Review: The Loveless Princess by Lilian Bodley

I received an ARC via netgalley but all thoughts are my own.

★★★★

The first thing you should know about this short book is that I kept reading it in the car (don’t worry I was only a passenger!) despite my motion sickness and despite the Pokémon GO event with the 4x candies for your Pokémon buddy, y’feel me?

So I guess what I’m saying is that I was hooked from the first sentence. It’s not that the story was particularly original but it was gripping and really well written and I really wanted to know how the whole aro/ace thing was going to be handled. As it turns out, I think it was done pretty well (I’m not aro/ace but I believe this book is #ownvoices so I have to trust the author on this. Also from previous reads and research I felt like everything was handled well).

The plot was pretty simple but effective and to the point: Princess Anette is forced to marry Prince Everett from another kingdom, her parents won’t hear her reasoning and they don’t believe and don’t understand her when she tries to explain that she’s never loved anyone that way and she truly doesn’t believe that she ever will, and her parents keep telling her that she’ll find happiness through marriage. She reluctantly accepts to be married off because she’s an actual rational person unlike many book MCs and realizes there’s not much she can do that wouldn’t put her and her fiance’s kingdom at risk.
After she’s been married for a couple of days she finds out that her husband actually only loves men (that’s what I was hoping would happen tbh) and has a lover. When she sees them together, she gets mad because she was still holding on to the hope that despite her feelings so far (or lack of romantic feeling) she could grow to love her husband the way people expected her to, but if he loves someone else she sees that tiny hope disappear (I thought that was a bit of a weak plot point, but I actually reread that passage and while it’s a bit sudden and she seems to act a bit OOC I think her reasons actually make some sort of sense). She says some things she doesn’t fully mean, and the prince disappears, so she decides to go on a quest to find him since it was her fault that he disappeared.
This quest is full of fairy tale elements (the whole book actually is. It mentions a lot of tales/myths -some of which I haven’t even been able to identify because I’m not the most knowledgeable person when it comes to those) and the book makes it a point to make you understand that this story is set in such a classic, traditional world.

Now, I think that is great because that means that even in a classic, fairy-tale-like world, where Prince Everett’s grandma is literally the Princess form the Princess and the Pea and his mom is the Princess from Sleeping Beauty, aro/asexual and gay people and all kinds of people can exist and find their own place and they can make this world theirs. I think that’s definitely empowering and important and one of the things that made me like this short story so freaking much.

Another thing that was stressed out almost too much (but I never found like it was repeated too often or in the same context twice) was the idea that love/marriage and happiness aren’t two things that go hand in hand. This is stated in the book because the heroine is aro/ace but I feel like it’s an universal message and too often in books (and in life) there’s this silent acceptance of the equation love=happiness but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Even if you’re not aro/ace, you should reflect on this message because it’s true, you don’t need to find love to be happy (and finding love is nice but it doesn’t automatically make you happy on all fronts).

I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone for all the reasons I stated above (plus if you feel like you don’t know much about aro/asexuality but would like to understand it I feel like this book is a good place to start researching).

TW: attempted rape (I kinda skimmed that part, it wasn’t very graphic I think but it’s still important to point it out)

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Review + Discussion: A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

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★★★✩

 

This is one of those weird times when I wish star-rating disappeared because I don’t think I’ll ever feel completely comfortable with any rating I might give this book.
I originally gave it 4 stars, as I’m writing this now I think I want to leave out the star-rating completely and just use words instead for once. By the time I finished this review I feel like I want to give it 2,5 stars or something?? So I’m going with 3 official stars because despite my rant I mostly enjoyed reading this.

A few notes before you head into this review: most of the things I write are aspects of this book that I didn’t like. It’s much easier to point those out and rant about them than talk about the things I did like. I don’t think it’s just me, I think it’s a human condition to focus a lot more on the negatives than the positives. So if you don’t want to read anything negative about this book, leave now for your own sake, but know that I did overall like this book. I’ll point out the things I subjectively didn’t like and the things I think are objectively kind of shitty. Also, my tastes have changed a lot in the past year, so if you see my ratings for SJM’s books (they were all five stars at the time I read them) keep in mind that they might not necessarily be true anymore if I re-read those books now.

PLOT:

I think my strengths as a reader and reviewer don’t lie in judging (and summarizing lol) plots, so I’m going to leave it to other readers to do so. All I can say is that I think the plot made sense as a whole. There some slightly dull parts, and especially the beginning at the Spring Court was rather flat. I think we all expected a lot more drama there, and there wasn’t much of it. A lot of the plot was about preparing for war and discovering things/people/creatures that could come in handy once war started. I think some things could have been handled better.
I loved how some things were downright creepy, like Bryaxis, the Bone Carver and Weaver’s backstory, the Ouroboros, Amren’s story…until they weren’t. Come to think of it, her books (I’m extending this to ToG as well) are full of things that are creepy until they’re “humanized” or somehow made less scary. I do like this aspect most of the time but I feel like she might be overusing it a bit. I’d like some things to stay creepy for once.
As for the ending, it made me really emotional in a couple of points. A lot of how the war played out was very plot-device-y, but I’m not complaining about that. And as much as I’m overall happy with the ending, it didn’t seem very realistic.
There’s also a lot of minor loose ends, and I guess those will be addressed in the next books, but I appreciate that this series feels over and the next books will focus on different characters and not Feyre and Rhysand anymore. I think it’s really easy to drop this series now if you’ve been disappointed by it, and I appreciate that she didn’t end with a cliffhanger that would attract more readers to the next book.
As for me, I think I will continue reading this series, despite everything. I really care about the characters and I admit I’m curious about the world and how certain things will come into play (also I’m hoping at some point we’ll see some clear sign of how this and the ToG worlds connect, because afaik SJM said they are connected).

CHARACTERS:

I think SJM writes character really well…for a maximum of 2-3 books. She excels at secondary and side characters (though not in this book so much), but when it comes to MCs she can’t keep them up for more than a couple of installments. Their arcs and development are basically solved, in the case of this series, with ACOMAF.
I still really liked everyone, even when I don’t agree with things they do (see: Mor). If it wasn’t for the characters, I would have probably DNF’d this book pretty early. I only wanted to finish it because I needed to know how certain relationships would (or wouldn’t) develop, and that makes up for most of the disappointment I feel towards this book.

RELATIONSHIPS:

This was partially a mess.

Friendships are very well done in all her books. One thing I’ll always applaud is her way or portraying female friendships in all her books. There’s not enough of that in popular books and it’s such an important thing to have when so many books focus on girls and women being against each other.

However, the romantic relationships kind of sucked, and the problem lies in her writing (which I’ll address more in depth below).
SJM tries to build what she hopes is unresolved sexual tension while doing exactly the opposite. The constant (not) “sexy” comments, the innuendo…they worked the opposite of how SJM intended for them to work. She’s hoping to create chemistry between the characters, but I see none. Literally none. I haven’t re-read ACOMAF, so I don’t know anymore if this applies for that book as well, but here I only knew that Feyre and Rhys had to be a pair because they’re mates etc etc but I saw none of the chemistry and mutual understanding that makes me ship the characters hard. We’re told many times how awesome Rhys is, or maybe I should say that it’s always thrown in our faces. Well, I prefer discovering it for myself by being shown, thank you.
SJM can handle the “get together” part of a romantic relationship pretty well, but she fails at portraying established relationships in an entertaining way. She uses sex as the only way to “keep the ship alive” and entertain the reader when it’s clear that a couple is endgame, and she fails at that.

I don’t really know in what section of this review this should go, but…the sex scenes. The *inhales* sex scenes *exhales*. Just…no. They add nothing to the story. They’re gross. Literally every fanfiction smut I’ve read is better than this. Stop devouring or feasting on people. That’s cannibalism. In general, just stop with all the animalistic language, the purring and shit.
Also I think this is still being published as YA? Which is so wrong. I don’t have ANYTHING against sex in YA books, but it needs to be handled properly. By all means, have a semi-explicit sex scene. But write it delicately. Write it in a way teenagers can identify themselves with. This is not it. Imagine being 16 or 17 and reading this, being told that sex is always animalistic and dirty and can happen literally at any given moment, nevermind that you’ve just killed and seen people being killed in battle merely minutes ago. Seeing weird metaphors being used instead of calling genitals for what they are. How do you not get grossed out? How do you not get scared/disgusted by sex? Hell I’m in my twenties and even I got grossed out.

I’m really sad that SJM chose the path of adding smut to every book she writes since ACOMAF. I’m all for sex-positivity but writing smut doesn’t necessarily mean that. If you do write it, it needs to be well written. This is by no means it. It’s self-indulgent, it’s pure fanservice and I worry about the view of sex it gives younger people.

WRITING:

I definitely grew a lot in the past year as a reader and as a reviewer, and there’s nothing that proves it better than reading an author you used to think was perfect and finding her writing mediocre at best. Wow. More than that, There’s a few things that she definitely used to not do before, and now she does. Like the “no question mark” policy she started to adopt in EoS.
Here’s the thing: stop writing questions without a question mark. You’re not on twitter or tumblr. If you want the question to have a certain feel to it, say, “X said in a flat tone” or something like that. Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t even need to do that. Readers are intelligent beings and can pick up a mood from the context without you constantly feeding them every.single.thing.

Another thing that she does the whole freaking time is this structure:

verbless sentence + … + sentence referring to the first sentence

Such a structure…that’s only okay once in a while, not every single page (<– see what I did there?)
She also trails off with a lot of her sentences, especially when explaining or pointing out things.

And that’s another problem. She explains and describes too much. She leaves almost nothing to the reader’s imagination, which is also wrong when using a first person PoV. If you pay attention, you’ll see that Feyre seems to describe the faces and expressions of everyone in a room, while also saying that she keeps her gaze upon one single character. Uhm, do you have eyes behind your head, Feyre? How does that work exactly? Well, it doesn’t.

Something that seems to annoy a lot of people are words like “mate” and “male/female”. I don’t find them particularly appealing, but I’ve just accepted that that’s what I’m going to get whenever I read a SJM book. You can find the whole concept of mates stupid or ridiculous I guess, or you can find it beautiful and romantic. I’m right in the middle, in that I don’t really care about it one way or another. I just accept it as part of the world building, like the fact that Fae and magic and other creatures exist, and move on with my life. But I do agree that the word “mate” was often used as a substitute for Rhys’s name when using it wouldn’t even have been a repetition, thus making it really unnecessary. As for male/female, it kind of makes sense because she seems to keep “man” and “woman” for humans, so she needed different words for Fae. I don’t know, it’s not my favorite thing either but I can see how it makes sense.

That’s it for my review, but I want to discuss the LGBT+ REPRESENTATION in this book. I won’t hide anything under spoilers in this section, so if you don’t want to find out about certain characters’ sexuality, stop reading right now.

It’s clear that SJM listened to readers when they wished for more lgbt+ representation. There are a few different points and I hope to touch them all in this review. I’ve been much slower than basically everyone else in reading this book so I guess I’m late to the party, and I didn’t read any discussions while I was reading the book because I wanted to go in the book completely blind. Still, I managed to gather what the main discussion points were:

Is this book acephobic?
I don’t think it inherently is, but if ace people have found this particular sentence

perhaps any sort of physical passion had long ago been drained away, alongside their souls.


harmful, I respect them and their feelings and I’m in no position to tell them they’re wrong. But, from a strictly rational and linguistic point of view, I do not think that that sentence implies a correlation between being soulless and being on the ace spectrum.

Is there LGBT+ representation in this book?
Yes, there is: one secondary character, three side characters and two “barely there” characters are on an LGBT+ spectrum.

Is the LGBT+ rep good?
For the most part, I think it is. I mostly liked how, except for a secondary character, there seemed to be no issue with the fact that someone is gay/lesbian/bi. In both this and the ToG world, same sex relationships are never frowned upon, nobody has anything against anyone for wanting to have sex with whichever gender they want to have sex with. The only problem, that only the secondary character faced, seems to arise when someone is expected to bear children because they need an heir for political/diplomatic reasons.

There is, however, one side character whose sexuality is handled really poorly. Helion, High Lord of the Day Court, is pan/bisexual, and apparently the only way that SJM thought of to show that he likes both (or all) genders, is to have him hit on every single character present at that moment, with very NOT subtle innuendos and straight-up invitations to a threesome/orgy. Right, because bisexuals don’t face enough stereotypes from both straight and homo people, let’s portray them as people who are always horny and always want to have sex with both genders, PREFERABLY at the same time! *rolls eyes* (To be honest, the always-horny seems to be a flaw in SJM’s character description, no matter if straight or bi).
This was honestly really disappointing and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read that part. It’s truly the only harmful part of this book that I could detect and I freaking hate it. How did nobody tell SJM she needed to edit that whole thing? It wouldn’t have taken much and she could have spared bisexual people yet another disappointment and awful representation.

However, I quite liked how the “coming out” of Mor was handled. As I said before, she seems the only character whose coming out was tough, but it made sense if you’ve read it. I’m not sure if it continued to make sense for five hundred years, and I’m really sad because she treats poor Azriel like shit because she can’t bring herself to being honest with him. The thing is, I don’t have to like everything she does, because I accept it as a (pretty big) character flaw. But flawed characters are my favorite kind of characters, so I still really like her. I think it’s pretty clear that SJM changed Mor’s sexuality between ACOMAF and ACOWAR to adapt to her readers’ demand, so I applaud her for that. I also like that it’s Mor, who is always portrayed as very feminine, to be the one who likes girls more than guys. A lot of people complained that it should have been Amren “because of her physical features”. People, do you even think before you speak/write? Geez.
(Also, I’ve seen someone confused about Mor’s exact labels… I think the terms that would best apply to her would be “bisexual homoromantic”, in case anyone was wondering and/or identifies with Mor’s sexuality but didn’t know the exact words for it. Of course, this is what I got from reading it, but I think it should be pretty accurate.)

“I’m so pissed!!!1! My ship sunk because one character is on the LGBT+ spectrum!!!1!1!!!”
🙂 deal 🙂 with 🙂 it 🙂
Do you know how many ships sink daily because a character is (or usually both characters are) straight? Yeah. So just be sad but don’t take it out on the LGBT+ representation or on the bi character.

 

Well that was long. It seems that I can either post no reviews at all or one really long-ass one with no in-between.

Anyway, I’d love to hear everyone’s opinion on this book, especially regarding the discussion part!

Review: Peter Darling by Austin Chant

I was sent this book as an advance copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.

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★★★★

Release date: today! (Feb. 15th, 2017)

Goodreads synopsis:

Ten years ago, Peter Pan left Neverland to grow up, leaving behind his adolescent dreams of boyhood and resigning himself to life as Wendy Darling. Growing up, however, has only made him realize how inescapable his identity as a man is.

But when he returns to Neverland, everything has changed: the Lost Boys have become men, and the war games they once played are now real and deadly. Even more shocking is the attraction Peter never knew he could feel for his old rival, Captain Hook—and the realization that he no longer knows which of them is the real villain.

TW: suicide attempt, improper use of personal pronouns (I don’t know if the latter counts as triggering but better safe than sorry?).

Let me get something out of my system first of all:
W
O
W
Okay, now that that’s out of the way: wow. I was completely blown away by this short book, which was a couple of firsts for me: mainly first trans story and first Peter Pan retelling.

Actually, I have to admit I didn’t know the first thing about Peter Pan, that is, if you don’t count the Disney cartoon, which I’m going to assume is not a very accurate representation (and even though I loved that cartoon as a kid, I kind of grew to hate it and its story over time).
Despite this, the premise of this book sounded like something right up my alley, and I’m glad to confirm that it was indeed a perfect book for me.

I just love retellings that turn the stories upside down and make them new with refreshing ideas, and the fact that in this book Peter’s assigned identity was Wendy made me click that request button on Netgalley so freaking fast.

As always when I’m feeling so hyped about a book, I’m also really scared once I do get to sit down and read it. What were my particular fears for this one?

– since it’s such a short book, I was really afraid that the romance (or the whole story) would have felt rushed (I was really dreading the much-hated insta-love);
– I thought that not knowing the original story would make me like this book less.

Well, I’m glad to say that both fears had no ground to exist.

First of all I want to address the pacing of this book: it’s only 140 pages short, so I really thought there would no room for things like subtlety and introspection, but it managed to give me both of those, together with everything I look for in both a fantasy and a romantic book.

The fantasy: while the essence of Neverland’s magic itself wasn’t explained, there was a very satisfying explanation for at least part of the things that happened there (it’s kind of a plot twist so I won’t go into detail)
I also loved how the fairies were described as having different shapes and colors and the role they played in the story (they mainly served to move the plot forward but they were also interesting enough that I was genuinely curious to find out more about them), and the other mythical creatures like the merpeople and the kraken were such good additions to this story.

Peter’s backstory: having read the blurb, one already knows who Peter used to be, but it’s something that gets gradually revealed in the first part of the book, and in a very delicate way, at least in my opinion. I know the author is trans himself so I trust him to have done a good job in this particular aspect. Not having experienced the struggle of a trans person, I still found myself crying in certain parts of the book and I felt real pain whenever Peter’s brothers or parents called him with his birth name and used the female pronouns to talk to/about him.
As per author’s decision, there is no big reveal/coming out between Peter and Hook, and I think that worked out amazingly.

Peter realized he was waiting for some kind of probing curiosity in return-some remark on what Peter sounded like, or worse on his body-but James’s only encroachment on the subject was to say, “Your shirt has seen better days. Would you like one of mine? Assuming all my clothes haven’t been eaten by moths.”
All at once it became easier to breathe. “Yes,” Peter said. “Please.”

The romance: let me demonstrate in .gif form my feelings about the romance:
description
You can’t expect me to be rational about my absolute favorite romantic trope (enemies to lovers). Plus we all know I have a thing for pirates, right? Right.

“I win,” he panted, grinning. He slowely lowered his sword to aim at Hook’s heart. One thrust, and it would be over. Peter wet his lips with his tongue. “This is it. You’re mine.”
“Am I?” Hook asked, as Peter drew back his sword. “Or are you mine?”

This romance was perfect and healthy. It wasn’t too sudden or rushed, I genuinely felt like it had reason to exist and I loved everything about it.
For example, I love how Hook seems to understand Peter in that way that sometimes only your enemies tend to do.

“I find that enemies are the most satisfying people to share secrets with,” Hook said. “If you must tell someone, tell someone who’s sensitive to all your vulnerabilities, on account of trying to exploit them.”
“That doesn’t make sense.”
“I’m making excuses for you,” Hook said impatiently. “You seem like the type to bottle up without an excuse.”

Both my BR partner and I were squealing so hard and honestly I’m glad I wasn’t reading this alone because I was in serious need to vent my feels™ about these two.

“Obsession?”
“Is that not what they call it,” Hook said, “when two men can think of nothing but each other?”

Other things I enjoyed:

The pacing: it was mostly consistent throughout the book and, while I noticed that things were kept as brief and as necessary as possible, it didn’t impact my reading experience (I’m one who usually prefers a slower pace). There was even some room for exploring a little bit of a secondary character (Ernest) and I quite enjoyed that.

The (eventual) dual PoV: if we don’t count the prologue, we get some chapters from Hook’s PoV only after The Twist happens, and I think that decision was spot-on. I really think his PoV allowed us to enjoy the romance a lot more and to see Peter under a different light.

The last thing I want to say is that this was a perfect story to read on Valentine’s Day ♥

As you can see I loved loved  l o v e d  this book and I’ll make sure to keep an eye on the author’s next works.

Review: The Darkest Part Of The Forest by Holly Black

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★★★★

Ben told stories. Hazel became those stories.

There are many ways to describe The Darkest Part of the Forest. Everyone will tell you something different, probably. To me, it’s a story about brothers and sisters.

“You and your sister are very dear to each other. To show your regard, you give each other lovely bouquets of lies.”

Hazel and her brother Ben live in a town where fae and humans live on…not exactly friendly terms, but those who are born and raised in Fairfold are relatively safe (unlike the tourists who often visit it, many of which end up missing or dead).
When they were kids, Hazel had dreamed of being a knight, and she’d become one, hunting “bad” faeries with the help of Ben’s magic. Until things became too scary and dangerous and they’d stopped. That’s when they began keeping secrets from each other.

Sparing another person is a tricky thing. It’s easy to think you’re succeeding when you’re failing spectacularly.

Hazel makes a deal with the faeries and that changes the way she goes on with her life.

She seemed to be running toward trouble, leaving no stone unturned, no boy unkissed, no crush abandoned, and no bad idea unembraced.

She and Ben are still very close but everything is different now.

Flirting didn’t mean anything to her.[…] While she was flirting, Ben was falling in love for the first time.

But one of the things they still have in common is their love for the faerie prince who sleeps in the forest, in a glass coffin, to whom they have told their secrets for many years, but who has never woken in…decades? Centuries? (I’m not entirely sure about the timing in this.)

They were in love with him because he was a prince and a faeries and magical and you were supposed to love princes and faeries and magic people. […] They loved him as they loved the Eleventh Doctor with his bow tie and his flippy hair and the Tenth Doctor with his mad laugh. […] It wasn’t like it was real. It wasn’t like he could love them back. It wasn’t he’d ever have to choose.

Except now he’d woken. That changed everything.

His awakening has moved things and there’s a monster in town that they have to defeat, with the help of Jack (Ben’s best friend and a changeling) and the faerie prince himself, who is very much involved in this whole deal.

This is a very folklore-heavy book, but it doesn’t feel heavy at all. There’s a lot of myths mentioned and interwoven in the plot, but they’re all explained (in a very nice and non-boring way – I always lose my focus right away whenever a story is told within another story, but that never happened once in this book). Furthermore, if you grew up in an English-speaking country and/or have read a lot of YA fantasy, you might be familiar with some of these already. I personally was only familiar with this one I’m about to quote and let me tell you, I got tears in my eyes because this myth is told in my favorite German poem (Der Erlkönig) and to see it mentioned in a YA book made my day.

‘But Alderking has a more sinister meaning, too. Perhaps you’ve heard this before:

“Mein Vater, mein Vater,
Jetzt faßt er mich an!
Erlkönig hat mir ein Leids getan!”’

The other myths that I actually didn’t know anything about (we don’t really study northern/Anglo-Saxon mythology in Italy -faeries and such are completely out of our lore) were extremely interesting and told in such a way that made me want to find out more about them for the first time since I started reading fantasy.

Another element that I loved in this book was the romance. Don’t let the synopsis fool you, there’s no love-triangle in this (at least I don’t see it as such). This is also a really good example of how to include more diversity in fantasy. A character just happens to be gay, and instead of being only defined by his sexual orientation, that’s just part of who he is.
Let me just add that the whole gender-role-reversal was amazingly done. Hazel was the one who wanted to be a knight and there is no shame in that. That didn’t make her masculine-looking or other stereotypes like that. Not to say that she couldn’t have been masculine-looking, but that would have really been a little bit too stereotypical and frankly we can all do without that. At the same time, Ben wasn’t just uselessly waiting for his sister to save him, and even if he wasn’t the knight, he helped fight the faeries with his magic, and saved the day at times when physical force wasn’t going to be of much help.

As I was saying, the romance. It felt refreshing in a way. There’s a lot of kissing and talking about kissing -kissing for fun, kissing because you’re scared, because you don’t know what else to do at a party, because the boy you want to kiss is the sleeping faerie prince inside the glass coffin that won’t break. If you judge Hazel for the way she acts I will personally fight you.

When actual romance (and not just random kisses) develops, it is so sweet and -combined with the amazing writing- it makes me want to reread parts of this book right away because they were just too good.

“When I heard your voice that night, I recognized it instantly. It’s a voice I know better than my own. […] You know, it nearly drove me mad to listen to so many voices, a cacophony of sound, of words I didn’t know piling up, of time slipping in skips and jumps. And then you, speaking to me-to me. I started to know the length of a day in the interval between your visits.

While reading this book, I couldn’t help often being reminded of The Raven Cycle. There are some parallels – the town where magic stuff happens, the kiss-talk – but this book is also more…grounded? I adore TRC with all my being but the actual fantastic elements can be confusing at times, just because they’re not explained, whereas with this one everything is explained and it leads back to a myth.

There are no loose ends (it’s a real standalone) and I found the ending very satisfying and I would recommend this book to everyone ☺

December Wrap-Up

Has really another month passed? It felt really short this time around. Oh well.

BOOKS:

(All titles lead to my reviews, either on goodreads or on the blog)

  • Le cose così by Labadessa: this is a short graphic novel by an Italian artist who has become really popular on Facebook, posting his ironically philosophical comics whose main features are the yellow background and the fact that its characters are birds. It’s a must-read for any Italian millennial.
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  • L’amore di Audrey by Alessia Esse
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  • The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch: this book took me a very long time to read, as I explain in my review. I really liked it and its characters, but I’m also pretty sure I won’t continue this series.
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  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell: it was my first RR book and I loved it so much! Her writing style really resonated with me and I’ll make sure to read more of her books.
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  • Carry on by Rainbow Rowell
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  • Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat
  • Prince’s Gambit by C.S. Pacat
  • Kings Rising by C.S. Pacat

    I reread (okay, I’m still currently reading Kings Rising, but whatever, I’ll finish it before the new year) these for the 3rd time wihin the past six months. That’s perfectly normal, right? Yes, yes it is. It’s my favorite series and I wanted to finish the year on a good note. Also I’ve been buddy-reading them with a friend (it was the first time for her) and she loved them so much, and there’s no better feeling in the world than having your friends love your favorite books!


SHOWS/ANIME/MOVIES:

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Yuri!!! On Ice and Skam were really the only things I’ve been watching, so nothing really changed from last month. Sadly the current seasons are both over, and while I’ve been able to let Skam go, I’m still riding the YoI wave, in form of fanfiction (reading and writing), obsessive fanart search, countless re-watches. Tell me I’m not the only one.
I don’t think I’ve ever been so involved in a fandom (which is, btw, so amazing and supportive), and the feelings Yuri!!! On Ice has given me are so real and positive. It’s exactly what I (and many of us) needed.

MUSIC:

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Not much has changed for me in December, with the only exception of the YoI soundtrack having being released. I’ve been listening to it for weeks now and I love it. It has so many different genres and if you don’t feel like listening to the whole thing you can just loop one or two songs that go well with your current mood (or for whatever activity you’re doing).
Basically, it’s safe to say that YoI has taken over my life in every possible way, but I don’t regret it at all.

 

How has your month been? Did you find any last-minute favorites for 2016?

Review: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

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★★★★

I started Carry on at 3am right after finishing Fangirl. My hype for this book was already very high, but after reading about Simon and Baz in Fangirl, it literally skyrocketed.

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Goodreads synopsis:

Simon Snow is the worst chosen one who’s ever been chosen

That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.

Half the time Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he sets something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here – it’s their last year at Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.

Carry On is a love letter to love stories and the power of words – to every ‘chosen one’ who ever had more on their mind than saving the world…

The thing is, you can read this book without having read Fangirl first. But my personal advice would be to read Fangirl first if you think you might want to read it in the future anyway, because it will give Carry on a lot more context.

Carry on is such a meta book. Let me explain it a little bit:

-“Simon Snow” is a fictional series within the world of Fangirl, written by the fictional author Gemma T. Leslie. In Fangirl, seven out of eight of the canon books are out, and the eighth is about to be released.

-In Fangirl, the main character, Cath, has been writing Simon Snow fanfiction her whole life, and is one of the best known fanfiction writers online. She starts writing her own “eighth book” with her own headcanon, wanting to complete it before the canon book is out. The title of her eighth-book fanfiction is “Carry on, Simon“.

-Rainbow Rowell was so taken with these characters that she wanted to write her own Carry on, so she wrote a book that is a work of fanfiction within a book she wrote, and that in the real world is kind of like her fanfiction of her own characters.

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Kudos if you’re keeping up. Anyway.
See it as fanfiction or not, this reads as fanfiction. And I say that in the best way possible.
But I think it’s something you definitely need to keep in mind when thinking about things like world building and pacing: this book is a standalone that needs to give the reader enough context to understand what happened in Simon and Baz’s previous 7 years of magical school, and in my opinion it did a great job.

Now about the plot: is this whole book supposed to remind you of Harry Potter? Yep. Did it bother me? Hell no.
Look, the “canon books” by Gemma T. Leslie are a Harry-Potter-style books. They follow Simon (Harry), the Chosen One, in his years in Watford (Hogwarts), while fighting the biggest threat to the magical world, the Humdrum (Voldermort), while also being stuck with a roommate he hates, Baz (Draco). That’s how Raibow Rowell created this world in Fangirl, when she probably didn’t know she was going to eventually publish her own SnowBaz book. At that point it’s not like she could have changed it to make it look like it wasn’t a Harry Potter rip-off. And honestly, having read Harry Potter my whole teenage years, this book felt so familiar and it made me feel at home.
So, the plot was overall predictable, but, as with most fanfic, what you’re looking forward to the most is the romance. And it was just the best. The way RR writes kisses and cuddles is something to die for, let me tell you. And these boys are so #precious you just want to #protect them.

In a parallel universe, where I have endless time for reviewing, I’m quoting every single thing I highlighted in this book. Which is basically EVERY (HIGHLY SPOILERY) THING. So in this universe with finite time (and finite review space), I will quote NOTHING although my fingers are itching to do so. *cries*

The writing style was superb.
The best thing was how you could see Simon’s feelings (that he doesn’t even acknowledge himself) through the writing.
Crowley, I love this book so much. I predict it will be something I’ll want to re-read again and again for a long time. Me and this book, we match.

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Review: The Alchemists of Loom by Elise Kova

 I was sent this book as an advance copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.

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★★★★

Release date: January 10th

I’ve been following Elise Kova’s work since this summer, when I found the Air Awakens series, and I loved those books to pieces. When I found out she was coming out with a new high fantasy series I couldn’t wait to put my hands on it, and my curiosity has been fed throughout these past few months because of all the interactive stuff Kova does for her followers. If you don’t know about it, she has a Tower Guard group on facebook (born to promote and interact with readers of Air Awakens) and she created the Guild Games to promote The Alchemists of Loom, the first book in the Loom Saga.

The world building in this book is much more complex than in Air Awakens, and to me that’s a plus point. Despite its complexity, I was never confused about it, and the information was given gradually throughout the book (yay for no info-dump).
The world is also very unique: it’s a mix of steampunk+fantasy+magic and yes, it’s as glorious as it sounds.
There are two races in this world: the Fenthri and the Dragons.
Fenthri reside in Loom and are pretty much human-shaped, except they have grey skin and they age a little bit differently than us (they’re adults around 15 I believe).
Dragons live in Nova are definitely not what you would think. They’re also mostly human-shaped, except they have claws and fangs and their skin is colorful (like, blue or red/orange) and they age much more slowly than Fenthri. And, well, they’re ruthless like the dragons we all think about when we hear the word. Also, they have magic. I won’t say much about the magic system because I think it’s better to find out more about it while reading this, just know that everything is really, really cool.

The plot was never slow and it went hand in hand with the character development; in fact I would say that this first book is pretty much equally plot- and character-driven.

Something else I loved  is the multiple-PoV format (3rd person): Arianna, Cvareh, Florence and Leona have very different perspectives, backgrounds and motives. Their voices are so distinct that you can never forget whose PoV you’re reading, and their characterization is excellent.

Arianna is a protagonist with a troubled past, like many other heroines of YA literature. And yet she feels completely new and original. She’s not a girl, she’s a woman who knows what she can do and  who has a mission she is willing to see accomplished no matter what.

Florence is a literal cinnamon roll Arianna’s pupil and friend and their relationship was one of the best things of this book. I love books that portray a healthy female friendship and I believe it was done very well here.

She’d [Arianna] spent most of her life without the girl. But now she couldn’t imagine a world that didn’t have her in it, and she would fight tooth and nail to keep her there.*

Cvareh is a Dragon and my new bookish boyfriend. I can say I loved him from page 1 (well, he wasn’t on page 1, but you get what I mean), he’s  such an interesting character and I hate that I don’t want to give too much away in this review because I need to talk about him. I’ll be generic and say that one of the best things about him (BUT THERE ARE SO MANY) is how he doesn’t perfectly fit the gender stereotypes that we are all fed since birth AND THAT’S SO GREAT AND REFRESHING.

He also brings important messages like this one:

You judge me for the actions of my entire race. You see me as a Dragon before you see me as a man. You ignore my good will and attempts at peace, only looking for banners of war between my words. And when you find none, you invent them, so that I better fit your expectations.*

I love his relationship with both Ari and Flo. They are from different worlds so they’re bound to have some differences and their first moments together are not without issues, but you can’t expect it to be otherwise.

There is also romance in this book, although it’s not the driving element. But it is there and it’s hot. So hot.

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To sum it up: I am really excited for this book to come out and gain the success it deserves. It was one of my most anticipated releases and I’m so happy that I got to read it early.

 

 

*All quotes come from an early copy and might be slightly different in the finished, published edition.

Remember, if you preorder this you will receive bonus swag!