Some reviews cause I felt like it

Hi bookies! Long time no see. Guess who is back! (It’s me, duh.)

So as a celebration for the comeback of the worst blogger ever, let’s start with a few books I liked, in no particular order.

The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn: Thinking about this book makes me so giddy. It was published in the beginning of this month, but I am thinking about rereading it. It’s set slightly in the future and time travel machines are invented. The main character Rachel is sent along with actor and historian Liam to go and steal the last Jane Austen manuscript before it’s destroyed. In order to do that they have to befriend Jane Austen and infiltrate the everyday lives of the gentry.  But Rachel can’t accept the suffering of everyday 19th life and soon she starts making small changes. But Rachel is a doctor and she can’t help wondering if Jane Austen’s mysterious illness could be cured? And how will these changes affect the future?

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield: Sometimes a book talks about the experience of reading in such a familiar way that I can’t help calling it a book lovers’ book. I know, that doesn’t explain much about the plot or the genre, but that’s the first thing I need to say about The Thirteenth Tale. If you love books (and since you are reading my ramblings I guess you do), this is the book for you. It’s gothic fiction about a biographer and the reclusive novelist who promises to tell her the truth behind her mysterious past. It gave me a bit of a Wuthering Heights for some reason. Maybe it’s because of the isolated big house and a family’s strange past. One more tip: read this book on a cold day, maybe with a cup of tea next to you. It’s not a summery book at all, so it’d be much nicer to save this one for a rainy day.

Nelly Dean by Alison Case: Speaking of Wuthering Heights this is the retelling from the perspective of Nelly. Actually the original book is also told from her perspective, but this time she tells her own story. Turns out Nelly kept many secrets from Mr. Lockwood when she told him the story of Heathcliff and the Earnshaws. This book gets the tone right and the new story fits well with the original one too. You can imagine these things happening in the background of the main events. If Emily Bronte wrote a sequel, it would be pretty similar to this.

So that’s it for now. I read many more books, but these were three favorites in the past 6 months. I may write about the books that I disliked the most during this time period too, but we’ll see. But now I have to study.

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Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

In order to call a character an anti-hero I go through this thought process in my head: “They are horrible but also badass and even though I’d never do what they are doing, I get where they are coming from”. Which is why I hesitate calling Ani, the protagonist of this book, an anti-hero. I completely understand why she is the way she is and to be honest, I think everyone, even the strongest person in the world, would turn out just like her if they went through the same things as she did.

And trust me, horrible things happen to her. When you take into consideration that the author was inspired to write this book by real events that happened to her, it’s no wonder that this book packs such a strong punch. I was literally shaking from rage when I read some of the things that happened to Ani. Not only the event itself is extremely traumatic, but the reactions she gets from people afterwards are horrible too.

I really liked how Ani’s really shallow and narcissistic mother affected her future. Ani has found a way to cope with her trauma by focusing on achieving success, but I think it’s interesting how she’s basically trying to fulfill her mother’s idea of what success is.

Another observation: I think some of the negative reviews just further prove that we do live in a slut-shaming and victim-blaming society. Now I don’t want to start unnecessary drama and there are many people who didn’t like the book for the way it was written or other acceptable reasons. After all everyone is entitled to their own opinions.  Nonetheless, I am shocked by how many people were appalled not by the two big traumas in Ani’s and the people who caused them, by her very unsupportive fiancé (who I really despised btw) or all of the incompetent adults in her life. No, instead they were shocked by how bitchy or shallow Ani was. Seriously?

Oh and one last thing. This is nothing like Gone Girl, no matter how hard publishers try to convince us otherwise. But it’s a great book and even if you don’t enjoy it, it’s still a good idea to give it a read and re-think what you assume you know about the subject matter it deals with.

The Cake Therapist by Judith Fertig

I just finished this book and I am just aching to write a review. For some reason I feel like I have many things to say about it, even though it was just a ‘meh’ book.

Maybe it’s because this book had the potential to be a bit better. It still wouldn’t have been perfect, nothing to rave about, but it would’ve been a solid 3-star read. But honestly, it felt like a draft of a novel, not the finished product.

The sin it suffers the most from is too many plot points crammed into a short book, many of them leading to dead ends or underwhelming conclusions. There’s a budding romance between two secondary characters that is just a few sentences here and there and never amounts to anything. The main character’s absent father is also mentioned even though it has nothing to do with the plot and it’s again an issue solved in a sentence. Even the main character’s marriage problems, which are given some attention throughout the book, are solved really quickly. Not to mention some traumatic events that side characters go through that are handled in a very by-the-way manner which the gravity of the situation doesn’t allow.

The main character has an almost magical sense of taste which she uses to help other people. However this is just thrown at random moments in the book and never has a real meaning as a plot device. The main problem is not even solved with the help of this skill, it’s solved by sheer luck and a random chain of events.

The beginning of the book implies that food is a much more important element than it actually is. Cupcakes and wedding cakes are mentioned in passing but they never have the importance that the first few chapters imply.

There is also a number of underdeveloped side characters. They were just a string of names that I couldn’t keep a track of between the useless plot points and sloppy writing. I think the author was trying to do the whole “small town where everyone knows everyone” thing, but it just didn’t work and made things even more confusing.

However it was still not a horrible book. It was not infuriatingly bad, just very underwhelming and I think we should keep in mind that this was the author’s debut novel. But if you expect this to be the new Chocolat, don’t get your hopes up.

Quick Reviews #3

Hi, bookish people! Long time no see. I know I haven’t posted anything for about a month or two and I don’t really have an excuse. I was just too lazy, so you’ll have to forgive me. But the fact that I haven’t done individual book posts means that I can now do one huuuuuge Quick Reviews post. Yaaaay!! I am so excited. I gotta mention that I didn’t take any notes when I finished some of these books so I may have forgotten some things, so if you see any mistakes or false information please tell me and I’ll fix it.

  1. 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad- I was so hyped about this, but it failed to meet my expectations. It’s a short story collection, but all of the stories are centered around the same character. She’s a woman who is never satisfied with how she looks and no matter how much weight she loses, she can always feel the insecurities coming from the “fat girl” image she has for herself. This was darker than I expected, although there was some humor too. It was well written, but I guess it just wasn’t for me.

 

  1. The Mist on Bronte Moor by Aviva Orr- A time-traveling girl who meets the Brontes? Yes please! This was a quick read and although it was nothing special, I enjoyed reading it.

 

  1. Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? By Agatha Christie- I think this book is a hit or miss for people. It had a faster pace than a typical Christie novel and Poirot or Miss Marple don’t make an appearance. Instead our sleuths this time are two young people who get mixed up in the mystery quite by accident. I found it quite enjoyable, but as I said, people who are fans of the more classic Agatha Christie books may not like it.

 

  1. The End of Everything by Megan Abbott- I love Megan Abbott. Her stories perfectly describe the loss of innocence and the dark side that we all have. And her writing is so beautiful. I feel like every word she writes is carefully picked. Her writing literally leaves me breathless. And even though this is my least favorite novel of hers, I still like it a lot.

 

  1. Little Women and Me by Lauren Baratz-Logsted- This book was very similar to The Mist on Bronte Moor. But instead of going to the past, in this book the main character gets stuck in the pages of Little Women. The story was fine, but kinda meh. It doesn’t really have a plot, it’s just the events of Little Women with a clueless girl who doesn’t know what’s going on.

 

  1. MARY: The Summoning + MARY: Unleashed by Hillary Monahan- I loved these two books. They were fast paced and fun and a much lighter read than I expected. I was getting prepared for total horror, for lots of sleepless nights, but it’s not that scary. But I don’t see this as a bad thing as this was quite enjoyable.

 

  1. Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky- Oh boy this book. A bunch of fangirls kidnap their least favorite member of the boy band they love. All of the girls are deranged and messed up in their own way. So naturally things just escalate from there. But it’s soooo funny. Sometimes I even felt guilty for laughing but I couldn’t stop myself. This is a very unique book and I strongly recommend it.

 

  1. This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers- When the zombie apocalypse happens a few teenagers try to find a safe place together and they end up in their school. But this book is not about fights with zombies or a survival story. It’s about what happens when 6 young people who recently suffered extreme loss behave when they are stuck together. It’s a psychological book more than it is a zombie book. It’s so heartbreaking.

 

  1. Please Remain Calm by Courtney Summers- The sequel of This is Not a Test is more about survival, so that’s why I am reviewing it separately, even though I read it immediately after the first book. I don’t want to spoil anything, but let’s just say that our characters are not in a closed space anymore. They are trying to find another safe place and they meet some other survivors on the way. And I have a confession. I almost cried during one scene. You’ll know it when you read it.

 

  1. The Forbidden Orchid by Sharon Biggs Waller- When Elodie’s dad fails to find a famous expensive orchid, their whole family is threatened by debt. Elodie decides to protect her 9 younger sisters and take the matter into her own hands. She sneaks on the ship to China to protect her troubled father and this leads to a great adventure. I absolutely love seeing more strong female characters in historical fiction.

 

  1. Witch Baby by Francesca Lia Block- I reread Weetzie Bat and continued with this book, which is the sequel. This books series is not something to analyze or overthink, according to me. You just let go of any negative thoughts and enjoy the beautiful writing and the dream world where Weetzie and her daughters live.

 

  1. How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran- A poor girl tries to become a music journalist, even though she has to wait for 2 weeks to check out new albums in the library. She somehow succeeds and we get to witness that and laugh. I haven’t read a funnier book in a long time, but also a more relatable one. Read it, it’s great!

 

  1. The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani- Two children are kidnapped from a village every year and one of them ends goes to the School for Good, while the other goes to its evil counterpart. When the beautiful Sophie and her friend Agatha get kidnapped, Sophie is sure that her dream will come true and she’ll find her prince in the School for Good. But somehow, gloomy Agatha ends up there instead. This may look like a children’s book, but it deals with many complex ideas and it defies many fairytale stereotypes.

 

  1. The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes- A girl whose hands were cut off escapes a cult and beats up a boy. Wouldn’t you want to read this book based on only this information? Probably. But I will still tell you more about it, because I absolutely love it. This is a book about second opportunities. Or at least I see it like that. I think the message is that even if a person controls your whole life and even takes away a part of you (literally), they still don’t own your future. Another message is the power of education, how it enriches our lives and helps us make choices about our beliefs. I am stingy when I rate books on Goodreads, but this was a definite 5 star book for me.

 

  1. Women of the Pleasure Quarters by Leslie Downer- I will never get sick of nonfiction about geisha. Something about their lives is fascinating. I love how their world is so secretive, yet rich with history. I love how even though men are the primary visitors, the geisha world is controlled by women. However this is not the best book to learn all about it. The first few chapters were interesting, but they involved the history of pleasure quarters, where prostitutes lived. There was not enough information about geisha. And after a few chapters the same information started repeating.

 

  1. Sanctuary by Jennifer McKissack- A young adult gothic novel with paranormal elements. It’s obviously inspired by Jane Eyre or Rebecca, which are both books I love, so I obviously enjoyed this book too. But now I am embarrassed to say I don’t remember most of it. But let’s just say that it involves a dark, scary castle, ghosts and a girl who is not sure if she’s losing her mind.

 

  1. Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger- This little book is a combination of a short story and a novella. In Franny we meet Franny (duh!), a college student visiting her boyfriend, while she is obviously troubled by something. Zooey is a sequel of this story, in which Franny’s brother Zooey tries to help her with the spiritual crisis she’s going through. It was an awesome book, though I can’t exactly lay my finger on what was so awesome. Maybe it’s because Salinger understands young people and how they think and the way Franny’s crisis reminds me to events in my own life.

 

  1. Jane Steele by Lindsay Faye- What if Jane Eyre was a serial killer? This is the question this book answers. Obviously, I had extremely high expectations for this book and guess what? It managed to live up to them. It doesn’t rely on gimmicks. It’s a well-written book with really cool characters.

 

  1. You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney- This is a nonfiction book about all of the fallacies our brains are prone to. You’ll learn that you are not a completely logical being even though you may think you are. David McRaney tells us how we all fool ourselves in short, amusing chapters, with many interesting examples.

 

  1. This One Summer by Mariko & Jillian Tamaki- A lovely graphic novel about one summer, seen through the eyes of two pre-teen girls. They witness the damaged relationship between the parents of one of the girls, a teen girl being slut-shamed, depression and other similar things that they can’t quite grasp, but they can’t forget either. Everything about this novel is lovely- the art, the atmosphere and the story.

 

  1. The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead- A young countess pretends to be her maid to escape an unwanted marriage and she ends up in The Glittering Court, a finish school for girls, where common girls are prepared to be the wives of rich men. I know it sounds shallow, and I see that many people who read the book didn’t like it, but I have to say I enjoyed it. I wouldn’t even classify it as guilty pleasure. It was a legitimately good book.

 

Whew, that was a lot. I hope you enjoyed it.

Quick Reviews #2

In the past two weeks I was really lucky, because almost every book I picked up was really cool. I initially wanted to do separate reviews for these books, but a few of them were so mind-blowing that I was almost scared of reviewing them. And before I knew it there were five books on my review list. So I decided to review all of them in one post.

1.White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi- I don’t even know where to start with this book. It’s so weird, there’s nothing else quite like it out there. It’s the story of a house and the people who live in it. The house is not just a symbol for the life of this family, it has it’s own consciousness and control over the people in it. The twins Miranda and Eliot, try to accept their mother’s death. Miranda also struggles with an eating disorder called pica. She craves thing that are not considered edible, like chalk. And strange things happen in the house. But everything changes when Miranda leaves for college. I don’t know what else to say about the plot. This is not a very plot-driven book, it has other qualities. It’s a beautifully written book, even though the strange style requires some patience, so I can see why some may disagree. It’s also very atmospheric, with a Gothic feel, even though it’s set in modern times. It’s a horror book that doesn’t feel like regular horror. It’s aim is not to shock you and scare you. It’s to pull you slowly into the creepy and strange atmosphere and leave you thinking about all of the questions that are left unanswered.

2. The Love That Split the World by Emily Henry- This gorgeous and unusual young adult book was published only a few weeks ago, but I have a feeling that many people are already putting it on their ‘Best of 2016’ lists. The young adult genre can sometimes feel repetitive, with many authors recycling the same old tropes, but this book gives something unique. The main character is a girl called Natalie and she’s having her last summer break before college. And then she sees Grandmother again, after three years without a word from her. Grandmother is a godlike being that has appeared in Natalie’s dreams since childhood and told her stories. This time, however, Grandmother tells her to “save him”, without giving much more information about exactly who “he” is. And then Natalie meets a beautiful boy named Beau. I loved this book and the only thing that made me give it four stars instead of five is that sometimes the dialogue felt unnatural and I was reminded that I was reading a book. But other than that it was awesome.

3. Battle Royale by Koushun Takami- My favorite part of the Hunger Games is the beginning of the actual Games, where everyone is scared and suspicious. Some form alliances, others hide and don’t trust anyone. Battle Royale is all that. It’s over 600 pages of teenagers fighting and killing with various weapons, such as a sickle, a knife or a machine gun. It’s set in a fascist Japan, where rock music is illegal and not liking the national sport is considered having rebellious ideas. Yeah, it takes a leap of faith to trust the world that it’s set in, but it’s still really cool. I loved the cheesy dialogue during some of the fights. I also found it morbidly funny how the sociopath who actually liked killing got the deadliest weapon. Yeah, I am a horrible person. And now some HUGE SPOILERS: I didn’t really like the ending. It was just too unbelievable. More than anything else in the book. And I kinda liked the part where Shogo pretends to betray and kill the two remaining students. It was tragic and shocking, but a really good ending. Another good ending would have been if their plan failed so the boys sacrifice for Noriko and she wins. Maybe I just like tragedy too much. END OF SPOILERS

4. BITCHfest- This is a book of feminist essays that were published in BITCH magazine. It was very informative and it highlights some very important issues that women face today. Of course I didn’t agree completely with every essay, because they were written by many different authors and covered different issues, but I did agree with most of them. I recommend this to every woman. And man. Men need feminism too. So I recommend this to everyone.

5. Guilt Trip by Maggy Farrell- Melissa is diagnosed with Survivor Syndrome after surviving a car accident in which her mother died. But when she goes to a holiday she starts seeing things that are not there. She is not sure if she’s hallucinating or there’s something stranger going on here. And it seems that the key to the mystery is the handsome, older Luke. This was just meh. I wasn’t shocked by the big twist because I saw it from miles away. There weren’t many hints towards it, but it’s a thing you just assume after having read a few good thrillers. The plot was not well planned and by the end of it, it kinda seems that the author brushes aside everything that happened just to deliver a plot twist. It was not believable at all.

Office Girl by Joe Meno

Office Girl is the love story between Odile, an art school dropout, and Jack, a 25-year-old divorcee. They are both unusual, quirky, frustrated with their art, confused about who they are, stuck in dysfunctional relationships. So naturally when they meet at their boring office jobs, the chemistry that exists between them is clearly visible.

I liked how there was no tension like in most fictional romances, where even though the two people are head over heels and everyone can see that, they are still not aware of the other person’s feelings. In Office Girl the romance unfolds naturally and Odile and Jack seem like real people. There are no cliches or silly obstacles in the form of scheming exes or anything like that. Ultimately the only obstacle between them is their own personalities and the existential crisis they are both in.

There were many things I liked in this book. It’s impossible not to love Odile. Okay maybe I am wrong. I am sure she’s written as a character which can be very annoying to some people. But she’s the type of person I love. I loved her free spirit. I loved her views on art. I loved her nonsensical artsy vandalism. I loved her little notebook with random ideas.

However I also had many problems with this book. While I was reading the first few chapters which are from Odile’s point of view, everything was okay. And Jack’s chapters, before he meets Odile were okay too, even though I didn’t like reading about him as much as I liked reading about Odile. However after the two meet, it seems like Odile is demoted to the status of a manic pixie dream girl and the only way we can see her is now through Jack’s perspective. She seems like she’s there to save him, which is exactly what he believes. And we are somehow supposed to share Jack’s frustration when she fails his expectations. I don’t know. For the second time in this review I have to admit that I may be wrong. Maybe the author intended to show us how Jack sees Odile, so we can see how wrong and broken Jack is. But I am not sure.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

This is the first book in a series of crime novels, where the sleuth is more extraordinary than ever. It’s a little girl!

Flavia de Luce is 11 years old, but she already has a great knowledge in chemistry. She is very smart and curious, so when a dead bird with a postage stamp on its beak and a dead man are found in their yard, naturally she goes exploring.

To be honest, the whole crime part of the story wasn’t really good. It was okay, but nothing special. It was easy to solve and there was no real tension. However, being in Flavia’s head for a while is really fun. Especially when she talks about her older sisters and their love-hate (though mostly hate) relationship. The moments with her father are very sweet and her conversations with the adults are really funny.

I expected more from this book, but even though I wasn’t wowed I think I’ll give the second book in the series a shot.

172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad

OMG! OMG! OMG! This book was sooooooooooooooooooooooooooo amazing. Just thinking about how cool it is makes me squeal. I’ve been talking non-stop about it, this whole day, even since I finished it at 5 a.m.

Yup, it’s one of those books. It keeps you awake until dawn. It just won’t let you go until you finish it. I almost felt like the book kidnapped me and left me no choice. I just had to read it. It was that awesome.

I won’t talk a lot about the plot, because I don’t want to spoil all of this awesomeness, so I’ll just tell you the basics. NASA decides to send people on the moon. In order to get more money and publicity, they decide to make a lottery for teenagers in the whole world and the lucky three that will be picked, win a trip to the moon.

It starts out slowly, but even in the beginning there are hints of what’s to come. Many scenes are there just to add to the tone of the book and to increase the tension. And then the book gets super fast paced and everything becomes really freaky and really really scary.

I was totally not prepared for the horror. I just assumed it would be a normal science fiction with a bit of thriller maybe, a mildly shocking plot twist. But 172 Hours on the Moon is definitely horror. And it’s very scary. Trust me.

Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me by Ellen Forney

I have a confession. This was the first graphic novel I’ve read in my life. The first one. But it was a really good choice that made me excited and eager to read more graphic novels.

Marbles is a graphic memoir that tells the story of Ellen Forney’s struggle with bipolar disorder. I loved how open and honest she was throughout the whole memoir. Mental illness is something that is difficult to talk about, especially if you’ve experienced it personally. And when it is talked about, sometimes it isn’t handled with the attention and maturity that mental illness deserves as an issue. This is why I am thankful that Ellen Forney made such an honest graphic novel.

She gives us a glimpse of her mind during her manic times: the excitement, the ideas, the energy, the flirting, the inability to sleep… And then she gives us a glimpse into the opposite, the depressive periods, where she sometimes couldn’t even get out of bed.

Ellen saw a psychiatrist and took many different drugs for bipolar disorder and this was a struggle which lasted years. She tells us her experiences with all the different pills she had to try until she found a mix that could work.

But if there is one question that this graphic novel focuses on it’s whether art and mental illness are connected? Ellen Forney tries throughout her life to find the answer to this. She is not sure if bipolar disorder is a part of who she is, the key to her creativity and art. She studies other artists’ problems with mental illness to see their personal experiences.

I am really glad I tried a new medium and form of art and I can’t wait to read another graphic novel.

Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge

I remember reading as a child and being completely enchanted by books. Sometimes I wasn’t able to put down the book I was reading so I spent the day with my face buried in a book while doing my daily activities. I still read a lot, I still love books, but I’ve been missing that sense of magic that books bring. But two days ago I started reading Cuckoo Song, a book which brought that feeling back.

Cuckoo Song is about a girl call Triss. She’s just had an accident after which she has trouble remembering things from the past. All of her memories are hazy, almost as if they belong to another person. I don’t want to say much else, because I am afraid of spoiling this amazing book.

I liked how the book’s tone switched from creepy to sad and as the plot reached it’s culmination it got very tense.  I was hoping the heroine would be able to succeed while thinking that it’s almost impossible to do that and I couldn’t sleep because I just had to find out what would happen

Also a question I’ve been asking myself: Is this a children’s book? I really have no idea. If I knew little children who like to read I’d make them read it. And they would probably get very scared. Muahahahahaha!