The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

Publisher: Hodder
Release Date: July 2014
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
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Somewhere within our crowded sky, a crew of wormhole builders hops from planet to planet, on their way to the job of a lifetime. To the galaxy at large, humanity is a minor species, and one patched-up construction vessel is a mere speck on the star chart. This is an everyday sort of ship, just trying to get from here to there.

But all voyages leave their mark, and even the most ordinary of people have stories worth telling. A young Martian woman, hoping the vastness of space will put some distance between herself and the life she‘s left behind. An alien pilot, navigating life without her own kind. A pacifist captain, awaiting the return of a loved one at war.

I just clapped my hands together and shouted ‘SO’ to an empty room because I have a lot to say on this beauty of a book.

My expectations were fairly low; I rarely wander to adult sci-fi with space and spaceships and aliens because either I find the plots fairly similar and boring and copy cat versions of what they imagined space travel to be like in the 60s. But in The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet was not just a story but a commentary told through an highly imaginative and distinctly different storytelling that was just…WOWIE.

cropped-2017-03-13-05-03-25-11.jpgSo The Long Way is told over a good few years or ‘standards’ which I believe is longer than 12 months, where a crew have a job waiting for them on the other side of the galaxy. This is the over-arching plot that kickstarts everything, but the real stories are tucked inside the very characters on the Wayfarer where each person is given depth and development but it’s so much more than that. I’ve never read a character study that’s also paired with a whole new setting; writers like to explore deep characters and the flaws of what it means to be human in a setting we understand to better ground the characters in a more familiar place that won’t divert from the things the author is trying to do. But here, Becky Chambers manages to successfully juggle the two at the same time, WHILE not all the characters are even human.

Yeah. Incredible.

So we have these incredible characters, many of whom aren’t human, but are still telling this greater story of humanity and the greater good. How, we as sentients, need to look out for one another and respect customs, cultures and other languages. In the story’s universe, it’s a known fact that humans are a self-destructive and competitive species and that it had to change when allying with other species that were far more compassionate and advanced. It was amazing to read about these other fictional species who were just so different from other imaginings of aliens where, I often found, the aliens were still just humans but green, or blue or even were exactly like humans in every way. These species were nothing like humans; they had different languages, customs, body parts. Some had scales and feathers, some communicated through coloured lights in their cheeks, some didn’t wear clothes, some changed biological sex through age. There were differences in family dynamics and they way children were reared (as you can tell, the Aandrisk species was my favourite to learn about). It was just so interesting to read about and watching this crew grow into a family made my heart grow warm and fuzzy.

The Long Way definitely felt like a series of episodes, rather than one large quest, and so if any networks are looking for a sci-fi book to adapt into a show which is kind of like Firefly but SO much more imaginative, then this is your book. Get on it.

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The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: 11th April 2017
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
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Plot: Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love-she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful. 

30653853Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness-except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny, flirtatious, and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid. He’s an awkward Tolkien superfan, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?

I received an eARC from Penguin in an exchange for an honest review.

So this is a very cute book, like super cute.

Imagine a rom-com, with very little conflict and lots of teen drama, but so much better because not everyone is white and not everyone is straight.

The Upside of Unrequited was a very realistic and lovely insight into an alternative family lifestyle that’s loving and just as normal as any other. It’s also a very complicated look at the self-esteem of teenage girls and how new romance can be affected by that. I very much related to main character Molly now, more so than I would have when I was as a teenager (skinny and in a long term relationship), but I still find that appealing and it’s what makes Molly so loveable.

It’s great to read a book where LGBT people are happy and living a happy life. It’s possible, but many LGBT books concern themselves with so much drama and death and suffering. While I understand there has to be some drama within a book to actually have a plot, I found it refreshing that it didn’t ruin everything in it’s wake.

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Intense Publicity How It Affects Reading

I wanted to talk a little bit about hype.

Hype, by my own definition, is the feeling you build inside of people as they await for something. In this context, books.

It’s a very important part of marketing and publicity that there is hype surrounding a book. Sometimes it’s easy; the genre is a popular one, a trendy story line that always hits and never misses with it’s target demographic. Sometimes it’s even easier; the author is well known, award-winning, maybe even world-renowned. And sometimes it’s hard; it’s a debut author, niche subject matter, a risk, but nevertheless a risk the publisher is willing to take.

Hype sells. Hype gets things noticed.

But for me, and fairly often; Hype kills.

I’ve been struggling with this for a long time and I’ve never really known how to put it into words. But, since being very disappointed by a very highly anticipated book recently, I thought it would be time to discuss it.

A lot of the books, shows, movies that I have fallen in love with are often ones that I’ve found on my own. The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo was still only circulating in the U.S. where I saw someone on Youtube mention it. I’d never heard of it, nor were people constantly talking about it. I found a hardback online for so cheap that I bought it and read it straight away. Que my love. But I often wonder if that would be different if people would not stop recommending it, if it was talked about in every Twitter chat and was announced on everyone’s TBR, if there were giveaways and competitions left, right, and centre. It’s a beautifully written story by a now auto-buy author for me, but would I enjoy it if I say, picked it up now?

Switch to a few days ago, where I had to write a two star review about a book that I’ve been excited for since July last year and have been greatly disappointed by. The plot, the setting, the concept all sounded so promising when I first heard of it. In my review I go into detail about how much the hype ruined the book for me, about how I may have enjoyed it more without the anticipation. It’s probably true; I wouldn’t have scrutinized it so much. My expectations were through the roof from the reviews and the talk around it. But at the same time, would I have? Like I said, I’d heard it once and was initially interested. Imagine, if that was all I heard about it; people didn’t talk about it as much and it wasn’t the subject of every fourth tweet on my Twitter timeline. Does the amount of hype really decide if I like a book or not?

It’s the same with shows too. I tend to enjoy them a lot more when I haven’t been either forced to watch them or pestered by everyone. I don’t watch Game of Thrones. I didn’t watch Breaking Bad, Stranger Things etc because people wouldn’t shut up about them. They’re probably great, but the expectations I now have are so high that I’m not ready to experience the disappointment.

But then am I a part of the hype machine? I do not stop banging on about certain books that I’ve fallen in love with, particularly Jandy Nelson’s books and Radio Silence by Alice Oseman. I mention them in almost every chat, bring them up in every conversation about book recommendations. Do I contribute? I suppose, it’s always about the writing; many live up to the hype and many don’t. It depends on the hype too; I remember when Samantha Shannon’s The Bone Season was being compared to Harry Potter, and when I read it I couldn’t believe that it had been compared to one of the best selling series of all time. But the second one? When the hype had died down and I’d decided to give it a second chance? Much better! Had the writing improved? Were my expectations way low? Probably a bit of both.

How does hype effect what you read? Are you seduced by the excitement and anticipation, or are you more of a finding a diamond in the rough kind of reader? Are there any hyped books you didn’t enjoy? Let’s talk!

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A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

Publisher: Titan Books
Release Date: 28th February 2017
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
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The precarious equilibrium among four Londons has reached its breaking point. Once brimming with the red vivacity of magic, darkness casts a shadow over the Maresh Empire, leaving a space for another London to rise. Kell – once assumed to be the last surviving Antari – begins to waver under the pressure of competing loyalties. And in the wake of tragedy, can Arnes survive? Lila Bard, once a commonplace – but never common – thief, has survived and flourished through a series of magical trials. But now she must learn to control the magic, before it bleeds her dry. Meanwhile, the disgraced Captain Alucard Emery of the Night Spire collects his crew, attempting a race against time to acquire the impossible. And an ancient enemy returns to claim a crown while a fallen hero tries to save a world in decay.

I always find it a lot harder to review books I adored as opposed to books I hated.

It’s harder because what do I say that doesn’t sound like I’m being a mushy, soppy loved up reader? With negative reviews I can be cold and professional, almost academic sounding with my shade, but when it comes to love, how can you turn it into a review?

Let’s talk about the series as a whole rather than this book itself, to avoid spoilers.

tumblr_omlwvhTmhw1u04fedo1_540I’ve fallen in love with the Shades of Magic series. I fall in love often but maybe not this hard, and especially not with a high fantasy series. High fantasy can often come across as samey and stereotypical, often missing great opportunities to do something different as this is a genre where the possibilities are endless. You are literally creating a world with the power of your brain and language, and yet so many books are filled with cliches and things you’ve seen before. Things that, though may seem relatable and familiar to our world, still aren’t what makes a story in high fantasy so imaginative and immersing.

But Shades of Magic has always been about spreading your imagination far and wide; different Londons, folded over one another like the pages of a book, in universes that are similar but also not, hiding secrets and magic and evil. Already, you’re handed that and you know already that this series is not like the others.

But then you get the characters who aren’t stock, aren’t just what would expect in a high fantasy novel. They’re all lovable, even the villains, even the side characters who still have enough agency and personality to be someone you can actually picture rather than just an extra. But obviously, the main characters; Kell and Lila Bard are funny, witty and you can feel comfortable going on this cut throat journey with them as they make it through multiple Londons, learning different languages, and becoming accustomed to different cultures.

And of course, A Conjuring of Light was the bittersweet ending that I wanted but also didn’t want, because it meant never waiting to see what happens next. This series has all my praise, and I guarantee you will love it too.

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Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Release Date: 21st January 2017
Rating: ☆ ☆
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Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful and cruel father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

Continue reading “Caraval by Stephanie Garber”

History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: 9th February 2017
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
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OCD-afflicted seventeen-year-old, Griffin, has just lost his first love – his best friend, ex-boyfriend and the boy he believed to be his ultimate life partner – in a drowning accident. In a desperate attempt to hold onto every last piece of the past, a broken Griffin forges a friendship with Theo’s new college boyfriend, Jackson. And Griffin will stop at nothing to learn every detail of Theo’s new college life, and ultimate death. But as the grieving pair grows closer, readers will question Griffin’s own version of the truth – both in terms of what he’s willing to hide, and what true love ultimately means…

25014114I don’t read a lot of sad because because surprise, they make me sad. I don’t like feeling sad; I often feel sad for no reason anyway…I don’t need to make more room in my life for things to make me feel sad. And you would think I would think logically when picking up an Adam Silvera book because guess what, THEY’RE SAD.

But I love everything about Adam Silvera’s writing because it’s so realistic, and I often latch onto his characters and find something relatable about them. In this case, it was the main character’s jealousy. This has happened before in other books like Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins and Solitaire by Alice Oseman because there’s just something overwhelming powerful in a book when it feels like it’s talking directly to you.

Not to mention while I was feeling all these things, MORE feelings were piled on. It’s not a spoiler to say that the story involves funerals and grieving and memories and it just HURTS SO MUCH. I had to keep taking breaks. Trust me, there were funny parts, and really lovely parts that didn’t make me burst into tears, but to summarize this book into one word would be; heart-wrenching.

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The Four Star Crisis

I did not realise that the star rating system was something I used so much in my life.

I use it for books, films, restaurants, hotels, years (2016 got 0 stars obviously), nightclubs, makeup, I could go on. But recently I’ve been having trouble try to explain myself as to why I’ve given a book a certain number of stars.

Goodreads doesn’t exactly force you to use their star rating system, but enough people still complain about it, one of the biggest complaints being that there aren’t half star ratings. I get it; you’ve signed up to a website where you want better explain yourself as to why you loved/hated a book. You want to be a little more precise, and sometimes a star rating system doesn’t really do it justice.

And while I haven’t really had a problem using it before, I’ve noticed a trend in the books I’ve been rating.

I bloody love to use four stars.

A lot of people on their blogs have a set of guidelines as to what they mean when they give a book a certain amount of stars, but I’ve never done that. I didn’t want to be so rigid in my rating, but it now comes across as slightly confusing, especially to myself. The only star ratings that seem to explain enough are one star (fucking awful) and five stars (fucking incredible), and while I rarely use two stars because I might as well just knock it down to one and only use three if the book was average, I use four stars to the point where the books rated do not have the same opinion from me anymore.

Four stars, for me, has been the ‘could have been five stars, but wasn’t just quite there’, which is a good enough explanation. But recently, the lines have blurred. The books aren’t mediocre, but they’re probably not something I’d read again. Some are strong four stars and some are weak four stars, but does that mean I’m using four stars too liberally? Is a four star a watered down five star or a heavily concentrated three star?

Why must you torture me this way, four stars??

Am I being too nice? Too cruel? Looking at my Goodreads, there’s far too many four star books; some I read the sequels eagerly, and some I have given away almost instantly. I turned my back on those books.

Maybe it’s time for something different. Maybe the star rating system is not good enough to explain how I feel about a book. Not all the books I read can be four stars. Otherwise, what’s the point in rating them if they all have the same rating?

How do you go about rating books, if at all? What do you think about when deciding how many stars to give a book? What makes a book receive a half star, or even lose one? What’s your opinion on the dreaded four star dilemma?

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