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Fiction-Non Fiction: Language

I have decided, in my finite knowledge and wisdom, to turn fiction-non-fiction recommendations into a series. This is mostly because I realized that I have been reading some non fiction books which group nicely into categories and non-fiction is AMAZING and somewhat underappreciated, I feel, in my blogging community. So over the next few months there will be a couple of these posts, once I figure out all of the groupings. There’s going to be a post about genetics books, nature writing books, semi-funny memoirs, economics possibly…it’s a series in development (if you have suggestions, please let me know!)

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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 · Shar

Review: The Great Gatsby

Hi Virtually Readers! I read a classic, and then I reviewed it. Also I normally would do a more interesting post on Tuesday, but our internet had a hard (and therefore entirely non functioning) week so then I didn’t write a post. I will by Friday, of course 🙂

Title: The Great GatsbyScreen Shot 2016-09-04 at 3.19.16 pm

Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald

Genre: Adult contemporary?

Themes: The American dream, relationships, wealth, people being more than people and this is bad

I’m definitely going to reread this. It wasn’t like the plot (as it were) was entirely scintillating. But it somehow contained or depicted an idea that went beyond the pages in a beautiful (and terribly sad) way.

Basic summary: Nick Carraway is intrigued by his neighbor Gatsby, whose incredible parties are famed throughout New York. As they become better friends, Nick learns there is more to Gatsby than the parties—he carries deep love, grief, and some secrets about his identity that weigh heavy.

I actually just learned precisely what the American Dream was now, maybe 2 months after reading this book (I wrote the rest of the review at the time, for the record). It is apparently the idea that if you work hard you can get anywhere. The main theme of this book basically debunks it.

While the language took a chapter or two to get used to; it was incredible. Nick would introduce different aspects of the story with this gorgeous voice. At first each part seemed irrelevant but the story came together perfectly, like a jigsaw puzzle or a tapestry. I never felt there was an unnecessary word.

One the themes was like the moral of Paper Towns—don’t make someone bigger than a person. That Gatsby does this to Daisy, the girl he loves, is explicitly stated. He imposes unreasonable expectations on her, arisen from his unfulfilled desires, but disappoints himself (and her) when Daisy fails to meet them.

But in a way, Gatsby is also bigger than a person. Most attendees of his parties don’t know him—they are there for the fun, not the company. Most aren’t even invited! He’s a complete enigma. To most people he knows, he’s no more than the rich party host. He becomes more than this, but there’s an aura of sadness, because almost nobody else really knows him except Nick. There’s also the question of whether Gatsby doesn’t want to be known, or if other people don’t want to know him. If his whole backstory—which we as the readers are told—is known, will he still be popular?

The Great Gatsby is about love and broken relationships. It’s about how sometimes all that effort, all the parties and the elaborate persona, doesn’t pay off. In the end, Gatsby pays the ultimate price for his relationship with Daisy (an entirely noble sacrifice), as does Myrtle with Tom.

Outside (but simultaneously part of) the action is Nick. He carries an awareness of the sadness of Gatsby’s life, but also an inherent goodness, trying to do the right thing for his friend. He’s the partial and impartial observer all at once.

I don’t know if I fully got The Great Gatsby (actually, I do—I didn’t) but I loved the way the writing worked with the plot and characters to say entirely true things about identity, love, and death.

Themes: 5/5

characters: 5/5 (much shown not told)

language: 5/5

Plot:2/5 (the book didn’t have much)

Setting: 3/5 (not important; much assumed)

Total: 4/5

Have you read this? How do you feel about reading classics (it was one of my reading goals, although I may be kind of failing at the nonfiction section)? What happens when people are more than people? (bad things, I assume)


book review · books · Shar

Review: A Darker Shade of Magic

I recently read this and it was sososo quite very good. *nods* Now all I have to do is read A gathering of Shadows

Title: A Darker Shade of Magic9781783295401

Author: Victoria Schwab

Genre: YA fantasy

Themes: Friendship, dark magic, English life, power, what to do when twins go postal

My blurb: Kell is Antari, a rare blood magician. As one of the only people who can carry messages (and illegal trinkets) between the parallel Londons—White, bleached by a thirsty struggle over power; Red, Kell’s vibrant home; and Grey, our world, with only faint glimmers of magic—he is important to his crown. But when he comes across and strange and powerful black stone, relic of the cut-off and ravaged Black London, he might have bit off ore than he can chew.

I’m not sure how I feel about this, apart from good, yet, so I’m going to break it down into sections.

The Setting- AMAZING. ell is from Red London, the most prosperous one, filled with both magical power and material wealth. Everything, from the bright and bustling night market, to the lavish palace, to the taverns and alleys, felt incredibly real.

White London bore the brunt of Black London’s collapse. Everything there is about power and as a result, White London felt dangerous and hungry. There’s an ever-changing host of vicious (see what I did there?) monarchs. Currently the terrifying Dane twins are in power. The whole place was faded and burnt out from the constant struggles for power.

Grey London, unlike the other two, is not centred on magic at all (It’s our world in the 1700s). The opening scene in dying King George’s prison/castle is just as real as the dark docks and the tavern (the tavern is in every London; different name, same place. So is the Thames. Meanwhile, all the city’s other features change.).

All the Londons felt very distinct, but also the same, connected despite their differences. The whole premise behind the settings (and, in fact, the whole story) was both brilliantly unique and comfortingly familiar.

The Plot- I loved the way it was divided into 13ish parts. Each had a title that subtly hinted at the events to follow and four-ish chapters. I loved the way this made ADSOM feel. As for the plot itself, it too a while to get started, but then was incredibly exciting, with changing perspectives and settings across Londons, fight scenes and hiding scenes and talking scenes and much very good. Some of the scenes were so creepy I actually had to stop reading.

Language- My main problem was that the dialogue didn’t sound like the 1700s. The went around saying ‘yeah’ and ‘just kidding’ and other phrases that felt anachronistic. Did they use modern swear words in the 1700s? These characters did. However, aside from this fault, the dialogue was strong and cohesive and easy to follow.

Otherwise, the lush descriptions and strong figurative language all were rich and powerful, without taking away from the action or characters. Aside from that dialogue quibble, I really liked the language.

Characters-AAAAAAA yes.

Kell- Is half a crown possession, half a part of the royal family (he sees the prince Rhy as his brother, but not the king and queen as his parents. They took him from his home and removed any memories of his previous life, for example).He tries to be all grumpy, but he appreciates how good his life is (compared to other Antari), and he loves Rhy so much, and he’s trying to do the right thing, but with something like the stone and it’s magic, that’s very hard. So basically he’s a cinnamon roll at the side.

Lila- is a Grey London pickpocket who meets (and steals from) Kell. Their relationship is obviously, on these grounds, cute (but not really a relationship relationship, ya know). She’s used to the rough life, but despite being a thief, she has this strong sense of justice (exhibit A: Gives stolen money to a little beggar, who is robbed by three big thugs. Decides to take them out. Fails.). She has an interesting relationship with Barron, the owner of the Grey London tavern, and dreams of being a pirate. What she wants most is adventure (although her life as a cross-dressing thief seems adventurous to me), and Kell seems to represent that.

The secondary characters were all interesting, but I don’t feel like talking about them.

Overall-HIGHLY RECOMMEND to fans of fantasy, especially urban /historical fantasy.


characters: 4/5




Have you read ADSOM? (should you? YES) What books have you read with interesting premises recently? How do you feel about urban fantasy?