Posted in fantasy, Rereads, review, young adult

Reread | City Of Bones

“All the stories are true.”

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Blurb: “When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder― much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It’s hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing―not even a smear of blood―to show that a boy has died.”

I’ve rather loudly proclaimed that The Mortal Instruments series is one of my favourites and the release of the 10 year anniversary edition gave me the perfect excuse to pick it up again.

Fifteen-year-old Clary Fray is expectantly thrown into a world of vampires, werewolves and warlocks when she discovers that she can see Shadowhunters – a group of half-human/half-angels who kill demons for a living. Cassandra Clare’s world-building blows my mind as every single detail feels like it has been carefully chosen to make the world seem more substantial. City Of Bones works perfectly as an introduction to this extensive world without leading to the reader being thrown from location to location before having a chance to find their feet.

The writing is not the best; in fact there’s quite a lot of work that needs to be made but it just goes to show how far Cassandra Clare has come in terms of writing style when exploring her latest books. She really is a writer who continues to get better and better with every single book she produces.

I have never been a fan of the protagonist, Clary, and this time was no different. She comes across so whiny and seems to adjust to easily to her life being turned upside down, plus she’s quite horrible to Simon who is supposedly her best friend. This is one of those books where the ensemble of characters are considerably better than the main one such as Jace who is the snarky shadowhunter destined to win reader’s hearts.

What makes me really love this story the concept of a whole other world existing right in front of you, but not knowing it’s there until forced to look at things from a different angle. Clary isn’t whisked off to a magical world like in many other fantasy novels; this underbelly of angels and demons exists right on her doorstep.

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Posted in adult fiction, contemporary, review

Almost Love – Louise O’Neill

“No one had ever told Sarah that being in a relationship could feel like coming home. That love didn’t have to mean feeling scared all the time.”

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Blurb: “When Sarah falls for Matthew, she falls hard. So it doesn’t matter that he’s twenty years older. That he sees her only in secret. That, slowly but surely, she’s sacrificing everything else in her life to be with him.”

I’ve always entered Louise O’Neill’s books with a sense of trepidation because they have the habit of being an utterly terrifying insight into our current climate. Almost Love is O’Neill’s first adult book and might just be my favourite book of hers yet.

The story kicks into play when the protagonist- Sarah- bumps into her ex, Matthew. Through jumps in time, between past and present, the reader sees the relationship unfold with Matthew and how it goes on to affect the “now” in Sarah’s current relationship. She’s often abrasive to her boyfriend and there’s one particular scene which nearly broke my heart.

The main theme is obsessive love; that waiting for the call, hanging around when they’re clearly not interested and a lot of graphic sex: both consensual and not really consensual. All of Sarah’s relationships with men have been centred around money: she would reach for her purse knowing full well the men would be paying.

I’m not normally a big fan of slow reads and this is one of those books with no real climatic moments but it was all-consuming in a way I can’t quite place. Sarah is a fascinating character and it was all too easy to sympathise with her justifications for Matthew’s behaviour.

I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Aoife McMahon which was incredible. As I said, it’s a slow burn and I think I would’ve become easily bored if I was physically reading, but her tone and the way she told the story just had me flying through the book. If you’re looking for a way to consume this book, I highly recommend the audiobook.

 

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Posted in adaptations

Book To Movie Talk | To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

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*This post is not spoiler free*

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before is a book that I’ve been aware of for years due to passionate fanbase it holds. However, it was never a series that I felt I would enjoy as I had moved on from YA contemporaries and thrown myself into fantasy. When the news came out of a movie adaptation, I covered the announcement and found myself swayed by the fact that Janel Parrish (well known for her role in Pretty Little Liars) was in the cast line-up. I indulged in the entire trilogy via audiobook and never looked back. I was completely hooked.

The newest addition to Netflix’s roster of teen rom com films, the story follows Lara Jean who write loves letters as a way to close the chapter on previous crushes. She never sends them but one day these secret declarations of love find their way into the hands of the boys – including the popular kid, Peter Kavinsky. This charming Lacrosse player sees Lara as an opportunity to engage in a bit of fake dating in an attempt to make his ex jealous and win her back.

To focus briefly on the stylistic aspects (this is the part where I pretend I know what I’m talking about), the film just looks good: I love the colour palette and the shots worked where needed and I don’t know who was in charge of styling Lara Jean’s outfits but I need their number!

Again, in terms of looks, everyone seemed like a perfect fit for the characters they were meant to play and it was nice to view it through this lens as I hadn’t read the books when I did my initial announcement. Lana Condor plays  Lara Jean as the witty sweet character book fans will be familiar with and the arc over the film shows that she is willing to stand up for herself when needed and knows her worth: see the contract scene when she writes “no kissing.” Also a moment of appreciation is needed for the state of Lara Jean’s room. A seemingly small detail but worked! The preparation for the skype call with Margot had me really laughing as it just showcased the ridiculous situation Lara Jean had found herself in.  Oh, and kitty’s digs were just so on point: my favourite was when she put on her helmet before getting in the car with Lara Jean to go to school.

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Given the nature of the plot progression, a lot rides on making Peter Kavinsky, played by Noah Centineo, stand out. In the books I loved his charm and self-assuredness and that certainly comes through on screen. The chemistry between him and Lana felt like watching a real couple fall in love as they start to learn more about each other and see how similar they actually are when you strip school social standing away.

The family dynamic is one of the real gems of the book, and one I was looking forward to seeing on screen. It certainly has its moments but I wish there had been more scenes of them all together before Margot disappeared to college.

From an adaptation view, there are a lot of changes. Some of the attempts to streamline the story make sense when you’re confined to a feature length film. However, there’s been a big buzz around the fact this film has an Asian female lead (Lana is Vietnamese but book Lara is Korean-American) and in the book Lara’s heritage is a big part of who she is as an individual because she feels that connection to her deceased mother through cooking Korean food and baking. In the book there are scenes where she cosplays only as Asian characters to emphasis her points of the lack of representation and she is quick to beat others to the punch about her ethnicity. But in the film, there’s a mention about a yogurt drink and that’s it. I get that the angle they were going for was to just have this character exist with making it all about her being “other” to the teen female leads that viewers often see in the mainstream but it just felt almost like she’d lost that link to her mother. Especially when author Jenny Han said she included those aspects because she never saw herself in books growing up.

Josh was a character I really loved in the books and unfortunately in this adaptation he left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. I can’t stand boys who feel like they own a girl and the way he stands up to Peter to assert his dominance to look after Lara made me feel uncomfortable. In fact, most of his scenes just involve him turning up and being angry.

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The storytelling just felt a bit messy: the big reveals such as the culprit of the letter (which is made really obvious by a shot of a character while Lara Jean is freaking out about the missing box) and the aftermath of the infamous hot tub scene were really quickly skimmed over and instantly forgotten about in favour of focusing more on the development of Peter and Lara’s relationship. Those big moments that play a part of her narrative were so glossed over that her character just felt a bit flat despite all the great aspects of her in the books. In fact, the only character to really stand out to me was Peter Kavinsky who felt well rounded and it’s easy to see how much he started to care for Lara Jean. He commanded the attention when on screen which was great but often made me forget that Lara Jean was even there.

I’ve left the viewing experience feeling a little dejected. All the reviews and comments and trending hashtags have fans and new fans gushing over the story, so hopefully this will come up good and the sequel will be picked up for production. I just feel like a lot of the drama was lost and the characters were very flat at points. Maybe I’m too attached to the books. Maybe I’m too attached to the audiobook narrator for Lara Jean. But I am going to give it another watch.

Have you watched it?

What did you think?

Posted in Audiobook Of The Month

Audiobook Of The Month | Six Of Crows

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It felt like January was going to last forever, and now it feels like every time I blink it’s a new month and time to pick another audiobook to listen to.

My selection for August is a rather popular one in the YA book community, but also one that I’ve been incredibly wary about delving into. Naturally, books with a lot of hype around them can go one of two ways for me, and more often it tends to be that I don’t like them. I’ve downloaded the chapter sampler many times for Six of Crows and wasn’t able to stick with it. As the audiobook has multiple narrators, I decided to give it a go in a different format and see if that makes any difference to my enjoyment.

Six of Crows is essentially one big heist mission in which the typical brooding YA male, Kaz Brekker, is the leader and facing the delicious prospect of a lot of money if he succeeds. It’s set in the Grisha universe, although it’s not required for you to have read Leigh Bardugo’s other series in order to get your footing in this story.

So far, the world-building is super intriguing and it’s interesting seeing all the different motivations the characters have for agreeing to do the mission. However, Kaz seems to be the only real prominent voice and he just oozes all the stereotypes you’d expect from a YA male; he reminds me a lot of Jace Wayland in The Mortal Instruments series. It’s not fully engaging me at the moment so if I had stuck with the book I think I would have put it down, but it’s still the early stages and I expect it will pick up soon. At the time of writing this I am only 30% into it. So we’ll see!

Have you read Six of Crows?

Let me know your thoughts!

Posted in children's fiction, fantasy, review

Nevermoor: The Trials Of Morrigan Crow – Jessica Townsend

“There it was. The truth she kept squashed down, something she could ignore but never forget. The truth that she and every cursed child knew deep in their bones; had tattooed on their hearts: I am going to die on Eventide night.”

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Blurb: “Enter the Wundrous world of Morrigan Crow and Nevermoor – the most fantastical children’s release of the year.Morrigan Crow is cursed. Having been born on Eventide, the unluckiest day for any child to be born, she’s blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks – and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday. But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears.”

The Trials of Morrigan Crow was, by all accounts, a book I should have loved. It has everything I adore: magical places, clever twists, adventure and competitions. But something didn’t quite gel with me.

Morrigan Crow is a cursed child, blamed for all manner of ridiculous things that happen in her town from the weather to someone making a bad batch of marmalade. As a result of this, her family hates her because they’re constantly forced to pay compensation for Morrigan’s supposed involvement in minor town mishaps. There’s a hilarious scene where Morrigan is forced to write apology letters to everyone she’s wronged in the town.

The first part of this story was so well done as the reader is given enough time to get to know Morrigan, her life and her negative family dynamic before she is whisked off to the magical world of Nevermoor by the mysterious Jupiter North. This whole section was brilliantly action packed and I grew to really love Morrigan as a character. But once the story shifted to Nevemoor, everything came to a screeching halt. Jupiter North simply abandoned Morrigan and took the excitement with him.

I found it very difficult to ground myself in the world and a lot of characters are just thrown at the reader to the point where I found it hard to keep track of who was who. Normally the prospect of trials fills me with glee – it’s a trope I can really get behind – but I didn’t feel it was the best way to explore this brand new world. Towards the end of the book I even started skimming several pages at a time, and often giving side-tracked by something outside of the book, just hoping it would all pick up at the end.

I don’t know if my issues with this stemmed from having read a really good book prior to this and I was in a bit of a slump without realising, but I just didn’t get on with this book like I thought I would.

It seemed to have all the potential and a good start but not enough to power through to the end.

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Posted in contemporary, young adult

A Very Large Expanse Of Sea (Chapter Sampler) – Tahereh Mafi

A Very Large Expanse Of Sea is about giving a voice to the Muslim American teenager in a world where they’re seldom given a chance to speak. It’s about love and hate and breakdancing. It’s my story, and I’m grateful to you for reading.”

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Blurb: “It’s 2002, a year after 9/11. It’s an extremely turbulent time politically, but especially so for someone like Shirin, a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who’s tired of being stereotyped.”

*This Sampler was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

Additional Note: I am very aware that as a white reviewer that there are aspects of this story I cannot connect to and I am sharing this from a place of privilege. If you know of any own voice reviews of this sampler please let me know and I will add them here.

Like probably everyone, I know Tahereh Mafi from her best-selling YA series Shatter Me and I have been a follower of all her social media platforms for many years. She has been quite reserved when it comes to her personal life which made it even more interesting when she announced a new book – a YA contemporary taking aspects of her experiences growing up as a Muslim in America, oh and her love for breakdancing.

It’s very hard for me to judge this story fairly until the book I actually out as I was only given a first-chapter sampler but what I read has left me begging for the rest of it.

A Very Large Expanse Of Sea follows Shirin who has just started at a new school; her fourth in two years. Initially, Shirin comes across as abrasive and the epitome of “fuck you and fuck the world.” However, her demeanour began to quickly make sense: she is growing up in a world that constantly takes her at face value, judging her before they even get the chance to know her. It was expected from her classmates but shocking to also see the teachers acting the same way. She addresses the double standards compared to her brother: while she is attacked for wearing a hijab and receives a torrid of islamophobia, her brother is fawned over by girls who find him “exotic.”

The reader really gets the sense that she’s struggling to find her place in the world and break dancing will become something positive she can invest her time in; something where who she is outside of the moves won’t matter. Also I’ve never read a book that really focuses on breakdancing before and I’m very intrigued to see where the rest of the story goes.

Publication Date: 16th October 2018

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Posted in discussion

Why I Love Book Acknowledgements

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Back in the day, before the internet, (yes I am that old) the only way I could learn more about those people behind the books was through acknowledgements. I didn’t even know what my favourite authors looked like, so it was a chance to peek behind the curtain in some way.

Book acknowledgements are stories in themselves. A name that could mean nothing to me, means everything to someone else. Did they sit there over coffee with the author who groaned endlessly about a chapter that didn’t work? Have they been life-long friends? Maybe they’re another writer who understands the plight of creating a new world. As social media has developed and expanded, readers can now interact with their beloved creators on a daily basis. We feel closer as we see their friendships play out in the virtual world (take Becky Albertalli, Adam Silvera and Angie Thomas, for example). Those names littered in the acknowledgment are often familiar now, but it doesn’t make them any less magical.

When a close friend of mine, K.M.Robinson, released her debut book Golden, I was overjoyed to read it after hearing about it for so long. At the time of writing this (I say that because she is a machine and could have written five more by the time this is posted), she has sixteen books out in the world. As I reached the inevitable end, I turned to the acknowledgements and froze when I saw not just my name, but a whole paragraph dedicated just to little old me. I will be grateful for this for the rest of my life.

My favourite thing about it is that it’s a collection of inside jokes. To anyone else, this is jut nonsense;  a weird footnote in a list of thank yous. But to me, it is everything.

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Posted in contemporary, review, young adult

P.S I Still Love You – Jenny Han

“You gave me my first love story, Peter. Please just don’t let it be over yet.”

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Blurb: “Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter. She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever. When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once?”

When I first started reading this series, I did expect to end up loving the characters the way I do, and I think a lot of that is do with the fact that I went for the audiobook. After seeing it was the same narrator for the sequel it seemed only right to continue on with this format. Laura Knight Keating is the best narrator I’ve listened to up to this point. There’s just something about the way she delivers Lara Jean’s story that really brings the character and her story to life. I can only describe it as like being given one long warm hug. Her tone and the flow of her words just create this yearning inside of me to know more about what happens to this character.

P.S I Still Love You follows on directly from the events of the previous book and sees Lara Jean continue to deal with some of the fall-out, along with starting to pursue a more real relationship with Peter. It was really nice seeing how their dynamic changed over the course of this book and it just a testament to how talented Jenny Han is at writing characters. This is a book in which Lara Jean really does start to grow up and it was quite beautiful to look at where she ends this book compared to how she started out in To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before.

By far one of the best things about this series is the portrayal of family life. The scenes where Lara is having dinner with her siblings or trying to encourage her father to start dating again are so heart-warming and a positive family relationship is something I rarely come across in YA books. It was just lovely to see each member of this family support each other.

There’s a big viral social media scandal that takes place in this book, of course centred around Lara Jean, and while it was horrifically painful to read, it was interesting to see the use of technology in a YA book. Again, given that there’s a lot of talk about the lack of it being present in these kinds of contemporary stories.

However, this book very much falls into the line of “second book syndrome.” It’s still enjoyable but it’s not on the same level as the previous one. The last quarter really dragged for me and, from the synopsis, I knew a love triangle was coming –which I really loathe- and it was that aspect that drastically pulled this book down for me because it just wasn’t needed. P.S I Still Love You had enough going for it without throwing this random other boy into the mix.

Having said that, my overall enjoyment was still there. I continued to love Lara Jean so much and I will definitely be picking up the final book at some point very soon.

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