Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Review: 'The Walls Around Us' by Nova Ren Suma

The Walls Around UsI requested this novel on a whim and a few days later saw a teaser on a different blog which made me desperate to start reading. And once I started there was no way I could stop. Suma has spun a web of words which is inescapable.
The Walls Around Us is a ghostly story of suspense told in two voices—one still living and one long dead. On the outside, there’s Violet, an eighteen-year-old dancer days away from the life of her dreams when something threatens to expose the shocking truth of her achievement. On the inside, within the walls of a girls’ juvenile detention center, there’s Amber, locked up for so long she can’t imagine freedom. Tying these two worlds together is Orianna, who holds the key to unlocking all the girls’ darkest mysteries.
We hear Amber’s story and Violet’s, and through them Orianna’s, first from one angle, then from another, until gradually we begin to get the whole picture—which is not necessarily the one that either Amber or Violet wants us to see.
Nova Ren Suma tells a supernatural tale of guilt and innocence, and what happens when one is mistaken for the other.
Nova Ren Suma spins a plot in The Walls Around Us which will grip you tight and refuses to let you go. Even after finishing it I am thinking about it, mulling over it and asking questions which will probably never be answered. The Walls Around Us is that kind of story. The plot can, at times, be hard to follow but rather than this being a consequence of bad writing, it is actually proof of Suma's terrific writing. She tells you everything while telling you nothing and as you question yourself, she continues spinning her story. There is death, friendship, love and a touch of the paranormal. Often I find myself annoyed at the use of the paranormal in novels, since often it isn't a genuine part of the plot but rather a weak sauce thrown over a disappointing meal. Suma, however, used the paranormal to her advantage, working it into the plot in a way that will blow your mind. This was definitely one of the ways in which this novel was a breath of fresh air.

What made The Walls Around Us different from other novels about girls that I have read lately is the unmitigated way in which Suma allows the violence, beauty and cruelty of life as a young girl. There were descriptions in this book, moments, phrases, words, which absolutely took my breath away. Sometimes a book comes at a time that is exactly right and it hits close to home. Here's a little preview. Please remember this is an ARC and the finished book may therefore be different:
'Some of us had been running all our lives. We ran because we could and because we couldn't not. We ran for our lives. We still thought they were worth running for. p.7
Although in experience I am incredibly far removed from the girls in The Walls Around Us, there are experiences shared between all girls that are defining moment and Suma managed to capture those in language in a way that is utterly beautiful. I had to occasionally pause during my reading because I wanted to take in and savour a twist in the plot or a turn of phrase and this all made for an amazing reading experience.

The Walls Around Us is a strange mix of genres and themes that somehow come together and work. It feels like a psychological thriller and like a revenge movie, it's a story about young girls and a story about violent murderers, and it's about love and about treason. There is a lot of emotion in this novel and yet it is incredibly tight. Each chapter and each page is crucial to the development of the plot and the feelings worked into the story are important to the development of the book. Similarly, though a lot of the book is set "inside" of the characters, there is none of that inane, sentimental first-person narration that is typical for a lot of YA fiction. Each of the characters is absolutely fascinating in her own way and the way that Suma manages to bring each of their narratives together is really interesting.

I give this book...

5 Universes!

Yes, I shelled out my 5 Universe rating for this novel, but how can I not when The Walls Around Us had me pinned to my chair, too obsessed with this novel to care it was way past midnight? Suma is bound to fascinate you if you let her. There is darkness in this book and it is scary, at times, and yet I would recommend it to everyone. It's chilling and strangely heart-warming and I will be rereading it many times.

Monday, 26 January 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading and Stacking the Shelves

I haven't done any Monday memes in so long and I think that part of getting back on the routine-train means doing Monday memes! So, here we go. It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted over at Book Journey while Stacking the Shelves can be found over at  Tynga's Reviews .
2aaaStacking The Shelves [103]

Because I still have the utter inability to control myself on Netgalley, I have a lot of new books to share with you guys! The covers are absolutely gorgeous and they all sound fascinating.

The Emperor Waltz by Philip Hensher, Pride and Prejudice (Manga Classics) by Jane Austen, Girl at War by Sara Novic, A Darker Shade of Magic (Preview Excerpt) by V.E. Schwab, Imitation by Heather Hildenbrand and The Great Zoo of China Matthew Reilly.

I am really excited for all of these and will start all of them soon. However, I have a massive backlog on Netgalley so maybe I should start on some others first!

So, what am I reading at the moment? I have just finished The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma, I am currently in the middle of Just One More Day by Jessica Blair and Paradise Lost by John Milton.

The Walls Around UsJust One More DayParadise Lost

So, what are you reading at the moment? And did you snag yourself some beautiful books lately?

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Weekly Overview

I made the rule for myself to not make an overview when I've only managed to put two posts up in a week, but since I had three in this week, here is the overview post! It has been a bit of a let down, this week. I had a lot of time but somehow didn't manage to get anything done. But university is starting tomorrow so there will once again be routine in my life and that will also apply to my blogging!




So, that was my week. I just started reading an absolutely fascinating book which I will probably finish today, so that review is coming up soon!

Friday, 23 January 2015

Follow Friday - 'Just One More Day' by Jessica Blair

Alison Can Read Feature & FollowI haven't done a Friday meme post this year, first being away on a holiday, then struggling my way through essays and exams and then enjoying my freedom. But now it's time to get back into the fun of blogging, so here I go! Follow Friday is hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee, and this week's question was suggested by Jessica over at A Great Read. Definitely check out her blog, because she not only posts regularly but also has a great review style! Now, for the question:

Do you post your reviews anywhere besides your blog? Where else do you post reviews?

Great question! Initially I only posted them on my blog because I didn't know about any other platforms. However, then I realised that I could, of course, post them to Amazon, Barnes & Nobles etc. and then I discovered Goodreads and since then I've been posting a lot of my reviews on there. However, I'm not very good at keeping my Goodreads account up to date with my blog, which is really something I should change. But now it feels like there is such a mountain of reviews I need to put up that I need a week to really get it all sorted. Oh, and of course I post a lot of my reviews on Netgalley, if they are Netgalley books.

Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Billy over at Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. This week's question was suggested by Elizabeth over at Silver's Reviews:

How do you feel when someone continues to put the EXACT same comment on your blog each week?

Ooh this is a tricky question because on the one hand I appreciate every single comment and love everyone for taking the time to look at my blog. However, like every other blogger, I spend a lot of time on my blog posts and on my answers etc. and sometimes it is a bit of a let down when a commenter has quite clearly not read anything I have written. And when it happens week after week you sort of wonder whether your blog simply isn't engaging enough. But I decided a time ago that I am simply going to appreciate the thought behind someone commenting, no matter what the comment says.

Book Beginnings and Friday 56 are hosted by Gilion over at Rose City Reader and Freda over at Freda's Voice respectively. This week I am showcasing Just One More Day by Jessica Blair, a book sent to me by Piatkus. It will be published on the 5th of February, for which my review is also scheduled.

'Seventeen-year-old Carolyn Maddison glanced at the clock on her bedroom wall. Ten minutes to eleven She put down her copy of Daphne du Maurier's 'Rebecca', rose from her chair and stood looking out of the window.' p.1
I really like this beginning. I feel like Blair managed to tell us something about Carolyn in those first few lines just through the pacing of the sentences. She seems calm and thoughtful, yet you also feel she's very restrained. The fact that she's reading Rebecca also is a major hint.

'"There's one thing I've vowed", Carolyn said then. "I'm not going to get close to anyone until this war is over."' p.56
Well, this sounds like one of those famous last words before she runs into the man of her dreams. However, it is a very smart attitude to have during a time as stressful as the War, so I am starting to like Carolyn more and more.

So, what are you reading at the moment? And where do you post most of your reviews? How do you feel about staple comments?

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Tuesday Intros and Teaser Tuesdays - Milton's 'Paradise Lost'

Paradise LostThe time has come for me to go down the path that every English student eventually has to go down. I am going to read John Milton's Paradise Lost! I am pretty sure it's quite an undertaking so I'm starting now to five me at least a week and a half of focused reading to get it read. To get myself started I'm using my two favourite Tuesday memes: Tuesday Intros and Teaser Tuesdays, hosted by Diane over at Bibliophile by the Sea and MixB over at Should Be Reading.

‘Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heav’n …’
In Paradise Lost, Milton produced a poem of epic scale, conjuring up a vast, awe-inspiring cosmos and ranging across huge tracts of space and time. And yet, in putting a charismatic Satan and naked Adam and Eve at the centre of this story, he also created an intensely human tragedy on the Fall of Man. Written when Milton was in his fifties – blind, bitterly disappointed by the Restoration and briefly in danger of execution – Paradise Lost’s apparent ambivalence towards authority has led to intense debate about whether it manages to ‘justify the ways of God to men’, or exposes the cruelty of Christianity.
So, let's get this Satanic show on the road!

'Of Man’s first disobedience, and the fruitOf that forbidden tree whose mortal tasteBrought death into the World, and all our woe,With loss of Eden, till one greater ManRestore us, and regain the blissful seat,Sing, Heavenly Muse, that, on the secret topOf Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspireThat shepherd who first taught the chosen seedIn the beginning how the heavens and earthRose out of Chaos:' p.1
I like the inspiration from the muses-trope that Milton has going on and I an already sense that this is going to be the kind of read where I read it first for the sound and then to actually understand what is going on!

'Now to the ascent of that steep savage hillSatan had journeyed on, pensive and slow;But further way found none, so thick entwined,As one continued brake, the undergrowthOf shrubs and tangling bushes had perplexedAll path of man or beast that passed that way. ' p.99
Not entirely sure what is happening but I can definitely say that I enjoy Milton's use of language. This is going to be a difficult read!

So, what are you reading right now? Tease us with it!

Monday, 19 January 2015

Review: 'Hugs & Misses: 30 Postcards of Awkward Romance' - Wilhelm Staehle

24513580You don't often get sent a set of postcards to review, but then, postcards often aren't as funny as Wilhelm Staehle's are. And in a time in which sending letters or cards has lost some of its shine, it is great to see cards you actually want to send.
Hughs and Misses. These 30 postcards illuminate awkward moments in love, romance, and courtship - all dutifully recorded by Wilhelm Staehle, creator of the twisted comic Silhouette Masterpiece Theater. 
Wilhelm Staehle is a horribly disfigured gentleman who often frightens small children when passing by. He divides his free time between sporting for fox hunters and dressing his broad collection of taxidermy. He also finds time to craft silhouettes. He begs you to enjoy them. Or at the very least to refrain from informing him if you do not.
As you may have guessed from the blurb above, the whole tone of the postcards is a mix between hilarious and awkward. Staehle uses not only puns in order to be funny but the silhouettes and illustrations also add to the humour of the words. These are the kinds of cards you can send both to friends and to people you want to be your friends. If they laugh at your card then you can continue in the friend-making process. In all seriousness, postcards are meant to be sent and yet most postcards one finds in stores are terribly banal or predictable that they take the joy out of sending them. They also manage to be so similar that it is almost impossible to find a card that feels personal. With Staehle's cards I have already decided on at least five friends for which one of them is perfect.

Besides being funny and looking great, Staehle's postcards also pick up on some beautifully awkward moments in romance. Whether it is attitudes towards sex, partners or love in general, Staehle's messages are pretty much on point while remaining beautifully sarcastic. The cards are also of a great quality and therefore really do lend themselves to sending, rather than just looking at.

Having previously been unaware of Staehle's work, these cards formed a great introduction to him as an artist. Hugs and Misses is also a great example of how publishers can bring different kinds of artists and mediums to the wider public. In this case it is Quirk Books which gets the credit for this great little book of postcards.

I give these postcards...

4 Universes!

The only thing stopping me from sending these cards is that I like looking at them too much and chucking to myself. Staehle has created a brilliant set of postcards, each of which works. Not only do they show his ingenuity as an artist but they are also great fun.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Review: 'Everyday Witchcraft' by Deborah Blake

Everyday Witchcraft: Making Time for Spirit in a Too-Busy WorldI'm not quite sure what I was expecting from this book, yet my slight disappointment with Everyday Witchcraft must stem from my incomplete knowledge of Wicca. However, there were some parts of the book which I did enjoy.
Everyday Witchcraft is a book for today's Witch—busy and overwhelmed, but still longing to find a way to make a spiritual connection and integrate her Pagan beliefs with her everyday life. Simple, fun, and easy to follow, this book is both practical and empowering. Includes "5 Minute Rituals" along with suggestions for easy daily or monthly practice. Bring magick into your everyday life!
Wicca is a religion which was developed in the mid 20th century and has gained both popularity and notoriety. Partially the latter depends on the fact that I think many people don't know what the religion really means and wants. To a certain extent this is due to the fact that the religion has no central head or "rule book" but there is also simply a misunderstanding about what 'magic' really means. I myself am, unfortunately, someone who falls into the latter category. When thinking of witchcraft I think of something either like Harry Potter or Charmed, which shows to what extent I have been conditioned by popular culture. Although personally Wicca isn't the religion or magic for me, I found my dip into the religion very interesting.

Everyday Witchcraft has proven to me once and for all that Wiccan is much more natural than I expected. By that I mean that those who follow Wiccan are very in touch with nature and, or so it seems to me, focused on creating balance within yourself and your life. The practical advice was really interesting and some of it is advice I wouldn't mind trying out myself. As such, Everyday Witchcraft reads like a manual for a spiritual guidance. As  'non-believer' myself (I'd love nothing more than for magic to be real) I read this book from an outsider perspective, yet I could see the value it can hold for those practicing Wicca. It offers some great advice on how to introduce Wiccan magic and rituals into your life and I also thought the section on how to deal with prejudice and mistrust was really interesting.

What I did enjoy about Everyday Witchcraft was that Deborah Blake was very down to earth about her religion and her knowledge. This is something you don't find in a lot of other religions and it's refreshing. It was also great to see Blake add an essay by other Wiccans at the end of each chapter. Getting other people's perspective is always interesting and it also showed the wide variety of topics that Wicca picks up on. Blake's own writing style is accessible and open, and I can see how this book would be valuable to those practicing Wiccan.

I give this book...

3 Universes.

Everyday Witchcraft wasn't what I was expecting, partly because I was unaware of the fact it ws purely Wiccan. However, it is an easy and practical read, which I am sure has real use for practitioners. As an outsider I enjoyed reading it and getting a glimpse into the religion. Blake has an open writing style which makes this book a fun read!