Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell

Tdownloaditle: Fangirl
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Published by: St. Martin’s Press
Publication date: September, 2013
Genre: Romance
Pages: 399
Format: eBook
Source: Kobo

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This is the second book in a row I have read called Fangirl – read about the previous book here.

I don’t even know where to really begin when it comes to reviewing this book – I guess I should start by saying that this book is about Cath, a fangirl for the fictional series’Book of Mages’ (Which while in the process of writing this review I have discovered that the author has written the book ‘Carry on’ which is about the characters from the fictional books featured in this novel) and how she obsesses over these fictional characters and cannot leave them behind even as she is starting a new live at University – something that her twin sister Wren seems to have done with ease. It’s not that she can’t leave them behind, it’s that she doesn’t want too; she wants to keep writing fan fiction about the Book of Mages characters forever. That’s fair. Who in this world really wants to grow up?

I guess this brings me to the first point of the story that I had deep issues with. Cath, doesn’t change. Everything that happens in the book is through the fault of someone or something else. Cath never seems to accept the blame for what she does. She submits some fanfiction for a creative-writing assignment and gets failed for it (Obviously) but the whole issue of plagerism that causes her failure just seems to ‘go away’ it’s like a slap on the wrist and done. Rather than learn from this, Cath just goes back to obsessing over the characters like there was no cause and effect. And, it’s this breezy way that Cath goes about everything that irritated me the most – more than the cliche aspect of her being a Fangirl that sits in her room alone without any real friends – she, as a character doesn’t change or really develop throughout the story. Unlike the supporting character of her twin sister Wren; who if this book was actually about would have been a much more interesting character to read about.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy reading Fangirl because I did. Even if some of it was at the expense of some self reflection in hindsight! At one point in my life, I was Cath. Everything I did centred around Fangirling and attaching myself to my fandoms – writing fanfiction until the small hours of the morning at the sake and expense of my school life! So, I was really interested in seeing how Cath would change when she got to college, but see the above comments on that. And she can’t take criticism for toffee – everyone thinks she is brilliant from her Professor at college to her thousands upon thousands of internet fanfiction readers.

The whole plot really centres around how Cath and Levi meet and get along and the relationship that develops between them and for the most part they’re a nice couple, but I find it strange that any guy would be interested in reading any Fangirls yaoi/slash/gay romance fanfiction, let alone have their girlfriend read it out loud to them while cuddled up together. Because of the nature of Cath – her extremely naive way of thinking and her inability to grow up – I actually found their relationship a little bit hard to swallow. Sure, for whatever reason, Levi really likes Cath (Even though she’s pretty mean and demanding) but Caths unwillingness to drop the fanfiction stuff and pay any interest to him and his life, is a little bit weird; and he’s not exactly sticking around cause they’re having hot, wild passionate sex, either! If anything, their relationship barely progresses beyond holding hands and the big romance scene is just a bit odd.

Another downfall of the book, is that the series that Cath fangirls over, is made up by the author, but it’s essentially a rip-off of Harry Potter called Simon Snow and that didn’t sit to comfortably – seeing as there are scene from both the official rip-off and the fan fiction interjected between chapters of the actual book; they didn’t really add anything to the story either. Fine, it’s there, it’s what Cath fangirls over. I can understand there had to be something for Cath to Fangirl over and it’s can’t be actual Harry Potter because of copyright and all that fancy legal stuff. Then Harry Potter gets mentioned. I found that extremely jarring. Almost as jarring as having to read stuff about the character Simon Snow and his partner in crime Baz – and when I say partner in crime, I mean in a Harry/Draco way. Only, you care about Harry and Draco, because the book you’re reading about them in is… about them. In Fangirl, I gave no shits about Simon and Baz, because the book wasn’t about them. It’s meant to be about Cath and Levi!

I mostly found this book entertaining because the position of the main character is one that I can related to.Many a time, I had lamented that all the ‘best guys in the world are fictional’ and looking back on it through Cath, I was cringing and thinking ‘was I really that bad.’ So I think, if you’re looking to read a book where you can relate to a Fangirl main character then give the book a go. But if you’re looking for a book that will stick with you or you’re looking for a book that will end in some profound manner then you’re better off looking elsewhere.

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Fangirl – Jill Robi

Ttumblr_inline_om5hdx73Tr1rpxqd0_500itle: Fangirl
Author: Jill Robi
Published by:CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Publication date: August 17, 2012
Genre: Romance
Pages: 194
Format: eBook
Source: Kobo

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I stumbled upon this book completely by accident. I have had a voucher for WH Smiths/Kobo for over a year now and on my reading list was Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – but I’ve heard mixed thoughts on that particular book so was hesitant to read it first among my recent purchases – but in the search for fangirl on Kobo popped out this little gem of a book. Firstly, I would like to say that romance isn’t a genre that I am overly familiar with and it isn’t something that I generally have a leaning for and despite the name of the blog, I am not overly connected with the realm of fangirling anymore. That being said, I loved this little novel! It was an absolute delight to read, even though it felt like something of a dirty little secret, or a guilty pleasure. A bit like the idea of actually liking 50 Shades of Grey!

The book centres around Khloe, a die-hard fangirl of the fictional character Weston Moore, and her adventures/obsession relating to him. She takes herself to a large scale convention for the first time in a far-away city where she meets other like-minded individuals and manages to capture the eye of her obsession and because this is the world of fiction romance and complications follow!

One of my favourite things about the book was actually Khloe herself and how she was written. Yes, she is relatively young and this comes across in the way she has been written. There are references to the world of her online fandoming and how she has used her fandom to express herself and grow as a person. Which is something that I could very much relate too! Especially the part of not have any ‘real life’ friends to share in her fandoming lifestyle. I may not be as active as I once was in the realm of fandom, but that part of me has never completely died, but it’s all online! Because she is such a relatable character I found that I could easily root for her and her dreams and share her concerns and fears too. I felt that both Khloe and the book developed along a nice story without it seeming to be ‘This author just wants to write erotica,’ which has made some books in this genre feel more like a slog than a pleasure.

Even Weston, the object of her fandom desires, was a decent character to read about. He added the right about of complications to the plot and there was a lot about him I was rather taken with myself!

As always, it isn’t sunshine and lollipops and there were a few things that just felt a little contrived about the whole affair. For example, the reality of it all! I’ve spent some time at conventions myself and there is no way that some of what happens in the book could actually have happened. Getting to spend so much time with a star, for example! And the fact that Khloe can even managed to spend the amount of days going to cons… can that happen while she is holding down a Full-Time job? I don’t know. Everything goes a little too wishy-washy as well. It’s a magical little tale that has to be taken with a pinch of salt really! It’s a good novel to escape into and I am intrigued to read further stories by Jill Robi, as I enjoyed her writing style immensely and I believe she has written in other genres which might be more ‘up my street’

Fangirl is by no means a perfect book, but it is a good introductory novel to a very promising author.

Broken Monsters – Lauren Beukes

broken-monsters-lauren-beukes-harpercollins-coverTitle: Broken Monsters
Author: Lauren Beukes
Published by:HarperCollins
Publication date: 31 July 2014
Genre: Thriller/Horror
Pages: 528
Format: Hardback
Source: Bury Library

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This is the first book that I have checked out of the library and been able to finish without having to renew it two or three times, which in itself should speak volumes. Normally I get part way through a book before I have to head to the council website and have to renew it so I don’t get a 20 pence fine for a late return. So to be able to finish a book in such a short space of time is almost unheard of.

The plot of the book itself is pretty standard to most Thrillers. A detective on a case, chasing down some sicko bad-guy; in this case an artist with a very warped sense of vision. There are also the standard plot elements of the thriller genre as well, and if you’ve read enough you’ll already know what they are. Detective makes a blunder, gets booted off the case but manages to redeem themselves and solve the mystery anyway. Although how that happens exactly I won’t spoil. The detective in this example is Gabi Versado, a strong and believable female lead riddled with trying to solve her own family problems, in the form of her daughter Layla, as well as the problems of the city of Detroit.

Speaking of Layla, she is a teenage girl going through the traumas of teenage life at school and I was actually as interested in her sub-plot as I was the main case and the two blended to one another rather well, even if they were a little far fetched at times. One way they combined was through the use of social media and various popular culture which might go over the top of some older readers heads, which may or may not add to the success of understanding the teenage Layla or alienating her. Personally, I understood most of the internet-y references, but that’s mostly because I have lived a lot of my life online. Ask people over a certain age what Nyancat is and they might be left scratching their heads in confusion.

Other characters involve a struggling blogger and his hip and happening DJ Girlfriend, a homeless black guy and the rookie cop. All well written characters to the point I felt some frustration and irritation whenever one of them opened their mouths! It’s been said that to write a character that’s likeable is easy, to write one that irritates is more difficult. So, once again kudos are due to Lauren Beukes for achieving that sentiment.

Sadly, it can’t all be praise, praise, praise. There is one element to the book that just left me feeling somewhat flat. That was the supernatural element that, although is touched upon in earlier chapters, comes to a peak about 85% through the book. I like a story to have a good plot, likeable characters and a strong, conclusive ending. And that ending sadly didn’t feel like it was on offer here. Instead of a bringing the narrative to a climatic conclusion I was left with a bit of a ‘Wait, what?’ feeling, which unfortunately just left me confused and a bit dazed – especially after the tension that had been expertly building up to this point. It makes the genre of the book seem to be as confused as I was. Was this a thriller as I had been led to believe? For the most part, yes. Then the ending happened and it turned from what I thought I was reading to something else. It was unfortunate, because for me, it ruined a perfectly good book.

The Scarlet Gospels – Clive Barker

Title: The Scarlet Gospelsimg_4359_zpsta3ssase
Author: Clive Barker
Published by: St. Martin’s Press
Publication date: May 19, 2015
Genre: Horror Fantasy
Pages: 368
Format: Hardback
Source: Bury Library

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I honestly do not think that there was a book I have been more excited to read! Ever! I’ve been something of a fan of Lead Cenobite and his fellows for a fair few years now and was reminded of this books existence a few months back. It’s the official sequel to The Hellbound Heart, the novella that first introduced us to the authors vision of hell, and stars Harry D’Amour a character that I’ve personally never encountered before but has featured in some of Barkers other works.

So when I found out that the local library had a copy of The Scarlet Gospels, I couldn’t wait to get home and start reading it. The prologue (un)happily sets the tone and theme that the Hell Priest – Pinhead to the rest of us – is hunting down magicians in order to bolster his own powers and take over as the new ruler of Hell. For some reason he wants Harry D’Amour to be the witness his rise into his new position, a job offer that Harry refuses – probably because Pinhead didn’t ask nicely enough. Thrown into the mix is a collection of other characters and it is via Norma one of D’Amours friends that Harry becomes the reluctant witness. We’re taken on a masterfully written journey through hell. Which boasts of Barkers amazing imagination for the macabre.

The writing is two fold however. On the one hand we’re treated to this imaginative world of Hell. On the other we’re riding cliches and given some of the finest examples of lazy writing I have come across! The novel really reaches it’s peak when Pinhead reaches the centre of Hell and finds Lucifer. Instantly the fantastic imagination of Barker stops and we’re given the same cock-and-bull as pretty much any other setting in Hell. Fallen Angel, pissed off at daddy dearest, blahblahblah. It’s a real shame that in the end Barker chose to forgo his own creative visions for the more traditional Christian views of Hell.

I then come onto the lazy writing aspect. The human characters in this are without exception the flattest, most dull bunch I have ever come across. As a collective the work ‘Fuck’ is their favourite and resort to it in more or less every sentence they speak. I couldn’t get behind any of them because they just we’re worthy of rooting for. And I am still questioning a lot of their purpose. Harry himself was meant to be the key witness to all of Pinheads doings, and yet, most of the time he was lagging behind and not actually doing any first hand witnessing. As for the rest of them, they were so unimpressionable that I can’t even remember their names, much less want to talk about them.

It’s not all doom and gloom however, Barker must be praised for taking a most beloved creation and toying with him in the way that he has done. This is certainly not the Pinhead we know and love from the movies. He’s not out doing the painful bidding of his order, he’s out for himself and so much more magnificently evil because of it. To take what we know about Pinhead, turn it on it’s head and reclaim the character for himself was certainly a stroke of genius – and yet there is also a familiar feeling. When watching a Hellraiser movie, admit it, we all do it to see Pinhead! It’s the same with The Scarlet Gospels, the best parts feature the Hell Priest and I personally was left wanting to see so, so much more of him.

Was The Scarlet Gospels a fitting end for such a wonderful character? I was disappointed. The ‘last hurrah’ for the Prince of Pain wasn’t the journey I was expecting (NOt that I knew what to expect, but it wasn’t… this) Even if the trip through Hell was actually enjoyable, it was the company that went with it that made the excursion a trial more than a pleasure.

The general consensus is the first quarter of the book is amazingly brilliant and heading in the right direction for what a horror novel should be and what I felt like I was expecting from the sequel to The Hellbound Heart. Then somewhere along the line it turns into a heaping style of tripe with very little driving it. No wonder the book took me nearly 3 months to get through after the excitement of the first 100 or so pages had passed!

Frostborn: The Gray Knight – Jonathan Moeller

Title: Frostborn: The Gray Knight18974967
Author
: Jonathan Moeller
Published by: Azure Flame Media
Publication date: Aug 7th, 2013
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 324 (Kobo)
Format: Kobo
Source: Kobo Bookstore

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On paper, this books sounds like it is going to be amazing! It has a really interesting idea behind it. A whole world inspired by Athurian Legend moves from the plane of existence as we know it through a portal into another – more fantasy based world, with magic, fantasy creatures and all the usual trash that you expect from fantasy novels! Including an entity of evil that no one know all that much about.

If you can’t tell by my tone of writing that paragraph, the book was actually absolute trash! I read like I was being taken on the most average DnD campaign ever, with characters that had little to no personality to them! The main character, one Ridmark Arban (who I can only imagine was a cross-class character of a Warrior and Monk) a Swordbearer who had been branded a coward by his former order and booted out and banned from using a bladed weapon (So uses a staff instead, hence the cross class thoughts) is so totally unrelateable because he never misses a beat. Everything he does is pretty much amazing and he never puts a foot wrong – other than having this overly cliche tragic past like pretty much every other fantasy anti-hero ever. So never once was I concerned for his safety.

Then we have the heroine, who was so ‘memorable’ that I had to look up her name again. Calliande, a woman who starts out as a femme fatate, cause she has woken up somewhere strange with all her memories gone – who turns out to be some sort of bad ass mage (Or Magistria as they’re called in this book.) Sorry about spoilers, I’m just assuming that no one is actually going to read the full way through this book because of how bad it reads! She’s given a dagger as a weapon and pretty much spends her whole story lamenting her lost memory and finding little snippets here and there – which would be interesting if it wasn’t so tediously boring.

There are a couple of other characters, a Dwarven Cleric and and Orc warrior. Kharlact, the orc, was the only thing that kept the book relatively interesting, but I think that is more because of my bias towards orcs than through anything to really get my teeth into.

For a nemesis the group are given, orcs, undead and kobolds – just the usual fantasy baddies really – and a more mysterious being called the Shadowbearer. Which actually got pretty confusing when considering Ridmarks original order being the Swordbearers. There is also the mildly tempting hook of the looming ‘Frostborn’ but there isn’t any real substance to what we’re told to make them overly interesting. Maybe if the main character was one I gave two hoots about I’d be more interested in his blight and how the Frostborn tie into it all, but seeing as Ridmark could deal with anything thrown at him with ease, I find myself failing to really worry to much.

Though, this wasn’t even the most frustrating aspects of the novel! The repetition of sentences used, especially in fight scenes, was particularly irritating. I’m sure I read about Ridmark ‘turning his staff and smashing bones’ more times that I can actually count or even bare to remember.

I like to put something good about a book in my reviews, but honestly this book really held little for me. Everything was either repetitive, cliches or just down right dull!

Sorry, but I think I’ll be passing on any of the further 11 instalments in this series.

Eldar Sketchbook

DSC02330Today was the local Games Workshops Store Birthday, which is always a fun treat. Usually featuring a heap of cake and fun games for those that want to be involved.

Earlier this week they announced something that really piqued my interest. They had some Eldar Sketchbooks on offer. A limited edition art book (which I already have a weakness for) for £30.

So along I popped and I was lucky enough to grab one of the few remaining copies.

Eldar are one of those armies that, although only have a very small force, I find absolutely stunning. The vision and uniqueness of them is just wonderful and the Sketchbook is no exception to this. It’s filled with concept illustrations by Jes Goodwin of pretty much every sort of Eldar that you can think of; and even some that you probably can’t.

Particularly inspiring, for me, was the Eldar Bonesinger sketches – I am pretty new to the Eldar series of models and all mine belong to the realm of the dead – so I was rather unaware of such a pretty looking model idea. I also enjoyed seeing the development of ideas as it’s all in here, from the loosest spark of an idea to the refined creation.

DSC02331

Also, seeing the translation between sketch and model is pretty impressive in itself. Even in the sketches that I’ve seen so far, I am thoroughly impressed by the translation – even without knowing every model in Games Workshops Range. Seeing them faithfully taken from sketch to miniature can’t be an easy feat, but with the aid of Jes’ sketches they’ve made it look effortless.

If you’re looking for a highly glossy, full colour illustration book – like the Horus Heresy Art book offerings – then this really isn’t the Art book for you. The hint is in the title of the book there really! It’s a sketchbook. Full of sketches. No colour. However, if you like seeing how characters are created and ideas developed; as well as world building then give it a go, if you can get a copy. Also, if you like Space Elves, then yeah, this book is right up your street. However, I’d avoid if you’re a fickle army collector as this is a very inspiring book and will make you want to pick up a few of the prettier Eldar models.

Never let me go – Kazuo Ishiguro

Title: Never let me Never_Let_Me_Gogo
Author: Kazuo Ishiguro
Published by: Faber & Faber
Publication date: Feb 25th, 2005
Genre: Sci-Fi & Drama
Pages: 288
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal collection

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I was originally lent this book by my sister as research for my University Dissertation about Organ Harvesting in Popular Culture and the feasibility of it becoming a reality. But that aside, Never let me go, follows the story of Kathy’s seemingly idyllic life growing up in the country-sdie school of Halsham set in a utopian style future. Yet there is something more than a bit sinister lurking over Kathy and her bunch of friends that slowly reveals itself as the novel progresses.

I don’t want to write the big spoiler out in this blog post, as that would be unfair, but I do want to say that this book has certainly left it’s haunting impact on me since I first read it a few years ago. (It’s actually one of the few books that I have read more than once and when I first read it to it’s conclusion it had me in tears.) It’s a tale about a society that is so selfishly vile and how that impacts the lives of the main characters; Kathy, Tommy and Ruth.

What is so wonderful about the novel is the way that Ishiguro writes the characters in such a wonderfully investing way. There is so much built up detail about the them that grows throughout the story that you care so deeply what happens about them – even Kathy’s friend Ruth who is just a plain bitch at times. Threaded throughout the book is an overwhelming feeling of forlorn hopelessness for the characters involved which is a rather interesting and addictive trait. You hope that the lives of these children gets better for them and it keeps you turning the pages just to see if it does. And even at the end when everything is revealed there is no over reaction by the characters, they just accept the fate that they’ve been groomed for with no ‘woe-is-me’ meldodrama.

The language used in the book is absolutely haunting as well, which lends well to the caring of the novel, but used to carry that forlorn feeling expertly. There is use of the word ‘completing’ rather than ‘die’ which gives the feeling of purpose, a task to do – rather than life – rather than the end of everything.

Never Let me Go isn’t a story abut science, it’s a story about people living in a world that benefits people that aren’t them. It’s about how they cope with their lives and the exceptionally challenging trials that they face.

It’s not a fast paced book and it doesn’t really take much of a genius to figure it all out – personally I am not for books that require too much brain power to read/figure out – which I understand could bore people who are up for something a bit more challenging.

Neverletmegoposterquad

As another note, there is a film based on this novel. I remmeber watching it – seeing as I am such an advocate of the book and often like seeing films/TV series of books – but ended up being really disapointed with the offering. What I enjoy about the novel is the reveal part way through. However the film gives you this information right at the beginning and ruins any sense of hope that you feel for the characters being able to make it through their lives without this reveal catching up to them. So in this case of book vs film, I would certainly spend a bit more time invested in book land or you might end up hating both!