Book Review: Far From You by Tess Sharpe

far from you.jpg

This is a review of a re-read.

 

Favourite quotes:

“But my heart isn’t simple or straightforward. It’s a complicated mess of wants and needs, boys and girls: soft, rough, and everything in between, an ever-shifting precipice from which to fall”.

“But this is the thing about struggling out of that hole you’ve put yourself in: the higher you climb, the farther you have to fall”.

“I want to keep my memory of her untainted, not polished by death nor shredded to pieces by words she meant only for herself. I want her to stay with me as she always was: strong and sure in everything but the one thing that mattered most, beautifully cruel and wonderfully sweet, too smart and inquisitive for her own good, and loving me like she didn’t want to believe it was a sin”.

 

Sophie Winters is an addict. She got hooked on painkillers after a car accident two years ago which wrecked her leg forever. But contrary to what her family, what the entire town believes, she’s been clean for over nine months now. And there was no relapse of any kind. Her best friend Mina wasn’t murdered because of a drug deal Sophie’s orchestrated. There was no drug deal at all, actually. But Sophie’s parents don’t believe her and send her to rehab anyway. Once she comes back four months later, she’s determined to find out who killed Mina and why.

However, very few people are keen to help her. The only one who seems to believe her is Rachel, the girl who found Sophie the night Mina died. Mina’s brother Trev has been in love with Sophie for the longest time, but he won’t speak to her. Her parents won’t believe her. And it goes without saying that Sophie’s time in rehab has done absolutely nothing to help her move on. Mina was her best friend – her other half, even. But some things, some secrets are buried so deep that unraveling them would send Sophie down a rabbit hole¬† which she has little chance of climbing out of. Can Sophie solve Mina’s murder and stay clean in the process? Or will the secrets they shared with each other, and things that Mina kept to herself and herself alone, wreck Sophie to the point of no return?

 

I first read “Far From You” in January 2015. I remember loving it and being heartbroken by it, and recently, I decided to re-read it. However, I was quite surprised by the fact that I haven’t written a review of this wonderful novel two years ago. So this review is based on both my initial impressions and what I’ve experienced during the re-read.

“Far From You” is both mystery-centric and protagonist-centric. Sophie Winters is a first-person narrator, so the story is shown from her perspective entirely. However, her voice is the kind that makes it clear for the reader the things that she doesn’t state explicitly. This is particularly true when she talks about Mina – Sophie’s pespective of the latter is skewed by many things revealed during the course of the story. However, the reader figures out several things about Mina that venture beyond Sophie’s somewhat romanticised notion of her. This is helped further by the “before” and “after” structure of the novel – flashbacks make up about 50% of the book, which worked brilliantly, even though they were slightly difficult to follow at first. Mostly because they weren’t in the order that you would expect. To reveal more about what the reader learns about Mina through Sophie’s narration and the things left unsaid by Sophie would be quite spoilery, though, so I’ll just say this – nothing in this book as it seems.

One would even argue that the mystery of Mina’s murder is as much of a core of “Far From You”, as it is a plot device. A lot of the book focuses on Sophie’s investigation, but just as much is centered around her relationship with Mina. Even her relationships with other people – Mina’s brother Trev, Mina’s boyfriend Kyle, the subjects of Mina’s newspaper article – they’re all somewhat related to what Sophie had had with Mina. And the way “Far From You” is written doesn’t let the reader forget that. It is also written in a way that makes the reader genuinely feel for both girls, and the words used by the author are weaved into sentences that made me weep both times I read the book. “Far From You” is definitely a story that got to me, made me truly care about the characters, despite their numerous flaws. These flaws are indeed what made them real – the author doesn’t skirt around them but turns them into character traits that make the actors genuinely relatable. And I’m not just referring to the LGBT+ aspects of the book, although books with LGBT+ protagonists are incredibly important today. The author doesn’t make the characters all about their sexual orientations – Far From It (sorry for the pun). All the characters – not just the protagonists – feel like real people, real teenagers with real struggles, their sexuality being one of them, but hardly overshadowing all of their other defining traits. I love books like that. And if they make me cry – well, that’s just a bonus, isn’t it? All stories matter, and stories featuring diverse characters especially. And if they get to the reader, if they make the reader experience strong emotions, that just makes them even more important. “Far From You” is one such story.

When I found out that “Far From You” was a debut novel, I was stunned. The author is incredibly talented with words and story-weaving, and I cannot wait for her next book! My rating for “Far From You” is 8/10.

 

Dreamcast

Sophie Winters – Eliza Taylor

Mina Bishop – Luisa D’Oliveira

 

Recommendations

You might like “Far From You” if you liked:

“Cam Girl” by Leah Raeder/Elliot Wake

“Complicit” by Stephanie Kuehn

“Pretty Little Liars” – Mina was no Alison DiLaurentis, yet one can’t help but draw Emison parallels.

 

Have you read “Far From You”? What is your favourite book with a bisexual protagonist? Let me know in the comments! ūüôā

Thanks for reading this review and don’t forget to check out my Etsy charity shop!

Book Review: Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig

leaving

“Rape was violence, not sex”

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Favourite quotes:

“Nobody look at me, I’m a fucking mess! I’m going to sue Sarah Jessica Parker. Sex and the City did not prepare me to be a single woman in her thirties without designer heels and amazing sex!”

“Having a crappy job means having money that’s just mine, that I can spend on whatever I want to. I can’t tell you how good that feels”.

“Would everyone remember the times they’d said stuff like ‘that’s so gay’ and ‘don’t be a fag’ in my presence, and suddenly be unable to look me in the eye anymore? Would they even care how it made me feel? Just how different would my life be if the truth got out?”

 

Flynn Doherty’s girlfriend January broke up with him and a few days later, the police are at his house. January hasn’t been seen since then. As the ex-boyfriend, Flynn is naturally the first person of interest for the police of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Of course, it can’t be January’s stepfather – future State Senator Jonathan Walker. Or any of the dumb rich kids at her new prestigious school. Or her pervy stepbrother. Or Kaz – January’s coworker and the guy who’s so much cooler and more handsome than Flynn. Well, that’s what the police thinks. Flynn is shocked by the news but is he really as innocent as he claims? Or are his own secrets something a lot more sinister than the reader initially believes?

As the search for January continues, the situation becomes much more puzzling for the townspeople. And for Flynn. Apparently, he was quite blind to his ex’s relationships with other people. People like her mother and stepfather. And her new classmates whom she made fun of relentlessly to him. And of course, with Kaz. Kaz turns out to be a whole new mystery entirely. Can Flynn handle juggling January’s disappearance, his own secrets and the changing relationships in his life? Or will the story end completely differently from what the reader is expecting?

 

“Last Seen Leaving” is a book that’s been described as “Gone Girl” for teens. Aside from my personal issues with that description (are teens not smart enough for “Gone Girl”?), it is to an extent true. Indeed, you get the “Gone Girl” vibes from the very first chapter – a missing girl, a narrator with a secret who lies to the police, and revelations that don’t exactly cast him in a favourable light. However, “Last Seen Leaving” is more than capable of standing on its own pages, without any comparisons to any bestsellers (no matter how much we all love Gillian Flynn, there are other mystery writers out there!).

Our narrator is Flynn Doherty, a 15-year-old skater who’s quite smart for his age. A little too smart in fact – at one point, he makes a reference to Torquemada. It is my understanding that in America, there is little focus on non-American history until the last two years of school, so I was quite puzzled by the idea that a sophomore would know who Torquemada was. And for a smart kid, Flynn makes a few very dumb decisions – breaking into an apartment of a potential murderer being one of them. However, he is struggling with some very difficult things during the course of the novel. Being fifteen is hard enough, and when you are in the closet with an ex-girlfriend who is probably dead and a strange crush on a dude whom you thought to be after that very ex-girlfriend – well, it’s no surprise that Flynn’s decision-making process is not in top shape. And January McConville is another story entirely. I do think that Flynn somewhat idealised her, which led to him being an unreliable narrator and such a viable suspect for the police and January’s acquiantances.

Tana French has said it best – “teenage girls make Moriarty look like a babe in the woods”.¬†I’ve already pointed out the novel’s similarities to “Gone Girl”, but I will tell you one thing – that is not a spoiler. The mysteries may have a few things in common, but I was still quite engaged in “Last Seen Leaving” because I genuinely had no idea what was going to happen until the very last page of the epilogue. I’ve suspected several things that came to be, but I was quite surprised (and devastated) by many other revelations.

“Last Seen Leaving” is a very strong debut and an interesting YA mystery. Caleb Roehrig is certainly one author to keep an eye out for! Plus his Instagram pictures are beautiful! My rating of “Last Seen Leaving” is 7/10.

 

Recommendations

You might like “Last Seen Leaving” if you liked:

“As I Descended” by Robin Talley

“The Secret Place” by Tana French

“Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn

 

Have you read “Last Seen Leaving”? What are your favourite YA mysteries and thrillers? Drop me a line in the comments, I love them! ūüôā

Thanks for reading this review and don’t forget to check out my Etsy charity shop before you go!

Book Review: Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman

girls on fire

Favourite quotes

Once upon a time, there was a girl who loved the woods, the cool sweep of browning greens, the canopy of leafy sky. Hidden in the trees, she picked flowers and dug for worms, she recited poems, timing the words to the bounce of her feet in the dirt. In the woods she met a monster and mistook her for a friend. Into the woods they went, deeper and darker, and carved a sacred ring around a secret place, where the monster dug out pieces of the girl and buried them in the ground so that the girl could never truly leave, and never bear to return”.

“What it would be like to be one of them. To have power, be seen, be heard, be dudes rather than sluts, be jocks or geeks or bros or nice guys or boys-will-be-boys or whatever we wanted instead of quantum leaping between good girl and whore. To be the default, not the exception. To be in control, to seize control, simply because we happened to have a dick”.

“Girls today had to be made to believe. Not just in a higher power, a permanent record, someone always watching – girls had to believe that the world was hungry and waited to consume them. <…> Girls had to believe there were limits on what a girl could be, and that trespass would lead to punishment. <…> They had to believe that life was danger and that it was their own responsibility to stay safe, and that nothing they did could guarantee that they would.”

“Girls had to believe in everything but their own power, because if girls knew what they could do, imagine what they might.”

 

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

“Girls on Fire” is a story of three girls whose complex relationships have taken them places they could never forget and put them through hell from which they can never recover. Hannah Dexter is practically a nobody in her junior year of high school. After a particularly nasty incident of bullying performed by Nikki Drummond, Hannah meets Lacey – a rude, abrasive, gorgeous Kurt Cobain fan. Soon the two girls become practically inseparable. Hannah becomes Dex and transforms into a badass, brooding girl who is up for any challenge Lacey throws her way. The bond that soldified in dtheir shared hatred for Nikki Drummond is getting stronger and stronger with each passing day. How intense can a friendship of two girls get and how will they deal with the fatal consequences of their activities?

Meanwhile, a tragedy strikes Hannah’s town. A popular guy Craig, who happens to be Nikki Drummond’s boyfriend, shoots himself in the woods on Halloween night for seemingly no reason. The town is terrified – there are rumours going around about a Satan-worshipping gang of misfits who really drove Craig to suicide, and secrets that remained buried until now by Dex, Lacey, Nikki and everyone else in town are threatening to emerge, destroying the girls in the process. How much are they to blame for everything that’s going on? Will Dex and Lacey be able to save each other from everyone around them or is it each other they need saving from?

 

I must warn you – this is not a happy book. It is very intense and deals with very, very dark subject matters. The themes featured include Satanism, bullying, sexism, homophobia, suicide, murder and rape. So if you feel like spending a day reading a heartfelt novel, put “Girls on Fire” aside for the time being. If, however, an intense mystery with an all-female leading cast is what you’re after, Robin Wasserman’s latest novel needs to be in your hands right now.

Robin Wasserman uses tropes we’ve all seen many times – a teenage party gone wrong, a suicide that’s not all it seems as a flap of a butterfly wing that sets events in motion, a (literal) Chekhov’s gun, a disturbing relationship of a teenage girl with an older man, a transformation of an unpopular girl, parental neglect, and several others. This amount of tropes might seem overwhelming at first, but Wasserman entwines them so masterfully into one long, emotionally draining story you never feel like there’s “too much” going on at the same time. On the contrary – you’re emotionally exhausted at the end of every chapter, but not enough to make you stop reading, and you’re too addicted to the story and invested in the characters to stop at any point, whether it’s just after Hannah meets Lacey and becomes Dex, or after Lacey goes one, two, three steps too far as the book progresses.

The aforementioned tropes work exceptionally well in the atmosphere Wasserman masterfully pushes the reader into. “Girls on Fire” does tell you explicitly a couple of times the time period it’s set in, but even if it didn’t, Wasserman’s incredibly atmospheric writing tells you pretty much from the first chapter onwards. The early 90s were not a good time anywhere in the world to be a girl, and apparently Pennsylvania was no exception. Sexism, racism, homophobia, bullying were much worse back then than they were today, and not once does Wasserman try to gloss over those subjects. In fact, she makes them run through the veins of the book and be the primary cause of the events that transpire in the course of “Girls on Fire”. Everything in this book – fashion choices, music choices, attitudes, expressions, relationships and so on – are so incredibly 1990s. It is a testament to Robin Wasserman’s writing talent that the reader feels as though they’ve been sent back 25 years and are faced with the grim reality of that setting. “Girls on Fire” was very emotionally draining for that very reason and I still feel the chills I got from certain chapters (well, the majority of chapters, really) when I read them. You can see that my “Favourite quotes” section is unusually long this time – that would be because there are so many compelling, chilling passages in almost each chapter, I had a very hard time picking them out.

The author presents us with three very different main characters – Hannah “Dex”, Lacey and Nikki. The first two girls are first-person narrators, and up to a certain point, we only see their “antagonist” – Nikki – through their eyes. Hannah is the misfit who transforms into a badass, Lacey is the headstrong Nirvana fan accused by the town for being a Satan worshipper, and Nikki is the mean popular girl. Except when they aren’t. Hannah and Lacey desperately need each other, but would they have if it weren’t for Nikki? This question, buried underneath the layers of faux Satanism, complex relationships and emotional intensity of obsession, does appear to be the very question the author poses to the reader. Of course, “Girls on Fire” wouldn’t have been the book it is if there was a short answer to that question. First of all, the characters are incredibly complex and multi-dimensional, and even by the end of the book, we still don’t know them well enough to answer the author’s question. Second of all, all the narrators of this book – Hannah, Lacey and the third-person “parent” narrator – are incredibly unreliable. They’re in fact so unreliable that they could give Gillian Flynn’s narrators a run for their money, in my opinion. And finally, the reader doesn’t know the answer to the questions because the characters don’t have one either.

“Girls on Fire” was a disturbing, provocative, dark and emotionally exhausting ride. And I am not ashamed to admit that I rode the wave of all that emotional intensity over a weekend with very few pauses. However, I did need a long break from emotional books after I finished it. I could write a lot more about “Girls on Fire”, but instead I suggest that you buy the book when it comes out in a month.

 

Recommendations

You might be interested in “Girls on Fire” if you liked:

“Some Girls Are” and “All the Rage” by Courtney Summers

“Dare Me” by Megan Abbott

“Dangerous Girls” by Abigail Haas

 

Have you read “Girls on Fire” yet? Do you like stories of destructive female friendships? Let me know in the comments!

 

Book Review: Great by Sara Benincasa

great

Recommended by a Goodreads reviewer.

In this contemporary genderbent retelling of “The Great Gatsby”,¬†Nick Carraway¬†Naomi Rye is the daughter of a middle class PE teacher and a self-made billionaire socialite. She is forced to spend every summer in the Hamptons with her mother and rich people whom she hates, and this summer is no different. However, she finds herself drawn to her beautiful and mysterious next-door neighbour ¬†Jay Gatsby¬†Jacinta Tremalchio, who turns out to be none other than the world’s biggest fashion blogger. Naomi’s friend¬†Daisy Buchanan¬†Delilah Fairweather, daughter of a senator, is a fragile girl in an abusive relationship with¬†Tom Buchanan¬†Teddy, a former child star, who is sleeping with a waitress called¬†Myrtle¬†¬†Misti. When Naomi brings Delilah to meet Jacinta, something inexplicable sparks between the two girls and Naomi feels more and more like an outsider looking in. How much would it take for the green light on Jacinta’s house to fade and will the story end just like the Great American Novel?

 

I’ve known of the comedian Sara Benincasa for years now – I even used to follow her on Formspring (does anyone remember Formspring?). And she is a very funny comedian, but unfortunately a good retelling of “The Great Gatsby” is a very hard feat to accomplish. I loved that she added a lesbian twist to the story, and I’m not saying that the writing is bad. However, even though I dislike “The Great Gatsby” to say the least, I disliked “Great” even more.

When Fitzgerald wrote about rich people’s problems, it worked well because of the time period and the American culture of that time. However, when one attempts to rewrite “Gatsby” in a modern setting, it just doesn’t work the same way. It is possible that it could’ve worked if the author didn’t merely change the genders, the names and the occupations of the characters and didn’t leave the rest almiost as it was. However, this is exactly what has transpired in “Great” and it didn’t make it… well, great.

My biggest issue was the characters. I’m not a rich person and I’ve never been, so I don’t really know if “Gossip Girl” and the like depicts the lives of the rich realistically – but if not, it’s at least a fun strategy of escapism. “Great” features crying over Hermes bags, arguing over lobster rolls (I’m really not rich – I didn’t even know that was a thing), and people “summering” in The Hamptons. So this book would’ve worked as an escape mechanism similar to “Gossip Girl”, if it weren’t for Naomi. Even Dan Humphrey was more interesting than our fem!Nick Carraway, who is possibly the worst, most boring character in this novel. She’s supposed to be this smart, straight-A student who was planning to use her summer to study, yet she never gets around to it and the way she acts is the opposite of smart. I get that 17 is an age when you are just starting out in life, but Naomi acted like a 12-year-old most of the time. “Gatsby”‘s characters, while being incredibly annoying and awful people, at least had some depth – despite my dislike of his work, I know that Fitzgerald was a talented writer. “Great”‘s characters, however, were just caricatures of rich and middle-class people. Naomi selfishly HATES her mother, a self-made billionaire who made her fortune from cooking (think Martha Stewart), hates other girls who are “busy summering” with her at the Hamptons for no reason other than they are rich, and yet she insists on calling herself a feminist – after all, she is in her school’s LGBTstraight alliance (more on sexual orientation as a plot device later) and has a “cool” lesbian best friend! Her relationship with¬†Jordan Baker¬†Jeff is just as dull and superficial as the one in the original book. To be honest, other characters aren’t particularly fantastic either. Jay Gatsby was a romantic, and a hopeless one, which worked for the time period, but Jacinta Trimalchio’s facepalm-worthy romantic plans for her future with Delilah are just RIDICULOUS.

Oh, and “Great” is published as a genderbent retelling of “The Great Gatsby” with a lesbian twist. I’m not a lesbian, and I might be completely wrong, but the “twist” added nothing other than being a plot device for Naomi’s “feminist” leanings and I can’t even tell what else. Naomi’s best friend is a self-proclaimed butch lesbian and I personally thought that her character was a very offensive caricature. We all know that Nick Carraway was in love, or obsessed with Jay Gatsby, and to the author’s credit, she didn’t skim over that aspect of the original book – Naomi never says it out loud, but it’s pretty clear how she feels about Jacinta from the start of the book.

My rating –¬†5.5/10. Read it if you want some escapism and can bear overly annoying characters.

 

Favourite quotes

“Remember that you can’t be one person one place and a totally different person in another place. Right is right and wrong is wrong, no matter where you are.”

“Something was developing between them that went beyond friendship. It was like they got high off each other, and every mutual encounter was another chance to feel some sort of pelasure that was very specific to their union”

 

Recommendations

Stick with Fitzgerald. Or watch Gossip Girl

 

Have you read “Great”? Are you fans of “The Great Gatsby”? Do you have any recommendations for me? Let me know!

 

Book Review: Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

fingersmith

Warning: this review contains mild spoilers

Remember how I raved about “Wildthorn” and how it left me hungry for more Victorian queer ladies and their adventures? Well, I actually got “Fingersmith” ages ago but since my TBR pile is so huge I only managed to get to it now.

 

This novel takes place in the 1860s, Victorian England. On the one hand, we have Sue Trinder, an orphan who lives with a lady that sells babies and has an entire nest of thieves at her disposal. Sue’s been a thief since before she can remember, and it’s all she knows. One day, a Gentleman comes to her with a sinister plot to commit the biggest con she’s ever been involved in in her eighteen years of life. He asks her to act as a companion to a young, lonely woman who is very rich and if she were to marry and if something were to happen to her – say she grows so poorly the husband has no choice but to send her to an asylum – all the money would go to the husband. Which is what Gentleman intends to become, with Sue’s help. Sue transforms into Susan Smith and departs London, her mother figure and her “colleagues” for the first time in her life. Seducing the young woman doesn’t appear to be a problem for Gentleman. The problem is, however, is that nobody warned Susan she would fall in love with her subject!

On the other hand, we have Maud Lilly, a girl who’s never known anything but abuse disguised as “tough love”. She lived with nurses until she was ten and afterwards, she is forcibly removed by her obsessive, sleazy, scholar of an “Uncle” into the country. For years, she desperately longed for a way out of Briar, an old mansion full of nasty servants, and to get away from her Uncle. Every day, she would transcribe his “French” texts for him, over and over again. Until one day, a man enters, offering her a way out, a path towards freedom. The only thing she needs to do is to become “a villain”, like him, and deceive and manipulate certain people. But can she go through with it if the very person she’s to deceive has captured her heart?

 

“Fingersmith” is a perfect read for those who love unreliable narrators, creepy gothic mansions and plot twists you’d never see coming. Like me, when you start reading you would probably expect it to be your standard “thief falls in love with her target and there’s drama” plot, but I was shocked to discover that it was anything but that. It is true, the book is about thieves and con artists and there most certainly is a lot of drama, but you never see the twists and turns coming. At many points I had to put the book down and gape at it because my mind was blown! The twists have been described as “Dickensian” which I think is an excellent analogy. Parts 1 and 3 are narrated by Sue and Part 2 is told by Maud. I suppose you could say that the twists start in part 2 and continue throughout the book until the very last page, so you can’t really skim through any sections of the book. The entire work is dense and the details are intricately woven into the plot, so the book is very… sating so to say. I can honestly say that while this book has familiar elements, they are put together in a way that makes me say that “Fingersmith” isn’t anything like I’ve read before.

“Oliver Twist” is my favourite book by Charles Dickens (well, it’s the only one besides “GE” that I read but still), and Nancy is my favourite character – I adore thieves with hearts of gold. “Fingersmith”, however, has zero Nancy’s, except one secondary character named Dainty. Not a single character can be described as warm, fuzzy, or even “good”. So if you’re looking for a feel-good story about two girls who defeated obstacles of their era and finally found solace in each other’s arms, this is not the book for you. In fact, the few extremely well-written romantic scenes are nowhere nearly enough to soothe the shivers and the anticipation the reader feels as she follows the girls on their respective journeys. Our narrators are written as people, and the author doesn’t hesitate to show their ugly sides. They are not villains, however. It can actually be argued that the story has two primary villainous figures. The first is quite self-aware and literally refers to himself as “villain”. The figure of Richard Rivers the master manipulator is quite mysterious and more often than not, downright repulsive. He is certainly clever and cunning, which is why the ring of thieves welcomes him. However, he is definitely not the creepiest character in the book – that spot belongs to Maud’s Uncle. He literally reminds me of Mr. Thenardier from “Les Miserables” – except instead of mauling his own kids to pretend to be poor, he abuses his niece because he needs a secretary to rewrite erotic novels for him. Some of you may enjoy the idea that these novels serve as a sort of “MacGuffin” for “Fingersmith” – a plot device used to advance character development (Maud).

Villain number two is a Fagin-esque character named Mrs Sucksby, Sue’s adoptive mother (or is she?). I say “Fagin-esque” not only because she is a central figure of the thieves’ den, but also because her end is eerily similar to Fagin. However, I can’t remember whether Fagin is redeemed at the end of “Oliver Twist”, but Mrs Sucksby certainly does, in her own way. Her character is also at the center of two primary themes of the novel – deception and nature vs nurture. The entire novel is soaked in deception, and it can be said that it all starts with Mrs Sucksby. I haven’t seen the mini series yet but I already think that Imelda Stanton is the best actress to play this character. In fact, she’s exactly who I pictured when I was reading certain revelation scenes.

“Fingersmith” is quite a unique novel, and an exemplary piece of written work. The characters of the novel are not someone I cared about or rooted for, but they’re certainly fascinating. And the plot twists definitely kept me on the edge of my seat. My rating for “Fingersmith” is¬†8.5/10.¬†

 

Favourite quotes

“Everybody in my world knew that regular work was only another name for being robbed and dying of boredom.”

“But words, words – hmm? They seduce us in darkness, and the mind clothes and fleshes them to fashions of its own.”

“Dark nights are good to thieves and fencing-men; dark nights in winter are the best nights of all, for then regular people keep close to their homes, and the swells all keep to the country, and the grand houses of London are shut up and empty and pelading to be cracked.”

 

Dreamcast

There’s already a mini series which has perfect casting, so just look it up here ūüôā

 

Recommendations

You might enjoy “Fingersmith” if you liked:

“Oliver Twist” by Charles Dickens

“Wildthorn” by Jane Eagland

“The Woman in White” by Wilkie Collins

 

Have you read “Fingersmith” or any other Sarah Waters’ books? Do you enjoy Victorian fiction? What are your favourite historical LGBT books? Please let me know in the comments!

Book Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire S√°enz

ari and dante

So how long has it been? Over six months I believe. I’m dreadfully sorry for being away – lengthy review slumps aren’t fun. But let’s hope that a review of this little gem would be a cure I need.

 

Ari and Dante are two teenage boys from El Paso, Texas with unconventional names. An introverted, sarcastic Ari has a penchant for lashing out on people – teenage hormones coupled with a brother in prison and parental figures who, lovely as they are, have their own wars to fight, with aren’t the best recipe for a happy summer. But then, Ari meets Dante – an intellectual, an artist, a guy who is practically radiant. One thing the boys have in common is that they are loners, albeit in different ways.The two strike a friendship, a friendship that starts with an understanding that passes between them when they learn each other’s names. The two friends have their ups and downs during the summer before Dante has to leave for a year, leaving Ari confused and angry about his feelings…

 

Coming of age is defined as “a young person’s transition to adulthood”. This naturally implies that any coming-of-age book has a particular centerpiece – character development of its protagonist. There are some books that are branded as “coming of age” stories, but they feature little to none character development and the writers disguise “stereotypical teenage activities” like drinking and drugs as such. However, more often than not, these MacGuffins are purely there for shock value. In “Ari and Dante”, however, while these activities take place on a couple of occasions, the author does not focus on them and one can genuinely trace the development of the narrator (Ari). He starts off as a brooding fifteen-year-old kid who doesn’t really have any friends and throughout the book, the reader learns about his family problems and how his hereditary tendencies to keep everything bottled up lead him towards the Ari that he used to be. When he meets Dante, a boy who appears to be self-assured, incredibly smart and an all-around people pleaser, Ari’s summer suddenly gets much better. Ari describes Dante as someone who “made talking and living and feeling seem like all those things were perfectly natural”. That was not the case in Ari’s world, for many reasons. Towards the end of the book, Ari, however, realises what the reader knew all along. “The Ari I used to be didn’t exist anymore. And the Ari I was becoming? He didn’t exist yet.” This sense of confusion, of living in a “prologue”, is very familiar to young adults.

 

Ari, as well as the author, arguably, see summer as a way to “write something beautiful in the book”. The problem that Ari had – thinking that he didn’t have any idea what to write – is eventually solved by Dante. Ari at some point in the book says that words are different “when they live inside of you”, showing the reader once again that he has a lot to say but doesn’t know how. I must say that Ari’s first person PoV was one of the best things about the book. He is not the most reliable narrator – his perspective is more often than not skewed and muddled by the constant internal monologue – but one of the factors that contributes to that, as the reader and Ari learn at the end – is that Ari is in love for the first time. Everyone, including Ari’s and Dante’s parents, know that, and the feeling is more than mutual. That is another thing I loved – the family relationships. Both sets of parents have their own issues and problems, but they love their children more than anything. Parental homophobia is one of the things that really gets under my skin, and I am glad that the book has no trace of it.

 

The title of the book encompasses several things – firstly, one of Ari’s and Dante’s favourite things to do – stargazing. Secondly, it arguably refers to Ari’s and Dante’s blossoming friendship; every relationship is a combination of endless things people put in it, and the author makes it seem as though a relationship is a small universe of its own, for the participants to build and discover. And thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, the title refers to Ari and Dante getting to know themselves, as well as each other. It may be written with very little purple prose, but, not unlike Zusak’s “I am the Messenger”, the words and sentences author uses compile a lovely, profound work. My rating is¬†9/10.

 

Favourite quotes

Maybe we just lived between hurting and healing”

“Words were different when they lived inside of you”

“Another secret of the universe: Sometimes pain was like a storm that came out of nowhere. The clearest summer morning could end in a downpour. Could end in lightning and thunder”.

 

Recommendations

You might like “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe”¬†if you liked:

 

“The Catcher in the Rye” by JD Salinger

“Eleanor and Park” by Rainbow Rowell

“I am the Messenger” by Markus Zusak

 

Book Review: Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan

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For my review of “Unspoken” – the first book in this series – please click here.

Naptime is over for Kami, Angela, her brother Rusty and Holly, as Robert Lynburn’s scarecrows attack Sorry-in-the-Vale. Rob is quickly gaining followers in town, who are either terrified of him or still remember the old ways when the Lynburns had the power. Kami attempts to engage her reporter skills to tell people the truth, but to no avail. Her friends’ efforts to help are unfortunately fruitless. Enter the Lynburn cousins (or are they?). Ash is the son of Rob and his wife Lilian who has no attraction to evil stuff. And of course, there is Jared, Kami’s former imaginary friend. At the end of “Unspoken” they, rightly so, severed their mind link, removing their connection to each other. Or so they thought. They are missing each other immensely but what can one do if Jared’s uncle is a magical murderer demanding a blood sacrifice from the town and Jared’s aunt is an aloof, cold witch who wants to take him down but doesn’t want any help from outside the family. She is quickly forced to change her mind about that though – Kami’s instincts and talent for investigation, Angela’s readiness to channel her anger at the evil wizards and Holly’s magical heritage are not something she can do without, it appears. However, what if their forces are not enough to defeat the entire town standing behind Rob? And what if Kami is forced to lose the ones she loves and destroy herself in the process?

 

First of all – dear Miss Brennan, your love for “The Princess Bride” is showing.

Second of all – every good book starts with a scarecrows’ attack, and with ladies being represented in the scarecrow movement.

Just kidding.

But it’s a great start. And it sets the tone for 4/5 of the book that was action-packed, full of funny quips and ladies getting stuff done (boys helped sometimes but with the exception of Rusty, they mostly brought drama). I do have issues, however, with all the romantic drama which makes up the rest of the novel. For starters – I haven’t liked Jared since “Unspoken” but he’s even more annoying in this installment, bar a few moments when him and Ash bond. And do, please, leave Kami alone – she doesn’t want to depend on anyone. I may be biased but I don’t believe they would ever work as a couple – there is too much history with them knowing each other’s every thought and feeling when they were linked. While Kami may miss him and feel attracted to both him and Ash (which is understandable – they both have excellent hotential), Jared is slightly obsessive and borderline homicidal and Ash did try to kill her best friend. My advice is to stick with journalism – she said herself before that guys disappoint but journalism never lets her down. Re: romantic option – may I suggest sticking with Rusty? He is handsome, deep without being homicidal, and appreciates her intelligence – calling her Cambridge speaks for itself.

Next issue – Holly, darling, what are you doing? We are all guilty of using other people to help us escape our own problems and struggles, but you know – there are evil sorcerers running around your town! Although I do understand that having your parents join the villains may be a bit much, but you have your friends by your side! And you don’t even have to make out with them – talking works just as well, you know. Also – props to Miss Brennan for including a bisexual character struggling with her sexuality and not making it the central focus of the novel. Her and Angela need to get back together! After they kick the sorcerers’ butts, of course.

Enough of the boy/girl drama – the best part of reading the book was getting another insight into Kami’s sleuthing and journalistic abilities. As a book blogger and an amateur legal journalist, I can appreciate a witty piece of writing and research. I am really hoping to see Kami combine what she has learnt during her time at the Lynburns’ library and her street-smarts and create some beautiful articles for “The Nosy Parker”, the town’s newspaper (which she has started herself by the way – could she get any more awesome?). Her one-liners didn’t go anywhere, fortunately – “hotential” is officially a term I shall be employing on a regular basis from now on. The combination of action, funny dialogue and drama (which was admittedly too much sometimes) means that I am rating “Untold”¬†7/10.

 

Favourite character

That spot will always belong to Kami in this series, for many reasons. Her character can be summed up in a single quote – “If the truth didn’t help anyone, and love didn’t last, what was there left to struggle toward?”. We know that, despite everything, Kami loves Jared. But she also loves her parents and her brothers more than anything. We can see her struggling to make sure that her loved ones are OK throughout the book, but we also know that she is the type of person who would do anything for people to know the truth. I respect that.

 

Character who gets the most development

See above РMiss Kami Glass goes through a lot of stuff in this book, both romantically and magically. I am looking forward, but at the same time I am not, to how SPOILER

her new mind link with Ash would affect her in “Unmade”.

END SPOILER

 

Favourite realtionship

Kami and Rusty – he’s good for her

 

Favourite quotes

“For the preservation of our sacred journalistic integrity, we have to see every scarecrow in town”

Being able to depend on someone doesn’t mean you’re dependent on them”

“If the truth didn’t help anyone, and love didn’t last, what was there left to struggle toward?”


Dreamcast:

Kami Glass –¬†Jamie Chung

Angela Montgomery –¬†Janel Parrish

Rusty Montgomery –¬†Joe Dempsie

Holly Prescott –¬†Jennifer Lawrence

Ash Lynburn –¬†Richard Madden

Jared Lynburn –¬†Jason Dohring¬†(circa Veronica Mars)

Lilian Lynburn –¬†Emilia Fox

 

Recommendations

You would like “The Lynburn Legacy series” if you liked:

“Buffy”

“Veronica Mars”

“The Raven Cycle series” by Maggie Stiefvater”