Book Reviews, Books, Feminism, Of Pens & Paper, Self-empowerment

BOOK REVIEW: hunger

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body

From the bestselling author of Bad Feminist: a searingly honest memoir of food, weight, self-image, and learning how to feed your hunger while taking care of yourself

I ate and ate and ate in the hopes that if I made myself big, my body would be safe. I buried the girl I was because she ran into all kinds of trouble. I tried to erase every memory of her, but she is still there, somewhere. . . . I was trapped in my body, one that I barely recognized or understood, but at least I was safe.

In her phenomenally popular essays and long-running Tumblr blog, Roxane Gay has written with intimacy and sensitivity about food and body, using her own emotional and psychological struggles as a means of exploring our shared anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health. As a woman who describes her own body as “wildly undisciplined,” Roxane understands the tension between desire and denial, between self-comfort and self-care. In Hunger, she explores her own past—including the devastating act of violence that acted as a turning point in her young life—and brings readers along on her journey to understand and ultimately save herself.

With the bracing candor, vulnerability, and power that have made her one of the most admired writers of her generation, Roxane explores what it means to learn to take care of yourself: how to feed your hungers for delicious and satisfying food, a smaller and safer body, and a body that can love and be loved—in a time when the bigger you are, the smaller your world becomes.

TRIGGER WARNING: child rape, fat shaming

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Hunger is a book completely unlike anything I’ve ever read.

Roxane Gay’s latest memoir is a raw, poignant, heartbreaking and completely unforgettable tale in which she talks about how she was raped when she was twelve, and her never-ending struggle with body image afterwards.

I can’t really write much of a review for this, because it’s someone’s life story, but I’ll do my best.

Side note: I’m not going to summarize the entire story, just the main points of it.

We start with Roxane as a child. A few paragraphs of her family, likes, dislikes, appearance, etc. Then we learn how she was raped by a boy she thought she was in love with, and who she thought was in love with her too.

From then on, Roxane starts eating and eating. The phrase “comfort food” is applicable here – she eats to make herself bigger, to hide herself from the outside world. She moves to a boarding school, and when she comes home she’s much fatter than when she left (sorry, I don’t know the exact weight). Her parents try to get her to diet when she’s at home, but when she gets back to school she undos all of the work.

After school, we see her various jobs, as well as her relationships with both men and women. And always, always her constant struggle with her weight. She doesn’t become anorexic, but she does become temporarily bulimic… you have to read the book to find out more.

The writing is just on flique (is that the phrase?). It’s told slightly detached from the reader, and yet it still manages to convey Roxane’s emotions perfectly, and at the same time tell her life story.

I’ll warn you: it’s not a happy ever after.

Roxane didn’t finally change her mindset and “lose those three hundred pounds she’s always wanted to lose!”

There was no incredible trainer who helped her achieve her dreams.

She’s still fat (I’ll be honest), she’s still never fully recovered from the rape (but who recovers from a rape?) and she’s still eating… I’m pretty sure it’s the same.

And she hasn’t come to terms really with herself yet, but the book ends with this quote:

I was broken and then I broke some more, and I am not yet healed but I have started believing I will be.

I think that that’s beautiful. And not because she could lose some weight, but because she knows it’s possible to heal from the traumas in her life, and that she can repair herself, and try to move on.

After all, if life one must move on, for if we all never recovered from losses and traumas in our lives, where would we even be?

I’m telling you, if I ever meet Roxane Gay in person, I’m actually going to bow to her. She is completely and utterly an incredible person, and she deserves complete respect.

*applause*

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Book Reviews, Books, Discussion, Of Pens & Paper

3 reasons why i didn’t finish THE HANDMAID’S TALE

For those of you who don’t know, about a week ago I picked up the book The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. I’ve seen it all over the internet, and people are saying it’s brilliant, revolutionary, etc. So I ordered it from the library, and began reading it-

Wait! I’ll give you the synopsis first.

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead.

She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read.

She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable.

Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge.

But all of that is gone now…

I will admit that I was pretty intrigued by the description. And I’ve seen five-star reviews everywhere I go, which doesn’t hurt. Then I ended up starting to read this, and not finishing it.

So today’s post will give you three reasons why I didn’t want to finish this book.

The writing was very bland and unemotional.

I get that this is the way the story is meant to be written. But I wasn’t a fan – it felt extremely bland and boring. I was trying not to put the book down, because it was one of those books where I had to actually tell myself, “Right, you’re to read the next bit.”

We’re not really given much of a backstory.

We’re told what happened to America (sort of) as the story goes on, but at the start, please expect to be extremely confused. We don’t really get much of a background story (on anything) for about the first ten pages or so.

(Note I could have miscalculated. I’m not bothered to hunt out the book from wherever I left it last– oh s*** it’s a library book. I actually will have to find it once I finish writing this. Keep reading)

It is extremely boring.

Quite honestly, nothing actually really happened. I mean, bits and pieces of what previously happened are given, but nothing happens to Offred, or anyone around her. It’s like just watching a ordinary woman go about a boring day in her life.

BUT…

Don’t get me wrong; the book wasn’t completely terrible. The whole idea of the future America was a brilliant one – I just think it could’ve been executed a little better.

More importantly, this book also reminded me of the privileges I have. Even though I am a girl, I am white, straight, cisgender, and live in an area that has never been touched by a terrible war (unless you count the 1916 Rising).

And I am so, so grateful for that – I plan to use my privileges in the future to help those who aren’t as privileged as me, and maybe help the world somehow.

In the comments...

  • Have you read The Handmaid’s Tale?
  • Watched the show/film?
  • What are your thoughts on the idea of this particular futuristic America?

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Book Reviews, Books, Feminism, Of Pens & Paper

The WONDER WOMAN 3-in-1: book + movie reviews + tag

People, it’s here! That Wonder Woman 3-in-1 I mentioned in this post!

Are you pumped?

You should be.

BRING IT ON!

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For this book, I think we need to do a good old-fashioned pros-and-cons type of review.

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  • FEMINISM. Feminism. Feminism is all around. Diana objects multiple times to Jason’s control over Alia, and she also observes how many seem to more dominant in the mortal world.
  • Diana – oh. my. gods. She is just perfect. And her oblivion to mortal things such as Google!
  • Badassery – Diana literally kicks Jason’s ass in that first fight
  • Alia – she is an absolutely wonderful soul.
  • Nim – could a better bi character exist? apart from Nina Zenik
  • The writing is snappy and fast, making it easy to get invested into the story.
  • No one scene drags out for too long – the story is constantly flowing with new plot twists and turns
  • And dude(tte), that cover. Oh. My. Goodness.

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  • Jason – at the start I was actually hoping for him and Diana to get together, but then [select to read spoiler] he became such an asshole after betraying Diana and Alia (excuse the language, please) that I wanted him to jump off a cliff.
  • There isn’t really much of an ending to the story – it feels slightly rushed, as if Leigh had an urgent deadline but was trying to give her readers the most she possibly could. So I’m hoping and praying there’s going to be a second book, although #unlikely.
  • There isn’t really much… depth to the story. I mean, we get a basic idea of the characters and what they’re from, but otherwise, we don’t see that many strong emotions, or deep backstories.

So all in all, it was an enjoyable, quick read, pretty two-dimensional and not particularly deep, but I still love the strong feminist theme throughout the novel.

(but can we please have a sequel, Leigh, pleeeeeeease)

4 stars

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And now after my book review, we’ve come to the Wonder Woman movie review!

But first, a small disclaimer: I saw this movie a couple of months ago, therefore my review will compose of a paragraph with my thoughts, and then – lots of GIFs. Lots.

Anyway.

Diana is the same kick-ass heroine in the movie as she is in the book. She takes no crap from anyone, fights for women, and is quite naïve about the mortal world.

However, we do have a central focus of the romance between her and Steve Trevor – I wasn’t exactly a big fan of it, but admittedly they worked well together.

I do love the setting during WWII, though. Diana’s shock at seeing so much death and violence was a huge part in my adoration of the film – I confess I may have shed several tears while watching. The film is so raw and poignant, and completely unforgettable.

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I do love to have a healthy portion of gifs in a blog post 😉

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And now, finally, the tag! Although: I wasn’t actually tagged to do this by anyone, but I literally don’t give two figs.

So let’s do this!

WONDER WOMAN: YOUR FAVOURITE BADASS FEMALE CHARACTER.

I would say Diana, but I figured I had to throw in my girl Lada from And I Darken

FANTASY ISLAND: A BOOK SETTING YOU WANT TO ESCAPE TO.

This is unquestionable – Themyscira. It sounds absolutely incredible. Although it’s all-girls… I probably would end up wishing for some male company at one stage, I’d say.

LONDON: A HYPED BOOK THAT LET YOU DOWN.

Definitely Now I Rise by Kiersten White. I was so looking forward to the sequel of my Dracul babies, and instead- you know what, just read my review.

STEVE TREVOR: A BOOK THAT HAS A BEAUTIFUL COVER AND A GREAT STORY.

Oh, definitely Spellbook of the Lost and Found. The story is absolutely incredible, and I mean, look at that cover:

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LASSO OF TRUTH: A BOOK THAT YOU HATED.

Twilight. No discussion.

WONDER WOMAN’S SHIELD: A BOOK SO SAD YOU NEED A SHIELD.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I cry every single time I read that scene. YOU KNOW THE ONE.

ARES: A VILLAIN THAT IS SCARY BUT YOU CAN’T SEEM TO HATE.

Kaz Brekker from Six Of Crows – we all know he’s a notorious villain, but honestly, who can hate him?

THE AMAZONS: A BOOK THAT YOU WISH HAD MORE / BETTER LGBTQIAP+ REPRESENTATION.

I wouldn’t say more, exactly, but maybe The Conqueror’s Saga (Kiersten White) could represent Radu better. His sexuality seems quite minor, and shoved to one side, so I want more of his rep.

JUSTICE LEAGUE: WHAT SUPERHERO BOOK FRIENDS DO YOU TAG?

People, I have an entire superhero league of the whole bookish community. So whoever’s reading this, I tag you. And yes, you can say that I actually tagged you. Indirectly, but I still did nevertheless. 😀

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A last GIF. Because (a) Wonder Woman and (b) GIFs. Need I say more?

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Book Reviews, Books, Of Pens & Paper

BOOK REVIEW: history is all you left me

When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course.

To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart.

If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life.

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I have come to the conclusion that my heart is a lump of stone.

Why?

I’ll tell you the exact emotions I felt while reading this book:

  • Nothing

No, wait! Edit that list:

  • Boredom
  • Happiness at the reprensentations

And I honestly feel terrible. But I’ll break  my problems down into categories to make them easier to understand.

PlotWriting

You know, I really didn’t have any problems with anything, unless you decide to count the plot.

See this?

[blank empty space]

That’s the plot of this book. As in, non-existent.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I absolutely loved the diverse representation, and the fact that Griffin was dealing with grief made this book also relatable. However, just because you have some good diversity does not mean that you can simply have no plot!

Literally nothing happened in the story. Well, Griffin ran away to Califonia with Theo’s boyfriend Jackson, and Griffin also started being friendlier with Jackson.

Anything else?

Pfft.

I gave up on this because I was feeling extremely frustrated with the non-existent plot – I’ve been trying to make time to read this throughout the week and feeling very bored while reading.

D

There are two reasons why I plugged away at this book:

(1) It’s on my TBR for Diversity Bingo 2017 (which is going pretty okay, thanks)

(2) The diversity within the book was brilliant

I mean, the characters themselves are your basic teenage American boys, but they’re gay, and suffering from depression. #diversepoints

The only thing I would’ve liked a little more of would have been friendships – Theo and Griffin are in a friend circle with another boy named Wade, but when Griffin and Theo break up, Theo becomes pretty cold towards Wade.

So there could have been improvements. But you know, no book is perfect.

However, the grief representation was brilliant. It’s been a few years, but I can remember when my grandparents died. It felt like I would never stop crying, and I know that the book has brilliant representation of this.

(I’ve used the word “representation” too many times, I think, but anyway)

C

I can’t say that Theo was really my favourite character. In fact, I can’t say that I particularly liked the characters at all – we know next to nothing bout Jackson, and Theo & Griffin’s stories seem mainly focused on their relationship, instead of their actual personalities.

I think Adam Silvera would’ve done well to give the characters a bit more depth, instead of just grief and romance. Don’t get me wrong, I love the representation of the grief and the romance, but a little more of the personal stuff would’ve been nice.

I’m not going to say much more, other than this:

  • The diverse representation was awesome
  • However, the plot was non-existent
  • And the characters needed a little more depth
  • So I ended up DNFing this
  • But nevertheless do not regret reading what I read

And I’ve seen the rave reviews and wonder if there’s something wrong with the Reading part of my brain. Still, I’m content with what I read, so maybe you should give it a try and see if you like it!

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Hope you enjoyed this! I’m starting to get more posts out this week, so make sure to click the FOLLOW button at the sidebar so you get emails whenever I publish a new post.

See you in a few days! ❤

Book Reviews, Books, Of Pens & Paper

BOOK REVIEW: when dimple met rishi

I’ve decided to take part in Diversity Bingo 2017, so to cut a long story short, I’ve started reading books way more carefully and dissecting everything for sensitivity issues.

I read this book for the “Indian MC (Own Voices)” square. Trust me, pick something else if you’re doing the challenge – this book has about a million problems. I’d list them now, but I think I’m going to just dissect every problem one by one. Ready?

So let’s start with our main problem: Dimple.

Dimple Shah is the most annoying, rude, and violent character I’ve ever seen in a book. Also, when I say violent, I mean violent when there’s no cause for it.

Let’s take this whole issue of her punching Rishi. I’ve lost track of the amount of times I came across the phrase “[Dimple] punched him in the ribs.”

*cue Kindle search in book*

Result: 5. And that’s not counting the parts where she considered punching him. Rishi had asked her to stop, but of course dear Dimple didn’t. So it got to the point where yes, I think we’ll say that Rishi was abused by Dimple.

And we mustn’t forget that iced coffee incident! When Rishi comes up to Dimple on the Stanford campus (she doesn’t know him) and says “Hello, future wife! I can’t wait to spend the rest of our lives together!” Dimple throws her cup of iced coffee at him.

Okay, I’ll be a little more lenient, because admittedly if some strange boy came up to me on the street and said that, I’d probably be wondering what mental ward he escaped from. And I’m not trying to be funny – that’s a truth. I mean, picture yourself in Dimple’s situation!

But that doesn’t mean it’s okay for Dimple to have done that. First off, she wasted a perfectly good beverage. Next, coming back to putting-yourself-in-Dimple’s-shoes, it would have been far easier for Dimple to just walk/run away (depending on terror levels).

Also, if Dimple had wanted to report Rishi to the campus security, they wouldn’t have been looking to kindly in her favour because of the iced-coffee thing. So that situation was an all-round no.

Then, when Dimple met Rishi again;

“…before she’d even fully thought about it, Dimple had reached out and sliced him with the edge of the map.”

Second to be added to the Problems With Dimple essay is Dimple’s rudeness and disrespect. I’ll list a two clear examples:

(1) Even when Dimple has discovered the whole arranged-marriage-with-Rishi situation, she was extremely rude to Rishi.

Snapping at him, making generally rude remarks, ignoring him, etc. Okay, he may not be her number one choice for a friend, but she could at least be civil, and use her manners so as not to degrade herself!

(2) Dimple has absolutely no respect for her parents once she discovers that they’ve set her up with Rishi. I kid you not, this is an actual quote from the book:

“You mom sounds like she really cares for you.” When Dimple snorted, Rishi hurried to continue. “I mean, she’s calling you. She’s talking to you. She’s trying to be a part of your life.”

Dimple laughed. “Trying to be a part of my life? You know, the same could be said about head lice. Or termites. Or botulism. Those bacteria are trying to be a part of our lives!”

So Dimple has blatantly compared her mother with head lice.

I don’t know what was going on in Rishi’s head at the time, because the next line is

Rishi smiled and set his pencil down. “Okay, are you ready to see?”

If anything, what Dimple said really did it for me. To compare YOUR OWN MOTHER with HEAD LICE, no matter how angry you are, is quite simply, disgusting. I’m astonished that Sandhya Menon’s editor even considered leaving that part in the book, never mind getting it published.

I’m also very disappointed with Dimple, in the fact that she completely abandoned her ambitions for Insomnia Con after meeting Rishi. Well, not completely. But it became simply a backstory, and not the foundation of the book. I was very disappointed, as it had been nice to see a girl with academic ambitions.

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The romance was just… ugh. After that first kiss, it was smooching on every single damn page.

And Dimple had clearly lost track of her priorities – to think that at the start I thought she was an admirable, riven character! All her ambitions for Insomnia Con went out the window once she met Rishi. So all in all, I strongly disliked the plot.

Because after all, romance is another word for plot when it comes to this book. And if I may be honest, I do not feel a need to discuss Rishi. He’s a very two-dimensional character, and I find all that needs to be said about him was said.

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Something I’d also like to address, that hasn’t really been touched on, is the issues around the words like “crazy” “psychotic” “deranged” and “insane” – Dimple uses these words freely to describe her parents and Rishi after discovering the situation.

“He was dressed pretty sanely for a psychotic attacker…”

“My parents are so deranged.”

“You’re driving me insane.”

“At the wedding? Or at Starbucks, when you randomly accosted me?”

“At first I thought you were just some destructive, crazy boy…”

It’s plain ableist. And it’s not only me who’s noticed this – check out Chelsea’s review to read more about the issues.

Also, we have this quote

About fifteen minutes later, Rishi pulled over. “This is it, Bernal Heights.” Across the street, an old homeless man was yelling at thin air in a flat Boston accent. Rishi wondered what his story was, how someone from Boston ended up there, a fifty-something-year-old street person. His story would probably make an interesting comic.

For some people, you may not see this as an issue, but to me, it’s the way that this homeless man has been portrayed that is horrible. The man is nothing more than a street curiosity – Rishi does not seem to feel any empathy or compassion for the old man. Instead he thinks that “his story would probably make an interesting comic!”

That is, quite simply, degrading to the man. End of.

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Believe it or not, I was actually presented with this quote:

She looked so effortlessly “movie star” that Dimple wanted to hate her.

I mean, why? Why on earth would you WANT to hate someone?

I could probably fill another two or three pages with a rant, but I’ll settle for this: in today’s world, women and girls need to bring each other up, not tear each other down. So please, Sandhya Menon, never write a sentence like that again.

Back to girl hate in this book, though.

Dimple meets only two girls during her time at Insomnia Con – Celia, who is her roommate, and Isabelle, who is part of the high-school-clique-type group.

Celia – gah. She’s actually bisexual, which is mentioned in literally half a sentence, and then we hear no more. In the end, she ends of with a boy anyway, so Menon might as well have not wasted her time. I wish her sexuality could have been explored more, but it appears that Menon is a queen of Attempting To Explore Diverse Topics And Failing.

Isabelle is the typical “mean girl.” Must I say more? Either way, I would not call this book empowering for women.

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Sandhya Menon attempts to have Dimple give good opinions and arguments about misogyny. I’m sorry, but this is Case #2 of Attempting To Explore Diverse Topics And Failing. I won’t waste my time saying any more.

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When Dimple Met Rishi could have been absolutely brilliant. I loved the Indian cultural aspect of it, but otherwise this book was full of side insults and offences.

Please note that I am not hating on this book, I am simply trying to point out the problematic aspects of it. If you liked it, good for you, but I cannot rest until I know people can be made aware of the issues in this book.

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Book Reviews, Books, Of Pens & Paper

BOOK REVIEW: a court of mist and fury

Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two.

WARNING: This review contains spoilers for both ACOTAR and ACOMAF.

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ACOMAF was absolutely stunning. I read ACOTAR a couple of weeks ago, and it wasn’t great, to say in the least. But this.

This.

Sarah J Maas is going to blow your mind with sensational plots, incredible characters, and plot twists at every turn.

PlotWriting

The plot was quite simply, sensational (I know, I said that already). Here’s why:

  • We learn more about Feyre’s abilities, gained from being Made Under The Mountain.
  • Tamlin – woah. He kept Feyre a prisoner, basically, in her own home.
  • The wedding scene! Rhysand literally swooped in to save the day.
  • Although it would have been nice for Feyre to stand on her own two feet, given the circumstances Rhys was pretty awesome.
  • And then Feyre gets to meet Rhys’ friends and family. And I’m just like…

My babies ❤

In fact, let’s talk about them!

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Gah, Feyre was just queen in this book. In ACOTAR she was a little flat, and annoying, but she’s learned to be courageous, kind, and badass. So now I do like her!

I also love how she treats Rhys – they’re lietrally a match made in heaven ❤

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Rhysand and Mor are my favourite characters in this series. Rhysand is so gentlemanly towards Feyre, and he understands what she’s gone through. He treats her so well, and my heart is just aching for them to stay together

#feysandismyship

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I was thinking about the whole Tamlin-and-Feyre situation, and it’s pretty obvious Tamlin’s got a mental problem – probably from Under The Mountain. But then I thought, “How does being damaged allow for Tamlin keeping Feyre locked up?”

So now: I absolutely detest Tamlin. In ACOTAR it was nice to see the good guy get the girl, but now my claws are out and I want Feyre to get revenge.

Revenge = code word for murder-Tamlin

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And where Tamlin is concerned, Lucien comes in as well. While on one hand I’m so happy about the Elain-and-Lucien situation, I will never forgive Lucien for not helping Feyre. But he does seem genuinely sweet and kind, so I’ll see what happens in ACOWAR.

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Cassian – ehrm. Not entirely sure what to make of him just yet, so I’ll give further thoughts when I read ACOWAR.

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YAAAASSSS FEMALE FRIENDSHIPS. In YA nowadays there’s so much bitching between girls, that whenever there’s a female friendship, the book is good. And Mor is absolutely brilliant. She’s kind, she’s ruthless, she doesn’t take sh*t, and she sticks up for women. #favcharacter

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Ah, I wish we had more of his story. Azriel is just precious. And Mor with him is perfection.

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Elain is pretty sweet, but her character seems quite one-dimensional, so I’m not offering much opinion. But I’m so excited for her and Lucien! 😀

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Oddly enough, Nesta reminds me of myself sometimes – the eldest in the family, with responsibility for everyone’s safety falling to her. And she can be a bit catty, but her and Cassian are goals. Again, I can’t wait to see what happens to them in ACOWAR.

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An absolutely sensational (my favourite word) book.

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Make sure to leave all your fangirly thoughts below! I need to gush about this with people 😉

Book Reviews, Books, Feminism, Of Pens & Paper

BOOK REVIEW: now i rise

Lada Dracul has no allies. No throne. All she has is what she’s always had: herself. After failing to secure the Wallachian throne, Lada is out to punish anyone who dares to cross her blood-strewn path. Filled with a white-hot rage, she storms the countryside with her men, accompanied by her childhood friend Bogdan, terrorizing the land. But brute force isn’t getting Lada what she wants. And thinking of Mehmed brings little comfort to her thorny heart. There’s no time to wonder whether he still thinks about her, even loves her. She left him before he could leave her.

What Lada needs is her younger brother Radu’s subtlety and skill. But Mehmed has sent him to Constantinople—and it’s no diplomatic mission. Mehmed wants control of the city, and Radu has earned an unwanted place as a double-crossing spy behind enemy lines. Radu longs for his sister’s fierce confidence—but for the first time in his life, he rejects her unexpected plea for help. Torn between loyalties to faith, to the Ottomans, and to Mehmed, he knows he owes Lada nothing. If she dies, he could never forgive himself—but if he fails in Constantinople, will Mehmed ever forgive him?

As nations fall around them, the Dracul siblings must decide: what will they sacrifice to fulfill their destinies? Empires will topple, thrones will be won . . . and souls will be lost.

4 stars

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And that, my friends, is a classic case of Second Book Syndrome™.

Now I Rise was one of my most anticipated books of the summer. After reading And I Darken in June, I couldn’t find a copy of Now I Rise, so I got an ebook. That turned out to be a flop, so as part of a birthday book haul (ignore the fact it’s ten days early or so) I got a gorgeous hardback of this (as featured in the header image for this post).

Now I Rise was a good book, I will give it that. But it had that horrible case of SBS where it focused primarily on politics. This also happened with Rebel Of The Sands – I was so pumped for Traitor To The Throne, but I didn’t even finish it.

To put it simply: it was all talk and no action.

Radu’s chapters were frankly quite dull. It was pretty much eat, sleep, worry about Cyprian, long for Mehmed, wonder about Lada, worry for Nazira, fight Mehmed’s army, repeat.

Although my girl Lada was awesome.

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Well, there was a bit of talk and boredom in her chapters, but she was mostly out there doing things. Fighting for the throne, murdering people, forging alliances, dealing with her monthly courses, thinking about Mehmed… the usual “Lada things.”

In Now I Rise Lada’s feminity was featured a lot. Monthly courses, pregnancy worries, and Lada also made a few alliances with women.

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The Conqueror’s Saga is ultimately a brilliant, feministic (is that even a word?) book. There are strong friendships as well as romances, not to mention Lada and Radu’s close bond.

Kiersten White’s writing was as perfect as ever. Brilliant jokes + quips, well-written scenes, not to mention how well everything joined up.

One other thing that I was a little disappointed with was that Lada and Radu weren’t shown very close in this book. In their letters, Lada rebuffs Radu, but then again, he doesn’t make much of an effort to contact her. So here’s one thing for the next book: get Lada and Radu closer again!

I also enjoyed reading more about Nazira – I love the friendship she shares with Radu, and they’re really sweet with each other. ❤

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Now I Rise had too much of the political stuff. Lada was just as badass as ever, but I’m hoping that she finally gets to settle down and rule Wallachia in the next book. The other characters felt a little flat, but I still enjoyed this.

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I hope you enjoyed reading my review! Leave your thoughts down in the comments:

  • Have you read Now I Rise?
  • If so, did you enjoy it?
  • Who are your personal preferences in the pairings?
  • (e.g. Lada + Mehemed, Radu + Cyprian – I just gave mine away!)
  • Any speculation as to the name of the nextbook?
  • Or what’ll happen?

See you soon! ❤

P.S. Don’t forget to enter my book giveaway for The Fault In Our Stars! Get your entries in while it’s still open!

Book Reviews, Books, Of Pens & Paper

BOOK REVIEW: salt to the sea

Salt to the Sea

It’s early 1945 and a group of people trek across East Prussia, bound together by their desperation to reach the ship that can take them away from the war-ravaged land. Four young people, each haunted by their own dark secret, narrate their unforgettable stories. Fans of The Book Thief or Helen Dunmore’s The Siege will be totally absorbed.

This inspirational novel is based on a true story from the Second World War. When the German ship the Wilhelm Gustloff was sunk in port in early 1945 it had over 9000 civilian refugees, including children, on board. Nearly all were drowned. Ruta Sepetys, acclaimed author of Between Shades of Grey, brilliantly imagines their story.

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Salt to the Sea was a tragic story of four people: Joana, Florian, Emilia, and Alfred.

WARNING: Unmarked spoilers ahead. Proceed with caution.

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“Your daughter, your sister. She is salt to the sea.”

Joana was one of the best characters is this book. She was carefully created with equal parts of both compassion, love, and grief. Her nursing skills are also a prominent feature throughout the story, and I love how she is so willing to help anyone in need.

I will admit, though: I’m disappointed that she was the girl who got a happy ending. Not that she didn’t deserve it, per se, but I think Emilia deserved it more.

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Emilia is my favourite character by far. She has faced so much throughout her life – rape, birth, hardship, grief and yet here and there small acts of kindness. Her strength and perseverance are most admiring, and I was rooting for her throughout the entire book.

Her homesickness was a big part of her character – we can see how much she longs to be in Poland again, and show her baby the wonders of her country.

I pulled her close and whispered in Polish: “There were no ghettos, no armbands. I often fell asleep to a breeze floating through my window. It’s true. It was like that once.”

Of all the characters, she was the one who I wanted to have a happy ending and find peace. Sadly, the book ended on a tragic note, but I like that she died with peace in her heart, knowing that her family were waiting for her.

I also liked the alliance between her and Florian – I wish Ruta Sepetys had developed it more.

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I became good at pretending. I became so good that after a while the lines blurred between my truth and fiction. And sometimes, when I did a really good job of pretending, I even fooled myself.

Florian was a bit of an undeveloped character. I was still confused about his role with Dr Lange by the end of the book, and disappointed that nothing came of his mission. The one thing I do like about him, though, was that he showed so much kindness to Emilia and her baby.

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Alfred is a horrible, horrible, character. Not in the sense that he wasn’t written well – no, it was his actual personality that made me hate him so much. I know that during World War II there were obviously Nazi/Hitler supporters, and I think it was good that Ruta Sepetys had one in her book.

But that didn’t stop me from hating him. And he ratted out his “dear Hannelore.”

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There wasn’t much elaboration on the other characters. Eva was gone by the 60% mark, I think. But the shoe poet and the boy…

It was so nice to see a parent (figure)-child reltionship in the book, and the shoe poet was simply wonderful.

“The old man spoke of nothing but shoes. He spoke of them with such love and emotion that a woman in our group had crowned him “the shoe poet.” The woman disappeared a day later but the nickname survived.

“The shoes always tell the story,” said the shoe poet.

“Not always,” I countered.

“Yes, always. Your boots, they are expensive, well made. That tells me that you come from a wealthy family. But the style is one made for an older woman. That tells me they probably belonged to your mother. A mother sacrificed her boots for her daughter. That tells me you are loved, my dear. And your mother is not here, so that tells me that you are sad, my dear. The shoes tell the story.”

I paused in the center of the frozen road and watched the stubby old cobbler shuffle ahead of me. The shoe poet was right. Mother had sacrificed for me.” 

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Ruta Sepetys did a wonderful job of writing this book. Each character has a distinct voice, feelings, and situation, making them much more real.

The plot was quite good. Well, Florian could’ve been done better, but nothing is ever perfect. And when people die, you can see that they died for a reason. And death is part of war, after all.

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A well-written historical fiction novel, with equal parts joy and grief. Depicts the horrors of World War II very well – clearly a lot of research was put into this.

4 stars

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I hope you enjoyed reading my review! You can also find it on my Goodreads profile here.

See you on Saturday! 🙂

Book Reviews, Books, Of Pens & Paper

BOOK REVIEW: everything, everything

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My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

WARNING: There are unmarked spoilers in this review. Proceed at your own risk!

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It saddens me that Yoon has downplayed Madeline’s illness to the point where it is simply a plot device. I believe that no matter the story, an illness should be portrayed properly. Admittedly, when I discovered that Madeline had no illness, it was a complete shock. And my initial reaction was that it was a good twist.

But then what’s Madeline and Olly’s relationship without the illness?

Just another cheesy romance, that’s what. And that’s exactly what Everything, Everything is.

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With the above aside, hats off to Nicola Yoon for the diversity. Madeline is African-American, and Carla is Mexican. I also love the strong female friendship between Madeline and Carla.

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Other than Carla, there weren’t any characters that I really liked. Olly was simply ridiculous. Madeline… there was just something off about her, and she was quite annoying.

Madeline’s mother… her whole situation wasn’t particularly well played out, and her mental issues were simply skimmed over. That was not appreciated.

One thing that really burned was Olly’s absuive father. He was just used as a plot device, and abusive parents are no plot devices. I feel the situation should have either been left out or played an important part in the story, and definitely not glossed over like it was.

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While there was a little racial diversity, Yoon really tried to handle a load of other diverse topics and ended up not doing any of them properly. The romance felt too cheesy, and the characters weren’t particularly great. I was quite disappointed, so two stars.

(also, I just watched the film trailer. Let’s applaud the director for the ridiculous choice of Olly. And the film looks stupid anyway)

Also, please make sure to read Cait’s review. It provides you with a better understanding of the book.

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Book Reviews, Books, Of Pens & Paper

REVIEW: The Midnight Dance (ARC)

Woohoo! My first ever ARC!

When the music stops, the dance begins.

Seventeen-year-old Penny is a lead dancer at the Grande Teatro, a finishing school where she and eleven other young women are training to become the finest ballerinas in Italy. Tucked deep into the woods, the school is overseen by the mysterious and handsome young Master who keeps the girls ensconced in the estate – and in the only life Penny has never known.

But when flashes of memories, memories of a life very different from the one she thinks she’s been leading, start to appear, Penny begins to question the Grand Teatro and the motivations of the Master. With a kind and attractive kitchen boy, Cricket, at her side, Penny vows to escape the confines of her school and the strict rules that dictate every step she takes. But at every turn, the Master finds a way to stop her, and Penny must find a way to escape the school and uncover the secrets of her past before it’s too late.

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I won’t lie – as ingenious as the plot for The Midnight Dance was, I got a bit confused at times. Even now, I’m only 95% sure of what was going on! Nevertheless, I from only reading this I would have guessed Nikki Katz was a seasoned author – but I think that this is her first novel!

The writing style is effortless; simple and easy to read, yet managing to convey a rich, gorgeous backdrop. I also love the Italian setting – although some phrases were a little indiscernible, it made for a beautiful, historical feel to the story.

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Can we just take a moment to acknowledge that Cricket is just… aaah. He’s now my favourite male character (next to Richard Gansey III). Cricket is so kind, caring, compassionate… not to mention how well he treats Penny! No lust, all love ❤

I liked Penny, I suppose. Yet although there was so much depth to her, it felt like she was a bit… flat. As for the rest of the characters – Alidoro was so cute (in the six-year-old kind of way), Master was weird, and the other girls seemed lovely.

Penny, Cricket and Master are the only characters with any depth. And Beppe! So they were all fun to read about 🙂

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A rich, dark and unusual story, set against the beautiful backdrop of historical Italy. The characters are all steeped in mystery, and nothing is what it seems. The writing will draw you in, and leave you wanting more of this gorgeous tale.

The Midnight Dance is definitely a book I’d try to read again. I feel it’s something you actually should reread, just to gain a bit more understanding of the story. but all in all, I would definitely recommend it!

Also, that cover –

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Nikki Katz

Author | Social Media Consultant Editor | Freelance Writer | Blogger | Rocket Scientist | Reality TV Addict | Avid Book Reader | Social Media Nut … Not necessarily in that order 🙂

Aerospace engineer turned freelance writer turned nonfiction author turned YA author! Debut novel, The Midnight Dance, coming October 2017 from Swoon Reads/Macmillan.


@katzni

Nikki Katz

Nikki Katz (blog)

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I was provided with a free e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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I hope you enjoyed reading my review! Make sure to check out Nikki Katz’s book The Midnight Dance, coming October 17th and being published by Swoon Reads.

Make sure to share this to support Nikki!

Have a beautiful day ❤