This review contains spoilers.
I recall seeing this on the Twitter page of I Loves The Diff’, which is what got me intrigued to read it.
Alien Rain by Ruth Morgan pulled me in for two reasons. Firstly, it was more of a sci-fi novel, and as someone trying to widen my horizons when it comes to reading, this struck me as a good a place as any to go to try something new. Secondly, the book is set in Cardiff. It’s firstly set in Cardiff (but on Mars), so the names of well-loved streets and public places are used here and there, but later is set in real, Earth-Cardiff.
I enjoyed an incredible amount that the novel was set in Cardiff (both on Earth and on Mars). This is something I have not experienced before. The closest I’ve ever come has been the Welsh theme of The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater, or the occasional mention of a Welsh name in the webcomic, Homestuck. I’ve never seen something be based in Cardiff so heavily – and it was wonderful to see. However, I do worry that this was the only aspect of the book that I really liked.
While the sci-fi elements of it was good, I found it a little sad to hear the descriptions of a ruined and decrepit Cardiff. After all, I live here, and it’s still bustling and full, and I like that. To hear that Animal Wall was gone, or the Museum was falling apart, or that Cardiff Castle was more ruin than attraction, was a bit disheartening to envision.
The plot itself wasn’t too bad. I liked the message that intelligence can thrive in ways other than purely academic, and with that, the message that there is worth to be found in people outside of their academic achievement. As a student currently waiting for some exam results, this was pretty nice to hear, and eased my conscience up just a little.
However, my biggest bother with this book was the presentation of some of the characters. I usually consider myself easy to please, when it comes to literature. I usually find reasons to love characters anyways. I often welcome a love interest with open arms, and usually am able to trudge through a plot even if I find it particularly difficult to, or if it doesn’t sit well with me. This book was different to that, and I got more grateful that I was nearing the end with every page flip. I didn’t mind the flowering relationship between Bree (our female main character) and Halley (the male love interest), as it seemed a simple and innocent enough relationship that I could get behind. However, it was later found that Halley initiated the characters’ friendship and by extension, relationship, on being bribed to do so for the easiness of a science experiment – so it was fake. My biggest criticism of this is that when called out on this by Bree, Halley said:
(Halley): “Bree, you’ve got…”
“Don’t tell me I’ve got it wrong!” I (Bree) laughed.
“I was going to say, you’ve got to forgive me.”
“Why should I forgive you?”
“I’m the one who doesn’t deserve to be on this mission. I’m only here because I agreed to lie and cheat and spy on you for Carter. I am a liar, I’m despicable and I know I am. Still, you have to forgive me.”
“That makes no sense,” I said.
“Love makes no sense.”
(Halley): “I’ve fallen in love.”
“Will you stop using that word?” I (Bree) cried. “No one says that word! If you think for a moment that I could ever believe what you’re saying…”
“You have to,” he whispered. “Or I don’t know what I’m going to do.(…)”
There are so many things with this especially, which did shape the whole novel and the perception of it and other characters, that I found astoundingly bad.
This is a book in the YA genre. This is a genre that I continue to enjoy, because it was the one I experienced mostly as I started to really enjoy reading, and as of recent years, it’s becoming a wonderful and diverse genre, and one doing far better than it used to. This is a genre for people my age, and people younger. These scenes I have a problem with. While I was able to spot the problems, I’m not sure others would have, and it’s a dangerous line to blur for younger people.
Pushing forgiveness done out of love, when the relationship itself began on deceit is, firstly, not love. Expecting to be forgiven because you love someone, is not a reason alone to be forgiven. I do worry the author has made a mistake, consistently using “You’ve got to” or “You have to” as a way to make a male character feel far more forceful in wanting to be forgiven, and then using guilt to further this. A guilt trip into forgiveness when he was in the wrong just feels like poor writing, or even ignorant writing. People, especially recently, do not have the tolerance for this kind of characterisation and neither do I. I worry this would be behaviour people could attach themselves to and then look for – especially young girls who may enjoy the YA genre – and land themselves in a relationship where their feelings are not considered and their emotions are, effectively, abused.
This pushes the forcefulness of males which comes off very poorly. If a man was telling me I had to forgive him because he loved me I think I’d turn and run as fast as I could and for as long as I could go. This is a stereotype we need less of, as many, many people have coined on to its hindrance on men’s emotional well being, which needs to be addressed as much as hindrance of women’s chances in society, as this scene and beyond it only pushes the submissiveness of Bree, which goes against the rest of her character established through the rest of the novel. She is a character that went to great lengths and seemed perfectly capable of standing up for herself – until giving in and forgiving when Halley got hurt in a later scene, and then jumping straight back into action into her much stronger female role, which had already been established.
I’m angry. And I expected better of a book published so recently (2016), and a book written by a woman. A part of me feels let down, and I’m hoping the next book I read will bring my spirits back up.
I still give the book 2 stars. I did still enjoy that it was set in my hometown, which made it slightly more enjoyable, and on some level, I did enjoy the sci-fi story.
One Was Lost was a book I picked up because I had decided I wanted to branch out a little further from my normal cheesy YA book, or my normal poetry book. I have a tendency to stick close to my comforts in a lot of areas, including reading, and this book was able to help me breach this constraint.
I had decided to stretch out further and try my hands at a story more centred on thrill, horror, mystery, suspense. For a while now, I’ve wanted to experience a book that made my chest constrict in a funny way, in a way that made me scared. I know we’ve all had our hand at murder mysteries and crime novels and even television crime dramas or horror movies, but none of those ever seemed to settle right with me, and none of them ever seemed to really be what I was searching for. One Was Lost managed to do something that a book had yet to do for me.
Most things that I read I can usually guarantee a happy ending, or at least ones where all the characters live, save for Shakespeare’s works. Most of the time, I’m pretty much certain that’s how things will go, and I usually hope for that, too (I am guilty of really, really loving a happy and pure ending). With One Was Lost, I was less sure of this, and in turn, I hoped for it much more fiercely. I wanted it to end well so desperately and was so torn that it was the a book that just might not do that, that I felt that little constraint in my chest that I had wanted to feel. As the characters got put in more and more danger, and the likelihood of a happy ending seemed to dwindle, I got more and more entrenched in the story and more and more hungry for answers and a good ending. When there was one, I felt relief and happiness so big and all-encompassing that I was sure I was a balloon that had been blown up to bursting. It was such a wonderful feeling, another I admit I am guilty of enjoying, to watch characters trudge through the unimaginable, and come out the other side. I hope my praise can reach out to the author, Natalie D. Richards, because I am brimming with it. The feelings I had throughout my read were incredible, and something I’m glad to have experienced.
All the characters are interesting, with their own little stories that fade impact and shape the bigger, overall plot. Each of them (like our main character, Sera, and the others, Emily, Jude, Lucas) were all lovable and easy to attach oneself to in different ways. All of them had characteristics I loved, and attributes I admired, and in the midst of their heavy story, it was still wonderful to see them in my mind’s eye interacting and even laughing. A brief summary can be found on Natalie D. Richards’ website: http://nataliedrichards.com/books/onewaslost/ as this can supply an explanation and introduction to the book better than I can, as I do not wish to spoil anything.
To add to this even more, the writing made this feel even more real. It was clear and concise, and unbelievably detailed. There was a period in the text where Natalie D. Richards describe the feeling of thirst so well and so closely, that I found myself feeling thirsty and scrambling for bottles of water to get me through.
I give this 4 stars. It was a good introduction to the other aspects of my usual YA genre with a far more intriguing and mysterious core, and I did enjoy the story of it incredibly so. I very much loved it.
(5 / 5)
The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke has been a long time favourite book of mine. I read it first about five years ago, and I remember reading it, loving it with my whole heart, finishing it, and instantly reading it again.
Once upon a time, I was recommended it. Someone that I knew once knew how much I loved the Professor Layton game, “Professor Layton and the Last Spectre”, as within this game there was a small gang of poor and homeless children who banded together to keep each other safe and warm who I took an overwhelming attachment to. The Thief Lord reminded them of these characters, and in turn, of me. And I could not be more grateful to have discovered a book that reminded me so much of characters I already loved, and created whole other characters who I loved just as much – perhaps more. Not only did these characters hold such a special place in my heart, they’ve stayed there undeterred for years. Even as I continue to consume new media and content and entertainment, there has yet to be something that knocks Cornelia Funke’s The Thief Lord from its #1 spot in my heart.
The plot is sweet, and something I loved all those years ago an equal amount as I still love it now. It is mysterious and alluring and downright fun – and to top it all off, the way it’s presented is unimaginably atmospheric, which is a factor I love an immeasurable amount. Being set in Venice, somewhere I have always wanted to go but have yet to find the opportunity to get there, it was like I got to go there for myself. And even better, it was like I got to go and I got to relive this story again and again in a place as beautiful in real life as it is in my mind’s eye.
The writing made this atmosphere even more incredible. The way Funke would describe the water and stone, the pathways and alleys, the boats and the famous buildings was mesmerising. The way it was written had a hand in shaping my own writing goals, as I also love at atmospheric touch in my own work. This has shaped me for so long and is so intrinsically a part of me that honestly I am so, so happy.
The characters are all lovely, each with their own unique personality and lovable traits. My favourites were always Prosper (our main character), Victor Getz, and Ida Spavento. I always thought, and continued to think of them, as lovable forces who would keep anyone safe – which they did. Prosper takes care of his younger brother, Bo. Victor Getz helps care for them (and the other runaway kids), as does Ida Spavento. They all just seemed like the sweetest characters, who I feel unimaginably lucky to have discovered and cherished as much as I do.
I give the book 5 stars, as it holds such an important place on my bookshelf and in my heart. It remains my absolute favourite book, and I’m sure that will continue to be the truth in the foreseeable future, and probably also beyond that. I cannot recommend it enough, especially to those who love heart-warming tale.
(5 / 5)
I recently read The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, and I don’t know if I have the words to describe my reaction to it.
Five stars, first of all, let’s start there. I don’t think I want anyone I’m close to missing out on such an outstanding and completely mesmerising book like this one. I’ve read so many books lately, and all of them have been good, but I think they have been good in their own right. However, none of them (at least, none of the recent ones I’ve read) have been quite as enthralling as this.
I don’t want to go too far into the plot (I don’t think, for one, I could do it justice as it was incredibly intertwined and intricate), however I do want to say that it’s probably the saddest and most bittersweet plots I’ve ever had the utmost pleasure to experience. Two boys in Afghanistan, their lives and endeavours and trials and tribulations to come – everything life throws at them. It was truly tragic, with sprinkling happiness and and overall wonderful redemption.
Sad stories are the best ones, I think. But I never expected this tale to be so true of that statement and also, somehow, change it. Sad stories are the best stories. I’ve learnt about the concept of catharsis at school and I think I really, truly, felt it. So maybe sad stories are the best ones, but maybe the sadness should be in moderation for me (it was really, honest and truly, the most heart wrenching and devastating yet amazing books I’ve ever read).
One of the things I’ve noticed after reading this was how sure I usually am that, as a reader, I am going to receive my happy ending. This book changed that. Situation after situation that tugged my heartstrings and made me tearful made me less and less sure of myself. I’ve felt the normal, almost-rush of fear when you notice a book has a lot to complete yet so little pages to do it in. And I had that with this book. Yet, with every other book I’ve read I haven’t truly felt afraid that things wouldn’t work out. I always knew they would, because they always do. I didn’t have this with this book.
I was unsure. A good kind of unsure. An exciting and all-encompassing unsure that left me not knowing if there could possibly be a happy ending coming my way after the turmoil the main character (Amir) had gone through, as well as the turmoil all the other characters had gone through, as well. There was one, single chapter left, and I did not know whether, within about the forty minutes it would take me to read it, I would be grinning or crying. Eventually, it was both, and I’m quite happy with that.
As I said, it was an extremely bittersweet book, with the excellent kind of plot execution that always draws you in for the entire time (and then some – I’ve only just finished it and it’s still the only thing on my mind). It had the kind of writing that was honestly beautiful, full of lovely description and meaningful dialogue and fantastic general, actual, real storytelling which struck a cord somewhere within me and really made my heart feel for it(/the characters).
I bought it to expand my horizons, to diversify my bookshelf. And I’m so glad I did. I went in borderline completely blind, and I came out the other side a little different to how I went in. I’ve been given a history lesson, a gratitude lesson, and probably also a lesson on writing (which I hope to carry into the future).
I feel as if, through reading this book, the kind of problems I have faced or am expecting to face have been minimised and put a little into place. Which doesn’t erase them, but does make me feel a lot more at ease with my life tonight than it did when I woke up in the morning. And I like that. I’m happy I got that. It was unexpected and nice, almost like an extra gift from the author as well as a phenomenal experience.
(3 / 5)
In the past, I’ve always been quite wary of wartime fiction, or general historical fiction. It was never something I particularly enjoyed, as I wasn’t big on history, or war, or reading about either.
Since then, however, I have slowly brought myself away from this view. This is where The Girl From Venice comes in. Though not my first experience of historical or war fiction, it was still one I wholeheartedly enjoyed. Set towards the end of World War Two, the main character, Innocenzo (Cenzo) Vianello works as a fisherman in Pellestrina where he finds (what he thinks is) the drowned corpse of a lady. Wanting to do the right thing, he tries to take her where she can be identified. On the way he is intercepted, and by the time he is allowed back on his own boat, she’s hiding on the boat eating his food.
The story follows their interactions, eventual separation and search to find one another again. Also exploring other factors in between, such as familial complications, political endeavours, the conclusion of the war, its impact, and love.
I’ve only read one other book set in Italy, and that’s The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke. That book stood as my all-time favourite for a very long time, and remains as such. The writing and scenery helped it gain this title. So, setting in Italy has always appealed to me. I love that the writing style in The Girl In Venice goes perfectly with it. Especially with this story. What with being a fisherman, Cenzo spends a lot of time in the water. The description of it (among the other places the story was set, as the characters did travel) saw that I got my fair share of gorgeous writing that made me feel so involved in a scene and so hooked into the story. If anything, it was probably my favourite aspect. It was an inspirational style, and one that drew me in until the very end.
The book was very good. My interest in historical fiction and war time fiction seems to be developing nicely, and I’m glad I read this book and it helped me to see as such.
(5 / 5)
Iain Thomas has, for a long time, been one of my absolute favourite authors. This title of favourite has not wavered since I read I Wrote This For You: Just The Words some few years ago, and continues to stand strong as his other works, such as this, find a place in my hands and a home on my shelf. I come short of saying I adore him, his writing, his books, his style. All of it has meant a lot to me, and this has not fluctuated – ever.
300 Things I Hope is, at the title suggests, 300 things that he hopes. For you, me – for us – the readers. They are simple sentences, little lines, all of them hopes I do not doubt are wholeheartedly sincere and stretch all the way from the author straight to me, here. A part of it I can’t deny is a little odd. To be talked to through pages like this, indirect and directly, not in a way that’s exactly poetry or a story or an article. I know there are more people than only me that these words are going to be reaching, but it always feels like they were written just for me to read and love (which I do).
I like words. There’s the brunt of it. I love words, and I love writing, and I love reading. I love finding work that somehow manages to shake up my thoughts and make me remember this so clearly. I put post-it notes on my favourite pages, because they did just that. For example, number 84, “I hope love moves through your heart like light moves through glass” because is that not a gorgeous sight to see? The glass on my front door reflects rainbow coloured sunlight on to my floor, and the idea that it could equate to love was such beautiful imagery that in went the post-it note because I felt changed, because I felt reminded of words and what they can do. They did this, after all.
Or, number 101, “I hope that any noise you hear in the night is only someone you love coming home” because I have a lot of fears about things like this, and I was soothed.
Or, number 144, “I hope that if something bad happens to you, that the world suddenly starts turning backwards and it unhappens to you” because a word that isn’t a word is used but it makes sense, and I liked that.
Or 161, “I hope you find something unexplainable on the side of the road, like it was left there just for you” because I liked the idea of writing something that could stem from this idea myself, in all honesty.
Or 211, 212, and 213: “I hope you write a message, put it in a bottle and throw it into the sea”, “I hope it’s a secret, and that someone, somewhere, knows it.”, “I hope you are someone’s secret and that somewhere in the ocean, there’s a bottle with your name in it”, because this also sounded like something lovely to write, and they way I imagined that glimpse into a story from a simple three phrases was so captivating that I didn’t want to let it go. Also, I think everyone quietly romanticised the idea of putting a message in a bottle and hoping someone, somewhere, picked it up. I did, even though I’ve never done it (though I have found one, once – it was, I assumed, a child’s drawing of a house. There was a lot of blue.) – but after the little helpful push from these three hopes, could I not do it through words? I could, I think, and I would like to.
I’m trying to say that I love words. I love this book. I love this author. Not many other words or books or authors have pinched my mind and stolen my interest and held it, inspiring me to do something of my very own, and never letting me forget the spark in me at words strung together in a way that makes me so immeasurably happy.
Five stars, because I have a lot of love to give, because this deserves every piece of it I am able to give.
This book was a collection of short stories about love. Plain and simple.
I like reading about love which is why this book caught my eye a good while back, and gained itself a solid slot on my Christmas list.
I managed to finish the whole book in just a few short hours. I was utterly lost in numerous glances into numerous worlds of act, love, consequence, and situation, each of them varying and bringing me new stories, new characters, new plots that I loved.
I was expecting your usual love stories, in total honesty. And I enjoy those, and I definitely did get some (people who meet on an plane, for example. Or the classic high school era of classes or prom). I didn’t, however, expect that the majority of the stories would be LGBT-centric stories. And I was pleasantly surprised! I said once or twice or five hundred thousand times in my life that LGBT representation (among various other types of representation) is important and still stand firmly by this view. So to be so swept up by such a surprise was such a lovely way to spend Christmas Day, for me.
I also didn’t expect the drawing of my own inspiration for writing. I’ve heard or read or seen enough couples meet on a plane or one partner chase through the airport for the next five of my lifetimes, and I thought at least I take the inspiration from the idea of travel as an act of meeting which changed lives or an act of leaving which also changed lives. Maybe change the method of transportation. I’ve seen one separation by travel be done by boat, and I am fond of description, so I don’t doubt I could do my own but set in the docks. Or a train station. Who knows. But I’m glad I read the book through and through and found something to guide me to this idea.
It was something fun to read. Before this I’ve lately been having to read far more serious books (e.g. The Colour Purple) so it was a nice breath of fresh air to step back into my comfort zone of cushy love and cheesy YA. I can’t lie, I like those kinds of stories. So to read them, and so many of them in one single book, I was delighted.
This is a book, one of very few, where I’ve stuck little post-it notes at the start of the stories I liked the best. These three were, “Starbucks Boy”, “Princes”, and, “Breaking And Entering”. Starbucks Boy because I love a good coffee shop story. There are certain plot points or story clichés I think everyone quietly adores. This is one of mine.
Princes because it was the sweetest story, I think, out of them all. A younger brother approaching his Bar Mitzvah fights against their parents in order for them to let his older brother, our main character, bring along his boyfriend. Which was, like I said, sweet. And funny – granted the context of the story. Finally, Breaking And Entering because I absolutely love a spot of angst amongst all the blossoming love stories.
It was undoubtedly a good read, and one I’m glad has reintroduced me to books after so long a break because of school and the like.
(5 / 5)
I recently read Wolfsong by TJ Klune. Even now, as I begin writing, I can only hope I have the best words to convey my astonishment and amazement at how spectacular this book truly was. I don’t even know where to begin.
Maybe I do. After a little thinking. I’ve read a handful of books that have touched my heart so deeply. I love reading because I love stories. Even if I find them not the most enjoyable, even if they had a lacklustre ending, even if I did enjoy them, but probably only once, the few books I’ve read that have whisked my heart away are something else entirely. They are always so full of emotion and immeasurable intensity. This book was that. This book was that, and more. So, so much more.
I’ve read a handful of books that touched my heart deeply, yes. But there’s only one other book I’ve read that I’ve had to resist reading all at once. Or resist reading it because there was unimaginable emotion flowing straight from the words straight into my mind and heart and soul. Even this book succeeded that. While I read both with enforced breaks (maybe for my own good, I fear my heart may have pounded out of my chest) when I wasn’t reading this one, it was just quietly (sometimes loudly) on my mind. I wondered where the next chapter could possibly take me, I wondered how it could possibly end, and I was more than happy – ecstatic – to get my answers.
Every time I let myself crack open this book and carry on, I felt like I was somewhere else entirely. Everything about it just felt so real, all the relationships and emotions and turmoil and actions, they all felt so real. And while I like fantasy-esque novels a whole lot (they seem to have the best stories for me), and this was one, and it was way out there because it was about werewolves (which I did realise by the title and the cover but for some reason it seemed to float away from me, though I caught it when there was talk of family nights and smells and a lot of talk about the moon. Oh boy, did it hit me then. I waited for the main character, Ox, to get hit with that twist with eager anticipation) it was new and enticing and everything inside just felt so predominant and so real.
I think it’s something I find in a lot of books that are shelved and never really reread – that they never felt quite real. Usually, they are all story. Which is nice, too, but in a different way, I think. But with this book, with Wolfsong, there was the story and then feelings were also the story. I loved that. I loved that so much it made my heart ache because I want to write and that’s what I wish I can someday have the ability to write. Something like this, where the feelings are such a gigantic part of everything – because, isn’t that how things are? In day to day life? You do things depending on how you feel, right? It’s why the kind of books that I don’t reread, that are all story, stay that way – they’re usually dutiful. Having to do something because it’s them, they are the main character, it’s their duty. They didn’t have a choice.
Wolfsong reiterates that you do. You have a choice. The main character, Ox, he has a choice. He picks what he does because of how he feels. I loved that so much. So much. This was a book that I was raring to read to know what happens next, who will do what next, what’s coming over the page, but this was also a book that I wanted to stop and slow down and cherish every second and just – revel in it.
And what makes it better – it had leagues of LGBT representation. Love, just anywhere. Everywhere. No fear, no worries. Ox openly stated he was bisexual. In other pieces of entertainment I’ve experienced with bisexual characters, they never seem to say it. Maybe I’m looking at the wrong pieces of entertainment, or maybe writers just don’t want to do it, but to finally see it done was so refreshing – it was like I hadn’t stepped outside for years and suddenly I was racing around the streets or the woods or just anywhere. Air, everywhere. Like I could breathe easy by just keeping on reading. Green relief, like it says in the story. I think it was that. Green relief in the fact that neither of the characters in the main LGBT relationship died, either! I was a little worried, I do admit. I know that with the life-or-death situations all throughout the book it could have happened, and I really did believe one of the two were going to be killed off, and that it would have fallen into the Bury Your Gays trope (where one person who is LGBT dies, usually needlessly, usually after finding a partner) and I have never felt astounding relief and been so glad when it didn’t happen. I was invested. In the story, in the main relationship, and I was afraid that it was going to happen. And then, it didn’t. It didn’t happen, and I felt such amazing relief and thankfulness. Again, like it was all a breath of fresh air.
The writing itself was extraordinary. It was dialogue and emotion and plot, and it seemed to be more, somehow. I suppose I could describe it as being written jaggedly? Either way, it fit perfectly. With the character, Ox, and the others. It fit with the story and how it unfolded. It fit with me, how it was jagged. I understood. I understand.
There were scenes that amazingly hilarious, too. Jokes, or just how they seemed to play out. Things that were funny because of who said or did what and the reaction. I loved it. While it seemed serious and like important things were always happening, there was always room reserved for humour.
There were so many characters. There were so many people to give your love to in the story, there were so many people to root for and fear for, to hope for and to just plain admire. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.
I don’t want to give anything away, I really don’t. I went in wholeheartedly blind and I came out the other side in awe. I think that’s how it should be for anyone else.
I give it five stars. It is probably the best thing I’ve read all year.