant choices in telling their stories.

Amongst the short story collections, I chose Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro, which hit me hard in the heart. So hard, in fact, that I have a hard time rereading that collection because it makes me so damn emotional.

Hope you guys all had great reading years, and we will see you in 2015!