Tin Man by Sarah Winman

PUBLISHER: TINDER PRESS
PUBLICATION DATE: July 27th, 2017
RATING: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
GOODREADS

It begins with a painting won in a raffle: fifteen sunflowers, hung on the wall by a woman who believes that men and boys are capable of beautiful things.

And then there are two boys, Ellis and Michael, who are inseparable.
And the boys become men, and then Annie walks into their lives, and it changes nothing and everything.

If only I could erase my memory and appreciate this story for the first time all over again.

This story was absolutely beautiful, and just how I like it, the blurb doesn’t tell you much about the plot. Sometimes, this can indicate what type of story it’s going to be – it’s going to be character-based, atmospheric, told over decades, feeling timeless and almost dreamy. And it was all those things. But for some of you who like to know a fair bit about a book for dipping in, I’ll elaborate on the blurb.

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The story is set over 4-5 decades, with two perspectives, Ellis and Michael. They both tell the story of their lives, with events intertwining, as well as events spent apart. To me, one narrator came across as more truthful and reliable, while the other definitely left parts and feelings out. I love unreliable narration, and the fact that these characters are telling the same story with wildly different perspectives. The story unfolded so beautifully, without giving anything away until it did and you realised everything about what had happened and cried your eyes out alone on a Monday night.

I would highly recommend Tin Man if you loved Call Me By Your Name, which is a book that’s getting a lot of publicity at the moment because of the film adaptation that just’s come out (and is amazing!). I didn’t enjoy Call Me By Your Name as much as Tin Man, but it’s similarities are not ones to ignore. Both are set (and partly set) in hot countries, depicting a fleeting romance between two men. They are both told during a time when homosexuality was illegal in said countries, and yet not considered ‘historical’ fiction because the sixties/seventies/eighties are not that long ago. So, there’s your comparison.

Please read this book. It’s just shy of 200 words and will stay with you for a really long time.

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A Thousand Perfect Notes by C.G. Drews

PUBLISHER: Orchard Books
PUBLICATION DATE: 7th June 2018
RATING: ☆ ☆ ☆  .5
GOODREADS

Beck hates his life. He hates his violent mother. He hates his home. Most of all, he hates the piano that his mother forces him to play hour after hour, day after day. He will never play as she did before illness ended her career and left her bitter and broken. But Beck is too scared to stand up to his mother, and tell her his true passion, which is composing his own music – because the least suggestion of rebellion on his part ends in violence.

When Beck meets August, a girl full of life, energy and laughter, love begins to awaken within him and he glimpses a way to escape his painful existence. But dare he reach for it?

This book was intense.

I’ve mentioned before in blog posts about reading habits and tastes, that I really struggle with stories about abuse. Whether it’s depicted in tv, film, or books, I’m not one to watch/read it if I know it has scenes in it that’ll make me feel uncomfortable. But a part of me thinks I might be missing out on a lot of stories because I don’t like leaving my comfort zone. I am not a victim of child abuse, but I think it’s especially important to talk about content that some people may find triggering, even if it’s something you haven’t experienced. So, if depictions of violent, physical abuse does trigger you in any way, I would read more about this book before just going straight in (like I did). I wouldn’t tell you not to read a book, that is your decision to make, but at least you know this now and can make a more informed decision.

I had some idea about it just from the blurb, but I like going in blind to a book if I can; I seem to enjoy content more that way without having so many expectations of what it should be. I think for the most part, I did really enjoy this book’s depiction of the internal conflict of striving to be the best while feeling like the worst. Beck is considered by many (outside of his own family) as one of the best young piano players out there. He has a legacy to uphold since his mother was a world renowned classical piano player and his uncle a famous composer. However he’s constantly beaten and bruised by his mother’s desperation for him to be the best, despite thinking he’s terrible. Beck, because of this, also thinks he’s terrible, and I like how we don’t truly know whether he’s good or not.

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I’m gonna assume he is though. When you work hard on something, you get at least a little better at it, even if you’re not ‘born with the talent’.

The book on the whole is so sad as we peer into Beck’s inner lack of self-worth. I really felt for him, and was shouting when he made bad decisions. When you’re looking from the outside in at a bad situation, it’s very easy to say ‘do this! say that! just leave!’, but A Thousand Perfect Notes makes you really think about what you would do, and whether or not that would make the situation any better.

The writing was a bit strange in some places. There were a lot of similes and metaphors that were always taken to the extreme that seemed a little out of place. I can’t really explain without giving some examples:

“She whirls and Beck half expects wings made of frost and longing to sprout from her back and fly her home.”

Most of these strange sentences are either descriptions of August or speech from August. And I get why; she’s a bit of a stereotypical manic pixie dream girl. She’s kind of considered kooky because she doesn’t wear shoes often and has dreadlocks and is vegan. The story overall is a fairly stereotypical story but with more depth. Rather than Beck just being a mopey, alternative guy who needs a bit of colour in his life à la 500 Days of Summer, it’s all a bit more sinister. And rather than rolling my eyes at a lot of the cliches, I was more invested in Beck’s life. Unfortunately though, August still came across as a bit two dimensional.

This is a great debut from someone who has read far and wide about what makes a good book. Seriously, Cait’s reviews are on EVERY SINGLE BOOK PAGE ON GOODREADS. So congratulations Cait and can’t wait to read all your future books!

 

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Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Release Date: 21st January 2017
Rating: ☆ ☆
Goodreads

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”

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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TOP 5 // WHY NO SEQUEL?

Hello everyone. Hollie is currently on holiday; a holiday filled with books and walking and food and German people. Today comes a scheduled post, so if she doesn’t reply to some of your lovely comments, you should know that the place she’s staying has NO WIFI *crying*

This Wednesday, I’m here to cry over the fact that some of these FANTASTIC books don’t have sequels. While they easily work as standalone’s or dualogies, it’s always nice to dream of walking into your local bookstore and picking up that sweet, sweet sequel.

THE NIGHT CIRCUS BY ERIN MORGENSTERN

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This was the book that started it all. While I still enjoyed reading before hand, between the ages of 14 and 21 where the ‘dark days’. I barely read, if anything, at all. When university ended and I thought about getting back into reading, it was this book that got me addicted. It’s rich in dialogue, character, and setting. It’s actually pretty damn beautiful, but once you’ve finished it? THAT’S IT. THERE’S NO MORE. Erin Morgenstern has no other books out as of yet, so it’s not even like you can get your fix of her writing in some other place. You can’t, and I haven’t accepted it.

 ATTACHMENTS BY RAINBOW ROWELL

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I could just pick any Rainbow Rowell book, but I feel Attachments doesn’t get enough love as the others. An adult contemporary set in the 90’s, this was my first dip into RR since reading Fangirl a long time ago. I read it in one sitting on a train journey and my goodness, it still has my heart. As with all RR, it’s a standalone, and I don’t think there’ll ever be a sequel. I WANNA KNOW HOW MY BABIES ARE DOING.

HIGHLY ILLOGICAL BEHAVIOR BY JOHN COREY WHALEY

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I’ve just finished this book, and not only does it need a sequel, the book itself was way too short. I really enjoyed it though; a great contemporary with LGBT characters dealing with mental illness. But at 250 pages, the story was lacking something a little thicker. If the story was longer AND had a sequel, I’d definitely weep with joy!

VENGEANCE ROAD BY ERIN BOWMAN

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So I’ve only just found out that Erin Bowman is releasing a companion novel to Vengeance Road called RETRIBUTION RAILS. So if you fall in love with this book like I did, at least you won’t be left completely in the dark! However, it’s not a sequel, it’s set a few years after the events of VR but around the same area with different characters. I feel Retribution Rails will feed my addiction of YA Western enough for now!

MORE THAN THIS BY PATRICK NESS

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So this has definitely become my favourite Patrick Ness novel, despite not actually reading all of them yet. BUT, it was left on a CLIFFHANGER with NO FORSEEABLE SEQUEL. Why would you do this to me? How do I know if everything’s OK? The answer? I don’t, and I’m very sad about it.

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme created by gingerreadslainey.

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TOP 5 // FAVE POSTS

I mean, isn’t blogging all about tooting your own horn a little?

This week on Top 5 Wednesday we’re asked to pick 5 of our OWN favourite posts and talk about why they are. Being proud of your writing and your work can sometimes be hard to feel; you are your biggest critic, and sometimes it’s good to take a step back and look at all that you’ve achieved and say “yes, I did a good thing.”

Review of Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

I felt so much for this book that I couldn’t really put it into words, but I tried my damn best. Radio Silence is one of my favourite reads this year so far, and I don’t think it’ll be knocked out of the top 5 very soon. This review is one of my longest, because the amount of topics discussed in the novel are just too important to be ignored.

Smoke & Sleeves: Fiction’s Obsession With A Bad Boy

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I wrote this in response to Regina’s post about why we all love bad boys. I wanted to talk about the portrayal of bad boys in YA and the overall affect it can have on our perspective of a healthy, respectful relationship. I wrote a damn LOT, and I didn’t expect everyone to read it. It’s popular in comments but not in likes, and I understand that. But it was a topic that I’m so interested and passionate about. I hate the romanticisation of abuse, but I love the mysterious and often villainous males we have in fiction. I shared that in what I hope still is a good, strong argument!

DNF: The Pressure To Enjoy Books

I wrote this one because I was angry that I’d DNF’d a popular book that I was PROMISED I would love. I came to the conclusion to that just because everyone loves something, doesn’t mean I will, and I learned to accept that. I think I made my point without being rude (and also didn’t mention to book because I’m not about that life), but also made the post fairly positive even though I was talking about disliking things!

Girl Squad: Female Friendships YA

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This topic is so important to me, and I hope to many readers and writers out there. To promote friendship between women is so awesome but also a little scarce in YA. Why do authors like to pit women against each other? Make them love rivals? This was a call to action. Women should LOVE and RESPECT each other. This was also the post where I started making fancy headers. Yay!

Review of Valentina by S.E. Lynes

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So, instead of being about the review, this is put in my top 5 because it is my first ARC. Through working in a bookstore, I do receive a lot of Advanced Reading Copies addressed to the book department to just read for free and to rave about to our customers. As the only member of staff with a book blog, I’m usually the one who gets to nab it. However, Blackbird Books was the first publisher to contact me personally, to see if I wanted a copy of the upcoming novel Valentina by debut author S.E. Lynes. I read it, got angry at it (which was intentional), and got it all down. They featured my review on their website and Twitter, and it shall forever be known as my first real ARC.

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by gingerreadslainey.

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DNF: The Pressure to Enjoy Books

Not finishing a book is an often difficult concept to me.

I am easily impressed and entertained, it takes something big (or I guess, not big at all) for me to put down a book. Either it’s really boring, or there is an element of the story I really don’t like.

Of course, that’s the same for everyone; you put down a book because you don’t like it. Books are subjective. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion yada yada yada.

But when being a part of a reading community, you can often get whirled up in hype. I hate hype. It’s like this infectious thing that latches onto a book/series and spreads, deeming the book too boring and disappointing. Hype has put me off books completely, tearing down the idea that I’ll even pick it up!

But then there are some books that I’m dying to read, are incredibly popular, and so well loved.

Last night, after reading only forty pages, I DNF’d a really popular book in the online reading/book blogging community. I was actually offended that this book was so popular; after reading not even a tenth of it, I had ticked off almost everything off my checklist in what I don’t like about a book: misogyny, a Mary-Sue, a poorly developed world, the hashing out of old ideas, character stereotypes (manic pixie dream girl for one), and unrealistic dialogue.

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This book, that so many people love, was awful. How, as an avid reader and book lover, though, could I not enjoy it? I began to doubt myself, staring at the book as I discussed with people on Twitter why I didn’t like it, and why they actually loved it. Was it me? Was I the problem? Was I not reading it properly? Missing the point? I mean, I’d only read forty pages, that’s not really enough to decide whether a book is good or not.

But…don’t agents, don’t publishers, only read the first chapter? I read five, and I would have put this manuscript in the trash immediately.

But it must have something; people love it! They love the author, they love the story, the characters, the messages. Yeah, it must definitely be me.

For a long time I felt very guilty about putting a book down that I didn’t like. Because maybe I just didn’t get it, I was missing something that everyone else was seeing. But it was only after talking about it to myself more, rereading parts, and talking to others on Twitter about it more, did I realise that no, I will not feel guilty about disliking something.

I have genuine feelings about why I dislike this book, and just because it’s so popular, does not mean that I am wrong. As I said before, reading is a very subjective experience, and through outside factors along with the individual past and present experiences of the reader, you are also bound to have a different interpretation of it as the writer. Just by being a woman, I already have a different outlook on the world than the writer. Hell, just by being another human, I do.

And just because I did not like this book, does not mean there is anything wrong with me, anything wrong with the writer, anything wrong with the book, anything wrong with people who enjoy the book. It all boils down everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I didn’t really feel it until I had this largely unpopular opinion. It wasn’t until people who loved the book sent me smiling emojis and told me my review was interesting.

To me, life is too short for books you don’t enjoy, life is too short to feel forced to pick up books you don’t fancy. Book recs are great, publicity is what get a book out there. But if you don’t like a book, do not be afraid to give it one star, do not be afraid to show an understanding and give constructive criticism (without being downright rude). Do not be afraid to put a book down and say “Yeah, I’m done.”

Considering I only read forty pages, I think it would be redundant to post a review. However, I have put down some thoughts on said book on my Goodreads. If you haven’t read the book and were planning to, please do not be put off by my opinion. Still want to read it? Absolutely go for it, there’s obviously something in there that readers love, and I would hate for you to miss out on a story that could very well be your best read of the year!

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