Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Book & Movie Review: Ten by Gretchen McNeil

Ten
by Gretchen McNeil

Summary: Shhhh! Don't spread the word! Three-day weekend. Party at White Rock House on Henry Island. You do not want to miss it.

It was supposed to be the weekend of their lives—an exclusive house party on Henry Island. Best friends Meg and Minnie each have their reasons for being there (which involve T.J., the school’s most eligible bachelor) and look forward to three glorious days of boys, booze and fun-filled luxury.

But what they expect is definitely not what they get, and what starts out as fun turns dark and twisted after the discovery of a DVD with a sinister message: Vengeance is mine.

Suddenly people are dying, and with a storm raging, the teens are cut off from the outside world. No electricity, no phones, no internet, and a ferry that isn’t scheduled to return for two days. As the deaths become more violent and the teens turn on each other, can Meg find the killer before more people die? Or is the killer closer to her than she could ever imagine?
So I've been meaning to read this book for ages and finally got around to it because I wanted to watch the movie adaptation that Lifetime did. And, well, the book was a pleasant (or not so pleasant, given the genre?) surprise but the movie was a let down.

Let's start with the book: it had me thoroughly hooked right from the start and it kept me guessing right the way through, even when I'd guessed right I still didn't lose interest. The book was pretty much what I was hoping for when I read There's Someone Inside Your House but this one really delivered that 90's slasher movie feel in a way TSIYH didn't quite pull off.

Basically, I really enjoyed the story. I read it in one sitting. The only thing I kind of hated was the mental health representation in the book, I felt like that aspect was kind of done poorly, but other than that, it was good.

Now...the movie. I loved the cast (especially Meg, TJ, Kumiko and Gunner), but the rest of it was kind of a hot mess. 

It stayed pretty true to the book but the script was kind of mediocre and the direction was pretty terrible (the pacing was all off, the transition between scenes wasn't done well and in the book, a lot of the story takes place during a storm and yet in this, it was all bright and broad daylight, which didn't really give the story the atmosphere the book had). Large parts of it had a very high school class project vibe to it rather than professional movie.

It is worth watching for the cast or if you like the book, or you just want something quick and fun to watch, but I wouldn't recommend going into it with high expectations.

Overall, the book gets 4 stars out of 5. The movie gets 2 out of 5.

Later.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Top Ten Books From My First Year of Blogging

I haven't done a Top Ten Tuesday in a while (if one showed up last week or the week before? I wrote this one first)...but I saw this topic and couldn't not post. It was fun going back to see the books I was reading back in 2008/09 (blog started late 08).

So...these are the books I was loving almost 10 years ago:

1. Jellicoe Road and Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

Melina is one of my favourite authors, and I'm including two books from her because after I read Jellicoe I went on to read and love her other books as soon as I could. My love for Jellicoe Road and her as an author have definitely stood the test of time, I still love that book just as much (if not more) and have loved her more recent books too.

2. Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle

I don't remember too much about this book beyond a micro pig and a snow storm, but I remember loving it at the time...and I think I might actually give it a reread this year nearer Christmas.

3. Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen

I think this one might have been my first Sarah Dessen book and I obviously loved it enough to put her on my insta-buy list. I think I own all but a couple of her books, though I've yet to read them all. And I think I need to have a week dedicated to Sarah Dessen catch up reading sometime soon.

4. The Boys Next Door and Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols

I remember loving these books so much at the time. I had an addiction to those little Simon Pulse romcoms with the awful cartoon covers and Jennifer's were some of my favourites, she used to be on my insta-read list (she didn't do anything to warrant not being on the list anymore, I just got distracted by other books by other authors and fell behind with hers). I still have the new bind up of The Boys Next Door with the sequel she wrote for it, but I've not read it yet.

5. The Mediator series by Meg Cabot

I lovelovelove this series so much. I remember binge reading all of the books in a few days (granted, they are tiny, but the point was that I was hooked). I've been struggling so much trying to read the newest edition she wrote for the series, it's made me question whether it's just a really bad sequel or maybe the other books were like that too and I just didn't notice...so I guess I'll need to reread at some point to find out.

6. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

This is another one I used to love so much. I still have so much love for the original trilogy, but I'm still trying to drag my way through the last few books in the series, I just want for the series to be over now (a trilogy, extended to 6 books, with a prequel trilogy, spin off books/novella's, and a sequel spin off series and more planned for after that...there can be too much of a good thing).

7. Everything Beautiful by Simmone Howell

I think I won this book in a contest and ended up loving it way more than I expected to. I'd quite like to reread it now just to see what the representation is like now that I'm more aware of it...the main character is a fat girl, the love interest is a guy in a wheelchair, so it's a pretty diverse romance (I just wasn't paying much attention to whether or not it was good representation at the time).

8. Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

I loved this book and this series (again, I'm not sure if it would be considered good racial/cultural representation or not), and I think Simone was actually the second author we ever interviewed on the blog (I think I actually reached out to her to see if she'd like to be interviewed on the blog because I loved her books so much and she was kind enough to say yes).

9. Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

I...can't remember if I loved this book or not (I actually didn't read the reviews for the books on this list because my old reviews make me cringe). I think I at least liked it because I bought Dash and Lily's Book of Dares (another David and Rachel co-authored book that came out later). I do remember not loving it as much as I loved Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist...but I was really excited when I saw they'd adapted this one into a movie too, so I must have some fondness for it, I just don't really remember how I felt when reading it.

10. Evernight by Claudia Gray

I think I loved this book. I remember reading it back when I wanted a vampire book to fill the Twilight void and this one was fun and I remember loving the twist in the story...and I bought at least one of the sequels. Problem is, I never got around to reading the rest of the series and I'm not convinced I'd enjoy the series if I went back to it now.

But anyway, it was fun wading through some old blog nostalgia for a while.

Later.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Franklin's Flying Bookshop by Jen Campbell and Katie Harnett

Franklin's Flying Bookshop
written by Jen Campbell
illustrated by Katie Harnett


Summary: Franklin the dragon loves stories and loves reading stories to people too, but everyone is too scared to even talk to him. One day, he meets a girl named Luna who, rather than being afraid, is fascinated to meet Franklin, having recently read all about dragons in one of her books. They instantly become friends and talk nonstop about what they’ve read: books about roller-skating, King Arthur, spiders, and how to do kung fu. Together they hatch a plan to share their love of books with others by opening a bookshop―a flying bookshop, that is―right on Franklin’s back!
I don't read/review many picture books, but I love Jen's Youtube channel and my best friend is having a baby next month so I got this book for her because...well, dragons and books, how could I not?

The artwork is absolutely stunning (and the quality of the finished book with the foiling is beautiful), the style matched the story perfectly. And the story? I loved the story, it's just as adorable as I expected it to be.

I didn't love the writing style (which is what lowered the rating), but that might be because I like writing in picture books to have a bit more rhythm to them and to be memorable than it was in this one (although lines like "Luna and Franklin feel like they are made out of stories." were lovely). I think maybe my expectations for the actual writing might've been too high given some of Jen's poetry I've read before.

Overall, it's an excellent book. I'm tempted to get a copy for myself just for how aesthetically pleasing it is.

Rating break down:
Story: 4.5/5 stars
Writing: 3.5/5
Artwork/aesthetics: ALL OF THE STARS!
Overall: 4.5 stars out of 5

Later.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Ten Books I Struggled With

So the theme for this week was basically books we struggled with (whether it's ones we DNF or ones we loved in the end or whatever).

This topic interests me because I have such a hard time giving up on books, even if I'm struggling with them. There haven't been many books I've definitively decided to DNF, usually I put them down with the intention of going back to them at some point...and that frustrates me so much. I wish I could quit books more easily, but this list explains why I don't.

The Ones I've Left in Limbo

These are books I've been struggling to finish for over a year but haven't entirely given up on yet.

And I Darken by Kiersten White - I started reading this book last year. Still haven't finished it. So many people seem to love it and I can get why they do...the main character is really interesting, she's so unlike most of the female narrators I've read...the problem is the book is boring. At least, it's boring to me. I'm determined to finish it, I just don't know when. 

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray - I tried reading this one a couple of times but the style just isn't my kind of thing...but everyone speaks so highly of it that I feel like I can't just quit it entirely. I will read it. At some point. Someday. In a galaxy far far away...perhaps. 

Jessica Rules the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey - I absolutely adore the first book in this series and I was so excited for this one...but what I read of it was kind of boring and I wasn't really into the way the plot was going and it lost the spark the first book had...but my love for the first book is making me refuse to quit this one entirely.

The Ones I Loved in the End

These books were ones I struggled with, but I ended up loving... More than that, they ended up on my favourites shelves. These books are to blame for my inability to just put a book down and decide its not for me -- because had I given into that impulse to give up on these books, I would have missed out on fantastic books, so whenever I'm struggling with a book there's always that little "but what if it gets good?" voice that won't shush.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - I had so many false starts with this book. The writing was beautiful, but I found it so easy to put down and forget about...until one time I just sat down and finally read it all and I've never forgotten it since. 

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta - The first 50-100 pages of this were...not a struggle, per say, but it took me a while to get into the rhythm of the story, to really click with the characters and get what was going on. Melina is now one of my top 5 authors, this book is my favourite of hers. 

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein - The first two thirds of this book were quite dull...and then the last third happened and it was love at first big plot twist. I adore this book so, so, so much and I was majorly close to giving up on it, was so baffled by all of the hype surrounding it because I was so bored...and then that last chunk of the book totally made up for it. 

The Ones I'll Never Go Back To

I should maybe explain the primary reason I struggle with certain books: boredom. I can hate the characters, hate the story, be absolutely furious at the content...or a combination of all of these things (lookin' at you, Fifty Shades of WHY DID I READ THAT BOOK?!). I can tolerate a lot of crap in a book, is what I'm getting at. But I hate being bored when reading, that's one of the worst things a book can be for me, and these ones bored me (as well as having other issues).

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff - This book was...Well. It had potential to be fantastic (and this was before all of the issues with the author happened) but it felt like it was trying way too hard and the footnotes were so beyond annoying and completely boring and ruined the whole book. The footnotes were what made me quit the book entirely, but the plot moving at a snails pace didn't help matters.

A Brighter Fear by Kerry Drewery - This was a combination of boredom and hating the writing. I remember this book was one I was so excited for but I just could not finish it. 

Off Magazine Street by Ronald Everett Capps - I love the movie A Love Song for Bobby Long and then I found out it was based on a book. The book was not only duller than watching paint dry, but what I read of it was such pretentious, misogynistic trash. It's one of the rare occasions where the movie is better (the movie was written by a woman, I don't know how she managed to create something beautiful from the hot mess that was this book but she did). I think I got about a third of the way into the book before I threw it (literally) across the room and decided I was done with it.

The Ridiculous One

Just to make it an even ten...

Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente - This book makes the list through no fault of its own  really. I remembered it when trying to think of DNF books for this section and this one made me laugh. 

What it boils down to is this: I'm scared of chalk. The sound of chalk, the feel of chalk...it makes me feel sick, it makes me want to cry. I cannot touch it. And this book had chalky pages (because of the paper it was printed on). I literally tried wearing gloves to read the book but I could still feel it and just - it's bothering me even trying to explain it. Trying to read this book was the biggest of reading struggles and in the end I gave the book to my best friend and sulked about the whole thing because I'm ridiculous. I'll probably read the Kindle version at some point.

There are way more books I could include on this list (especially the limbo section) but let's just leave it with the ten.

Later.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Final Girls by Riley Sager

Final Girls
by Riley Sager

Summary: Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.

Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancĂ©, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.

That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.
I was so excited for this book as soon as I heard about it. I'm a big fan of 90's slasher movies, and seeing a book that revolved around the final girl trope? Definitely on my insta-read list. Unfortunately, the book was kind of a let down. It wasn't bad, I did like it, it just didn't hook me the way I expected it to.

The main problem was that the story progressed at a snails pace. It was pretty boring for large portions of the book. I went into it thinking it was going to be this gripping, thriller read but most of the story was pretty much just the main character in her apartment barely interacting with anyone or doing anything besides baking.

The story didn't start to pick up and deliver the kind of story the summary implied until maybe 80% into the book...and that bit was exciting, it was fun to read, but it was also quite predictable. I'm fine with predictability in this sort of book, but because I'd guessed all of the twists long before they were revealed it meant that the reveal didn't really make up for the story being bored through the first 3/4's of the book.

The characters were interesting, but also really annoying. There wasn't really any of the main cast that I particularly liked or any relationship (friendship or otherwise) that I felt invested in (except for one that I can't mention because of spoilers).

This review is way more negative than my overall opinion of the book, because in the end it definitely wasn't a bad book. Even the bits that bored me weren't bad, it just wasn't what I was expecting...it felt more character driven than plot driven, and I was reading for the plot. That's why the book gets only a 3 star rating from me but it's definitely worth checking out, especially if character driven stories are more your thing.

I'd definitely be up for reading more books by Riley Sager, I'd just go into them with different expectations than I did with this one.

Later.

Friday, 4 August 2017

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

When Dimple Met Rishi
by Sandhya Menon
Summary: Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?
I went into this book expecting to love it. It sounded so good and there was so many glowing reviews, I thought there was no way I wouldn't love it. And it did get there in the end, but for the first two thirds of the book I really struggled to get through it. 

But anyway, let's start with the positives: the characters.

Rishi? He was a little ball of adorable. I love seeing actual nice guy characters rather than "Nice Guys" (you know the ones...where they think they're good guys and we're supposed to think they're good guys but they're actually really not).

And Dimple? I loved her. I loved that she was strong and complex and realistic, I loved that she was a bit of a steel coated marshmallow at first (reminds me of my best friend in that way). I've seen a lot of people criticise her character for basically being a teenager, for being flawed and realistic, but those reasons many people had for not liking Dimple were a big part of the reason I did like her. I loved her and Rishi together, they were so cute and they balanced each other out.

The book also managed to make me laugh out loud quite a few times (the dancing scene was golden -- if I rated the book purely on that scene it'd be 5+ stars), which doesn't happen very often when I'm reading and I loved that Sandhya managed to make me laugh.

And I really loved that they were both Indian-American. There is countless YA romcoms featuring white protagonists but there's barely any Indian-American representation. That racial and cultural diversity matters, it is so important. It matters that Indian-American teens have books like this they can read and relate to because the characters reflect them positively and I hope to see more of them on the shelves soon.

The reasons I struggled so much with the first chunk of the book: a pet peeve of mine, and the plot.

The pet peeve? I really don't like stories, particularly romance based stories, with alternating POV's and unfortunately this book was not one of the rare exceptions (I wasn't a fan of the way it's done in this, with the POV switches often happening mid-scene, sometimes multiple times in one scene). So that one wasn't an issue with the book, it was just down to personal preference.

As for the plot, it just wasn't as strong as I expected it to be. The pacing felt a bit off, at times it bored me quite a bit. It took a long time to hook me. But again, this is down to personal preference. I'm okay with a romcom not having much to the plot beyond the romance, but the romance has to keep me interested for that to happen and romances that are primarily cute don't really hold my interest well, especially when the couple gets to that point really quickly.

I think my expectations for the coding aspect were a bit too high too, I wanted more from that than it delivered. I was happy about seeing a female character into coding and tech stuff but it fell a little flat there, it was very tell instead of show (Rishi's passion for art was shown much better).

In the last quarter of the book, I found the parts that started to draw me in the most were the scenes that weren't just focusing on the romance...like when Dimple would have chats with Celia or when they talked about their families, or scenes with Rishi and his brother. That was when the book really started to win me over (basically everything from the dance scene onward).

Anyway, I'd rate the book 4 stars out of 5. It didn't quite wow me to the same extent as it did other people, but I loved it in the end, it was absolutely adorable and such an important read. I definitely look forward to seeing what Sandhya writes next. 

Later.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

The DNA of Orphan Black by Abbie Bernstein

The DNA of Orphan Black
by Abbie Bernstein


Summary: Get under the skin of clone club. This comprehensive guide to Orphan Black has an access-all-areas pass to the most innovative drama on TV. Includes interviews with the show’s creators and cast, exclusive behind-the-scenes photos, production and visual effects secrets, plus everything you need to know about the Dyad Institute, the Proletheans and Neolutionists, Projects Leda and Castor, and more. This is a must-have for all fans of Orphan Black.
I don't read many books like this -- books that are about the creation of a TV show or movie or something (beyond the Harry Potter ones) -- sometimes I'll get them just to flip through every now and then, or because they're aesthetically pleasing... This one? This is the first one I've actually sat down and read cover to cover.



The book goes over how the creators came up with the idea for the show, how they went about making it, then it goes into the casting process and then how all the different departments worked together to create the characters was fascinating to read about...I honestly didn't expect it to hold my attention so well but it did.

I think it's because the show itself is so great and original. Tatiana Maslany is literally half of the cast, and when you're watching it is so easy to forget that each of the Leda clones is played by the same actress and they're not actually different people. The book goes over how Tatiana made each character distinctive and how everyone from the writers to the wardrobe and hair and make-up departments worked together, taking even the smallest details into consideration.

And I loved reading about the actress who plays the clones in scenes where more than one clone is present, so Tatiana is acting with someone. I hadn't really considered that someone would have to act that, I figured it was all camera trickery and editing, so it was fascinating reading how she analysed all of the idiosyncrasies and ways of moving Tatiana had for each clone so she could recreate it.

Basically, the book was just really fun and interesting and I loved the pictures and the behind the scenes look we got into the world of the show (plus, it was fun getting to kind of recap the previous seasons and all of the back stories).

I'd really recommend it for fans of the show, or even just people interested in some element of show/movie making be it acting or writing or directing or being part of the make-up or wardrobe department.

I'd rate it 4 stars out of 5.

Later.

Monday, 17 July 2017

When Rosie Met Jim by Melina Marchetta & Shoeboxes by Kathryn Barker

Review of Australian Fiction 
(Volume 22, Issue 6)

When Rosie Met Jim & Shoeboxes
by Melina Marchetta & Kathryn Barker

I don't read Review of Australian Fiction very often, because short stories aren't my cup of tea really, but occasionally I will if an author I love writes a story for them.

And, if you've been following this blog or any of my bookish social media for any length of time you'll know that Melina Marchetta is one of my top 5 favourite authors and she could literally announce she's rewritten the phone book and I'd want to read it...so there was no way I was skipping this edition of RAF.

I'm going to just do a short review for each of the stories included, starting with the one I bought it for in the first place:

When Rosie Met Jim

I really, really loved this story (which, as you may have guessed from what I said about short stories, is a rarity for me). It revolves around a girl stranded in a small town during a flood and while stuck there, she meets Jimmy Hailler (the same Jimmy Hailler from Saving Francesca).

I'm surprised by how quickly Melina managed to make me care about the characters in the story (which is usually one of my issues with short stories) and how thoroughly hooked I was by the plot. It was one of those ones that left me wanting more of the characters without feeling like there was something missing, which isn't always an easy balance to achieve in short stories.

And that's all I have to say really. The story was definitely worth it, and it has me so excited for Melina's next book (the Jimmy Hailler book she's been talking about for a few years now...I think this story was a prequel to that book and she's working on the book now, based on her blog posts?).

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Shoeboxes

This one...this one was a pleasant surprise. I didn't expect to love it, but I sort of did. Not quite in the same way as I loved When Rosie Met Jim, where I really cared about the characters, this one was different. It was more...subtle, clever.

It starts off with two women in a basement and we don't know if they've been kidnapped or why they're there really but bit by bit little details trickle into the story and...well, that's all I'll say because I don't want to ruin it.

Basically, it hooked me from the start and had me confused but intrigued right until the very end...and the end -- I loved the ending. It surprised me and left me wanting to read a full thriller novel by Kathryn Barker because if she can pull off a full novel as well as she can a short story then I'm sure I'll love it.

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Overall: If short stories are your kind of thing, I definitely recommend checking out Review of Australian Fiction (every two weeks they release a new edition featuring two stories by Australian writers). Even if short stories aren't your kind of thing, like me, you might still enjoy some of the stories they publish.

Later.

Friday, 14 July 2017

The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg

The One Hundred Nights of Hero
by Isabel Greenberg
Summary: From the author who brought you The Encyclopedia of Early Earth comes another Epic Tale of Derring-Do. Prepare to be dazzled once more by the overwhelming power of stories and see Love prevail in the face of Terrible Adversity! You will read of betrayal, loyalty, madness, bad husbands, lovers both faithful and unfaithful, wise old crones, moons who come out of the sky, musical instruments that won’t stay quiet, friends and brothers and fathers and mothers and above all, many, many sisters.

"In the beginning was the world. And it was weird."

Graphic novels are really not my kind of thing. Occasionally, I'll find one that I really like but mostly I just find them disappointing. Even when I like the story, I find myself wishing it were a novel instead because I was more story than pictures and a handful of words can deliver (which may explain why some of the graphic novels I've loved have been adaptations of novels).

But back to the point: graphic novels = not for me. And yet I still keep taking chances on them...and this one, this was one of the ones that make me glad for that because I really, really loved it.

I mean, if I'm honest, I would still adore a novelization of this story with these characters but I still loved this format of it.

The illustrations were quirky and beautiful, the world was wonderful and wonderfully weird. I loved the way real issues of our world were woven into the fantasy world Greenberg created (it was very much a feminist read, in the very best ways).

I loved that the characters of the story got under my skin way more than I expected them to. And speaking of unexpected? I was not expecting the main love story in the book to be between two woman, and I loved that. I love going into a book and finding LGBTQIA+ representation when I wasn't expecting it, and it was done beautifully in this. I wanted to read this because it was a retelling of The 1001 Nights, but if you told me it was a lesbian retelling of The 1001 Nights I'd have probably picked it up way sooner.

I'll definitely be picking up a physical copy of this one at some point for my shelves (I read the e-book...would not recommend, it was a struggle to read the text in that format) as well as checking out the first book in her Early Earth series.

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

Later.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

We Are Okay
by Nina LaCour

Summary: You go through life thinking there’s so much you need…

Until you leave with only your phone, your wallet, and a picture of your mother.

Until you leave with only your phone, your wallet, and a picture of your mother.

Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend, Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit, and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.
Okay, I'm not going to lie: I completely judged a book by its cover. I literally went into this book not knowing what it was going to be about...a few Goodreads friends had rated it highly, but I got it purely for the cover. And I am so glad I did, because I loved it.

It wasn't at all what I expected it to be but every way it surprised me was a good way.

I didn't expect the lesbian/bi/pan representation, but I was so happy it was there and that it was executed so well. It wasn't made into a huge deal, it wasn't a story revolving entirely around their sexuality, it was just this truth about these characters that wasn't prioritized any more or less than their other truths and I loved that.

I loved that while romance was present, the book wasn't entirely about that. And I loved that it showed the complexities of going from friends to something more then trying to get back to friendship again.

I loved that the way the book wrote about grief, and love, and family and friendship and the complexities and variations of those things. I just - I loved all of it. And it was written so beautifully.

I don't really have much else to say about it really. I wasn't expecting such a little book to get under my skin in such a big way, but it did and I adored it. I'd rate it 5 stars out of 5.

Later.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

You Can't Touch My Hair by Phoebe Robinson

You Can't Touch My Hair:
And Other Things I Still Have to Explain
by Phoebe Robinson

Summary: A hilarious and affecting essay collection about race, gender, and pop culture from celebrated stand-up comedian and WNYC podcaster Phoebe Robinson.

Phoebe Robinson is a stand-up comic, which means that, often, her everyday experiences become points of comedic fodder. And as a black woman in America, she maintains, sometimes you need to have a sense of humor to deal with the absurdity you are handed on the daily. Robinson has experienced her fair share over the years: she's been unceremoniously relegated to the role of "the black friend," as if she is somehow the authority on all things racial; she's been questioned about her love of U2 and Billy Joel ("isn t that . . . white people music?"); she's been called "uppity" for having an opinion in the workplace; she's been followed around stores by security guards; and yes, people do ask her whether they can touch her hair all. the. time. Now, she's ready to take these topics to the page and she s going to make you laugh as she s doing it.
I've recently discovered that I'm scared of flying. I wasn't always afraid of flying, but I haven't been on a plane since I was in my early teens and somewhere between then and now, I seem to have developed a fear of it. What has that got to do with this book? Well... This book was the only thing that kept me calm and pleasantly distracted while being stuck thousands of feet off the ground in a big metal tube. I tried others, but this was the only one that worked.

Basically, I loved the book...partly because of my gratitude for it keeping panic at bay for a few hours, but mostly just because it was excellent.

I listened to it on audiobook and the narration was great. I'll admit, I wasn't a fan of Phoebe Robinson before starting this book (because I didn't really know much about her, wasn't familiar with her work, etc.) but I definitely was by the end of the book.

She manages to perfectly juggle the balance between humour and seriousness and she opened my eyes to a lot of issues I was ignorant to either because I'm white (or in some cases, because I'm not American) and I haven't had the same life experiences as women of colour have.

The tl;dr version: Both Phoebe Robinson and her book are fantastic and I really recommend checking it out, especially the audiobook version because her narration just brought it to the next level. It's funny and honest and important. I'd rate it 5 stars out of 5.

Later.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Gemina by Aimie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Gemina (Illuminae Files #2)
by Aimie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Summary: Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.

Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.

But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.
This review is going to be relatively short, because there isn't much to say about the book except that I really loved it.

The first book in the series took a while to grow on me, I did love it in the end but it was a long process getting to that point, but this one hooked me fast and kept its grip right until the end. I stayed up all night reading it and I regret nothing about that decision.

The format of this series is so unique, I've never read any other books quite so stylistically distinctive and I adore that about them. And I'm surprised by how easy it is to care about and feel invested in the well being of these characters, given the fact that we're not inside their heads in quite the same way we would be with a normal book but yeah -- I love the characters.

And the plot, it was addictive and I loved the ways it tied in with the first book and left me desperate for the sequel.

Basically, I love this series. I'd rate this one 5 stars out of 5.

Later.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Ten LGBTQIA+ Books In My TBR

The topic for this weeks Top Ten Tuesday was "10 Books From X Genre That I've Recently Added To My TBR List" and given it's Pride month, I figured I'd give a list of the LGBTQ+ books I've added to my TBR recently (whether they're books I already own and plan to read, or ones that are out later in the year that I'm looking forward to).

In no particular order...

1. Wildthorn by Jane Eagland - This one has been in my TBR for years and I'm not sure why I haven't gotten to it yet, but I think it's a set in Victorian times and it's set in an asylum and the romance in it is F/F?

2. Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst - F/F YA high fantasy novel about a princess who falls for the sister of the dude she's betrothed to. I've been saving this one...partly because my expectations are sky high, partly because I have a feeling I'm going to love it so I'm waiting for the right time to read it.

3. If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo - This one didn't grab my attention from the summary, but I've heard nothing but good things about it and the main character is transgender and I want to read more books with good representation of trans characters so it's in my TBR now.

4. Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy - There was a lot of controversy before this was released because the summary made it sound like the book was about a lesbophobic trope, but the author doesn't write the summary and the story is an own voices book about a bisexual and it sounds like it might tackle a lot of biphobic attitudes and stereotypes so I'm excited for this one.

5. Run by Kody Keplinger - This is another one with bi-rep, and I think of the main characters is blind too and it sounds like friendship will play a big role and I'm so here for more positive female friendships in books.

 6. Wild Beauty by Anna Marie McLemore - I know very little about this book, except that Anna Marie McLemore could write the phonebook and I'd read it in a heartbeat. I don't know what the LGBTQ+ rep in the book is specifically (beyond bisexuality), but the author has said that it's about a whole generation of queer Latina girls (and the author herself is queer and Latina and married to a transman, so it's own voices and I trust the rep).

7. The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie - Space monsters... Space pirates... Space lesbians. Lesbian space pirates who train monsters? *Pining for this book* (At least I think they're lesbians, I don't know if one or both of them ID's as bi/pan, but I'm sure I saw a review that said lesbian - correct me if you've read it and that's wrong).

8. Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee - Julie and a bunch of other people speak so highly of this one, and it's one of the few YA books with asexual rep so...sign me up!

9. A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend by Emily Horner - This one has actually been in my TBR for years. I remember starting it but I put it down and didn't pick it up again and I can't remember why, so I think it deserves another chance. I can't remember, but I think the main character is either a lesbian, bisexual, or pansexual? (I know there was some f/f romance going on but I'm not sure I read far enough for labels?)

10. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Seanz - Everyone seems to love this one, I think that's part of the reason I've put off reading for so long because I've found so many hyped up books to be a disappointment. But it has gay characters and the audiobook is narrated by Lin Manuel Miranda so I'm going to listen to this one on audio this month.

If anyone has any other LGBTQIA+ recs, feel free to leave them in the comments (particularly if they have LGBTQIA+ characters with identities unrepresented on this list).

Later.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Everything and the Moon by Julia Quinn

Everything and the Moon
by Julia Quinn

Summary:
Seven years ago she broke his heart...

When Robert Kemble stumbles across Victoria Lyndon in hedgerow maze, he can't believe his eyes. The girl who'd torn him in two, who let him plan on elopement and then left him standing by the side of the road, was suddenly within arm's reach, and even though his fury still knew no bounds, she was impossible to resist...

Seven years ago he left her all but ruined...

Victoria's father had told her an earl would never marry a vicar's daughter, and he was right. Robert had promised her marriage, then danced off to London while she suffered the shame of a foiled elopement. But even though Victoria doesn't particularly enjoy her new life as a governess, when Robert offers her a job of a different sort—his mistress—she refuses, unable to sacrifice her honor, even for him.

But Robert won't take no for an answer, and he vows to make her his, through any means possible. Can these star-crossed lovers learn to trust again? And is love really sweeter the second time around?
I had heard so many good things about this author, and this book in particular, and I was so looking forward to reading it. Few things can snap me out of a reading slump as well as a good regency romance novel...and this did accomplish that, but it was also such a disappointment.

By the end, I didn't hate it, but getting to a point where I actually liked it took ages and I had so many issues with it.

For starters, the insta-love. I loathe insta-love, with few exceptions. The author herself acknowledged at the beginning that those stories usually weren't her kind of thing but that she started writing these characters and there was just a spark there...okay. Except I felt absolutely no trace of that spark. Their relationship was so mind numbingly bland, nothing about it made me believe it was a case of love at first sight, nothing made me root for them as a couple. And because it attempted in a very deliberate way to show love at first sight, it skipped the best parts of these types of stories -- the falling in love bit, the bit where we get to go along for the ride on that journey with characters.

Plus, the conflict in the story was so ridiculously contrived. The conversations the characters have, for a large chunk of the story, were frustrating as hell to read because it was like they were having two entirely different conversations and they would make comments that should have the other being like "wait, what? could you explain that because that doesn't match up with my version of events at all." but instead those comments are ignored entirely because...well, contrived drawn out conflict.

And then there's the fact that rape is used as a plot device, not once, not twice, but three times. I can forgive the third because at least it wasn't used as an excuse for the male love interest to be a hero, unlike the first two...but yeah, I wish that trope would just go die in a fire and never be written again (also, the male love interest implies that he couldn't rape her because he knows she wants him so even if she protested it wouldn't be rape...uh, no. All of the no).

I'm sure there were other things....but I think that's the gist of my issues with the book. The frustrating thing was that it wasn't inherently bad -- at some point in the story, it did hook me enough for me to continue reading, so it must've done something right. But it was mostly boring or frustrating. I think I might have more luck with a different book by this author because this one just pushed so many of my Nope buttons.

I think the fact that so many people told me how great it was made it more of a disappointment than it would've been other wise. I'd rate it 2 stars out of 5.

Later.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Mini-Review Round Up: Comics, Plays, Poetry & Other Stuff

Does what it says on the tin really... There's quite a few short books I've read the past few months that I just don't have much to say about, so I wanted to just write a few short reviews for them.

Plays, Poetry & Other Stuff

Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsan Shire:
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Review: As I've said before, poetry is very hit or miss with me. This particular collection was a hit. There are parts of it that won't resonate with me in quite the same way because I'm a white woman in Scotland but even the parts that revolve around things completely outside of my realm of experience are written so beautifully and with such a raw honesty that I still felt it.

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
Review: I don't know why it took me so long to read this one. Maybe because it felt like I already knew the story because of the countless adaptations I've read/watched. But I digress... I really like this play, I think on some level I even love it. The writing is beautiful, there are little passages in it that are absolutely stunning. I can get why a lot of people hate it, but I'm just not one of them (although, it irritates me to see people talk of it as a love story rather than a tragedy...it wasn't a story about love, and people talking about it like it is really warps peoples expectations of the play).

Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Review: I liked this one, it wasn't great. Plays are meant to be performed, but some can be enjoyed just as much by simply reading them...this isn't really one of those ones. It's not awful, but it's so obvious when reading that there's a spark of life missing from it on the page, something that can only be appreciated seeing it performed.

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimimanda Ngozie Adichie
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Review: I really, really loved this one. It's an essay based on her 2013 TEDx talk and it's excellent. She writes real life stories as examples of her points and it's so poignant and beautifully done. I really recommend the audiobook version too -- the narration is fantastic.

Comics:

I actually got the first three at a comic convention, the first two were free comics in the little goody bag things, the third was one I bought from one of the booths.

Karnak #1 by Warren Ellis
Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Review: This one is set in the SHIELD world, and while I am familiar with some of that world, I don't think I was familiar enough with it to really appreciate this comic. I did like it and I was interested enough to consider continuing on to the next issues but it didn't wow me Time will tell if I continue the series.

Star Wars: Vader Down #1 by Jason Aaron
Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Review: Kind of disappointing, I think I just expected too much considering it's a Star Wars story. The art work is excellent and there was a few really good bits, but it didn't really leave me wanting to pick up the next issue.

How to Be a Ghost by Neil Slorance and Campbell Miller
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Review: This one isn't really a comic, it's more of a short picture book/zine type thing. But anyway, I really loved it, it was so cute. I've linked to the etsy store if you want to check it out/buy one.

Vader's Little Princess by Jeffrey Brown
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Review: I read Darth Vader and Son last year and loved that one too, they're just really cute and funny. They're basically just little comic strips about what Darth Vader could've been like raising Luke and Leia (this one focuses on Leia).

Picture/Kids Books:

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Review: I don't have much to say about this one really, except I wanted to see what all the fuss was about and it didn't disappoint me. It's really cute...and now I kind of want to see the movie, I had no desire to before reading this.

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams Bianco
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Review: Again, wanted to know what the fuss was about and I really loved it. It's one of those stories that I've heard so many people mention but it was never one I encountered when I was young, it wasn't what I expected it to be but it was really good.

Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole
Rating: 1.5 stars out of 5
Review: I stumbled across this one while trying to find feminist picture books when someone asked for recs and it sounded great. In theory, I should've loved it. The overall message was good but the execution of it was kind of terrible. It was more feminist stereotype than feminist. It was supposed to be about how she doesn't need to get married to be happy...but rather than just using her words, she is really cruel to people who have done nothing to deserve it and she "outsmarts" her parents rather than just having an actual conversation with them. It's just...eugh. And I wasn't really fond of the artwork either.

So...those are all of the short books I've been reading. Mostly because, due to my major reading slump, short books seem to be all I can finish recently. Although, there will probably be more picture books in my TBR because my best friend is having a baby, so I want to find some good ones for the new little human in my life.

Later.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta

Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil
by Melina Marchetta


Summary: Chief Inspector Bish Ortley of the London Met, divorced and still grieving the death of his son, has been drowning his anger in Scotch. Something has to give, and he’s no sooner suspended from the force than a busload of British students is subject to a deadly bomb attack across the Channel. Bish’s daughter is one of those on board.

Also on the bus is Violette LeBrac. Raised in Australia, Violette has a troubled background. Thirteen years ago her grandfather bombed a London supermarket, killing dozens of people. Her mother, Noor, is serving a life sentence in connection with the incident. But before Violette’s part in the French tragedy can be established, she disappears.

Bish, who was involved in Noor LeBrac’s arrest, is now compelled to question everything that happened back then. And the more he delves into the lives of the family he helped put away, the more he realises that truth wears many colours. 
My thoughts on this book are complicated. So let's start with my final rating before getting to the rest of it: I'd rate it 4 stars out of 5.

Melina Marchetta is one of my favourite authors, I've read all 8 of her other books and loved them all (6 of them I'd consider all time favourites). This one was the 9th and it was very different from any of her others -- different genre, different setting, different type of main character. I didn't love it as much as her previous books, but by the end I did love it.

In the beginning, I was hooked. That breathless kind of hooked where it felt like there was this weight on my chest because the subject matter was so heavy and I needed to see where it was heading. That feeling steadily lessened the deeper into the story I got until it left me with that same feeling I always get after reading a Melina Marchetta book -- like these characters had wormed their way under my skin bit by bit until I couldn't help but care about them and feel thoroughly invested in their happiness -- like they had carved out a little piece of my heart and made themselves at home there.

The plot...it wasn't her best. Her writing is consistently lovely and she always excels at characters, she makes them feel so real and the way she writes relationships, evolving them and tangling lives together so beautifully...those are always her strongest points and this one was no exception.

But, usually the plot is still really good even if it's not on the same level as her characterization. Unfortunately, in this one the plot felt quite average. It wasn't bad, far from it, but it dragged a lot and got quite repetitive in the middle, and it required a lot of suspension of disbelief. Given the genre of this one (mystery/crime), it felt like it should've been a bit more plot driven than her other novels (which are either contemporary or high fantasy and can still work really well when they're more character driven).

Also, it should be noted: the plot does revolve around a terror attack. Or rather, two terror attacks set years apart. Meaning there's a lot of focus on racial profiling and the negative treatment of Muslims whenever attacks like that happen, from the public, law enforcement, and the press.

The book is not own voices. It didn't come across as disrespectful or offensive* to me, quite the opposite really (aside from maybe one little comment in the beginning about a character name), but as I'm a white person from Scotland and I'm not Muslim, there could be things that just don't register with me because I've never had to live it. I'm not an authority on whether it's good representation or not, is what I'm getting at.

So...I guess that's all. Great characters, kind of weak plot but still good in spite of that. It's not her best book but still very good. I'd rate it 4 stars out of 5. I'm not sure it's one I would recommend to people because, as I said, I don't know if it's good representation and I wouldn't want to recommend something to someone that could be perpetuating harmful stereotypes about Muslims.

*although, the very fact that it's a story with Muslim characters that had terrorism be a big part of the plot may be a bit of a problem, especially as it's not own voices? I don't know. But, while the plot does hinge on terrorism, I think the heart of the story is family (as I said above, it's more character driven) and the Muslim characters are more victims of terrorism (in multiple ways) in the story than perpetrators and come across most sympathetically.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

A Catch Up: What I'm Reading

Well then. Hello. It's been a while, hasn't it?

Honestly, I've just been struggling with the whole reading thing recently. I think I've only completed 9 books since March...and only two of those were actual novels (two were comics, two were really short picture books, one was a short audiobook, one poetry collection and also a short Shakespeare play). I just can't seem to focus. That, or the books I'm reading just aren't wowing me.

But yes. I'm in a reading slump. The most drawn out, frustrating reading slump. So I figured I'd just go over the books I'm currently (trying) to read and give my thoughts on them so far.

All pictures are from my bookstagram (that's where I post all of my new books too, if you're interested).

The Hate U Give 

I'm not very far into this one. I do like it so far, but I've not found that spark in it yet -- maybe it's just a case of there being too much hype so my expectations were through the roof. But, regardless of that, I do think it's such an important book and one everyone should read.


The Book of Bera 


This one... I had such high hopes for this one but I'm so disappointed so far. The story is very original, I haven't read any like it, there's something so distinctive about it. The problems are 1) the pacing is way off and 2) there's something about the writing I just really don't like. It reads almost like it's a translation that hasn't been done very well, if that makes sense (the dialogue in particular is clumsy and awkward). I'm going to give the book another 75-ish pages to sway my opinion before I give up on it.

See How They Run

This one isn't bad. It's fast paced, I still like the characters...the problem is, I've forgotten so much about the story (including minor characters) and I really don't want to go back and reread the first book to refresh my memory. Also, I'm not too keen on the direction this one is going in.


If This Is A Woman


This book is a bit different from the others, because I didn't intend to finish it any time soon. It's a non-fiction book about the all female concentration camp, Ravensbruck. It's very long and very thorough, going from how the camp came to exist and the Nazi officers that ended up working there, right through its entire history. I've just been reading bits of it whenever I'm up to reading about such heavy subject matter. It's excellent so far (excellent in the sense that it's well written, it's not boring as some historical non-fiction can be, given what it's about, the topic isn't what I'd call excellent).

My True Love Gave to Me

Short stories aren't my thing. I picked this one up because I figured short fiction could help with the reading slump, plus it has a lot of authors I adore in it... So far, I love it. But when it comes to short stories, they're either not long enough for me to feel invested in the story and characters or they do manage to hook me and make me care but then they're over too soon. With the majority of this book so far, most of the stories have been the latter...really good, but leaving me wanting more in that annoying, unsatisfied kind of way.



The Roanoke Girls

This one is actually an audiobook I was sent to review and I like it so far, the narration is really good, but I'm not hooked on the story yet and don't really feel anything for the characters so I'm kind of dragging my heels about finishing it. That's all I have to say on that one really.

Perfect Shot

I thought this one would definitely break my reading slump. Regency romance or short romcoms are usually my go-to books for reading slumps but this one is letting me down. It's just so bland/dry, the first chapters nearly bored me to tears. I'd give up on the book if it wasn't so short (hopefully it'll get better if I stick with it).

So...yeah. Those are the books I'm reading right now. I'm really hoping one of them snaps me out of this reading slump.

Later.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Top Ten Things On my Bookish NOPE List

The topic for this weeks Top Ten Tuesday was "top ten things that will make me instantly not want to read a book"/bookish turn offs. And to be honest, I'm not sure if I even have ten (I'm not a fussy reader) but we'll see.

With most of these, you can't always tell from the summary if a book is guilty of these things BUT I get most of my recommendations from friends or other readers whose judgements I trust, so the issues are usually highlighted before I even pick up the book. And with some of these, there will be exceptions.

1. If the author is an horrible online

I'm one of those people that finds it very hard to separate the artist from their creation. If I think negatively of the creator, it will cast a shadow over their work. Plus, I just don't want to support people that are awful. There aren't many authors who make this list, and someone has to be really awful to even make the list but yeah... If an author says something really shitty online and doesn't care that they hurt people, or if they're arrogant and rude to their fans -- nope. Nope nope nope. Don't want their book.

2. If the book is harmful/offensive (and not own voices)

Now, I'm not just talking mildly offensive like those ridiculous people who try to get books banned for containing a sex scene or curse word. I mean if it has a racist premise, or it revolves around an anti-LGBTQIA+ stereotype (e.g. bisexuals are cheaters, lesbians will turn straight for the right guy, etc.) or contains a harmful trope (e.g. Bury Your Gays/Dead Lesbians, or portraying mentally ill people as dangerous) or it's just generally really hurtful (e.g. WW2 stories that have Jewish people falling in love with Nazis, or black people in historical novels falling in love with slave owners).

3. Alternating POV's

This is one of the ones that definitely has exceptions. If the book sounds absolutely fantastic, if I've only seen glowing reviews, if it's by an author whose books I generally love -- then I'd make an exception. But in general, I bloody hate alternating POV's so much and there's been many, many books I've decided not to read for no other reason than I didn't want to deal with multiple POV's.

4. Boring books

If someone I trust, or multiple reviews, accuse a book of being boring, I'm very unlikely to pick it up. In general, I'm not a fussy reader and there is a lot I can forgive while reading...but being bored while reading is not one of those things. I can read books that anger me, books that upset me, and maybe I'll be furious and rant about them and toss them across the room when I'm done but I can still get through them, the same can't be said for boring books.

5. Bad writing

I can tolerate mediocre writing. I can overlook annoying stylistic choices. I can't read a book if the writing is really bad, it could have the most amazing story line but I find it really difficult to see past bad writing.

6. Insta-love

This one didn't always turn me completely off a book, but it does now. There was such a flood of insta-love books back in the height of Twilight's popularity that I just - can't. I want complex romances, I want slow burning ones, I want romances built from strong friendships...basically, I want well developed romances rather than the lazy love/obsession-at-first-sight stuff these days.

7. Insensitive Plot Devices

By this I mean subjects that should be written with care and consideration for the actual people who have experienced it, being written insensitively. Like rape being used as a plot device to give the female character a tragic back story, or as a way for the male love interest to "save" her. Or suicide being used as a shocking plot twist. Or mental illness being used to make the character "quirky" or interesting (like a manic pixie dreamgirl/boy). Basically, if it's sensitive subject matter and the author thinks of a content warning as a "spoiler" then they're writing it as if it's just a plot twist they can use for shock value, rather than something they intended to write respectfully...and if I know the book is written that way before reading it, I probably won't ever pick it up.

8. More than a trilogy

If, going into a series, I know it's going to be more than a trilogy then I probably won't bother. For an author I really love, I might make an exception. But with one book being released a year (usually) who wants to spend more than three years on the same series? I've seen series dragged out for more than a decade which is just ridiculous. I have the attention span of a flea at times, and I'm expected to stay invested in the same world and characters for almost/more than a decade? Sorry, but no.

9. Cliffhanger endings

If someone tells me before I read a book that it ends on a cliffhanger, I'm way less likely to read it. Cliffhangers are annoying and I hate when authors use them, even authors I like (and with them, I only tolerate them if it feels like the story arc of that book has been wrapped up and there's not too many loose ends).

10. Books set in Scotland

To clarify, I will read books set in Scotland if the author is Scottish or if they've lived here for a really long time. But authors who aren't Scottish write my country and my people so terribly most of the time (particularly in fantasy)...and don't even get me started on when they try to write our accents phonetically. Just - no. So much no.

Oh, hey, look -- I did have 10! I didn't think I had many. And I could have kept going (angel books? Not my thing. Dystopian YA? So done with that. BDSM? Nope. Riding on the coattails of Fifty Shades of Grey? FSoG was bad enough as it is...).

Later.

Friday, 7 April 2017

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

The Upside of Unrequited
by Becky Albertalli


Summary: Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly's totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie's new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she'll get her first kiss and she'll get her twin back.

There's only one problem: Molly's coworker, Reid. He's a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there's absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?
This is the first Becky Albertalli book I've read, and I'm surprised by how much I enjoyed it. There was so much hype surrounding Becky's books that to begin with I didn't see what all the fuss was about...but then I got totally pulled in by all the cuteness and pretty much loved it by the end.

I loved that it included such a diverse cast of characters. Her parents? An interracial female couple, one lesbian and the other bisexual, and one of them is Jewish so the MC and her siblings are also Jewish (and the love interest too). Her sister is a lesbian who dates a Korean-American pansexual. The main character is fat and has anxiety, so it has body and neuro diversity too. I can't say whether or not all of it is good representation, because not all of those identities represent me, but nothing stood out to me as being badly done.

Basically, I loved the diversity part of it, and I loved that it wasn't made into a huge thing... first and foremost, the book felt like it was a cute coming of age romance, it didn't stray into Issue Book territory (those have their place, but they should not be the only representation of diversity) even when it was calling out ignorant comments or stereotypes.

Her anxiety bothered me a little bit...but not because it was done poorly. I think it was well done and I love that her taking her meds was just casually mentioned and not made into a big thing, and I love that it showed that you don't have to be defined by that. But, I'm one of those people that's pretty susceptible to second-hand anxiety so her anxious thought process wasn't always fun to read about (although, because she's taking her meds, she her anxiety doesn't flare up too bad in the book).

I hope some people read it and understand a bit better how anxiety can mess with your thought process though, because I've seen anxious characters dismissed as annoying/clingy before in reviews of other books because it's never acknowledged that it's anxiety, so it was nice to see that represented in the book.

The romance in the book was predictable but cute. It's one of those stories where the reader knows from very early on how it's all going to play out (literally nothing surprised me) but it takes the character most of the book to catch on. I kind of hated the Will stuff for that reason, but Reid was great, he was such a little ball of adorable and I loved his relationship with Molly (and I really appreciated the fact that the romance wasn't used to "fix" her).

And I really really loved that family was such a focus of the story. Especially that it showed cousins who were also friends -- growing up, one of my cousins was also one of my best friends and it was an interesting dynamic and it's one I don't see explored often but I wish it was.

Overall, I really liked the book. I'd rate it 3.5 stars out of 5 (or 4, because I'd round up).

Later.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Half Rant, Half Review: Jughead by Chip Zdarsky

Note: the cover/synopsis I use is for the volume 1 (which includes issues 1-6), but I read the individual issues and I think I've read all of the ones that are out now so the review is for all of them.


Jughead
by Chip Zdarsky


Summary: In the grand tradition of comic book reboots like ARCHIE VOL. 1, Archie Comics proudly presents... JUGHEAD VOL. 1--from the comics dream team of Chip Zdarsky (HOWARD THE DUCK) and Erica Henderson (THE UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL)!

Riverdale High provides a quality education and quality hot lunches, but when one of those is tampered with, JUGHEAD JONES swears vengeance! Well, I mean, he doesn't "swear." This is still Archie Comics after all.

Collects JUGHEAD issues #1-6, plus bonus features.
I'm only vaguely familiar with the old Archie comic world...I never read the comics themselves, but I've grown up watching adaptations based on them.

I wasn't very familiar with Jughead's character, is what I'm getting at.

I watched the first episode of Riverdale not realising what it was about until a few familiar characters showed up and then I saw all of the controversy about the way the writers of the show* wrote the Jughead character and it made me want to read the new series of comics about him.

Basically, in the comics Jughead (from what I've seen) has always been written as asexual and aromantic (heavily implied), and the new writer of the comics has went with that and confirmed it on the page. Jughead is canonically touch averse and aroace...but if you've seen the show, you'll know that the writers decided to erase that part of his identity** by having him be romantically involved with Betty.

Erasure and/or staight-washing of LGBTQIA+ identities is wrong and harmful, and asexuality and aromanticism are right up the top of the list of identities/orientations that are rarely ever represented in the media and when they are, it's almost never good representation (which perpetuates ignorance and harm towards actual people who identify as aro/ace-spec).

Check out the #AroAceJugheadOrBust hashtag on twitter for more on that.

...And this has been my long-winded way of explaining how I ended up reading the Jughead comics (and why, in spite of the things Riverdale may get right, the writers are still pretty awful). Now onto what I actually thought of the comics.

I pretty much loved them. I'm not a huge comic book reader (not for lack of wanting to be, its just overwhelming choosing where to start and keeping up with them once you do), but ones like this make me wish I was, I love the art style and the characters so much, especially Jughead.

Jughead is such an excellent protagonist. He's funny and he's a good friend and he is such a wonderfully positive example of aroace representation done right. He isn't struggling with who he is, he knows exactly who he is 100% cool with it and his friends know and they're accepting and cool with it too.

The comic still acknowledges little moments of ignorance from his friends and some of the misunderstandings that aro/ace people often face but it does it in a way that doesn't darken the tone of the comic, it doesn't make the story revolve around his aromanticism/asexuality and... and I just really loved that. A lot. I hate when LGBTQ+ stories make it seem like that's all that the characters are rather just part of them.

The plot of the comics weren't really my cup of tea. I think I'd have enjoyed them more when I was much younger, but while I wasn't too interested or invested in the overall story arc, the characters made it easy to enjoy in spite of that.

I'd rate them 4.5 stars out of 5. I really enjoyed reading them and they've made me want to see more good representation of ace/aro-spec people in fiction and it's made me angry about the fact they erased that part of his character on the show because the writers are too ignorant and incompetent to write his character well without using romance as a crutch.

Later.

*I mean, the Jughead kiss isn't the only crappy thing it pulled. There was the girls kissing girls for attention thing and the whole statutory rape by an authority figure nonsense too. And the Gay Best Friend trope. I've seen some people say the racial diversity is good, but I'm not the right person to judge that but if it's true, it just sucks that they're failing so spectacularly in other areas.

**Even if they make him ace-spec somewhere down the line, it'll be like they tried to present his asexuality in a way that people who aren't ace (or aroace) can accept...which makes it clear that his character is not, never was, and never will be intended to be good representation for ace/aro people. He never fell anywhere in the middle of the spectrum, he wasn't grey-a or anything, he was firmly ace and aro.

Monday, 27 February 2017

On the Other Side by Carrie Hope Fletcher

Note: There will be a few spoilers in this review. Not major ones, I don't think, but it's hard to explain my thoughts properly without them (but you can skip over those and get my general opinion of the book without the specifics -- the spoilers are in between the "Timelessness" header and stop after the "END OF NEGATIVES" one).


On the Other Side
by Carrie Hope Fletcher


Summary: Evie Snow is eighty-two when she quietly passes away in her sleep, surrounded by her children and grandchildren. It's the way most people wish to leave the world but when Evie reaches the door of her own private heaven, she finds that she's become her twenty-seven-year-old self and the door won't open.

Evie's soul must be light enough to pass through so she needs to get rid of whatever is making her soul heavy. For Evie, this means unburdening herself of the three secrets that have weighed her down for over fifty years, so she must find a way to reveal them before it's too late. As Evie begins the journey of a lifetime, she learns more about life and love than she ever thought possible, and somehow , some way, she may also find her way back to her long lost love . . .
I am very conflicted about this book. It's one of those marmite books that people will either love or hate depending on their tolerance for sweetness in a story -- some love it, some will find it sweet to the point of being sickly. I think I fall somewhere in the middle, and I read the book on a good day so it worked for me.

Overall, I would say I liked it and I really enjoyed reading it (or rather, listening to it)...but I had some issues too (surprisingly not with it being sweet and twee to a fault).

I actually started reading the book last year and just could not get into it, then I had the chance to review the audiobook so I decided to give it another go. I don't know if it was the timing of it, or the change of format, but I actually really enjoyed listening to the book. The narration is excellent and I highly recommend the audible version.

Now...onto the issues (and I want to make it clear that, in spite of these issues, I don't think it was a bad book--and I'll get to the positives after the negatives are out the way--these were just the things that prevented me from loving it). I'll break this down into sections:

"Timelessness"

First of all, the time period of the book. Carrie has said that she didn't set it in a specific time period because she wanted Evie to be timeless, for people to relate to her story even years from now... The problem is, that didn't quite work.

The conflict of the story, the catalyst that sets everything else in motion, is a very dated issue and it's one that does not work in a contemporary setting and is way harder to relate to now. The gist of it:
Evie's mother doesn't want Evie to get a job as an artist (or any job at all, she's to be a wealthy stay at home wife and mother). She wants to arrange her marriage to a rich family friend whom she knows Evie doesn't love. And Evie eventually caves to this pressure...because her brother is gay and she wants to marry a rich guy so she can support him financially because she assumes their parents cut him out of their lives when he comes out (more on that ridiculousness soon).
If the story were set maybe 50-60+ years ago, an adult woman allowing her rich mother to dictate her life the way she does in the story would be believable and understandable and easy to sympathise with. Even the gay element would make sense because back then being an openly gay man was a criminal offence, and their rich parents would have had the power to have her brother sent to a psychiatric hospital to undergo awful "treatments" for being gay.

But that plot line does not work in a modern day setting. Evie and her brother could very easily move out and find jobs (she didn't even for one second consider compromising temporarily on her dream of being an artist and just getting a regular job to pay the bills). It might not be the comfortable lifestyle they're used to, but they would've been happy and free to live the lives they wanted.

A timeless story does not mean a story that isn't anchored to a certain point in time. There are books written or set hundreds of years ago that are timeless...not because the time period was left vague, but because at the heart of the stories are emotions and moral conflicts that are part of being human. They're timeless because in spite of all the differences between Then and Now, people still connect to the humanity in the stories. Deliberate removal of time period doesn't make a story timeless.

By refusing to choose a definitive time period for the story, it vastly altered the way the characters and their motivations and circumstances are interpreted.

Basically, I get what she was aiming for with the timelessness, but the execution of it doesn't quite work. The whole conflict in the story was really, really contrived and weak.

Her Brother

Now...the next issue. I really, really, really didn't like the weird straight saviour thing it had going on. Like I said above, it was so contrived and didn't sit well with me at all (but perhaps I'm just being over sensitive).

Evie gives up the man she loves because her brother is gay, and we're supposed to view it as this big noble sacrifice but it was just...eugh. She doesn't even give him a say in the matter, she just decides that because he's gay she has to support him financially which is so obliviously condescending. It didn't make sense and it really bothered me.

Had it been set in a time when someone could be locked up (in prison or in an institution) for being gay then that would've made sense. Then, her need to "protect" her brother would've been totally valid because she would have something she was actually trying to protect him from other than...well, not being rich anymore (and even that was just something she assumed would happen, not something certain).

Again, it just felt really condescending that she thought he wasn't capable of taking care of himself without her "sacrifice" -- he was a 20 year old man. He needed her love and her support, he did not need her to be his straight white night swooping in to save the day by sacrificing her own happiness so he could continue remain wealthy when he came out.

The implication that, had she not made her big sacrifice, he would've ended up on the streets or had to remain in the closet, unhappily marry a woman and live a miserable lie was just ridiculous. His safety wasn't in question, he would not have ended up on the streets if he came out. There was no reason, beyond financial gain, for her to do what she did to "protect" him.

Basically, him being gay was just used as a plot device in her story and I hated that. Vincent was a character who just happened to be bisexual, while Eddie was a Gay Character -- and a Gay Character whose whole story revolves around his gayness...and worse, it wasn't even about him, it was just used to create conflict in Evie's story.

So...That bugged me. A lot. It's not even that it was outright offensive representation, just kind of ignorant, but it bothered me a lot (even more so after reading the novella and having her "selflessness" perpetuated even further).

END OF NEGATIVES

Beyond those things, there was a lot I really liked about the story.

The characters were sweet and easy to care about, and I absolutely loved that Jim's character was just a genuinely good guy who got along with Vincent because I hate when characters are vilified for no other reason than they're seen as competition to the love interest (or main character) of the story -- life, and people, are more complex than that and I like that the story showed those complexities.

I loved that LGBTQ+ characters were included, especially the fact that the love interest of the story was a bisexual guy which doesn't happen often in fiction (although the gay representation was kind of problematic, as mentioned above).

And the magical realism...for the most part, I loved it (some bits were a little unoriginal, like there's a scene that is really similar to a thing that happens in Once Upon a Time). It's not the type I'd usually read -- most magical realism I've read (and adored) has been thoroughly set in our world, just with magical elements casually woven into it... This one, it felt like it kind of straddled the line between fantasy and magical realism, but I liked it.

Overall, the book is really cute. I'd rate it 3.5 stars out of 5 (if I'm rating the audiobook specifically, I'd rate it 4 stars out of 5 purely for how much I enjoyed the performance -- I'd definitely listen to any audiobooks Carrie narrates in future). I do look forward to seeing more of Carrie's books in future, in spite of the issues I had with this one.

Later.

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