Book Reviews, YA Contemporary, Young Adult

Out of Heart – Irfan Master Review

Screen Shot 2017-04-24 at 10.07.23.png

Rating: ★

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I really wanted this book to impress me, and I was optimistic for much of it, but I can’t lie. This book was so disappointing for me. I never understood what was happening, whether anything was happening at all, or what the point of it was. This really was not my cup of tea.

When Adam’s grandfather ‘Dadda’ dies, he and his family are shocked to discover that he donated his heart. They are even more shocked when Adam shows up at their house claiming to be the recipient of Dadda’s heart. William is quickly welcomed into the family and finds a home with them. Meanwhile, Adam spends his days enveloped in his artwork. To be honest, that’s basically it. I don’t know how to describe the ‘plot’ of this novel, because I couldn’t really pick one out for you. Things happened, once in a while, but they didn’t really seem to serve a larger purpose, and for most of the book, I had no idea where it was going and what the characters were looking for. I appreciate that one aspect of many of the characters, or at least William and Adam, was that they are sort of drifting through life, but I would have liked to have had a clearer idea of at least their short term goals, their feelings, their wishes.

Perhaps this was made worse by the fact that the writing is quite poetic and symbolic. Adam spends a lot of time making short little poems with random pairs of words, and the way that the novel is told is almost a sort of stream of consciousness narrative. I found this odd, especially for a YA contemporary novel, but I was willing to give it a try. I have enjoyed stream of consciousness literature before, so I was actually quite excited. However, my issue with the way it was used in this novel was that I don’t feel like any of the characters really stood their ground enough as individuals. The narrative would sometimes switch from one character to another, and by the end of the novel, I think most of the characters had been the focus of the narrative at some point, but the information we were given about them and the events happening were just a bit too wishy-washy and vague for me.

Vague seems to be the overall impression of this novel. I don’t mind reading novels that experiment with symbolism and narrative, I’m used to them, but I do think that there has to be a balance. There was clearly symbolism in this novel, there was a lot of talk of hearts (understandably), but if Irfan Master was hoping that his novel would make his readers think about something in particular, it didn’t achieve it with me. Even basic things missed me. For example, even now I’m not completely sure if Adam actually lives with his grandmother. I’m pretty sure she was mentioned at some point, but then she disappeared. There was another plot to do with Adam’s father, his younger sister, and domestic abuse, but for such a heavy topic, it just wasn’t explored at all.

This is one of the hardest reviews I’ve ever written, simply because I am completely lost for words over this novel. I read it, but I can’t find any wider meaning to it. It was just a string of events, and the attempts at symbolism and imagery completely went over my head. Nothing was explored, none of the characters stood out to me, and the plot was barely identifiable.

Bookish Tags, Other

T5W: Authors You Want to Read More From

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme that was created by Lainey of gingerreadslainey and is currently hosted by Sam of ThoughtsOnTomes. Every week, I will post my top 5 of that week’s theme. If you’d like to learn more about it or join in the fun, head over to the Goodreads group where all the discussions take place here.

This week’s topic is 5 authors you would like to read more of, and it was actually very difficult to only pick 5! I tried to pick authors who have books out that I haven’t read yet, rather than authors I love who simply haven’t written more books yet, which made it a bit more challenging, but I thought it might be a bit more interesting to talk about the masses of literature out there already that I haven’t yet been able to experience.

1. Neil Gaiman

 

Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 10.31.16

I love Neil Gaiman’s mind. His work is always original, and he has this great way of mixing dark and funny writing together which I love. Even if I’m not head over heels with a book, I am always head over heels with the way his brain works. His settings and characters are always unique, and he can make everything feel new and different and slightly creepy. I’ve loved everything I’ve seen of his work, from novels to his Doctor Who episodes (The Doctor’s Wife is one of the best episodes ever – fight me.)

I admit, I am a little in love with Neil Gaiman’s brain. And the man.

2. Kazuo Ishiguro

Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 10.33.22

Never Let Me Go is one of my favourite novels of all time. I loved the delicate blend of different genres and Cathy’s voice as a narrator telling her story to the reader. Even though this novel isn’t exciting in the jam-packed-with-action type of way, I devoured this book in a day. I think that perhaps one of the reasons why I didn’t go straight to Ishiguro’s other novels is the fact that Never Let Me Go isn’t really a clear-cut genre story, so I don’t know whether the other books will be similar or not. I do know that I loved his writing and characters though, so I think I need to buckle up and give it a try.

3. George R.R. Martin

Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 10.33.54

I have read all of the A Song of Ice and Fire novels and it is one of my favourite series. I haven’t read anything as expansive and exciting as these books, with such a vast array of complex characters. I love the moral ambiguity of his characters. Maybe the sheer size of this series, and the way that it feels like it is sometimes taking over my life, is the reason why I haven’t tried George RR Martin’s other books, but I would like to give them a try. I own a couple already, and I know that there is a lot out there to read across different genres and formats, from novels to short stories. There’s a lot to keep me entertained, it’s just a matter of time.

4. Maria Turtschaninoff

Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 10.34.55

Maresi was beautiful in so many ways. I loved the setting and world-building, the characters, the story, and the writing. It reminds me a bit of Kazuo Ishiguro’s writing in Never Let Me Go, with the narrator telling you the story after the events have happened, and Maresi’s tone was calm and dream-like like Cathy’s was. It is so refreshing to find an author whose writing feels so comfortable and easy, so I can’t wait to read Naondel, the second book in the Red Abbey Chronicles. I also know that Maria Turschaninoff has other books in Finnis. So, what do I have to do to get these translated to English?

5. Victoria Schwab

Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 10.35.12

I’ve read Schwab’s This Savage Song and am excited to see what happens in the sequel. Even though this book didn’t blow me away, I was impressed by her creativity and I have heard so many good things about her adult fantasy books published under the name V.E. Schwab, in particular A Darker Shade of Magic. From what I’ve read about these novels, I feel like I might get some Neil Gaiman vibes from Schwab’s writing, so I can’t wait to finally get around to reading these.

Book Reviews, YA Contemporary, Young Adult

The State of Grace – Rachel Lucas Review

Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 09.46.02.png

Rating: ★★

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

When I started writing this review, I thought that I was just disappointed, but then I realised that this book actually made me surprisingly angry. While the representation of ASD was good, the lack of plot and the frankly terrible secondary characters made this book really get on my nerves.

My main problem was the lack of actual plot. Grace has Autism. She struggles at school. Her best friend is Anna. She lives with her parents and sister, but her father travels a lot for work. She has a horse. She begins to date Gabe. There is a lot of stuff to Grace’s life, but there wasn’t a clear plot. Apart from her new relationship with Gabe, nothing at the end of the novel was different from the beginning, which made me wonder a bit what the point was. Towards the end, things began to pick up, but I felt like it was rushed and somewhat meaningless once it had finished. Grace makes a huge mistake trying to be cool, which makes her fear that her friends will hate her. This was understandable because Rachel Lucas does a really good job at getting us to understand the way Grace thinks, but Grace doesn’t actually do anything to solve this, which made it feel a bit lacklustre. Rather, everything was solved by other characters swooping in to save her and  assuring her that everything is fine. It’s not that I was looking for Grace to be magically cured of her autism and anxiety, but it would have been nice to have seen Grace do something to fix the mess that she made and take some ownership.

Rachel Lucas did a really good job at representing life with Autism. I’ve learned since that this is an #ownvoices novel, and you can definitely see the effects of this being told by someone who knows what it feels like to have Autism. We see Grace’s thought processes, how she handles people, and her daily life. I was really impressed at how Lucas shows us a little of what it feels to be overwhelmed by the world around you, and the way that it’s written really shows you how Grace struggles to deal with all of the sounds, sights, and smells around her. Grace was a really well developed character in this sense. However, I was a bit disappointed at the representation of Gabe’s ADHD, in that there basically was none. It was mentioned, and I thought that we might get so learn a bit about his experiences, but then this just disappeared for the entire rest of the novel. It felt odd that a novel that was clearly trying to represent one condition would so completely disregard another that it had purposefully mentioned.

This leads onto my final issue with the novel, which is simply that all of the secondary characters were completely two-dimensional. For example, we basically know nothing about Gabe other than that he is Polish, has ADHD, and watches Doctor Who. We don’t see his sense of humour or his feelings. We barely even see him talk, as when Gabe and Grace hang out, Lucas just skims over their dialogue and summarises their conversations for us. The same goes for Grace’s friendship with Anna. It was taken for granted that readers would just accept that Anna was Grace’s best friend because we were told that she was, but I would have liked to have seen Anna actually doing something to actively support Grace so that I could understand why Grace feels more comfortable with Anna than other people.

Grace’s mother and sister are shown a lot more, but they still felt so flat. Grace’s sister Leah is basically irrelevant for the entire story until she suddenly has alcohol poisoning, which was so random that I couldn’t believe it was happening. Grace’s mother is struggling with her marriage and has rekindled a friendship with an old friend called Eve, who is pushing her to return to work now that her daughters are older. Eve is portrayed as some sort of evil witch, and Grace’s mother as a brainless and bitter housewife. At the end, Grace’s mother realises that Eve has been a bad influence and returns to being blissfully happy with home life. This was a laughable twist of events, and really annoyed me. There is nothing wrong with Grace’s mother being interested in returning to work, but it was shown as a terrible, selfish thought on her part, and I just can’t believe that someone as inconsiderate Eve could exist. Characters were either good people or terrible people, there was no in between, and the terrible characters were given no chance for redemption or development. This made it really hard to take any of the secondary characters seriously because they were like caricatures of real people.

Overall, the only thing that saved this book for me was the delicate exploration of Grace’s mind in the opening half of this novel, and that’s the only thing that saved this from being a 1-star review. Even though there was barely any plot and the secondary characters were simplistic and cartoonish, I do feel like I did learn things about life with Autism.

 

Book Reviews, Sci-Fi & Fantasy

The Mechanical Bird: A Tale of Two Ladies – Glenn Song Review

Screen Shot 2017-04-19 at 09.47.31.png

Rating: ★★

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I was excited to read this for various reasons: it’s steampunk, includes two women grasping at the opportunity to attend university, and it’s the first book in a series. I was intrigued by the short length of this book and at just over 100 pages I was looking for a novella, but in fact, A Tale of Two Ladies felt more like the opening of a full-length novel than a story in itself, which is the reason for the low rating in this case.

Alicia and Elena are from very different worlds. Alicia is a country farm girl who has dreamed of flying since childhood. Elena is a noblewoman who loved mathematics but is being pushed into marriage by her traditional mother. When the kingdom goes to war, the university in the capital city of Aeterall opens its doors to women for the first time, and these two women both jump at the chance to chase their dreams. This story follows their journey to becoming students at the university, from filling in their applications to meeting briefly at the university’s entrance tests and interviews. I understand from the description that this is a serial, but personally, for me, there was not enough of a story arc in this book. I think that the first part of a series in particular should always have a self-contained story to it as well as being the beginning to an overarching story so that people can enjoy the book in and of itself, but this was just an opening to a larger story.

Apart from the flaws with the plot in this book, I really liked other aspects of this story, and definitely think that if it had been the opening to a full-length novel I would have kept reading. I was getting strong Anne of Green Gables vibes from Alicia’s character, who loves her family and seems to live partly in her dreams of flying. I also enjoyed Elena’s rebellious streak and her resistance to her mother’s choice of husband – there was also a moment with a biscuit that made me laugh out loud. The story in general, with two women from different walks of life meeting and clashing at university, also reminded me of Wicked, which I enjoyed. I liked how the two women clashed somewhat, but there was still a hint at a future relationship. However, I did have some issues with the character development, especially for Elena. She seemed smart and funny in the first half of the novel, but at the university she was suddenly socially awkward and incapable of verbal communication, which felt odd. I would have liked some more consistency here.

I definitely feel like Glenn Song has all of the ingredients for something really fun and exciting – the world-building was good, the steampunk concept was intriguing, and the characters are easy to get behind in their respective goals. With some tweaking, I think that this could be a great opening to a really interesting novel, but on its own, The Mechanical Bird: A Tale of Two Ladies just doesn’t stand up all that well.

Book Reviews, YA Contemporary, Young Adult

The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas Review

Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 10.18.40.png
Taken from: @inkdropsbooks

Rating:★★★★★

This is one of my most anticipated 2017 releases, and – God – did it deliver! This book is both important for its message and the subject matter that it represents, and also really, really good. Starr’s voice is strong and unique, all of the characters are fleshed out so they feel real, and the story grips you by the heartstrings right from the start.

Starr is 16 years old when she witnesses her best friend Khalil get shot by a police officer after being pulled over. In the weeks that follow, she must battle not only with her own grief, her guilt, her fear for her safety and those around her, but also with the police investigation, with the media spotlight, with protestors fighting for justice for Khalil, and with those who think that Khalil deserved it. Starr knows that what happened was wrong, but speaking out comes with its own struggles.

Books like THUG are one of my favourite things about YA books. Angie Thomas addresses a current, pressing and very divisive issue in a way that makes it feel real to readers. Angie Thomas said in an interview that she has heard from readers who are from white supremacist backgrounds feeling touched by this novel, and it’s easy to see why. Starr, as both a protagonist and a narrator, is superb. Angie’s writing makes Starr’s feelings so clear to the reader, from the shock after Khalil’s death, to her sorrow and grief, her fear for her own safety at multiple times during the book, her guilt over being afraid to speak up, and her anger that fuels her fight for justice. The book brilliantly balances all of the different aspects of the story: the plot, the characters, and the message. All three parts complement and support each other perfectly, amplifying each other so that the book all but knocks you over as you read it. Angie Thomas takes an issue that many people will only be used to hearing about in headlines and news reports, and makes it human.

Starr is a brilliant narrator and protagonist. Her voice is clear, honest, and funny, although it is probably more accurate to say that there are two Starrs at the beginning of this novel. There is the Starr that lives in Garden Heights, a poor neighbourhood with its gangs, drugs, and shootings, but also its friendly neighbours, her dad’s shop, her family and her friends. There is also the Starr who attends the fancy, mostly white private school in the suburbs, who is cool simply because she is black, but who can’t be too ‘black’ or she’ll be seen as a thug. This separation of her identity is something that we see Starr grapple with a lot, and it adds a lot of layers to her as a character. She doesn’t tell her friends that she knew Khalil, and her friends don’t visit her at her house.

It was a great strength of the book that its characters where multifaceted and weren’t always completely sure what to think. Starr’s Uncle Carlos is a police officer himself, and he admits that he let his friends convince him that maybe Khalil deserved it even though he knew him, an even though it could have just as easily been his niece, and Starr has to deal with the guilt of knowing she was too ashamed to tell her friends the truth about Khalil. I found it interesting to see how her experiences have ramifications for all areas of her life, making her question her friends more, and even question whether she is betraying herself and her friends by having a white boyfriend. For lack of a better way to say it, the characters in this novel are not black and white, and their personal challenges add another layer to a story that is already excellent.

Overall, I don’t hesitate to say that I think THUG should be recommended reading for everyone. This book is both fantastic and important. It addresses racism in various forms, from institutional racism to the hidden racism of Starr’s school friends who prefer to ignore the problem, but it also shows brilliant characters, beautiful relationships, whether it’s those in Starr’s family, her friendships, or that of her and her boyfriend.

Book Reviews, Sci-Fi & Fantasy, YA Sci-Fi & Fantasy

Maresi – Maria Turtschaninoff Review

 

Screen Shot 2017-04-13 at 13.57.35.png

Rating: ★★★★★

This book is quite unlike anything I’ve read before. Everything felt different, from the setting, to the calm and soothing narrative voice of Maresi telling the story from her memory. I couldn’t recommend this more, whether you typically enjoy fantasy or not, this novel is so unique and wonderful that I wanted to disappear inside of it.

Maresi came to the Red Abbey when she was thirteen after a harsh winter. Since then, she has settled into the women-only community and can’t imagine leaving the sanctuary of their island again. Life at the Red Abbey, with its routine, safety, and knowledge is all that she wants. Jai’s arrival, after fleeing a violent home, only reaffirms Maresi’s view that life with the Red Abbey is the best option. However, Jai’s past has come back to haunt her, and the island is no longer safe from intruders. The women must fight to protect each other and her way of life, and Maresi must find the strength within her to face up to her destiny.

My absolute favourite thing about this book is the writing style. Maresi is the narrator, and she is writing down the events of the story so that they can be kept in the Red Abbey’s library for future reference. I really loved the tone of her writing, it felt very calm and assured, but you could also sense the emotion running beneath her retelling. You get a feeling that as Maresi is telling you the story, she herself is dealing with the events themselves. There is also a lot of foreboding because of this, because you know that something so big and important has happened to Maresi that she is being asked to write about it, you know that Jai is at its centre, and that this has made Maresi change her view on life, but you don’t know what it is for a while. This means you’re eagerly waiting for the action to begin.

This book starts off quite slow and descriptive. You learn quite a bit about the way of life at the Red Abbey as Maresi guides the newcomer Jai through her first few months on the island. We learn about their traditions and their routines, and also about Maresi and Jai’s lives before they arrived at the Abbey. I can’t really describe how the writing style in Maresi made me feel apart from comfortable. Turtschaninoff has a great way of making everything feel magical and wonderful but also cosy and homelike, so that I jut wanted to jump onto a ship and visit this amazing island. When the action does begin to pick up, the magical atmosphere of the island really comes to life. By the end, I was amazed at the depth and reality with which this entire culture and community was brought to life.

Overall, I absolutely adored this book. The writing style really made the characters and the location feel real, and I was really impressed at how there was such a good balance between a calm and quite reserved set of characters and daring action. It was nice to read about women who don’t have to be bold warriors wielding weapons to win, and about women working together. I was completely enchanted by this book, so look out for my review of the second book in the Red Abbey Chronicles: Naondel in the future!

Book Reviews, YA Contemporary, Young Adult

Girls Can’t Hit – T.S. Easton Review

 

Screen Shot 2017-04-13 at 09.46.38.png
Expected publication: April 20th 2017

Rating: ★★★★★

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Wow! I wasn’t really in the mood for reading anything because I’ve been so busy with school work, but I chose this book because it was one of the shorter ones on my reading list. I’m so glad that I did, because this book really cheered up the last few dreary days, and even when I was exhausted at the end of a day of studying, I still wanted to stay up hours into the night to finish it!

Girls Can’t Hit is about a young girl called Fleur Waters who joins a local boxing club on a whim, initially just seeking to get fit, but then gets swept away by love for it. Soon, she is exercising everyday, eager to bulk up, watching every boxing film under the sun and videos of female boxers online for inspiration. There are some battles along the way, though. Boxing clashes with Date Night with her boyfriend, Saturday trips with her best friends, her over-protective mother is seriously against it, and the boxing club is struggling and might have to close down. Fleur has to not only fight in the ring, but also outside of it.

I absolutely loved Fleur. From the beginning, she just leaps right off the page and I think T.S. Easton has done a really good job at capturing a funny and smart character without making it feel cheesy or overdone. I also loved her determination and strength – not of the physical kind, although that was exciting to see too. I was really impressed and inspired by her sticking with the club even though she was the only girl to begin with and much more unfit than the other guys, something which I don’t think I would have been able to do, and her resilience in her training. I also loved how she stuck by her guns outside of the club as well, repeating to everyone who challenged her and told her that maybe boxing wasn’t a good idea that she loved it and would keep training.

I liked how all of the other plot lines weaved into the overall story of Fleur’s growth. Her friends and boyfriend compete for her time, and she has to learn how to balance boxing with her relationships, and that maybe sometimes the two are just incompatible. I loved her friends, especially Blossom, whose feminist rants I wanted to applaud, and Pip, whose clumsiness was so funny I laughed out loud a couple of times. I also loved how we saw boxing eventually help her to strengthen her relationships, as her friends and family started to appreciate who she was and the things that she enjoyed doing, and even helped her to make great new friendships in her club with people she might not have ever met otherwise.

I’m sometimes apprehensive about teen novels being describes as “Feminist” stories, because I usually find them to be trying too hard, but this novel definitely deserves the title. Apart from seeing Fleur train in the boxing ring, and stand by her new hobby outside of it, I loved the storyline about her helping to attract more women to the boxing club, which was struggling to make enough money. It was good to see not only a storyline about girls in sport but also a message that your activism can be anything, maybe it can be protesting with placards like Blossom, or helping out with local cause that you care about.

Overall, Girls Can’t Hit was super fun to read and I definitely recommend it to other lovers of YA. I loved all of the characters and especially Fleur’s personal journey as well as the growth in her relationships, and Easton’s writing made it so easy to step into her head and enjoy the story. This is a great girl power story, and also a great book about sports – hell, even I was googling local boxing clubs!

For fans of: Wing Jones – Katherine Webber

Bookish Tags, Other

T5W: Books That Would Make Good Video Games

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme that was created by Lainey of gingerreadslainey and is currently hosted by Sam of ThoughtsOnTomes. Every week, I will post my top 5 of that week’s theme. If you’d like to learn more about it or join in the fun, head over to the Goodreads group where all the discussions take place here.

This week’s topic is books that would make good video games. I’m not much of a gamer, but I’ve picked books that were filled with action and problem-solving from start to end. Here we go!

1. Rebel of the Sands – Alwyn Hamilton

screen-shot-2017-03-04-at-13-42-03

There is so much travelling, running, fighting, and sneaking around in this book that it made me feel a little bit like I was in a video game! I felt like I was jumping off trains and trekking through the desert with Amani, and I really think the adrenaline of this book would translate well into a video game. The landscapes are great, and I can imagine little mini-games with the different magical creatures and powers.

2. Throne of Glass – Sarah J Maas

throne-of-glass-cover

I think that the first book in this series would make such a great game because of the tournament that Celaena is a part of. The game would include her training so that she is the best of the other candidates, the tournament itself, as well as the underlying mysteries around the palace, like when she discovers the secret tunnel in her room. Celaena would make a great video game protagonist because she is smart, adventurous, and completely badass. The location of the palace would work so well in a video game as well, and I would love to be able to explore all its different corridors and rooms.

3. Maresi –  Maria Turtschaninoff 

Maresi_cover-667x1024

When I read this book, I loved reading about the simple lives of the women in the Red Abbey. I imagine that this came would be less action-packed than my previous two choices, and instead would be a chilled out simulation game. We would play the role of a new arrival, learning the ropes around the Abbey, helping with chores and tasks, with the harvest and learning new skills. Then, we would become a novice and even a sister. Maybe this sort of game isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, it might sound a bit boring to some, but I grew up playing Sims and the Red Abbey sounded great to me, so I would love it!

4. Red Rising – Pierce Brown

screen-shot-2017-03-04-at-13-23-54

There is so much to this world that I would love a chance to really be a part of it. Maybe we could be young Golds at the Institute, or a rebel infiltrator like Darrow, leading warships in space.

5. A Song of Ice and Fire – George RR Martin

A Game of Thrones

Okay, this is a bit of a cop-out, because I actually played a ASOIAF game once on my phone but didn’t get very far because my phone was too crappy to handle it. The graphics were so great, and you got to decide what house you were in, whether you were rich or poor, and make different choices along the way. The world in these books is so diverse that it really would need to be a story that you craft yourself, whether you want to be leading an army into battle like Jaime or Robb Stark, a schemer like Littlefinger, royalty like Cersei or just someone trying to get by like Sansa.

Book Reviews, YA Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Young Adult

The Changeling – Helen Falconer Review

23346539

Rating:★

I was so looking forward to this book! A fantasy about teenagers caught up in the world of Irish folklore sounded right up my street as I’m obsessed with Ireland, but this book just fell flat for me. The writing and the story felt clunky and rushed, and before I was even halfway through, I was rushing to get to the end.

Aoife is an ordinary teenager growing up in the Irish countryside, but one day, she spots an infant girl running through the fields alone. Concerned for her, Aoife runs after the girl to help her, but loses track of her, instead running to a bog. She dives in, convinced that the girl is drowning, but the girl is nowhere to be found. Aoife returns home, and everything seems to be normal. Except that it’s not. Suddenly, strange things are happening around Aoife. For one, she has superhuman speed, and on top of that, the ghostly girl appears to her in the middle of the night, and her parents seem afraid of her. When she confronts them, they finally tell her the truth. She isn’t their daughter, but rather, she is a changeling brought to them by the fairies, who stole away their real baby daughter. Aoife is swept away into the world of the fairies, and she must decide whether to find her way back, or stay.

I was very intrigued to learn more about Irish folklore as it has always interested me. One thing that I did like about this book was the mixing of these ancient stories with a modern setting. However, the story itself felt forced rather than subtle. Things just happened without any warning, as though the characters were being hit by divine inspiration. For example, Aoife’s parents tell her the whole story about the changelings for no reason other than that she found some baby photos that they said had been lost. Similarly, later on, Aoife, out of nowhere, wonders if she can fly, and goes ahead to just do it. There was no sense of mystery or tension in the plot, no sense of the characters having to stumble through difficulties or feel lost. Any mystery or challenge didn’t last for long, because either Aoife or the other characters would just have a gut feeling about what they had to do, which I felt was a bit of a cop-out.

This issue with the plot made everything else about the novel fall flat for me. I couldn’t get into it at all because everything felt too orchestrated by the author, rather than feeling like an authentic story. I couldn’t appreciate the characters fully because I felt like I never really saw them struggling with anything, even though they showed potential at the beginning. Aoife seems like a good friend and a clever girl, but she always knew what to do. I was intrigued by the other changelings who weren’t aware at the way time was passing in the ‘real’ world, but we never saw them realise this, so they didn’t experience any big changes. The descriptive passages were good, but I wish that Falconer had been able to create atmosphere in the way she did here, in other sections. Yes, she could describe beautiful landscapes well and showed her creativity, but I would have also loved to have read scenes with suspense and fear, rather than only being able to appreciate the passages that were just describing landscapes. I love descriptions, but I would rather have no description and interesting plot and characters.

Overall, this book was very disappointing for me. I expected there to be a magical sense of wonder, fear, and mystery, but I didn’t get it at all. This was very nearly a book that I  didn’t finish, but I had been looking forward so much to reading about Irish folklore that I was determined to finish it.

Book Reviews, Contemporary

Attachments – Rainbow Rowell Review

attachments rainbow rowell

Rating:★★★

Attachments is a very sweet book, as can be expected from Rainbow Rowell, whose books are basically like good 90s/00s romcoms in literary form. I loved the split narration styles and the setting in a time where the internet was new and exciting (and confusing). However, despite this being really cute, I did feel like the plot was quite slow and most of the action was concentrated in the last few chapters of the book.

The main character of this book is Lincoln. He still hasn’t recovered from his high school girlfriend dumping him in their first year of college, and since then, has spent a decade completing different degrees and unable to move on. He is trying though. In Attachments, he has just moved on with his mother and has a proper job for the first time. He works night shifts in IT at a newspaper, reading people’s emails to make sure they aren’t doing anything they shouldn’t do. It is doing this that he stumbles upon Jennifer and Beth, best friends who talk about their lives through email. Lincoln is swept up by their friendship, but soon realises that he is feeling much more than mere curiosity. How can he make nothing into something?

My favourite thing about this book was the different styles of narrating for the different characters. Lincoln’s stories are told in normal prose, but we read Beth and Jennifer’s story through their emails. I loved the chatty tone of their chapters, and I felt like Rowell really captured the humorous, sarcastic and gossip-y tone of best friends’ conversations. It was even more interesting when the characters started experiencing problems outside of work, and you could see that there were things not being shared over email and going on behind the scenes. It really added some mystery to the novel, as you are invested in this friendship and the characters but unable to see what else is happening. It was also really funny to see the girls talking about Lincoln over email, not knowing who he is and that he is reading their emails. The use of internet in this novel was really interesting, and even though this is set in 1999/2000 in an office where internet has just been provided to staff, I felt like the idea of feeling like you know someone because you’ve seen enough of them online, only to realise that in the real world you don’t know each other at all, is quite relatable even 20 years after the time the story is set.

The story is really, really cute for these reasons. You see two sets of characters only knowing each other from a distance, all thinking about each other, but unable to take the next step and make their relationship a real thing. However, it was quite slow. Beth and Lincoln don’t even meet each other until the end, and it felt like the story built up and culminated within a few pages, making the slow development of the entire rest of the book feel glaringly obvious. It wasn’t until the end of the book that I realised how little had actually happened, especially considering that the way the story ends didn’t actually relate to anything that had happened before, it felt like the ending was rushed.

I also felt like as the story began to come to its climax, the creepiness of the situation felt more and more creepy. While I do think that it is a reality in the 21st century that people do become interested in people from afar thanks to the internet, the fact that Lincoln was learning about Beth entirely through private emails and not through, say, social media, felt very intrusive to me. I don’t think it would have felt as odd to me if it had been social media ‘stalking’, but private emails between friends that Lincoln didn’t actually need to be reading because they weren’t discussing anything against the rules felt like it was just too much.

Overall, Attachments was a nice, sweet read. I wouldn’t say it made much of an impact or made me feel anything very strongly. The story was super slow, but I still enjoyed most of it. However, I felt like as I read more and more, Lincoln went from feeling like a bit of a nerd and a loner, which I can relate to, to feeling a bit like a peeping tom, which I felt more apprehensive about.