Why I’m Happy to Suspend My Disbelief for Fantasy

Magic systems seem to be a big deal to a lot of fantasy fans and for many a well explained system can make or break a book. Now, this may shock some people, but it really isn’t a big deal for me. Naturally, I appreciate the beauty of an intricate magic system (who doesn’t have infinite admiration for Sanderson’s allomancy for instance) but if something is left in broad terms or defined simply as *magic* I genuinely won’t care and here’s why:

confessionsIt is the genre of the unexplainable– *crazy* idea BUT there is a reason why many supernatural forces are left unexplained in fantasy. It creates an atmosphere of mystique, eeriness and unfathomability. Here is where fantasy is haunted by the hallmarks of gothic literature. Feeding into the uncanny plays with the unwritten rules of the universe and allows the writer to explore hidden corners of the human psyche. And isn’t exploring *what we don’t know* what fantasy is often all about? Obscuring the logic of a world is valuable in its own way.

simarillionSometimes, however, there is a hidden explanation, even if we don’t know it– I know I’ve seen *loads* of people criticising Lord of the Rings for its “lack” of magical explanations. My answer to those people is that there are plenty of Tolkien’s notes you can look into if you’re unsatisfied with the reasoning behind his world building. Which goes to show, just because you don’t know the reason for something, doesn’t mean there isn’t one. Plus, if you need an origin story, look no further than The Simarillion. But really, ultimately, it’s important to note where Tolkien got his ideas from…

grimmsBorrowing from literary predecessors deserves praise not censor. Personally, I value stories that are self-aware and acknowledge where they’ve come from- for a story to revive its forefather’s memory and offer us something new is a very special thing. When it comes to fantasy, I’ve already mentioned fantasy’s connection with gothic literature, yet the modern genre has more than one forefather. It is very much rooted, thanks to Tolkien, in the oral tradition and fairy tales. There is a lot of borrowing going on between these genres, including the educational element. Following in the steps of fairy tales, supernaturalism is often far from the main message of the story. In reality…

Harry_Potter_and_the_Philosopher's_Stone_Book_CoverMagic is often a tool to get us from a to b. A very beautiful, interesting tool- but a tool nonetheless. That’s why, there really is nothing wrong with the *because it’s magic* explanation. I know, I know, that’s an extremely unpopular opinion in the fantasy world and I will probably have my fantasy fangirl status revoked for saying it, but hear me out. The truth is, no matter how far you get under the skin of any given magic system, the answer at some point will always be *because it’s magic*. Most of the time, we see an elaborate system on the surface and do not question why it works. Yes, I know there are some people who are not satisfied with the Harry Potter world building, for all its wonder and intricacies, but really do those people seriously think that diverting the plot for a “scientific” explanation of witchcraft and wizardry would have made those books better? (I will stupefy! anyone whose answer is yes to that) We have the surface details and that’s all we need!

the martianAt the end of the day scientific discussions mean nothing to me. Yeahhh in case it isn’t obvious I am not a scientist and the mechanics of how things work rarely holds my attention. I did love the Martian, but that was in spite of the explanations (where, let’s be honest, my attention glazed over) not because of them. So if an author is going to go into a huge amount of detail about how their world works, it’s not going to light my fire, in fact…

The_Eye_of_the_World_UKI find overlong explanations or infodumps boring. There I said it. If a book goes on a long tangent explaining something *made up* to me that I really don’t need to know, I’m gonna get bored fast. Everyone that’s read my review of Eye of the World can’t be surprised by this- cos that’s the perfect example of exposition getting out of hand (no Robert Jordan, I don’t care if you came up with a really interesting backstory to some backwater village, if it’s not plot relevant now, I don’t need 5 pages of explanation).

question mark bookAnd finally… it would make me a hypocrite. Okay, so I don’t normally refer to my own writing, but I hope you don’t mind my self-indulgence here, cos it’s relevant. I try to write things I’d like to read- so a lot of the reasons I do not often include explanations is because of a combination of the above (ie it’s not always relevant in the moment, I hate infodumps and I like to borrow from other genres). But to give a more concrete example to how important hidden explanations are, I’m currently working on a trilogy where in book 1 magic is more of a blunt tool (because, bless their little hearts they don’t know any better), book 2 explores some of the costs, and book 3 (which I’ve started working on now) is all about the big reveals. It would fundamentally destroy the setup of the story if I’d just given everything away in book 1.

So those are my reasons for why I don’t get too bogged down with magic systems. I know this will divide readers- and that’s a-okay- different opinions are the spice of life! Let me know which you prefer!

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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!

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!

The Emperor’s New Clothes Tag

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Hello all! So a couple of days ago I dropped the big bombshell that I didn’t like La La Land. Now see the thing is when I don’t get something I hate I always have this *cue music* moment, where this song pops into my head…

And this gave me a crazy idea to make a The Emperor’s New Clothes Tag! Let’s get to it shall we!

“Your Majesty, this is a magic suit” – An Overhyped Book That Promised to be *Something More*  

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Everyone hates overhyped books, but why would you compare it to Night Circus?

“Somebody send for the Queen” – A Love Interest That Wasn’t Called For

queen of shadows

Sorry guys but it’s got to be Rowan from the Throne of Glass series- to be honest I was hoping she’d do a Buffy and just stay single.

“The doublet is a lovely shade of green” – A Book That Seduced You with Its Cover (that you ended up disliking)

(this is a post for griping guys)

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I cover bought it *on my kindle* no less (this was before I knew that they could change the covers on there anyway). What makes it worse is I got the whole series cos it was a bargain… (yes, yes, lesson learnt- deals on kindle are a dime a dozen)

“Summon the court to convene” – A Book Where You Were Swayed by Public Opinion

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So I have two answers for this. The first is Twilight- because I admittedly liked the first one (yes, yes, sparkly vampires and all *hangs head in shame*), but as they got progressively worse I saw the error of my ways 😉 .

pride and prejudice

And my second answer is Pride and Prejudice, which I initially disliked, but was persuaded to like by reading her other works (including Persuasion) I think I was too young to get the irony the first time round… And now I love it!

“Look at the the King! Look at the King, the King, the King!” – A Stark Raving Mad Book That Just Boggles the Mind

wideacre

Why the hell was this ever a thing?!

“It’s altogether the very least the King has ever worn” – A Tropey Get Up You’ve Seen Before That Probably Needs Redressing (aka a trope you’re bored with seeing)

empire of storms

I really am not keen on the “chosen one” or Messianic trope at the moment. It’s just getting really old- so unless there’s some kind of twist on it, I get kind of peeved with it. That’s why (and I had a really long discussion with a friend about this recently) it really irritated me that Throne of Glass took the messianic route in book 5. Do something different darn it!!

“Summon the court physician! Call an intermission!” – A Book That Needs Medical Attention AKA A REWRITE

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Any book that manages to make dragons suck needs a rewrite in my opinion- but I chose this one because I actually came up with How It Should Have Ended a while ago 😉

“It’s altogether the very least the King has ever worn” – There’s No Hiding For This One: A Book That Is Just Nakedly Bad

fifty shades of grey

Could there be any other answer?

Bonus: “His majesty is wide open to ridicule and scorn”- Something (anything) That Astounds You With Its Popularity

 

TV– Big Brother- I read 1984 before I ever heard of this and my reaction was “WHY THE HELL WOULD THAT BE A THING?!” After turning it on once and seeing a braindead conversation on what IQ was I turned it off and never watched it again #noregrets

Music– “fight fight fight fight…” no explanation needed

Movie– I didn’t like this movie- blah blah blah 😉

Art– Tracy Emin’s Bed- I’m not into the debate over whether something is or isn’t art- but I do think you can have a discussion of what is bad art- this demonstrates zero technical ability and is pure shock value.

And (don’t hate me)… Pokemon Go. I mean, I somewhat get why people liked the game- but I don’t get why people quit their jobs and wandered off cliffs to catch imaginary creatures…

Well that was fun to get all that off my chest (though I have no idea how it will be received!) time to tag some people:

James, Nel, Kat, Sophie, Rivermoose, Drew, Liis, Twin Bookmarks, Reading in the Wings, Anatomy of a Book Thief, My Midnight Musing, ZezeeStephanie and Dani

And that’s all for today! Agree with my choices? Disagree? 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!

BOOK VS. BOOK TAG

For the first time ever I have a good reason for taking so long to do a tag, because when I was first tagged I’d read just one of the books on the list, so doing it would have been totally pointless. However I decided to treat this like a challenge to see how many I could read…. Annnd now that I’ve finally managed to read ALL the books on here so I’m READY TO ROCK!!

Thank you so much to Emily @Rose Read for tagging me and creating such an awesome list of books- I had so much fun doing this!!

Here are the rules:

  • Thank the blog who tagged you and link back to them
  • Your first book is the last book of the person who tagged you
  • Follow the list of books the tagger you gave you and then face off “book 1 vs book 2”
  • As soon as you have a winner, choose 7 more books and blogs to tag

Emily ended with Cinder by Marissa Meyer, so that’s my starting book. Here’s her list of contenders:

  1. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
  2. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  3. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  4. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobosky
  7. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

ROUND 1

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Cinder VS Illuminae: Already I’m gonna have some guilt with this question because of how easy it is for me to say ILLUMINAE! In truth, I did really enjoy Cinder but I didn’t love it nearly as much as Illuminae.

ROUND 2

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Illuminae VS Ready Player One: Again I did actually enjoy Ready Player One in the end but IT’S NOT ILLUMINAE DAMMIT!

ROUND 3

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Illuminae VS Enders Game : This is getting ridiculous!!! Guys, I just really like Illuminae okay!?

ROUND 4

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Illuminae VS Outsiders: Okay, before you get up on me for my Illuminae bias, I’m still trying to pin down my thoughts on Outsiders since I had mixed feelings about it… so yeah… it’s got to be Illuminae.

ROUND 5

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Illuminae VS The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian: Ahh well this one’s easy too- cos I actually didn’t like the Part-Time Indian– I didn’t relate to it at all and as I said in my mini-review, I think it’s more aimed at an American audience. So yeah, Illuminae for the win!

ROUND 6

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Illuminae VS Perks of Being a Wallflower: Arghhhh no!!!! Why are you doing this to me?!?! I really thought with how easy it was for Illuminae to win the last few rounds that it would run away with it and I wouldn’t have to make any tough decisions… Alas you’re making me choose between my babies *sobs*!! I think it actually has to be Perks because Illuminae was tough to get into (see I can actually criticise books I love from time to time) whereas Perks was faultless (okay, not always)

ROUND 7

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Perks of Being a Wallflower VS Eleanor and Park: *controversial opinion alert* I didn’t actually like Eleanor and Park… so this one’s a no brainer.

THE WINNER!

perks of being a wallflower

The winner is Perks of Being a Wallflower! Yes, I know, we all thought Illuminae would win for sure, but at the last minute the dark horse of the competition snuck up and stole the prize!

Anyway I’m really looking forward to seeing what people do with this one.

Here’s My List of books:

  1. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
  2. 1984 by George Orwell
  3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  4. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  5. Red Rising by Pierce Brown
  6. Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  7. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (I feel like it came so close it deserves to be on here)

I chose books I wouldn’t be able to choose between- I’m so mean- mwhahahaha!

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I tag:

Nel, Kat, Valerie, Shannon, Briana & Krysta @Pages Unbound, Lashaan & Trang @Bookidote, Dani @Perspective of a Writer, Villain Library, Two Gals and a Book, and Around the Library in 80 Days (as always don’t feel like you have to do it and feel free to give it a go if you like the look of this!)

And what do you think of my choices- which book would have won for you? Let me know in the comments!

And heads up I’m gonna be gone for a few days, visiting friends, so there won’t be any posts until the end of next week! I will leave you with this tune…

Which is nice and appropriate for a trip to Scotland 😉