Thoughts

Thoughts #45: Contemporary for Cynics

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I’m not typically one for contemporary fiction. I tend to like my books with adventure, time travel, dragons or wizards. But occasionally I find a contemporary novel that really works for me. Therefore I wanted to share those particular novels here for my fellow contemporary cynics!

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl

I won Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell from a fellow blogger (thank you Lianne!), and I am SO glad I did, because I’m not sure if I would have picked out for myself. It would appeal to anyone who considers themself to be part of a fandom, or is particularly passionate about a book, television show etc. Cath is so relatable, definitely someone for bookworms to connect with. The romance is sweet and genuine, born from a friendship rather than any kind of insta-love. For some, this might hit home – the worries of starting university (or a new job etc) as an introvert, meeting new people, socialising. Fangirl gets what it means to be an introvert and passionate, and is definitely a recommendation for people who feel like they fit either category.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

The main reason I picked up We Were Liars was due to the hype – so when it was £0.99 on the Kindle store, I thought why not? It reminded me, at least at the start, of the summers I’d always wished for as a child – the kind where each day presents a new and magical adventure, where the summer passes in a slow, warm state of bliss. However, there is much more to We Were Liars than a bunch of rich kids enjoying their summer. It has much more depth to it than you initially realise, and the ending may leave you a little heartbroken.

Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding

Bridget Jones

Bridget Jones’s Diary has been one of my favourite books for a long, long time. Despite it being part of a genre I tend to avoid – not just contemporary but also ‘chick lit’, I absolutely love it. Bridget is hilarious, a 30-something singleton who fears dying alone and being eaten by alsatians… Her sense of humour is perfect and she manages to get herself into so many ridiculous scenarios. The sequel is also excellent, but the third book, which came out over fifteen years after the first, is one to be avoided…

Simon Versus the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Simon and the Homo Sapien Agenda

Simon Versus the Homo Sapiens Agenda was one of those Young Adult books I’d heard a lot about, and I thought it sounded a bit John Green-esque. I spotted it in my local library and thought I’d give it a shot. I made the mistake of starting this late at night, and then had to stay up far too late to finish it in one go. I read it in 2 and a half hours because I HAD to know who Blue was. I’m so glad it turned out the way it did! It is a truly adorable tale.

Are there any contemporary titles you would recommend for people who don’t usually read the genre?

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Top Lists

Top Reads of 2014

Top Reads 2014

As the title suggests, it’s time to share my top reads of 2014! I read so many good books this year that it’s not a top ten, but a top fifteen… And now, in no particular order:

Lexicon by Max Barry Smiler's Fair by Rebecca Levene Jane Eyre

Lexicon by Max Barry was a wonderful surprise. Sent to me by Hodder, it took a little while for me to pick it up, but I’m so glad I did. It is insanely clever and unique and DEFINITELY worth a read. Smiler’s Fair by Rebecca Levene was another surprise from Hodder (who spoil me!), a fantastic new start to a fantasy series, with a truly gorgeous cover. And Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë… oh this book. I am so SO glad I re-read it!

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) by Brandon Sanderson

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor was one of those books that I’d heard such good things about, bought a copy of and still hadn’t read. Then I finally got to it at the beginning of the year, and was blown away. I even met Laini in April, when the third book in the series was released, but I still have yet to read that one. Perfect for my Borgia fascination, Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant is a wonderful piece of historical fiction that I just devoured. It’s got everything you could ever want in historical fiction – backstabbing, court gossip, murder – and everything you would expect from a book about the Borgias. And The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson, why did I take so long to get to you?? I have the second book in Leiden, and I’m looking forward to reading it in January.

Brideshead Revisited Insignia by S.J. Kincaid 2495562

Another classic I’m glad I tried, Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh is truly wonderful, and completely satisfied my taste for books set in Oxford (yes this is a thing). Insignia by S.J. Kincaid, on the other hand, completely satisfied my thirst for another book similar to Ready Player One. The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss is a fantastic, if rather long, follow up to The Name of the Wind. It is one epic fantasy series I will not forget.

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co #1) by Jonathan Stroud Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud was one of those books that took me completely by surprise; I wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I did and now I recommend the series to everyone. Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes was another wonderful library find, the first in a Young Adult fantasy series that I can’t wait to continue. And when it comes to autobiographies, I’m not sure if you can beat Cash by Johnny Cash. One of my favourite singers, his life was absolutely fascinating to read about and I loved the way it was written too – as if the reader is just sat having a drink with Johnny.

Seraphina Fangirl Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding

A very recent addition to my list, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman is another one that caught me by surprise. At first I wasn’t sure, but as I read more of the book I was utterly enchanted by her take on dragons. And once again showing that I really need to branch out and maybe not always judge books based on genre, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell was an ABSOLUTE treat. I loved Cath and instantly identified with her. And finally, Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding pretty much satisfied my post-Firefly needs. SO GOOD.

What were your top reads this year?

Thoughts

Thoughts #21: Teen Fiction and Young Adult Fiction

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Recently, whilst organising my Goodreads shelves, I noticed I had both shelves for ‘teen’ and ‘young adult’. I was tempted to merge the two, but actually upon looking at the books in question I realised I do actually distinguish between them. I wondered if anyone else did this, or whether a lot of people lump all books for teens into young adult.

By ‘teen’ I don’t mean middle grade OR young adult, but in fact somewhere in between. Here’s how I distinguish between the two:

‘Teen’ fiction:

  • Generally for a younger audience than young adult fiction, perhaps ages 11-14 so just a little older than middle grade (which to me is 9-12, so there is some overlap).
  • I see it as a transition from middle grade books, but not quite reaching the content of young adult fiction.
  • It’s often focused on lighter elements, for example friendships, first crushes, shopping etc!
  • Tends to be more realistic or contemporary.
  • I’ve noticed that it’s more often gender specific.

Examples of ‘teen’ fiction:
Dancing in my Nuddy-pants by Louise Rennison The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants by Anne Brashares

Young Adult fiction

  • In my eyes these books are aimed at 15 year olds and upwards. Yes, even adults.
  • Contain ‘heavier’ issues such as relationships, sex, drugs, alcohol, family problems, abuse etc.
  • It’s moved on from first crushes to first kisses and first loves.
  • Less of a gender focus.
  • Spans all sorts of genres: contemporary, fantasy, science fiction, paranormal etc.
  • Generally a lot more emotional, typically a darker feel.
  • That’s not to say that all YA books are full of these sorts of issues. I just feel that they’re much more likely to address them.

Examples of young adult fiction:
Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

Do you tend to split up teen fiction and young adult fiction, or do you see them as one and the same?

Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: March 2014

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Every first Wednesday of the month, I’ll be posting a roundup of the month just gone, and writing about what’s to come in the next few weeks.

monthlyroundupmarch14

Last month I read a total of thirteen books – an improvement on February! Bitterblue (Graceling #3) by Kristin Cashore, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey, Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick, In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang, The Cruel Path by David Normoyle, Doctor’s Notes by Dr. Rosemary Leonard, The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt, The Children of Hurin by J.R.R. Tolkien, Fantastic Four Vol. 1 by J. Michael Straczynski, Wards of Faerie (Dark Legacy of Shanarra #1) by Terry Brooks and X-Men Legacy: Aftermath by Mike Carey.

Standout books include Bitterblue, The Book Thief and Fangirl. I was happy to finally read the conclusion to Kristin Cashore’s Graceling series, and Bitterblue tied the threads of the first two books together nicely. I read The Book Thief as I’d like to go and see it in the cinema, but haven’t quite gotten round to that yet! And finally, I won Fangirl in Lianne’s giveaway, and it was an absolute delight. You can read more about how it surprised me in my review. I’ve now read thirty-six books towards my goal of fifty this year. I may think about raising it in June or July.

Challenge progress:

  • I read eight books towards the Avengers vs. X-Men Challenge, which I’m very pleased with! I also managed to defeat this month’s villain, Juggernaut. April’s villain is Kingpin, who looks to be quite a challenge.
  • One book ticked off of the Dragons & Jetpacks Ultimate Booklist, which also happened to be our science fiction Book of the Month.

Currently reading:

Red Country by Joe Abercrombie

Reviews on the blog this month:

Other posts:

Upcoming:

  • Quite a few reviews including Leviathan Wakes, Doctor’s Notes, In Real Life and The Cruel Path.
  • Something to do with Marvel…
  • And more Museum of Literary Wonders posts as I’ve been meaning to do for a while!

Off the blog:

Not much has happened! I’m kind of scared and excited at how quickly this year has gone so far. Only four and a half months before I move to the Netherlands for university. I can’t wait! I’ve also started playing Smite with a friend, it’s an MOBA where you play as gods – perfect for a mythology geek like me, though I keep pointing out the flaws within the system… it’s really fun though! As for the coming month: my mum is running the London Marathon and I’m SO proud of her. She’s running for a charity called WellChild and has raised a fair amount of money so far. And at the end of the month, it’s back to London again for a cocktails & conversation event with Laini Taylor and Lauren Owen – are any of my fellow book bloggers going as well?

How was March for you?

Review

Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

Whilst not my usual type of book, I thought I’d give Fangirl a chance as I’d seen it EVERYWHERE, with such glowing reviews and praise – and who could resist a title like that? I have fangirled over many a book, TV series, video game, film, you name it, and quite honestly reading about someone else doing that was quite appealing.

I won Lianne’s blogoversary giveaway, and chose this as my prize (thank you, Lianne!). It came in the post on Friday morning, and by Saturday night I had started reading. I was absolutely shattered, but I kept telling myself ‘just one more chapter… they’re only short… just one more’.

I think it’s safe to say that I was already a bit of a fangirl by that point.

It was so fantastic to read about this character and completely and utterly relate to her. I’ve met many people in my life who don’t understand why I enjoy the things I do, or think I’m childish for liking them. Sometimes I actually feel kind of embarrassed for liking those things, which is really rubbish because they’re an important part of my life, and I shouldn’t let what others think dictate what I enjoy. Rainbow Rowell really hits the nail on the head with the way that she shows Cath being completely and utterly in love with the Simon Snow series, and really passionate about writing fanfiction for it – but also reluctant to tell anyone in the ‘real world’. Even though she’s a talented writer, chances are people will look down on her for writing fanfiction of ‘children’s stories’. Like me, Cath was often caught between wanting to express her love for something, and hide it deep down so as not to embarrass herself. It’s a painful feeling.

Cath also frustrated me at times. She was a bit of a hermit, hiding away in her room all the time, then wondering why she was lonely. And then I realised that was me at the beginning of uni, in a way – I think I made most of my friends through chance, and I only ever had a small group of friends – I certainly didn’t go out with the aim of meeting lots and lots of new people. So once again, the story felt very relatable, and has also urged me to make sure I don’t do that when I go off to university again after this summer.

As for the other characters – Levi was ADORABLE. Wren partly irritated me, but I also understood why she acted like she did. Unlike Cath, she desperately wanted to shed the fangirl image so as to blend in, whereas Cath hung onto it because of everything it meant to her. Reagan complemented Cath nicely, and Nick… well Nick felt a bit pointless to be honest. He just kind of disappeared for the last third and there was no mention of him until the very end. Art, Wren and Cath’s father, had an important role to play that kept Cath grounded, and also helped to show the reader perhaps just why Cath was so obsessed with the Simon Snow series.

Fangirl was an utter delight to read. I loved how Simon Snow was pretty much Harry Potter – it made the story even easier to relate to. Rainbow Rowell has perfectly captured that feeling of loving something, but also perhaps being a little bit (unnecessarily) ashamed of that love for it. The relationships in the book were some of the best I’ve read in contemporary Young Adult fiction, and felt very natural. The ending felt a bit open, and left me wanting more, but I’m not sure if there will be a sequel. Perhaps I’ll have to turn to fanfiction instead.