book review · Shar

My Oxford Year//It wasn’t a inappropriate mayfly romance.

Hey Virtually Readers! I waited literally until the very end of the week to post this but that’s because I was working on another post that will hopefully be actually ready *ahem. Written* soon ish. This is yet another review from the summer. Continue reading “My Oxford Year//It wasn’t a inappropriate mayfly romance.”

book review · books · Shar

Leah on the Offbeat: Great yet manipulates fave characters?

Hey readers! How is your week going? I’m back with this a review of a book that kind of disappointed me yet I also enjoyed a lot. AAAARGH.

Title: Leah on the Offbeat

Author: Becky Albertalli

Genre: YA Contemporary

Themes: Sexuality, growing up, university, musical theatre in high school Continue reading “Leah on the Offbeat: Great yet manipulates fave characters?”

book review · books · Shar

Thoughts on Sophie’s World

Hello Virtual Readers! Yet another last-minute post from Shar… this time not because I’m busy with university (because I’m finally finished, hurrah!) but because I’m busy holidaying. Actually tho… Anyway, the last book I finished (not including Half A Yellow Sun because that post will be later) was Sophie’s World, so here are my thoughts on it. Continue reading “Thoughts on Sophie’s World”

book review · discussions · Shar

Thoughts on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep

Hey Virtually Readers! I just finished a fairly famous science fiction book called Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? . It’s by Phillip K. Dick, and very much a part of the sci-fi canon. I can see a lot of the ways it influenced YA dystopia that I really like. Anyway, here is a post with some of my thoughts about it.
Continue reading “Thoughts on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”

book review · books · Shar · Uncategorized

Review: Want

I *claim* to be a fan of the sic-fi genre. I’ve said before that it’s my favourite. But it has come to my attention that I read far more contemporary and fantasy than sci-fi, which is shameful. So as soon as I heard about Want and realised it was sci-fi/dystopian then I knew I had to read it. So I did. want-by-cindy-pon

Title: Want

Author: Cindy Pon

Genre: YA Sci-fi

Themes: deception, pollution, climate change, activism, friendship, rich people are literally bubble heads.

My blurb: In futuristic Taipei, there are two types of people. The ultra-rich yous protect themselves from the terrible pollution with oxygen suits and money, while the meis die young, suffering from all the environmental degradation and their poverty. After someone Zhou loves is murdered trying to bring in new environment laws, he and his friends decide they’ve got to do something to get back at the corporation who is responsible. But their plan is risky and the first thing they need is a lot of money. Zhou’s actions are about to get him into a game of deception and risk where he might lose sight of the end goal…

There were a lot of good things about this book, but first I have to complain about something important. Namely, the writing style. I haven’t read anything by Cindy Pon before, but the way this book was written really affected my perception of the story. The book required a lot of worldbuilding because of its dystopian nature, but instead of showing aspects of the world of pollution and global warming and poverty inequality, it was totally told. Especially at the start of the book, the writing had what felt like paragraphs spouting information that wasn’t always that relevant, though it did help paint the scene. At other times Jason (that’s his code name—we never learn his real first name, which is weird) comes up with information that you wish he’d announced earlier, like ‘oh I was not sick now because I had the flu when I was 10’ or ‘this person said X important thing to me the other day’ instead of actually showing it happening. This made it feel like the things being narrated didn’t happen.

The writing was also occasionally confusing, especially during action scenes, and there was a big reveal at the end that wasn’t made to feel that big. The book opens on an action scene, then goes back to ‘two months earlier’ to explain what’s going on. After that, though, there is no explanation of the time gaps, even though it becomes evident that weeks or months have passed with only a few days or events having been described. Generally, something about the writing style really made me feel disconnected from Jason and the other characters, even though it was a first person narration, which normally is easier for me to connect to.

However, there were some good things about this book. Firstly, I really liked how it was set in Taiwan, because I’ve never read any other books set there (and the author was born there) and my ex really good friend is Taiwanese. I liked the descriptions of food and although it made the future look bleak, it wasn’t hopeless either.

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I also liked how it dealt with wealth inequality, something that’s rapidly becoming a bigger problem and environmental degradation. I personally believe both of these are going to be big problems in the future and I don’t get why more dystopias don’t tackle them. Like I don’t think the US is going to become a monarchy that likes to play games to amuse the prince and help him find a wife. But growing commercialism, the ethics of surveillance without consent, bio-warfare and deadly viruses, and poverty and climate change are all things that are already problems now and will be in the future. I liked how this book touched on all of these.

Also, I just generally love sci-fi and dystopia, not gonna lie.

 

I really liked the love interest character! I liked how she wasn’t only petite and subservient, but she wasn’t just the Stronge Female CharacterTM archetype. She was a combination of all of them. Jason’s ‘gang’ and all the minor charcters were really interesting.

The plot was intense and usually interesting. I liked how I thought the plot was going to centre around all of Jason’s deceptions getting him into trouble and be something where nothing would happen if everybody was honest, but it wasn’t.

Overall, I liked the idea of this book, and it definitely tackled some good topics, but failed to execute them well enough to make me like it.

Characters: 3/5

Writing: 1/5

Setting: 4/5

Plot: 4/5

Total: 3/5

Have you heard of this? What other books have you read set in South east/East Asia? (I need recommendations) Is there a genre you claim to love, but never read? What have you read which has a really great concept but not as good writing?

book review · books · Shar

Review: The Secret of a Heart Note

Hi Virtually Readers! It’s another busy week in the life of Shar, but luckily I have a review to post.25165389

Title: The Secret of a Heart Note
Author: Stacey Lee
Genre: YA magical realism?
Themes: Friendship, love, family, belonging, having an amazing nose.

Blurb: Mimosa, like her mother, is an aromateur. She knows to follw all the rules, including never charge for your services, press every ingredient freshly, and the quintessential never fall in love (lest your nose stops working and your skill is rendered useless.) Her job is to manufacture ‘love potions’—combinations of smells from her abundant garden that, in the right conditions, can open the mind to love. But Mim’s just started high school and when one of her teachers becomes a client, she might just get herself into more trouble than she can handle.

I loved the concept of this book. I don’t know if aromateurs were ever a thing (I doubt it, but it would be cool), but I liked the semi-magical way smell entwined with Mim’s life in the real world.
The sensory imagery in this book was amazing. I learned sooo many words for smell (edit: I have now forgotten them all, but that’s what happens when you’re a forgetful munchkin) and it was really interesting to imagine all the amazing smells that were described. Most books focus on visual imagery, but this went above and beyond with the smells. One of the points of the book was Mim learning that she is more than a nose, and I really liked the visual and audible imagery that came with that realisation.
The entire setting rocked. I could picture Mim’s jungly house, her school, the ocean and botanical gardens. That aspect of the book worked really well.
The characters were awesome. To be honest, Mim fell a little flat to me. She narrated the book, but she was a bit bland. At the same time, she was okay to read about. The love interest didn’t really wow me, to be honest. It was one of those typical shy-girl-with-no-friends-lets-white-jock-who’s-hiding-his-depths-befriend-her kind of stories, which is pretty clichéd. What I did like, though, was the characterization of the relationship between Mim and her mother. And as for secondary characters, Kali (Mim’s best friend) was my favourite.
In general though, I felt like there were too many secondary characters being developed. From the love interest’s mother, Mim’s mother, Mim’s aunt, and mean girls Melanie and Vicky, there were so many characters that the plot got a bit lost.
As for the plot, it was your typical character-gets-themselves-in-a-mess-and-must-set-things-right, which is definitely a trope, but one I don’t usually mind and haven’t seen for a while. It was partially, if not entirely, predictable, and the ending satisfied me while perpetuating the idea that once you fall in love it’s all okay, which is dumb.
In terms of diversity, having a super sensitive nose (and associated stigma) was kind of representation, and Kali the best friend was Samoan and queer. There certainly could have been more representation though.
While the prose sounded nice, I often found myself losing track of who was speaking or missing a key piece of action. It may have been just me, but having to go back and reread the last few paragraph was frustrating. I also felt like useful details, such as Mim’s grade at school, weren’t included, which made me a confused bean.
Despite a few problems, I really enjoyed this, especially all the smells.

Plot: 3/5
Setting: 5/5
Writing/themes: 3/5
Character:3/5
Total: 3/5

Have you read this? (or any other Stacey Lee books-I really liked Under a Painted Sky) Do you plan to? How is your sense of smell? How do you feel about nice sounding prose versus understandable prose?

book review · books · Shar

Review: The Trials Of Apollo # 1

Hi Virtually Readers!  I feel like I only ever review contemporary on here, even though I obviously read other genres as well. So here’s a review of a fantasy book just to shake things up a bit.91sdxvwkwdl

Title: The Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle

Author: Rick Riordan

Genre: YA/MG Fantasy

Themes: Friendship, Gods, quests, being mortal like everybody else, haikus

Basic idea: Apollo wakes up in a rubbish tip. He figures that Zeus has turned him mortal, and he must go through some trials to get back to his correct Godly state.

I thoroughly enjoyed this. Let’s talk about some of the elements:

The plot: I thought it would be typical Riordan demigods-go-on-quest-and-almost-die-then-get-back-also-there-are-jokes. BUT IT WASN’T. You know how all the Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus books centre around a prophecy? This one doesn’t. Because the oracle isn’t working (see title: the Hidden Oracle). So interestingly, it’s more like Camp Half Blood is the base. All the action basically happens inside Camp Half Blood grounds, and they’ll go and almost die, then come back and recover, then repeat.

Apollo: HIS EGO THOUGH. I really liked his narration. He starts off being like all egotistical (there was a quote to the effect of: I was beginning to question my sense of self worth. But that was crazy talk). Basically, he has a really big head, which was just hilarious. And over the course of the book, he begins to realise that maybe even his godly self wasn’t as great as he was remembering. The character development wasn’t subtle, but it was there. His voice was really distinct, which I appreciated. Also, he was so fond of his children it was adorable.

Meg: Apollo’s demigod master. She was really awesome and funny. I didn’t see the plot twist with her coming at all, but I must admit some of her decisions just didn’t quite match with the character she was introduced as. I mean, I get that she was lying about something, and was acting and all, but still. Anyway, her relationship with Apollo (he usually addressed her as ‘The young McCaffery which I found hilarious) was great.

All the Percy Jackson cameos: Nico+Will. That is all. Also Percy trying to get serious and pass high school and study for his SATs and DSTOMP etc., also Chiron, also Rachel Elizabeth Dare, also XXX and XXXXXX who turn up at the end AAAAA finally yay hooray no more silly cliffhangers.

Camp Half-Blood in winter: YASSSS thank you. Although even if people are demigods, I really cannot imagine how any sensible adult, especially an immortal one like Chiron, would allow events like a ‘three-legged death race’. Because death is bad. (And one point Apollo’s imagining this amazing dramatic scene where he says something important then gets stabbed in the back. Then he’s like ‘wait. I’m mortal. Murder would kill me.’ EXCUSE ME WHILE I DIE LAUGHING.

The Oracles plot, catch-88, etc: YESS.

However, a few things didn’t work for me. Namely, the scene during the death race where Apollo is stuck with Meg and is near Delphi and is like ‘ooohhh I can hear my enemy’ and almost dies but escapes. Because it doesn’t make sense? Like, we know that Apollo is scared of Python, but why did he not die. (Speaking of people not dying, I swear that these demigods are made extra strong or something).

Also, it was one of those plots where Riordan was basically like: Remember the Titans and the Giants and Gaia? Well actually the same bad guys were behind both these events, and they’re even worse than the other bad guys, and Apollo needs to fight them. I feel like the other bad guys were bad enough that Riordan didn’t need to eclipse them with more badness, you know? Maybe it was just me.

The beginning was a bit slow.

One other thing: There were a lot of pop culture references, from Snapchat to musicians. Like, I get that it’s relatable? But I think a good story should be a bit more timeless and understandable for people at least a decade before and after it’s publication.

Overall, I really enjoyed trademark humour and action and greek+roman mythology. Will definitely continue the series.

Plot: 4/5

Characters: 4/5

Setting:5/5

Themes&writing: 3/5

Total: 3.5/5

Have you read this? Do you want to? How do you feel about excessive pop culture references? Was this review too long? (answer: YES)