Book Reviews, YA Contemporary, Young Adult

Geekerella – Ashley Poston Review

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Rating: ★★★★★

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

This book was surprisingly good! I wasn’t expecting this book to make me feel as much as I did whilst reading it. I naively assumed that this book would be lighthearted – perhaps to the point of lacking substance – a bit of fun, but without much impact. Man, was I wrong. Of all the books that I would guess would make me start crying, it wasn’t Geekerella, but the characters and the story are so easy to delve into and get attached to.

Geekerella is, as you can probably tell by the title, a Cinderella retelling. I don’t mean this in the way that you often hear YA fantasies call themselves fantasy retellings whilst changing the story altogether, I mean it is literally a Cinderella retelling. Right down to a pumpkin carriage – albeit, a pumpkin food truck. Since her father’s death, Elle has been living a miserable life with her stepmother Catherine and her step-twin-sisters Cal and Chloe. All that she has left to hold onto is Starfield, the sci-fi television show that her father introduced her to as a child. She knows everything that there is to know about it, and runs her own little blog dedicated to it. When she sees a cosplay contest at this year’s ExcelsiCon, she knows that the prize money is exactly what she needs to get out from under her stepmother’s thumb and make her own way in the world. All she needs is to find a costume. Meanwhile, Darien Freeman, teen superstar actor, has been cast in the lead role, and is struggling with fan expectations. He has always loved Starfield, but being a nerd doesn’t quite fit with his image, and Starfield’s hard core fanbase are ripping into him, so judging this years’ cosplay competition is the last thing that he wants to do. Both Elle and Darien struggle in their respective worlds, only finding solace in the text messages that they swap with a mysterious stranger, as obsessed with Starfield as they are.

The characters in this novel had depth and detail, they were interesting and had their own struggles and storylines even apart from the romantic one. Elle’s friendship with Sage, her relationships with her sisters and step-mother, were all important. So was Darien’s struggle with his job and relationships. Apart from this, Starfield itself was also incredibly well-developed, which, for a novel which explores fandom so much, was vital to the characters feeling real. Although Starfield is a made-up television show, I found it easy to relate to how much the characters love the stories and the characters, their passion for it, and how much they care about the remake. I also liked how Starfield was the background against which the characters’ personal struggles play out against, because it meant that we understood their motivations and feelings. For Elle, Starfield is at the heart of all her memories of her parents, which explains not only why she cares so much about the remake but also why she is so desperate to win the cosplay competition – to make her parents proud. For Darien, his internal struggles with confidence are made clear in his playing the lead role in Starfield. He doesn’t believe that he is good enough to play his favourite character, and he finds it difficult to be surrounded by actors who don’t care about the show in the same way that he does. The characters, the story, and the show Starfield itself, were equally important in making Geekerella as good as it was, because they all bounced off each other to create a really moving and fun story.

I also loved how much this novel is inspired by Cinderella. Of course, there was still so much original content to this book, but it was fun to spot the comparisons. For example, instead of a pumpkin becoming a carriage, the pumpkin themed vegan food truck that Elle works at it her carriage, and her fairy godmother is her colleague Sage, who helps her to make her costume and encourages her to keep fighting for what she believes in. It was also nice to see more development to the characters, like in Darien and Elle’s own storylines, and also in the minor characters. Catherine, the evil stepmother, and the sisters Cal and Chloe were nuanced characters, and I especially looked forward to the scenes with Catherine where she showed a bit more of her human side, and the redemption arc for Cal. All of the references to the fairytale were interesting to find and made reading Geekerella even more fun to read.

Overall, Geekerella was a really enjoyable book and I sincerely regret leaving it unread for so long. The story is sweet and simple, with nuanced and interesting characters, and told in a fun way. Definitely give this book a chance, even if it doesn’t seem like it’s quite your type. You might find, like me, that you judged it too early.

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Book Reviews, YA Contemporary, Young Adult

Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index – Julie Israel Review

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Rating: ★★★

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

Juniper Lemon’s sister Camilla died two months ago, but the Happiness Index that they began together, where Juniper notes down all the positive things that have happened to her, helps her feel closer to her. When one of her cards go missing, one that holds a dark secret about the night Camilla died, it is as though Juniper’s life has lost all semblance of balance once again, and to make things worse, she discovers a secret love letter from her sister to an unknown lover. Juniper sets out on a desperate journey to find her lost index card and deliver her sister’s letter, one that brings new friends, more secrets, and possibly even the ability to find peace with herself.

There was nothing wrong with this novel, but it just didn’t hit the spot. Usually, stories about relatives dying set me off on a path of helpless sobbing, but for some reason this book didn’t have that emotional power with me. I think that one reason for this was that the plot felt a little disjointed. For example, Juniper makes various friends throughout the course of the novel, and although I did enjoy some of their scenes, sometimes it felt like their storylines were diverting attention from the main story, whilst not being strong enough to justify it. Her new friends were fun to read at times, with wit and jokes, but with the exception of Brand, they were pretty flat and felt irrelevant, and frankly, I didn’t really care about them. It felt like the story about Juniper’s grief and recovery was not only being left on a back burner but being completely forgotten at some points. On the other hand, I did really enjoy Juniper and Brand’s relationship. I am a sucker for bad boys who are actually not that bad, and Brand falls right into that category of a bad boy that is actually a softie. Their relationship felt sincere and loving, even if it did feel like it deepened a bit too quickly once it began.

What really weakened this novel though, was the completely unsatisfactory ending. Now, beware, because this next paragraph will be spoilery, so read at your own risk!

Here we go. The ending. Not only were there loose ends, but the story was left completely wide open, unfinished, and fraying at the edges. The mystery of the identity of Camilla’s lover was the driver of the entire plot, and after an entire book with Juniper hunting for clues, and us going along with her, at the end, we are simply not told. It felt like a betrayal to lead me along on a goose chase for answers only for the mystery to be left completely unanswered. I don’t care if Juniper moved on and saw her duty to her sister has been dispatched, I don’t care if she only cared about delivering the letter and not about finding out who the mystery person was, I WANT TO KNOW. I HAVE THEORIES. I HAVE SUSPICIONS. I DESERVE TO KNOW. Honestly, endings like this don’t feel emotional or poignant, they just feel like the author couldn’t figure out how to end their book. If a mystery is going be at the heart of your story, you should answer the mystery. Don’t make me turn on my detective brain only to not answer my questions.

So, this book was neither here nor there. I would have given this book 2 stars instead of 3, but the reality is that for the most part, this book wasn’t boring and it wasn’t bad. It was a little disjointed in tone, and the plot was disappointing, but mainly it was the ending that ruined it for me. Yes, I feel disappointed and misled by the book, but there were positives and until I began to suspect that the ending would disappoint, I was enjoying reading this book.

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

Gilded Cage – Vic James Review

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Rating: ★★

Gilded Cage was my first foray into the dystopian genre in a while, and while I was really excited, it failed to deliver. I liked the blend of dystopian and fantasy in a modern, urban, British setting, which we don’t see very often. There were also certain characters that I liked and would happily read more about, but overall, I found the story boring, and some aspects of the story and characters were just not quite there.

In the world of Gilded Cage, society is divided in two. At the top, are the ‘Equals’. They have Skills, or magical powers, and rule Britain. Then, there’s everyone else, and they are each required to spend 10 years of their lives in slavery to the Equals. These 10 years can be taken at whatever point in life they wish, and most people are sent to slavetowns, where they work in factories. At the heart of this story is the Hadley family, who elect to sign up to do their ‘slavedays’ as a family while they are still young enough to survive it. Whilst they think that they are all being sent to the estate of the Jardine family, one of the ruling families of Britain, Luke Hadley is actually sent to Millmoor, a slavetown. There, he gets wound up in a revolution, whilst back at the estate, his family serve the Jardine family, trying not to fall foul of the rules of the imposing Lord Jardine, and his three sons,  Gavar, a brute, Silyen, a mysterious figure with dark powers, and Jenner, the Skill-less disappointment.

I’ll start with what I did like about this book, and that was the whole concept behind the world. I really liked the way that Vic James’s Britain has some alternate history aspects to it, dystopian aspects, and fantasy. All of that together was very interesting. I liked reading about the political set up of this alternate Britain, the way that the Equals governed and their families, and the political intrigue. Quite a few of the Equals are scheming constantly, trying to outsmart each other to get to the top spot. My favourites of these were Bouda, who in my opinion did not appear enough. She is set to marry the Jardine heir, and is only in it for what it can do for her. Her goal? To be the first female leader. I don’t care that she’s a bit evil, she’s like a mini-Cersei, a Slytherin through and through, and I want more of her. Even more interesting, and also unforgivably underrepresented, was Silyen Jardine. He’s the slightly creepy middle son of the Jardine family, and there were hints of him being ready, and almost eager, to betray even his own family to get what he wants. The only parts of the book that I really enjoyed included Silyen, including an eerie chapter in the middle of the book where he steps right into someone’s memories. I loved Silyen and his dodgy ways. Give me more Silyen. In fact, I propose abandoning the story, and just following Silyen.

Now, for the not-so-good parts.

Honestly, the story at the Jardine estate was plain boring. Abi is the main protagonist of this part, and she is a completely passive character for most of the book, doing next to nothing (until the last two pages). The only thing that she does do is, of course, fall in insta-love with Jenner Jardine. This relationship was difficult to buy into because (apart from the slave/master thing) both Jenner and Abi had zero personality, apart from just being nice, so not only could I not see what had attracted them to each other, but I literally could not care less. Further, I was disappointed in the way that the Hadley parents are completely ignored. They might as well have not been mentioned, and it made the whole family dynamic and the premise of the story – their family decision to become slaves – difficult to understand. The only remotely interesting character in this set-up was Daisy, the little sister, who showed potential to be spunky, but wasn’t quite there. Even so, I still found her story flawed, as I found the idea that a ten year old would be charged with taking care of a baby quite hard to believe. Am I the only one? Maybe it’s just because I’m 21 and children terrify me.

Luke’s story was far better, although the characters still suffered from the same one-dimensional characterisation issues. They were just popping up randomly, and then disappearing, and apart from a few central characters, I couldn’t tell you much about his gang of rebel misfits. Still, Luke actually does stuff, and so this story was more exciting.Towards the end of the novel, the action really amps up, and over the course of a few chapters there is literally stuff going on left, right, and centre. It’s full on. Guns are going off and things are blowing up. BUT I had literally no idea what was going on. I think Vic James was trying to capture the characters’ shock in her writing, but it just felt too disjointed in parts and confusing.

Overall, this book had potential, but I think it just failed to deliver in terms of plot and characters. The characters were flat, and the plot was slow. While I didn’t enjoy Gilded Cage, I do feel that it has potential. It is a shame that the book waited until the end to delve into action, but I see a lot of promise for where the story is going in the sequel, Tarnished City, and for the characters themselves. I really hope that the characters are developed more in the sequel, as I think that this was the main flaw of Gilded Cage and was what really held back the story.

Bookish Tags, Other

The End of the Year Book Tag!

Today I’m going to take part in this great book tag created by Ariel Bisset over on her Youtube channel – you can watch the full video beginning the tag here. Ariel is one of my favourite book tubers, I just love watching her videos because she’s so enthusiastic and insightful when discussing books. Although it is only September, we are far nearer to the end of the year than the start (!) and so it’s around this time of year I start thinking about how I’ve (most likely) failed to achieve most of my goals. The questions Ariel has created for this tag are about reading goals for the rest of the year and for 2018!

I’d like to tag a few of my other favourite book bloggers to complete this tag next! They are toomuchofabooknerdWords Beneath the Wings, and Ally Writes Things! I’d love to see what you guys answer to these questions!

Are there any books you started this year that you need to finish?

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There aren’t any books that I’ve started this year and haven’t finished, but I did start the Lord of the Rings books last Christmas, and read the first 2 volumes over the holidays. I’ve been putting off the final one because, frankly I found them really slow, but I do want to get it over and done with!

Do you have an autumnal book to transition into the end of the year?

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One of the books that I am eager to read this autumn is There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins. I’ve been really enjoying YA thrillers this year, such as One Of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus and S.T.A.G.S by M.A. Bennett, and this book sounds like it will satisfy my urge for some teen suspense. It’s about a series of gruesome murders targeting students at a particular high school, and the hunt for the killer. I generally associate thrillers and the like with autumn and winter (Halloween, darkness, cold, etc.) so I think this book will be the perfect way to mark the beginning of autumn.

Is there a new release you’re still waiting for?

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The Hanging Girl – Eileen Cook (October 3, 2017): This book is about a girl who gives tarot readings, but her psychic abilities are fake. She begins to help the police on the case of a local missing girl, with insider information to help her form her visions. Then, what was originally a harmless prank begins to unravel and she realises that there is much more riding on her lies than she originally thought.

What are three books you want to read before the end of the year?

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The Dark Days Pact – Alison Goodman: I read the first book in this series earlier this year and loved it. I want to get the sequel read as soon as possible before I start to forget details, and I also think its supernatural spookiness would be really fitting for winter.

Norse Mythology – Neil Gaiman: I picked up this book at it’s release way back in February and haven’t read it yet. The main reason for this is I picked up the humungous signed hardback edition, and lugging it around is not really something I want to do. I’ll probably try and read this during my Christmas break, but I really don’t want it to be unread come New Years!

Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo: I’ve heard so many good things about this book, and so I bought it. Months ago. It remains unread on my bookshelf, even though I’m 99% sure I’ll love it. I definitely want to read this before the end of the year.

Is there a book you think could still shock you and become your favourite book of the year?

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Show Stopper – Hayley Barker: I only recently heard about this book, and I haven’t heard many details because what I have heard makes me want to go into this book blind. What I know is that it is set in a society where children are sold to a travelling circus with a demonic ringmaster, to provide entertainment to the richer echelons of society. I’m excited to read this, and hope that it lives up to expectations!

Have you already started making reading plans for 2018?

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Taken from: @inkdropsbooks

I don’t usually plan very far in advance with reading because I change my mind a lot. I think that I’m going to read one book, and then when I go to my bookshelf, something else takes my fancy. However, I would like to read more classics next year. I have been building up my Penguin Clothbound Classics collection, and I’d like to say I’ve actually read more of them than I have. I also have a complete Jane Austen book section, and I want to work my way through all the ones I haven’t yet read.

I would also like to revisit some books that I’ve loved. I’d love to reread some favourite series, like ASOIAF, and Red Rising.

 

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

A Court of Wings and Ruin – Sarah J. Maas Review

 

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Rating: ★

It’s very apt that this post follows my last post on learning to give up on books, because the A Court of Thorns and Roses series is a series that I have stuck through despite not actually enjoying any of the books that much. ACOWAR is the third book in the ACOTAR series – and what I also thought was the final book before I realised that a further four had been added (why?). It suffered many of the same problems that I found with the previous two, mainly being that it just fell completely flat, and was hard to follow.

This post will probably become a structure-less rant, and will also probably be quite spoiler-y, so be warned if you want to keep completely spoiler-free!

I was initially intrigued by this book because of where the second book ended. Feyre was going to rejoin Tamlin’s household at the Spring Court, pretending that Rhysand had manipulated her mind to make her stay with him, and become a sort of spy with him. Apart from a few moments, one including Ianthe and a truly great little exchange with Lucien, she was the most boring spy in the history of spies. I was expecting lots of intrigue and tension, but for most of this part of the book, Feyre was just pretending to be the ‘old’ Feyre whilst being mentally furious. I find this sort of behaviour boring, and this part definitely did not need to drag on for as long as it did. However, the one positive of this was Lucien, who I genuinely have missed.

Much like the first section, the rest of the book was unsurprisingly boring. There were long periods where nothing much happened except for character talking about Hybern and the wall and other courts, only for one big thing to happen, and then another hundred pages of nothing. I understand that there is a lot of discussion and plotting that takes place in war, but I just don’t think that Sarah J Maas captures the suspense and intrigue that these passages should have. In my my opinion, I found these passages boring for a few reasons. The first is that Prythian as a world does not feel like it has been very well-crafted, and the only way I can explain what I feel about the world-building in this series is that it is disharmonious. The second is that the overall tone of the book felt a bit too all over the place, and just like the world, the characters feel random and disunited. Basically, it was all just a bit too messy to get into.

In terms of the world-building, I didn’t understand the reasoning behind the war, who the different forces in the war were and why they were acting the way they were, and how the magic worked. The King of Hybern, the big bad villain threatening the whole world, has almost no real reason for his actions. All that we are told is that he has brainwashed his people to hate the wall, but not even this made sense to me because Hybern is an island. Does the wall only extend across Prythian, or the entire world? Why does he care about the wall, if his island is miles away from it? Second, there are just so many courts in this book, and they aren’t explored enough for me to remember them all. Maas introduces us to one High Lord on one page, his lovers and guards, and the next page to another High Lord, his lovers and guards, then another, and another, and another – or is this the same one from before? This isn’t even restrained to the other courts. Honestly, I can barely tell some of the main characters apart. Mor and Amren? Honestly, half the time I just guessed which one was which. What exactly does Azriel do with his shadows? Who is in love with who again? Eventually, as with the previous two ACOTAR books, I just gave up and started skim-reading.

Finally, the magic. There was a huge, glaring plot twist that I cannot believe nobody noticed and cannot believe nobody in the entire writing and editing and publishing process decided to fix that it has made me genuinely mAD. When Feyre is brought back to life by the other High Lords at the end of ACOTAR, she takes some of each High Lord’s magical skills. Now, why did the same thing not happen to Rhys? This was one of the only points that really grasped my attention. I was buzzing to see what Maas would do with this. The morbid-Morticia-Addams part of me was eager for him to stay dead, but of course, Maas rarely lets her beloved characters die, so I just wanted to know how he would be saved. I could have actually lived with the repetition of the same technique to save his life, but for him not to take their powers? And for this not to be addressed? Consider me disappointed.

Finally, the tone of this book just cements it as a hot mess in my opinion. This is a book about war. The entire world is being threatened by the mysterious evil baddie Hybern. Everyone could die. They are all terrified. Or at least, that’s the vibe I was getting until Rhys and Feyre keep sh*gging every other chapter. Have these two ever heard of a time and place? Is a war camp, just after a huge battle, when there are people dying, really an appropriate time? You know, I can accept that maybe some people have no qualms about this sort of thing – actually, no I can’t. This is unrealistic. It’s like having sex in a morgue. Or a hospital. Or a cemetery. No. No. Just no. Not to mention Maas’s sex scenes just became painful to read. Does Maas have a problem with ‘normal’, sensual, sweet love scenes? Does she have a problem against characters simply cuddling? Does she really think that talking to your lover about licking blood and dirt off their body is romantic? Am I really supposed to enjoy reading about faeries getting off by stroking each other’s wings? Honestly? Did anyone actually enjoy these scenes? Cannot. Relate.

I cannot believe I actually made it through this book, because to be honest, most of it was like trudging through waist-deep mud. I had initially kept reading these books because I thought that it would pick up and become more fun as it went on. After all, the author who wrote Throne of Glass could not write an entire series this boring? Well, it appears I have been proved wrong. I know that a further four books have been announced in this series, but I think that if you have read this review to the end you can probably guess for yourselves that it would take a lot for me to continue reading. Frankly, at the moment, I’m packing up my ACOTAR books to take to the nearest charity shop.

Bookish Tags, Other

T5W: Favourite Bromances

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 favourite bromances in literature. I love, love, love platonic relationships in fiction, and think that they are seriously underdeveloped way too often. However, here is a list of my favourite friendships between male characters in literature.

1. Harry Potter and Ron Weasley (Harry Potter)

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Ron and Harry became friends by chance, arguably. They simply sat in the same train carriage, how could they have known how strong their friendship would become? They go on adventures, fight battles, win the war. This is the ultimate YA bromance. Fight me.

2. Frodo and Sam (Lord of the Rings)

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“Come, Mr. Frodo!’ he cried. ‘I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you.”

I can’t speak much about this pair because I’ll just cry.

3. Tyrion and Bronn (A Song of Ice and Fire)

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This friendship is so much fun to read, mainly because both Tyrion and Bronn are  so reluctant to admit that they are friends. Of course, they both have ulterior motives (Brown wants money, Tyrion wants protection) but the chemistry and humour between them is undeniable.

4. Darrow and Sevro (Red Rising Trilogy)

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The friendship between these two was my favourite part of this series, and Sevro’s wellbeing was a major concern for me throughout the books. Seriously, whenever Sevro was in danger, I feared for him and the effect it would have on Darrow, because these two have to be together. Also, who can resist the humour between this pair?

5. Darcy and Bingley (Pride and Prejudice)

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This is the best kind of friendship to read. These two could not be more different, Darcy is grumpy and cold, Bingley is open and friendly to everyone. They put up with their differences and probably even appreciate those opposite qualities in the other.

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Book Reviews, Historical, Young Adult, Young Adult Historical

Things a Bright Girl Can Do – Sally Nicholls Review

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Rating: ★

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

I have loved learning and reading about the suffragettes for years, and from when I first learned that this YA suffragette novel was being published, I was brimming with excitement. I was thrilled to be sent a copy. However, no matter how excited I was, and how much I wanted to like this book, I just didn’t think it was a good book. I thought that the writing was poor and the story was stretched too thin across the characters and the time that it spans. I’m gutted to be one of the lone voices so far disappointed in this book so far, but I can’t help it. I read this a while ago, but held publication of this post back until today when the book is published because I suspected it might not go down too well, but I hope anyone who disagrees with me will remember that these reviews are just my personal opinions on the book as a novel and not the subject matter.

Things a Bright Girl Can Do follows the story of three young girls – Evelyn, May, and Nell – from 1914 to 1918, through their struggles as they campaign for votes for women, the trials of the First World War, and finally to the first extension of suffrage to women in 1918. Evelyn is seventeen, from a wealthy background, and expected to marry her childhood sweetheart. However, she is frustrated at not being allowed to follow her dream of attending Oxford University, which drives her to join the suffragettes. May, however, is seventeen and has grown under the influence of her feminist, socialist, pacifist, vegetarian mother. Being a suffragette to her is a given. Nell is also already a suffragette, driven by the poor living and working conditions that she witnesses her family dealing with on a daily basis, and motivated by the suffragettes’ promises of social reform. The three of them join the fight for votes for different reasons, and we follow them as they pursue this fight through four tumultuous years.

A positive of this book is that the characters are diverse for a book set in this period, and which follows three white women. The book not only explores class and sex, but also LGBT issues, and even mentions a few times the work of BME suffragettes like Princess Sophia Duleep Singh. Sally Nicholls managed to include a broad and varied amount of information relating to the suffragette movement, however, in my opinion, this scope was at the expense of depth for the characters and the story. I felt like the characters were not detailed and three-dimensional, but rather the writing and the characterisation felt flat, and the girls felt instead like a vehicle for the presentation of all of this social history. Further, if diversity of characters was going to be the highlight of this book, there could have been even more, perhaps in the form of a POC protagonist.

My main issue with the characterisation of these girls was that their motives for acting the way that they did felt superficial. I’m not saying that I don’t understand why they were suffragettes, but I felt like Nicholls took for granted that modern audiences will. As a feminist reader, of course I will instantly cheer on these suffragette protagonists, but I still want characters to feel real. I have recently been watching Susan Dennard’s writing tips on her Instagram stories, and she mentions that characters must have a ‘desperate desire’, something that drives the more superficial desire of the plot. Yes, these girls want the vote. But why? What drives them to these lengths? What makes them abandon social norms? What makes them, in particular, act differently to other women who do not become suffragettes under the same pressures? As understandable as their reasons are from a detached perspective, I couldn’t feel their motivations on a human basis. I understood that Evelyn wanted to study and have opportunities like her brothers, but I didn’t feel her anger and her resentment come across in the writing.

You might have heard of the saying ‘Show, don’t tell,’ in writing. In my opinion, I couldn’t feel this because it didn’t stick to this rule. It meant that I couldn’t experience what Evelyn, May, and Nell were thinking and feeling because the author’s narrative was a wall between us rather than a bridge. Rather than getting into the characters’ heads, feeling exactly what they are feeling, we’re held at arms’ length. For example, one of the girls is arrested. We are told that it is the worst thing that has ever happened to her, the cell is described in detail, we are told that she feels lonely, but we can’t feel her loneliness, and we just have to take the description for face value rather than trying to experience for ourselves what it might be like to be arrested like her. This personal connection felt even more important than in most books considering that we know, in hindsight, that the suffragettes did eventually achieve their goal of female suffrage. If the only thing hooking us as readers is ‘Do they get the vote?’ the hook isn’t strong enough, because we know that they do. Instead, we have to also be hooked by the girls’ personal deep desires, and I just wasn’t.

This made it difficult for me to feel emotionally connected or invested in the girls as people. I had to just accept when characters fell in love, rather than feeling the love that they felt, accept that they were angry, rather than feel angry with them. Rather than feeling Nell’s pain and struggle, I was treated to a pages-long retelling of her families’ troubles during her entire childhood. I generally cannot stand info-dumps, and this book was full of them. Rather than embedding the historical facts more gently in the story itself, perhaps revealing information through conversations or experiences, and so making the historical facts feel more poignant, the information was simply dumped on us in the narrative. On the other hand, there were things that could have been mentioned. I expected, when Nell starts work as a munitionette, that mention would be made of many munitionettes being poisoned by the substances they were working with and the health implications, or of the explosions that killed many, something that would have been easy to point out considering its relevance to her story, and yet it wasn’t.

I wanted to give 2 stars just in recognition of its subject matter and representation of different social groups, but I decided not to, simply because the subject matter was literally the only thing that kept me reading this book. I also felt that the causes represented could have been more impactful with stronger writing, and perhaps a smaller focus. Instead of spreading the story so thinly over three girls and four years, perhaps focusing on one perspective with the others as secondary characters would have allowed for the depth of detail that was missing. I can’t describe how gutted I am to have not enjoyed this book, but I just couldn’t see past the poor writing.

Other

Giving Up On Books?

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Taken from: @inkdropsbooks

Today, I’m going talk about something that I find very difficult: knowing when to give up on books. Why? Well, for one, it is something that I genuinely do struggle with often. Usually, I consider it a matter of principle to not give up on books, no matter how bored I am, or how much I’m not enjoying it. If I was less generous with books, I know for a fact that many books I have recently read and not enjoyed would have been abandoned by me within the first few pages. I can usually tell within the first few pages of a book whether or not I will enjoy a book, and more often than not, I am right. Second, I’m currently reading A Court of Wings and Ruin, which in case you don’t know, is the third book in a trilogy that I have, until now, read despite finding seriously boring and disappointing. Sensing that this would probably take me a while to finish, I thought I should probably write something to post before this blog went weeks without an update, and so here I am!

So far this year, I have only abandoned one book. That book was All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville-West. In my defence, I picked up this book without even reading the blurb, simply because I was intrigued by the author due to my own fascination with Virginia Woolf. I was excited to pick it up, and then I started reading it only to discover that it was about an elderly widow. What else was it about? Honestly, I couldn’t tell you. I read about fifty pages during which the protagonist decided that she was going to move out on her own, a decision which her children vehemently opposed. She spent pages and pages becoming friends with her new landlord, and discussing her various disappointing children. I was bored out of my mind, and the lack of a clear plot made it literally impossible for me to continue.

This, I believe, is my limit. I can make it through the most boring or badly written novels if I have an idea of what is going to happen, or at least, what the point of the story is. I have struggled through many books but still finished them. I didn’t enjoy the writing Things A Bright Girl Can Do at all, but I was intrigued in the stories of the three girls, and the subject matter made me interested in the portrayal of historical events. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell was difficult for me to enjoy because the story felt like it was stuck in the same position for the majority of the novel, and I was sick of it to progress (it eventually did, but entirely within the last few chapters). Cloud Atlas was an interesting concept, and had beautifully written passages, but the story was so convoluted and confusing that I actually slipped an entire section. Even once I had finished, I felt a little confused about the whole thing, despite being pleased that I had made it through.

On the other hand, there are stories which I have found to be slow, and yet continued reading. I still haven’t read The Return of the King, but I trudged my way through the first two instalments of Lord of the Rings because I wanted to know how the characters won. I loved American Gods despite its huge size and sometimes slow parts because I adore Neil Gaiman’s writing style and feel confident that sticking with his novels will be worth it. The ACOTAR series by Sarah J. Maas is, in my opinion, slow and convoluted, with too many YA fantasy cliches for my liking, but I have constantly forced myself through the books because I want to know where the story is headed. Slow parts in these books were made slightly more bearable by the writing style, which I enjoyed. There were passages which gripped my attention, phrases and sentences that felt refreshing despite the slow plot.

So what is more important? Quality of writing or plot? I’m not sure that I can confidently say when the right time is for me to officially decide to put down a book for good. My experiences tell me that I cannot bear reading a book when I don’t see any progression in  plot or any point to the story, but I have also trudged through many books like this. I would love to get to the bottom of this question – perhaps there is a formula to explain when I have reached my limit? Unfortunately, however, I am not a mathematician, so I guess this will remain unknown for now.

In the meantime, why don’t you tell me when you decide there’s no hope for a book? Have you given up on any books recently and why? Or are there any books that you wanted to give up and finished? Did you enjoy it eventually or not?

Bookish Tags, Other

T5W: Books From Before I Joined the Online Book Community

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 about the best books from before joining the online book community. I have been posting reviews here for a while, but I first properly joined the online book community on Instagram. It has introduced me to many excellent books, many of which have become firm favourites. So, here we go!

1. I’ll Give You The Sun – Jandy Nelson

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This was recommended to me by an Instagram follower, and it honestly changed my life. That may be a slight exaggeration, but this book is amazing. It is always in my top 5 favourite books, and I still remember how long it lingered in my memory after I had finished it. Jandy Nelson has a way with words, and I don’t think I would have picked up her books if it wasn’t for other book bloggers. So thank you, Bookstagram!

Full review here.

2. Throne of Glass – Sarah J Maas

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This was my first foray into YA fantasy for a long time, and it opened up a whole new world for me. I loved Sarah J Maas’s world and characters, and YA fantasy, with its multitude of female protagonists and interesting magical worlds, has always been a favourite genre since.

3. The Sin Eater’s Daughter – Melinda Salisbury

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Another YA fantasy series that had already begun before I joined bookstagram, this book was recommended to me by a friend, and it is another world that dragged me in. I loved its quiet protagonist, and the way she slowly woke up to the injustice and lies of the world around her.

Full review here.

4. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before – Jenny Han

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YA book bloggers love Jenny Han, and although at first I thought that I wouldn’t like this book – I don’t typically go for ‘fun’ contemporaries, this book was too much fun to deny. You just have to give into it. Jenny’s writing was lighthearted but still strong, and Lara Jean feels like a real character, as do her family. This is another book I would not have given a chance if it weren’t for book bloggers, and yet again, I’ve been proven wrong about my prejudices!

5. All the Bright Places – Jennifer Niven

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I really enjoyed this book, despite (again) having some concerns about going into YA contemporary – basically, the online book community has broken down all my YA fears. I loved the characters and the writing, and the book made me cry. That’s always a score in my books (pun intended.)

Full review here.

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Bookish Tags, Other

T5W: Characters’ Fitness Routines You Want

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 about characters’ fitness routines that I want. The description says this can be anything, whether the character is super fast and agile, an athlete, or a foodie. It is “inspired by those routines you see in magazines for actors, but with more of an open mind and less body shaming”. Now, I am already pretty lazy, so I decided to think about physically strong characters that I wish I had the energy to be like. Maybe, one day, I will manage to get out of my bed and follow their fitness routines.

1. Wing Jones by Katherine Webber

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Often in my short 21 years of life have I thought, ‘Oh, I should start running.’ I have even tried it – usually once a year in summer – but I just can’t. I don’t know if it’s lack of mental motivation, physical laziness, or the fact that I don’t have an imaginary dragon and lioness to keep me going, but I wish I could run like Wing.

2. Arya Stark – A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin

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Water dancing. Wouldn’t you love to be able to do it, too? I loved Arya from the very first book. She just jumped off the page and spoke to me, and ever since, I’ve not only wanted her to live (please, GRRM, please) but I’ve literally wanted to be her.

3. Celaena Sardothien – Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas

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Much like Arya, it’s not that I want to be an assassin, but I wouldn’t mind having the skills. I always get a rush when I read the passages where these characters are spinning around, swishing their swords about, hitting every target, and getting out of their opponents’ reach just in time. I think I can probably track this back to the first time I watched Lara Croft as a child. I just want to be badass.

4. Piglettes by Clementine Beauvais

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Just how I’ve always wanted to be someone who runs like Wing Jones, I have also often imagined cycling. Not only am I too lazy (as I’ve already mentioned) to do this, but I’m also a complete coward, and someone as clumsy and unfocused as me would have to have a death wish to cycle in London where I live. Nevertheless, I was inspired reading Piglettes to follow these three girls on their journey to Paris, cycling the whole way, and lugging an entire food cart behind them.

5. Ginny Weasley – Harry Potter

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Ginny is such a babe in the Harry Potter books. Not only is she a great quidditch player, but she can also conjure a mean Bat-Bogey Hex. Good at sport and hexes? What a girl.

 

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