Eragon is Code for Dragon

Eragon_book_coverSo I know I’m behind on my comments and such- just had a busy week and I’m hit by a freight train shattered (yes, yes, in my exhaustion I come up with bizarre metaphors) but so that I don’t totally neglect my blog, I’ve got a quick review today for a book I neglected to read for years.

Ever since I was a teen, I had so many people telling me to read/not bother reading this book, that they loved/hated the first one, and that it got so much better/worse. Because of these mixed messages I could never decide if it was worth reading. It seemed to be a book that divided opinion so much that there was no doubt I, as someone who tends to feel quite strongly about most things, would find myself firmly in one camp or the other. In the end, however, it was just… average.

Let’s talk about what I liked first: the dragons. I’ve said it many, *many* (MANY) times on this blog- I’m a sucker for dragons, though I’m very picky about how they’re done. As a massive Hobbit fangirl, I tend to use Smaug as the bar by which I judge all other dragons- I like them scaly, spiteful and smugly hoarding gold. Now, Saphira was no Smaug, that’s for sure, but she was unique and interesting and most importantly I bought that she was indeed a dragon (note: calling something a dragon does not make it a dragon, just like calling Edward Cullen a vampire does not make his sparkly ass a vampire). This was the kind of dragon I can get on board with and not feel like I’d been taken for a ride by the blurb 😉 Instead of the usual *this is a dragon but not really* as so many cool books seem to do these days, we literally got people riding those dragons, so *kudos* and *bonus points* galore.

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So yes, I did appreciate that aspect of the world-building. The other elements of the world did stand up under scrutiny, however- and now we’re getting onto the things I did not like- it was very cliché. I may be a sucker for dragons, but c’mon even if a book says “the next Tolkein” on the blurb, I do not actually expect the book to pinch 90% of the ideas from Tolkein. There’s being derivative and then there’s taking the piss. Dragons, elves, and dwarves- really?! Look, I get it, we all wrote this stuff at 14… but there’s a reason why it’s unpublished.

And on the subject of it being written by a 14 year old, all credit where credit’s due, buuut it reads like a 14 year old wrote it. The plot meanders too much, doesn’t have great focus and at the same time it’s awfully predictable. On top of that it’s very s l o w. A lot that is because of the ridiculously long descriptions- and I’m a description kinda gal, but I realllly don’t need superfluous accounts of someone’s helm– it’s just not necessary! And in spite of the fact you can practically see the numerous edits (I bet if someone tested the literary DNA of this manuscript they’d have a field day, cos they’d see what a Frankenstein does exist) it was *still* clunky and unpleasant to read. Again, this most likely comes down to the age and inexperience of the writer, but I frequently found the dialogue didn’t flow well or had the pretentious touch of someone trying to hard (I’d say the best eg is actually in the acknowledgements where he writes “I thank you”, but the truth is I just stupidly didn’t write down egs while reading, so that’s the best I’ve got). And if you don’t believe me about how weirdly pretentious it is, look no further than the opening sentence:

“Wind howled through the night, carrying a scent that would change the world.”

Ermmm- ye wot?! That seems more like what the first line to Perfume should be. It sacrifices logic for a little sensory exposition that inevitably bears no consequence on the actual story. (Also *shudders* at the pathetic fallacy cliché- ouch!)

In the end, I did not regret my time with this book, it just wasn’t very memorable and I have zero desire to continue this series (*cue all the people saying “but it gets so much better”*- I don’t care, I really don’t). I can’t say I totally understand why so many people told me “I have to read this”- it’s not an “I have to read it” sort of book- it’s more a “take it or leave it” sort of novel. I certainly could have lived without it, considering I like books to bring me something *new*, some piece of information I don’t yet have, maybe even unlock something I haven’t clued into about me as a person. After reading this, I came away with two not particularly revelatory pieces of information about myself:

  • I like dragons. A lot. *A lot a lot*. But…
  • Dragons cannot carry a whole book for me, even if I like how they’re done.

I know, *shocker* right? 😉 Ultimately, for all the ranting and raving about this book out there, it’s very much something to shrug your shoulders over. I gave it:

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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Protip: even though my rating is higher, the Goodreads 1 star reviews on this were *gold*, highly recommend checking them out if you’re up for a giggle.

So have you read this? Are you in the love it or hate it camp? Or are you drifting somewhere in the middle like me? Let me know in the comments!

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A Lot Can Happen in 180 Seconds

180 seconds

That’s the premise of this book- in 180 seconds you can fall in love, you can boil an egg, and you can read this review 😉

OMG this book was crazy good… Well I should probably say crazy, but still good. Because while the premise (social experiments don’t usually spark romances) is a little on the barmy side, it certainly appealed to the romantic in me. And gosh did it make me feel *all the feels*!

Everything in the story is moving, in one way or another. It’s easy to see how this book is all heart: heart-warming, heart-wrenching, heart-breaking. If nothing else, there’s a scene at a dog shelter which is so adorable that I defy even the crustiest of people from eliciting a very loud AWWW. And yes, I will admit I terms of plot it’s got all the clichés of a normal contemporary- and yet all these clichés are turned into something special (no spoilers but there’s even a typical airport chase scene that actually quite atypical).

The one thing I didn’t really relate to is the social media stuff, cos I’ve never been able to properly keep up with all that stuff, so that took me out of the story from time to time. But I did like the idea of it being used to do some good. However, I did appreciate how well this worked with the whole time-conscious aspect of the book…

And speaking of which, we’re probably out of time, so without further ado, my rating:

4/5 bananas

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Much appreciation to the queens of contemporary recommendations for bringing this to my attention: Marie @Drizzle and Hurricanes and Deanna @A Novel Glimpse! Check out their awesome reviews!

So did you manage to read that in 180 seconds? I’m curious to know now… And will you read this? Have you read it? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

9 for 9 – September Mini Reviews

Woohoo it’s the first Friday of the month- which means Mini Reviews! And since this is gonna be a long one, let’s get started!!

I am the messenger

I am the Messenger– I desperately wanted this to be the Book Thief, but it’s not :/ I didn’t really latch onto the characters as much as I wanted to and the best one in it was a dog called the Doorman. While this book did have some interesting messages, I’m not sure this book totally delivered.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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paper magician

The Paper Magician– you know a book has failed when you get to the end and you’ve forgotten it’s supposed to be set somewhere historical, especially if your main complaint is that there was too much world building. The style just doesn’t lend itself to the era. Plus I just connect with the characters. Or anything else for that matter.

Rating: 2/5 bananas

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landline

Landline– There was nothing technically wrong with this book, so my rating may seem really harsh, but I just did not relate to it at all. I didn’t relate to the characters, the situation or get the whole phone thing. I guess I Rainbow Rowell is just hit and miss for me.

Rating: 2½/5 bananas

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When Dimple Met Rishi

When Dimple Met Rishi– Okay- finally a book on here I liked! Like all good contemporaries the characters are what shone here. At first I found Dimple to be a bit of a crank, buuuut she definitely grew on me and she also presented a nice contrast to the male love interest. And as for Rishi… ahh my sweet buttecup- how I loved him!! I also loved their budding relationship. However, I do think this book was longer than it needed to be, with unnecessary padding and focus on aspects I was less interested in, which was the only thing that stopped me from falling head over heels for this book.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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serafina and the black cloak

Serafina and the Black Cloak– I LOVED the style and the story here. It was so so inventive an really well done. I also wasn’t expecting the ending to be so good and mushy- it just took the whole thing to another level! If you want a book that’s gonna just fill you with joy pick this up! Also shout out to the awesome Daley Downing who sent this to me along with her book!!

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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saint anything

Saint Anything– *minor spoilers* this story was mostly fine… except for the parents in this book. I could rant for ages about how totally USELESS they were. I know a lot of parents get stick in YA for being lousy, but these ones really took the biscuit. Basically, for some unknowable reason, they had all the faith in the world for their dysfunctional jailbird son, yet couldn’t trust their sensible daughter. Plus, not only did they get all overprotective about everything she did, like hanging out with a pretty apple-pie kind of family, but they simultaneously set things up so that a SEXUAL PREDATOR waits for her when she gets home, babysits whenever they visit their son in prison and eventually invite him to move in. I mean *seriously*? These parents couldn’t let the girl sneeze on her own, yet they let it get to the point where the low-life former druggie almost rapes her?! I didn’t get that at all. Annnnd I know all I’ve done is complain about the parents in this book, so it might seem strange that the rating isn’t too low, but I swear everything else about this book was enjoyable enough.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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outsiders

The Outsiders– as I mentioned in my Book VS Book post, I had mixed feelings about this book. For starters, I felt that it was stylistically quite stilted and found the excruciating detail of descriptions somewhat unnecessary. HOWEVER it was very moving at times and I *loved* the full circle effect of making the ending and beginning meet. Seriously, that was pure genius. So while I wasn’t too crazy about the clunky-at-times writing style, I can appreciate that this is a good book and deserves its moniker as a classic.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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the vampire lestat

The Vampire Lestat– okay so I was recommended this *years and years* ago and it has been sitting on my tbr since I found it in a charity shop back in ’14. To be honest, the whole vampire fad thing made me kind of reluctant to pick it up. I was glad I finally did recently though, because while Interview with a Vampire didn’t do too much for me (because of the mc mainly) I do love Rice’s gorgeous writing style. I did prefer this to Interview, mostly cos I *love* Lestat so much more as a character. Still, I wasn’t too bowled over with the plot- partly because it dragged a little, but mostly because I don’t know why vampire stories always have to be so obsessed with origin stories. Either way, this was an enjoyable read, whether you’re into vamp stories or not.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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the bride

The Bride– don’t let the rating fool you, I had a lot of fun with this book. Much more than I expected to. If you want a good romp through the Scottish highlands, this is great. Simply put, it’s outlander without the rape and time travel. However, I won’t pretend like this blew me away or anything, as much as it was fun to read, hence the lower rating (I did read this on a 9 hour bus ride though, so I don’t know if grogginess was a factor in my enjoyment).

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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Okay, so this might be my last bout of mini reviews for a while since I’ve pretty much cleared the decks- unless by some miracle I read a lot of books in the next month…. (crazier things have happened 😉 ) Hope you enjoyed that!

Have you read any of these? What did you think of them? Let me know in the comments!

 

Reading Zenn Diagram Adds Up To A Fun Time

*Received this from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*

zenn diagram

Well it was a really happy accident the day I picked this up. Exceptionally so- cos this is what I like to call a *happy book*

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If you’re into contemporaries then this will surely fill you with contentment… and if you’re not then *fear not* there’s more to this book than your regular teen romance. With a magical realism twist, the book gives you that something extra you don’t normally get in this genre. I would have certainly enjoyed reading about an ability like hers- the ability to read people by touch- in a regular fantasy, so it was a pleasant surprise here. Though we don’t get a “yer a wizard Harry” moment where all the uncanny elements are explained away, there were satisfactory scattered hints as to why she has this power and I wasn’t left wondering why.

Personally though, what I enjoyed most about this book was how the themes here were so much bigger than what I would expect from a modest little book. Normally the subjects of epic tales, Zenn Diagram somehow managed to explore huge ideas like sacrifice and forgiveness as a slice of everyday heroism.

This was achieved by making characters you could actually root for. These weren’t “I say I’m nice so I’m nice” sorts of characters- no!- these actually proved their goodness with their actions. And not by grand acts of heroism- just small things- the things that matter.

What was great about them was that they weren’t reduced down to their sum of parts. Sure, they have central interests, like many YA characters, but this doesn’t make them boring. They are not simply a mathlete and an artist (kudos as well for actually coming up with something more than just a jock and a geek)- there is so much more to them than that. The details are what makes them interesting- I loved, for instance, how the main character’s power played into her love of maths and his artistic eye with the recurring image of fractals. (Also thank you for teaching me about fractals- I had a fun time looking up these images)

Part of their complexity comes down to how well their relationships are drawn with their families and each other. Nothing in this book is simple- you get a chaotic snapshot of their lives in a way that makes them very real. You have depth and backstories and more going on under the surface than meets the eye.

In short, you get a lot packed into this simple equation of boy meets girl. I never, for instance, would have expected the plot to go beyond that- because it so rarely does. Yet somehow this book actually managed to simultaneously surprise me with a plot twist *and* an ending that made me go awww. You can’t really ask for more than that.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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Available now!

So have you read this? Will you be checking it out? Let me know in the comments!

Ready Player One… You’re in for one hell of a ride…

ready player one

My avatar: Miss Orangutan Librarian

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Level one: at first I felt like I was off to a rocky start. Though it was well written, the opening sequence was info dump after info dump, setting up the game and a nihilistic backdrop that was hard to like. Everything so far felt depressingly similar to our own world, with very small changes that didn’t really appeal to my imagination. Also, not being a gamer, I struggled to get into the premise and a lot of the references were lost on me. But then I levelled up…

Level two: as the book progressed I began to have more fun with it. I slowly forgot my initial misgivings, becoming absorbed in the characters and their adventures. And before I knew it I was rooting for them to *win*…

Level three: by the last third I was totally loving it. With the heightened drama and the world building, the book had me in the palm of its hand. Initial reservation forgotten, I felt like I’d fallen into a whole different universe. And it was just as I escaped my own reality I thought isn’t this the point? Because I may not play video games, but I can more than understand getting lost in make believe and needing an alternative to shitty reality. I mean, even writing this on my blog, I totally get what it is to live online…

Game Over: And then came the finale to take this to a whole other level: the message to step outside the game. It could not have ended on a better note. As the kids say, “it gave me life” 😉

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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So have you read this? What did you think about it? Let me know in the comments!

Why I Probably Should Have Given Wideacre a Wide Berth

wideacre

Well this was one of the weirdest books I’ve ever read…. I went into this book with a little mild trepidation because I’m not a total fan of Philippa Gregory (her books take wayyy too many liberties with history) and I don’t always see eye to eye on books with the friend who recommended this to me. When I finished my reaction was pretty much:

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How to describe it?! At first glance this is just an innocent, evocative, highly descriptive narrative. It was compellingly written and I was intrigued to see where it was going. There were hints of seedy goings on, but the dirty deeds were at least vaguely understandable. And then, all too quickly, the plot started to get fucked up. To put it delicately: this was Flowers in the Attic meets 18th century aristocracy (except without the child abuse, so there’s no reason for the story to happen). Yeahhh it went the incest route. Gross.

And still I kept reading. Partly I’m just a masochist: finishing dreadful books so I can rant on here is what I do with my spare time apparently… But also because all the petty craziness and dastardly schemes kept pushing me towards the finish line. I felt almost as if I could trace the normal, sane book in it. Maybe somewhere in there, lost under all the icky bits was something akin to a Peyton book (one can live in hope- though I really should have learnt my lesson from reading Lolita that no amount of pretty writing can save a book like this).

I’m gonna be blunt: I think modern feminist attitudes will blind readers from the fact that the main character is LEGIT INSANE. Because the whole motivation for Beatrice, the main character, acting like such a deranged lunatic, is that she’s been oppressed by patriarchal society and is not getting her due. However, the premise this rests on is flimsy at best because she’s  a) not the oldest child b) not even good at running the land when she does get to and c) does everything based on emotion while claiming to be intelligent (so intelligent she needs to be the one to get the land). I can’t even see why an uber feminist would like this, since, even if you overlook her murderous tendencies, she is so totally useless and therefore a poor representation of girl power.

I didn’t even get why she was so attached to the land anyway. She just had an *everything the light touches* moment and that was it, she was sold. Never mind that she could have just grown up, married someone in the area and lived nearby. Or here’s a crazy idea: she could have just got over it. I think the author got it spot on in the preface when she wrote: No one like Beatrice ever existed or could ever have existed. Too damn right- no one could have been that stupid.  I mean pfff I know it’s a bit out there- but maybe (and I’m gonna put a spoiler in cos you shouldn’t read this damn book) killing your dear old dad, who you love, is not the best option when you’re worried about your inheritance. Maybe, just maybe moving house is less of an upheaval. But what do I know… I’m not a super-rich aristocrat (well, at least according to the classy author this is how all rich people behave)

Obviously, by that quote, the author meant that historically speaking the events of this book were an impossibility. Even then though, Gregory’s words kept coming back to me in their striking lack of self-awareness. Because having read plenty of books from that time period, I couldn’t stop my brain from wailing: “Why can’t she just be normal?!”  (actually my exact words in my notes were: “just find somewhere else to live, you stupid freak!!”). Honestly, this book is like a revenge porn fantasy to punish Georgian men.

ralph helloBut the murder is not the only way the plot leans on stupid ideas. Another spoiler (are you still planning on reading this though?!) but it doesn’t make sense that her nemesis, Ralph survives being fed to a man trap (one of those contraptions designed to stop men poaching). He basically got ripped in two and this is the 18th century with NO MODERN MEDICINE. But ho hum, there couldn’t have been a plot twist without the legless Ralph (also a bad name for a “villain”- it reminds me of that cuddly character off the Simpsons and hardly inspires fear) from coming back from the dead.

Mostly however the sheer stupidity of this book rests on the shoulders of the main character. Not just in the way that she behaves, but in her construction. I mean her schemes are so goddamn *dumb*. She’s supposed to be cunning, but a friggin molerat in a normal story could have seen through her plans (it’s at this point in shitty books where I start to question e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g: like why  do none of the characters have even an iota of intelligence, have I ever written anything as daft as this cos I may as well just throw in the towel if I have and is the sky even blue anymore?). I think the only idea in here that didn’t make me cringe was when she tricked Celia– which worked because Celia was ridiculously over sweet. That said, every-other-scheme only worked because everyone else acted like an *idiot*.

And if a smart character being stupid was the only inconsistency that would have been bad enough… but I also had trouble pinning down her age. I can’t tell you how many times I thought “wait- she’s supposed to be a teenager?” This does not sound like someone who is a clever sixteen- she just sounds over thirty. I had to suspend my disbelief for pretty much the entire book.

Well that was when it wasn’t making me feel physically sick. Because this main character is poisonous enough to rival even Humbert Humbert- and that’s saying something! It wasn’t just the murder or the incest (though bloody hell- when I write it like that- it’s certainly bad enough!) it was also watching her ruin people. That actually managed to be the worst part of it for me- seeing the consequences for everyone else. She’s one of the most disgusting characters I’ve ever had the displeasure of reading about. I can’t even say it was fun to read about such a villain because there was no legitimate reason for her to act like such a crazy bitch. She just reminded me of a spoilt brat throwing her toys out of the pram.

And by the end I was left with the same questions I had at the start: What the hell is the meaning of this story? Should she have never sat on a horse and acted like a man? What is the point of all this? Why write this? I didn’t get this book at all– a line I often reserve for some highbrow books- but trust me this is as low as it gets.

Rating… arghhh… how is an ape supposed to rate a book like this? It’s the wrong kind of bananas! Here’s a handful of measly peanuts instead:

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So have you read this? Will you… pahahaha… let’s not even pretend you’re gonna pick it up… Don’t do that to yourself. Seriously.

Six of Crows Made My Heart Fly!

six of crows

If there is a single word I could use to describe this book it would be: faultless. I devoured this book in one sitting and didn’t take much in the way of notes- so if this review is in any way lacking- take that as a testament to how good this book was!! It was, in fact, too good for me to be proper book blogger right now, so I’m just gonna have to insert some totally deserved squeals:

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Okay, now that I’ve got that out of my system, let’s talk about why I loved this book. The most obvious thing to talk about first is the characters. AHHH the characters (yeah I’m not totally done screaming yet…). I cannot express how stonkingly ridiculously brilliant they were. This was a book full of anti-heroes (two of my favourite things right there: book + anti-heroes = happy orangutan). Not only that, but it managed to do a slow reveal of their backstories *whilst* simultaneously leaving me wanting more for book 2.

And this was not the only way this book managed to satisfy me and whet my appetite at the same time. The story itself built to a perfect crescendo and just when I thought it was all tied together nicely- BAM! It threw me under the bus and went *I’m not done with you yet*.

Every twist and turn led me somewhere I didn’t expect- but more incredibly, it led me back to the world of the Grisha and made me love it *so much more*. It’s no secret that I was on the fence about the original series- BUT BOY OH BOY- the world and story here gave me a whole new level of appreciation for Bargugo’s writing.

Because it was soooo good. Everything so well thought out. From chapter to chapter, scene to scene, Bardugo passed  the buck of the story so that it flowed like a perfectly executed relay. Where one moment left off another began- it never gave me the chance to catch my breath.

Add to that some subtle messages and growth as the characters learn about hatred of the “other” and all I can say is this book made my heart soar!

Rating: 5/5 bananas (duh!)

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Okay, so this was much less a review and more shameless gush. But I can’t help it with this one! Right now I’ve lent my copy to my sister, saying “if you don’t love this there’s something wrong with you” and am waiting for a good moment to crack open the next one!

So have you read this? Are you planning on reading it? Let me know in the comments!