milk and honey by Rupi Kaur

This is a very difficult review for me to write, especially as this is a collection of poems that has become a sensation. I always want to support anything that gets people reading, and what I will say now is that this is the first lot of poetry that I have read outside of university reading for a long, long time. Because of this collection I will be going on to try more poetry, and for that I’m grateful. Before getting into it, here’s a quick overview of what milk and honey is.

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milk and honey is a collection of poetry and prose about survival. It is about the experience of violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity. It is split into four chapters, and each chapter serves a different purpose, deals with a different pain, heals a different heartache. milk and honey takes readers through a journey of the most bitter moments in life and finds sweetness in them because there is sweetness everywhere if you are just willing to look.

This poetry collection started out as a social media sensation where Rupi Kaur rose to fame, only to become an international bestseller. It’s easy to see why this book resonates with so many, especially with women as Kaur chronicles her experiences. It is without doubt that the author has poured her heart intro this text, and I went in to read this boosted by all of the hype surrounding it. Split into four sections, Kaur has very short poems and illustrations within each. Very short, to the point where you can probably get through it within a day (as did I). What I will say is that I thought the illustrations added a lot to the text itself, and without them I think my overall review of the poems would have been much lower.

As a whole, this particular poetry collection did not speak to me or resonate, but what I found difficult was that I wasn’t impressed by the poems. Even though you might not enjoy something, you can appreciate and respect it for what it is, yet milk and honey just came across as lazy poetry to me. This, of course, is coming from someone that reads very little poetry, so remember that I am no expert. The best qualification I have is that I’ve participated in a lot of epic poetry modules in the past (yay for Homer and Milton) and within the last year have studied sonnets in depth. So I have some knowledge from an education standing, and again whilst I did not like every sonnet I read, I could see why it was so clever and creative. This is why, when reading milk and honey, I could not understand what it is that brought such attention. Perhaps it’s the stark portrayal of womanhood, and the themes that are dealt with are challenging and explicit, yet I just kept wanting more. Whenever there was a moment, say Rupi Kaur makes a statement about race or femininity or gender, she just leaves it without expanding on it. This was the most frustrating thing for me, as it felt like she wasn’t doing anything new with it all.

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I wanted to scream ‘show don’t tell’ at the author all the way through. She left nothing to the imagination, to the point where it felt like she was demeaning the importance of the reader. Nothing was left to interpretation – almost every poem had a line in italics at the bottom which literally told you what the poem was about. It felt like an author writing a sentence in their book such as ‘he stared at the walls, everything a dark, miserable blue (he is very sad, so everything is dark blue because he is sad, it’s all awful, and sad)’. Ok, maybe that’s a little over-exaggerated, but that is what I felt when reading this. I felt like my role as a reader was diminished, that instead of it being a conversation between writer and reader it was a lecture. No room for interpretation or creativity or thought, just bam this is what I think no you cannot speak this is about me.

The latter section entitled ‘healing’ was by far my favourite, and the poems that I liked the most were from this section. I definitely think that there are good poems within the collection that I did enjoy, but on the whole it didn’t resonate with me. I wanted it to be more complex, less simplistic, encouraging me to find meanings rather than telling me. The messages she tried to get across are brilliant, but I’d prefer it if she found a more lyrical, allusive way of speaking to the reader, rather than just explicitly stating what she wanted the reader to take from each poem.

So, whilst not the same reaction as the majority of the population, this was mine. And I know, I am one person amongst millions and my thoughts are completely my own and should not affect your appreciation of the text. No one should feel like they should/should not like this collection just due to one person’s opinion. If you have read it, or are planning on it, please let me know so we can discuss it – I’d love to hear from people who absolutely adore it, and would love to see it from another angle.

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May Fairyloot Unboxing

It comes as no surprise that book subscription boxes are my vice, and every month if I have saved enough money and can come up with a good enough excuse why I should treat myself (this month’s excuse was exams, in case you were curious), I ordered myself one. Fairyloot has definitely become my go-to for subscription boxes, as not only are they a UK based company, but also for the fact that every single one I’ve had in the past I loved. It also helps that the May theme was ‘Warriors & Legends’, and as a Classics student who is a huge fan of epic and wrote her dissertation on heroes, this was definitely going to be a box for me.

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Featured above is the design for this month, which was also included on a book mark – and, again, I’m a girl who is a big fan of all things dogs so clearly we’re onto a winner already.

The first two items were a tin of green tea named after the box from The Tea Leaf co and an exclusive candle titled ‘Mist’ to fit the theme of the book for this month’s box from In the Wick of Time. Two really lovely items, both of which I’ve already used (and, obviously, loved).

These next two are perhaps my favourite items in the whole box. The first is a pair of Celtic Socks, I believe from Fairyloot themselves, which are as comfortable as they are pretty. Then, as if this box was directly aimed at me, someone who basically tailored their degree into one on Ancient mythology, they included the book World Mythology in Bite-sized Chunks by Mark Daniels. Both items are just so well thought out and definitely work with the theme – and did I mention how much I love it? Yes? Oh.

Then we have a stunning bookmark from Ink and Wonder with a quote from The Lord of the Rings, ‘One ring to rule them all’. Apparently their bookmarks are made from sustainably sourced wood, so how can you not love it? Then there is the brilliant Metallic Feather Pen from Flora’s Wonder Emporium which, as you can probably guess from my reactions to everything else in this box, I absolutely adore.

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And finally, the beautiful book of this month is Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh. Described as a retelling of Mulan set in feudal Japan, I am so onboard and definitely ready to bump it up on my TBR list – not to mention that it’s just such a beautiful book.

And so I come to the not-really-surprising conclusion that this box was everything I wanted and more, so I would highly recommend to any fantasy booklovers who are interested in trying out a subscription box to look into Fairyloot. Their boxes usually run out pretty quickly every month, so definitely keep an eye out for when they next go on sale as I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

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(Still trying to improve my book-taking photos, and was actually pretty proud of how this turned out. You can however see that the book is balancing on something else, which I’m unashamed to admit is a copy of A Conjuring of Light by V.E Schwab because, honestly, there’s nothing stronger or more stable than that.)

The Power by Naomi Alderman

Most of my comments about this book stem from a discussion we had in a book club meeting last week – something which I want to talk of in itself as it’s such a great experience, but will do that in it’s own post. One thing the group definitely helped with was developing my thoughts and feelings about this specific book, and hearing the varied responses from everyone.

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In The Power the world is a recognisable place: there’s a rich Nigerian kid who larks around the family pool; a foster girl whose religious parents hide their true nature; a local American politician; a tough London girl from a tricky family. But something vital has changed, causing their lives to converge with devastating effect. Teenage girls now have immense physical power – they can cause agonising pain and even death. And, with this small twist of nature, the world changes utterly.

The Power is a very, very interesting book to read. Looking at a reversal in the ‘power dynamic’ between genders, it explores what would happen if teenage girls everywhere woke up one day with immense physical power and how it would change our world. Overall, I gave this book 3.5 stars because, looking back, it is a very clever book and what the author was trying to achieve was indeed very good. It explored several various issues and topics and dealt with most of them well, but there are definitely some areas in which it lacks. This discussion I will keep as spoiler free as possible for those of you wishing to read it in the future.

First off, there are four main characters we follow: a man called Tunde from Nigeria who chooses a career in journalism to document the changes in the world, a foster girl called Allie whose religious parents abuse her, a local American politician who wishes to advance in her career, and a girl from London who belongs to a family on the wrong side of the law. We follow these characters and watch as each of them are changed and affected by this phenomenon. It turns out that, whilst initially being interested in all of them, I ended up only really caring about the narrative of one towards the end. Whilst it depends on what interests you, I personally struggled to keep interested in certain character plot developments.

The opening and first third of this book is brilliant, and I devoured it rather quickly. It’s dealt with very well, from initial reactions that really don’t surprise you (the overwhelming response from some of the male population to section off these girls from the rest of society) to the small details of how boys are told not to be out too late or go out on their own. This initial section is what I found really gripping, and it is very striking in how society is presented – mainly due to the fact that the usual, commonplace phrases that girls hear all the time are switched to boys.

Yet, I find that I kept thinking – in the narratives that followed – that this book would work far better as a collection of short stories. It felt like the author was taking on far too much, and it would be better to have more focused individual stories, as there are moments when some things are mentioned in passing to the point of being worryingly underdeveloped. A few of these instances was brought up in our discussion, and one that I want to mention is the discussion on sexuality – or lack of. There is a character within the novel whose power is noted to be ‘defective’, and it just so happens that she is also mentioned to be one of the few queer characters. It also just so happens that, for a time, she dates a boy who has a chromosome deformity, which grants him the use of this power. On top of that, they meet online in a group for delinquents and, in it’s name, it uses two derogatory words that were closely associated with the gay community. Unfortunately, comments on people’s sexuality are not developed, which leaves us with evidence for anti-LGBTQ thought. For the only character who is said to be specifically queer to be ‘defective’ and not develop that sentiment sets a very dangerous precedent, and one that we overall could not support without further knowledge of the author’s intentions.

Again, without spoilers, the ending of the novel was hit and miss with us all – the general consensus being one of bewilderment and confusion. The final pages demonstrate exactly what the author is trying to do, and her final lines are brilliant, and it was those final few pages that bumped up my rating as it is a very clever idea, but perhaps one that is just not executed as well as you might want it to be.

There are a few other downfalls of the book – plenty of stereotypes of classes and accents, not to mention a main character who is said to be Nigerian at one stage but then there is no other mention of his background or culture, like he is a completely blank slate before the novel begins, and it feels as if the author had checklist with ‘black character’ on it. Besides these details, which really only stand out when you finish the book and discuss it in full detail with others, this is a very interesting and important book to read. Whilst I’m sure the author was trying to write a sort of feminist dystopian, much like the Handmaid’s Tale, it doesn’t quite come up to the expectation I held. There is also a worrying notion that this book could be used to support the argument for and against feminism, which I am 99.9% sure was not the author’s intention.

So really I leave it up to you to decide whether or not this book is one that you like. Again, overall, I did enjoy this book and would encourage others to read it – one thing’s for sure: you’ll have something to say about it. Whilst my review doesn’t sound particularly enticing, I do stress that I did end up giving it 3.5 stars, 4 on Goodreads, and there are more than plenty of people who absolutely loved this book. As always, these opinions are my own and they by no means dictate what you will or will not feel – and I’d love to hear what you think about this striking Baileys Prize nominee.

Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor

We all know I’m a fan of a pretty book, but Strange the Dreamer was at a whole other level on the scale of book porn. My specific edition is a gorgeous hardcover with these beautiful illustrations on the title page, signed, and has blue-sprayed edges. And to top it all off? It was a fantastic book as well.

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photo credit to my own instagram (plug plug) as I’m usually terrible at taking pretty book photos

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

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I knew almost nothing before going into this book, but had seen a lot of hype about it on social media. All I knew was that it was a beautiful book that was fantasy, so imagine my sheer delight at finding it was about gods, goddesses, magic, and a protagonist who is a hardcore bookworm. I imagine most of us who like to think themselves bookaholics and writers would proudly accept the epithet of ‘the dreamer’, so to have your main hero be a lover of books and fairy tales? A joy to read.

‘His nose was broken by a falling volume of fairy tales on the first day of the job, and that, they said, told you everything you needed to know about strange Lazlo Strange:head in the clouds, world of his own, fairy tales and fancy’ 

High fantasy at its best, this is a book that I just didn’t really expect. I’ve not had the pleasure of reading Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, but it’s definitely on my TBR list now. Her writing flows so beautifully, and her descriptions are inspiring, poetic, and, without doubt, pretty darn magical. I didn’t expect to get invested so quickly, and as a wannabe fantasy writer myself I kept on thinking “How can this be so good?”. I kept on having to put it down and sigh, wondering why I even allow myself to fantasise about writing something myself, but then had to pick the book back up again because I really needed to know what happens.

A great start to a new series, and although there was some serious world-building that Taylor included, I can only hope she was just laying the foundations of what is to come as there is so much more of that world that needs exploring. It’s the kind of book that completely transports you into a different world and you soon forget that you’re reading, devouring word after word until you’re on the edge of your seat because of the drama going on. There were several plot points and ‘twists’ that I personally found slightly predictable, but the only reason they were predictable was because the author gave you the hints to reach that conclusion only moments before the other characters did.

Enjoyable, fun, endearing characters, and a fantastic, fantasy tale that will leave you ready to read the sequel as soon as you finish it – and once you do, you can join the rest of us in the waiting game, which I’m sure will be the best kind of agony.

Asking For It by Louise O’Neill

I’m part of a Feminist Book Club, and for next month we’re reading Asking For It by Louise O’Neill, a book that I had heard of briefly but didn’t know much about. Originally classed as YA, often today you’ll find this book among adult fiction and, honestly, even at 20 I found this book so difficult to read in terms of the themes and what happens in the book. Trigger warning for this discussion, as this book deals with rape, bullying, and suicide.

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In a small town where everyone knows everyone, Emma O’Donovan is different. She is the special one – beautiful, popular, powerful. And she works hard to keep it that way. 

Until that night . . . 

Now, she’s an embarrassment. Now, she’s just a slut. Now, she is nothing.

And those pictures – those pictures that everyone has seen – mean she can never forget. 

BOOK OF THE YEAR AT THE IRISH BOOK AWARDS 2015. The award-winning, bestselling novel about the life-shattering impact of sexual assault, rape and how victims are treated.

This first part of the review is spoiler-free, and I’ll indicate when I do go into spoiler territory. To start with, this book is all about a girl from a small town in Ireland who is gang raped after drinking and taking drugs, something that she has no memory of – only pictures that the boys took of her that were uploaded to social media.

The first half of this book leads up to this event, and whilst you go in knowing what will happen at the halfway mark, you are by no means ready for what will happen. Our protagonist, Emma O’Donovan, is not a character that you will like. Part of the popular crowd at school, she is mean, vindictive, spiteful, and all-in-all a horrible person, and it is this that makes this book even worse than you can imagine. Because, as a reader, you don’t like her. But you’re with her as she goes through this traumatic event and want to fight this battle for her as people turn on her, yet part of you still remembers how awful of a person she is. It’s like a huge slap to the face, a constant reminder that it doesn’t matter who she is or what she’s done – no one deserves to be so violently assaulted, and no one ever is asking for it.

We meet Emma and her so-called ‘friends’ in the first half, hanging out, going to parties, and living their lives. Emma is known for her beauty and she prides herself on that, judging those around her by their looks. She’s a bully, and uncaring towards everyone including her friends, only interested in someone if they can give her an advantage in some way. She’s loved by her family, in some kind of way, but they too value her looks and how she compares to others – they think of her as a ‘good girl’, one who never drinks or does drugs or has sex.

When reading the scene leading up to the rape, I had to put this book down to take a breather. I would definitely recommend making sure you’re in the right frame of mind to take on this book and especially would advise taking breaks, because I personally could not take it in all in one go. The aftermath of the assault is even worse, but you join Emma a year afterwards. That is as much as I will say in terms of plot for this non-spoiler section.

It’s gutting, this piece of fiction, mainly because you know that although it’s fictional and set in a fictional town, this is happening to girls – and boys – every day. You know it’s based on real events, and as much as it sickens you, there are still people who think ‘she was asking for it’. Even today, you go on the comment sections to awful news stories about people getting raped, and you’ll  have some people still saying that the rape victim is partly to blame, that they shouldn’t have been wearing such short skirts, that they shouldn’t have been drinking, that really they’re making themselves more vulnerable and ‘what do they expect to happen?’ And these people genuinely believe what they’re saying, as if the victim is at fault and is partly to blame. Because we live in a society where rape still isn’t as black and white as it should be. A woman gets mugged and the mugger is punished. A woman gets raped and she’s asked what she was wearing. One very poignant line that got to me in this book was the comment that the rapists are innocent until proven guilty, the victim guilty until proven innocent.

This book is so important, and should be read by everyone. Rape culture is something that needs to be addressed more, especially in how we present it. We should be telling people not to rape and punishing them if they do, not telling people how not to get raped. When you look at the most typical rape cases, the victim is normally wearing something that isn’t revealing, and often it’s by someone that they know. It baffles me that we’re still trying to change these ideas people have about rape. This book, I hope, will help to change that.

*Spoilers ahead*

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One thing this book does is let you see Emma go back to school for the next days after the rape, and then we lose all contact until a year later to see the aftermath. We’re not with her for the suicide attempts, we’re not with her for the abuse she gets, we’re not with her when she starts going to therapy, we’re not with her when her parents abandon her in almost every way – so when we finally do get back, it feels like there is no hope. It feels like, for a reader, there is literally nothing to be done. All we know is that Emma, in an effort to try and make it all ‘go away’, originally played it off as nothing and then only later agreed to say it was rape. You want to burst into this book and sit her down, much like her brother and therapist, and tell her that she is not at fault. Tell her that she is not the reason she was raped. Tell her that she should demand justice. Tell her to fight.

Yet I speak from a privileged background. I have a loving supportive network of friends and family, all who would stand by me and, most importantly, believe me if I told them I had been assaulted. It’s easy to say that I would fight for justice when I haven’t been assaulted, so it’s killing to watch someone – character or not – go through such agony only to fall. What makes it worse is that Emma recognises that when she was unconscious, those four boys assaulting her was rape, but before – when she has sex with Paul and is slightly drunk, when she doesn’t want to have sex and he ignores her – she doesn’t classify as rape.

The fact that her friend/rival Jamie was raped a year before the start of this book makes you feel even more inclined to dislike Emma. We know that Emma was the one to tell her not to say anything, and it’s almost, almost, understandable when Jamie turns on Emma.

The fact that this book ends with Emma telling her family that she wants to retract her statement, that she doesn’t want to go through with it, almost had me in tears. And when her mother and father smile at her afterwards, like they’re proud as if she won’t be the ‘raped girl’ anymore? Nearly destroyed me. Her own mother says the line ‘they’re good boys really. This all just got out of hand’.

This book is utterly heart-wrenching, gutting, soul-destroying, and at the same time exactly as it should be. You’ll find so many discussions about this book and the subject matter, and I for one would highly recommend listening to ‘The Banging Book Club’ podcast. They cover this book in their first episode, and it’s great to listen to other people discussing this challenging book.

Magic Monday: Caraval, The Night Circus, and The Crown’s Game

I recently finished Caraval by Stephanie Garber, and since finishing I keep describing it by relating to other books – in particular, The Night Circus and The Crown’s Game, the first of which I’ve reviewed previously. The clear correlation between all of them is magic, but with the added element of spectacle and ties to the circus. Clearly something works with the format, and instead of doing a standard review for Caraval I’d rather look at all three books and see what it is about their magic and setting that makes them great reads.

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So let’s look at a brief overview of each book, starting off with one of my all-time favourites The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. This enchanting book is based on a circus which arrives with no warning, opening at sunset and closing at dawn. The circus is no ordinary one however, filled with secret magic and mystery. In case any of you haven’t read it and don’t want too many spoilers, I’ll be brief in saying that there is another huge plot line in the book which follows two people, both with their own kind of ‘magic’, who must compete against one another. There’s love, there’s adventure, there’s beautiful descriptions and imagery, and of course a ton of magic. You read this book for the ‘aesthetic’ I think. You read it for those incredible descriptions of the various spectacles at the circus, for the beautiful imagination the author has and the world she weaves. This book definitely stands out as an all time favourite just because of it – and after all, circus’ are meant to enrapture you.

The next book that I read out of the three was The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye, which had me completely hooked for days on end. The heart of this story follows that of Vika and Nikolai, both somehow born with magic that should only be granted to one. The Russian tsar needs an enchanter at his side, and so the two compete for the position in what is known as ‘The Crown’s Game’, a magic duel to the death that spans across several days where each enchanter must create some kind of illusion or spectacle, putting on a show for their large audience. There’s incredible imagination, brilliant characters that make you want to jump straight into the pages with them, and once again brilliant magic. This one left me with a serious book hangover that I’m still feeling today.

And finally, we have Caraval by Stephanie Garber which I finished in just a few days, reading late into the night to finish it. We meet two sisters, Scarlett and Tella, who are desperate to escape out from under their father’s thumb and go to the mysterious Caraval, a legendary game where the audience participates in the show. Tella manages to get Scarlett to the grand location of the game, but is soon taken by the master organiser Legend – if Scarlett wants her sister back, she has to find her in order to win the game. Fast plot, a dark element, a love interest and plenty of twists to finish it all off, and once again, you got it, magic.

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So at the centre of all of these books, there is that element of competition. With NC and CG, two individuals are competing against each other with magical duels, whereas Caraval is about a competition with many participants. Something about this plot line adds a layer of excitement and anticipation, but also gives the novels a structure that is easy enough to follow. Yet in my reading experience of all of them, the pacing was very very different. NC was like a slow-burning candle, with the same intensity imagination and awe throughout, but one that you take your time with to let it all soak in. CG and Caraval however were like quick bursts of flame, ones that I had to finish as soon as possible before the fire went out. I think out of all of them, I enjoyed CG the most in terms of the actual reading of it, finishing it in a few days and absolutely loving it. For long term however, NC is one that I always think back to just because of it’s amazing descriptions and I always use it as an example of how to create a beautiful book which although has a great plot, it has a slow pace which works for it. Comparing CG and Caraval, both of which are different to NC as they are part of a series, I feel far more inclined to read the sequel of CG because I still think about that ending that had me screaming along with my adoration of the characters.

Which brings me to my next point: characters. It seems each book sacrifices something out of pacing, characters, and world. NC of course has the best world out of all of them but slow pacing, CG has the best characters with a less imaginative world, and Caraval doesn’t have the best character development. CG for sure has the best balance between the three, as it is a fantasy novel based on Russia and the Ottoman empire, imagining if magic was present in the time. Caraval, although having brilliant pacing and a great setting, didn’t have the characters to back it up. It starts off great – we have two sisters, a ruthless father, and a charming sailor. Yet there isn’t much development, and starts off as slightly stereotypical; one sister is the responsible ‘boring’ one who just wants to save her sister, whereas the other is more adventurous, flirtatious and reckless. A pretty classic format that the author doesn’t really try to deviate from until the very end, so hopefully that means the sequel will have some serious character development. I’ll admit, the ending puts a new spin to what has happened throughout the book which adds to the overall effect, but I wish there had been something more sooner.

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I gave all books 4 stars and above, as let’s face it: the competitive magic format just works. I loved all three and each of them has shown me different ways a great book can be – and all three have stunning covers. NC with it’s great colour way and character detail, CG with its dramatic crown, and Caraval with it’s secretive design underneath the dust jacket, of which there are four different designs that you can get. I’d recommend them all to anyone who is a fan or who wants to try a new fantasy, depending on what you love. For fast pace, magical fun with plenty of twists, go with Caraval. For a slower and more imaginative read, with stunning descriptions and characters that will take your heart, go with Night Circus. And finally, for a plot that will make you scream at the ending and and characters that make you lose your mind, go with The Crown’s Game.

 

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

I like new ways to read – and for me, that list was basically narrowed down to reading on a kindle, listening to an audiobook, and reading novellas/short stories. Basically, I liked finding new ways of reading to break up the long periods of reading large physical books. Kindle meant that I could download books cheaply and travel with many books at the same time without weighing down the plane. Audiobooks meant that I could listen whilst walking, or just before going to bed but giving my eyes a rest. Novellas and short stories let me feel accomplished for having finished reading something in its entirety, but in a remarkably shorter time period, so I could pick up things I may not like just to try and not feel indebted to give up hours and hours of my life.

Illuminae became one of these ‘new ways to read’. A sci-fi read composed of different documents, like records, transcripts of conversations, summaries of footage seen, and so much more. This book was so unexpected for me, and I was absolutely hooked from the very first page.

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This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

I lifted the above blurb from Goodreads because, honestly, their description makes this book sound so much better than some other retailers. I was at first hesitant to pick up this book, having had more disappointments from the YA genre than anything else recently, but I am so glad that I did decide to give it a chance. It has the combination of the classic YA – teenagers, love, angst, drama beyond belief – but it was in this brilliant sci-fi setting with perfectly constructed characters that shone through the format of reports and interviews, a fantastic plot, and just so much that I can’t even say.

Basically, words fail me when it comes to this book.

There is brilliant wit and humour throughout the book, and the opening pages won me over in a heartbeat. To summarise without spoiling, Kady and Ezra are interviewed about their experience of their planet being attacked and how they escaped. Yet these are two teenagers, who are more caught up with their own drama to really give a damn about the official interviewers, and just emanate the typical teenage ‘leave me the hell alone’ vibe. I loved it.

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Once you get into the story, you barely notice the format and just enjoy the narrative. It was surprisingly not distracting to switch from one format to the next, and once the plot starting travelling at warp speed, nothing was going to stop me from devouring this book. I don’t want to say too much about the plot, but I will highlight from the blurb that there is a mysterious plague that is attacking the ships, there is dissent amongst the people in charge, and the AI they depend on can’t be trusted. And that ending? Those final chapters? I was crying, feeling sick, generally feeling traumatised, and when it finally ended I had to lie down for a while. Then I was back online to find out when the sequel was out.

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Five stars without doubt. This was my perfect kind of book, and I’m so happy that I gave it a shot. Don’t let the YA attachment to this book put you off, because it is such great fun – who cares if it’s about teenagers? Reading is about enjoying the experience, and nobody – I repeat nobody – can tell you what you can or can’t read.

Take that, haters.

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