Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Companion of the Night by Vivian Vande Velde

Companion of the Night
by Vivian Vande Velde


Summary: When Kerry's little brother forgets his stuffed bear at the laundry, Kerry ventures out at 11th p.m. to retrieve it for him. The laundry is deserted and kind of spooky, and while she's there three men burst in, dragging a bound and bloodied young man they insist is a vampire. Kerry helps him escape, only to be caught up in a desperate game between vampire hunters and their prey.
This book was...well, kind of a let down. But not because it was a bad book, I want to be clear on that. The issue was that I went into it expecting something very different.

Basically, a booktuber I'm subscribed to mentioned that this book was one of her favourite romance stories. And I was in the mood for a good romance, so I thought I'd pick this one up and...well, as far as that went: total let down.

The story itself is good. It was addictive and fun and had that really good pre-Twilight, 90's vampire vibe to it that I loved. If you want to read a vampire story that has more gory, bad/morally ambiguous vampires, this is a good quick read.

But as a romance? I didn't see it as that at all. 90% of the story was basically spent with the dude threatening and manipulating her and aside from the fact she comments on him being hot, there was nothing romantic about it at all. And when it did actually become a romance, it was really quite abrupt -- she literally goes from 0 to "I love you" in a matter of hours and they've only known each other for 2 days total (at least some of it was spent sleeping). She barely knows anything about him because all he does is lie.

Had she said she cared about him, against her better judgements, that I could buy because of the intensity of the situation and all but not love. Because it was so abrupt with no real build up, the scene it all leads to is as bland as reading a shopping list -- like "then he kissed me" and "I love you" would fit right in between eggs, milk, bread and toilet roll.

And the ending... I don't need everything to be neatly tied up but endings that don't have much closure bug me. We find out maybe one or two true things about him in the last few pages and we don't get to see much of the aftermath really. It was just an unsatisfying ending and just in general really.

I don't know if I'd have felt differently had it been recommended differently (i.e. as a supernatural thriller/vampire story rather than a book with a good romance) or if I'd read it when I was much younger before I had so much to compare it to. It was entertaining...just disappointing. And I'm being repetitive so, to wrap this up: I'd rate it 2.5 stars out of 5. Very good read if you're looking for some 90's vampire book nostalgia...just don't go into it with the expectations I had.

Later.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Ten Literary People I'd Name Something After

The topic of this weeks Top Ten Tuesday is Ten Characters I'd Name A Child/Dog/Cat/Car/Etc. After.

I really love this topic. I'm a bit obsessed with names...probably because I'm a writer, so names are important to me. If I can't get the right name for a character, I can't write the story. Hell, if I don't like the name of a character in a book I'm reading then that can totally influence my reading experience.


I'm going to do a mixture of things rather than just choosing one type of thing. And I'm making it "literary people" instead of characters because there's some author references on my list too.


1. Fitz from Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta - Choosing this one first because I actually have named a thing after him already. I'm one of those people that names gadgets and appliances (no clue why really) and Fitz is the name of the USB that I back up my most important files on (i.e. music and stories, mostly). My current phone may or may not be named Poe, as in Edgar Allen...



2. Hermione or Luna from Harry Potter - Grouping these together seeing as they're from the same series and I'd use the names in the same way: as either middle names for a child or cat names. Hermione has the added bonus of also being a name from Shakespeare's, The Winter's Tale and from Greek mythology.

3. And, seeing as I'm grouping series names together and I'm talking middle names: Isabella, Rosalie, Alice, and Jasper from Twilight -- purely because I love the names (I'd loved all but Rosalie pre-Twilight -- Isabella had actually been on my baby name list after my granny's sister, who died when she was only 11 of meningitis, but Twilight kind of put me off ever using it as a first name).


4. Eleanor from Eleanor and Park - I would totally name a little girl that. I liked the name, but my love for the book made me love it. And while we're on the subject of Rainbow Rowell? I used to not really like the name Georgie for a girl, but Landline made me sort of love it (especially when paired with a last name like McCool).


5. Auden, Halley, Remy from Sarah Dessen books - Sarah Dessen not only has a talent for writing wonderful contemporaries, but she also gives her female characters A+ names. I'd definitely name a kid after one of her characters.

6. Lochan from Forbidden - This one is an odd one. I adore this book and this character, but the subject matter is so taboo and heartbreaking that it makes my love for the name feel weird. But I do love the name and I would even consider naming a kid that. Maybe because I'm Scottish -- I'm not sure if Tabitha Suzuma made up the name, but it has a very Scottish vibe to it (if it's pronounced the way us Scots pronounce it -- LOCK-an).

7. Cosima from Orphan Black - Not a book, but there is a graphic novel/comic of the show, so it counts, right? I would love naming a cat Cosima. Or even a character or the middle name for a child. I love the name and love it even more because of the character -- she's nerdy and adorable and vkjlkfjv. If not Cosima, then Cosmic Creepers because of Bedknobs and Broomsticks...because I'm ridiculous. But that's not literary... Okay, I totally cheated with this one, didn't I.


8. Bronte or Alcott - I would absolutely name a cat one of those (I keep saying cat -- I don't actually have any cats, I have a dog, but something about the names just seem like cat names to me? And I would love to get a cat someday).




9. Elphaba from Wicked - It's really the musical I love, but it's based on a book and that book is based on a classic book, so it totally counts. This is another cat one -- I'd totally name a cat Elphaba/Elphie. And the author of the book, Wicked, came up with the name from the initials of The Wizard of Oz author (L. Frank Baum - LFB, el-fuh-ba).

10. Ponyboy or Sodapop from The Outsiders - I would definitely name a pet this. I did try suggesting the names to my best friend for her tortoise but her husband vetoed them (hasn't read the book), but he was named Darwin instead (as in Charles Darwin), which is awesome too. It would be quite ridiculous calling one of those names out for a dog, but I do like the idea of training a dog to respond to "Stay gold, Ponyboy" 

Honorary mention: Winifred/Winnie from Tuck Everlasting. I used to hate that name and it would just make me think of Winnie from Hocus Pocus (lovelovelovelove that movie, but not the best character to be thinking of when you hear a name), but Tuck Everlasting made me love it. I wouldn't inflict it on a child as a first name though, perhaps a middle name. Or a pet name (as in, name for a pet, not - a pet name for a kid).

There's so many other literary names I adore too but these are the first lot that came to mind when I saw the topic. What about you (assuming anyone is reading), what literary names do you like?


Later.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson

Where Am I Now? 
True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame 
by Mara Wilson 


Summary: Mara Wilson has always felt a little young and a little out of place: as the only child on a film set full of adults, the first daughter in a house full of boys, the sole clinically depressed member of the cheerleading squad, a valley girl in New York and a neurotic in California, and one of the few former child actors who has never been in jail or rehab. Tackling everything from how she first learned about sex on the set of Melrose Place, to losing her mother at a young age, to getting her first kiss (or was it kisses?) on a celebrity canoe trip, to not being “cute” enough to make it in Hollywood, these essays tell the story of one young woman’s journey from accidental fame to relative (but happy) obscurity. But they also illuminate a universal struggle: learning to accept yourself, and figuring out who you are and where you belong. 
I really, really loved this book. Both the book itself and as an audiobook. Mara Wilson is an excellent storyteller, and hearing her narrate her own story was a wonderful experience. There's something about people narrating their own biographies -- they get the tone perfect because they know how it should be told, it just adds and extra layer of something that doesn't come across in the text version.

I'm very bad a reviewing biographies. Fiction is easier, because the people and lives aren't real. I can talk about character development and the plot and what/who I liked and didn't like. I can't critique a biography without feeling like I'm an asshole, or feeling weird in the ways I'm judging it because it's real...there's a real person in every line of it, real experiences. But, I'll try:

I'm far from being alone in my adoration of Mara Wilson -- her portrayal of Matilda was such a huge part of my childhood (a part I happily and nostalgically passed onto my niece because its timeless), but in the past few years, I've been a fan of her online presence too. Loved seeing little glimpses of the person she's become since her days as a child star. Online, she comes across as funny, intelligent and just a pretty good person in general.

This book, it fills in the stuff that happened in between her movie days and the person she is now. Tells the bits of her life we didn't get to see back at the height of her fame and stuff that happened after. You'd think it would be hard to relate to someone whose life seemed to be so vastly different from what most of us experience, but it wasn't and I was surprised by how many moments of "omg, me too!" and "yes, that! that's exactly how that felt!" there was in the book. I was surprised by how much of her story was so like my own, particularly the struggles with mental illness and the loss of a parent at a young age.

It reminded me, once again, that *Famous People* were still just that: people. 

While the behind the scenes glimpses we get of her movie days were excellent, my favourite bits of the book were the simple human experiences that we all go through -- the loves and losses and awkward moments, the family stuff, the figuring out what we believe in and the process of finding our place in life and learning to accept ourselves. 

That's the heart of the book and that's what I loved about it (although I did also really love the way she describes what it's like to be a woman, her experiences universal in a lot of ways but amplified because unlike most girls, she was growing up under public scrutiny).

I cried multiple times listening to this (once, almost in the middle of a public park because unfortunately, it got to the heartbreaking bits about Robin Williams mid-walk). But it made me smiled a lot too (probably looking a bit creepy in the process to anyone walking past me).

This book, it wasn't about Mara Wilson, the child actress. It was just Mara, the whole person, not just the little bits and pieces we've seen over the years (well, as whole as you can condense into a biography). Her grief, her anxiety and insecurities, her high points and lows and I have a lot of respect for her for having the courage to share it like this.

I normally struggle to focus on audiobooks. I have a few audiobooks I started listening to last year that I'm still not finished yet... I listened to this one in just two days. It was that good. I'd rate it 5 stars out of 5.

Later.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Book Adaptation Wish List

So...this was actually a tag on booktube, but it got me thinking and seemed like fun so I decided to do a post on it (adding a few more categories myself). 

Basically, there's different categories (e.g. movie, cartoon, musical, etc) and you have to choose a book you'd like to see adapted into that format. If you feel like making a post, link in the comments so I can check it out? I'd love to see other peoples choices. 

I did attempt to stick to just three picks for each one, but that - yeah that didn't happen. 


Movie:


A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini - Done right, this one could be such a beautiful movie. It'd need incredible, authentic actors to get it right (i.e. not whitewashed, as Hollywood tends to do). His other book, The Kite Runner, was made into a movie and it was heartbreaking and lovely, but I think this would be even better. I think a movie actually was in the works but I don't know if anything has come of it.

On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta - This...it could go really wrong. But I think Melina wrote a script for it and her writing is fantastic (and she is good at script writing as well as novels -- her episodes of the show Dance Academy were some of my favourites of the series, before I even knew she was the one that wrote them). Again, movie was in the works but who knows if it'll ever come to fruition. 

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein - This one. I so desperately want this one to be a movie, it'd be so fantastic with the right cast. I hope if it ever does happen they cast someone who is actually Scottish for Julie though -- not many actors can quite pull off our accents.

Stolen by Lucy Christopher - I need a movie adaptation of this one so badly. It's one of those books that, while you're reading, the descriptions of the scenery just make it so easy to picture it as if it were a movie. I think this one was actually in the process of being made (they even cast the dude who was Jason in True Blood, I think?) but then it stalled.

And: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira, Looking for Alaska by John Green, and Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell - all of these ones could potentially be great with all the right people involved (and the right soundtracks -- especially for LLttD and E&P), but they could also go wrong quite easily. I'd still like to see Hollywood attempt adaptations for them though.

Remake (i.e. one that already has a movie but should be redone):

Ella Enchanted - I love this movie. But...I loved the book too and aside from the basic premise, the two have little in common. The movie went in a more fun, whimsical, lighthearted direction while the book was more serious. I'd quite like to see the story attempted staying more faithful to the tone and plot of the book.

Blood and Chocolate - I liked this movie, it was entertaining enough but like with Ella Enchanted, it had little to do with the book. Even less so than Ella Enchanted actually. Literally all it had in common was character names and the fact that werewolves exist. They changed pretty much everything, even the ending. And in the process, they wrecked was made the story unique and turned it into another generic paranormal romance story. They also trashed one of the most interesting characters and relationships in the book. So yeah...I'd love a remake, done right this time, actually following the plot of the book.

Like Water For Chocolate - I did really like this movie and as far as adaptations go, it's quite good. But it also feels very low budget and dated. I'd love an adaptation made now, just to see what the movie could be with better effects and equipment and a slightly higher budget.

Honourable mentions - Twilight...mostly because I'd like to see the first movie done 1) with a better director (I like Catherine's style of direction in gritty dramas, not so much in paranormal romance), 2) a better lead actress (I like Kristen more in the later movies, but in the first one...no), 3) a better budget and script.

Also: The Lying Game and The Nine Lives of Chloe King. I don't so much wish for them to be remade but I think the shows got cancelled way too quickly and weren't given much of a chance so I'd like them continued. And they were cancelled on cliffhangers (I really loathe studios that do that -- cliffhanger endings should not be allowed if a series is at risk of cancellation). Or Meg Cabots Missing (which also feels quite dated so a remake would be good).

TV Show:

Throne of Glass - I think this one actually IS being made into a TV series and it could be so fantastic if it's done right (by right, I mean if it leans more in a Game of Thrones direction than Shannara Chronicles/Mortal Instruments).

Jennifer Lynn Barnes Natural's series - I'd love this as a TV show and the premise really lends itself to that format. It's about a group of teenagers who have an exceptional aptitude for certain skills that the FBI find useful (lying/detecting lies, profiling, reading peoples emotions, etc). The books have a good cast of characters that would translate well to screen, plots that would work as season arc's and the premise could easily be adapted to have them working on individual cases for episode arcs. 

Or, if not that series, then The Body Finder series by Kimberley Derting - for all of the same reasons. Only this one is about a girl who can sense dead bodies and then the FBI gets involved and there's serial killers and all that... So, again, it would work well as a show.

The Good Girls by Sara Shepard - It has a lot in common with PLL and since that show is wrapping up, this would be a good one to adapt to take its place. Like PLL, it revolves around a group of girls and the web of lies and murder they get caught up in. I liked the characters in this one a lot, and the friendships. 

Mini series:

Illuninae - I'd like to see this one as a Firefly-ish mini-series. I don't think I'd like it condensed too much to fit into a movie or drawn out to make it into a full TV show. Maybe 4-6 episodes.

The Lumatere Chronicles - I'd love this so much as a mini-series. There's too much to fit into a movie while doing justice to the story and characters. Mini-series would also mean they'd be less likely to pull annoying cliff hangers like they do with TV shows.

The Bronze Horseman - This one is actually in the works to become a movie, I think, but they're going to have to cut so much to fit it all in. The book is pretty big, and it's historical fiction so there's a lot of interesting stuff they could fit in about the war and the siege of Leningrad in a mini-series, whereas the movie will probably focus more on the romance because of time restraints.

Cartoon:

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell - I'm not really much of a fan of cartoons. This is literally the only book I could think of that I'd like to see as a cartoon. Maybe because it's kind of cheesy and that would work well in a cartoon but would seem pretty bad in a movie or something. Plus, they wouldn't have to worry about the special effects if it was animated.

Graphic Novel/Comic:

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender - I want a graphic novel adaptation of this one so bad. If they got the right artist (in my head, the people would be drawn realistically but it would have a whimsical quality, like the book does, and would be in pastel-y watercolours). 

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor - Same as above...it's one of those stories with such unusual characters and imagery in the book that it'd be nice to see those drawn out. (I picture this one with a bolder style -- mostly pale/monochrome with pops of the bright colours, like the blue for Karou's hair.)

Nevermore by Kelly Creagh - Again, so many bizarre characters and settings in this so it would work so well as a graphic novel. I'd love seeing it in a darker style, like The Crow, with reds and purples being the only colours.


Play/Musical:

Code Name Verity - I've already mentioned this one on the list and I don't know why, but I think could probably be adapted into a pretty good musical (imagining That Scene near the end as a duet between Julie and Maddie? Glkjdkbjfv!).

Carry On - Again, already mentioned, but it could be a good play (with musical elements). Kind of in the vein of Cursed Child. 

Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins - This could make an interesting musical. More lighthearted than a Code Name Verity one would be, lots of bright colours and upbeat songs and mixes of musical genres and...I dunno, I could totally see it working as a musical. 

Pretty Little Liars - Musical. Not the entire series, obviously, just the first A plot arc, cutting out all the extra story lines they used to drag out the series and the show. Kind of Heathers-ish. Could be really fun. 

And...that's all I've got. I love books being adapted into other forms so much, and sure sometimes they get it really wrong but it's still an interesting process and it's worth it when they get it right. 

Again, let me know if you do your own posts so I can check them out! :)

Later.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Unpopular Opinion: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Note/warning: there will be spoilers in this review because I can't explain my thoughts without them. And the majority of the review is talking about mental illness and suicide.


All the Bright Places
by Jennifer Niven


Summary: Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.
Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink. 
So... I kind of hated this book. A lot. But I want to make something clear before I get into the why's of that: I don't think it's a bad book, it was just a bad book for me personally. If you love it, that's fine, if your opinion is different to mine, that's fine too -- opinions are subjective. I guess I feel the need to clarify that because I've seen so much high praise for this book.

But... I hated it. And these are the reasons why:

I read a few reviews after reading the book, trying to see if I was alone in the bad reaction I had to it. I stumbled across a couple of reviews that basically said that this isn't a book for kids who have depression, it's for the kids who have friends with depression. And that -- that right there sums up the biggest problem I had with the book.

I've read books with mentally ill characters before, even ones where they do kill themselves. And I've even loved some of those books. But this one was different. It was different because most of those, we read from the perspective of someone other than the person who commits suicide and I think that's actually quite important.

When you write from the perspective of the mentally ill person, especially a fictional story (memoirs are different), it's important to remember hope. To remember that the person reading might be in the same position as your character, and they need hope. And this book didn't do that. There was hope for the one left behind, but not for the one who was suicidal.

It was chapter after chapter of depressive thoughts, page after page after page of suicide ideation, it didn't show any method of someone seeking professional help in a positive light. Then it ends with Finch killing himself. It's a bleak and hopeless ending for him...one that manipulates the emotions of the reader and has people bawling as they read about how sad it all is.

But the saddest part is the people reading and relating to Finch, relating to those suicidal thoughts, and rather than it giving them hope? Rather than the message being "you can survive this" it's closer to validating all of those little voices in their head that they can't shake that tell them there's only one way out.

Had I read this during one of my low points, especially when I was a teen at my lowest, at that time where books were one of the few one of the few hopeful things I had left -- it would've been enough to push me over the edge. That sounds extreme, but when you're in that frame of mind, it's the little things that can set you off and the little things that can keep you going.

And that...that's not on Jennifer Niven. I understand that that is the absolute opposite of her intent in writing this book -- but it's just the truth. My truth at least, and the truth of a lot of mentally ill people that I know and many that I don't.

For someone who is depressed or has been depressed, I would never ever recommend this book to them. Maybe there would be some readers that would find some good in it, but because there's a big chance it could be detrimental, it's not worth the risk to me.

I thought it was a very trope-y portrayal of mental illness (specifically bipolar disorder) and I do think it romanticizes it. And it's not that it contains a romance, it's the way it's written:

Finch's illness is this thing about him that makes him Other, makes him interesting and charismatic and unique (manic pixie dream boy, basically) -- and it's like that in his chapters too, not just Violet's. Then his death reduces him to just this boy whose purpose was to be a plot device in Violet's story...like he was just meant to save her and love her and change her life, then his death was something for her to learn from.

It was like he never got to be more than his mental illness, and his mental illness wasn't handled very well. Which is sad because it's not like he was a badly written character in general, it's just that part (although his pretentiousness was irritating and his "you're not like other girls" attitude about Violet was even worse).

There were other things that bugged me about the book (the characters, both together and apart) but this review is long and negative enough as it is so I won't elaborate on those.

As for positives with the book: it was quite well written. Jennifer Niven is a good writer. My issue was purely with the subject matter and the way it was handled in this. If she ever writes a book that sounds good to me, and doesn't sound harmful or offensive, I'd probably check it out.

The tl;dr version of this is:

People who are suicidal or have been suicidal do not need to read someone else's suicidal thoughts (unless they get to see them come out the other side of it and live and be okay). They don't need to read someone being dismissive of therapy and medication or people calling them a freak. They don't need to the climax of that persons story to be suicide -- especially when the impact their death is shown the way it was here (e.g. the people that bullied that person crying at their funeral, shrines to them set up at school...when you're in a suicidal state of mind, that image wouldn't deter you from acting on your thoughts, if anything it could be encouragement).

People who haven't been suicidal or depressed or had personal experience with mental illness...maybe there's something they could get out of this book. I don't know. But for anyone that has, I don't think it'd be healthy or helpful to read (although people are free to judge for themselves, this is just why I personally wouldn't recommend it to someone mentally ill).

I'd rate the book 1.5 stars out of 5. I actually think I could maybe like the movie adaptation (there is one currently in the works), because the problem was that Finch's POV was included in the book...the story, had we not been stuck in his head half the time, would've been much different for me.

Later.

p.s. and just in case anyone feels the need to point it out to me: yes, I do know the story behind how she got the idea for the book. Does not change my opinion at all -- authorial intent isn't always on the same page as what they actually end up writing or how it's interpreted by readers. Also, it's the reason this review focuses more on Finch rather than Violet.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Ten Books I've Read On Recommendation

Top Ten Tuesday topic this week:


All About Books You Read Because of Recommendation -- Ten Books I've Read Because Of Another  Blogger (Or Book Person) or Ten Books I Read On Recommendation From People Outside Of This Community or you could talk about recommendations of books you read from other sources -- a magazine, a podcast, a "because you read this" algorithm.

I'm going to go with the books I've read on recommendation from other bookish people (authors, writers, people I knew from fan forums, bloggers, etc.). 

Hell, I could have probably just named this post "I blame Julie" and came up with 10 books I've read and loved based on her recommendation (a few years ago, we did a "books my co-blogger forced me to read" challenge and I loved 3 of the 4 she chose for me - so I won't include those ones but if you want to check out what we made each other read, click the link), but I'll try to make my list a bit more varied. So:

(links will take you to goodreads pages)

Ten Books I've Read on Recommendation

1. Hourglass by Myra McEntire - I don't know why I've not read the sequel to this yet, because I loved it. I read it purely on Julie's recommendation because she loved it and raved about it for months (literally) before it was released.

2. Rebel Belle and Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins - These were both Julie rec's (and series I need to finish), and I loved them. They're such fun reads, especially Rebel Belle (and I love the way that one subverts a lot of girl stereotypes and tropes).

3. The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons - I don't remember who exactly recommended this one first. I know it was a booktuber but quite a few booktubers mentioned it round about the same time (it may have been Regan/PeruseProject?). I love this book so much. It's a love story set during the siege of Leningrad (the romance has its issues, but the historical elements and setting are interesting).

4. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel - Rosiana Halse Rojas/missxrojas recommended this one. It's the book that made me realise how much I love magical realism and how much I craved books with more diverse cultures than the ones I had been reading. If you haven't read this one, please do, it's beautiful.

5. Peter and Alice by John Logan - This one is a play and it is so beautifully written. It's a fictionalised account of a real meeting between the real Peter and Alice, who inspired the title characters in Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland. This one was recommended by booktuber/author Jen Campbell. Her recommendations are excellent, she always recommends books that make me broaden my horizons and go out of my reading comfort zones.

6. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein - Book bloggers in general recommended this one. People were raving about it when it came out, so I stuck with it to the end even though I found the first half of the book a struggle to get through...and now it's one of my favourite books. I also wanna include Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak here, because it was the same thing with them really (although Fangirl was less of a struggle to get into).

7. Stolen by Lucy Christopher - This was recommended by someone on a livejournal writing community I used to be a member of and I absolutely loved it. We both loved a few of the same books so, even now, she's one of the handful of people whose recommendations I know I can trust because we have similar taste. If she says she loves a book, I know there's a good chance I'll love it too. 

8. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta - I talk all the time about how she's one of my favourite authors and I am so grateful to the girl who introduced me to her books (via this one). There was a girl I used to talk to online back in the early Twilight days and we stayed in sort-of contact even after we both stopped going on the forum, mostly through Deviantart because we were both into writing and art. She was Australian and she posted a picture inspired by the book, titled it after it, and that got us talking about it. *shrug*

9. Eloisa James, and Sarah MacLean, and other regency romance authors - I blame Julie and the same girl who recommended Stolen to me. Their recommendations got me reading and loving regency romance and now I'm addicted.

10. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins - This one was actually recommended by John Green in a video and that's the main reason I picked it up. Not because he was the one recommending it exactly, but because the books had pretty terrible covers...very cliche and bland and I do sometimes judge a book by its cover. But the things he said when he recommended it convinced me there was more too it than the cover made it seem. And he was right. It was wonderfully written, great characters, and I can't think of anything I didn't love about it.

What's the best book you have read on recommendation?

Later.

Monday, 10 October 2016

All In (The Naturals #3) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

All In
by Jennifer Lynn Barnes


Summary: Three casinos. Three bodies. Three days.

After a string of brutal murders in Las Vegas, Cassie Hobbes and the Naturals are called in to investigate. But even with the team's unique profiling talents, these murders seem baffling: unlike many serial killers, this one uses different methods every time. All of the victims were killed in public, yet the killer does not show up on any tape. And each victim has a string of numbers tattooed on their wrist. Hidden in the numbers is a code—and the closer the Naturals come to unraveling the mystery, the more perilous the case becomes.
Meanwhile, Cassie is dealing with an equally dangerous and much more painful mystery. For the first time in years, there's been a break in her mother's case. As personal issues and tensions between the team mount, Cassie and the Naturals will be faced with impossible odds—and impossible choices.
This is going to be a pretty short review, I think, because I don't have much to say beyond what I've already said about all the books in this series.

Basically, I've yet to read a Jennifer Lynn Barnes book I haven't really enjoyed (I think I've read 7 or 8 so far?) and this one, while probably my least favourite of all her books so far, was no exception.

The reason it was my least favourite isn't because it was bad, it's purely because it's just not as good as the others -- it felt very much like a bridge between books. Like most of what happens is just to set up for the next book. Plot-wise, it didn't grip me as much as its predecessors in the series. It wasn't bad, it's just that it was simultaneously trying to have the murder case arc of this book while intertwining that with stuff to lay the groundwork for the next one and it got a bit much in the end and dragged in parts because there were too many red herrings.

But I still loved the characters. The ones that were usually at the forefront were kind of on the back burner a bit in this one, which would've been disappointing except we got to get a bit more back story on other characters. Sloane's story in particular was great and heartbreaking and I adore her, I just want to give her the biggest hug (well, if she weren't fictional).

That's all I have to say about the book really. I really liked it. It's the weakest book in the series so far in a lot of ways, but it's left me so excited for the next book and I just think very highly of the series in general -- it's fun and addictive, like all of the authors books. I'd rate it 3.5 stars out of 5 (while the series as a whole is so far at a solid 4-4.5 out of 5).

Later.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Discussion (sort of): Books I Don't Want to Give Up On

Okay...so, I don't know if anyone has noticed or not (probably not), but I've been kind of MIA for the past month or so on the blog until this week. And it's not because I don't want to blog, it's more that I've been in one of the most frustrating reading slumps.

I keep starting books and even if I like them, I struggle to finish them. And so I keep starting new books, hoping they'll break the pattern but it's just led to there being this massive pile of half finished books that I can't seem to get through. Then there's other books I desperately want to read, but I don't let myself because I need to finish the half-finished stack and...and it's just really frustrating. And utterly ridiculous.

This post is basically just going to be a list of the books that I am currently stuck in various stages of reading. Books that I don't want to give up on, no matter how utterly frustrated I am by them, because I'm stubborn to a fault:

1. Nevernight by Jay Kristoff - This one...it's not bad. Far from it, but little things about it keep bothering me (like the footnotes - the rage I have over the footnotes is vast and completely irrational but I can't shake it). So I put it down and can't seem to pick it up again. But... but Illuminae was like that and I ended up absolutely loving that book, so I want to stick with it in case it's like that and he's just one of those authors whose books grow on me rather than being love at first page.

2. Remembrance by Meg Cabot - The Mediator series is...well, I love it. Really love it. And I was so freaking excited that we were getting another one and I haven't been so thoroughly let down by a book in a long time. I've dragged my way through less than a hundred pages of it and I've been feeling nothing but bored and annoyed, and actually pretty upset by something early in the book (and not in a way I should feel reading a book -- it's one of the first times I've ever been "triggered" by a book).

3. And I Darken by Kiersten White - I like the writing. I love the characters. But oh my god can this plot bore me to tears. I have so little interest in it that it's making it a struggle to get through...maybe it'll pick up pace later on but for now, it's just character driven for me and I'm so not in the mood for that. So I do want to finish it, I just can't right now.

4. On the Other Side by Carrie Hope Fletcher - I like Carrie's youtube. I liked the sound of the story (and it was a similar premise to one of my own so I was determined to check it out because of that too). But the book... I'm struggling with it. There are things I like, but the writing style is really not my cup of tea and it's kind of sickly sweet (so, subjective, not objectively bad) but I need to finish it. I dunno why, I just do. 

5. Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin - I'd initially written this off as "interesting premise, but not for me" but then people were raving about it and it made me reconsider. So far, my initial instincts appear to be correct but because it's a book I was sent to review and because I want to see if it improves, I don't want to DNF it.

6. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott - I love the movie and more classics was on my reading challenge for the year. I've read some of this...it's an easy enough read, it's just quite boring and irritating in certain parts. The movie, in this case, is definitely worlds better than the book.

7. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr - I'm expecting this book to be wonderful, I've heard nothing but good things about it. But I have a feeling it's going to take a while to get into and so far it just hasn't hooked me yet.

8. Unnaturally Green by Felicia Ricci - This one is a short autobiography of an actress who played Elphaba in Wicked and I love musical theatre, I'm so fascinated by the behind the scenes atmosphere, and Wicked is one of my favourites. So, again, I was expecting great things. Started it about Christmas time last year...still have not finished it. But I will. I refuse to give up on it. 

9. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent - My problem with this one is kind of my own fault. I started listening to it on audiobook and I am so fussy with audiobooks. The narration is great, but I need to be in such a specific mood to listen to a book on audio. I have a physical copy, but I can't seem to transition between the two, so I'm stuck with the audio and it's taking forever.

10. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray - This one...it's...well, I actually started it ages ago. Like, well over a year ago and I didn't like it. But everyone else seems to love it. I'd given myself permission to DNF it but it's still been nagging at the back of my mind -- I need to finish it and see what all the fuss is about. This is the only one on the list that hasn't been part of my recent issue with being unable to finish books. 

Does anyone else have this same problem? Where you just can't stick with a book and the pile of unfinished ones just keeps growing and growing and the more it does, the worse your reading slump gets?

Later.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

When the Moon Was Ours
by Anna-Marie McLemore


Summary: When the Moon Was Ours follows two characters through a story that has multicultural elements and magical realism, but also has central LGBT themes—a transgender boy, the best friend he’s falling in love with, and both of them deciding how they want to define themselves.

To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town.

But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.
It took one chapter for me to love this book. One chapter, and it was like, "Okay, you've got me." -- I was thoroughly hooked. I went into it not knowing what to expect, and what I found was a new book for my favourites shelf and a new author for my favourites list.

The writing was absolutely beautiful -- it was such a lyrical, magical story with a cast of characters I'm going to remember for a very long time. It's books like this that remind me that I lovelovelove magical realism, and make me wonder why in the world I haven't read more books from that genre.

The book actually surprised me so many times, and that's quite rare these days -- it seems like half the books I've been reading are easy to predict, but not this one, it was unpredictable and I loved every twist and turn it took.

It's one of the few books I've read that I can't find fault in -- not one single flaw or disappointment, nothing I didn't like.

You know those stories and it's like, as you're reading, it fills your heart with helium so by the end it's like it could just rise right up out of your body and take flight? This book did that, filled me with so much lightness and brightness. I'd rate it 5 stars out of 5.

That's all I'm going to say about the book. I could gush about it for ages, but I think it's actually better going into it really knowing what to expect.

And now I'm going to have to go back and read the authors first book (The Weight of Feathers) -- I don't know why I initially had that written off as not my kind of thing, because if it's anything like this one it was most definitely my kind of thing and now I just need to read anything she's ever published.

Later.

Monday, 3 October 2016

The Special Ones by Em Bailey

The Special Ones
by Em Bailey


Summary: Esther is one of the four Special Ones. They are chosen by him to live under his protection in a remote farmhouse, and they must always be ready to broadcast their lives to eager followers in the outside. But on renewal day when he decides that a new Esther, Harry, Lucille or Felicity must take their place, the old ones disappear – forever. The new ones don’t always want to come, but soon they realise.

Until one day Esther has a realisation of her own – and it changes everything.
I had very high hopes for this book and it was kind of a let down...but also not. What it boils down to really was just that it wasn't what I was expecting it to be and it contained one of my pet peeves in this type of book.

The first chunk of the book was pretty slow and boring. It feels like not much happens, then the second part almost feels like a different book entirely -- it starts speeding through everything and it would've been really good, except it introduces a new POV into the mix when it gets to that part.

The new POV was the biggest issue I had with the book. I really, really don't like when the bad guys POV is included in the story, with very few exceptions. It just totally shatters all of the suspense the story could have had -- we're not trying to figure out what the bad guys motivations are or what he's thinking, because we're told. We don't get caught up worrying what he might be planning, because we're told. And it adds a very Scooby Doo soap opera tone and adds a weird element of ridiculousness to a story that should be raw and gritty.

I went into the book expecting it to be full of psychological intrigue and for it to mess with my emotions because of the cult story line...I didn't get any of that really. But, the saving grace of the story were the characters (bad guy excluded): I loved the main character and the other captives in the house, loved the dynamics of their relationships and her relationship with her parents.

Basically, it was a good book, a lot of it just wasn't my cup of tea but it was well written with a good cast of characters. If you want to read a cult book that is entertaining and not emotionally draining as those books can usually be, I really recommend checking this one out.

I'd rate it 3 stars out of 5.

Later

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