Monthly Archives: June 2017

Review: Fangirl 

June 29, 2017


“In new situations, all the trickiest rules are the ones nobody bothers to explain to you. (And the ones you can’t google.) Like, where does the line start? What food can you take? Where are you supposed to stand, then where are you supposed to sit? Where do you go when you’re done, why is everyone watching you?… Bah.”

Synopsis: 


Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan…

But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving. Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?



I wasn’t going to write a full review on Fangirl for my blog because it isn’t a recent release, however when I started writing up my mini-review for bookstagram, the words just came pouring out and I had too many for an instagram caption.

Fangirl is my second Rainbow Rowell and has solidified my opinion of her writing that I began to form after I read Eleanor & Park – that she writes quirky, complex characters, and puts them into some interesting scenes that are enjoyable to read. However upon finishing a Rainbow Rowell book, I end up feeling like something was missing to tie all those quirky characters and scenes together into a bigger picture idea.

I did enjoy Fangirl more than E&P because I completely related to Cath as an introvert with social anxiety. I found myself nodding vigorously at some of the humorous situations her anxiety got her into because it’s so damn true. Like agonizing over the details of a first time experience; where do you line up in the cafeteria, where do you sit? What if you do it wrong?

I felt a lot of nostalgia reading this one because it captured the pop culture and fashion of the exact years when I was starting college. From black Ray Ban frames to Bon Iver and Lady Gaga, and of course the Harry Potter references (or the fictional fandom of Simon Snow). It was like a perfect little time capsule for late 80’s kids like me.

There were a couple of characters who irked me, but mostly just Levi. Levi is such a puppy, and I’m totally not a dog person. He literally just smiles and wags his tail at everyone all day long. I couldn’t understand why Cath forgave him for his big, lame mess-up either – I definitely wouldn’t have. I’m also not a fan (see what I did there…) of the trope “girl with low self-esteem captures the attention of a good looking boy and then she gains the confidence she needs to tackle her problems”. Levi is a total “manic pixie dream boy” for Cath and I wasn’t into it.
There was also a lot of seemingly pointless excerpts of fanfiction. I did enjoy much of it, but after a while I admit I skimmed through it. If there was some symbolic connection between the little scraps of Cath’s stories and the main plot, I didn’t pick up on it and I didn’t really care enough to dig.

I did enjoy reading Fangirl and would recommend it to those who love a light and entertaining contemporary read, and especially to the fandom-loving introverts of the world.

 

My rating: 3.5/5 stars

Title: Fangirl

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Genre: Young adult, contemporary

Review: Strange the Dreamer 

June 21, 2017

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“‘You’re a storyteller. Dream up something wild and improbable,’ she pleaded. ‘Something beautiful and full of monsters.’‘Beautiful and full of monsters?’

‘All the best stories are.'”


Synopsis:

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?
The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

Welcome to Weep.

Sometimes you just know from the first chapter that a book is bound to be a lifelong favourite and for me that was Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. From start to finish it is warm and vibrant, pulsing with life and magic like a living breathing thing. It filled me to the brim with wonder.

I think I could write an entire review about Taylor’s beautiful, whimsical, masterful writing (however her loveable characters and vastly imaginative scope for world building and storytelling deserves their fair share of mention as well). Taylor’s prose is simply stunning. It’s beautiful in a way that pulls you in, fills you up, and makes you feel like you could maybe even create magic of your own. But what struck me most was how even though it was flowery, her prose flowed perfectly and drew me deeper and deeper into the story rather than distracting from it. It was the perfect balance between beautiful words and interesting storyline. It would seem that nothing is beyond the scope of Taylor’s imagination or her ability to pin it down and skillfully weave it into the story. Gods and monsters and battles that reach the very skies. I’m still in awe when I reflect on how it all came from one woman’s mind.

 

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I experienced Strange the Dreamer like slowly unwrapping a beautiful present, hints being revealed here, there, until finally you’re holding a whole, lovely thing you never knew you needed. There are a myriad of details to be unearthed but Taylor goes easy on us and reveals them gradually. The plot was extremely well balanced and evenly paced. The story didn’t drag for one moment, as can sometimes happen in books of length written descriptively.

Now, I’ve always loved antiheroes. They make a story so much more interesting and fun. But Lazlo Strange, sweet, sincere, too good for this world, Lazlo, has made me consider that now and then its refreshing to read about a kind and uncynical main character. And though he may be naive in some matters, he doesn’t lack in complexity. He may be inherently good but he also has a rugged, primal kind of strength. And Taylor definitely doesn’t spare him from pain. Oh, I felt every injustice he experiences like a physical blow.

 

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There are some relevant and important themes that are explored: fear of those who are different, the impact that conquerors have on oppressed people groups, and the resulting need for redemption for their descending generations. Taylor shows how injustice and oppression can happen on both sides, blurring lines of who is right and who is wrong after the initial wrongdoing. There’s no black and white morality presented here and some interesting questions are raised. Are oppressed groups given the right to take their freedom at any cost, even if the same kind of brutality is necessary to do so? How long should children have to carry the weight of their parents’ sins?

Part of the magic of this book is discovering it for yourself so I don’t want to give much more away. But I absolutely cannot recommend this book enough to those of you who enjoy epic worlds and magic. I will be impatiently waiting for more word on the next instalment.

 

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My rating: 5/5 stars


Title: Strange the Dreamer

Author: Laini Taylor

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Genre: Fantasy

2017 Mid Year Wrap Up

June 19, 2017

I know, I’m just as shocked as you that we are already halfway through 2017. How does this happen? And I still have a long way to go if I want to meet my Goodreads challenge (over ambition plus obligatory adulting means I may be doomed to fail, but I will perservere for the sake of proving my literary worthiness on social media). However, I have had the chance to read some incredible books so far this year and some not so incredible. So I’m sharing a list of some of my very favourite reads of 2017 thus far, as well as the ones that didn’t grab me as much as I had hoped.

I’ll start with the ones I didn’t love because I like to finish on a good note. Fair warning, some of these may even be books you liked. A few of them certainly rate high and are popular in the book community, but I’m including them because I personally was disappointed, and this is all subjective right?

 

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#1: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

I had really high hopes for this one and it just sounded so atmospheric and interesting. However I felt the characters were weak and poorly fleshed out and the plot didn’t seem to know where it was going for most of the book. You can read my full thoughts on it here.

#2: Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones 

Wintersong. Oh, Wintersong. You were the recipe for the perfect dark and twisted romance, and I thought we would get along very well indeed. I truly loved the concept of this one, being a Labyrinth retelling set in a previous century Barvaria, complete with classical music references woven through. In truth I devoured the first half. But then… meh. The plot all but disappears and we witness our characters stuck in a repetitive cycle of emotional struggle. You can see more of what I mean here.

#3: A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

Okay, I haven’t even written a full review on this one because it made almost no impression on me. What sounded like a fresh concept (Sherlock Holmes and John Watson were real historical figures and their decendents become friends in college and solve a crime together) ended up falling short in a book that felt so uneccessary with how many Sherlock retellings there are nowadays. And I love Sherlock. Nothing captured my attention here as we are given characters that have inherited pretty much every personality trait of their famous ancestors (including a drug habit and violin playing) and a plot that plays out copy cat murders from actual Sherlock Holmes mysteries. There was nothing that stood out as inherently bad and it was written well, but at the same time it wasn’t the page turner I was hoping for.

#4: A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2) by V.E. Schwab

I’m bracing myself for the reactions from this one. The Shades of Magic trilogy is certainly beloved in the book community and I did enjoy the first book, A Darker Shade of Magic, immensely. So why is this one on the least favourite reads list you ask? Because when I read a fantasy trilogy I expect book two to develop into a bigger story arc than the first book presents. I hope for new details to be revealed that create a bigger scope in world building and plot development. AGOS did not supply those epic feels for me at all and I even started to like the characters less the second time around. I still haven’t read A Conjuring of Light but after how boring AGOS was, I’m really in no rush.

Okay guys, hopefully you’ve stayed with me until now because here is the fun part. I give you my favourite reads of the first half of 2017.

 

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#1: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

A stunning debut that reads like a classic fairytale set in medieval Russia. A plucky young female main character who refuses to follow society’s expectations. House spirits that remind me of a Studio Ghibli movie. A dark-haired frost demon who may or may not provide a hint of romance to come (this ship must sail in book two okay??). I absolutely loved this book from start to finish. It is beautifully written, wonderfully dark at times, and oh so whimsical. You can read my full review here.

#2: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

I actually just finished this book yesterday and my review is coming, but holy hell, this book. I am sad to admit that I haven’t read anything else by Laini Taylor yet but after one chapter in I had already decided she is a brilliant author with a beautiful way with words and potentially a new favourite. The rest of the book completely held up to those initial thoughts and I am officially needing everything she has ever written ASAP. Watch my blog for my full review in the next few days.

#3: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

A quick read but packed full with romance and intrigue. I was pleasantly surprised by this book. Ahdieh has a simple yet lush writing style that flows with ease and sensory delight. I was kept guessing through most of the story and spent a couple late nights devouring it because I was desperate to solve the mystery of Khalid and why he takes a bride every night only for her to be found dead the next morning. My full review is here.

#4: The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon

I still haven’t reviewed this book but I plan soon. I had conflicted feelings when I finished because I am a die hard fan of the first two books in The Bone Season series and The Song Rising wasn’t quite what I expected. I will say that it has a completely different pace and atmosphere and comes across as a little more of a generic political dystopian than the first books, with much fewer whimsical and paranormal details that I had loved about The Bone Season and The Mime Order. However after my initial disappointment I have started to appreciate it for what it is and not how it stands up to its predecessors. It’s action-packed and the characters don’t stop moving for most of the story so it’s certainly a page-turner. We get to see more of the surrounding Scion-inhabited world and strong development for my beloved Paige Mahoney and Warden. I will be writing out my thoughts on this book shortly and I am eagerly awaiting TBS #4.
So there you have it. Half a year down, and so many more books to read! Do you have any thoughts to share about my choices? I would love to hear them below!