2016 · 2017 · April · Reviews

Book Review: “Dracula”, by Bram Stoker

Published in 2016 by Penguin | Originally published in 1897 | 3 stars

Summary:

I guess y’all know the plot of this already, but it’s about Jonathan Harker who goes to Transylvania to help Count Dracula buy a property in England. However, the count soon turns out to be a very sinister person.

Review:

To begin with: I did not actually finish this, though I did mark it as finished on Goodreads. However, I have read everything apart from the last maybe 70 pages, and I know exactly how it ends because I wrote an essay on it for class without actually having finished the book and thus had to look up a detailed summary of it. So I feel as if I can write a full review.

I can’t decide if I actually think that this is worth 3 stars. I like having read the “original” vampire story, and it was interesting to see how far some of the modern vampire books are from this in some places. And it surprised me that Dracula isn’t actually in this very much. He’s more of a background figure than I thought he would be. Also, when I actually picked it up I did find the story interesting.

However, it was so slow, and the plot feels unnecessarily drawn out. I would find myself wishing that they’d just get to the point. What also annoyed me was the view of women. Mina would frequently be left out of things on the sole basis that she happened to be a woman – because, according to Van Helsing and Dr Seward, she couldn’t handle the vampire-hunting business (also on the sole basis of her happening to be a woman). And at some point, Van Helsing says that she “has a man’s brain” (yes, he actually said that), meaning that she’s a “better” sort of woman than other, typically “weak” women. This annoys the crap out of me, and it makes the book feel incredibly dated. In that respect, it has not aged well.

The chapter division also seemed a bit weird to me. Sometimes, there would be a chapter division in the middle of someone’s diary entry. And it also made everything seem so intentional – in the beginning, there’s a note saying that the diary entries has been placed in a particular order, and the reason for that would become clear as you continue reading. The chapters sort of destroyed that. I don’t that think they should have been there at all. Of course, it would perhaps have made it more difficult to read (the droning slowness would have been even more distinct), but still.

So I dnf’ed this. I just didn’t like it enough to continue reading it. Which is sad, because I really wanted to like it.

2016 · 2017 · December · January · Reviews

Book Review: “The Queen of the Tearling”, by Erika Johansen

Published in 2014 by Harper | The Queen of the Tearling #1 | Three Feathers

Summary:

Kelsea Raleigh has been raised in isolation, destined to take over the throne of the Tearling. But the road there is dangerous, and Kelsey must fight for her right to the throne.

(That was such a soppy summary, but the Goodreads one was way too long ^.^’ . Sorry!)

Review:

So. Where to start? My favourite part of this book was that Kelsea, though slightly tropey in being this plain girl who’s supposed to accomplish something extraordinary, was still more relatable than many other heroines I’ve read about lately, which is definitely something I appreciated. I also found the idea for the world interesting, in the sense that it’s set in a future of our current world, but in a regressed society – so, basically, it’s our future, but a medieval-like society.

However, I did have some problems with it. Firstly, I found it way too slow for the most part. It did become better towards the end, though, but mostly it was just really slow. I mean, the first third or so was about Kelsea being escorted from the cottage to the Keep. In addition to that, the chapters were ridiculously long, with many of them landing on around 40 pages. It might seem strange, but I can be really picky about the length of the chapters in a book. If they’re too long, I eventually lose interest even if I like the book otherwise.

Also, the book doesn’t really provide any background to this regressed society. There’s so much talk about the Crossing and how they have mostly given up on technology, but I would have liked to get to know how and why they did that. Also, where is the New World? I saw the Tearling as based on Spain and Mortmesne as based on France, but why would the British and the Americans take their boats and go there? What happened in between? In connection to that, I just found it so stupid that they didn’t educate Kelsea about the recent history of the Tearling. She knew a lot about the pre-Crossing history, but not very much more. For one, she was raised to become the Queen, and the Queen should presumably know. Secondly, she is bound to do something stupid because of it.

Overall, I found this good enough to keep reading and to want to read the sequel, but I’m hoping to get more answers in the next part in the series.

2016 · Favourites · Lists

My Top 7 Favourite Things I Read in 2016

I know this might seem a weird number, but I don’t feel as if I’ve read as much for fun as I usually do, especially not since some time during the early summer. That’s why I’m not doing a top 5 for July to December as I was intending – not only have I not read as much as usual, but I also haven’t really fallen head over heels for anything I’ve read during that time. So I thought that I’d just take my top 5 list from the first half of the year and add another couple of things to it and make that my top list of the year. This list is in no particular order.

  • Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

I liked this a lot when I first read it, but I think it has grown on me since then, so it definitely deserves its place on this list.

  • Farlig Midsommar, by Tove Jansson

If it’s one series that I’ve been really enjoying this year, it’s the Moomin series, and this is my favourite so far.
You can find my review of this here.

  • The Arrival, by Shaun Tan

This was such a beautiful, wordless graphic novel about a man who moves to a new country because his family is poor and can’t stay in their home country. It feels especially important nowadays. I also liked the fantasy elements, which you can either read literally or as a symbol for the strangeness of moving to an entirely new country (or both! 🙂  )

  • Night of Cake and Puppets, by Laini Taylor

I finished this right at the very beginning of the year, and included it because it’s a very cute love story.

  • Since You’ve Been Gone, by Morgan Matson

I didn’t expect to like this as much as I did, but I think it has to do with the audiobook being great and it being a very good book to read during the summer time.
Here’s my review for it.

  • Sent i November, by Tove Jansson

This is another Moomin book, which, again, I loved.
I wrote a review of this one too, which you can find here.

  • Lips Touch, by Laini Taylor

This is a pretty recent read – I finished it just last week – and though I didn’t like it as much as the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, I did really enjoy it.
My review can be found here!

  • ‘Snow, Glass, Apples’, by Neil Gaiman

This is actually a short story, which I read because I read Gaiman’s short story collection Smoke and Mirrors. ‘Snow, Glass, Apples’ is one of the stories that really stuck with me, and I’ve realised now that I’ve gone over what I’ve read this year that this is so good. It’s a twisted story of Snow White, where the stepmother it the main character and Snow White the villain.

That’s it for the list! I have linked my reviews of the books I wrote reviews for, and if you want to check out my Top 5 January-June 2016, you can find it here. Also, Happy New Year!

2016 · December · Reviews

Book Review: “Lips Touch”, by Laini Taylor

Published in 2013 by Hodder and Stoughton | Originally published in 2009 | Four feathers

Summary from Goodreads:

Three tales of supernatural love, each pivoting on a kiss that is no mere kiss, but an action with profound consequences for the kissers’ souls:

Goblin Fruit
In Victorian times, goblin men had only to offer young girls sumptuous fruits to tempt them to sell their souls. But what does it take to tempt today’s savvy girls?

Spicy Little Curses
A demon and the ambassador to Hell tussle over the soul of a beautiful English girl in India. Matters become complicated when she falls in love and decides to test her curse.

Hatchling
Six days before Esmé’s fourteenth birthday, her left eye turns from brown to blue. She little suspects what the change heralds, but her small safe life begins to unravel at once. What does the beautiful, fanged man want with her, and how is her fate connected to a mysterious race of demons?

Review:

Laini Taylor has become one of my favourite authors. I read the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy last year and loved it, and now I ordered this while in England because I felt like reading something else by her. And it did not disappoint.

I think my least favourite story in this one was the first one, and the one I liked the most was the middle one. I really liked the idea of somebody being the ambassador to Hell and having discussions with the “devil” over which souls get to live and which ones move on.

Also, I have been in a reading slump ever since the beginning of the summer and then I haven’t read that much over the autumn either because of moving to and studying in England for a few months, but this book got me more excited about reading again, which makes me really happy. So, fingers crossed, this might actually have gotten me out of my slump.

However, I do think that the last story deviated from the overall theme of the book a bit, because I can’t fully see how the kissing was important for that story. It was still good, though, and in the fantasy elements it was clearly part of the collection In that context, I would like to point out that the title doesn’t really reflect the contents – it’s not as much about kissing as the title suggests.

To sum up, I really enjoyed this, and now I’m happily looking forward to Strange the Dreamer being published in March next year!

2016 · December · Reviews

Book Review: “My True Love Gave To Me”

Edited by Stephanie Perkins | Published in 2014 by St. Martin’s Press | Audiobook read by various narrators for Listening Library/Audible in 2014 | Three Feathers

Summary:

This is a short story collection with twelve stories about Christmas.

Review:

This is another one of those audiobooks I downloaded to get into the right mood, this time for Christmas. I don’t have that much to say, really, because considering that all the stories were written by different people, there were some that I liked more than others. Laini Taylor’s stood out to me, mostly because I like her writing (though the narrator was a little bit too dreamy/off, so I think I would have preferred reading it on my own), and I liked ‘Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus’ by Myra McEntire more than some of the other stories as well. I will say, though, that I skipped the two stories right before Laini Taylor’s, because I was more interested in her story and was getting a little bit tired of the book. Maybe that wasn’t entirely fair, but I just felt that most of the stories, though different, handled the same themes and somehow ended in more or less the same way. Also, some of them felt a little bit too insta-lovey for me, so in the end I just wanted to finish it.

Something I like about short story collections written by a variety of authors is that they have different narrators for all the stories. What I especially liked about this particular one is that it features different kinds of people and ways to celebrate the winter holidays – one story had a black person as a main character, another protagonist had Hispanic heritage, and a third person celebrated Hanukah instead of Christmas. I liked that addition of a bit more diversity.

However, the thing about anthologies is that there are some stories that you really like and some authors that stand out to you more than others, while the majority of them are just a little bit meh. That was the case with this one as well – most of them were too similar or too sped up for me to truly like them, so in the end this was pretty middle ground for me.

2016 · Currently Reading · December

Currently Reading

I feel as if there’s been so much film on my channel lately, so I decided to get back to the books with a ‘currently reading’-post. It is a bit sad that this is the only type of book-related post I’ve been writing recently, but I haven’t been finishing any books lately, so there’s that.

Anyway, the physical book I’m currently reading is Lips Touch by Laini Taylor. It’s a short story collection that I decided to read because I liked her Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy so much, and so far I’m liking this as well. I’m around halfway through so far.

My audiobook this month is Twelve Days of Christmas, which is also a short story collection. It consists of twelve Christmas stories, and I’m around halfway through this too. I downloaded it because I wanted to listen to something Christmassy, but so far this is just okay. The thing about this type of book where there are stories by lots of different authors is that you like some stories better than others, and that’s what I feel is the thing with this one so far. Some stories stand out more than others.

That’s it. If you’ve been around for a while, you’ll notice that I’ve switched around a bit with the books. I decided to put Six of Crows and The Watchmaker of Filigree Street on hold. I started on Six of Crows on the plane on my way here, read a bit more than a fourth but less than a third, and then it just lay around. So I decided to put it on hold and pick it back up again during my Christmas break. As for The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, the audiobook wasn’t really doing it for me. The narrator was all right, but I don’t think I got along with the story in that format. It’s the type of book that I personally feel is better to read as a physical book rather than listen to. I might pick it back up at a later date, but borrow it from the library or something.

2016 · December · Films · Reviews

Film Review: “Paddington”

2014 | Directed by Paul King | 4 feathers

Summary:

This is the story of a bear from darkest Peru, who comes to England to look for an explorer who might be able to help him, but ends up living with another family instead.

Review:

This was so cozy. I don’t remember reading Paddington as a kid, but I do remember the school library having it when we lived in Singapore, so it’s still filled with nostalgia. Based on that, I’ve been wanting to watch this for ages, but I didn’t get around to it until now.

I found it so cute, and funny, and I am glad that I watched it. I don’t have anything more to say.

2016 · December · Films · Reviews

Film Review: ‘Arrival’

2016 | Directed by Denis Villeneuve | 3.5 feathers

Summary:

One day, twelve spaceships (I don’t want to call them that because it’s not really what they are, but I don’t know what to call them instead) arrive on Earth, and linguist Louise Banks is hired to try to translate the aliens’ language and communicate with them.

Review:

I don’t usually watch or read that much science fiction, but this interested me enough to go watch it. Initially, I really liked it — it’s the type of SF that I usually like when I actually get around to it. Now that I finished it, though, I can’t decide.

It’s the ending that blew me off. It was too easy, somehow. The film had all this build-up, and then it ended, just like that. Was it really supposed to be that easy?

Also, it left me a bit confused. I’m not sure how much I can say without spoiling it, but it’s told on two different levels of time, and you don’t actually know what’s going on until the end. That’s what confused me. I actually had to do some googling when I got home, just to make sure I had gotten everything right.

This does feel like one of those films that would be really good to discuss with other people, just to see what they picked up on. It might also benefit from reading the novella it is based on and then rewatching the movie, just to see if you notice anything different than when you went into it blind the first time.

2016 · December · Lists

It’s Christmas! <3

When this post goes up, it is December, which means it’s finally Christmas! Everyone who knows me, knows that I love Christmas and that it’s my absolute favourite holiday, so I thought I’d share some of my favourite Christmas/Winter-themed books and movies!

  • First out is The Polar Express, which is both a book and a movie. I know that some people find the film a bit creepy, but I love it. It’s about a boy who doesn’t really believe in Santa anymore, but then he’s picked up by a train (the Polar Express) and is whisked off to the North Pole.
    I think that they did a really good job of adapting this, because the entire book is in there. So be it that the book is a 25-page picture book, but they stayed close to the original illustrations and expanded the themes of the story, so I think the film stayed very true to the original. Plus, the book won the Caldecott Medal (which is a fancy prize for children’s lit), and Tom Hanks does several of the characters in the film.
  • Next up is a film called A Bride for Christmas. It’s not really that good – it’s one of those super-cheesy seasonal films that went directly to TV, and it’s not even that Christmassy. But I like it and try to make it a point of watching it every year.
  • I’m a bit late to the party, but last year I watched The Holiday for the first time. Someone described this as “that Hugh Grant film without Hugh Grant”, and that’s so true! This is one of those holiday classics that are still good.
  • This next one is more winter-themed, and it’s a book called The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. It’s about a couple who live in Alaska, and one day they build a snow child from the first snow of the year. The next day, it’s gone, with footprints only leading away from the place where the snow child was… This is one of my favourite books!
  • Last out on this list is Let it Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle. I read this last year and thought it was okay – my favourite story was the one John Green wrote – but it’s a cosy Christmas-themed book! 🙂
2016 · Films · November · Reviews

Film Review: “Doctor Strange”

2016 | Directed by Scott Derrickson | Three Feathers

Summary from IMDb:

A former neurosurgeon embarks on a journey of healing only to be drawn into the world of the mystic arts.

Review:

This was one of my first Marvel films, and I had high hopes for it because my friends and the internet never shut up about Marvel. But when I went to see this a couple of days ago, I was a bit disappointed. It wasn’t as good as I thought it would be. I don’t know what it was – maybe it was that, to me, it was just another superhero movie, and it didn’t fully sell the entire Marvel thing to me. I think that my favourite part of the film was the effects, and that’s saying something.

(I’m sorry this was so short. I didn’t have very much to say).