Pride by Ibi Zoboi – Book Review

Check out my review of Pride by Ibi Zoboi - ‘Zoboi approaches the story of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy’s with a new, authentic and #ownvoices perspective, which is a rare occurrence in an abundance of interchangeable traditionalist retellings.’
Click on cover for the book’s description.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher Balzer + Bray and Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

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Overall, I really enjoyed this refreshing take on one of my favourite classics. Zoboi approaches the story of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy’s with a new, authentic and #ownvoices perspective, which is a rare occurrence in an abundance of interchangeable traditionalist retellings.

Though it would be worth mentioning here I would not strictly class this as a retelling; I think the cover gives a better description, ‘a Pride and Prejudice remix’. It has notes and snippets of the original story, but the beats are different. There’s nothing wrong with that, just worth mentioning if you’re going into this expecting a carbon copy of Austen’s tale adapted because this is not that book. I feel for a book to really be considered a ‘retelling’ there are certain pivotal plot points that have to be included, which in this case they weren’t. All that really features from the original text and the templates of the majority of the characters and the hate to love relationship between Darius & Zuri.

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Zuri Benitez is a really distinctive and strong narrative standpoint, and the integration of her poetry into the story was a really great touch and gave a deeper insight into her character. The rest of the cast of characters are also brilliant in their own right, both those familiar from Meryton and those unique to this book. Zoboi creates an authentic, warm and vibrant atmosphere and setting you can’t help but get caught up in. So much of this book felt like music coming off the page.

Pride does contain a lot of slang, both in narrative and dialogue which generally I don’t like but I feel as though the book would have been missing that note of veracity without it. I’ll admit, I had to consult Urban Dictionary for a lot of it (learned some new words!) because I just don’t use that much slang. It’s not that I think there’s anything wrong with it, hell half our language is based off it nowadays, it’s just not how I express myself and so I sought help from Google.

However, I still felt I missed a lot in this book. When Zuri speaks to Warren and other people in her neighbourhood who share her culture she often references ‘a secret language’ those involved in the conversation all understand. This language is never really translated to the reader and as a result, I kind of felt like I was on the outside looking in, in places.

Related imageI recognise I am not really the target audience for this book but at the same time, I feel #ownvoices books like this have a secondary purpose, as well as representing marginalised cultures and minorities. That secondary purpose being to remedy ignorance by bringing attention and educating the reader about these marginalised cultures and their beliefs and points of view. This is a small qualm really, and some things could be inferred but at times it really did feel like I was reading another language as the words being exchanged were clearly loaded with meaning but I just didn’t know what it was.

The characters undergo similar development to those in P&P but my only real problem was with an aspect of Zuri’s development. Though I know prejudice is a huge aspect of this novels makeup I found Zuri more than a little close-minded throughout the book and it’s not a trait she entirely lets go of. From her opinion to her changing neighbourhood – which, fair enough I understand having seen my own city change dramatically over past years, but I’m a firm believer places shouldn’t be defined as belonging to one ethnicity or one culture, there should just be places that we, the only race on Earth, the human race, are free to move freely between and live in without being made to feel or believe we have no right to be and I mean anybody when I say that, though I’m well aware it only goes one way at the moment and that sucks – to her constant perpetuation of what she thought Darius ought to be like because he’s black, and her complete refusal to try and get to know people with a different background to her own.

It just sort of grated on what I felt Austen wanted to represent in Elizabeth Bennett who, for her time, was forward thinking and nonconformist woman, made more brilliant for the fact she used her intelligence and other people’s prejudices and preconceptions to get away with it.

Zuri seems closer to acceptance at the end of the novel and I suppose these frustrations are a sign Zoboi wrote her book well as, though I understand their equivalents in the original text, the chronological difference prevents me from really feeling anything for the struggles of the Bennett sisters, where the Bentitez sisters’ struggles feel immediate and relevant to me.

A great read for Afro-Latinx women wanting to see themselves represented by an ingenuitive female author or anyone wanting to try something new and experience a culture I know I personally haven’t been able to before.

Check out my review of Pride by Ibi Zoboi - ‘Zoboi approaches the story of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy’s with a new, authentic and #ownvoices perspective, which is a rare occurrence in an abundance of interchangeable traditionalist retellings.’
Check out my review of Pride by Ibi Zoboi - ‘Zoboi approaches the story of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy’s with a new, authentic and #ownvoices perspective, which is a rare occurrence in an abundance of interchangeable traditionalist retellings.’
Check out my review of Pride by Ibi Zoboi - ‘Zoboi approaches the story of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy’s with a new, authentic and #ownvoices perspective, which is a rare occurrence in an abundance of interchangeable traditionalist retellings.’

 

And The Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness – Book Review

See my review of the new lyrical tale from the brilliant Patrick Ness – an illustrated parable depicting an age old war between man and whale.
Click on cover for the book’s description.

I received this book from the publisher, HarperTeen, and Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

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This book is every bit as profound, hauntingly beautiful and lyrical as I have come to expect Ness’ work to be. Though this kind of storytelling doesn’t particularly resonate with me personally, having read another illustrated tale by Ness (A Monster Calls) I can see his unique mark in the writing and I have to acknowledge that he is clearly a man that knows his craft. The characters are well fleshed out for a mere 100 pages of book, which is a feat, and the description of this secret world beneath the ocean was compelling in of itself because I found myself wanting to know and see more.

I feel this book makes far more sense, far more quickly, if you know you are reading from the perspective of a whale before you start. This may be my own fault for not reading the description, or seeing the cover and not immediately thinking ‘yup, whale narrative’. Either way, I picked it up fairly quickly.

Illustrations by Rovina Cai.
Illustrations by Rovina Cai.

On the face of it, this is a very pretty book indeed, brilliant in its simplicity, however, a large part of this book centres around a war between whale and humans started when men began hunting their kind in the form of the now-mythological figure of Toby Wick. This war and the way it has affected each character and construct as a result adds a dark twist that gets darker still the harder you look at it.

Illustrations by Rovina Cai.
Illustrations by Rovina Cai.

Like with most pretty things, the viciousness is cleverly disguised and I found myself taking a mental step back as I read some pretty vivid and horrifying descriptions of violence and behaviour I simply hadn’t expected when I began the story. These descriptions are then made worse by the fact that they feel so real because somewhere in the world they are real. I am of course an objector to animal cruelty, poaching and by extension, whaling but never has the issue has never felt so close and real to me.

This book asks difficult questions about war, religion, morality, right, wrong, love, racism, power, obsession and honour and I feel that had I read it in a different time in my life it would have been more percipient to me personally but it was very thought-provoking despite this.

The illustrations will be something to behold in print. My digital copy didn’t carry most of them forward completely but the glimpses I saw were fantastic.

Warning: As mentioned previously there are very graphic and evocative scenes of violence and cruelty both toward whales and humans and if you’re sensitive to that sort of thing this is perhaps not a read for you.
See my review of the new lyrical tale from the brilliant Patrick Ness – an illustrated parable depicting an age old war between man and whale.
See my review of the new lyrical tale from the brilliant Patrick Ness – an illustrated parable depicting an age old war between man and whale.
See my review of the new lyrical tale from the brilliant Patrick Ness – an illustrated parable depicting an age old war between man and whale.
Book Reviews by Bloodthirsty Little Beasts

 

The Last Romeo by Justin Myers – Book Review

Myers, J - The Last RomeoI received this book from NetGalley and Piatkus in exchange for an honest review.

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This was a really, fun and funny read about one man’s descent into the horror that is the internet, online dating and fame going to your head.

“No one cared who i was until I put on the mask.” – Bane, The Dark Knight Rises

When Myers started his book with the above quote, he pretty much had me sold as he was obviously a cool guy with great taste.

I really enjoyed James’ narrative and point of view. He is a very real and relatable character with flaws and insecurities. His endless dating disasters (and not so disasters) were both comical but entirely realistic and I always enjoy reading from the perspective of a character who is a writer.

The author did a  really brilliant job of drawing you into the story and actually getting you vested in James’ hunt for The Last Romeo, without you even realising. I didn’t realise how deep I was until James made the stupidest choice possibly in the history of love stories and I was sat in my living room, alone, shouting “But why? Why? What the hell do you think you’re doing?! Goddamnit James, why?“.

Deep breath.

Anyway, I’m sure you’re wondering why only the 3 stars then? Surely, from what you’ve said this is 4 or even 5 star worthy? Well, because my ship got sunk – that’s why. Yes, it was that good a ship, and yes I sure as hell do hold a grudge.

That and though James undergoes huge character development, and is surely on the path to self-actualisation by the end of the book, it’s just a smidge incomplete at the slightly dissatisfying ending. The ending is still hugely worth it though – and I really hope Myers releases a short story set say, 6 years in the future, to let us know how it all turns out.

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon – Book Review

32934117I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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This is not my usual genre at all but I’d seen so much about this book on social media that I thought I’d give it a try and ended up enjoying it. Had I known it had a large focus on the culture side of Dimple (still not sure how I feel about the name) and Rishi’s relationship I’d likely have read it sooner. I found all of the parts concerning that really interesting and as individual characters apart from all that I related to both of them, mainly Rishi I think but Dimple’s feminism (in the actual definition, not the new warped perception some people who call themselves feminists have developed for themselves) and aversion to make-up just because she doesn’t want to wear it was also really relatable too.

It was a mixed bag really and I found myself wincing a little at the particularly cliche parts especially as those parts didn’t really ring true for D and R’s characters’ personalities. I wish there had been more focus on Insomnia Con itself and the work the pair actually put into their project because we heard a lot about it but didn’t see much and it really didn’t seem like they put that much effort in for something that supposedly was so very important to Dimple.

I disliked the ending and would have hoped – or would have found more realistic – an ending similar to Where Rainbows End by Cecelia Ahern except maybe not so many years down the line minus the teenage pregnancy.

Overall, I did enjoy it and though I wish there had been more character development for themselves rather than as a pair. I really liked the characters and think it’s awesome that other cultures are being represented and brought awareness to.

the night circus erin morgenstern book review

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – Book Review

Morgenstern, E - The Night Circus🌟🌟🌟

This book was not entirely what I expected. Perhaps because my edition is a Penguin Vintage Classic which led me to believe it was written long before 2011 but either way I did enjoy it.

The story centres around a magic ‘competition’ between two competitors, set up by their prospective mentors. Celia Bowen is the first, taught by her father, a famous illusionist, (who is actually a real magician) and the second is Marco Alisdair taught by Celia’s father’s mysterious frenemy, Alexander. It is hard to explain more than this without giving away spoilers really.

Though the language is simple, the imagery was really something else and I did think in a book like this it would have been easy to disrupt the balance between story and description but I thought Morgenstern did it really well overall. I did come out of it wanting to buy a red scarf and head to a circus even though I know these days they are just wacky fun fairs with strange clowns as opposed to this kind of, for lack of a better word, experience.

There are a few nitpicks but nothing huge. I found it slightly difficult to follow as the chapters jumped around between cities and dates and years and so on and sometimes in an order that made it confusing who was how old and what had already happened. I got a general grasp by the end but it made the reading slightly less easy.

There is something of an explanation for this large presence of wizards in the 19th century at the very end but it isn’t really an explanation but they ignored it for so long I was barely even curious at that point. I had just accepted they could just do magic because they could do magic and that was that.

Otherwise, I loved Celia and Marco and actually felt that they were well matched really but it would have been better had they had more than 2 (ish) full-length conversations so it was obvious they had gotten to know each other a little bit.

Bailey and the Murray twins were also brilliant and my favourite characters. However, my favourite part of the whole book had to be “You deceitful little slut.” because it just came out of nowhere and I laughed far too much.

I had been warned the ending was disappointing but I had such low expectations going in that I think it balanced it out and I felt it was an okay ending. I wanted to give it 4 stars, but it’s just missing … something. I’m not sure what and I feel like this is a book I could have really loved, but I just didn’t get excited about it as much as I had about other books I’ve read recently. I didn’t have a problem picking it up it just wasn’t more.

The Smoke Thieves by Sally Green – Book Review

Green, S - The Smoke ThievesI received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

🌟🌟🌟  – Minor spoilers but will not give away the plot.

Somewhere between Throne of Glass & A Song of Ice and Fire, The Smoke Thieves is Game of Thrones through a heavy YA-lense. It’s Game of Thrones-Lite, if you will.

Although I must admit the writing style and execution is not really anywhere near as flawless as George R. R. Martin’s, Green writes a brilliant, if archetypical, fantasy world and some really solid characters. I really, wholeheartedly enjoyed this book because it recalled to me the chaos and intrigue of Martin’s books only with fewer confusing complex layers. It has a similar format of varying perspectives and plot devices/points but with less* cursing and bloody gore and no explicit sexual content.

*I say less because there is some. F-bombs and heads in boxes and the like.

I found the demon hunting and smoke aspect really interesting (I actually wish it had been explored more/been a more central point of the story) and love Gravell and Tash’s relationship and banter. Edyon had some funny moments that had me laughing out loud too and generally I liked how all the characters wove together eventually. I also felt that all the characters at least had a purpose in the story even if they weren’t especially well fleshed out.

I think we may have been able to survive with one less perspective as the story was quite thinly spread but that wasn’t a big deal really. More obstacles on the character’s various journey would have gone a long way to achieving this. I was not a huge fan of either of the love interests – I mean Edyon & March had the edge over Ambrose & Catherine but both just kind of felt like it was happening simply because the other person was there. I’d have bought into two very strong platonic relationships more, or even a platonic one for Ambrose & Catherine that was misunderstood and a hate-love for Edyon and March that had the two of them bonding over never being good enough just because of the circumstances of their births, which is where I thought she was going with it but then she totally just kept saying how good looking they both were. I’m really shipping Catherine’s arranged marriage working out if I’m honest, Prince Tarzan (not his real name but that’s what I called him)  seemed like a cool guy.

I think what was really missing from this, that GoT and other great fantasy has, is doubt about the motivations of the “bad guys”. In GoT, it’s all grey areas and second-guessing and mistrust and tests of loyalty and wanting at least one person on every side to win, even if the others don’t – whereas this was very black and white, but I guess being YA that makes sense and fits the genre but is still a personal preference.

Overall, I liked it and will read the sequel but only because I’m holding out hope for some great character development from our two royals.

Heavenward by Olga Gibbs – Book Review

Gibbs, O - HeavenwardI received a physical review copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.

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Overall I really enjoyed this book – it’s choc-ful of potential to be something big, it just needs a teeny bit of a tweak.

I love anything to the backdrop of angels and a new perspective of celestial lore and stories so this was right up my street. It’s not like Clare’s Shadowhunters though, do not be fooled. Where her characters are descended from Angels, these are angels. It’s a little like Twilight but with angels and a less ridiculous adaption of the beings at that. Just to clarify – from me that is a compliment. I really liked the Twilight books, back in the day and much like with those books, I ship the other guy. This book I would say could entertain a slightly more mature audience than Twilight due to some of the subject matter. But enough about Twilight because aside from a paranormal love triangle, that is fairly where the similarities end.

Ariel, our fearless heroine, is just that. Whilst being both frank and honest with her situation she takes all in her stride and the more you learn about her past the more you have to admire her strength. She is not anyone’s fool and hates to play the damsel in distress. My kind of girl. I’ll admit she accepted the truth slightly faster than would have, but then I’ve never been confronted by a guy with wings sprouting out of his back, so yeah. I love the general message behind the story which I think should really be projected more in YA. My one issue with her is how easily she attaches to people, Tabby, Sam. It felt too … trusting, like she fell into love too easily and the rest of her character traits wouldn’t stand for it, you know?

did have a few nitpicks, it is true. But reflecting on them I feel most would be remedied by a professional editor. This is by no means a detrimental comment! I know from past reading that the first books in phenomenon series like Harry Potter and the aforementioned Twilight in their original incarnations were not what we all know and love today. Even in their published forms, the books in those series improve as time goes on. This would help with the main issue of spelling and grammatical errors but then again it is a review copy, so there are allowances to be made. It would also help with the cover which could be really very much a lot better and really does not do the book justice.

I think the real issue I had was that I wanted a lot more of it. The pacing was quick which is often good but at the same time, a 100 or so additional pages to expand and linger on certain parts would have really elevated it even more so.

My only problems that weren’t simply a matter of editing and are purely down to my personal preference were Sam and some the Americanisms that found their way in there every now and then. I really didn’t like Sam, I’m afraid. I just found him really cringey at points and a bit annoying and sometimes creepy. I really liked Rafe. So much. That’s my team right there. #TeamRafe all the way for sure. Sam? I did not get that, at all.

The Americanisms were infrequent, to be honest, and were only little things but little things like ‘feds’ and things I know Brtish teenagers wouldn’t really say (that I know of, I mean I am 19 and have lived in Northern/Midland England my whole life but I don’t pretend to be the authority on what the ‘kids’ say). Speaking of kids, I was a little ambiguous on how old the characters were meant to be, they acted very much like the age of American high school students but were evidently attending UK high school where they only go to age 16 and at the upper end of the school you take GCSEs for 2 years and they take up a pretty prominent part of your school life at that point but weren’t mentioned even in passing leading me to believe Ariel at least must be younger than 14/15 but she seemed a lot older? It’s not a massive issue of course as not many people would even notice that but just something I saw.

All that being said, and I did like the book, it kept me hooked on the plot and awoke the fan art girl inside of me all over again to the point I’m going to put my pen to paper once more (huzzah!). I shall most certainly read the next book.

Trigger warning: This book does contain some graphic scenes of violence and alludes to, with a brief flashback to, a time of sexual and emotional abuse that some readers may find upsetting.

Phi Alpha Pi by Sara Marks – Book Review

Marks, S - Phi Alpha PiI received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

🌟🌟 .75

I did enjoy the book, I just felt like it could have been executed better.

The premise of this book is a Pride and Prejudice retelling in a modern American setting of sororities and fraternities. I adore Pride and Prejudice, it is one of my all-time favourite novels so when I first read the synopsis I was intrigued for several reasons. Firstly, P&P is very quintessentially British as are the characters, and thought seeing American interpretations would be interesting and (due to limited knowledge in the area and a few American movies) my idea of sororities centres a great deal around debutantes and socialites and I actually thought to apply the P&P story to that sounded all kinds of awesome and original.

Well, my idea was a little off but what I got was pretty awesome and original too! The bare bones of the original story are present and fleshed out with a great summer, feel-good romance that most P&P fans (with an open mind) can enjoy. I liked how Lizbeth was translated to modern day, complete with feminist bad-assery, and how other key characters from the original story do too – Wickham a fraudster and identity thief? Inspired! Darcy, explained as an introvert with social anxiety? So clever!

There is enough of the original in there to make it as un-put-downable as the original for me but, since it is a retelling I have to compare it to the original.

Whilst I have nothing against adaption for the purpose of modernisation there are almost always some aspects of classics that are important to maintain unless they’re changed in a specific way. I also have a thing about retellings containing the original material as a piece of media in the book, as in, in this book Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is a book that exists. This creates a weird irony from the outset of any novel as the events mirror the book which is either addressed by a) referring to it constantly which is annoying and strange or b) mentioning it once and then inexplicably never again. Phi Alpha Pi uses the latter which is the lesser of two evils but in all honestly I wish they just wouldn’t at all. And that’s not specific to this book, but for all classic retellings. Just leave it out. (admittedly, Austenland by Shannon Hale actually handles it surprisingly well but I’d say it’s an exception).

In Phi Alpha Pi the Bennett sisters aren’t really sisters (well, they’re sorority sisters) which would be fine except they all have their own additional families and siblings that I felt were unnecessary plot devices that could have been substituted by actual P&P characters. But I also felt that removing the blood bond also jeopardizes some of the actual plot points. Lydia’s life choices, for example, I don’t doubt sorority sisters are close but Lizbeth’s constant judgment and commentary of the other sisters’ actions especially Lydia’s just feels rude and like overstepping. Opinions like that are best asked for and when it’s your family those concerns are expected and you’re entitled to shove them in a person’s face. Just some gal you’ve known for a few years at school? Um, rude? What’s it to you? Imean, it wasn’t a huge deal but it’s similar with Dr Bennett (the Mr Bennett archetype). His advice and counsel means more as Lizzy’s father, not her teacher.

The second is Lizzy’s social standing. Lizzy’s stalwart and satirical resolve against a marriage based on financial advantage means that much more when she is set to inherit nothing because it means she is quite literally happy to choose to be placed at a disadvantage before she jeopardises her beliefs and marry for money. Making her wealthy takes something away from that, even if I suppose it accentuates she’s really choosing Darcy for love since she doesn’t need his money?

There’s the two pivotal scenes in Darcy and Lizzy’ relationship: the slight and the proposal. I found the flip in the severity of these two scenes very amusing – the slight is actually not very much of a slight at all. Barely even a passing comment – ‘Not my type’ and a general (and kind of accurate) comment on people who aren’t Lizzy is so not on par with ‘tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me’ and an unfounded assumption coupled with the belief his company is a gift. Where, by comparison, “You are an aggressive, unconnected nobody who holds everyone up to ridiculously high expectations and acts like you’re entitled to everyone’s respect.” – but please love me back, is pretty darn brutal. I actually found this quite funny – in fact, I may have said “Ooooooh, snap” out loud.

The writing style was actually pretty good but the one thing that really sticks out in my mind is Marks’ constant remarking on what people are wearing, to the point that I dedicated a highlighter colour to every time this happened in the exact same format/phrasing on my kindle. The grand total? 20 and it’s not a long book. Unless there was something symbolic about Darcy’s penchant for Chucks that I missed.

I liked it, it was a fun read but I’m not likely to read it again, to be honest. It was a fun way to relive P&P in a new way for a weekend but in terms of retellings/adaptions, it’s not the best but also not the worst.

Can anyone recommend a P&P retelling with the setting of debutantes by any chance? I need to read that book.

The Gloaming by Kirsty Logan – Book Review

Logan, K - The GloamingI received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

🌟🌟 .5

Yes! It finally happened – a month trudging through this book and I’m finally done!

Okay, so I’m 80% sure this is a beautiful and haunting story about grief and overcoming loss and life, finding love, etc, etc but I’m 100% sure I just didn’t get it.

Now, admittedly, I haven’t experienced a loss so very close to me and I did sympathise with the characters greatly for all their hardships and losses (it was about 7 chapters in I realised just how morbidly depressing and beautiful a book could be) and I do have those close to me who have experienced similar conception issues as Peter and Signe but I think what was missing was my ability to empathise as I just have never experienced these things myself. A lot of the feelings and the little moments that I could tell were supposed to be symbolic and powerful and show me something just went over my head. I just didn’t get it.

I didn’t get Pearl, I didn’t get the mermaid stuff, I didn’t get the island magic that was just there, unexplained and not really magic and I didn’t get the transition into first person or the flashbacks and anecdotes or just … any of it.

This is not to say this is a bad book, not at all – it was beautifully written and there were parts that really spoke to me like when Mara experienced a revelation as a reader toward the beginning, which I had experienced as a writer a few years ago.

“Over that winter she read a hundred deaths – and when the book ended, she could turn to the first page again, and the death was undone.”

For me it was the weird power of writing – you create a character, control their lives, create them in every dimension and way, make them real to the reader and then in just a few short words, take them away as if they were never there to start with. It was just a part that really spoke to me.

There were also quotes about the many things that could happen after we die but honestly I just found the bulk of this book … boring.

Nothing really happened in the beginning then after it did I thought it was getting to a turning point where stuff would start to happen and then it didn’t but it seemed like it could then I was too far in and realised I’d already dedicated too much time to give up and thought it might throw a huge plot twist right when I wasn’t expecting it and then I wondered what I was still doing reading a book that made me equal parts bored and morbid when it just went on and on about nothing like this sentence you’re still reading because you think it might have a point when it doesn’t.

Overarching theme: not a bad book, but not for everyone and not for me.