A lot has been said and written about "The Fault In Our Stars", and when you're on tumblr, you can't help but be bombarded with quotes and images andA lot has been said and written about "The Fault In Our Stars", and when you're on tumblr, you can't help but be bombarded with quotes and images and fanart and whatnot.
Finally I've given in and read it, and I've discovered that John Green may well be a second David Mitchell for me. In that I loved the story and admire the ideas behind it, but had a hard time with the writing. I hope that I'm wrong and it will work better with the next John Green I'll be reading, but for this one I had a really tough time at the start, getting into the language. (There are bonus points available though - unlike a David Mitchell novel, I actually finished this.)
Bonus points also for making me cry, and for daring to adress the issues that were raised here. Even if I hadn't liked this, I still would have been glad that such a thought-provoking (and life-loving) book has been getting so much attention. Points deducted though for not being helpful with my eternal problem - loving a side character much much more than the main character. (Yes, we're talking about Isaac here.)
If you follow YA or contemporary fiction at all, go and read this, you will have to at one point or another anyway. The good thing is, it's a relatively quick read and you won't regret it. (Have a handkerchief on standby though.)...more
There aren't many things I dislike as much as discovering a new favourite in a book that isn't already on my shelves. Because I know I'll have to retuThere aren't many things I dislike as much as discovering a new favourite in a book that isn't already on my shelves. Because I know I'll have to return it, and I'd rather not do so until I own it myself.
"Once On A Moonless Night" is such a book. If you're into fast-moving plots and suspense, this is not for you. It is quiet and poetical, and even during dramatic moments, there is a sense of the inevitable that pulls you through and lets you look beyond day-to-day grievances.
There is an overarching romance, and yes, even a mystery plot about an ancient scroll, but really for someone not from China it is a great exploration of culture and of a different sense of being. There are better stories out there for taking you on a wild romp, but very few that can capture the same quality and will make you savour the ride as much.
The best advice I can give you is to read this for the writing or, even more so, for the feeling of reading it. And take your time to do so. (And don't borrow it, otherwise you might be as frustrated as I am.)
"Calligraphy may well be simply an artistic version of another form, that is the ideograms which make up the poem, but then not only does it reflect the character and temperament of the artist but . . . also betrays his heart rate, his breathing."
I couldn't decide between three and four stars. In the end, what I wanted out of this book was a cozy Christmas read, and that's exactly what I got, sI couldn't decide between three and four stars. In the end, what I wanted out of this book was a cozy Christmas read, and that's exactly what I got, so I decided to overlook the shortcomings a bit :).
The story is quite predictable for the most part (which isn't a bad thing when it comes to me and romances, otherwise I'd be sure to root for the wrong pairing). I haven't read any of the other books in the series (and I probably won't), and so I had no previous knowledge about any of the other couples. Considering the fluff happening here though, I can guess at their backstory, and I didn't feel like I missed any information that would have made me understand anything better.
The characters are charming, if a *little* too talkative for my liking; indeed there is a lot of talking over acting going on here. Add to that the fact that our male main character is a minister who loves his sermons (and his praise of God), and you get the idea of how this book feels :). Nevertheless, it was charming enough, I got a romantic ending and I was spared the "dark secrets" promised on the back blurb (or my definition of dark is different to the publisher's). And I needed a comfort read and that was it.
I still prefer looking at his paintings though....more
Having bought the book for the retelling of "The Beauty and the Beast", I was very pleasantly surprised with the Dystopian setting. I do have a thingHaving bought the book for the retelling of "The Beauty and the Beast", I was very pleasantly surprised with the Dystopian setting. I do have a thing for Dystopia, and somehow even more so when it comes in unexpected guises.
"Of Beast and Beauty" comes with original ideas (Can I just say that I love how the rose was used in this version?), great writing and a (relatively) fast-paced plot, so the read was over much quicker than I anticipated.
I loved Isra's voice, I loved the other voice, I just had some trouble with Gem. He feels much younger than he is supposed to be, especially considering his background. I had to remind myself sometimes how much he had been through, because he seems a bit child-like at times. Nevertheless, this is a great pairing (and no doubt who is the decisive one in this), and I kept rooting for it until the end, which is all I ask of a romance novel :).
The setting and style of writing keep "Of Beast and Beauty" a notch above almost all other retellings - except for For Darkness Shows the Stars. Hence it's 4.5 stars, and I'm a bit undecided. Feeling generous though, and I will definitely read the next thing Stacey Jay writes, so there we go. 5 stars. ...more
Short English review: Retelling of Rumpelstiltskin in the modern world. Category: totally underrated German books. Nice story, great writing.
---------Short English review: Retelling of Rumpelstiltskin in the modern world. Category: totally underrated German books. Nice story, great writing.
------------ Ich bin irgendwann mal im Buchladen über dieses Buch gestolpert und weiß gar nicht mehr genau, warum ich es eigentlich mitgenommen habe. Wegen dem Cover sicher nicht, denn das ist zwar schick, aber auch unglaublich nichtssagend. Dann stand es ein ganzes Weilchen bei mir im Regal herum, wie es Bücher eben so tun, bei denen ich mir nicht so ganz sicher bin. Bei einer Umräumaktion (okay, bei einer Wir-fangen-eine-zweite-Reihe-im-Regal-an - Aktion) ist es mir dann wieder in die Hände gefallen, und ich hab dann doch einmal den Text auf der Rückseite gelesen. 'Hmm, Rumpelstilzchen, interessant', dachte ich, und ließ es in der ersten Reihe stehen, ohne mich weiter damit zu beschäftigen. Irgendwann hatte ich dann einmal Langeweile und hab es doch mal aufgeklappt - und mich sofort verliebt.
Ganz ehrlich, das war mieses Marketing wenn ich jemals welches gesehen habe, denn dieses Buch ist echt toll. Vielleicht nicht für jedermann, aber für junge Erwachsene, die einen Hang zur Nacherzählung von Märchen haben (und davon gibt es wirklich viele), ist "Der geheime Name" genau das Richtige. (Für meine Oma auch, also spielt das Alter scheinbar keine Rolle.)
Es gibt kein riesiges Sortiment an Charakteren, aber das braucht es auch nicht. Fina, unsere Protagonistin, ist frisch und lebendig genug, um den Leser in die Geschichte hineinzuziehen, und ihr männlicher Gegenpart ist ebenfalls interessant, wenn auch zu Beginn recht ungewöhnlich. Der teilweise recht ruhige Stil passt sehr gut zur Moorlandschaft, und wie man über einen stillen Sumpf schaut und bei jeder Luftblase zusammenzuckt, so wartet man auch hier immer gespannt auf die Katastrophe, die bestimmt schon hinter dem nächsten Gestrüpp lauert. Die Beschreibungen lassen das Moor lebendig werden, und auch wenn das nicht immer unbedingt erwünscht ist (gerade wenn man wie ich nachts um drei darüber liest und ohnehin schon Geisterstunde herrscht), kann man sehr gut mit Fina mitfühlen.
Das Ende ist schön abgeschlossen (endlich mal ein Einzelband), auch wenn es mich ein wenig betrübt, dass ich noch nichts Neues von der Autorin gesehen habe. Oh, und ich habe eigentlich mal auf eine Geschichte gehofft, in der es Rumpelstilzchen gut geht, aber ich bin mit dieser Variante auch zufrieden (und das sagt schon einiges).
Oh, und das Marketing war ***. Aber das sagte ich ja schon....more
There is something to be said for going into a book with the right expectations.
Do you expect a hidden gem of literary fiction, teaching you somethinThere is something to be said for going into a book with the right expectations.
Do you expect a hidden gem of literary fiction, teaching you something about how and what the human mind chooses to remember, because that's what the book description promises you? You'll be disappointed.
Do you expect a light read for a sunday afternoon, one that will touch you and one that might just make you think about certain things? You're in luck.
We see a little bit of magic (if you want to call it that), and we take some detours into the past, but mostly this story is about a young woman remembering her grandmother. You'll get a lot of names thrown at you in the beginning - ignore them and focus on Iris. Enter her past with her, and remember your own childhood. This is what works best in this book - the small moments that will stay with you. The mystery from the past is not quite as gripping as one might hope, and Iris isn't compelling enough as a character to really move the story forward, but like life, some small moments will stand out for you. And of course there is the house and the world around it, which is a lovely place to stay while you're reading. I'd keep it :).
All in all, this is a light read with some flaws, and I would not advocate going into it with high expectations. Leave yourself room to be surprised. Story-wise, it's four stars. For me, it probably sits at three stars, because I constantly kept thinking about how I would have written some scenes instead. That is good for my own writing, but it distracted me from reading.
With some books published thirty years or more ago, I need to find a quiet hour to really be able to get into the narrative style and the language. NoWith some books published thirty years or more ago, I need to find a quiet hour to really be able to get into the narrative style and the language. Not so with "A Separate Peace", I found my way in quite easily.
I wasn't too sure about the YA sorting to begin with because the theme seemed to say "literary fiction", but it feels like a YA book would. There are dozens of memorable quotes, and the theme is as dark as I'd feared, but it wasn't as heavy-handed as I'd expected. Gene has his own motivations and a shedload of problems that go beyond the main plot of the book, and he has that special sense of absolute conviction in his beliefs that makes me detest someone very quickly. His friend Phineas is little better though (even though the first person narration makes it difficult to really see what he is about), so he has probably found his match.
Since I didn't like the characters all that much, my enjoyment depended on either the writing or the plot, preferably both. Plot-wise ... well, there are trainwrecks with a more interesting ruin, let's put it that way. There's certainly a sense of the inevitable, which I liked, because it made me turn the pages, but the unfulfilling ending threw me off a bit and resulted in the loss of a star. The language fulfilled the cover's promises though, so while I would place this on the lower end of the four-star spectrum, I don't regret reading it. And I'll leave you with a few memorable quotes to give you a taste.
"I felt that I was not, never had been and never would be a living part of this overpoweringly solid and deeply meaningful world around me."
"I spent as much time is I could alone in my room, trying to empty my mind of everything, to forget where I was, even who I was."
"Everyone has a moment in history which belongs particularly to him."
I'm not really searching for books with a religious subject, but somehow they seem to find me. Most of the time though, they put me off because they'rI'm not really searching for books with a religious subject, but somehow they seem to find me. Most of the time though, they put me off because they're either preachy or are showing only the negative side of the religion they're portraying. "The Land of Decoration" does none of these things. Religion is only one of its aspects, and although it plays a central role, this book is also about imagination, about family and about seeking relief from the daily struggles.
Our main character, Judith, is just ten years old (which makes for relatively short and easy sentences), but she's also very complex and sometimes it's hard to follow her thoughts even if you'd thought of yourself as quite a creative person. Whether you see the voice in Judith's head as a religious figure, as a magical element or even as just a stylistic choice to visualize her internal struggles, it is interesting to see her "relationship" with it/him/?. I think this is one of the books where everyone reading it can have a different experience depending on the way they're reading it, and this makes the book pretty exciting. In contrast to Judith's inner life I was also gripped by what's happening around her. She's small and vulnerable, and she goes through the world with a filter that highlights the harshness of her reality.
In the end, Judith's childish voice takes away some of the explanations you might have gotten otherwise, and I think I like that. (Not too sure about that though.) This is one of the books where the journey to the end is more important than the actual resolution, and I'm quite happy that I decided to take the trip....more
This book is one that I've probably enjoyed more than I would have done under different circumstances. As it was, it had winked at me from the shelvesThis book is one that I've probably enjoyed more than I would have done under different circumstances. As it was, it had winked at me from the shelves in my nearest bookshop, I quite liked the cover and the feel of it (courtesy of greenpenguin.co.uk), I had bought it to reward myself for cleaning out books I disliked, and I was itnerested in the subject, so I was predestined to like it.
Had this book been on any other subject, my rating would probably have gone down, because that book deserved another edit or two before publication. (Read: The beginning and the end, to be precise. Warning: Rant ahead.) The beginning feels completely off, although I managed to read over that because I was all set to enjoy the book. There's a short account of the history of the city and the cathedral, and then an introduction of everyone who is important. All without giving any emotion, without explaining any connections, without offering the reader anything to sink his or her teeth into. To be absolutely honest, it feels like Salley Vickers did some research and some prewriting for the characters, and then dumped all that into the beginning of the book. Which isn't a bright idea, especially considering that the writing gets way better after that - at a point where quite a few readers might have already put the book aside.
Once I got over that part, the book improved - I was interested in the stories, I was invested in the characters. It's nowhere near as epic as The Pillars of the Earth, but it doesn't need to be. There's a lot more research hidden in the depths of the writing (which again highlights the redundance of the beginning), and the characters, especially the Professor for whom I have a thing, gain a lot more depth than I would have thought possible over such a short amount of time. The cathedral and the town came alive in my head, and that is something I want to get out of historical fiction. A feel and taste for the place and its inhabitants, a tiny bit of time travel in my mind. It's a great way to learn something, and to deepen an understanding of a culture, and Salley Vickers does a brilliant job of it.
Then there comes the ending, which is quite good I think. Then there comes an afterword to the ending, and I could rant about that the same as I ranted about the beginning. (I won't. You've had enough of that.)
So this is my suggestion for enhanced enjoyment of a deserving story: Read the book description. Skip the first chapter. Ignore the things after the end. Be grateful that I warned you :).
"The Man Who Rained" has been on my wishlist since I've finished The Girl With Glass Feet one and a half years ago. Since then I've reread Ali Smith's"The Man Who Rained" has been on my wishlist since I've finished The Girl With Glass Feet one and a half years ago. Since then I've reread Ali Smith's first book once, and thought about it countless times. I love mystical settings, and I can't begin to tell you how often I was tempted to dry to draw the images that popped up in my head. (Or to go out and take a photograph or two.)
"The Man Who Rained" worked even better for me, and I don't know whether this is because the author's writing got better or because I have an unhealthy obsession with the rain and so feel more at home in Thunderstown. Maybe both.
I loved Elsa because I could relate to her very well. And I loved Finn because he's Finn. I loved the small-town feeling and the weird characters that poped up here and there. I loved the descriptions and metaphors. And, contrary to the weird happenings in "The Girl with Glass Feet", I actually really liked the ending as well.
I can see myself dreaming about this book and its world again, and this alone warrants a spot on my list of favourites. (Also, I just really love the rain.) I highly doubt that there is a humungous amount of people that can't wait to read the next book Ali Smith writes, just because his style is very unique and it might not be for everyone, but I for one am glad to say that I am already anxious....more
Every now and then, I need to read a book to "recharge my batteries". I don't need to obsess over how amazing it is, it doesn't need to have a deeperEvery now and then, I need to read a book to "recharge my batteries". I don't need to obsess over how amazing it is, it doesn't need to have a deeper meaning and something to teach me, it doesn't even have to be all that exciting. I need it to be comforting, I need it to make me happy, and I need it to excite me about other books I could read (or write). "When Autumn Leaves" is absolutely perfect for that.
Autumn is the resident witch in Avening, a quiet town on the Pacific coast. When she gets ordered away, she needs to find a successor. She achieves this by testing several people and seeing the potential of magic in their lives.
Avening is a great setting for this story, even though I wish it could have been brought to life a little bit more. I like the feeling of American small towns, and it could have added even more to the magic. I love the host of characters we meet, this ensures that the book seems rather short and the reader doesn't get bored. Autumn herself is the least likeable of the characters, at least to me, because she tends to lecture the people around her and sprouts a lot of helpful phrases all the time, and I don't like people who tell me how to live my life. But her supporting cast is great, and we get a lot of glimpses that leave things open to the imagination.
There's a missing depth in characterization for almost anyone and I probably won't remember much of the plot in a few months' time. I don't think I'll read many other books by this author, but I had fun with this one, so I'll let it slide. (It's also a debut novel - I accept some beginner's mistakes with those.) Like I said - I needed something warm inbetween, and that was it.
There are a lot of books about WWII out there, and for quite some time now I have been wary of reading them. Sometimes because I tend to shy away fromThere are a lot of books about WWII out there, and for quite some time now I have been wary of reading them. Sometimes because I tend to shy away from authors writing about countries they don't know, sometimes because the story seems to be just too generic, sometimes even because, as important a subject as it is, you can discuss something too much. The premise of the book intrigued me, but I still had my doubts. I've not had many luck with "intriguing" books in the past. I finally caved in though, and now I'm glad that I did.
Like many others, the author has clearly done a lot of research, and if you want to learn about that period in history, the book works quite well. What sets this book apart though is the great focus. The story deals with two boys on a mission in besieged Leningrad, and anything else is mentioned in passing. This intense focus helps the reader to keep track of the story as well, even when something horrifying happens.
Lev and Kolya are great characters to spend time with, and while this book clearly details a part of the author's personal history, he manages to create believable boys (young men) with interesting character arcs. The fact that they're two boys growing up means that they're childish at times, ridiculous at times, flirtatious at times and usually quite energetic. This puts them in stark contrast to the harsh reality of their background.
Leningrad at this time was a city suffering from war and from having been besieged for a long time. Add to that the extreme Russian climate, and you get an idea of the circumstances in that place. David Benioff does a great job at describing the places he takes you to without judging or pointing a finger at someone. People suffering from the cold, dying from starvation, trying to protect their loved ones in an uncontrolled environment - and two young adults, searching for eggs and girls and everything else. This is a great mix, delicately handled, and I would recommend it whole-heartedly.
Thinking about what I liked about this books reminded me of another story in the Historical Fiction genre that I've read recently. It reminded me of TThinking about what I liked about this books reminded me of another story in the Historical Fiction genre that I've read recently. It reminded me of The Wilding (see my review). Luckily for Lawrence Norfolk, he's come up with a more interesting plot, but it still wasn't the most important thing that I will take from this book.
What I will take from "John Saturnall's Feast" are impressions of food. Lots of them. How it looked before the cook got it, how it was prepared, how it smelled, what its consistence was, in which dishes it was used. The descriptions of the foody things are extremely vivid here, and so you really, really should not read this while you're hungry or shortly before writing your shopping list.
The reader also gets to know the main character through his relationship with food, which is an interesting and surprisingly intimate way of doing it. Maybe this is not as compelling to someone who doesn't enjoy food as much, but while food is something almost everyone likes to talk about (my aunt especially, she can fill hour-long conversations on the topic), it is rare to see it described in quite such detail, and to have every part of the experience laid out in front of you.
Lawrence Norfolk doesn't just go a bit overboard with foody things, he's generally a quite descriptive writer. Cracking ice, intertwining tree branches, moonlight shining through curtains, you name it. I love it, because it gives me a sense of the world, and my mind goes off and creates its own stories around that while the plot is happening. This is something I love in a book. It is also something I have noticed that a lot of other readers don't like, so if you prefer a story that gets going quickly (or indeed at all), or you just need a bit more than the world itself, then you might want to read a few pages before you pick this up.
All in all, I really enjoyed it. I was initially expecting more magic - or rather, a different kind of magic. Because the world and the food are mystical in their own right, I just thought the story would be a bit different. No matter, I had fun, so there's the great rating :).
It sometimes surprises me what I remember about a book, a few days or weeks or maybe months after I've read it. In the best-case-scenario I obviouslyIt sometimes surprises me what I remember about a book, a few days or weeks or maybe months after I've read it. In the best-case-scenario I obviously remember basically everything. In the worst-case-scenario, I remember virtually nothing. And then there's three different possibilities for all the books in between.
I might remember the characters. Not here though, Jonathan is interesting and he fits well with his time, but I wouldn't want to spend too much time with him either. The rest of the cast is the same - they fit well into the time they live in, but I wouldn't use the term "lovable" for any of them.
I might remember the exciting story. Not for this one either. Although, in fact, the mystery surrounding Jonathan's uncle is interesting, and seeing him puzzle together the clues is kind of fun, even though you can guess ahead, but the resolution at the end is just a bit convoluted for my taste.
And then there's the third scenario - I remember what I felt like while reading it. I'll remember the images it created in my head. I don't have to love the characters for that. I don't have to find the story terribly interesting to do that. But that kind of book will stay with me the longest, and I will re-read it a lot.
Maria McCann does a great job of bringing her setting to life - I could taste the apples, smell the cider, see the horse pulling the press, feel the cold wind, ... , in short, I was there. Jonathan's contemplative mood and the author's unhurried style of writing works very well with this, and I though of riding in a cart to the harvest, working with the people on the fields and looking upon the lives of the rich people from afar.
I was tempted to give three stars just because of the frankly unfulfilling resolution to the story, but I've had a think, and considering the time I've already spent placing myself in this book, and considering the amount of re-reads that I already know I'll do - four stars it is.
I wasn't too sure about wanting to read the second book in the "Earth Girl" series. I'd loved Earth GiNote: Review contains spoilers about Earth Girl.
I wasn't too sure about wanting to read the second book in the "Earth Girl" series. I'd loved Earth Girl (see my review), and I've had quite a few series in the past where I'd loved the first books but not the follow-ups. Then came the pink cover and the aliens in the description, and I was even more sceptical. What I loved about Earth Girl was the history, the different cultures, Jarra's military "experiment". I was sure that this would be lost in the second book. And I was happy to see that I was wrong :).
There are some difficulties in the first chapter - mostly due to the most unfitting recaps since the explanation of Quidditch in every Harry Potter book, but once the story got going, that was out of the way. Jarra gets drafted into the military - and as it turns out, there are a lot of good reasons for her superiors to do so. Those lines on the book cover might tell you the usual thing about Jarra being the one and whatnot, but luckily there are really good explanations for why she is chosen to do what she has to do. That she then does a good job of it is another matter - I was afraid there would be no real reason for her to get the power that she does. There is.
There's also something missing that is currently used in basically every young adult trilogy - the third guy. Fian and Jarra are a couple with a load of problems, and they show us that they try to work through them as the adults they are becoming. Jarra's faced with a lot of new problems, some her own fault, some way out of her control, and once she opens up, she learns that she can rely on Fian and her ever-widening circle of friends and extended family. There's some side character development as well, though not as deep as Jarra's or Fian's.
In the last book I could really identify with Jarra - once I got over all the teen reactions and the hero worship of the hot dude -, this time I've found something where we differ. Jarra doesn't like maths or science. I do. And luckily for me, Fian knows something about this as well. And what with Jarra being interested in everthing about Fian, she listens to scientific conversations just because he takes part in them. She may not be fascinated by all that stuff, but I am, and I'm happy that it's all conceivable and doesn't sound fake to me.
We get to see more of the changes that have happened since our own time - Jarra gets to go around Earth, delves into abandoned projects and other people's perceptions. Thankfully there is no wonder cure (yet), so we can still explore society's reaction to Jarra and her handicap. I wonder about the next book though.
What with this being a trilogy, there is one thing I worry about, and that is the fact that I have yet to see a satisfying ending that doesn't leave out half of the interesting reactions to the previous climax. In the first book I just missed something, here I seriously thought the ending was quite abrupt - I wonder how it will work out in the third book, when there's no follow-up in which the author can show flashbacks to the previous book. But this is still a year away - in the meantime I'll enjoy re-reading the first two books and spending time communicating with aliens in my mind :).
Ever since I first heard of Hay-on-Wye (through Stephen Fry participating in the Hay Festival), I've decided that it is basically my hometown. The smaEver since I first heard of Hay-on-Wye (through Stephen Fry participating in the Hay Festival), I've decided that it is basically my hometown. The small-town flair. The lovely Welsh countryside with hills, rocks, fields, forests (see Brecon Beacons National Park). The BBC reception. Not to mention the BOOKSHOPS, ANTIQUARIATS and the HUGE LITERARY FESTIVAL.
Paul Collins, who might just be as much of a bibliophile as I am (or a tiny bit more), has decided that as well. Unlike me however, he had the means to go through with that decision, and move his household, wive and kid and all, from L.A. to Wales. (Smart man.)
He also has way more confidence than me, giving up everything with no backup plan, talking his publishers out of their much-loved money, and coming up with ways to make his dream work. I kept thinking that he would probably annoy me if I knew him, but his adventures make for an interesting read. And I hadn't planned on being friends anyhow, I'm way too jealous ;).
Despite being incredibly lucky and not all that grateful for it, Paul Collins is a brilliant writer who never fails to point out the most obscure and interesting details about anything he chooses to share. There's not much of a goal to this book, but it doesn't matter. It's easy to get lost in the anecdotes and start picturing them. And so you keep reading and hardly realize that you're moving closer to the end. For nonfiction without a plot or a real timeline, this is really unusual. (I say it has no plot. I realise you see him trying to buy a house for his family and getting to know the inhabitants, but that hardly counts as a gripping storyline, so I'm counting it as "no plot".)
Paul Collins is also a HUGE bibliophile, and an odd one at that. Books about toilets, books about birds, books about architecture, books about history, books about books - you name it, and he has probably read it. This makes for a hugely entertaining read, as he uses something he currently talks about to go off on a tangent about something amusing he read in a book somewhere.
If you love books and enjoy reading about them, this is a highly recommended read. There's nothing deep in here, and the author isn't the most likeable person in the world, but he's a great writer and you will enjoy spending time with him.
Even while I was reading "Howards End is on the Landing", I was wondering about how to review it in a way that would not come across as proud or bitteEven while I was reading "Howards End is on the Landing", I was wondering about how to review it in a way that would not come across as proud or bitter. Surely everyone's opinions on books are their own, and while there is a great deal of intolerance in the book, I should not want to repeat such a thing in my review.
Perhaps I had better start with a warning - Do not go into this book with the wrong expectations. I did, and I was really disappointed as a result. While titled "A year of reading from home", and while Susan Hill mentions every now and then that she truly undertook such an adventure, this is not a record of an entire year of reading. The premise might well have been for the author to take some time on a sunday afternoon to wander amongst her bookshelves and reflect upon their inhabitants. This is a book about Susan Hill's opinions about books - nothing more, nothing less. For a book about a year of reading, look towards Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading instead.
I have wondered a lot about what Susan Hill must have been like when she was younger, or even if she is different when she's in private, because you cannot really tell a lot about her from this work, except that she loves books, has a firm opinion on what it is exactly that you should love about them, and she has met a SHEDLOAD of writers (thankfully, she never boasts about it, but the sheer fact that she mentions this every other page or so leaves you with a bad taste for name-dropping). For someone as set against collecting books as she is, she sure collects a lot of encounters with famous people.
One thing I have to say is that you can probably pick up a book, ask Susan Hill if she likes it, and if she doesn't, give it to me as a present. She has a love for Virginia Woolf and her time period, in particular Mrs. Dalloway, admires thriller writers, poetry, plays and a lot (A LOT) of English authors as well. (And I use the term "English" on purpose). She rather likes Dickens, but of course has a strong dislike for David Copperfield. She doesn't have a lot of love for fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, travel writing or short stories, and rarely mentions authors that are from abroad or just at the beginning of their career. In fact, on more than one occasion I have taken note of an author she didn't quite like and whom I intend to try out for myself.
I can easily forgive Susan Hill for not sharing my taste in reading (this is to be expected, and citing William Trevor as a great writer has redeemed her somewhat in my opinion), but it is her insistence on her own opinion that bugs me the most and made this read quite difficult. In the beginning, her thoughts on books were quite charming -
"A book which is left on a shelf is a dead thing but it is also a chrysalis, an inanimate object packed with the potential to burst into new life."
- but as I got further into the book, the nicer quotes were sparse, and my distaste increased. And really, it can be summed up in one quote. Either she is not serious, and her humour is so well-hidden that it was impossible for me to spot. Or she is serious, in which casee it is just annoying. Either way, it will not make for more than two stars.
"I have found nine short-story anthologies of a mixed and general nature in the house and that is probably nine too many. Every compiler has their idiosyncrasies, every collection contains several stories whose inclusion I regard as totally unjustified, everybody choses the wrong story by X or fails to put in one by Y. They just make me cross. I will do much better myself. Will I ever write another short story myself? I wish I knew.
One thing that makes me happy about this quote is that I am starting my own time of reading from home, even if I will not last a year. But I am starting it with the last book I bought - The Penguin Book of Modern British Short Stories -, and I really look forward to it, even to the stories I won't enjoy as much....more
There is one thing you need to know about "Illuminate": It is long. Looong and slooow-moving. This is especially unfortunate considering the quite exteThere is one thing you need to know about "Illuminate": It is long. Looong and slooow-moving. This is especially unfortunate considering the quite extensive story part already revealed in the book description. ("Quite extensive" meaning "virtually everything".) It is still a great story with likeable characters, but there's not much that can surprise you when you've been told everything beforehand and are then "eased" into the story by endless descriptions.
Mind you, the descriptions and the pictures they're painting are great. I could see myself in the Lexington, and "Illuminate" will remain one of the few books I remember months or years ahead because I remember the scenery and try to fit it to a book. The setting is also quite original, a hotel in Jazz-age Chicago is a rare sight in fantasy novels. I can understand why Aimee Agresti wants to spend a lot of time with it, I just missed the action after a while.
Haven, our main character, is a bit too bland and too good for my taste, but then I just prefer characters with a darker side to them. Her supporting cast, especially the people at the hotel, are far more to my liking and at times I actually wanted to move in with them (or just with Lucian, to be precise). What was great as well was the social side. The author clearly knows her way around high society, and the scenes where Haven has to find her way among the socialites really intrigued me. The love story was not my thing, but I'm not an avid PNR reader anyway. I tend to pick the wrong pairings, even when the right pairing is blatantly obvious. Like here.
I'm wondering what the next books in the series will lead to, as there was a lot of dropping hints that are yet to be explored. I'll probably continue reading it, although I really do wish for a tighter edit. (And pictures! Somebody make this into a movie already, I want to see the hotel!)
There are kids' stories that work well for adults, and there are those that don't. And there's this one, which has a great storyline but is nearly unrThere are kids' stories that work well for adults, and there are those that don't. And there's this one, which has a great storyline but is nearly unreadable. It clearly hasn't been dumbed down - there's a complex story, the children have to work together to solve problems, and there are a lot of odd words. But the writing - with switches from past to present tense and back again, and with repetetive patterns - is not up to the task of transporting a great story. (On the plus-side, this probably makes it easier for pre-bedtime-reading.)
My issues with the writing made me a bit sad, because I liked the story in itself. The children may be a bit too nice and intelligent, the parents a bit too lax, but overall this is a great adventure. The setting is fun (carriages, petticoats and everything), and there's a sense of wonder around. There's even room for the sequel - Return to Finkleton. But I think I'll skip that....more
Earlier this montAfter falling in love with The Garden of Evening Mists last year, I just had to read "The Gift of Rain". And I was not disappointed.
Earlier this month, I've done an analysis of the books I like to read (which was really exhausting, and I don't recommend it unless you really have to for studying or writing purposes), and I learned that what I love most is a fluid, lyrical style of writing, and a powerful setting that shines through in every paragraph. And if there's something that Tan Twan Eng is absolutely brilliant at, it's these two things.
There is, of course, also the story itself. "The Gift of Rain" is less complex than "The Garden of Evening Mists", and I cannot decide whether that just makes it less convoluted (which is a good thing) or too straight forward. Then again, no matter how compelling the plot, with such slow prose you probably won't hasten through the book anyway. And you can learn a lot about Malay history and some customs (I know I did), so it serves well to savour it.
The characters are a bit reserved, and while I liked some of them, especially Michiko, others remained distant. I still enjoyed reading about them, but there was no sense of immersing yourself in a character like I do with other novels. It makes for an interesting reading experience, and one I've come to appreciate.
If you enjoy the same things that I do, this is the book for you. If not, you might look for something else because I feel that otherwise it will pass you by. I'll leave you with a quote, so you can decide for yourself if this tone is right for you.
"Memories - they are all the aged have. The young have hopes and dreams, while the old hold the remains of them in their hands and wonder what has happened to their lives. I looked back hard on my life that night, from the moments of my reckless youth, through the painful and tragic years of the war, to the solitary decades after. Yes, I could say that I had lived my life, if not to the full then at least almost to the brim. What more could one ask? Rare is the person whose life overflows. I have lived, I have travelled the world, and now, like a worn out clock, my life is winding down, the hands slowing, stepping out of the flow of time."
Have you read Etiquette & Espionage yet? No? Go read my review and then decide if you want to come back here. Yes? Did you enjoy it? Yes? Go read tHave you read Etiquette & Espionage yet? No? Go read my review and then decide if you want to come back here. Yes? Did you enjoy it? Yes? Go read this one, you will not be disappointed.
Sophronia is slowly growing up - or, at the very least, old enough now to shockingly discuss body parts a lady her age should not have any knowledge of. There's also her friend Soap, and her fr-enemy, Mister high-standing-and-annoyingly-arrogant. Luckily for the reader and unluckily for the boys however, Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing School is a bit behind schedule in the romance department. The second term education plan involves escaping in heels, conducting covert operations and finding out what exactly the teachers are playing at.
There are some new 'friends' (if you'd like to call them that), and the usual troubleshooters, and then there might be a face or two calling back to the Parasol Protectorate, which had me squeeing a bit. There's also excellent tea and excessive discussion of ballgowns, so there's something for everyone :).
As usual, Gail Carriger's writing style is highly entertaining, and the chapters pass by quickly, covered in intrigue and mystery. The final resolution happens a little fast and you are left wanting for more, but as this is also nothing unusual, you'll probably just raise your eyebrows, then shrug and order a nice parasol while you wait for Waistcoats & Weaponry....more
The reviewer of the Independent on Sunday asked "Who could be unmoved by a cast of characters whoseReview also appears at 238 books in 238 days. ------
The reviewer of the Independent on Sunday asked "Who could be unmoved by a cast of characters whose daily battles are etched on our mind in such diamond-cut prose?" Apparently the answer to that question is "me".
I wasn't just not moved, I was actually bored from page 1, because I didn't enjoy the writing at all. There are a lot of unnecessary complications, like half-finished sentences, or switching between narration, excerpts from other books and diary entries, or switching between a 1st and 3rd person POV. I'm not against experiments, but when they're all happening at once, it's a bit much. And I don't really think Nicole Krauss really needed them.
As for the characters, I didn't really care that much, except maybe for little Alma, whose "detective work" is quite interesting. As for learning about Poland - my initial goal -,this is not the right book for that purpose. I learned more about Polish forests than about the Polish identity, which would have been a fascinating subject.
The plot wasn't to my taste either, but that's because it felt like it was constructed to tell the story in a certain way. If you like a book where all things fit together like a puzzle in the end, this might be a good book for you. I on the other hand felt a bit empty at the end and with nothing left to think about. Everything had been taken care of. Not that I cared much in the first place.
What this book taught me is that it's no good to force yourself to read something I'm not all that interested in, and to trust my instincts a bit more. So, if you know any other book about Poland that I might enjoy, please leave a recommendation. Then I would have gotten something out of this. ...more
There is something I have to say before I start this so you'll be able to understand my annoyance witCrossposted to 238 books in 238 days. ------------
There is something I have to say before I start this so you'll be able to understand my annoyance with this book. I loved Victoria Hislop's short story "Aflame in Athens" for Ox-Tales: Fire (my review). And I'm nearly 100% sure that I will love her previous novel The Island, which deals with Greek history during the 1940s. This book however was really, really awful.
There are a lot of interesting things about Granada, about Flamenco and about the Spanish Civil War. We're talking about a city filled with life, a dance which expresses the deepest emotions and a time of unbelievable fear. So it is not a great sign that I was bored throughout the book. In most cases the descriptions lacked life and I saw the things happening before my eyes without being invested in them at all. After a while the descriptions also became repetitive. There is no need to mention the small streets in the Arabic quarter every time the discussion turns toward the Arabic quarter. Or to mention the fact that letters might be read by the wrong eyes and are coded and unreliable every time someone gets a letter. I might not be all that interested in the book but what few details are there I can remember. There were several chapters about the Civil War, where people discuss something, and you get a paragraph of historical details afterwards. I don't want that. I want to read the history as it happens. When someone stays for two months in a town afflicted by war, I want to see their dificult life, and not a discussion at the beginning of it, a discussion at the end of it, and two sentences about the war in the middle.
The book structure is rather odd as well. My edition has around 500 pages. We read about Sonia, her dysfunctional marriage and her dancing for the first 140 pages. Then someone tells Sonia a story, and while they change places over the course of the storytelling, there is basically no comment from Sonia's point of view. This story lasts until page 480. For the last twenty pages we wrap up the book and that was it. Besides being told that there is a connection (and to be honest, the last plot reveil was such a constructed thing, I just laughed out loud), I didn't feel anything. I do not pick up a book to read a story, then stop that story to read another one, and then finish the first story. Unfortunately (or fortunately), I've also just read a book where I could see how this story would have been if it had been told in a better way. Pascal Mercier's Night Train to Lisbon (review) tells more or less the same story based on Portuguese history. There are some differences, but the basic idea of the story is the same. Mercier took a completely different approach - his main character actively tried to find out what had happened; he had to discover the story bit by bit and earn his understanding. Sonia goes into a café, the waiter tells her what happened, she is moved. The reader isn't.
There is also the problem of characterisation. Sonia' selfishness was the first annoyance of this book, but by the end the other problems annoyed me even more, and by the end I couldn't even bring myself to care about her conflicting nature - or indeed, that of the other characters, because everyone stays two-dimensional.
Like I said - I was incredibly annoyed that I didn't like this, and I just hope I wasn't bitter. I can't promise it though....more
While I enjoyed reading this book, I enjoyed the ideas behind it way more, and the four stars are really a result of that. I'm beginning to think thatWhile I enjoyed reading this book, I enjoyed the ideas behind it way more, and the four stars are really a result of that. I'm beginning to think that I might love Neil Gaiman way more than I like his writing, which feels odd to me.
I have a sneaky feeling that this book might grow on me if I re-read it a lot, like with some songs on a record that you just listen to because you're too lazy to skip ahead to the ones you really like, and after a while you find yourself loving this one song the most. As such, it feels a bit wrong to actually write down what bogs me, but I'll try to nonetheless, and will probably add my changed opinion after a few re-reads.
One thing that bugged me is the writing. And it's not even that it isn't good (because it is brilliant), but because it didn't feel in any way special to me. (Maybe that's the special thing, I don't know. Maybe I expected magic and didn't get it.) There's also the problem I already had with Stardust - there are SO MANY ideas in this that I lost the plot sometimes, and my mind seems to go on strike if something feels a bit unbalanced. I can deal with unexplained magic, and unexplained science, and secrets, and phenomena - but not all of them together at once. Then again, I have gotten used to "Stardust" by now, because I know about the oddities ahead and they don't throw me as much.
I know this review is absolutely not helpful, but that is the best I can come up with right now. If you want to read it, go on and do so with an open mind and you might find something for yourself, but I can't rave about it. Not yet....more
I love books that are a bit outside of our usual genre classifications. "Marina" has been described as a lot of different things, and while "Gothic hoI love books that are a bit outside of our usual genre classifications. "Marina" has been described as a lot of different things, and while "Gothic horror" fits best, it was the author's love for Barcelona and for his characters that resonated the most.
Óscar is a lonely student who likes exploring the hidden parts of the city. The girl Marina becomes his guide to new adventures, and she and her father become his family. The dynamic between those three (and their adorable cat) is one of my favourite things in this book. After a while, Germán and Marina become like a family for the reader as well.
The mystery that Óscar wants to unravel leads him deep into an old, long forgotten part of Barcelona. The people he meets are from another time, living in their own stories and inviting him in only very reluctantly. All of them are great characters, all of them have some sort of wisdom to share, and all of them are a living proof of Marina's words. "We only remember that which has never happened."
There are passages where you are breathlessly following the action and are desparate to find out what will happen next. And there are passages that live through the beauty of the language. In most cases, such a passage will describe Barcelona. The city comes to life, and sometimes feels more real than the events that are taking place there.
When I cried during the last few chapters, it was only partly because of the story itself. My tears were also caused by the fact that I knew I would have to leave this magical world and its characters behind. And if I'm being honest, I envy those readers that still have the entire journey ahead of them.
There are two things I didn't know about "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children", when I first started reading it which would have been useful tThere are two things I didn't know about "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children", when I first started reading it which would have been useful to know.
#1: This is the first book in a series. And you can tell from the ending. You can tell fifty pages before the ending actually, when stuff just keeps piling up and there's no room to resolve all of it. That's what got me suspicious, and I wish I would have known that before I started because I was hoping for a standalone.
#2: There is a reason why Goodreads listed this as "Horror" alongside "Paranormal" and "Historical Fiction". I have nothing against mixed genre books, au contraire, but I like to know about it before I start reading. (And if there are usually only photographs next to the pages where said photographs are mentioned, I do NOT want to see a drawing of a monster five pages after it happened - when I've just gotten over the fact how horrific it was.)
It's not the author's fault that I didn't know, but I wished I'd known it, so I thought I'd better inform other potential readers.
As for the story itself, it was interesting (and a great read) but way too short. Protagonist Jacob barely has time to work through his moods (and he has a lot of them), so he seems like he is constantly redeciding his own path. This doesn't help you grow attached to the character, and it makes Jacob seem rather weak. Considering that this book only has 350 pages, with large print and a load of pictures, it could have been stretched out without being too long, to allow Jacob and the others room to grow. If he goes from seeing a monster to convincing himself that it was all in his imagination to "I have to travel to investigate what's happening" over the course of twenty pages or something, that is too fast. There are other characters with the same problem, but I don't want to spoil anything. The "love story" is too quick as well, especially considering all the problems that go with it. (In all honesty, if you want character building in such a novel, go and read "I am not a serial killer").
I like the way Ransom Riggs included vintage photographs. They enhance the story and give you a feeling of the places that you wouldn't get otherwise. (Maybe that's why it's so short. Someone thought the photographs would be sufficient.) They fit well into the story that was built around them - so well, in fact, that I failed to come up with other reasons to take such pictures. (I still haven't come up with a reason to collect them either, but all those archives will certainly have been very useful to the author.)
I'm a bit miffed at the ending (quite a bit actually). As with the entire book, things happen too fast, and there's no resolution to be found anywhere. Jacob makes a decision - apparently without really considering the consequences, and then things will continue in the next book, without plans or anything, just with the notion that it will be extremely dangerous. I wonder what will happen in the next book, but I'm almost afraid to read it. Because if it is that short again, we might not get to see the consequences of Jacob's decision, and since he didn't have time to grow on me, I'm more invested in characters that might be abandoned completely.
Still, I liked the setting (Welsh islands are great!) and I enjoyed the story despite its shortcomings, so I will probably read the next part.
The Oxford English Dictionary says that "atonement" means "the action of making amends for a wrong or injury".
In the case of this novel, the wrong haThe Oxford English Dictionary says that "atonement" means "the action of making amends for a wrong or injury".
In the case of this novel, the wrong has been committed by Briony, an aspiring writer who was 13 years old at that point and spends the rest of the book trying to make amends for one fateful day. Her sister Cecilia and Cecilia's friend Robbie are the injured parties in this case, and they too spend the remainder of their lives under the shadow of what happened with Briony.
All of these characters are flawed (and their supporting cast is even worse), but all of them slowly grow on the reader. It is easy to misjudge things as a child, it is easy to be pigheaded, it is easy to be wild in your youth and to turn against the people that want to deny your own identity. This makes all three of them relatable, and while a not-so-happy ending is predictable from the start, you want to be a witness to how these lives unfold.
This is helped by an interesting setting - showing times before, during and after WWII -, and great writing. When I open a book to a new chapter and it starts
"In the early evening, high-altitude clouds in the western sky formed a thin yellow wash which became richer over the hour, and then thickened until a filtered orange glow hung above the giant crests of parkland trees; the leaves became nutty brown, the branches glimpsed among the foliage oily blackand the dessicated grasses took on the colour of the sky. A Fauvist dedicated to improbably colour might have imagined a landscape this way [...]"
, then I will be pulled deeply into the story with no chance of resurfacing until I've finished it.
There are also storytelling tricks, but since they are used to enhance the story and build the characters rather than for the sake of having them, I actually quite like them. (Plus, there is one huge trick, not one hundred, so it is easy to understand what is happening. It just goes to show that tricks are something for masters to do, otherwise they won't work.)
What is interesting to me is how many English stories I have read in which a mistake in a character's youth (albeit a quite severe one) will define their entire life. I wonder what it is with English novelists and the obsession with constantly having to pay for mistakes and rarely being allowed a fresh start.
In my quest to read 238 books in 238 days, "Wool" was pushed back two days because I needed to finish something else. This is a good thing, because IIn my quest to read 238 books in 238 days, "Wool" was pushed back two days because I needed to finish something else. This is a good thing, because I felt like it took me ages to read this.
Hugh Howey's strong point is clearly the world building. The claustrophobic world in the silos - and occasionaly the toxic world outside - are well thought-out and feature highly. It's not just a world designed as a backdrop to the story, it comes alive as well. Particularly the second of the five stories combined in this Omnibus, which takes the reader on a week-long journey down and up the 144 leves of Silo-18, shows off a lot of the thought that went into this. (Not into what the apocalyptic event was in the first place, that one is about as believable as the rapture.) He also does well on having a narrator's emotion colour the world around him. When you switch viewpoints and see that things aren't as drab (or as good) as you thought when reading someone else's position, that is great.
The characters themselves are alright - fortunately I wasn't too invested to get worked up about repeated fluctuations (and really, I expected them to happen when the world is such a hostile one). The love stories ... well, here is a male author who fits his male profile. Don't read it for the love stories, read it for the technical things. And read it for the action if you have to, from the third part onwards there's a lot going on. I disliked the change of pace a bit, but by then I was invested enough to keep reading. It is a bit filmy and cliffhanger-y but that is to be expected from an unedited novel.
The reason why this book took me so long is the writing. Apart from the unpolished bits (which are normal when you don't have an editor), this book is also written in a rather old-fashioned style. Old-fashioned in the way Tolkien wrote - an unhurried pace, great attention to worldbuilding, heavy on painting images, lots of descriptive text inbetween the dialogue. This is not necessarily bad, but seeing how this is a Science Fiction novel it is a bit weird. Especially when you get to the action or the technology, and you sit there reading sentences that could have come from the 1950s.
All in all, I quite enjoyed it, even if it took me a while. I do hope that the drama aspect of the action gets toned down a bit in the enxt installment; I'm too old to freak out over something new every two pages. ...more
I tend to favour well-written novels over well-plotted ones, those with interesting themes or those with great characters. Luckily enough, the "The GaI tend to favour well-written novels over well-plotted ones, those with interesting themes or those with great characters. Luckily enough, the "The Garden of Evening Mists" falls into all of these categories.
I knew right from page one that I was in for a poetic treat:
"Memories I had locked away have begun to break free, like shards of ice fracturing off an arctic shelf. In sleep, these broken floes drift towards the morning light of remembrance."
Aritomo, the former gardener of the Emperor of Japan, is a master of Zen arts. When he takes Yun Ling on as an apprentice, he doesn't just educate her on gardening matters, but he helps her to work on her inner strengths as well. In most cases, when such a topic is covered in a novel, it reads like a self-help guide. Not so much here; every advice is given because it is required in a certain situation, and the reader can see the consequences and work out the deeper meaning for himself.
The garden and its surrounding area are described in a calm, unhurried way that only enhances their beauty. Against such a backdrop, Yun Ling's and her country's violent past are difficult to understand, and when she distances herself from it, the reader can feel her troubles.
“For what is a person without memories? A ghost, trapped between worlds, without an identity, with no future, no past.”
Being from Germany, most of what I learned about WWII has involved my country. In the west we seem to be experts at analyzing that period until we've gone over everything so often that it loses its horror and becomes something of a background statistic in your head. It is different when I read a book that describes other theatres in this tragedy. I knew next to nothing about what happened in Malaysia at the time. (Indeed, I wouldn't even know that something had happened if not for Rani Manicka's The Japanese Lover.) Yun Ling is the sole survivor of a Japanese internment camp. She has suffered a lot, and distances herself from her own past. I don't know if this makes it easier for the reader or not, but it helps to build her character, and she has to deal with a lot throughout the course of this book. Her story is full of violence, but also full of love, learning, and mystery.
It seems strange that the thing that impresses me the most in a novel that works through so many themes would still be the writing, but that also makes me grateful. Because it means that whatever Tan Twan Eng decides to write next, I will want to read it.
“Memory is like patches of sunlight in an overcast valley, shifting with the movement of the clouds. Now and then the light will fall on a particular point in time, illuminating it for a moment before the wind seals up the gap, and the world is in shadows again."
Like many others, I stumbled upon this book when someone sent me the book trailer. I've always had a policy of looking for pretty book covers, becauseLike many others, I stumbled upon this book when someone sent me the book trailer. I've always had a policy of looking for pretty book covers, because to me they signal that someone cares about the book in question. And when the publisher cares enough to create such a beautiful trailer, then I should surely be in for a treat.
The trailer reminded me of a Tim Burton movie, and this shaped my expectations a lot. And as it turns out, that was a good conclusion to jump to. Because "The School for Good and Evil" is a fairytale - with all the fun and magic, but even more so also with all the strangeness and brutality that go with it. It has always been fascinating to me that children like fairytales so much when they're so extremely scary, and "The School for Good and Evil" fits right in.
The book starts out on a humorous note. Our two main characters - pretty Sophie and outcast Agatha - are introduced. Both are slightly over the top, as are the town's other inhabitants, and this makes the beginning a lot of fun to read. Take this random quote for example:
Agatha: "If you say anything smug or stuck-up or shallow, I'll have Reaper follow you home." Sophie: "But then I can't talk!"
It is obvious from the beginning that Sophie has no chance in hell to end up in the School for Good, and so the next few chapters when the two of them are taken and discover their schools are a fun exploration of Chainani's incredibly creative ideas. What with Agatha's lack of belief in the reality of fairytales and the sarcastic comments on some of the more famous stories ("These are prince and princess [...]. They died of starvation on their honeymoon because they didn't pay attention in classes."), it is obvious that the author has a lot of love for fairytales, but also sees the funny side.
When the first really scary thing happens and the two friends try to find their way back home, things take a turn for the worse. The last third more or less reads like a nightmare. It's a trainwreck and you can't help but keep reading and hoping everything turns out fine in the end. Using a random quote to illustrate this as well:
"Do you know how I know?" Her face darkened with sadness. "Because I'll only be happy when you're dead."
Agatha and Sophie are both affected by their schools and what happens around them. Agatha is built to be the sympathetic character, but somehow I love Sophie's Evil-ness as well. The supporting characters are almost always likeable and very individual as well, which makes it easier to keep track of them, because there's quite a lot going on for a middle grade book.
Although I could guess parts of the plot early on, there were quite a few things about the ending that managed to surprise me (or break my heart). And happily, this book actually has an ending. You can read this as a standalone and won't miss a thing. (You probably won't, because you liked it so much that you will read the next one, but still. You could. Theoretically.)
What with the publication of the second book only happening next year, and the film being planned for the year after that, you could kill some of the time on your hands by visiting the book's official website and finding out which school you would belong to. I am apparently 73% Evil and proud of it. (I'm also 100% Slyth, so you might have guessed that.)