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
Gollancz

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
Bloomsbury

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.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

So University is a Thing

As you have probably gathered from the title of this post (as well as me pretty much always going on about it on Twitter), I am going to university soon. Like, really soon. Just over a week soon. 

I am a bit worried. Excited, but worried. 

It's probably the biggest period of change in my life so far, and I do not like change. I feel so unequipped for this. I feel so unprepared. Even though it's been on my mind for pretty much the past two years, it hasn't really registered that this is a real thing that I am really going to do until now, and the thought of it just terrifies me. 

I know that it will probably be fine, and that I will probably be okay, but that doesn't change the fact that I am so incredibly anxious about so many things regarding university and my life and just the future in general. Like, I am an actual legal adult now. When the hell did that happen? Who allowed that to even happen?! It seems like a really poor decision to me.

It's just going to be so weird, going to a new place, surrounded by strangers. I haven't had to make new friends for YEARS. I think I've forgotten how to do it. I'm not used to being around people who don't already know what I'm and who sort of get me and like me any way, and it's going to be hard for the first few weeks for sure. I know that everyone is in the same boat and blah blah blah, but it's still going to tricky and as much as I joke about it, I hope I don't just hermit myself away because that will just not be fun.

And that's the other thing. It's so far outside of my comfort zone! I don't want people to think I'm boring, but at the same time I don't like parties or clubs or getting majorly drunk, and the thought of having to do that the same week as doing something as big as moving out makes me really anxious. And I know I don't have to do Fresher's and all that, but I don't want people to think I'm some boring hermit or that I'm some pretentious douche who looks down on people who do like partying or whatever. I hate having to put myself out there, but I'm going to have to suck it up and actually have some initiative and make decisions and be an 'adult' or whatever instead of holing myself up in my room while I wait for someone else to choose for me, or just do whatever my friends do. It's just stressing me out a lot. Being sociable and coming across as a normal person and interacting with people and forming positive relationships with people and making friends with them and living with people and just. Stress.

I also just feel like there are so many expectations about university. Your whole life it gets built up as this kind of ultimate educational goal, as well as the point in your life when you grow as a person or whatever and you're also meant to have a great time and party loads and get a 1st and make loads of lifelong important friends and pressure, much?! I just want to pass my course and make it out alive. I'm really just trying to keep my expectations low a) in case it turns out that I am actually terrible at my subject and my whole education up to this point has been a lie and that everything I know is trash and I will fail, or b) so that I may actually be pleasantly surprised if it's all fine just fine.

AND THERE WILL BE NO CATS. WHAT AM I MEANT TO DO WITHOUT CATS? I DON'T KNOW HOW TO LIVE WITHOUT ADORABLE KITTY CUDDLE BUDDIES THIS IS GENUINELY ONE OF THE THINGS DISTRESSING ME MOST ABOUT THIS WHOLE SITUATION.

So. University is a thing that I am going to do. Oh god.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Isla and the Happily Ever After review

Isla and the Happily Ever After 
Stephanie Perkins
14th August 2014
Usborne

From the glittering streets of Manhattan to the moonlit rooftops of Paris, falling in love is easy for hopeless dreamer Isla and introspective artist Josh. But as they begin their senior year in France, Isla and Josh are quickly forced to confront the heartbreaking reality that happily-ever-afters aren’t always forever.

Their romantic journey is skillfully intertwined with those of beloved couples Anna and Étienne and Lola and Cricket, whose paths are destined to collide in a sweeping finale certain to please fans old and new.


It's been, what, two years waiting for this book, so I think it's safe to say that expectations were high. After the adorable wonderfulness of Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door, Isla really had a lot to live up to. And it fully met my expectations, even though I know that some people have been disappointed by it or just downright didn't like it. It is a different book from Anna and Lola in that it's not about that glorious and agonizing tension waiting for these two people to get together, and everything ending happily at the end when they do. It's about Isla and Josh getting together and being in a relationship, and it felt like a much more personal book because of that and because of Isla's character. I don't think that it had the same charm as the other two, but it resonated with me in some ways that the other didn't. However, even though I did love it, it's probably my least favourite of the series.

I did really like Isla and Josh, which I wasn't entirely expecting. Josh wasn't a character that really made an impression on me in Anna and I don't really go for the whole Broody Artist type. And I wasn't really too sure about Isla, either, even though I know I should really trust that Stephanie Perkins knows how to write good characters from her other two books. Isla is different from Anna and Lola though in that she didn't feel as distinct. I know that this was a negative for some people, but I appreciated the fact that she was kind of a blank canvas. It wasn't like she didn't have a personality or anything, because she did. She's sweet and awkward and a romantic. It's just that she didn't really have any interests outside of reading adventure novels and Josh. This was probably one of my least favourite things about the book, even though I know it was really important to the plot and Isla's development as a character. But even though she did have realisations about the fact that maybe she should try and be friends with people who weren't Josh or Kurt, and that she should take her future into her own hands and do what she wants to do, it didn't really go anywhere. I don't feel like she actually grew or changed that much at all, which was a bit of a bummer because it's something that Stephanie Perkins does so well, and it is just something in general that I notice and love about books.

I will say that I really loved being back in Paris. It was something I missed with Lola. Plus, they went to Barcelona and there was a couple of bits in Manhattan too, and basically wanderlust. I want to go to all the places. I also thing this was the most typically romantic of the books, and even though I usually prefer cute stuff as opposed to that whole desperately-in-love blah blah blah, I was in the right frame of mind for it when I read it. It was right for the characters, because they're both quite intense people. I also really loved Josh's graphic novel, and I would love it if it became an actual thing. I would read it. But yeah, I just really enjoyed it's importance and I felt like I could picture it really well and it was just described so well.

I know I sound pretty negative in this review, because I've had some time to think about it and really think about what I think worked or didn't work about it, but it's the only one of these books to make me cry. I did really care about Isla and Josh and their relationship, even if it's typically not the kind of relationship I enjoy reading it. I felt so involved, and I just want them both to be happy. And I think in this case my emotional involvement with the book kind of completely overtook any doubts I had or any issues I have. It made me shed a couple of tears in happiness, and I am so sad for these books to be over. Though I guess I could just reread them all... Yeah. That sounds like a good plan.

Isla and the Happily Ever After didn't have quite the same charm or lightness that I loved so much about Anna and Lola, but I feel like it was the right way to end this sort of series. Plus, I loved getting to see Anna and St Clair and Lola and Cricket, and see their stories continued in it as well. Not quite as great, in my opinion, but still a really wonderful book that I enjoyed a lot.


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