Thursday, 23 October 2014

University and Identity

I think that title makes this sound like it's going to be a lot more fancy than it actually is, because it is me, and I don't do fancy. I do getting sometimes uncomfortably personal on the internet because I'm bad at talking about my feelings in real life.

So, let's get personal. Ish.

You know at this point that I am at university now. It is pretty much all I talk about. It might be annoying for you, but whatever, I am here, it is a thing that is happening in my life, I've not got much else to talk about it so. Deal with it. Though I will try to stick to books on the blog, being that it is a book blog and that comes with certain expectations. However, I am currently feeling some feelings, and this is also my place to talk about those feelings, so here we go. Feelings.

University has been okay so far. I'm not particularly unhappy, but I'm not particularly enthused and motivated either. That one might just be me though, so. But I hadn't really been able to put a label on how I felt until I went home for a few days. Going home, I realised that that was a place where I know who I am and what I am to other people. I know who to be and how to be and it is comfortable and effortless. I am lucky like that, to have a nice home where I feel comfortable and safe. University is a whole new ball game because I am away from home and away from that sense of self and security in who I am and how I am and how other people are.

I don't know who I am here.

This place isn't home to me, and I know that this is something I have to go through being a human person who is becoming an 'adult', whatever that means. It's just strange to feel detached from my home and my friends and that sense of being me. It's easy there, because those people know me and I don't have to figure out who I am in relation to other people and what they expect me to be. I am lucky in that I have a great group of friends and have had that group of friends for a long time, but I don't think that's really helped me here. I can't remember the last time that I had to actively make friends and seek company. And again, it's not that I am unhappy or lonely, it's just that I feel kind of dissonant. Like I'm drifting while everyone settles. Like I've missed my chance, and that I'm stuck now with what I've got, even though I know that that's true.

I also think that this is one of the reasons why I've taken to Twitter so much since I've been here. Twitter, like home, is one of those places where I know who I am and what I am to other people. It's another place where I feel secure in my sense of self, and where I can present myself in whatever way I choose to. It's more difficult to do that in real life, even if I did have the opportunity to do an overhaul on myself at the start of this whole endeavor. To be honest, I think that would have made it even more difficult for me to be comfortable if I didn't ever feel like myself. I don't think I could affect myself like that. I am who I am and that's cool, it's just that it's hard to locate yourself in a place where you don't have the reassurance of your peers because you don't really have peers in the sense that you used to. I think that that's possibly the reason why I enjoyed going out by myself to cinema the other day. I was alone in a place people couldn't really see me and judge and have those things have any consequences. I had a chance to locate myself and just be without having to think about it.

It's not that it's hard, it's just weird and kind of tiring at times. I know what kind of person I am, and unless we have one thing in common to talk about (TV shows, usually. TV shows are the basis of an unreasonable number of my friendships.) and even then I don't get close. It took about 6 years of me being friends with my friends for me to actually properly invite them round my house. I don't form close relationships quickly, which is why it's weird and kind of scary to see all these people be so attached to each other after only four or five weeks. I literally do not understand how they do it. And I'm just generally loathe to do actual things, which is probably another thing which inhibits my ability to get human contact. And I do have people, but they're just that. People who I say hello to in the corridor, people who I talk to in lectures, people who I eat food with. I think I just want to feel part of something.

I don't know. I'm think I'm just more unsure of myself. I've always been insecure and unsure, but here all the things that I was at home aren't the same things that I am here. People don't know me in the same way, possibly because I don't really let them. There is the potential to be whoever you want to be when you move out to a different place with different people, but I don't even know who I would want to be. Even my intelligence, which is one thing I was fairly comfortable with, is something now that I'm unsure about. Being faced with the thought of having to figure out who you are, and to have that person turn out to be completely unexceptional, boring, plain and quiet, generally unimpressive and dull is a terrifying thought, but I think it every day. What if I turn out to be a complete disappointment, mainly to myself? I don't like thinking about these things. I don't want to BE those things.

I don't know. But I think I've talked about myself enough for the time being. 

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Blue Lily, Lily Blue review

Blue Lily, Lily Blue
Maggie Stiefvater
October 21st 2014

There is danger in dreaming. But there is even more danger in waking up.

Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs.

The trick with found things though, is how easily they can be lost.

Friends can betray.
Mothers can disappear.
Visions can mislead.
                                                                           Certainties can unravel.

Look at me, posting a review for a book that actually recently came out! It's been a while since that last happened, but you know how it is with Maggie Stiefvater's books. The minute you finish them, you just kind of want to sit there for a while and absorb everything that you've just read, while feeling empty at the fact that it's over and then also wanting to tell everyone on the planet how good that book was. Blue Lily, Lily Blue was no different. It's an incredible book in an incredible series by an incredible author.

Maggie Stiefvater is an amazing writer, but I always forget just how amazing she is until I read another one of her books and am reminded. I feel like there will never be a book of hers that I actively dislike just because of how good she is at crafting sentences, characters, worlds. She is just so skillful and talented that it kind of makes me want to cry, but in a good way. She just has this way of being able to pinpoint a character or a location in such a way that you would never expect but makes perfect sense when you think about it. Things are described in such a way that are so peculiar and yet so accurate that you feel like you'll never get the same sense of things as you do the things in one of Maggie's books. I don't know if that made any sense, but you get what I'm saying. If you've read one of her books before then you know. You know what I'm talking about.

The other thing, specifically about The Raven Cycle, is that I always feel like they just shouldn't work. When you really think about it, a series of young adult books about four private school boys and a girl who comes from a family of psychics looking for the body of an old Welsh king along Ley Lines in a small town in Virginia is just kind of weird. But it just WORKS so damn well and it's such a perfect series and I constantly wonder why everyone hasn't read these books because they are so incredibly good. And they just keep on getting better. I even liked Adam's POV in this book! Usually I'm kind of meh about Adam, but CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT and BEING BONDED TO A MAGICAL FOREST and ADAM AND RONAN HANGING OUT.

I also loved that a lot of this book was about Blue. I love the whole gang, obviously, but I love Blue a lot so I was really happy to see more of her after The Dream Thieves (though I also love that book because I love Ronan a lot). It's just these characters and their relationships to each other matter so much to me. They have one of best and most interesting dynamics going on and they are so close to my heart I just want to keep them all safe. I'm not even remotely ready for the series to be over with only one more book. It feels like they should go on forever, having adventures, looking for dead kings. Blue and her Raven Boys. Now I really get how other people usually feel about series ending. It doesn't feel fair for this series to end.

And it's not just the characters, it's the plot, too. I can never tell where the books in this series are going to end up, not really because they're unpredictable as such, because I'm rarely shocked at what happens (although there is a THING that happens in this book that I am still kind of reeling about). It's just that you kind of get taken along for the ride in a way where you don't want to think about what's going to happen next because that would require being taken out of the moment of the book where you're at. Also, like with Maggie's writing, things rarely happen that you expect, but you realise that there was no other way these things could have happened. Everything is just... right.

Okay, I have gone way over into obsessive fangirling so I'm going to cut this short while I'm ahead before i start making even less sense. All you really need to know is that Blue Lily, Lily Blue is exactly as good as you thought it would be, even if there is no Ronan POV. Maggie Stiefvater is a gift. The Raven Cycle is brilliant. 

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe review

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Benjamin Alire Saenz
February 21st 2012
Simon & Schuster

A lyrical novel about family and friendship from critically acclaimed author Benjamin Alire Sáenz.

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

Aristotle and Dante is another book that I loved. I know, I've loved every book lately, but it's nice to read so many books in a row (like, 4?) that I have just adored. When I finished Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, the first thing I wanted to do was read it again. Straight away. Which I kind of did, because it's just so touching and sweet and not always easy, but always good.

I really loved both Ari and Dante, and I think that to read a version of the story told from Dante's perspective would be amazing (I think I saw somewhere that Benjamin Alire Saenz was working on it, but I might have dreamed that). Ari is kind of broody and gets into fights sometimes, and is angry without sometimes knowing why (so, basically, a normal teenager), but he wasn't the kind of character I was expecting him to be. Well, he was all those things, but he was so much more, and I enjoyed him having all these complexities and really getting to see who he was as well as who he made out he was. Tough, but vulnerable. Obviously in love with Dante, but in denial about his feelings. It was great reading about his journey of self discovery as well as friendship and love. 

Dante was also wonderful, and might be one of my favourite characters in a while. He poses a nice contrast with Ari as he's quieter and more sensitive, but incredibly stubborn. He also has this lovely innocence regardless of what he actually does and he's just so weird and sweet and ugh. I want to give him a cuddle, but he probably would resent that. Ari and Dante just work so well together, and I love their friendship and their love (I say love as in friendship love as well as like romantic feelings because they are both there). They have such a great dynamic.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is also just beautifully written. It's one of those books that just strikes a chord with people, I think. It struck a chord with me, any way. It deals so tactfully and wonderfully with themes of identity and family and friendship the kind of things that contemporary YA is usually about, I suppose, but that doesn't really matter. It covers all those things without being annoying or seeming pretentious, which I liked a lot. It just felt honest.

I wish I had a lot more to say about this book (I always wish I had more to say about a book unless I end up writing about 7 paragraphs about it and then I wish I had a *lot* less to say) because I did love it a lot. It's sweet and enjoyable, but doesn't feel fluffy (not that there's anything wrong with that I will always and forever love 'fluff' whatever the hell that is anyway), and it's diverse which I have been trying to work on a lot this year to probably limited results. The point of this whole thing is that Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a really great book that you should definitely read if you're in the mood for a contemporary about two boys who totally fall for each other.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Monthly Round-up: September

HELLO! I cannot believe that it is October already. September has just gone so quickly, and it's been kind of a big month! I wrote about going to uni here so I won't go on about it too much (even though it is pretty much the only thing I've been tweeting about for the past 10 days...), but it's nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be. I do miss the cats though. And I won't be able to read as much as usual because I still have to make time for the actual books I actually have to read. I'm going to make the time to carry on reading and blogging, though! I want to try and post at least three times a month, just to remind everybody that yes, I am still alive, and yes I am still doing this thing.

That's the other thing! Since September the 10th it has now been FOUR YEARS. That's probably the longest amount of time that I've ever done anything for, apart from maybe being alive. That's crazy.

Books Read

Skulduggery Pleasant: The Dying of the Light by Derek Landy
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (reread)
The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Moshin Hamid (uni)

Total: 6

Not too bad considered that there was about a week where I didn't read! Plus I loved every book that I read apart from the one for uni, but I don't think that really counts. Somehow I don't think I'm going to hit 90 books this year, though. 80 would be nice at this point!

Books reviewed

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

Book of the Month

This is kind of impossible because I did love every book that I read this month. They're kind of all my book of the month, but I think I kind of HAVE to go with Skulduggery just because it was the last Skulduggery book (and it was amazing), though also know that in my heart it's kind of a little bit The Song of Achilles. That book blew my socks off.

I haven't been to any events or anything this month, so I don't actually have much to talk about down here... It's October! HALLOWEEN. All the US tv shows coming back! Yeah. That's all I've got.

I hope you all had a good September and that October is SPOOKY AS HECK *does the Monster Mash*

Monday, 22 September 2014

The Lies of Locke Lamora review

The Lies of Locke Lamora
Scott Lynch
June 27th 2006

The Thorn of Camorr is said to be an unbeatable swordsman, a master thief, a friend to the poor, a ghost that walks through walls. 

Slightly built and barely competent with a sword, Locke Lamora is, much to his annoyance, the fabled Thorn. And while Locke does indeed steal from the rich (who else would be worth stealing from?), the poor never see a penny. All of Locke's gains are strictly for himself and his tight-knit band of thieves. The Gentleman Bastards.

The capricious, colourful underworld of the ancient city of Camorr is the only home they have ever known. But now a clandestine war is threatening to tear it apart. Caught up in a murderous game, Locke and his friends are suddenly struggling just to stay alive...

I love fantasy, but I rarely read adult fantasy. I don't know why, I just like YA, you know. I have had a blog dedicated to reading and reviewing YA books for, like, four years now so that's not really surprising to anyone. But I do like to read outside the YA box sometimes, so I picked up The Lies of Locke Lamora and a couple of other adult fantasy books that I'd seen around because fantasy is the shit and I'm just in that kind of mood right now. Anyway, the whole point of this whole paragraph of unnecessary context is that I am super freaking glad I took that step out of that YA box. Because The Lies of Locke Lamora is a darn good book.

There are so many things that I liked about Locke Lamora. The titular character, especially. It's nice to read a book about a guy who you would expect to be the ultimate Gary Stu, but who is actually a really interesting character that is no where near perfect. He's charming and incredibly intelligent and sharp, but also kind of an idiot and so ambitious that it just gets him into major trouble, but he's so good at being a conman. It's seriously amazing sometimes, the things he gets away with. But it's not just Locke, it's all of the Gentleman Bastards. Just the name alone is so fabulous, but they have such a great dynamic that just makes the book so fun to read. Locke and Jean especially have one of the best bromances in fantasy that I've read about for a while.

The book itself takes a while to get into (the prologue is 30 pages. 30 PAGES.) but I think that despite this it's a really well structured story. It's not always linear which really suits the nature of the story, because with heists/crime stuff like this with big cons and it's just a good way to build tension and stuff. Plus after the first hundred pages maybe it gets really gripping and by the end I really didn't want to put it down. And it was grittier than I thought it would be, too. Not super gritty, it's still a fun world and a fun book, but there was some surprisingly sad stuff. I nearly cried, and I was definitely not expecting to actually feel actual emotions reading this book, but alas. It was the better for it, though, definitely.

The world building was really great too. It wasn't too overwhelming or info-dumpy, and and the end of each chapter there would be 'interludes' about Locke's and the other Gentleman Bastards childhoods, as well as other details about the world which I thought was a really good way of bringing in those aspects of the world. I love good world building, good plots and and interesting characters and Locke Lamora had all that. The writing was great, too. It wasn't too heavy or overly descriptive so it was fairly easy to read without feeling like I was being bogged down with details.

I did that thing again where I left it way to long between reading the book and writing the review, so this is all I can really think to say even though I did properly love Locke Lamora. I would recommend it to anyone who reads a lot of fantasy or even if you don't because it's at all inaccessible and it's a fairly low magic world with a gritty feel to it. Also, there is some violence but it's not nearly as gratuitous as it could be, though it did get a bit gross at one point. And there is, like, no sex in this book. I was definitely expecting there to be unnecessary sex but there was not so I was pleasantly surprised on that front. Plus, even though there weren't that many female characters central to the story, there were a few and there was an effort made to always say that there were men and women in the criminal underworld or this world as well as every other profession, which was nice. 

SO YEAH. The Lies of Locke Lamora is pretty swell. Pretty swell indeed.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

The Song of Achilles review

The Song of Achilles
Madeline Miller
20th September 2011

Greece in the age of Heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia. Here he is nobody, just another unwanted boy living in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles.

Achilles, 'best of all the Greeks', is everything Patroclus is not — strong, beautiful, the child of a goddess — and by all rights their paths should never cross. Yet one day, Achilles takes the shamed prince under his wing and soon their tentative companionship gives way to a steadfast friendship. As they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something far deeper — despite the displeasure of Achilles's mother Thetis, a cruel and deathly pale sea goddess with a hatred of mortals.

Fate is never far from the heels of Achilles. When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows Achilles into war, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they have learned, everything they hold dear. And that, before he is ready, he will be forced to surrender his friend to the hands of Fate.

Profoundly moving and breathtakingly original, this rendering of the epic Trojan War is a dazzling feat of the imagination, a devastating love story, and an almighty battle between gods and kings, peace and glory, immortal fame and the human heart.

The Song of Achilles was never really a book that I had thought much about reading, even though I'd seen it around for a while. I've always thought that ancient history and myth was interesting, it's just that I don't really know much about it, especially the Trojan War. Literally all I knew about that was the whole horse shenanigan and Achilles' heel. I didn't even know who Achilles was. But then I spent most of last week watching Spartacus: Blood and Sand and the other two miniseries, and even though it was kind of gloriously bad (and yet simultaneously SO GOOD), it put me in the mood for some ancient stuff. So I bought this book, and I think I have now basically absorbed it into my soul. I loved it.

The Song of Achilles is a book about the relationship between Patroclus (who narrates the novel) and Achilles, and it is so beautiful. Like I pretty much just said, I know next to nothing about the Trojan war (I seriously just had to google whether it was real or not just to be sure. It is not. I did Latin for two years I should definitely know more about this stuff I am so embarrassed) and the Illiad so I didn't even know who Patroclus was, let alone his role in Achilles life etc, so I wasn't really reading this book so much as a retelling as just a new story. I can't really comment on it's accuracy or anything as a retelling, but even if you have no knowledge of this stuff it still reads really well, so therefore should not act as a deterrent to you reading this book and therefore you have no reason not to read it. Why haven't you read it already, really, is the question we should all be asking.

As you can probably tell by now, this is going to be much less a review than just an excuse for me to lay out all of my emotions for this book. I cannot think of a thing about it that I didn't love. I loved the writing. It was so clear, but so beautiful and it flowed so well. I loved Patroclus' voice and the fact that it was first person so we could get that whole sense of intimacy and love that he has for Achilles without him being overshadowed by Achilles himself. I loved Achilles, and how he was so innocent, and yet how he became this great prophesied warrior whose ultimate downfall was his hubris and rage in his grief. I loved the fact that it covered their whole lives together, from before Patroclus and Achilles met to the end and watching their relationship go from Patroclus being jealous of Achilles to them becoming friends, best friends, lovers. I loved the world, the matter of factness about the gods and prophecies and how these are just a part of this world with no explanation. It is just how things are. I loved the ending. I read the last 30-40 pages three times on the day that I finished it, and then wondered why I kept on hurting myself that way because holy tragedy batman it is fucking sad. But kind of not, at the very end. If I had to rank it on a scale of Books That I Have Made Me Cry, I wouldn't put it all the way up there with Code Name Verity, but I would say that it's fairly close to the top. It's the kind of book I can see myself reading again and again in the vain hopes that this time it will end differently before it breaks me heart again. I'm tearing up now just thinking about it, but I am a crybaby so that could be like a solid 40% of the reason why.

I don't know. I don't know what else to say about it. I'm kind of struggling to properly do it justice. I couldn't read it quick enough, but at same time I wanted to take my time to put off the inevitable (I don't know much about Troy but even I could tell that this was not going to be a happy happy book). I devoured it in a way that I haven't done with a book in a while. I mean, there are books that I've read quickly but not with the same sense of hunger. I don't know. I'm not even trying to force this book on to people, I just really wanted to talk about it. It's just such a beautiful book. This is one of the few books that I've read that I want to reread that isn't a comfort book. I don't know, this book was just right for me at this time and I'm just kind of in love with it and I can't see myself reading it and not loving it, like how sometimes happens with books that read and love, but that time kind of erodes your opinions of.

I just loved this book so much, you guys. So so so much. I'm not saying it's perfect, I'm just saying that it is special.
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