‘All The Crooked Saints’ Review

‘All The Crooked Saints’ Review

 

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I was so looking forward to this novel. Maggie Stiefvater does this thing each time she releases a book with one of her local bookstores, where she doodles in each hardcover. I paid £40 so I could have one shipped over here. I was so excited for this book, so was so damn disappointed when I got it through the post and read it.

What really upset me most about this book is I know Steifvater can do so, so much better. If I’d read it before I’d read any other novel by Stiefvater, I would have written it off as gibberish and been astounded as to how she’d done so well for herself. This novel, in a word, was absolute crap. There were so many things wrong with it, I could probably write an entire essay about it.

Steifvater’s writing is normally so beautifully written, with wonderful imagery and metaphors woven in throughout such a lyrical narrative. This was complete and utter rubbish. Steifvater was trying too hard to be clever, and trying too hard to be literary fiction. ‘All The Crooked Saints’ was a mismatch of complete and utter nonsensical prose which fell flat on its face. You would be sat reading, and then realise halfway through the page that you hadn’t actually taken in any of what you’d just read, and it didn’t really matter anyway because absolutely nothing was connected. There was a really naff ‘Alice In Wonderland’ feel to it which I absolutely hated, because it just didn’t work.

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There was a milder version of this nonsensical prose to ‘The Raven Boys’ trilogy, but it worked there because it wasn’t in your face all the time as it was in this novel. Plus it was much more toned down! As such there wasn’t really much plot to it, and the minimal plot that was there, was dressed up in all this frilly nonsense which detracted from anything Stiefvater was trying to achieve. A lot of the useless description was really random and just way too weird, but most importantly served no purpose whatsoever. There would be a paragraph with some weird analogy describing why something in a single sentence in the next few paragraphs’ time was supposedly important, such as where a barn was built or something – but the things that Stiefvater wasted words explaining in great detail had absolutely nothing to do with the plot.

One thing Stiefvater normally excels at is her characterisation. However these characters were really two dimensional, and weren’t interesting in the least – basically, they were really lazy versions of what her normal standard produces. As my friend Reviews Between The Lines pointed out, everything was just really under developed. It’s a real shame because I know Steifvater is capable of so much more, and you can see from the original idea the novel that this could have become, but it was just absolutely dire. It makes me so sad to see such talent wasted!

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I get this was meant to be a palate cleanser for Steifvater after ‘The Raven Cycle’, but it was something I think she should have just kept for her eyes only because it was awful compared to what she normally produces as a novel. I’m really struggling for what to give it, because I normally love Steifvater’s writing, but this doesn’t deserve the same rating that I would give other novels that I would just describe as ‘an alright read’. As much as it pains me to say it, I’m going to have to give it a 2/5!

 

https://www.maggiestiefvater.com/

@mstiefvater

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‘Turtles All The Way Down’ Review

‘Turtles All The Way Down’ Review

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I love John Green’s books. ‘The Fault In Our Stars’ is hands down one of my absolute favourite novels of all time – when I got it back in uni, I stayed up until 6am the next morning to finish it. I haven’t read all of his novels, but got REALLY REALLY EXCITED when I found out about ‘Turtles All The Way Down’ coming out this year. Talk about a novel that hits you in the feels!

When I first started reading it, I could really feel the overwhelming despair that Aza was shrouded in constantly. At first it was quite depressing, but I really warmed up to her and the events that happened around her. Some of the things that happened to her were absolutely heartbreaking, but Green described these in such a beautiful way that you really can’t fault his skill. This novel wasn’t what I’d expected at all, but I’m so glad I read it. Everything Green describes feels so painfully real, that you really can’t help but empathise with how Aza is feeling. One part in particular I really loved was where Aza is trying to fight her dark thoughts, and Green uses a mixture of plain text and interspersed italics to show her warring with herself. It was painful to read, but in a way that hit close to home for how I’ve argued with myself over certain things.

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I loved Aza’s narrative arc. At first you think there’s going to be this big happily ever after where Aza finds Davis’ dad and her and Daisy share the reward and Aza and Davis ride off into the sunset and blah blah blah… Green wonderfully shoots down this cliche within the first few chapters, which leaves you guessing as to where Aza’s story is going to lead us. It became more about Aza’s battle with OCD, rather than her OCD becoming a quirky character flaw. Aza’s spiral was painfully honest, and you kept wanting her to get better – what I really, really loved was Green’s more realistic approach of her learning to live with it (kind of… I don’t want to give any spoilers!). The direction Green took the narrative in really fitted with the natural progression of the plot, and I’m glad he did it this way.

The friendship between Aza and Daisy was really lovely – the realistic way that Green portrayed this towards the end was really wonderful to read. You got the feel that these were actual people rather than characters on paper – the way they bared their hearts to one another in the car towards the end was heartbreaking, and I was really struggling not to sob at that point! The relationship between Aza and Davis was cute, but wonderfully realistic. What I really bloody love is Green didn’t make it all about the romance! Plus the mystery of Davis’ missing father was tied up all neatly in the end, which again I loved because it showed more of Davis’ character.

When I first started reading this novel, I wasn’t sure I was going to like it all that much. Though the more engrossed I became in Aza’s narrative, the more I grew to love it. There were parts of her thought spirals that hit a little close to home, but I adored the overall message – life goes on! You may be suffering in the moment, but it’s not the end – and there’s nothing wrong with reaching out for help. I’d give this novel a 5/5, because it was brilliant. I know that Green really struggled to write another novel following the massive success of ‘The Fault In Our Stars’, but he has really done himself justice in ‘Turtles All The Way Down’.

Also look at how awesome that dust jacket is! And the cute tuatara embossed on the cover! I absolutely loved the quotes on the inside of the dust jacket; though I didn’t realise until one of my uni lecturers pointed it out in third year that all the quotes you see at the start of a book, have to be paid for to appear there. Just a random useless piece of knowledge for you!

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If you liked ‘Turtles All The Way Down’, you’d really like Holly Bourne’s ‘Am I Normal Yet?’, which is about a similar subject of OCD, but told in just as real terms and with quite a bit of humour thrown in for good measure too.

‘Tarnished City’ Review

‘Tarnished City’ Review

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I think I’m in love with this series. I loved ‘Gilded Cage’ which I read earlier this year, and when I found out its sequel was out in the past month or so, obviously I bought it to continue the story. Sometimes, a sequel can struggle to live up to the reputation of its predecessor – thankfully, this wasn’t the case with ‘Tarnished City’. What a novel! Vic James throws you right back into the action, and doesn’t stutter for a moment.

One thing I did find with the first novel, as much as I loved it, was it seemed to drag a little in the middle. This novel was boom, boom, boom! Every little plot point fit so neatly together that the minute you were getting over one plot twist, James blindsided you with another juicy little titbit that had you wondering how the characters could possibly escape the situation.

James’ characters are a joy to read about. She clearly has a good feel for who they are, and her writing really makes them come alive on the page. It wasn’t hard to fall in love with Abi and Luke’s stories in particular, because you can’t help but root for the underdogs. It was interesting to gain an insight into characters like Gavar and Silyen too, as these were characters which we would think to be really horrible. James doesn’t just stick to this 2D characterisation, and gives them really interesting points that make them act like normal people. For example, Gavar’s love for his daughter is absolutely adorable and is definitely a redeeming quality for his character! What I also loved about her characters was James didn’t shy away from more morally complicated characters like Bouda and Whittam Jardine. James constantly keeps you guessing – some of the characters who I thought were black and white bad guys, or good guys, have shocked me by proving themselves the opposite. You never know what’s going to happen next!

This plot was phenomenal. James’ career as a political journalist has definitely helped her out with the attention to detail – the sheer minute details that James has included are absolutely bullet proof! James’ novel carried on with the same theme from her first novel – un-skilled versus skilled (people with amazing powers). I can’t go into too much detail without spoiling the plot, but it was bloody brilliant. Everything just escalated further from the previous novels’ events, and you just know the last novel in the trilogy is going to be phenomenal. There’s just so much going on in this plot, that you’ve got no idea which way this is going to go. The suspense is built up so well – just as you think the characters are going to succeed with their goal, something else comes to smash it to pieces.

I would give this novel a 5/5. If you haven’t started this trilogy yet, pick up a copy as soon as you can! There is just so much stuff I love about this whole idea that I literally cannot put it all into words.

 

http://www.vicjames.co.uk/

@DrVictoriaJames

‘It Only Happens In The Movies’ Review

‘It Only Happens In The Movies’ Review

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I bloody love Holly Bourne. Seriously, if you haven’t read anything by this wonderful woman yet, you need to. She hasn’t let me down with this wonderful novel either. What I absolutely adore about her books, is the way she tackles tough topics using humour. Seriously, one minute you’re laughing your ass off, and within the next few pages she’s got you blubbing away.

Where do I even start with this glorious novel? Obviously, one of the main themes was the romance. Not just between the protagonist, Audrey, but also her parents and her relationships with those around her. The minute you were introduced to Harry, you knew what was going to happen. Though Bourne doesn’t disappoint and DOESN’T MAKE IT ALL ABOUT THE ROMANCE. In a way the overall theme is romance, but Bourne makes an effort to point out the flaws between life on the silver screen, in relation to what happens in reality.

The premise is absolutely bloody right – the kind of romances you watch on screen (or read in ridiculous novels!!!!) literally never happens in real life. Bourne made an interesting point, in reiterating that you never see the happy couple progressing through their relationship. The film always ends at the start of their whirlwind romance, or a similar situation where the characters realise how perfect they are for one another and blah blah blah. You never see what happens afterwards. The arguments, the getting used to having one another there 24/7… Bourne counteracts this using the protagonist’s parents. Her father ran away with another woman to start an entirely new life, leaving that of his old one to come crashing down around the family he left behind. These parts of the novel were sometimes painful for me to read, as it hit a little too close to home with the awkward relationship Audrey had with her father. I really loved this, though, because Bourne was saying “This is real life! It doesn’t always stay as a happily-ever-after!” Which is a really, really important message to send to young girls who are expecting this unrealistic thing from a romance. I could talk about that all day, but I’ll leave that point there – A+ for Bourne empowering young girls with a positive, realistic way to approach relationships of their own.

How Audrey approaches life after her first boyfriend was SO FRUSTATING. She gives up things she loves, like taking drama, JUST BECAUSE SHE KNEW HE WOULD BE THERE. A+++ to Bourne for having Audrey point out how stupid she felt about this halfway through the novel – I mean, it would be tricky emotionally if you knew they were going to be there, but you should never give up doing what you love just to try and avoid someone else!

What I absolutely bloody loved was the ending. That ending was heartbreaking, but so, so perfect – it imitated real life, not some fictional perfection. Audrey definitely made the right decision, and as I’ve learned personally by this point, you should never just carry on as you were in the hopes things will get better. With that whole shit storm that went down towards the end of the novel, I wholeheartedly approved of how Audrey handled those various situations. Can I also just give a shout out to another Bourne staple – how she plays with the narrative form! I loved the interjection of Audrey’s media studies project at the start of some chapters. This is a technique Bourne has used in other novels I’ve read, and I really love it. It’s a way to show what’s happening in Audrey’s life, without telling you in detail what’s going on. There was one chapter in particular where Bourne described a good few weeks of Audrey’s life like this, to skip to that brilliant ending. I really loved it!

This novel was brilliantly equal in humour and heartbreak, and was an absolutely wonderful read. I just love anything that comes from Bourne’s pen!! Or computer, I guess – not everyone is an old school notebook hoarder like me. I’d give it a 5/5, because it was brilliant even before Bourne did the most beautiful thing ever and subverted the romance genre. SUBVERTED THE ROMANCE GENRE!! This woman is a literary genius, I’m telling you.

 

http://hollybourneauthor.tumblr.com/

@holly_bourneYA

‘To All The Boys I Loved Before’ Review

‘To All The Boys I Loved Before’ Review

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This was an okay novel. I started to regret picking it up when I first got to reading it, because the prose seemed a little bit childish compared to the YA fiction that I love, but I stuck with it. I really liked the concept – a girl who is too scared to tell boys she likes them, so she writes love letters to them as a goodbye. Only one day these letters get discovered and sent out to these individual boys. I really loved the sound of this plot line, but it took a while for any of that to even happen. I must have been about 100 pages in before anything actually exciting happened! I really wanted to like this novel, but it was a bit too slow in places.

When the plot actually did pick up, it did feel incredibly predictable. I guess if you pick up this kind of novel, you are picking it because you like the romance genre and you know what to expect… but it would be nice to find something that could give you what you wanted, and at least try to subvert the genre a little. You just knew what was going to happen, and that did dampen the reading experience for me because it just wasn’t as enjoyable.

The characters were interesting, and I liked how crazy Lara Jean was… Though a lot of detail put in here felt unnecessary. For example, detailing how she made cookies, or detailing how she designed a scrap book for her sister… It was all a little bit pointless in terms of the rest of the narrative. This didn’t develop our understanding of the characters, so was pointless information that didn’t need to be included. I did think that Han would just conveniently forget to tell us who sent Lara Jean’s letters, but thankfully we do find out just before the end of the book. This would have annoyed me more if we didn’t find out who was behind it, but Han tied it all up nicely in the end.

Overall, the novel did get better. Lara Jean’s intentions to protect her sister’s feelings were adorable, even if the lengths she went to to do this were a little extreme. It did feel like Jenny Han cut the narrative off in the middle of a section of plot, but the ending was perfect. It was an okay read, but I did enjoy it at points. I’d give it a 3/5, because it did get better, but there was so much more Han could have done to make the overall writing style of a better quality.

 

http://jennyhan.com/

@jennyhan

‘The Diabolic’ Review

‘The Diabolic’ Review

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What a phenomenal novel. I’d seen this sneaky little thing patiently waiting for me as a hardback, with its absolutely gorgeous cover that perfectly encompasses the whole theme behind Nemesis’ character (beautiful but deadly). ARGH! I absolutely loved it. Finally I picked it up a few weeks ago, and FINALLY got around to reading it. Boy, I’m glad I did!

I loved absolutely everything about this novel. I’m not sure if there was anything I actually disliked at all. Just the sheer scope of Nemesis’ story that S J Kincaid covers within this beauty is just astounding, and there wasn’t anything to leave me unsatisfied.

I loved Nemesis as a character! She was really likeable to follow, and her character arc was superb. I loved the transition from this deadly living weapon to someone who wasn’t sure how to deal with all of her emotions as they started developing. We see such a huge change in her as a character throughout this novel as she goes through so much in this narrative. No more had you settled with one plot twist that changed her whole world, than Kincaid introduced another one that completely threw her back to square one. So many brilliant plot twists!!

The plot was completely water tight. First we see Nemesis in her natural habitat with Sidonia, the human she’s been bonded to so that she’ll protect her. I loved this concept, and Sidonia’s alternative perception on how Nemesis was a human in her own right was really endearing, and gave a wonderful insight into this beautiful world that Kincaid had created. Then Nemesis is thrown completely out of her depth when she has to pose as Sidonia in the galactic emperor’s court in order to save her life. Watching Nemesis take all that came at her head on was truly lovely to see, and I couldn’t help but love her strong character. This plot had me sobbing at many a plot twist, and I am so glad that I picked it up. You never got bored because Kincaid had thrown us into another section of the plot just as you soaked in the details of the last plot point. The pacing was done really well to boot, so you were never bored, and Kincaid always kept you guessing as to what was going to happen next. I just really bloody loved it!

One thing that Kincaid absolutely excelled at with this novel was the world building. She’d put so much thought into how everything fit together – all the out of date futuristic science, the new Helionistic religion, the new etiquette that we learnt about through Nemesis’ lack of knowledge… Everything had been so well thought through, but it didn’t feel like you were having loads of sci-fi shoved down your throat. It was brilliantly done, and due to Kincaid’s wonderful pacing it was drip fed to you throughout the whole novel.

I loved how Kincaid portrayed the romance, too. What I really really loved was Nemesis was without a doubt a deadly character that could kill someone with ease – and even when she did discover she had emotions and could very easily fall in love with someone (much to her confusion), she didn’t become the simpering idiot that most female characters do in romance novels. PLUS (if you regularly read my blog posts you know what I’m about to say) it wasn’t all about the romance!!! Which was absolutely bloody marvellous because it didn’t become the main focus of the whole plot (until a little bit at the end but because this was such an awesome book I can forgive it) and didn’t detract from the enjoyment of the overall narrative because Kincaid had put so much effort into building the story up. That ending was so heartbreaking – Kincaid kept you hanging on until right at the last minute and I was so goddamn happy with how she ended the novel!!

As you can probably tell, I absolutely bloody loved this novel. It’s getting a well deserved 5/5, and for damn good reason. This makes a wonderful standalone novel, but you have no idea how happy I was when I looked it up afterwards and found out there’s a sequel coming out next month. I literally cannot tell you how much I love this novel!!

 

 

http://sjkincaid.com

@SJKincaidBooks

‘Th1rteen R3asons Why’ Review

‘Th1rteen R3asons Why’ Review

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After watching the Netflix adaptation earlier this year, I was interested to read Jay Asher’s novel because if there’s one thing I really love, it’s adaptation. Just as in the Netflix series, Asher’s novel follows the character Clay Jensen after he discovers some tapes left on his doorstep which appear to be from Hannah Baker – a girl from his class who has recently committed suicide. On these tapes she details why she committed suicide, and that if you were listening to the tapes you were one of the reasons why.

I loved the Netflix series. It was compulsive watching for me: it hooked me right in with the whole concept, lulled a little in the middle, and then went full throttle when it got to that end point. I loved it, and after reading the novel it was based on I’m really craving watching to watch it all over again to see the comparisons between them.

Asher throws you right into the action – when Clay discovers the tapes on his doorstep. One thing I really loved, was the adaptation used pretty much the same opening dialogue that Hannah uses in the novel. I could picture the adaptation so clearly in my head throughout most of the novel because of how similar Hannah’s dialogue was – it was so damn gripping! A stylistic point of view that I absolutely adored were the play, pause, and stop symbols that were used to break up the sections of the narrative in relation to Hannah’s tapes. Both that and the interspersed interjections from Clay broke the novel up into easy digestible chunks, so I didn’t realise how much I’d read until I’d finished the chapter.

Clay is such a cute protagonist – as much as he’s trying to listen to what Hannah’s saying, he’s hurt that she could blame him for her death. One thing that did annoy me was the overshadowing of victim blaming that came from the various character’s attitudes, even Clay at points. It was almost accusing Hannah of not reaching out enough – which reminded me of what I’ve heard people say about the adaptation in relation to victim blaming. You never know what someone else is going through.

The pacing was brilliant – even though I’d watched the series adaptation and felt that there was a lull in the middle episodes, that didn’t faze me about the novel. There didn’t seem to be the same slow pace – every chapter moved smoothly into the next, a true testament to Asher’s skill as a writer.

I’m not sure if I would have loved this novel as much if I’d read it before watching the series, as parts of the filler stuff that was included in the adaptation filled in some of the background of the novel that I might have questioned had I not seen it. I might have said that some of the characters weren’t as fleshed out as they could be, though we are only seeing them through Hannah’s narrative. Her bias would cloud them, and paint them with the vicious reality that she would have seen them with.

I don’t know if I’d have been as satisfied with the ending either – it was abrupt in a sense, though you couldn’t miss the comparison between Skye’s character and Hannah’s. Almost as if the novel had come full circle, and that Clay had realised if he had also reached out to Hannah sooner, she might still have been alive. It was a beautiful comment on being caring for others, and to try and think about what other people might be going through.

I really loved this novel – it was really beautiful, and I especially loved how Asher played with form. The use of italics to showcase Hannah’s narrative as different from Clay’s was brilliant. Overall, I would give this novel a 5/5, and it’s not hard to see why this has become a cult classic.

 

http://www.thirteenreasonswhy.com/

@jayasherguy