Book Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets of the Universe

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I just put down Aristotle & Dante after reading the last page and am I speechless. I have absolutely no clue how I haven’t read this beautiful book before now. It’s a book that’s always been in the back of my radar, one I always meant to read but was never at the top of my list. Well, it should’ve been. Why did it take me so long?? Whatever the case, I’ve  finally read it and I loved every minute of doing so.

Aristotle & Dante is unlike any book you will ever read. I promise you that. It’s wonderful, it really is. Ari is a complex character that you just root for the whole way through. Dante is extraordinary. Their friendship and the lessons they learn together are so precious. Both Ari’s and Dante’s parents are wonderful. All the characters will make you feel everything, from heartbreak to happiness.

This is a story about loneliness and searching for answers. It’s about not knowing who you are and having to work hard to find out. It’s about letting what’s inside you come out, letting yourself talk to the people who want to listen. It’s about the best and the worst parts of the world. It’s about how important every human and animal on earth is. It’s about the fragility of everything. And it’s about having the strength not to run away. from what you’re afraid of.

And it’s about so much more than all that. I can’t even.

I absolutely loved reading this book and applaud Benjamin Alire Saenz on his profound way of portraying life through the eyes of a teenage boy struggling with his own existence in the universe.

If you’ve put of reading this book like I did, don’t any longer. It’s incredible and I promise you that you will love it. I’m rubbish at writing a good review that doesn’t blab away the whole story, but I hope if you read this that you at least consider picking this book up. You won’t regret it 🙂

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EDIT: Just discovered there will be a sequel called There Will Be Other Summers AND I AM BEYOND EXCITED!

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Book Review: The Hate U Give

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I have so much respect for Angie Thomas and the strength it must have taken to write this book. The Hate U Give is the most important and relevant book I’ve read this year, and I’m so pleased it’s getting such well-deserved praise and hype. As a white person, I’m so happy that I read it because it gave me really important insight into something I only knew so much about.

The story revolves around Starr Carter, a teenager who lives in Garden Heights (a black neighbourhood in which poverty, crime and gangs are high) and goes to a predominately white-kid school. Starr witnesses her friend Khalil being fatally shot by a policeman, he was unarmed and didn’t do anything wrong. Soon after her neighbourhood is overwhelmed by riots and violence, in which she and her family get caught up. The novel is an enthralling mix of anger, love and fighting for justice. Starr has to decide if she can speak up for Khalil’s life, the life so unfairly taken from him. She was a really interesting character, especially in the way she presented herself differently in the eyes of either her white friends or “Ghetto” neighbourhood and family, and in how she dealt with witnessing her best friends death. Angie Thomas presents fascinating and honest insights into what it’s like to grow up as an African American in similar neighbourhoods to Garden Heights, common white perspectives and, most of all, the justice any of us should want for lives taken so wrongly, wastefully and unnecessarily.

I will tell anyone and everyone to read this book. Whether you’re black, white, yellow. We’re all human and we must fight what’s happening in this world, this world that should have “progressed” more than it has. Black Lives Matter. Every single life matters, but too often, as Angie Thomas writes, people including Emmett Till, Oscar Grant and Trayvon Martin (it kills me how many more people there are) are thrown aside like they don’t matter at all. This is why we have to continue to do the right thing and to speak up against those who are way behind where the rest of us are. Even if that’s just reading this book and talking about it.

 

Book Review: Anything That Isn’t This

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Chris Priestly’s Anything That Isn’t This is one of the strangest, weirdest, bleakest books I’ve ever read and I absolutely loved it. I’m aware that I may be in the minority or at least on one side, as I’ve noticed from reading some reviews that at least half of readers either didn’t like this book or thought it was merely average. Whatever their reasons, I don’t agree with them. This is my kind of book. It’s quirky, strange, wonderfully grim and still, at the end of it all, hopeful.

The book is about Frank, who lives in this boring old town that suffers (although much of the people just go on with life in complete denial) from the overbearing presence of The Grey, which is basically the awful government in power in this alternative reality world. Frank lives at home with his parents and The Student, one of the many workers in this Grey world that are there to observe and record the behaviours and actions of the families. The Grey dictates many things, including the destruction of books through cutting out the last 25 pages of every book so as to ruin the reading experience, the entertainment the populace are allowed to enjoy, the celebrations of war-time heroes and the fact that the only thing anyone could possibly do to earn a living is work at The Ministry doing tireless, repetitive and “important” jobs. 

I found all of this, the way The Grey shadows everything and the way the whole political system works and adds to the setting of the novel, extremely interesting. I can see how other readers might’ve found it all a bit confusing and ambiguous, but that’s only because there’s very little spoon feeding of explanations or information. You have to read into the story to figure out what exactly is going on, and by the end of the novel, you’ll get it. I like that Priestly didn’t spend a chapter explaining the world or the history in that boring HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TO UNDERSTAND, DUMMY kind of way. Instead, he just takes you straight into Frank’s world as it is and you have to work a little harder to get it. And that’s what makes it a really good story and a really good piece of writing.

Frank himself is pretty gloomy and annoyed at the world. So, yeah, it’s a bit of a glum novel. But, to me, it’s glum in a way that is true to the setting and the characters and the general feeling of the story. Not once did I think something like ‘Oh, Frank, get over it’ because I thought he had every reason to moan and groan. And in saying that, the novel as a whole is not a gloom fest. I found Priestly’s writing style so good that I was constantly amazed by the way he told the story and the way he made me laugh, often even during the gloomy parts.

I like Frank and I also like a few of the other characters, even some that I didn’t really expect to like. I wholeheartedly dislike one female character in particular for reasons that should be obvious to anyone who reads this book. Gosh, she was awful.

I really like the story and I really like how it all turns out for Frank. The plot is kind of hard to explain in a way that doesn’t give away what happens, but expect romance, heartbreak, violence and mystery alongside the theme that constructs the whole novel, the desire for something more.

Of course, I can’t say that is is a perfect novel. There were some things that felt rushed or too slow going in the story for me, but that’s a minor negative to this novel. I think it’s pretty brilliant and that it’s certainly a novel I won’t forget about any time soon.

Book Review: The Museum of Heartbreak

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The Museum of Heartbreak was a pleasant surprise. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it nearly as much as I did, nor to read it quite as quickly as I did (it’s only a short novel, but I read it in a day). It was a really entertaining and relatable read. It made me laugh, made me think back to my high school days and made me wish I had a friend like Penelope.

The book is about Penelope, who creates her own personal Museum of Heartbreak when she experiences heartbreak for the first time. And not in the way you’d first think! (Although who she gets heartbroken over is pretty predictable, but in the best way predictable can be!). The whole concept is so creative and works so well as the backbone for the story as a whole. I love the collection of objects that are part of the museum and how they start each chapter. Brilliant! The meaning of the novel is wonderful and important, and I loved it because I know that we’ve all felt the things Penelope does in our lives. We’ve all been there.

Penelope is one of the best YA Contemporary heroines I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading about. I think she’s wonderful. Hilarious, honest, quirky and just someone I know I’d get along with so well. She believes in true love, she loves reading and writing and she loves dinosaurs (among many other wonderful things). She’s great. Definitely the highlight of the novel. Without her as the main character, I wouldn’t have liked the novel nearly as much. Even if one of her best guy friends Eph had still been in it. And he was pretty wonderful 🙂 There are a number of great characters in this novel, and there are also a few characters that we’re meant to flat out hate. If you read it, you’ll know exactly who they are. I think I’m in the small percentage of people, however, that didn’t really like Pen’s other best friend, Audrey.

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. It was smart and entertaining. There were some things I didn’t like about it, but such things I can’t mention without being spoilery, but I will say it has everything to do with Pen’s falling in love with a certain douchebag. I just didn’t get why she liked him from the start…but sometimes we’re all blind when it comes to those things.

But, really. When a book has an awesome Buffy conversation at the start and talks about dinosaurs a lot, how can I not like it? I definitely recommend this novel to those of you who enjoy relatable high school tales about true friendship, love and life museums.

Book Review: The Girl From Everywhere

The Girl From Everywhere was a very promising book in the beginning. The opening was strong, as were the introductions to the characters, especially Nix, her father Slate (the Captain) and her best friend Kashmir. These three characters are brilliant throughout the story, and I think it’s worth reading just to see how their characters develop as part of the plot. Heidi Heilig is definitely an interesting writer, and there were some lines and descriptions that hit me in a wow way.

The overall concept of the story is really cool. Nix’s father is able to Navigate through time on their ship The Temptation using maps created or dated in that time, and he’s desperate to go back to 1886 to save Nix’s mother, who died shortly after Nix was born. The problem with this is it could ultimately mean Nix would cease to exist. So, really, a large chunk of the book is asking, will Slate choose the lover he lost or the daughter he gained?

I really liked the characters, the overall concept and how the story was written in general. However, while I was really enjoying reading the book up until the halfway/last quarter point, keenly wondering how it would end, there were a lot of things that just didn’t work for me in the book and the ending was a disappointment. Not so much what happened in the ending, but more how it all happened.

Unfortunately, this is another novel that, for me, started really well and then just fell apart nearing the end. It was another novel that just felt as though it went all over the place and rushed. I hate it when novels feel like they’re rushed. It means loosing so much of the story and it just turns into something really anti-climatic. I think I would easily have liked this novel a lot more had it been longer, had there been just a bit more…

There were also some plot developments and particular characters I just didn’t like. I can’t really go into that without giving things away, but I suppose it’s largely to do with Nix and the two male companions of hers. One in particular I didn’t like. While Nix wasn’t much like many other girls in YA novels who can’t pick between her suitors, and I say kudos to that, I still didn’t really like her relationship with one of the guys. It just didn’t work for me, mainly because I just found him so annoying… Man, it’s hard to write a review without being spoilery! I think I just felt like that particular storyline did nothing for the story as a whole, and that there was no real conclusion about Nix’s feelings for both of the guys… it kind of just dwindled, much like the last quarter of the book.

So, all considered, this book wasn’t bad. I enjoyed a chunk of it, and didn’t really enjoy another chunk of it. It had so much potential, but when it came down to it, it just didn’t stick. A shame, really! Because it could’ve been a really brilliant book. But, still, I think it’s good for a time travel adventure novel and quite possibly other readers would like it much more than I did.

2-starsstar-147897_640

All The Birds In The Sky: Book Review

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I read this book because my boyfriend had bought it purely based on the cover, which is so, so pretty! If this book was in a competition for most beautiful cover, I’d definitely vote for it! It gets full marks for that. But this isn’t a review about the cover alone, so I will now move on to talk about the book itself.

Now, I liked this book. That’s the simple response.

The main reason I liked it was because it was so different to anything I’ve ever read before. It was weird in the best way possible and wonderfully quirky. Charlie Jane Anders is an incredibly unique writer and I really enjoyed the way she portrayed the plot, characters and themes in the novel. It was so charming and hilarious and, in a weird way, the book was like a friend I’d like to have.

I’ll tell you a little about the plot: It’s basically a story about a friendship between a witch named Patricia and a scientist named Laurence and what happens to them as their conflicting careers battle it out at the end of the world. The book is largely about their friendship, starting from when they were children and going into adulthood. However, it’s also largely about their characters as individuals, which I really liked as I thought they were fascinating. Especially Patricia. It was really enjoyable to read about what happened to them and how they developed as people, and also as witches/scientists throughout their lives. The plot is also a lot of fun and a really great read. Overall, I really enjoyed the whole concept of the novel. It was very, very clever.

However, there are a few things that dropped my rating of this novel down a whole star. Up until about two thirds of the way through the novel, I was pretty sure I’d be giving it a 4/5. But, somewhere in the last third of the novel, things got a little odd. It didn’t feel like the story was flowing as well as it had the rest of the novel. It felt like I was missing a lot of story, that it was kind of rushed. A hell of a lot happened in a short amount of time, and I think that just disconcerted me.

Along with all of that, there’s one scene that I just didn’t like and made me all squeamish. I don’t know if that might just be me and my preference to what I want to read when it comes to particular activities that adults get up to (if you know what I mean) or if it was because, even though this isn’t a YA book, it had felt like one up until this particular scene. Maybe there was a weird genre mash that just didn’t compute to me. Whatever the reason, it changed my mind about the book and from that point I was a bit disappointed by it and certainly not in love with it anymore.

However, there were still so many things I liked about this book. I think it’s definitely worth reading. It’s super interesting and the characters are depicted so well and are just great to follow around for the entirety of the story. Apart from the few misgivings I had towards the end, I enjoyed this book quite a bit and think you should pick it up if you’d enjoy a story about friendship, romance, family, magic, science and the end of the world. All The Birds In The Sky will make you feel a lot of things, that I can guarantee :).

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The Raven King: Book Review

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I was pretty excited to read this book and find out how it all ends for Blue, Gansy, Ronan, Noah and Adam. I read the first three books of The Raven Cycle pretty much one after the other last year and enjoyed them a lot, especially the first two. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy this one nearly as much. I don’t know if that’s because I’d moved on from Cabeswater in the last year, which could easily be the case. But I also have a suspicion that it’s because a lot of things just didn’t sit right with me this time around, and this is the main problem I had:

It didn’t feel like a finale to me. It felt…slow. It felt like nothing really happened until the last quarter of the novel. It felt like the characters (and thereby the story) was kind of just…dawdling. Dawdling along to fill in the time until we would find out what happened in the end. It confused me. The characters and the story just didn’t fit together as well as they had in previous novels. It was like they just weren’t talking to each other. There was, a times, this strange, disconnected vibe. Not just between the characters themselves, but also, I guess, between myself and the story.

I’m probably not really explaining this really well.

Basically, the novel wasn’t the exciting finale I was expecting. It felt mainly like filler and unfortunately this meant that by the time I reached the ending, it was simply just anti-climatic to me. A little disappointing.

Having said all of this, there were some things I quite enjoyed about this book. I like Maggie Stiefvater’s witty and unique way of writing. Her snarky style had me giggling a fair few times. I enjoyed the banter between the characters, and the group interactions were nice when we did get them. There were some particular developments I liked (not that I can mention them because of spoilers), even if some were a little predictable. I quite liked Henry, which I hadn’t expected. As always, I really liked Blue’s interaction with her family. And the magical, often dark, element of the book was really good.

I read this novel half-entertained and half-confused/bored. It was an odd reading experience. It’s a shame I didn’t like it as much as did the others. I’m sure there are a lot of fans who really enjoyed this book, as I can see why some people would enjoy it. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t anything special to me.

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Read my review on the first three books of The Raven Cycle here.

Have you read The Raven King or the prequels? What did you think of it? 🙂