Red Sister

Mark Lawrence

Red Sister is terrific. The world building is incredible; the characters are realistic, the writing is philosophical, the writing is bleak, the writing is beautiful.

Lawrence does not shy away from writing evil that will make you sick nor does he soften the edges of a fight scene. The main characters are female, the action is blood-soaked and gory, and the world is harsh. Honestly, this is a fantasy novel that I have been searching for since I started reading.

While archetypes of fantasy school-centric stories are felt by the reader, the story stands on its merit. The pace of a training school building the relationships and skills of the novices is sensed by the reader – think Harry Potter at Hogwarts and Kvothe at the University. However, Lawrence uses this time to develop our characters better and to teach the reader about the magic and the world of Abeth. He includes enough action and twists that the reader does not feel as if they are attending a lecture. Instead, they are learning along with the main characters.

Overall, I enjoyed the first of this series. I am excited to start Grey Sister tonight.

Keep reading.
A Bookish Girl
Advertisements

The School for Good and Evil

Soman Chainani

The School for Good and Evil, #1

Chainani has written an interesting novel. The story unfolds revealing elaborate twists and unique characters in an outstanding world. The author warns against getting everything you want, pursuing your wants at all costs, accepting the labels other force upon you, and encourages you to write your own story. For those reasons, I adored this book.

This book is not a five-star, guaranteed-to-love-no-matter-who-you-are story. There is a lot to leave a reader discomforted about this story. While I hope the author intended to create a dialogue about literary tropes, Chainani seems both self-aware of the ridiculousness of fairytales and guilty of falling into the terrible tropes. The evil characters are ugly. The princesses are shallow, beautiful, and boy-obsessed. There are many, many, erm, awkward moments in this book if you accept they are only twelve-years-old. The strict gender guidelines in fairytales are mocked by the author…and then followed by the characters anyway. It is an awful and frustrating story when considered beyond face value.

Still confounded,
A Bookish Girl

The Darkest Part of the Forest

Holly Black

After reading The Cruel Prince, I put it in my head to read everything faerie Black has written. A quick search revealed an existing stand-alone novel and trilogy in the same universe. Seeing that I have yet to follow any semblance of chronological order thus far, I figured I would read the stand alone between School for Good and Evil audiobooks.

Black has tied a cloth to an old, slightly wicked tree and awaited a visit from a fae to make a deal for there is no other explanation for her writing ability. Black doesn’t blunt the edges of her characters, their lives, or their stories, which results in novels that demand to be read without pausing. The Darkest Part of the Forest is no different.Once again, Black delivers a captivating story packed with well-developed characters, beautiful darkness, and a dash of romance to round it out.

I enjoyed every piece of this book and look forward to beginning the Modern Faerie Tales trilogy.

Enjoy yourself.
-A Bookish Girl

The Cruel Prince

Holly Black 

Having not read Holly Black since my middle school discovery of The Spiderwick Chronicles, I did not know what to expect. I remembered her fondly, but often I revisit those middle school loves and wonder what kind of crazy that Jasmine incarnation was. Holly Black, however, did not disappoint. The Cruel Prince was a beautifully twisted novel of the type I just adore.

Black creates a vivid world and gripping story that will keep your attention until the acknowledgements pop up. (This book finishes moments before you are done with it, leaving you yearning for the next instalment.) The balance of good and evil in each character brings realism that is unexpected in a novel about the world of faery.

While I enjoyed almost every aspect of the novel, I struggled with the “big twist” regarding the main characters. I foresaw the twist early in the story and hoped that Black would not give us the lesson that “nice guys have hidden intentions and boys that are mean to you are attracted to you.” I feel like no lesson is worse for young women and seeing it in this otherwise outstanding tale annoyed me a bit.

Overall, this is a splendid, magical novel that is believable, beautiful, and succulently twisted for all readers to enjoy.

Have a magnificent Monday,
A Bookish Girl

Tomorrow

Damian Dibben

I won an ARC of Tomorrow through Goodreads Giveaways.

Tomorrow is a beautifully written novel which draws the reader into the world of a dog searching for his master. Dibben provides a thoughtful look at the human race through the eyes of man’s most loyal friend. Through the eyes of this insightful puppy, we celebrate the great achievements of mankind and witness the horrors we are capable of inflicting.

Yet, I struggle to say much more about this novel. The middle of the story lags a bit and contains an odd lecture on not eating meat, the combination of which almost caused me to throw down the book (despite being a pescatarian, myself). I feel I cannot give a fair review without finishing a book, so I pressed on.

The ending of the book was worth the middle. While most of the twists and turns are predictable, Dibben’s treats the reader to an unexpected and wonderful conclusion. He reveals the strength and beauty of tragedy, the peace of forgiveness, the complicated dynamic of familial love, and leaves the reader with a wonderful bit of hope. It is in these last one-hundred or so pages that the reader can see the author’s purpose revealed. His purpose is beautiful and wonderful, but I am not sure it is cohesive throughout the novel.

So, I leave you with a review that doesn’t feel complete as I try to reconcile my emotions and thoughts regarding this novel.
-A Bookish Girl

Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor, Vol 1: Revolutions of Terror

Nick Abadzis

Elena Casagrande, Arianna Florian

Top Tip: This series is available on Hoopla through many library systems in the US for free.

I have never read a Doctor Who graphic novel before this series. I started with the Tenth Doctor because he is my favourite. Not because it is David Tennant (although, he is a brilliant actor and I watch many a show or movie because he is in them) but the Tenth Doctor has this beautiful mix of darkness and simple joyfulness. He shows it is okay to be happy, even in the darkest times. I always felt I related most to this incarnation of the Doctor. Anyway, enough about why I love the Tenth Doctor and on to the review.

I felt the Tenth Doctor was not exactly characterised in this graphic novel; but, I think the author did that so we could get to know the new companion rather intimately. Gabby is a good addition to the Tenth Doctor’s storyline. Her addition to the story, as well as the beautiful artwork (without sexualisation of the female characters), really makes this a graphic novel more accessible to women readers. (Not saying we don’t read comics because of a lack of representation, merely there is a lack of representation and that glaring gap in graphic novel characters is not seen in this series.)

As an introduction to BBC graphic novels, I enjoyed this collection. I look forward to completing the Tenth Doctor adventures and meeting the Eleventh Doctor in graphic novel form.

A Bookish Girl

Fire and Fury

Michael Wolff

Wolff delivers a very blunt look into the first year of the Trump administration. I did not feel like he exaggerated – most of the information is well-known and documented. Despite this straightforward approach to relaying the story of the new administration’s first year, this book was difficult to finish. After the first half, I felt like I had to endure and push myself to finish. (Something I would never do with the majority of books I have read, but this felt important. I felt I should read this book.) Yet, it does not ever get easier to read again. Perhaps because you want to be proven wrong, you want to see something like maturity and stability represented in the central hub of the power in the United States. You are left looking at a sad, terribly sad, year and the future seems as bleak.

I guess I am just sad that I felt compelled to complete this book. An insider look into the Trump administration left me raw and heartbroken. My next book will be fictional, happy, and make sense in a way that never happens in Wolff’s story. Please, tell me it is just a story.

Share the love and some hope with one another.
A Bookish Girl

The Last Unicorn

Peter S Beagle

The best way to describe this classic fantasy tale is charming. This story is a must-read for anyone who enjoys fantasy novels if only to say welcome to the genre. Beagle is poetic and the world building is beautifully done. His writing aches to be read aloud; it has rhythm and music meant to be heard and shared.

The Last Unicorn is a magical work of art meant to be reread and enjoyed time and time and time and time … and time again.

Be wonderful.
A Bookish Girl

A River in Darkness: One Man’s Escape from North Korea

Masaji Ishikawa

Masaji’s novel is simply one man’s life for three and a half decades. Essentially, this story is just a glimpse into someone else’s past. Yet, this peek will haunt you and haunt you all the more because it is honest, real, and happening. The hopelessness felt by those suffering at the hands of a tyrant seeps into the reader as Masaji recounts his story.

Like most of the world, I have very little insight and a lot of curiosity about North Korea. This short, well-written memoir opened my eyes to the struggle North Koreans are still enduring. The heartache, the loss of humanity, the hunger, and the death witnessed by the average citizen in North Korea is unbelievable. Masaji’s life is hard to believe. As you reflect on the events of his life and accept them for truth, you cannot help but feel grateful and an urge to do something for those dying for want of things we have in abundance.

This novel was available to me through Amazon Prime’s Kindle First Pick programme.

Take care of each other.
A Bookish Care