Monday, May 20, 2019

Book Review: The Book of Dreams by Nina George

Title: The Book of Dreams
Author: Nina George
Publication Date: April 2019

Synopsis: "A heartwarming and magical tale about the distance one man will travel for the sake of love, from the internationally bestselling author of The Little Paris Bookshop.

On his way to meet his son for the first time, hardened war correspondent Henry Skinner is hit by a car after rescuing a child from drowning. He is rushed to hospital where he floats, comatose, between dreams, reliving the fairytales of his childhood and the secrets that made him run away in the first place.

His son, Sam, a thirteen-year old synesthete with an IQ of 144, waits at his father's bedside. There he meets Eddie Tomlin, a woman forced to confront her love for Henri all these years, and twelve-year old Madelyn Zeidler, another coma patient and the sole survivor of an accident that killed her family.

A heartbreakingly moving and unforgettable story about what love means - the exquisite stirrings of first love, the love between fathers and sons, friendship and family, life and death - and making peace with the past in order to find a future."

My thoughts: I have adored every book of Nina George's that has been translated into English so far - she writes in such a beautifully lyrical and loving way, and her characters feel so real to me, as if I have spent hours with them whilst reading this book. This does lead me to feeling sad when I have to close the book and finish reading, but I rest easier in the fact that I can always reread the book, and probably find something new.

The Book of Dreams is similar to both of George's previous books, and yet I feel that she is taking things a step further with this one - exploring the world of comas, lucid dreaming, life and death. I really just had to open the book to be swept away, and this book is such a pleasure to read - even though it deals with some intense topics. I cried a couple of times during the reading of this, but George writes in such a way that you are not just mourning the characters and what is happening to them, you're also wondering about your own life, whether these experiences you are reading about will ever happen to you or someone you love, and you find yourself considering things like the afterlife, fighting for life, and all the different forms of love.

I had some very small issues with this book, which I'd just like to mention one of: we don't really hear from Madelyn's point of view. I think I understand George's decision not to do that, but it also still irked me a little that we were always hearing what she thought and felt through the lens of someone else, but perhaps George was making a comment on how doctors are forced to speak for someone when they're in a coma, rather than to them.

That aside, I loved this book so much. I can't wait to read Nina George's next one.

{I received a review copy of this book from Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!!}

A favourite line from the book: '"Children, dogs, and cats see and sense things whose existence we deny. Growing up doesn't always make you smarter. It usually makes you more stupid."'

You would like this book if: You have enjoyed Nina George's other books; you love literary fiction with a bit of magical realism thrown in, and some characters who can really pull at your heartstrings.

Tea to drink while reading this book: Something light and herbal, I think, to drift into beautiful dreams. I'm partial to Celestial Seasonings' Sleepytime Vanilla.

Rating:  9/10

If you'd like to keep up to date with what I'm reading, follow me on Goodreads here!

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Book Review: It's Not About the Burqa Edited By Mariam Khan

Title: It's Not About the Burqa: Muslim Women on Faith, Feminism, Sexuality and Race
Editor: Mariam Khan
Authors: Multiple
Publication Date: February 21st 2019

Synopsis: "Taking one of the most politicized and misused words associated with Muslim women and Islamophobia, It's Not About the Burqa is poised to challenge and change the narrative.

A platform to reclaim and rewrite their identity, this collection brings together Muslim women's voices from around the world, each exploring what does it mean to be a Muslim woman today?

Here are essays about the hijab and wavering faith, about love and divorce, about queer identity, about sex, about the twin threats of a disapproving community and a racist country, and about how Islam and feminism go hand in hand. Funny, warm, sometimes sad, and often angry, each of these essays is a passionate declaration, and each essay is calling time on the oppression, the lazy stereotyping, the misogyny and the Islamophobia.

Here are the voices you won't see represented in the national news headlines. It's time the world listened."

My thoughts: This is an absolutely brilliant collection of essays. I say that as a white woman whose knowledge of Islam and Muslims has been gleaned from a few friends in high school and university - I know that this book is both for me and not for me. I think everyone should read this.

Whilst reading this collection I was laughing out loud, nearly crying, and getting pretty angry. I feel like I learned a lot about Islam itself and the rights of Muslim women. I feel like I learned a lot in general. This collection is so perfectly put together - each essay is different, but the complement each other so well that I found it really hard to put this book down: I read it in two sittings. (And those sittings were pretty close together. There may have only been tea break in between.) Reading this made me think about my friends in high school, and about the things I hear people saying about the hijab and what it means, when really they have no idea what they're talking about and all their information is gleaned from media or word-of-mouth. This collection is not just brilliantly written and put together - it's really important, too. And it has inspired me to try and learn more, instead of just assuming what I hear is true. Perhaps we could listen to Muslim women when we talk about their experiences? This book is a start.

{I received a review copy of this book from Pan Macmillan in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!!}

A favourite line from the book: 'When the opportunity arises to be part of an anthology of essays by Muslim women, it's impossible to resist the call. Our cups are overflowing with life to explore but there are so few occasions to do so wholly on our own terms, that to squander the chance would be folly.' from Life Was Easier Before I Was Woke by Yassmin Midhat Abdel-Magied

Rating:  10/10

If you'd like to keep up to date with what I'm reading, follow me on Goodreads here!

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

READING || April 2019

books read:
~ Legendary (Caraval #2) by Stephanie Garber
~ Icefall by Stephanie Gunn (review)
~ My Brother's Husband by Gengoroh Tegami
~ Revenant Gun (The Machineries of Empire #3) by Yoon Ha Lee
~ Defy the Fates (Constellation #3) by Claudia Gray (review)
~ The Little Grey Girl (Wild Magic Trilogy #2) by Celine Kiernan (review)
~ It's Not About the Burqa edited by Mariam Khan (review)
~ A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3) by V. E. Schwab (Tome Topple)
~ Wild Comfort by Kathleen Dean Moore
~ The Outrun by Amy Liptrot
~ Lord of Shadows (The Dark Artifices #2) by Cassandra Clare (Tome Topple)
~ The Badger by Ernest Neal

currently reading:
~ Wabi Sabi by Beth Kempton (reread)
~ Nocturna (A Forgery of Magic #1) by Maya Motayne

So, what you don't see above in my 'books read' category is all the books I DNF'd this month. (For those who aren't sure, DNF means 'did not finish'. And yes, it is now used as a verb, adjective... it's easier that saying 'I gave up on this book' a lot.) At the beginning of the month, I was reading a bunch of things that just weren't inspiring me or making me feel muc except...lethargy. And maybe a little resentment. I realised that these books just weren't for me, and gave myself permission to give up on them. How many did I DNF this month? Five. And some of them were pretty huge books, so I'm glad I realised that I didn't want to slog through them for however-many-hours they would need. I think I will do this more. I'd rather read books that make me super interested to pick them up.

Only one manga this month, but that was for the manga book club on Instagram and it was absolutely brilliant. SO many awesome messages and though-provoking conversations. Hard at times for me to get through simply because there is so much emotion there, but worth it for sure. (Talking about My Brother's Husband by Gengoroh Tegami.)

I also took part in the Tome Topple Readathon this month, which lasted two weeks from the 13th to the 26th. The idea with this one is to only read books over 500 pages long -> tomes. I actually had about ten tomes on my physical tbr which fit this description, which surprised me. Perhaps I've been putting them off because of their sheer size? Either way, I lined up two that I thought I could get through and felt excited about taking part. And then the first one I picked up was a DNF. I find this kind of hilarious, but also I don't feel too fussed about it. I instead picked up the second book I had earmarked for the readathon - A Conjuring of Light - and read that, and then grabbed Lord of Shadows and read that, too. In the end I read over 1300 pages which was pretty awesome. I was also reading other, smaller books in between, so I got through quite a bit! I hope I can participate in the next round of this readathon.

Books that stood out this month? Without a doubt, Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee. This trilogy is just fantastic and I adored every minute, even when I was super confused. Icefall by Stephanie Gunn was also fantastic, and I really loved all the nature-based books I read this month: Wild Comfort, The Outrun, and The Badger. (How was I not going to love reading about badgers?! Although I could really do without the badger baiting and hunting/digging. Sigh.)

Oh, also, Legendary by Stephanie Garber was a heck of a ride. The final book in the trilogy - Finale - comes out in May and I am pretty darn excited. Can't wait to get my hands on it! (I've preordered it. I do this so rarely!)

What have you been reading this month? Do you feel like you avoid big books just because the size is intimidating? I'd love to hear!

Love to all who read.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Book Review: The Little Grey Girl by Celine Kiernan

Title: The Little Grey Girl
Author: Celine Kiernan
Series: The Wild Magic Trilogy #2
Publication Date: February 12th 2019

Synopsis: "The queen and her raggedy witches have fled, but the kingdom is not yet healed. The castle is haunted by memories of its brutal past. The ghosts are angry, and one of them in particular possesses a magic which may be too much for even Mup and Mam to handle."

My thoughts: This was a very interesting follow-up to the first book of the Wild Magic Trilogy, Begone the Raggedy Witches. In that book, I enjoyed Mup's courage and belief in her mother, and the magic of the setting was really interesting. The side-characters were also fascinating. All of that carries on in The Little Grey Girl, just even more acutely. Occasionally Mup is courageous and firm in her belief in good and bad to the point that I found her kind of irritating. There is some intense sadness and a little bit of scary content in this one, though I acknowledge that was present to a certain extent in the last book, too.

The adults in this book are near-useless at times, despite being strong in themselves usually. This means that Mup and Crow have to save the day alone, and honestly it seemed like they wouldn't be able to do that at times. I found myself getting frustrated with the adults for their reactions to things, and I think Kiernan was showing how children can often understand what is going on in a situation even more acutely than adults sometimes. It was written very well, I just had trouble absorbing all of the misery and rage being thrown around at times.

The world wasn't explored as much in this book, but I think that was okay, as you needed to have your full attention on the little grey girl (of the title) for the most part. She intense character. That's all I'll say. Despite my difficulties with a lot of the emotion getting thrown around, I did really enjoy the ending. It felt like an acknowledgement of a lot of the pain we witness in the world now. It really wrapped up the story well, and made me intrigued to know where Kiernan will be going in the next book. I also really loved the character development of Crow - there is some real talk about grief in this book, and it was well done.

I do recommend reading this if you have read the first book - it's small, but it packs a punch.

{I received a review copy of this book from Walker Books in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!!!}

A favourite line from the book: 'Only a real friend could hug you when you were sad, without expecting your tears to stop just to please them.'

You would like this book if: You enjoy children's books that don't talk down to the reader; you like books that don't shy away from topics like grief.

Tea to drink while reading this book: Probably just tears. Yup. The many tears you may weep.

Rating:  7.5/10

If you'd like to keep up to date with what I'm reading, follow me on Goodreads here!

Monday, April 15, 2019

Book Review: Defy the Fates by Claudia Gray

Title: Defy the Fates
Author: Claudia Gray
Series: Constellation #3
Price: $19.99AUD
Publication Date: April 2nd 2019

Synopsis: "ABEL
Abel only has one mission that matters: save the life of Noemi Vidal. To do that, he must face the one person in the galaxy who has the means to destroy him.

Brought back from the brink of death, Noemi must find her place in a universe where she is utterly unique, all while trying to create a world where anyone - even a mech - can be free.

The final battle between Earth and the colony planets is here, and there are no lengths to which Earth won't go to preserve its domination over all humanity. But together, the universe's most advanced mech and its first human-mech hybrid might have the power to change the galaxy for good..."

My thoughts: Just going to note here, in case you missed it above - this is the third book in a trilogy, so if you haven't read the previous two, you may be in for some spoilers if you continue to read this review. Or if you read the synopsis. So yes, warning!

It took me about twenty seconds to remember the events of the previous book, Defy the Worlds, before I was right back in to Abel and Noemi's story. This book starts fast. Noemi is still in a cryosleep pod, and Abel is the closest he has ever been (perhaps can ever be) to panicking. Gray does a good job here of explaining some key points from the previous books in the first two chapters without it feeling overly information-overloady (yes that's a word, because I said so), and she conveys the urgency but also the mind-numbing grief of this point in this story really well.

This book was a ride. I felt like the pace pretty much never let up. Sure, there were moments of calm between the many many storms, but the were so brief that I felt like I hardly had time to remember to breathe before something else catastrophic/life-changing/terrifying was happening. In one respect, this made the book incredibly easy to read, and I read it comfortably in about two sittings. In another... I found myself feeling a little frustrated at times. This is definitely my own preference, but I think I would have preferred to have more downtime, or at least a little more exploration of a couple of the moments when world weren't exploding (just hyperbole... or is it?!) so that I could spend some time with some really awesome characters. And they are awesome. Gray has made these characters that I actually adore, and I wanted to spend so much time with them, more than perhaps even the confines of these three books.

Anyway, despite my own preferences making it a little difficult at times for me to really get on with the rapid storyline, I still really enjoyed this conclusion. It made me well-up with tears a few times, and I just adore the exploration of what it is to be 'human'. Gray has written a good'un, here.

{I received a review copy of this book from Allen & Unwin in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!!}

A favourite line from the book: 'Metal floor, alloy composed primarily of steel with a significant amount of aluminum, precise percentages undetermined. Metallurgical analysis advised.
So says the unwelcome intruder in Noemi's brain.'

You would like this book if: well, if you've read the previous two, I think that's a pretty good bet; if you like fast-paced scifi with a lovely romance mixed in.

Tea to drink while reading this book: Lord, I don't know. I'm going to go with T2 Strawberries & Cream, as that is my tea of choice lately.

Rating:  8/10

If you'd like to keep up to date with what I'm reading, follow me on Goodreads here!

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Book Review: Icefall by Stephanie Gunn

Title: Icefall
Author: Stephanie Gunn
Publication Date: October 31st 2018

Synopsis: "The Mountain on the planet of Icefall holds the mystery to a lost colony and an irresistible, fatal allure to the climbers of the universe. Maggie is determined to be the first to make the summit. Aisha, injured in a climbing incident herself, has always supported her wife, trusting Maggie would always return from her adventures. But no one ever returns from the Mountain."

My thoughts: Wow. I admit, I was a little trepidatious going in to this one, as it sounded pretty darn ominous. And it is. (I'm sure you can hear that I paused to chuckle just now.) However, the way Gunn writes her characters and the way she creates the world just had me hooked from the beginning.

First of all, let's talk characters. I have had to DNF a few books lately where I wasn't connecting to the characters at all - they felt bland, one-dimensional, and kind of like slightly-touched-up stereotypes at times. Absolutely not so with Gunn's characters - Maggie and Aisha are both interesting, connective, and really make you feel what they have been through, and what they're battling now. Gunn writes this book flashing forward and backwards, which can sometimes be a little confusing, but here it all flows together so beautifully and I found myself wanting more from both the past and the present equally.

Now let's talk about the Mountain. I am not entirely sure how she did it, but Gunn creates such an atmosphere of tension and pull towards the Mountain. It is both terrifying and mysterious, and, along with Aisha, I felt the draw of it all the way through the story - despite my complete aversion to heights and my disinterest in climbing in general. The creepy tone that this creates pervades the whole story just a little, raising the stakes very high and pulling you on through the story, even as you fear what might happen in the next chapter. Perhaps the use of irregular-length chapters contributed to this draw - either way, it is expertly done.

I just want to mention at the end here that this story tugged on my heart-strings. For multiple reasons, I actually identified with Aisha quite a lot, and I found myself feeling almost everything she felt through the story. By the end I was a little teary, I won't lie. This story may be on the shorter side, but it still manages to grab onto you. I have a feeling I will be thinking about this one for a long time to come.

{I received a review ecopy from the author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. Thank you!!}

A favourite line from the book: 'Maggie was and is a mountaineer, and I could never ask her to change, not for anything. Not even for me.'

You would like this book if: I'm not even sure whether this fits a 'type', but let me say - scifi elements, love elements, passion-in-life, plus eery darkness? Definitely give this one a go.

Tea to drink while reading this book: A strong black tea, perhaps Yorkshire, made with freshly melted snow off of the Mountain.

Rating:  10/10

If you'd like to keep up to date with what I'm reading, follow me on Goodreads here!

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

READING || March 2019

books read:
~ Fullmetal Alchemist: Fullmetal Edition, Vol. 1 by Hiromu Arakawa
~ Bloodwitch (The Witchlands #3) by Susan Dennard (review)
~ The Kingdom of Copper (The Daevabad Trilogy #2) by S. A. Chakraborty
~ The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie (review)
~ Miyazakiworld: A Life in Art by Susan Napier
~ Deeper into the Woods (The Fae Tales Verse #1) by Pia Foxhall
~ Pagan Portals: Australian Druidry by Julie Brett
~ The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins by Clint McElroy and others
~ Fruits Basket Collector's Edition, vol. 1 by Natsuki Takaya
~ Ao Haru Ride vol. 1 by Io Sakisaka
~ NE NE NE by Shizuku Totono
~ Konohana Kitan vol. 1 by Sakuya Amano
~ The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll (reread)
~ Raven Stratagem (The Machineries of Empire #2) by Yoon Ha Lee
~ Caraval (Caraval #1) by Stephanie Garber

currently reading:
~ Revenant Gun (The Machineries of Empire #3) by Yoon Ha Lee

This month was pretty manga-heavy (plus one graphic novel!), which I can attribute to my joining a manga-reading book club on bookstagram (@badgerbeebooks if you want to follow me!) and renewing my love of manga. I've put manga and graphic novels in italics so you can see what I mean! I think this was also because I was kind of slipping into a reading slump because of a few fantasy books I was reading (I have since DNF'd them and decided to move on to other things, which has helped a lot), so manga was such a great thing to get lost in, and I could finish them in one sitting which made me feel like I was flying through books - helpful and motivating!

I finally finished Bloodwitch and The Kingdom of Copper - I actually have no idea why I stalled so long on these. I think I do this thing sometimes when I get my hands on a highly anticipated read and just... seem to want to save it for a rainy day. But we haven't had a whole lot of rainy days lately in Perth, Western Australia, so that doesn't make much sense. And also... if I am excited to read it...I should just read it. Right? The brain moves in mysterious ways, I guess. But anyway. I finally finished them and I loved them both. I loved Bloodwitch a bit more than Kingdom of Copper, but that's all relative, really. I can't wait for the continuations of both of these series. tl;dr - more, please!

Ah wow, looking back over the other things I read in March is making me realise there were some real gems in there. I don't want to go on ad nauseam about them all, so I will just mention a couple quickly here: The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie (give me all the Ann Leckie!); Miyazakiworld by Susan Napier (fascinating, intriguing, and wonderful nonfiction); Deeper into the Woods by Pia Foxhall (I think I mentioned in my goodreads review that every time I read something by Pia Foxhall (who is a friend of mine, but opinions are my own!) I just feel so many things. I have trouble describing how much their writing means to me); Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee (this just keeps getting more and more amazing, I just can't even describe what the reading experience is like except in noises of joy and appreciation).

Finally, I just wanted to quickly mention Caraval by Stephanie Garber. I originally stayed away from this (and the sequel Legendary) because I'm not really into circus stuff and it seemed... not my thing, I guess? But I was feeling a little bit slumpy later in the month (due to aforementioned fantasy books) and decided to just give it a go. I ended up really loving it. I think there are a few tropey things and some problematic stuff at times, but it was so captivating and mysterious and just what I needed. I have since read Legendary as well, and loved that one possibly even more. I really wish Finale, the third book, was already out and I had it in my hands! I am thinking I may need to buy these because I see rereads in my future.

What have you been reading? I'd love to know!

Love to all who read!
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