Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell is a heart-jerker of a book. It’s a book so poignant and enjoyable that I had to invent a word for it. Right from the beginning, I fell in love with this book and I read it like my life depended on it.
Set in the 80s, it tells the story of two teenagers Eleanor and Park who sit together on the school bus each day and go from not acknowledging each other to bonding over comics and music and then something deeper.
But life is complicated for Eleanor as the new kid in school. She battles with a poor body image and her red hair, terrible clothes and weight makes her a target for bullies at school. Life at home is just as bad as she has an abusive stepfather and is living in poverty.
Park has a great family but battles with his identity and what it means to be half Korean. He is also the son of a Vietnam vet and struggles to measure up to his dad’s expectations.
I came to this Young Adult fantasy series very late but I’m glad I finally made it. While I jump on the occasional YA reading bandwagon (Twilight, His Dark Materials and The Hunger Games), I consider myself a bit long in the tooth now to read this genre and I don’t really read much fantasy. But maybe a good book is a good book no matter how old you are or who the target audience is. And so when I recently joined the Bookgramming community on Instagram and saw all the love for the A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J Maas, I was intrigued to find out more and went and bought the three book box set.
I consumed all three books in the series–A Court of Thorns and Roses, A Court of Mist and Fury and A Court of Wings and Ruin–in a week. Now I finally get all the hype and all the love for this series. I can see why teens and women alike are filling their Instagram feeds with photos of these books and I’ve happily joined this reading cult.
For the uninitiated, don’t worry, I won’t give any spoilers. But I will say this is a fantasy series about the world of humans being divided by a great wall from the world of faeries after a great war 500 years ago. The main character Feyre is a human huntress who is struggling to feed her starving family (a crippled father and two older sisters). She reminded me of Katniss from TheHunger Games in that she is a bit ragged around the edges, smart and tough. Feyre kills a huge wolf she suspects might be a faerie who has come illegally through the wall. This sets off a chain of events that sees her whisked away over the wall into Prythian, the land of the Fae, as punishment for her crime.
There must be something in the water in Oxford. It was once the literary stomping ground of writers such as J.R.R. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings) and C.S. Lewis (The Chronicles of Narnia series) who formed part of a writer’s group called the Inklings and met regularly at the Eagle and Child pub to discuss their writing. And Lewis Carroll was inspired to write Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland while living in Oxford. Now Philip Pullman, who resides in Oxford, can easily be added to this rich literary heritage as an author who creates such detailed, fantastical worlds.
Philip Pullman has just released The Book of Dust Volume One: La Belle Sauvage (what a mouthful). It is set in an Oxford that’s similar in appearance to the one we know, but is quite different. Pullman’s Oxford still has students, academics, colleges and pretty countryside but there are some magical differences. Every person has an animal companion called a daemon who is an extension of themselves and can talk, think and feel. Children’s daemons can change into all sorts of animals, reflecting their moods and needs, but once maturity hits the daemons settle into a particular animal form. In this alternative world there are also witches and other mythical creatures.
I received a book voucher for Christmas. I haven’t had one of those in years so was excited to go to my local bookstore to browse. I had seen The Fault in Our Stars by John Green on bestseller lists for a while, but never really paid close attention to what it was about. Then I heard that a movie based on the book was coming out this year so decided to give it a read.
My head must have been well and truly buried in the sand these last six months because I had no idea what it was about before starting to read it. I don’t think I even glanced at the blurb on the back before I bought it. So I didn’t realise that the main protagonists were teenagers – or I should say young adults given how wise and mature they came across on the page. Continue reading →
Between the Linesby Jodi Picoult and Samantha van Leer is a book that is all about “what if.” What if the characters of your favourite fairytale were alive inside the book? What if when you close the book they fall out of character and live life as they choose? What if the fairytale prince is desperate to get out of the book and stop performing the same part over and over again? And what if one day he finally makes himself heard by a reader – a teenage girl. Now she must figure out a way to break the prince out of the book.
I have to say it’s an interesting premise. Samantha van Leer is the teenage daughter of bestselling author Jodi Picoult and this book was her idea. I’ve read a few Jodi Picoult books and this one was drastically different. So if you’re a fan of Jodi’s, don’t expect it to be anything like My Sister’s Keeper.
I can’t say that the plot was very believable. I know this was fantasy but I couldn’t get my head around the concept of characters in a book being aware of someone reading them. I’ll be the first to admit that this might be my failing rather than the authors’. But when I chose to suspend disbelief, I found this an enjoyable read. Even though the ending made me scratch my head and go ‘what the?’
The thing I really liked about this book were the illustrations throughout. There were illustrations of princes, dragons, mermaids and cute silhouettes of characters dangling from words on the page. Different coloured font was used when the story was being told from different characters point-of-view. There were three points-of-view: the reader Delilah, the prince Oliver and then you read pages out of the fairytale. I thought that was quite clever.
This book was meant for a Young Adult audience. I think that girls in their younger teens, possibly even pre-teens, would love this book. For me, it didn’t have the depth of other YA novels – the kind that find a dedicated adult audience as well. I found it enjoyable. I appreciated the illustrations and the way the authors wanted to make this book an object of beauty in printed form. But it was a bit of a mixed bag for me. I liked it but can’t say I loved it. I’d be interested to hear other readers’ opinions.
One more thing … if the characters in a book can truly see a reader and possibly break out of character and communicate with the reader, I’m heading straight to my shelf to get Pride and Prejudice. I’m pretty sure that Mr Darcy must be sick to death of brooding over Elizabeth Bennett after all these years. Maybe I can break him out. Now there’s a thought …