book review · books · Shar · Uncategorized

(scathing) Review: Brooding YA Hero

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Title:Brooding YA Hero: Becoming a Main Character (almost) as Awesome As Me

Author: Carrie Ann DiRisio

Genre: YA Satire (it’s not a very big genre) Continue reading “(scathing) Review: Brooding YA Hero”

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books · discussions · lists · Shar

Shar’s Top 5 most relatable books | Get to know me!

Hi Virtually Readers! I recently finished rereading Radio Silence, which is obviously AMAZING and started thinking about other books I found relatable. This post is going to be a combination of get-to-know-me (through said relatable books) and FANGIRLINGGG!!!! (also, I know I’ve read other relatable books. These are the first that came to mind). Note: covers link to goodreads, title texts to my review if I reviewed it)   Continue reading “Shar’s Top 5 most relatable books | Get to know me!”

books · features · shanti

The Bookish Planet: Europe to Americans

Hi Virtually Readers! Welcome back to another Bookish Planet. Today’s guide features Europe. Yes, all of Europe. It might seem like a big place than you can’t generlise with a travel guide under a thousand words, but you’re wrong. If you’re an American, especially an American under the age of twenty, it’s very easy to see all the important bits of Europe AND find yourself within the space of, say, a single summer. This guide will introduce you to the Europe that Americans know. Also, shoutout to Marie @Drizzle and Hurricane Books, who is not only a lovely person but also inspired and gave me feedback on this post. 

Featured in: Girl at Sea, Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes, Just One Day, The Girl’s Guide to Summer, Wanderlost, Heist Society, Anna and the French Kiss, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, Love and Gelato. 

Description: Europe is always sunny. This is because, if you’re a sensible YA character, you will only visit it in summer. You will only be able to travel to the places that people have heard of: Paris and Amsterdam are in, Darby and Abruzzo are out. You will be amazed at all the history, the people, the effective public transport, and of course the food. If you’re not eating gelato on every second page (if you’re in Italy) or croissants and baguettes (in France), or paella (in Spain), you’re probably not in Europe. There is no such thing as obscure region specialities, because people in the US won’t belive you if you ate something they haven’t heard of. And if you can’t see an iconic sight, like the Eiffel Tower or the bridges of Venice, then you are probably not doing a good enough job at being in romantic places; try harder. There will be iconic places everywhere; well, as long as you go where the rest of the tourists go. Occasionally you’ll feel obliged to eat at a small and slightly grimy café, just to prove that you went off the beaten path sometimes; but you’ll be much more comfortable in the places where you’re surrounded by other foreigners. The important parts of a country—the parts where you can find yourself AND fall in love—are not determined by the people that live there, but by your travel guide (like this one, and I’ll quickly list them for you: Sagrada Familia, Eiffel Tower, [sunny beach in South France with sunbathers], the Colosseum, Big Ben (if you count the UK as part of Europe, and you’re an American Anglophile, so you do), the temple to Athena whose name you can’t remember in Athens, the canals and bridges of Venice. Alternately, read any of the books listed above and you’ll find all the other important sights.). Oh, and you’re not really go into any of these countries because they don’t feature in any movies you’ve ever watched about Europe, so therefore must not exist: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Moldova, Kosovo. Basically the Balkans and the Baltic.)

People: Yeah, the people are a really appealing part of Europe. If you’re a young, you’re sure to meet people in two categories: 1, grumpy old people who suck at English, hate tourists, and make you feel like you’re seeing the real Europe; and 2, attractive and cool young people of whatever gender you find attractive who know local secrets (ooh, exciting), enjoy drinking because the drinking age in Europe is 18 or younger, and will somehow have enough money to accompany you on part of your travels. There are other people in Europe, but if you meet people who deviate from the national norm (Muslim Danes, Italian speaking Swiss, black Spanish), you’ll be in the minority, and again you might not really be in Europe, because as we know, all Europeans are white, except for the ones who are really really tanned. But, just be warned, you might fall in love with one of these Europeans, and the one you fall in love with will definitely speak English and there won’t be any issues with, say, your parents or their parents that will stop this romance from being the only one that will ever matter. 

History: Ugh. History. Do I even need to cover this? You probably know it all already. The Germans caused WWII and are sorry, don’t worry, they’re cool now; they occupied France (was there something called the Maignot line that didn’t work?) and then there was Russia for a while, just all over everything, ugh, and Germany was split, and then some wall fell, how fun, and the Cold War happened and then at some point there were rich cities in Italy that paid Leonardo Da Vinci to make stuff. Oh, and there were Crusades, how fun right? And there were dark ages, oh my goodness, America never had Dark Ages because Christopher Columbus escaped from them and started America, good for him. There’s lots of history, you’re going to be soaking it in all day, you’re a total expert. 

Where to Stay: You might have to stay in one or two youth hostels. Sorry about that! But it’s a great location to meet other young people who are having a fun time. Mostly though you have a lot of cash and not much explanation of where it comes from, so you get to stay in swanky hotel rooms in perfect locations with little to no supervision. And if you’re lucky you’ll get to be in a swanky bus or a boat that is somehow available to you. If you make friends with the locals* you can maybe stay with them and experience ‘authentic cuisine’, which will probably be a three course meal. There are places to stay everywhere in Europe as long as you only go where other tourists go.

*the English speaking, inexplicably good looking locals

Dangers: There might be some people who will try to rip you off. But you have a ridiculous amount of money for an eighteen year old without a job, so that shouldn’t trouble you. Otherwise, there are pickpockets, but, despite this being your first trip, you’re far too savvy a traveler to let them bother you. 

So, was this painfully true? Do you think Europe is romanticized? Tell me in the comments! 

book review · books · shanti · Uncategorized

8 Reasons to read Ashbury/Brookfield

Hi Virtually Readers! A few months ago I was deep in some corner of the internet (aren’t we all) and found all these posts on inside a dog that Jaclyn Moriarty had written AGES ago, about her Ashbury/Brookfield books, a series of contemporary novels told entirely in found documents. They’re more companion novels, btw, rather than sequels. And I read the series over then next few months, finishing in September, and I loved them all. The books are Feeling Sorry for Celia, Finding Cassie Crazy, The Betrayal of Bindy Mackenzie, and Dreaming of Amelia (except I got confused and read Amelia before Bindy). Those links, by the way, go to my reviews. I loved the series, and now I’m going to give you some reasons to read it.

One, the books are all hilarious.

Because it’s told in documents, there are all different styles of writing to differentiate the characters. One character, Emily, is prone to malpropism (I shall rain over everyone). Another character thinks she’s really smart, and it shows hilariously in the writing. Then there are fake court summonings (SO FUNNY) and drunk blogging. Not to mention the situations the character get into which are funny…one character is hilariously convinced that there is a ghost and another runs away to the circus.

Two, they’re all mysteries.

Now I’m an idiot and it took until the fourth book for me to figure out that all the books were mysteries. I actually really liked this though; it’s a sign that the mystery is well incorporated into the novel, and the focus stays on the characters.

Three, melodrama

All of the characters are teenagers, and like teenagers are wont too, tend to exaggerate their own circumstances to be a little more important and life changing than they really are. (especially Emily. Oh Emily, how I love you) But there are just enough instances where something ~creepy~ is actually happening that you can’t quite be sure.

Four, friendship

There are so many strong female friendships; and even just friendships in general. Finding Cassie Crazy and Dreaming of Amelia especially focus on a trio of girls, Cassie, Emily, and Lydia, and they are very funny and very supportive and generally excellent. And Amelia and Riley are very good friends to each other, and I love that Ernst is friends with Bindy (also a bit of shipping there tbh), and also all the boys in Finding Cassie Crazy are great (except for some of them). I liked Seb particularly.

Five, creative and quirky documents

Remember the fake court summonings I mentioned up above? Well, they’re part of the documents that make up the story. It’s a lot like Illuminae, but less pretty. There are also these excellent messages from various ‘societies’ in the first book which help us get into Elizabeth, the main characters head. In every book except The Betrayal of Bindy Mackenzie, you don’t know why the docements have been found and collected; but they’re there, and they’re wonderful, and you just enjoy it.

Six, compelling characters

Sometimes with document based stories, it’s hard to connect to the characters, but Jaclyn Moriarty is so clever that this never happens. I especialy connected with Bindy Mackenzie and Elizabeth Clarry, in the first and third books, which are more centred on one person. The honesty of the stories, the issues the characters have, and the way that the documents they leave can and simeltaneously cannot account for their lives; somehow, it works, and all the characters are just so true to life.

Seven, surprises

I often guess plots, but Moriarty consistently surprised me. I never knew what to expect and quite what each clue added up to, and that made such a nice change. The endings are a little ridiculous, but still perfect.

Eight, ALL CAPS.

There are a lot of ALL CAPS as emphasis in the book. Very relatable if you’re a book blogger.

I do actually have some critiques of these books, which you can see in my reviews. Overall, though, they’re very clever, very enjoyable, and very funny and I think more people need to read them so go forth and do likewise.

Have you read any of these books? And what’s your favourite document based book? let me know in the comments!

 

book review · Shar · Uncategorized

Review: Genuine Fraud (genuinely not for me)

33843362Title: Genuine Fraud

Author: E. Lockhart

Genre: YA mystery/thriller

Themes: Friendship, murder, power, wealth and poverty

Blurb: Told in reverse chronological order, Genuine Fraud is about a girl who has conned her way into inheriting and heiress’ fortune. Now on the run, Jules refuses to let anyone take what she’s got away. But what did it take for her to get what she has? Where has she come from? And what happened to Imogen? Continue reading “Review: Genuine Fraud (genuinely not for me)”

books · Shar · tags · Uncategorized

Cake Flavoured Books Tag

Hi Virtually readers! As I’ve mentioned before, the last 2 months I’ve been a useless person who has barely commented/done much blogging at all. Why? Because I’ve been travelling! (To see where I’ve been going, click here and follow the Europe Diaries tag). Now I’m at home again, I will try to reply and everything. Before I start, though, I’ll do a monthly roundup of books I read because I feel like it.  Continue reading “Cake Flavoured Books Tag”

books · discussions · features · shanti

Setting in Stone 6: Demographics

Demographics are details about the people of a place. Population size, ethnic makeup, what jobs people have, poverty and literacy levels, all that. I find them fascinating, revealing, and important. I also find them shockingly absent from books, especially fantasy books. In this installment of Setting in Stone, the topic is, surprisingly enough, demographics, why they matter in stories, and how to write them. Continue reading “Setting in Stone 6: Demographics”

shanti · writing

Beautiful Books: NANOWRIMO IS WAY TOO SOON

Hey Virtually Readers! As you may know I do some creative writing from time to time and I do so love it. (I also suck). I turned eighteen a few weeks ago, and among several goals for this year, I want to write two first drafts and edit two more manuscripts. Let’s see how that goes. I want to get Entreaty to a place where I’m happy to get feedback from people, and after visiting Thailand I feel all inspired to rewrite Lighter Places with a better setting and stronger characters (though I don’t think the plot will need such big changes). Anyway, I’m writing something totally different, an as-of-yet unnamed fantasy novel that will be part of a trilogy, for NaNoWriMo this year so I thought I’d link up with Beautiful Books, hosted by Cait @ Paper Fury and Sky @ Further up and Further in, to talk about it. Continue reading “Beautiful Books: NANOWRIMO IS WAY TOO SOON”

book review · books

The Bear and the what now?

A few months ago, I read The Bear and the Nightingale, a story completely saturated in Russian myth, so much that it forms its own kind of myth. The details that the author put in as an expert–she has a degree in Russian studies–formed a nuanced picture of medieval Russia. However, I wasn’t that invested in the story or the perspective.

31344916‘Frost-demons have no interest in mortal girls wed to mortal men. In the stories, they only come for the wild maiden.’

In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, an elderly servant tells stories of sorcery, folklore and the Winter King to the children of the family, tales of old magic frowned upon by the church.

But for the young, wild Vasya these are far more than just stories. She alone can see the house spirits that guard her home, and sense the growing forces of dark magic in the woods…

Atmospheric and enchanting, with an engrossing adventure at its core, The Bear and the Nightingale is perfect for readers of Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, and Neil Gaiman. blurb from goodreads


The pacing of the narrative is such that the action is focused really on the last third of the book, so the first two thirds merely detail the world in which Vasya, the heroine, grows up. Along the way, we’re treated to a close third for a variety of perspectives, which humanizes all secondary characters (other than Mozorko, perhaps) I love how the pieces of Vasya’s life added together to her narrative arc, but I struggled with her character. TBatN is a chosen one story: evil rising, magic birthed, trials, tribulations, friends, enemies, and obviously, a bittersweet sacrifice oriented ending. A good story; a formula which works for a reason. But Vasya is an uncompelling heroine—in fact, I found Konstantin, Anna, and Pyotr more interesting than her. Maybe I’m growing up, or maybe Vasya, a cardboard cutout, far-too-perfect Strong Female heroine is too bland. I completely failed to identify with her.
I’ve read several stories of Russia in the last few weeks, and it seems to me that Russia is the setting for more stories written by non-Russians than, say, Uganda, Malaysia, or Vanuatu. The Bear and the Nightingale exemplifies why (according to me), its such a popular setting. For one thing, Russia is an ‘East meets West’ place (and I know those dichotomies are Eurocentric). It’s not the US or Western Europe—it’s a little bit exotic, but similar enough to still be recognizable to the average media consumer, and it has myths that the West does not share, and medieval Russians wear dresses, but they’re called sarafans! How strange, but not weird, right? The endless, mostly empty plains, and the frosty forests add to the appeal too—the blank space is unexplored! (not really) but it practically begs for a story. Russian history is rich, too, and it has enough connections to the familiar Western European history that it turns up in lots of accessible Western TV shows and educational sources (including, say, degree programs at universities). TBatN, in rural medieval Russia, with a forest to explore and myths and details to pop out, along with mentions of Khans, totally shows my theory (which is right, obviously). And it’s not that I mind—Russia is fascinating—but food for thought.
TBatN is heavily critical of religion, particularly the abstract forced kind, which it implies much of Eastern Orthodox was at the time of the story (which to be fair, considering historical context and the devastation that Christianiy has wreaked on fold cultures worldwide is probably true). However, I hope religion and its role in daily life get a bit more nuance in the next bok. (which had an intriguing extract at the end of my copy).
tl;dr: The Bear and the Nightgale: Russia cold. Vasya boring. Story obvious (but still appealing.)

Have you read this? What’s a story you enjoyed that is set in Russia? tell me in the comments!