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Archive for the category “Fiction”

Sensational Quote Sunday

Some books change your life. They change the way you see the world. They do this not only with the story as a whole, but sometimes with an idea, a beautiful phrase, or even a word, that resonates with you the way nothing has before.

Sensational Quote Sunday is my way of paying homage to those books that remind me every day why I love reading.

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Today, I’m highlighting a quote from The Magicians by Lev Grossman. One of the hardest things for me to deal with in Grossman’s wonderful novel was our perpetually underwhelmed protagonist, Quentin. He spent most of the book discovering new worlds – discovering that magic was a thing, for goodness’ sake – and remaining not quite impressed. He was always looking for that (excuse me) magical solution to all his feelings of aimlessness and failure, and it took him a long time to realise that there’s no fix it. There’s no easy out. There’s just growing up.

I admired The Magicians for not shying away from such a frustrating, such a true perspective. And I particularly admire Lev Grossman’s turns of phrase, which elevated his work to an impressive height.

Also – read it!

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Short Stories, or, Review-Palooza!

It’s become clear that I read a lot of books. This year, I’m averaging one book every three days, across all sorts of formats, including manuscript, eBook, audio book and, of course, my true love, the paper book.

In order to keep them fresh in my mind, and to deliver opinions about them in a somewhat timely manner, I’m going to do bite-sized reviews of a recent selection.

Dear reader, dive in:

What Came Before – by Anna George

whatcamebeforeOof. This was a hard read. Following the spiral of a gradually abusive relationship, What Came Before challenges us to look at what we expect – and what we’ll accept – from those we love. Ambitious and confronting, it’s not for everyone, but is a particularly powerful novel.

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Looking for Alaska – by John Green
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John Green’s first novel has all the hallmarks of his later work. Teens who act like teens (bright, loyal, apathetic and often a wee bit pretentious), a simple narrative that allows the beauty and poignancy of his prose to shine, and a quietly wrenching third act make this a must read for older teens and fans of this brand of honest, contemporary YA. (Also, have you read The Fault in Our Stars yet? If not, what are you even doing with your life??)

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Words of Radiance – by Brandon Sanderson

wordsofradianceThe Way of Kings (Parts One and Two) and their sequel The Words of Radiance are perfect examples of high fantasy with truly epic scope and huge payoffs. If you’re a fantasy reader, you’d be foolish to go past Brandon Sanderson. He and Patrick Rothfuss are the best current fantasy writers around. I’m repeating myself and I don’t care: Brandon Sanderson is the real deal. He is astonishing, and if you haven’t read him, you’re missing out.

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Wool and Dust – both by Hugh Howey

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I’m a little late on this bandwagon but Wool and its sequel Dust are something you definitely want to experience. Howey’s exploration of a possible future after the world has been destroyed by nuclear warfare is sophisticated, claustrophobic and nail-bitingly tense. It’s the kind of sci-fi you’ll rant excitedly about in turn. I listened to these as audio books, and the SECOND I finished Wool I had to find out what happened next. four fox

Have you read any of these? I’ve covered a range of genres – what’s your pick of the above?

Fangirl – by Rainbow Rowell

ArthurRainbow Rowell’s in the midst of a surge to fame, taking the YA genre by storm. The effects ripple out further than YA, too, with John Green publicly commenting on how much he loved Eleanor & Park. Needless to say, I’ve been meaning to read her work for a while now. I started with Fangirl because even the name is something I identify with!

Cath’s always been the quiet one, overshadowed by her twin sister, Wren. Online, though, it’s a completely different story. Cath’s in love with the world of Simon Snow, a wildly successful series of books and movies about a teen wizard (yes, the echoes of Harry Potter are there for a reason). Like a lot of fans, Cath’s not satisfied with the limited look into Simon’s world she gets in the canon. Writing fanfiction about Simon Snow is a way to stay connected, and Cath and Wren are widely reputed as the best writing duo around.

When the twins go to college, Wren’s looking to break out of the virtual world and experience the ‘real world’; something Cath just can’t understand. Their writing is just as real and just as important as anything happening out there. She keeps posting updates to her fic, feeling more and more involved with her online fans (who number in the thousands), and less connected with Wren than ever. This whole college thing is certainly life changing. But no one mentioned that it can be a change for the worse. Engorgio! (Or, embiggen, more this way):

The Impossible Knife of Memory – by Laurie Halse Anderson

ImpossibleHayley and Andy have never had what you’d call a normal father-daughter relationship. Andy’s been away at war most of Hayley’s life, and now he’s back, but in many ways still as far away as ever. They’re managing, for the most part. After a few years being home schooled by her father on the road, Hayley’s going to school for the first time. Andy’s working, sometimes. The nightmares make that hard. The only thing that helps is the booze – but that has consequences too, for him and his daughter both.

Hayley’s dealing, looking after herself and her dad, as far as she can. After all, she’s only ever been able to rely on herself. Letting people in, letting people help, means letting yourself get let down. Now, though, it seems she might need that help more than she needs to protect herself. Let it Go, Let it Go, Can’t Hold it Back Any More:

Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy – by Helen Fielding

JonesBridget Jones is crazy. I mean that in the best possible way – I love her! I’m also a fan of Helen Fielding in general. Cause Celeb was good, and I LOVED Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination (and not even just for that phenomenal title). But Bridget is my first Fielding love, as it should be.

The books, brilliant. The movies? Amazing. (Colin Firth. Enough said.) Bridget’s world is full of panic, disasters, incredible friendships, and trying family members as well as a whole lot of love, and it’s magical.

This third book was quite a tricky customer, though, for one very important SPOILER FILLED NO SERIOUSLY YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW THIS reason: Spoilers! Spoilers Ahoy! Abandon All Hope of a Spoiler-Free Review All Ye Who Enter:

The Cinderella Moment – by Jennifer Kloester

cinderellaAngel’s dream has always been to become a fashion designer. But as the daughter of a housekeeper, it feels like that dream may never come true. When Angel’s best friend, Lily, begs Angel to pretend to be Lily in Paris for two weeks while Lily attends drama school in London, it seems like Angel’s chance may finally have arrived. Lily’s grandmother, the Comtesse de Tourney, is one of Paris’ most influential figures, with an invitation to one of the world’s most prestigious fashion events. What if Angel can use this chance to meet the right people, and start living her dream?

It’s a madcap setup that leads to all sorts of mayhem, as Angel quickly discovers that being Lily isn’t just a little white lie. People are going to get hurt – including Angel. But if she doesn’t take this opportunity while she can, will Angel miss her moment forever?

Okay. No summary is going to do justice to the several complicated concurrent story lines fighting for attention in this novel. There’s the Parent-Trap-esque swap. There’s a Teen Couture competition. There’s theft of fashion intellectual property and a bogus entry into said competition. An absent father (Lily’s). A sick mother (Angel’s). An evil almost-stepmother and  almost-stepsister. Two or three extremely convoluted back stories. And a boy (of course). Phew. You Don’t Even Know My Last Name:

The White Queen – by Philippa Gregory

WhiteQueenI read The Other Boleyn Girl many years ago, and quite enjoyed Gregory’s blend of history with liberal doses of fiction – it’s addictive, and there’s just enough fact to make you feel like you’re learning something as you read. I picked up The White Queen in Britain (naturally) because I’d heard it was about to be made into a TV show, and I like to read the source material first, like a good booklover. Here’s how Philippa Gregory’s foray into the lives of the Plantagenets grabbed me:

Before the Tudors, the Plantagenets reigned in a bitter, brother-against-brother dynasty. The White Queen follows the young Elizabeth Woodville, who catches the eye of the young king, Edward I. Using all her charm, wit and possible otherworldly talent, she must maneuver the deep, deadly currents of the English court. Despite her best efforts, readers will know that Elizabeth’s two sons are the centre of one of the oldest mysteries in British royal history – the mystery of the princes in the tower. (Not) The Children of the Revolution:

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – by Douglas Adams

hitchhikerI’ve never read Hitchhiker’s before. (Believe me, I’m just as disappointed as you are in me.) But I rectified that on a plane from London to LA, last week. Here’s what I thought of Adams’ classic sci-fi screwball comedy:

Arthur Dent is having an odd day. (He never could get the hang of Thursdays.) First, his house was demolished. Then, the entire Earth was bulldozed to make way for a new, intergalactic highway. Now Arthur’s one of two humans left, scrambling around the universe with a Betelgeuse alien called Ford Prefect for a best friend and a towel for everything else. Is There Any Tea On This Spaceship?:

The Book of Luke – by Jenny O’Connell

imageHoliday time – you know what that means! Beach reads. Vacation fare. Quintessential chick/YA books that are light, fluffy, and preferably not at all challenging! I was also looking for books I could leave behind on my travels when I finished with them, to lighten my luggage load. I read The Book of Luke on a train between Venice and Innsbruck for an easy holiday read – and here’s what that was like:
Emily’s always been the nice girl. The brain, who’s focused on getting into a great college, and hasn’t got time for any of that “Standing up for yourself” nonsense. But when her boyfriend dumps her on the SAME DAY her parents are moving the family out of town against her wishes, the same day, too, that her Dad announces he’s not coming with them, Emily starts thinking it might be time to stop being so nice.
Moving back to her old town means Emily reconnects with her old friends, and one of them has just been callously dumped by her boyfriend too – by email, no less. The girls hatch a scheme: to create a guidebook for future generations about what not to do when dating an awesome girl. Using the ex, Luke, as a guinea pig for research purposes, and getting to dump him as hard as he dumped Emily’s friend when they’re done with him? Well, call that a perk. Ew, As If!:

The Way of Kings (Part Two) – by Brandon Sanderson

imageTravelling means more time for reading, right?! I’ve been testing the theory, so while exploring the sights of London and Amsterdam, I was catching up on my Brandon Sanderson, with The Way of Kings, Part Two. Here’s what I thought:

Welcome back to Roshar. The landscape remains as unforgiving as the people holding Kaladin and his bridgemen; who are still defying their intended purposes by refusing to die. It’s clearer than ever to Kaladin that there’s almost no way to avoid this fate. Unless, perhaps, he changes the rules of engagement.
Dalinar, a brightlord and (formerly) one of the most respected leaders of the Alethkar nobility, remains unsure whether he is mad, or if the visions he has during highstorms are somehow real. These visions tell him he must do the impossible, and unite the Alethkar forces as one. But until he ascertains whether these are real warnings or merely delusions, Dalinar knows it is dangerous for him to remain in charge of his House. Other nobles have noticed his ailment, and sense that there may be blood in the water.
In Part Two of The Way of Kings, we see the payoff from Part One’s lengthy set up. We Were the Kings and Queens of Promise:

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