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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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)”

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!

book review · books · Shar

#minireviews The Upside of doing Truths and Dares

Hi Virtually Readers! I haven’t mini-reviewed in ageess, but I’m in that kind of mood, so here are two YA contemporaries that deal with very different themes but are both rather good. Also, warning: these reviews have a slightly varied writing style. I don’t know why. I’m just rolling with it. Also, these aren’t as mini as they should be! Oopsies. Continue reading “#minireviews The Upside of doing Truths and Dares”

book review · books · collabs · shanti · Shar

I Believe in a Thing Called Love co-review

Hi Virtually Readers! Shar and I recently read I Believe in a Thing Called Love, a contemporary YA book about a girl who tries to get the guy of her dreams by following steps gleaned from K-drama. Neither of us watch K-Drama, but that’s not an obstacle to enjoyment of the book—everything is pretty well explained, and it’s entertaining even if you don’t know the tropes. We thought we’d review it together because co-reviews are fun. Shanti is normal type, Shar is italics. Continue reading “I Believe in a Thing Called Love co-review”