book review · books · shanti

Returning to Ingo

Hi Virtually Readers! I really enjoyed writing a post about Emily St. John Mandel’s books the week before last and it made me think that I should do a bit of a series or group reviews, which are more fun and interesting to write in some ways than single reviews. So it’ll be Ingo this week and Naomi Novik next time and maybe Madeliene L’Engle and Zadie Smith after that—a blend of new-to-me authors and rereads. Anyway, the Ingo books are ones which I treasure deeply, so much that I hauled them back to New Zealand from India. I appreciate their whimsy and wisdom just as much now as when I was 8 and 11.

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book review · books · shanti

Labyrinths and Loss

Hi Virtually Readers! Hopefully you have not been tracking my online activity and obscure references to my whereabouts with any kind of fervor, in which case you will not know that I just returned (like a week ago) from Indonesia. I had a marvellous time, pretended I didn’t have university responsibilities and read quite a bit. Now I am back and my life is consumed by chaos and I have so much to do and mostly I am happy about it (really relating to shar’s blogging struggles tbh). Anyway, one of the books I read was also about chaos: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova. This is going to be a short review because I gotta sleep but enjoy anyway.

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book review · books · shanti

Only Love Can Break Your Heart

Katherine Webber knows some truths: human lives intersect in strange and unpredictable ways. Grief shapes us in ways that we do not understand. Relationships are rarely equal. She knows all this, and she tries to shape these axioms of complexity into a story in Only Love Can Break Your Heart. I quite enjoyed it, but not nearly as much as Wing Jones.

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book review · books · shanti

Book Review: You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone

Here are some facts about me:

    • I’m eighteen
    • I am from two different countries
    • I’m a fraternal twin with a sister
    • I’m a violist
    • I’m religious
    • I’m fairly happy
    • I was rejected by some prestigious American universities
      All but one of these things (guess which one!) I have in common with one or the other of the sisters in You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone. And this book is so much. It’s not perfect, but it does what it does really well.

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book review · books · shanti

I Was Born For This

Hi Virtually Readers! I like to escape to other places, though I’m not good at doing it. I like books and cake and essays and blogging. I have never gotten deep into a fandom—I think you need a tumblr account for that—but I would still call myself a fan of many things. And I Was Born for This is a book about fandom. While I don’t see myself in the obsessive fandom that Angel has for The Ark, I still loved how Oseman writes about obsession and immersion in other people’s lives. After all, that’s why I read. (a copy of this book was provided for review by Harper Collins New Zealand, which was nice of them, but it has not impacted my thoughts because I knew I was gonna love it)

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book review · books · shanti

Unearthing (mysteries and more)

I’m convinced that Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner are two of the few people who make me amenable to sci-fi. It’s been over two years since I reviewed their last co-written novel, Their Fractured Light. Unearthed has many things similar to their previous trilogy: dual narration between a boy and girl, the worlds of space to explore, and great mystery (or perhaps even conspiracy). Unearthed is completely compelling; fast and angry and eager, just like the two characters at its’ heart. I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending and one character development thing, but apart from that, it was great. I have never watched Indiana Jones or Tomb Raider, the two comparison titles for this novel, but I loved the adventure and space setting of this novel, and the romance is a lot of fun too. Continue reading “Unearthing (mysteries and more)”

book review · shanti

The Sandcastle Empire is easily destroyed

Hi Virtually Readers! It’s a Tuesday on a Shanti week which means it’s time for a review. How exciting! Sadly the review is not for a book I enjoyed. A few weeks ago, I read The Sandcastle Empire by Kayla Olson, and I must admit that I was decieved by the title. I thought it was fantasy, because if I see the word ’empire’ I automatically assume it’s fantasy. However, this book, with a cover as green as Divergent serum, is decidedly dystopian. Anyway, fascinating insights into my mind aside, this novel was so surface level, and that was it’s main problem. It begins as an escape narrative, becomes a mystery, then is an action-thriller until the end. There is a lot of interesting things going on, but Olson, unfortunately, didn’t really explore them, so while the reading experience was fairly enjoyable, I totally failed to care.

32051724When all hope is gone, how do you survive?

Before the war, Eden’s life was easy—air conditioning, ice cream, long days at the beach. Then the revolution happened, and everything changed.

Now a powerful group called the Wolfpack controls the earth and its resources. Eden has lost everything to them. They killed her family and her friends, destroyed her home, and imprisoned her. But Eden refuses to die by their hands. She knows the coordinates to the only neutral ground left in the world, a place called Sanctuary Island, and she is desperate to escape to its shores.

Eden finally reaches the island and meets others resistant to the Wolves—but the solace is short-lived when one of Eden’s new friends goes missing. Braving the jungle in search of their lost ally, they quickly discover Sanctuary is filled with lethal traps and an enemy they never expected.

This island might be deadlier than the world Eden left behind, but surviving it is the only thing that stands between her and freedom.
The presence of class as compulsion for rebellion is an interesting idea, as was allusion to climate change and Kiribati as beginning the apocalypse that fueled said (evilish) rebellion, and new technology albeit ridden with NO SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE but whatevs. Olson fails utterly to explore these ideas, really letting herself down. Her protagonist, Eden doesn’t engage with these issues or contemplate her relative privilege in the least. She has no awareness that her lifestyle led to a planet where Kiribatians died in swarms and Wolves took over. I wished that the climate change and class aspects had been explored more.
The narrative of learning to trust again was also intriguing, and utterly ignored and rushed. Hope has been consistently betrayed by those close to her, so no wonder she has trust issues. The romance is not-quite instalove, but ridiculous. Deaths and violence are barely questioned. Olson could have turned this into part of the story, in her own style it would read something like Chapter 79. Once I was a girl who would have been shocked by the blood on her hands but now I am something else isn’t it sad. She may even have written something like that, but it was so forgettable that it’s fallen out of my memory. The choppy ‘deep thoughts’ chapters irked me completely. And though most of the characters were teenagers, adults still had the power (and Lowan’s resistance position made ZERO SENSE), which seems like Olson wasn’t able to fully commit to her ‘teenagers saving the world narrative’. This resulted in a ‘worst of both worlds (adults with power, teens with unrealistic influence) scenario which made little to no sense. The rapid shift in the characters goals was disorienting, and I never got a feel for anyone other than Alexa (and her redemption arc could have been way better. Another disappointment). The fast ending, which the protagonist barely played a role in, didn’t work for me at all.
In the world of the Wolf Pack, a sandcastle empire, there were so many opportunities to explore power and privilege and evil and Olson more or less missed them all (even though the social forces are so relevant to today). The story is superficially enjoyable, but by divorcing the musings to random choppy chapters, the story collapses and crumbles like sand into the sea.

Have you read this book? Are you able to enjoy stories which don’t talk about the issues they allude to? What’s your favourite book which features climate change? tell me in the comments!