Posted in book reviews

It Came From the Sky – Chelsea Sedoti

From the author of The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett and As You Wish comes the unforgettable story of the one small town’s biggest hoax and the two brothers who started it all.

This is the absolutely true account of how Lansburg, Pennsylvania was invaded by aliens and the weeks of chaos that followed. There were sightings of UFOs, close encounters, and even abductions. There were believers, Truth Seekers, and, above all, people who looked to the sky and hoped for more.

Only…there were no aliens.

Gideon Hofstadt knows what really happened. When one of his science experiments went wrong, he and his older brother blamed the resulting explosion on extraterrestrial activity. And their lie was not only believed by their town―it was embraced. As the brothers go to increasingly greater lengths to keep up the ruse and avoid getting caught, the hoax flourishes. But Gideon’s obsession with their tale threatened his whole world. Can he find a way to banish the aliens before Lansburg, and his life, are changed forever?

Told in a report format and comprised of interviews, blog posts, text conversations, found documents, and so much more, It Came from the Sky is a hysterical and resonant novel about what it means to be human in the face of the unknown.

Trigger Warnings: on-page branding and discussion of cow mutilation, pedophilia/underage relationship/statutory rape (no graphic scenes).

I discuss these tw’s in this review.

This review contains spoilers.

It Came From the Sky follows the story of Gideon, an aspiring MIT student and NASA engineer, who conspires with his prankster brother, Ishmael, to invent and carry out a hoax that aliens have visited their small town . . .

And it all started with what was meant to be a small explosion, to test out the ability of the seismograph. Except Ishmael does not listen to his brother, and was curious to see how much more of a big bang they could create . . . and bam. A crater is formed & the lie begins.

Throughout the novel – and especially in the beginning – I found it hard to connect with Gideon. While I related to his awkwardness, introverted nature, and his curiosity about space, I often struggled with the way he talked. While part of his characterisation was being closed of to those around him for fear of rejection, failure and humiliation, it extended from the page and to the reader. I don’t feel like I ever truly connected to Gideon. While he went on a character arc and journey, I think a lot of the emotional weight was missed by not letting the reader in to his thoughts more & allowing us to connect with him & his struggle to connect with people on a social and intimate level. The scenes where he did finally open up to Ishmael, Owen, Cass, Arden and his dad were good (I shed a tear with the latter), I feel they missed the emotional weight. Especially since once it was shared, it was like ‘right! On to the next!’

Sedoti combines ‘normal’ narrative prose with various mixed media formats such as interview transcripts (Gideon’s interviews he conducted, and the police), newspaper articles, and posters (some of these were incredibly pretty and felt very authentic with the horrible, but common, comic sans type).

(I think the only thing I did not enjoy was the footnotes, and that’s because I have not long finished writing my dissertation and degree, so I am feeling sensitive to them lmao. Stop haunting me).

My favourite element of this novel though was the relationship between Gideon and Ishmael. I really enjoyed seeing them become closer and more understanding of each other, and the support they provided the other. They had an enjoyable dynamic.

Again, I liked the relationship between Gideon and Owen, but the novel failed to invest time in to developing them and exploring that dynamic that it felt lackluster. As stated, Gideon has his reservations about everyone, and this leads him to making some really!! silly!! decisions!! that have not only an impact on him, but Owen. While the author gave this a resolution in the end, I felt incredibly frustrated that the entire novel spent time showing Gideon treating Owen badly for it to end in a conversation. I really liked that Owen did not just immediately accept or forgave Gideon, and was like this is something we need to work on. Before that, it was just text messages of leave me alone, Gideon moping before he finally realises that, despite his feelings, he was a massive jerk and needs to make things better. I don’t know. I think I would have liked a few more conversations and investment in the relationship other than Gideon being rude and Owen just sighing at him, for it to then end like this.

As for the hoax, it was incredibly wild – and fun – to see how one small lie about the crater being formed by a meteorite then snowballed in to seeing lights, shapes . . . and then seeing how it got picked up on by conspiracy theorists, and how others then began saying they had ‘close encounters’ as well. I think the only thing I didn’t like about this whole hoax storyline is that in the end, they essentially just got away with all the destruction that they caused?? And there was no concern for their mental state (I mean Ismael literally had Gideon BRAND him with a crop circle design to sell the story. Gideon states at the end that he is going in to theory, but that’s more to work on his social skills and those feelings, which is GREAT, but also what about Ishmael?!).

Another thing I did not like was the relationship between Oz and Arden & how the author handled it. It was thrown in for shock factor – and another reason to show how much Oz is the absolute worst – and to push Gideon/Arden closer together, and that was . . . it. The whole thing was mostly brushed over, everyone being more concerned with the fact that Oz is a scam artist as opposed to the fact that he is a pedophile. In the end, he is arrested as Gideon asks Arden to come forward, seeming as the police/FBI do not think they have sufficient evidence to arrest him for scamming (Gideon compares this to Al Capone being arrested for tax evasion). So, while it was good that Oz got arrested for that & will hopefully face the consequences . . . I do not feel it was handled well at all. It was thrown in for the shock, and then dismissed, and then in the end it only became relevant again for Gideon to use to get himself out of trouble.

Overall, It Came From the Sky is not an awful book, but it misses many of it’s emotional punches and fails to treat topics with the seriousness and care that they deserve. It would have benefitted from cutting down on these storylines/characters, to give more focus and attention to the main dynamics and topics.

Thank you to Netgalley and SOURCEBOOKS Fire for providing me with this e-Arc in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in book reviews

10 Things I Hate About Pinky – Sandhya Menon (Dimple and Rishi #3)

The delightful follow-up to When Dimple Met Rishi and There’s Something about Sweetie, which follows Ashish’s friends Pinky and Samir as they pretend to date in order to achieve their individual goals, to disastrous and hilarious results.

Pinky Kumar wears the social justice warrior badge with pride. From raccoon hospitals to persecuted rock stars, no cause is too esoteric for her to champion. But a teeny tiny part of her also really enjoys making her conservative, buttoned-up corporate lawyer parents cringe.

Samir Jha might have a few…quirks remaining from the time he had to take care of his sick mother, like the endless lists he makes in his planner and the way he schedules every minute of every day, but those are good things. They make life predictable and steady.

Pinky loves lazy summers at her parents’ Cape Cod lake house, but after listening to them harangue her about the poor decisions she’s made (a.k.a. boyfriends she’s had), she hatches a plan. Get her sorta-friend-sorta-enemy—who is a total Harvard-bound Mama’s boy—to pose as her perfect boyfriend for the summer.

When Samir’s internship falls through, leaving him with an unplanned summer, he gets a text from Pinky asking if he’ll be her fake boyfriend in exchange for a new internship. He jumps at the opportunity; Pinky’s a weirdo, but he can survive a summer with her if there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

As they bicker their way through lighthouses and butterfly habitats, sparks fly, and they both realize this will be a summer they’ll never forget.

10 Things I Hate About Pinky is the third novel in the Dimple and Rishi universe, following on from When Dimple Met Rishi There’s Something About Sweetie. I liked When Dimple Met Rishi, really enjoyed There’s Something About Sweetie . . . and I loved this one.

10 Things I Hate About Pinky is told from the dual perspective of Pinky and Samir, as they both combat personal struggles over the course of a summer holiday. Pinky has a tense relationship with her mother, she feels as if she is never good enough for her parents, a constant disappointment . . . So she lives to that role, until she gets blamed for something she did not do one too many times . . .

This leads Pinky to inviting Samir to her holiday home, to pretend to be her fake boyfriend, to show her parents that she is not as much of a failure or disappointing as they think they are. (AHHH! Fake-dating trope!!!! Yes!!!!) Samir agrees to help Pinky. His internship in a prestigious law firm fell through, and its his hope, that by helping Pinky, he will gain an internship with her mother, who is known as ‘The Shark’. But like Pinky, he also has to confront his own behaviour, and the relationship with his mother…

These two characters were brilliant together! There was so much chemistry in their relationship – in the way they bantered with each other, with how they confront, challenge and support each other. Absolutely brilliant. They are very much opposites that attract – who compliment each other wonderfully – and the Menon has the characters confront whether or not a real relationship between them can withstand their differences . . .

Pinky and Samir learn so much about each other, but also learn so much about themselves. Some scenes incredibly frustrated me – I found I wanted to yell at the characters for how mean they were to each other, or out of order. But I held it in, and continued reading, and these moments were explored and developed upon in a way that I felt satisfied with.

I really enjoyed the supporting characters, as well. It would have been nice to have more time spent with them. For example, a large part of Pinky’s characterisation and struggle was to do with her relationship with her mother. Most of the novel concerned Pinky’s feelings of distance, anger, and upset with her mother, yet there was not much time spent on the resolution. I was not unhappy with how the novel resolved their relationship, but I do wish we could have seen more of that. Similar with Samir. We saw him make a decision about how he wants to move forward, yet we never got to see that dynamic with his mother play out. I understand, because the novel was set in a singular place and his mother was in another, but I do wish there was more of his relationships explored.

Overall, I loved this book! I was in the midst of writing my final university assignments at this point, and it provided much needed escapism. And when I put it down to continue on, it provided motivation to hurry up and finish so I could get back to reading it.

For that, I give this 5 stars.

Thank you Netgalley for providing me this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in book reviews

Good Girl, Bad Blood – Holly Jackson (A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, #2)

Pip Fitz-Amobi is not a detective anymore.

With the help of Ravi Singh, she released a true-crime podcast about the murder case they solved together last year. The podcast has gone viral, yet Pip insists her investigating days are behind her.

But she will have to break that promise when someone she knows goes missing. Jamie Reynolds has disappeared but the police won’t do anything about it. And if they won’t look for Jamie then Pip will, uncovering more of her town’s dark secrets along the way… and this time EVERYONE is listening. But will she find him before it’s too late?

DISCLAIMER: Mild spoilers for the first novel and for this one. Read at your own discretion!

TW: rape, assault, blood, murder, abuse

Good Girl, Bad Blood is the sequel to Jackson’s 2019 debut novel, A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder. Following on from the first novel, we find Pip dealing with the consequences and trauma from the events of the first novel. The events of book one haunt Pip, causing her to question her identity (who is she? Is she a good person?) and the things she did in book 1 that led her to revealing the truth about what happened to Andie Bell…

And you feel this. You feel how haunted Pip is, in the opening lines of most chapters. They open with Pip being haunted by memories, by sounds, by images; you feel how lost Pip is, how confused, how sad. For example:

“Words spliced, growing across the gaps like vines as her eyes unfocused, until her handwriting was just one writhing blur. Pip was looking at the page, but she wasn’t really there. It was like that now; giant holes in her attention that she slipped right into.”

You see the impact past (and recent) events have had on Pip and her mental health, written in a nuanced, and complex way. They were built in to the story, and it made Pip feel like a real, tangible character. That is why I loved the opening lines of the chapters so much, because they drew your attention and focus back down to the character, and her raw, honest emotions – before launching back in to the drama. It worked really, really well.

This novel also continued to explore the impact of the first novel in other ways, such as the court trials for certain offenders. This acts as a different plot point, that slowly becomes more and more entwined in to the current investigation…

And while it does that, it also opens up a discourse and a sub-plot on rape culture and justice, the latter which is a pre-dominant over-arching theme for both novels.

What is justice? Who can determine it? This novel points out that the law, our government systems (the court, the police), do not always get it right – but does that mean that personal vendettas and vigilantism can be carried out? It is an interesting discourse, questioning whether if there is, or should be, a simple black and white view on things…

And again, this leads Pip to question her own integrity, her own morals, and what is truth. People question her, think she’s a liar, and detest her for what she did to discover the truth about Andie, and the way she presented the facts afterwards. It is a study in justice and character.

So, this novel was able to wonderfully blend the events and consequences of the first novel in to this sequel, while also allowing the sequel to stand alone as it’s own thrilling and entertaining investigative drama. I loved the fact this acted as a direct continuation, while also setting up new stories – I really applaud Jackson for blending and balancing the two well.

But my absolute favourite thing about these novels are the characters and their relationships. I find it really nice and refreshing to read about such a genuine loving, honest and healthy relationship between Pip and Ravi. And I love Pip’s relationships with her friends: Cara, Connor and Zach. Even when things aren’t always perfect, we see them all communicate and work through their issues, and come out on the other side having learnt and growing as people and friends because of it.

Other things I liked about this novel! The podcast format. I loved how that was a way to recap the other plot points. I really liked that we got to see comments, and the theories – this felt even more interactive. (And again, the discussion on whether things like this should even be a podcast. The question is can you get these stories out there, without profiting off of the trauma? and things like that. A very nuanced, complex novel).

I’m really excited to see where Jackson is going to take this series. The way this novel ended had me in chills. It ended angrily, and with a sense of vengeance, and with Pip in a dark place (she seems to be dealing with PTSD, which is likely after the final events of what happened to her) and I am excited to see Jackson explore that further. It was lightly touched on in this novel (identity crisis, her screaming, getting expelled), but things have only gotten bigger..

I haven’t wanted to spoil too much, but yes. The way this novel ended….chills. We had Pip dealing with her darker side, with her trauma, her obsessive habits, but the novel did not end with her solving them…

5/5 Stars!

Posted in book reviews

Pretending – Holly Bourne

WHY BE YOURSELF WHEN YOU CAN BE PERFECT?
‘Perceptive. Hilarious. Reassuring. Brilliant.’ Laura Jane Williams
The highly-anticipated new novel from Holly Bourne, bestselling author of HOW DO YOU LIKE ME NOW?

He said he was looking for a ‘partner in crime’ which everyone knows is shorthand for ‘a woman who isn’t real’.

April is kind, pretty, and relatively normal – yet she can’t seem to get past date five. Every time she thinks she’s found someone to trust, they reveal themselves to be awful, leaving her heartbroken. And angry.

If only April could be more like Gretel.

Gretel is exactly what men want – she’s a Regular Everyday Manic Pixie Dream Girl Next Door With No Problems.

The problem is, Gretel isn’t real. And April is now claiming to be her.

As soon as April starts ‘being’ Gretel, dating becomes much more fun – especially once she reels in the unsuspecting Joshua.

Finally, April is the one in control, but can she control her own feelings? And as she and Joshua grow closer, how long will she be able to keep pretending?

Pretending isn’t a bad book, but it’s not the greatest either.

Bourne’s novels always discuss important subjects, such as different forms of assault, toxic relationships, mental health struggles, and, to put broadly, feminism. And this is so important. Her novels have opened a wider discourse and conversations with people, offering a new perspective, and has provided an accessible and new space to discuss the trauma, and advise on how to seek help/recognise negative behaviour.

And this novel did that. This novel follows the protagonist April, who works as part of a charity on the front-lines, helping people with their struggles. This can range from helping them dealing with their rape, alcohol abuse, or suicidal thoughts, etc. And while April is working there, she finds herself dealing with the trauma and the effects of when she was raped a few years beforehand.

The novel does a deep dive in to April’s trauma, her coping mechanisms. Part of this is her deep distrust and hatred of men. So April forms the stereotypical, satirical alter ego of ‘Gretel’ who is basically – what she thinks, and what we often see in various forms of media – the mans perfect woman. April thinks if she becomes Gretel, she will be free from being harmed by men: she has the control.

But this isn’t as easy as April thinks it is, and this all pans out throughout the course of the novel. In conversations with herself, her friend, her therapist, her newly met friends at a boxing class for other survivors. While that is all very in-depth, I found the novel to be lacking something…

Originality. I think if this was the first novel of Bourne’s I read, it would get a much higher rating. But to me, this feels like the adult version (or the finalised draft) of Bourne’s YA novel before this, The Places I’ve Cried in Public mixed in with her first adult book (which I dislike), How Do You Like Me Now? They all just feel interchangeable. The characters, the plots, the narrative style and their discourse.

April feels like the same character as the other protagonists in Bourne’s other novels. Very cut-and-paste like. And while this a novel about the female experience, I don’t think it does it justice when every male character in Bourne’s novels are also the same cut and paste dry cardboard characters.

I don’t know how I feel judging this based on her other work, but at the same time, having read the majority of the catalogue I am familiar with Bourne’s writing style and thus have a critical eye and opinion on the development of her writing. That I can’t ignore. Bourne, the more and more I read, just seems like she knows how to write the same characters and stories over and over. . . and that doesn’t insinuate good writing to me. (Basically just copying herself).

So it’s a really hard one, because the message of this book is important, and it has some really great moments that explore issues that all women can (sadly) relate to. But then, I find it lacks putting across the emotion it could have done, due to the not-so-greatly written characters (this novel could’ve had a wonderful supporting ensemble, but Bourne gives them a moment of screen time, tries to make them look *layered* and then moves on) and plot.

So this one is a 3 stars for me. I don’t entirely hate it. It’s decent. But I’m not head over heels for it. Nice idea, poor execution.

Thank you to Netgalley and Hodder & Stoughton for kindly giving me a copy of this novel  in exchange for an honest review. 

Posted in book reviews

The Near Witch – V.E. Schwab

The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children.

If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company.

There are no strangers in the town of Near.

These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life.

But when an actual stranger, a boy who seems to fade like smoke, appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true.

The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion.

As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi s need to know about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.

Part fairy tale, part love story, Victoria Schwab’s debut novel is entirely original yet achingly familiar: a song you heard long ago, a whisper carried by the wind, and a dream you won’t soon forget.

I was incredibly excited to dive into Schwab’s debut novel, The Near Witch, to see where it all began – and I was not disappointed.

This was a bone-chilling, atmospheric read, that I most certainly regretted reading in the early hours of the morning, with nothing but my (not very bright) bedside lamp lighting my room. Schwab sets the atmosphere wonderfully, I felt incredibly creeped out and scared of the uncanny (the wind!!) and I was glad my window was tightly shut. This is something Schwab does wonderfully in more recent works as well, she has a strong grasp on tone and creating atmospheric settings that feel incredibly real.

That was the strongest part of the novel. In other places, it feel flat for me. Maybe it’s just me liking details and particulars, but I really wanted to know what time this was set in (did I miss it). I felt like there were modern idioms used, which felt out of place and juxtaposed the sort of medieval setting. There was just a lot about the world that did not make sense – and I wasn’t able to let this go.

Secondly, Lexi tired me out with her constant running! She was constantly running from one place to another. Often, this didn’t even make sense – I don’t get how she was able to run from people who were, in some instances, described as being close to her? And then she’d rest, like they never noticed / couldn’t catch up to her. How fast does she run????

The characters / emotional stakes fell flat. I think it was because of the constant running, (yet, I would say this didn’t have much action for a large chunk of it) that I don’t think time was spent delving in to and exploring the familial & romantic relationships. Thus, even when profound moments happened, they were sad/happy based on that circumstance, but it wasn’t particularly moving.

But I did love reading this. I think it was great to go back to the earliest released work of Schwab, and to see how much her writing has grown and changed over the course of her career. This, by no means, was a bad book. But in later works, her characterisation & plot development became much stronger. I’m excited to continue to follow her work.

3 out of 5 witchy stars.

Posted in book reviews

The Love Hypothesis – Laura Steven

An LGBT romantic comedy with a twist from the Comedy Women in Print prize winner Laura Steven, author of The Exact Opposite of Okay. A hilarious love story with bite, for fans of Sex Education, Booksmart, Becky Albertalli’s Love, Simon and Jenny Han’s To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before.

Physics genius Caro Kerber-Murphy knows she’s smart. With straight As and a college scholarship already in the bag, she’s meeting her two dads’ colossal expectations and then some. But there’s one test she’s never quite been able to ace: love. And when, in a particularly desperate moment, Caro discovers a (definitely questionable) scientific breakthrough that promises to make you irresistible to everyone around you, she wonders if this could be the key.

What happens next will change everything Caro thought she knew about chemistry – in the lab and in love. Is hot guy Haruki with her of his own free will? Are her feelings for her best friend some sort of side-effect? Will her dog, Sirius, ever stop humping her leg?

The Love Hypothesis by Laura Steven is a heartfelt, funny, and entertaining read. I really, really enjoyed reading this one, and I’m glad I decided to pick it up, after having Laura Steven on my radar for a while now. After reading this, I am definitely interested in reading more of her work.

I loved the parental relationship in this! The relationship Caro had with her two dads was beautiful, and they both had outstanding, quirky, personalities. (Dad reminded me so much of Captain Holt from Brooklyn Nine-Nine).

I really enjoyed the friendships Caro had. I don’t want to go in to too much detail with them, since I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but it felt like a very real, and honest portrayal of friendship. Their relationship was good. And then it was rocky. And then it was somewhere in between. Ultimately, this was a story of how friendships (and relationships) change – and that’s okay. People can grow apart, other people can grow closer, and that is fine.

It was a story about self-acceptance, in all walks off life: friendships, romantic relationships, familial. And it was really good to read. Caro went on an amazing journey of self-realisation. Again, it’s hard to say much without spoiling but I loved how she was able to self-reflect on her own behaviour. The journey she want on made her more mindful, more accepting, more empathetic, and more honest. I love her. She had such a fantastic narrative voice, and I was invested in her story.

Also, this story was incredibly funny. I have a bunch of favourite LOL moments highlighted. And a bunch that made me cry, too.

What a great book.

4 Shining Stars!

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The Court of Miracles – Kester Grant (Court of Miracles, #1)

Les Misérables meets Six of Crows in this page-turning adventure as a young thief finds herself going head to head with leaders of Paris’s criminal underground in the wake of the French Revolution.

In the violent urban jungle of an alternate 1828 Paris, the French Revolution has failed and the city is divided between merciless royalty and nine underworld criminal guilds, known as the Court of Miracles. Eponine (Nina) Thénardier is a talented cat burglar and member of the Thieves Guild. Nina’s life is midnight robberies, avoiding her father’s fists, and watching over her naïve adopted sister, Cosette (Ettie). When Ettie attracts the eye of the Tiger–the ruthless lord of the Guild of Flesh–Nina is caught in a desperate race to keep the younger girl safe. Her vow takes her from the city’s dark underbelly to the glittering court of Louis XVII. And it also forces Nina to make a terrible choice–protect Ettie and set off a brutal war between the guilds, or forever lose her sister to the Tiger.

Let me start off by saying that this had potential. Truly, it did. It might not immediately come across as such, with the typical YA fantasy name, and being compared to the current most popular books in that genre. But it had the potential to take those well loved things, and make it it’s own. The Court of Miracles tried to do this by drawing allusion to other popular literary texts (Les Mis, The Jungle Book) and by telling an alternate history. Exciting, right? Sadly not.

This probably makes me a terrible literature student, but I have never read Les Misérables, or seen any adaption, nor do I intend to. I am also only vaguely familiar with The Jungle Book, my familiarity stemming from seeing the film as a child (I have never read the book, or watched any recent adaptations).

Thus, the many allusions that this book utilised were lost on me. The characters, whose backstories I imagined where drawn from the original canon, were not familiar to me. I wondered, while reading, that if I was aware would I enjoy this more?

And there lies the issue. Should I have to be familiar with those texts to get the full possible enjoyment out of this? Should I have to be familiar with the canon it is influenced by, to understand what is going on? No, I don’t think so.

Sure, for fans of the originals – or at least those more familiar than me – it should give them something extra, like the feeling of picking up on a clue the author dropped, but the novel should not rely on it – those allusions to the canon – to make the novel for it.

Thus, that was my first issue, which stemmed in to my others.

The plot jumped around so, so much! From narrative, to the narrative structure, to characterisation! It was hard to keep up, and thus hard to care.

The book opens with Nina being forced to leave her sister, having to join the world of The Miracle Courts that was foreign to her, yet so familiar. It happened so quickly, without any development. Even though there was so much action, which should have been promising me a fast, quick paced read, it felt weak. I told myself that it was just the beginning, and it would get better.

And then there was a time jump. Three months I think? And we are now introduced to a Nina, different to the one we first met in that small instant. We had barely gotten to know her then; and we definitely don’t know her now. But she want from being initiated, to bragging about how amazing she is as a thief, and all these dark plans she had.

Which, fine. But no characterisation. No development.

The book goes through several time jumps like this. The next, three years (I think?). And again, Nina has grown in to this character, and has all these plans she vaguely refers to, and all these deep relationships with people…yet you don’t feel them. Because everytime one of the sections of the book gets started, and you start to connect, it jump starts again.

And while its dealing with romance, and death, and sisterhood, and coming-of-age, and parental relationships, it hardly holds any gravitas. All these big, emotional reveals mean nothing. The plot was out of touch, the MC achieving goals, to then have them ripped away, to then do something else, to then have to restart – and even though it remained the same (save her sister(s)) it never actually felt consistent. (Probably because at one stage she basically did her goal, and I was like oh. Well, that was quick, BUT WHERE WILL THIS GO? and then yeah. That didn’t work out and it just carried on).

This just felt like a very, very, very, very rough draft. It wasn’t cohesive in terms of narrative, the plot was poorly paced and not developed, as well as the characters. It’s a shame, really, because I felt like this could have been a great book, if only the author stopped to pause and tell her story – rather than race through it.

I have read an ARC copy, and it is my hope that by the time of publication the novel has been better edited, and changes made, to help it reach it’s full potential. Because this has it in it to be an entertaining, thrilling read. But right now, it has not reached that point.

2 Stars.

Thank you Netgalley and HarperCollinsUK for this advanced readers copy in exchange for an honest review.

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January 2020 Reading Wrap-Up!

Hi, everyone! Hope you are all doing well and had a fabulous reading month. It’s been a bit slow for me this month, which was too be expected as I returned to university for my final semester. I’m soooo looking forward to going on a reading binge (which I usually do in January) when university is over.

Anyways, this month I read a total of 4 books. Overall, it was quite a decent reading month, with an average rating of 3.6 stars.

  1. The first book I read was the first in the Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians series (the first book is titled the same) by Brandon Sanderson.

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The novel follows Alcatraz Smedry, who was found by his Grandpa Smedry shortly after his thirteenth birthday. Alcatraz begins to discover his family history, and his ‘talent’, which is to break things. I will avoid saying anything else, because this book is just so adventurous, and so fun, that I think you should just discover it all for yourself.

I loved the narrative style! Again, hard to say much without giving it all away – but Alcatraz’s awareness of him writing a novel (sorry, an autobiography) was brilliant. The fourth wall breaks, the occasional break in the linear narrative – it made for a really fun, and somewhat interactive (sometimes you had to rotate the book to read) reading experience.

I gave this 4 stars.

2. The second book I read this month was The Scrivener’s Bones: Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson.

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This one was just as fun as the first! We began to delve more in to the mythology behind the Smedry Talent’s, featured a (sort-of) heist. Again, it had such a fun narrative style, and was incredibly witty. I also awarded this 4 stars.

3. The third book I read this month was The Knights of Crystallia: Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson.

a3

I was feeling a bit wary going in to book three, as I had loved the first & second, and I was feeling worried that the things I loved would begin to get tiring OR the book just wouldn’t have that same ‘magic’. However, I worried for nothing. With each and every book, we dive deeper in to the ‘conspiracy’ of the Librarians, the Smedry talents. In this, we got to see more of Bastille’s life, as we found out who she is, and what forces she has working against her. Getting to see more of this world was wonderful.

Again, I awarded this 4 stars.

4. My fourth read this month was my book group – A Book Nirvana on Goodreads – monthly read along. We had decided to read, based on Emer’s recommendation, This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada.

this mortal coil

I have had this book on my shelf since early on in it’s release, but never got around to reading it. I think I picked it up once before, read a couple pages, and then put it back down because I was not in the mood for it. However, I was excited to read this for our January selection, and oh wow. IT WAS AMAZING! I can’t talk about this book without giving spoilers – but let me tell you, the blurb to this novel does not capture how fabulous, how complex, this book is.

5. My fifth read for this month was a novel I read for my contemporary fiction class at uni, The Circle by Dave Eggers.

the circle

I was intrigued by this novel, as is looks at the impact of rising technology and the power of corporations, with human rights implications, etc. Also, when the film came out a few years ago with Emma Watson, I wanted to watch it, but ultimately never got around to it.

This book was decent. Didn’t love it, didn’t hate it. I felt like it had so much unnecessary exposition, without any real reason. For example, the plot would finally be moving somewhere and then it would feel the need to rehash an earlier idea, which had already been thoroughly explained in the beginning of the book. And it was like yes, I get it.

The ending was dismal. Everything came to a head in maybe the last 20 pages? And even then, it didn’t feel like a proper conclusion.

My other complaint is that you can tell this was written by a man. The way Mae was written, weirdly sexualised, and her opinion on sex and men…just no. It was weird. And this book had so many handjobs in it?? Like, why??

Ultimately, I gave this book a 2 star rating, but am considering lowering it to 1. And, I’m unsure on the general consensus, but I much preferred the film adaption to this.

Conclusion

That was my January 2020 in books! Not a bad month at all. I’m excited to continue on with Sanderson’s Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians Series, and Suvada’s This Mortal Coil trilogy. Hopefully I’ll get to some of them over the course of February.

 

Posted in book reviews

The Penelopiad – Margaret Atwood

Now that all the others have run out of air, it’s my turn to do a little story-making.

In Homer’s account in The Odyssey, Penelope—wife of Odysseus and cousin of the beautiful Helen of Troy—is portrayed as the quintessential faithful wife, her story a salutary lesson through the ages. Left alone for twenty years when Odysseus goes off to fight in the Trojan War after the abduction of Helen, Penelope manages, in the face of scandalous rumors, to maintain the kingdom of Ithaca, bring up her wayward son, and keep over a hundred suitors at bay, simultaneously. When Odysseus finally comes home after enduring hardships, overcoming monsters, and sleeping with goddesses, he kills her suitors and—curiously—twelve of her maids.

In a splendid contemporary twist to the ancient story, Margaret Atwood has chosen to give the telling of it to Penelope and to her twelve hanged maids, asking: “What led to the hanging of the maids, and what was Penelope really up to?” In Atwood’s dazzling, playful retelling, the story becomes as wise and compassionate as it is haunting, and as wildly entertaining as it is disturbing. With wit and verve, drawing on the story-telling and poetic talent for which she herself is renowned, she gives Penelope new life and reality—and sets out to provide an answer to an ancient mystery.

Terrible. Utterly terrible.

Come read The Penelopiad the book that tells Penelope’s side of the story. One would then assume that this means that the novel aims to give Penelope agency as she is using her own voice to tell her side of the story. And when I say tell, I mean it.

To state the obvious (much like how Penelope constantly does), this is a novella, but it fails to feel like one. Instead, it reads like a Wikipedia page. Except, that’s more exciting. Atwood failed to construct Penelope as a nuanced narrator, instead she had her state the freaking obvious constantly. For example, Penelope would mention that she was to be in an arranged marriage. And by this she means a marriage arranged for a specific reason, a marriage chosen for her, not arranged as in flower arrangements! ahaha dumbass reader! bet that caught you out! how lucky you’ve got the clever Penelope to tell you otherwise, hmmmm?

Let’s not get started on how this book also markets that it will give the maids a voice to tell their sides of the story and events….nope….let’s not get in to that one….because it doesn’t….they have like 20 pages of page time and practically repeat themselves (yes, they’re lumped in to a group and I think we know the names of 2 of them….total agency right)….

And I don’t know what Atwood aimed to do with Penelope but she used Penelope’s narrative voice to:
a) have Penelope repeatedly tell the reader how smart she was, despite all her actions and inner-thoughts proving other wise (see back to my earlier point: where Penelope over-states and explains the simplest of things)
: this could’ve been really interesting, if it was Atwood showing how Penelope put up a front but then show her vulnerabilities. While it touched upon how Penelope’s story later got twisted, THIS narrative failed to actually explore these themes. Once again, all show and not tell. I mean I know Penelope is narrating from the underworld but my good lord…

b) Shit on the other female characters. The girl-on-girl hate with Helen was your typical YA trope of blonde cheerleader vs ‘ugly duckling’ girl. Blonde cheerleader is stupid and superficial while the ‘ugly duckling’ girl is smart and clearly superior. Considering that this book seemed to set out to deconstruct the typical patriarchal canon Atwood sure liked to uphold a lot of it’s sexism…and it wasn’t in a subversive way either…

: like when Penelope, at the end of the novel, despite looking back on the story of the maids etc….still thought it was appropriate to tell them to leave Odysseus alone because he had suffered enough…Feminism? don’t know her.

Penelope was such a weakly written character. I was excited to dive in to the complexities and see a new take on her backstory, adding layers that the myths typically leave out / up to interpretation. But no. I just don’t get Penelope. I’d say she wasn’t written consistently but that would be a lie…she was written in a way that constantly got on my nerves…

And I’m so irritated by that because I was so happy to pick up a book that gave agency to a female voice that otherwise isn’t usually seen. And this doesn’t mean I was expecting Penelope to be an all around good character, the pinnacle of feminism, I just expected her to have complexities, to be multi-faceted…instead the way she was written was just so eh…

God…I really could go on.

The writing was just inconsistent AF. One minute we are being told Telemachus and Penelope really did not get along, they fought, he would kill her if he thought he could get away with it, he was nothing but a selfish brat….and then the next there’s almost a loving (lol) moment between the two where he lies to her to spare her feelings?? AND I AM ANNOYED. Because ONCE AGAIN!! this could’ve had potential.

Like with many of the characters:
Penelope,
Helen
and as discussing, Telemachus,

we could’ve explored the moral ambiguity of the characters!! their complexities!! their motivations!! FEELINGS!! but nah. Penelope will add in a couple throw away lines about his displeasure and that will be it.

This story wasn’t built, there weren’t any layers, as the blurb says, it was quite literally TOLD. And through this ‘recap’ of sorts, there was no emotion. None. It was so sterile and uninspiring.

I really could go on about all the things I found wrong in this book, but I’ll sum it up:

– The novella clearly didn’t know what point it wanted to make. It tried to tackle multiple themes and because of that it never fully developed one.

– It read like it wasn’t that well researched.

– The characterisations and the structure was not well developed or cohesive.

Ultimately, I did not get on with the writing style at all and found it to be extremely weak and lacking in any sort of depth.

One star.

Posted in other bookish posts

My TBR for this week! (27/01/2020)

Hi everyone! I have currently got quite a few books on the go, and I lot I want to start and finish this week. I love a list, and I love crossing things off of it, so I thought hey…why not make a TBR list? Might give me some more motivation! Then again, tbr’s usually don’t work for me because I’m a giant mood reader (who is also addicted to watching tv and taking naps) so the mood I’m in always dictates what I read. However, I usually have a list of what I want to read, but whether my mood lets me get to it is a different story…

Anyways!

The first book on my tbr is

Frankissstein: A Love Story by Jeanette Winterson

frankissstein

I need to finish this book next week, as we will be discussing it in my Contemporary fiction class at uni. This novel follows two timelines: Mary Shelley’s timeline, as she writes Frankenstein; and the timeline/perspective of Ry, in Brexit Britain. I’m not very far in to this, each time I pick it up I only manage a few pages, and then I get distracted and ultimately put it down. The writing style was fine, even fun, at first. But now I’m finding myself increasingly irritated with it (such as the classic speech marks, when a character talks). I am debating not finishing it.

The second book on my tbr for this week is

Bright Air Black by David Vann

bright air black

I’m writing my dissertation on modern retellings of Greek myths. I have two texts that I am solid on, but have been debating my third, and potential fourth text. So, I decided to pick this one up. Much like Frankissstein, this is not written in the ‘normal’ form of narration you’d find in a novel, but instead is styled in poetic prose. I am really enjoying it – again, I’m finding it hard to sit down and concentrate for long periods of time, as while I like the style sometimes it feels a bit overwhelming. I’m hoping to finish it this week, as I am aiming to write a chapter on this.

My third book on my tbr is a book I picked up to read last night

One Of Us Is Next – Karen M. McManus

One of Us is Next FINAL cover.indd

I’ve read both of McManus’s previous releases, One Of Us Is Lying and Two Can Keep A Secret. I was not a big fan of either novel, I gave One Of Us Is Lying 3 stars, and Two Can Keep A Secret 2 stars. They were not dreadful novels, but I ultimately found them underwhelming. So why am I reading this?? I don’t know. I think it’s because I do get some entertainment value out of them – mostly because I push on reading to prove that I am right in my ridiculous theories…

Finally, by the end of the week I am hoping to start

A Heart So Fierce and Broken – Brigid Kemmerer

a heart so fierce and broken

I’m planning on reading this the first week of February with my friends in my Goodreads book group, A Book Nirvana. We read the first one together last year, so have planned a buddy read! I would say I’m excited to read this one, but I’ve seen some spoilers and I’m not liking the direction this novel seemed to go in. But I haven’t read it yet, so we shall see!

Conclusion 

That is my tbr for this week, starting 27th of January! What are your current reads? Books on your tbr? 🙂