Showing posts with label magical realism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label magical realism. Show all posts

Saturday, May 13, 2017

[Review] Never Never - Brianna R. Shrum: Captain Hook goes to Neverland



In NEVER NEVER, James Hook decides to follow Peter Pan into Neverland and leave his family behind.

What intrigued me: I always found Hook more interesting than Pan!

Chapter book writing?

NEVER NEVER tells the story of James Hook. And when I say that, I mean legitimately all of it.

Shrum decided to show us everything from his childhood to going to Neverland to becoming a captain. The novel spans many years and is separated into different parts that each span a different time of his life. This leads to the novel really not reading like a regular YA book. Shrum's writing is very juvenile, reads like an actual fairytale, but in a way that makes you feel like you're reading a children's chapter book. While I do think that Shrum is a fantastic writer whose work is very easy to get lost in, I just wasn't looking for a Middle Grade novel.

This is exactly what NEVER NEVER appears to be for the first 80 pages. There are many other parts of the book that all deal with more mature themes, but if you start your novel like that, it's very likely that most readers who don't like Middle Grade won't even get to the more mature stuff.

I find the mix a little awkward, to span from Middle Grade to Mature/Upper YA and expect the reader to just roll with it. The story isn't engaging enough to even make me interested in all of James' life. I didn't like anything about James' childhood, since everything Shrum tells us about could've just been left out. It's all implied knowledge, a boy choosing to leave for Neverland because he feels neglected, Pan slowly starting to act shady - I felt like I genuinely wasted my time with the first 80 pages. 

Lacks creativity - where's the retelling part?

Huge time gaps are always a gamble, and it absolutely disconnected me from the narrative to have James go from 13 to 18 all of a sudden. I believe the novel would've been better off without all the childhood shenanigans if it's marketed as YA. Shrum's writing definitely fits the MG range and I think she's be marvelous at writing MG.

I just think that NEVER NEVER fundamentally lacks in creativity to the story. Yes, it's told from the a different perspective, the anti-hero/villain if you will, but it might as well could've been any other lost boy. The story Shrum is trying to sell isn't very innovative, captivating, or even well-crafted enough to make this a noteworthy read that I'd recommend. It could've been a gloomy and sad story about a boy who wanted to escape into a dreamland, but instead it's just a very awkward story that's rehashed for the thousandth time with about zero creativity and originality.

Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

I expected something different. I didn't want to read half of a Middle Grade novel, I wanted to see a new spin on the so often retold story - I didn't get any of that.



Additional Info

Published: September 22nd 2015
Pages: 356
Publisher: Spencer Hill
Genre: YA / Magical Realism
ISBN: 9781633920392

Synopsis:
"James Hook is a child who only wants to grow up. When he meets Peter Pan, a boy who loves to pretend and is intent on never becoming a man, James decides he could try being a child - at least briefly. James joins Peter Pan on a holiday to Neverland, a place of adventure created by children's dreams, but Neverland is not for the faint of heart. Soon James finds himself longing for home, determined that he is destined to be a man. But Peter refuses to take him back, leaving James trapped in a world just beyond the one he loves. A world where children are to never grow up. But grow up he does. And thus begins the epic adventure of a Lost Boy and a Pirate. This story isn't about Peter Pan; it's about the boy whose life he stole. It's about a man in a world that hates men. It's about the feared Captain James Hook and his passionate quest to kill the Pan, an impossible feat in a magical land where everyone loves Peter Pan. Except one."
(Source: Goodreads)


Do you like Peter Pan retellings?

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Friday, April 21, 2017

[Review] Caraval (#1) - Stephanie Garber: Magical Games and Insensitivity

In CARAVAL, sisters Scarlett and Tella finally receive an invitation to a mysterious game.

What intrigued me: Pretty much the hype.

Lacks in World Building

CARAVAL is one of those books that charm you with flowery writing and hide the fact that there isn't really much else interesting going on. The biggest weakness is the world building. Hardly anything gets explained and the reader has very little time to get acquainted with settings, concepts, and unique elements before the sisters embark on their journey to attend Caraval. 

I assumed this would be a magical-realist read like THE NIGHT CIRCUS, which it has been so famously compared to, but CARAVAL is nothing like that. The story would've been so much better off had it been told in a Contemporary setting in my opinion. The High Fantasy world is hastily built, which lots of made-up names for existing things and for some reason half of it is in Spanish. No clue what that's all about. The setting itself is a very meager attempt to distract the reader from the fact that hardly anything in this book makes sense, the plot twists come out of nowhere and are incomprehensible, and there are also a handful of Deux Ex Machina situations.


Suicide as a Plot Device 

I was surprised to see that it's pretty much a reproduction of L.J. Smith's THE FORBIDDEN GAME series, which is one of my favorite series of all time. CARAVAL tries to hide that with a High Fantasy setting, but the comparisons are simply uncanny: Both feature a love interest named Julian and a mysterious and dangerous game that the protagonist must win to save their loved ones. Where THE FORBIDDEN GAME amazes with atmospheric truly dark and dangerous setting and characters, CARAVAL strikes me a little as PG-13. It's such a strange reading experience, because the writing is very juvenile at parts and then you have scenes involving heavy physical abuse, emotional manipulation, rape, and suicide. 

There is one scene that still renders me speechless and makes me feel sick thinking about it - at some point a character commits suicide as part of the game, only to be later resurrected with magic. I find it extremely inappropriate to use this as a plot device and for the shock value, and worse when it turns out that the character planned for this to happen all along. It's disgusting, really, and just the proverbial cherry on top of this very problematic cake. You'll find that most of the scenes involving abuse and rape are plot devices. The sisters have a very abusive father who's just there for conflict, which I can still forgive, but then there are also scenes where the love interest forces himself physically on Scarlett. He violates her consent by asking her to reconsider and/or straight up ignoring it when she says no. This is never addressed and just horrifying. I would've given this book a solid three star rating without all the problematic content, because I can still recognize that this is a book that may not be for me, but might delight other readers. But like this, I'm simply horrified and shocked and would advise you to be very careful should you plan on reading this.


Rating:

☆☆☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

CARAVAL is the disappointment of the year. Lush prose can't really hide that the concept and world building are mediocre at best. This book is a prime example why we need trigger warnings in mainstream YA, a lot of the very mature themes are used as plot devices. The suicide one hit me the worst, I can't believe they'd put this in a book for teens.

Trigger warning: rape, physical and emotional abuse, suicide, slut-shaming, violence, kidnapping


Additional Info

Published: January 31st 2017
Pages: 407
Publisher: Flatiron
Genre: YA / High Fantasy
ISBN: 9781250095251

Synopsis:
"Remember, it’s only a game…

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away."(Source: Goodreads)



Have you read CARAVAL?

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Monday, April 17, 2017

Top 10 Things That Will Make Me Want to Read a Book Instantly

Today you'll learn a bit about my favorite tropes, little things, genres - anything that I enjoy and will make me pick up a book instantly.

#1: f/f!
I'm so predictable. There is unfortunately so little representation for sapphic girls in YA, that I gotta take what I can get. I pretty much buy anything if it has girl-loving girls.

#2: Paranormal Horror!
You'd think there'd be more horror YA books out there. But unfortauntely it's very hard to find something that isn't gore-y, actually scary, and doesn't use mental illness as a poorly-researched premise. I also definitely can't stand crime-related horror with murderers or kidnappers or whatever. If it's paranormal and spooky, I'm in. But please, no ghost romances.

#3: Magical Realism!
Again, you'd think there'd be more. Magical Realism is a genre that most books on  the market claim to be, but if you actually pick it up it usually turns out to be Urban Fantasy. I've learned that it's best to stick with Latinx authors.

#4: Parallel Universes!
You guys know I love anything involving parallel universes. Generally you can hook me with anything that has multiple dimensions in them.

#5: Travelling to Space!
I love love love when authors write about space and introduce wacky world building that you'd never see anywhere but in space. Unfortauntely very few authors put the emphasis on the world when writing Science Fiction, so I'm stuck with trial and error.

#6: Aliens, Aliens, Aliens!
I have no idea how I developed this tendency, but I'm such a sucker for good old paranormal romance with aliens. I gobble these books up. Actual romance in space is hardly ever my thing, but if it's a weird alien coming to Earth, disguising themselves, and falling in love with a human? Sign me the heck up!

#7: Time Travel!
Another instant buy. I love a well-executed time travel book. It's very hard to get that right, I think time travel is one of the hardest things to execute well and to still have it make sense. My utmost respect to all authors who try. I love a good angsty high-concept time travel romance.

#8: Mixed format!
This is one of my newest obsessions. Any book that has a semi-intriguing premise AND features multiple formats (texts, chat logs, newspaper articles etc.), is definitely something I'll have to buy and have to own a physical copy of. No clue why, but I really enjoy the variation.

#9: My marginalizations!
I think this is a thing that gets everyone hooked. I've got a couple different marginalizations and having just a little bit of my identity represented automatically gets a buy. Oddly enough, while I do like identitiy representation I want any book set in a country I've lived in to be as physically far away from me as possible. Really deeply hate those for some reason.

#10: #Ownvoices!
Honestly? I dread reading non-#ownvoices and I try to avoid it. You guys know I read a lot (like, seriously A LOT) and from experience I know that most non-#ownvoices books are absolutely terrible. Either they're riddled with offensive, problematic content or just completely poorly written. Is this a thing or do I just pick up the worst books unintentionally? Every time I read an ownvoices book, it turns out to be a five star read. Odd. Let's investigate this.


What are some things that will make you pick up a book instantly?


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Monday, January 30, 2017

[Review] Magonia (#1) - Maria Dahvana Headley: Bird Humans and Ableism





In MAGONIA, Aza has a chronic lung disease and suddenly hallucinates (or not?) a ship in the sky.

What intrigued me: Chronic illness and magical realism! Sign me up!


Strange narration and no structure

MAGONIA immediately surprised me with an incredibly unique voice. Aza's narration is very reminiscent of a stream-of-consciousness. It's hard to keep up with the plot, with her thoughts, with everything really, because there is hardly any indication of scene changes. I struggled a lot with the narration, even though it is undoubtedly very memorable and unique. 

MAGONIA uses the justification "it's magical realism, I don't have to explain anything" way too much. It desperately lacks descriptions to even begin to create images in the reader's head. This book can't hide that it has no structure whatsoever, doesn't make sense, and is absolutely weird. The weird thing isn't necessarily something negative, but it isn't a good kind of weird. I had no idea what was happening half of the time, and struggled to even understand the scenes because of the strange narration. It's really a novel that you have to pay attention to very closely to even be able to keep up, and I find that extremely unappealing and not very entertaining at all. 

Disabled people are not your plot device. Stop.

The problem with this book is that it starts out with a fantastic chronically-ill character and instead of celebrating the character's disability - decides to cure them. Could we just not do this generally. [highlight for spoiler]
  Yeah, I get it, she dies and ascends to another plane of existence and then it all makes sense why she was disabled in life because she's secretly a superhuman bird humanoid. Can we just not.
[end of spoiler]

What's the point in writing about disability if you magically cure it halfway in? Imagine how chronically-ill people feel when reading this book. Why couldn't Ava remain sick? This would've made for such a powerful read and I would've celebrated the crap out of this!

Even though MAGONIA technically doesn't deserve such a low rating because of the sheer skill, creativity, and unique voice, I am not supporting this behavior. Don't cure disabled characters for your plot, in fact don't even write about disabled characters at all if you only think it would make for an edgy blurb and brownie points! Just because it's fiction, you aren't allowed to write whatever you want, especially not if it involves marginalized people. Disabled people are not your plot device. Don't write about them if you just think it'll make for a good pitch.

Well, I should've known from the blurb. Describing chronically-ill people as "weak and dying thing[s]". NEXT!

Rating:

☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

Absolutely not, I would even go as far as to actively advise against reading it because it's so incredibly, incredibly insensitive. MAGONIA lures with an interesting idea, but is absolutely ruined through its insensitivity and ignorant ableist message. So, at what point do real-life chronically ill people get invited to Magonia so everything will be rainbows and butterflies again?



Additional Info

Published: April 28th 2015
Pages: 309
Publisher: HarperCollins
Genre: YA / Magical Realism
ISBN: 9780062320520

Synopsis:
"Aza Ray is drowning in thin air. 

Since she was a baby, Aza has suffered from a mysterious lung disease that makes it ever harder for her to breathe, to speak—to live. 

So when Aza catches a glimpse of a ship in the sky, her family chalks it up to a cruel side effect of her medication. But Aza doesn't think this is a hallucination. She can hear someone on the ship calling her name.

Only her best friend, Jason, listens. Jason, who’s always been there. Jason, for whom she might have more-than-friendly feelings. But before Aza can consider that thrilling idea, something goes terribly wrong. Aza is lost to our world—and found, by another. Magonia. 

Above the clouds, in a land of trading ships, Aza is not the weak and dying thing she was. In Magonia, she can breathe for the first time. Better, she has immense power—and as she navigates her new life, she discovers that war is coming. Magonia and Earth are on the cusp of a reckoning. And in Aza’s hands lies the fate of the whole of humanity—including the boy who loves her. Where do her loyalties lie?(Source: Goodreads)


Have you read MAGONIA?

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Friday, June 17, 2016

Recommendation: We Awaken - Calista Lynne: Dreamwalking, Asexuality, and Girl Loving Girls





In WE AWAKEN, Victoria meets a beautiful girl in her dreams that bears messages from her comatose brother.

What intrigued me: Asexuality and girl loving girls! Who could say no to that!

Dreamlike and Magical

WE AWAKEN stuns with an incredibly beautiful cover that absolutely suits what you'll find inside. The writing is atmospheric, lyrical, and makes this novel read like a fever dream. Lynne absolutely manages to immerse truly in this fantastically magical story and weaves a dreamy plot through sheer word artistry.

Protagonist Victoria is a lesbian asexual whose dream is to get into the Manhattan Dance Conservatory. After her brother and father get into a car accident, the only lifeline she has to her comatose brother is Ashlinn, the novel's equivalent to the sandman. Hearing that a novel features dream sequences usually makes me groan and quite possibly stop reading. But Lynne manages for some unknown reason to fascinate me; may it be for the artistic writing or the brilliance of the lovely girl/girl romance. 

The story sucks you in around the first time the two girls, Victoria and Ashlinn, meet and you'll soon find yourself frantically reading and reading until you'll get to see the two together again. Lynn e doesn't shy away from stating clearly and openly that this is the story of two girl loving asexuals falling in love. To some degree this is a coming out story, but not as much as it is a tale of self-discovery. 

A very quiet love story

WE AWAKEN is a very quiet YA love story. You won't find any dramatic plot twists or action-filled fight scenes in this. To some degree this is the reason why I'm not rating it five stars - I would've loved more plot, more action, more drama. The stakes are a little low, but the story is all the much more lovely and romantic. A sweet love story.

True to the theme, it reads like a dream, but never loses itself in that. Aside from the dream sequences, we get lots of scenes that will ground you in Victoria's reality without losing the magic of the meetings with Ashlinn. Lynne manages to tell a fascinating story with very minimal plot complication and delivers a stunning romance that you won't soon forget. WE AWAKEN will have you  long to meet your own keeper of dreams and fall madly in love like Victoria and Ashlinn.

Rating:


★★★★½☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

WE AWAKEN is a beautifully dreamy story that I can only dearly recommend to lovers of dreamy writing, Gabrielle Zevin, and Maggie Stiefvater's books. If you like wonderfully magical novels that walk the tightrope between fever dream and reality, this is the pick for you.



Additional Info

Published: July 14th 2016
Pages: 180
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press
Genre: YA / Magical Realism
ISBN: 9781634769969

Buy from Harmony Ink

Synopsis:
"Victoria Dinham doesn’t have much left to look forward to. Since her father died in a car accident, she lives only to fulfill her dream of being accepted into the Manhattan Dance Conservatory. But soon she finds another reason to look forward to dreams when she encounters an otherworldly girl named Ashlinn, who bears a message from Victoria’s comatose brother. Ashlinn is tasked with conjuring pleasant dreams for humans, and through the course of their nightly meetings in Victoria’s mind, the two become close. Ashlinn also helps Victoria understand asexuality and realize that she, too, is asexual.

But then Victoria needs Ashlinn’s aid outside the realm of dreams, and Ashlinn assumes human form to help Victoria make it to her dance audition. They take the opportunity to explore New York City, their feelings for each other, and the nature of their shared asexuality. But like any dream, it’s too good to last. Ashlinn must shrug off her human guise and resume her duties creating pleasant nighttime visions—or all of humanity will pay the price.
 "(Source: Goodreads)


What's your favorite book about wlw?

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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

[ARC Review] The Neverland Wars - Audrey Greathouse: Peter Pan and Storytelling





In THE NEVERLAND WARS, Gwen realizes magic is real when her little sister gets abducted by the infamous Peter Pan and taken to Neverland.

What intrigued me: I have never read a Peter Pan retelling!

Yes to all the magic!

THE NEVERLAND WARS isn't your average Peter Pan retelling. There are lots of retellings that paint him as the bad guy, but here it's sort of not a matter of black and white - I love that about this novel. In THE NEVERLAND WARS, magic is real and an important part of modern-day society, for example technology works through magic instead of engineering, which I found quite neat and interesting to read about. 

Generally, there is a very magical feel about this, not because it's a fairy tale retelling, but because Greathouse has such an interesting writing style. I'd say this is definitely the biggest strength of THE NEVERLAND WARS. The writing instantly transports you into a world where magic is real and I 100% believed this and thought it fits nicely. However, I have to say that the writing probably won't be for everyone. It's very lyrical and flowery. It reads like a work of literary fiction with a younger target audience. Interesting though!

Off-pace and too little "Wars"

I think THE NEVERLAND WARS has a nice idea, but I don't think the execution of the story necessarily compliments that.
The blurb suggests that this is a typical YA love story with a dash of magic, while the title suggests that this is a straight up showdown in which the adults take revenge on Peter Pan. And boy would I have loved it if THE NEVERLAND WARS was just that. I think this novel isn't daring enough. It's too much retelling and exploring and too little fight, fight, fight. The pacing is off, the structure barely there - it's a pity because I really loved the idea!

A thing that I struggled a lot with is the pace. THE NEVERLAND WARS takes an insane amount of time until it actually takes off. Instead of starting with the abduction of Gwen's sister, we get a whopping 50-ish pages of backstory, mundane everyday high school life, that bored me so much that I thought about DNF-ing this if I wouldn't give every book 100 pages before doing so.


Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

THE NEVERLAND WARS wasn't my thing, I was hoping for more action. But this doesn't mean that you won't maybe like it, the writing is so nice that it's definitely worth a try.



Additional Info

Published: May 9th 2016
Pages: 302
Publisher: Clean Teen Publishing
Genre: YA / Magical Realism
ISBN: 9781634221719

Synopsis:
"Magic can do a lot—give you flight, show you mermaids, help you taste the stars, and… solve the budget crisis? That's what the grown-ups will do with it if they ever make it to Neverland to steal its magic and bring their children home.

However, Gwen doesn't know this. She's just a sixteen-year-old girl with a place on the debate team and a powerful crush on Jay, the soon-to-be homecoming king. She doesn't know her little sister could actually run away with Peter Pan, or that she might have to chase after her to bring her home safe. Gwen will find out though—and when she does, she'll discover she's in the middle of a looming war between Neverland and reality.

She'll be out of place as a teenager in Neverland, but she won't be the only one. Peter Pan's constant treks back to the mainland have slowly aged him into adolescence as well. Soon, Gwen will have to decide whether she's going to join impish, playful Peter in his fight for eternal youth… or if she's going to scramble back to reality in time for the homecoming dance."(Source: Goodreads)


Have you read Peter Pan retellings?

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Monday, January 18, 2016

[Review] Landline - Rainbow Rowell


In LANDLINE, Georgie McCool gets a chance to fix her failing marriage by talking to her husband's past self through a magical telephone.
What intrigued me: I read both FANGIRL and CARRY ON by her. Plus, a magical realism(ish) premise always hooks me.

This isn't as upbeat and fun as I expected it to be


Actually it's a terribly sad and depressing read about a marriage that's falling into pieces. The premise absolutely tricked me. I expected a mind-blowing super cute time travel romance story, but it's more of a poorly executed unbelievable and annoying pseudo romance story. Rowell mainly uses flashbacks to establish character relations, which throws you off the current plot every single time. I couldn't even concentrate on the non-existent story.

Even as a novel about a crumbling marriage, this doesn't work. The husband Neal is basically absent the whole novel and by making him such an unusual character, Rowell perfectly manages to create the most unlikable person I have ever read about. His lack of appealing physical appearance isn't even the least of the problems, he's an emotionless, mean and equally as oblivious as Georgie kind of person. Neither of them act like mature grown-ups. I felt like I was reading about oblivious teenagers that can't manage to actually talk about their problems. I didn't enjoy any of this at all.

Very unlikable protagonist & A confusing storyline!

Georgie McCool is a TV comedy writer and stuck in a marriage that's just not working out, but she refuses to realize this. When it's Christmas time, she decides to stay at home and work and let her husband go off to their grandma's alone. Just thinking about the fact that she did this, you don't even need to read the novel to know that Georgie is an unlikable character. 

She is a 37-year-old woman, but has no sense of reality, maturity or in general self-awareness whatsoever. She's completely oblivious to her surroundings and it actually physically hurts to have to read about her mess up her marriage more with every page. In her world, everything is fine though.

I had a hard time concentrating on what was actually going on, because there are so many flashbacks and narrative passages that don't really bring the story forward. It's generally a poorly paced novel. The premise is supposed to be the magical telephone, but until page hundred, the telephone isn't even used. I might as well could have skipped the first fifty pages or so and would have still had the same reading experience. 


Rating:

Overall: Do I Recommend?

I wish I hadn't read this. This is definitely the last Rowell novel for me. If you haven't read anything by her before, don't start with this one.


Synopsis:
"Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble; it has been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems beside the point now.

Maybe that was always beside the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn't expect him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts...

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?"
(Source: Goodreads)

Have you read any of Rainbow Rowell's other books?

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