Book Review: All The Ugly And Wonderful Things

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5star

Title: All The Ugly And Wonderful Things

Author: Bryn Greenwood

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Series? No

Goodreads

Book Depository // Amazon // Booktopia


All The Ugly and Wonderful Things is a book that hooks you in, creeps under your skin, and refuses to let go. Written with a poetic and quiet intensity, the characters of this novel will haunt your thoughts long after the last pages are turned. The book effortlessly provokes a reaction: whether it’s one of disgust or of sympathy. Yet, the emotions never feel manufactured or disingenuous despite the controversial nature of the book’s themes.

“I liked learning things. How numbers worked together to explain the stars. How molecules made the world. All the ugly and wonderful things people had done in the last two thousand years.”

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“That’s not the only thing love means. You just got your mind in the gutter.”

Wavy is a girl who grew up without love, told by her own mother that she’s dirty and repulsive. At the beginning of the book, we meet Wavy at the tender age of five, already irreversibly damaged by her psychological and physical abuse. She does not speak, does not allow people to touch her, and is physically unable to eat in front of others. As expected, Wavy has an inherent distrust for the adults she encounters – until she meets Kellen. Kellen, despite being a con man and labelled a ‘fat slob’, is the exception. He’s able to get through her walls and connect with Wavy in a way even her younger brother and grandmother (the other two significant people in Wavy’s life) could not.

“Odd couple that they were, they had a real connection. Then he tugged her boot off and kissed the bottom of her bare foot. I could see him doing that kind of thing to his own kid, but she wasn’t. She was somebody else’s little girl.”

The plot is classic lonely girl meets lonely boy – yet it’s turned on its head by the huge age gap between the two characters. Wavy meets 24 years-old Kellen when she is just 8 years-old.  It’s a gap that seems morally unbreakable, although Kellen signifies safety and belonging to Wavy, two concepts that were completely alien to both of them prior to their meeting. Their relationship is a way for them to find their own comfort and identity in the midst of their awful world. Yet, physically, Wavy and Kellen could not be more mismatched: the text reminds us time and again of Wavy’s waif-like appearance, in contrast to Kellen’s huge form and beer belly. Wavy and Kellen’s bond is no fairy tale romance– it’s messy, fraught with emotional baggage and trauma from their environment.

This book is a remarkable example of the classic writing advice: ‘show, don’t tell’. The reader is never left with a biased viewpoint of our protagonists. Instead, we view Wavy and Kellen’s relationship from a multitude of characters – some recurring, some present for barely half a chapter. The book never presume to tell its audience how to feel about the relationship between Wavy and Kellen. I was allowed to be disturbed as much as I was allowed to be moved. To the very end, I still cannot condone all of Kellen’s actions, both he and Wavy remains extremely flawed. There’s no glorifying of tragedy or romanticising of any circumstances. Bryn Greenwood’s writing unflinchingly explores the ugly places, whether it’s base desires or unpleasant physical descriptors. It’s uncomfortable, it’s confronting, and it will make you question your own moral compass and societal values a thousand times over.

“You can look up the word keening in the dictionary, but you don’t know what it means until you hear somebody having her heart ripped out.”

I can’t quite believe this is Bryn Greenwood’s debut novel, her writing is polished yet evocative. Despite the limited vocabulary of some of her point of view characters, she manages to write some achingly beautiful paragraphs – which just goes to show that SAT words are not everything. The book is captivating, it absorbed and wholly absorbed me until the very end. Although I have only read this one book, I can already tell her stuff will go onto my auto-buy list because this sort of writing is what I live for.

As promised by the title of the novel, the story within is features events that will trigger revulsion – but not necessarily in the manner you would expect. Personally, it was the society around Wavy and Kellen that made me feel the most disgust. It’s a novel completely removed from the white fence, suburban homes – hence, it’s a story that’s completely distant from my own experiences. Its content are at once brutal and beautiful, and it will leave me reflecting and conflicted on the nature of humanity for a long while.

This book does come with a long list of triggers, so please note these before deciding whether you want to read it. Trigger Warnings: child abuse, domestic abuse, implied sexual abuse, drug use, alcoholism, eating disorder.


I am very curious on the thoughts everyone will have upon completing this book, so if you have read it, please come discuss it with me below!

Book Review: Fudoki by Kij Johnson

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Title: Fudoki

Author: Kij Johnson

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Series? No.

Goodreads

Book Depository // Amazon 


I was really hesitant about purchasing a physical book, I don’t like the cover and I’m shallow like that. However, the Kindle e-copy costed $20AUD, so I conceded and purchased the hard copy instead. Fortunately, it turned out to be one of my best purchasing decision of this year, because the content of this book is extraordinary in its ability to weave Japanese history with magic. I have never read a book quite like it, at least not in English – and I am eager to go back and explore more of Kij Johnson’s other novels.

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The book is heavily inspired by Japan’s Heian era, specifically by the classic Tales of Genji, and the Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon. Similar to the authors of these archaic text, our narrator is a noblewoman, sequestered behind the gilded screens of her palace for all her life.Read More »

Book Review: Nevernight & Recap Of The Melbourne Book Launch

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4-star

Title: Nevernight

Author: Jay Kristoff

Series? Yes. 1 of 3.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Goodreads

Book Depository // Amazon // Dymocks // Booktopia


Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Harper Voyager Australia in exchange for an honest review.

I posted a list of ‘5 Reasons You Should Preorder Nevernight’ a couple of months back, so it should come as no surprise that I absolutely adored the book. Nevernight has just the right blend of nostalgia and fresh, original elements. It dares to go dark places, but is also never afraid to poke fun at itself and its genre, making it one of the best fantasy I’ve read this year.

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The book starts off with a bang, seamlessly mixing sex and death in a memorable opening sequence. It’s a hint of things to come, as Nevernight is filled to the brim with both lust and love, violence and despair, and ceaseless heartstopping action. Within the book itself, Jay Kristoff also employs a myriad of different story telling techniques, from occasional changes in point of views and narration, to the use of those clever little footnotes. Like the story, the craft employed within this book is unpredictable and ever-changing. Despite employing all of these narrative techniques, the book never becomes confusing, and the narrative voice is usually a perfect fit for a the scene at hand.Read More »

Book Review: Radiance

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4-star

Title: Radiance

Author: Catherynne M. Valente

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Series? No.

Goodreads

Book Depository / Booktopia / Dymocks


Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Hachette Australia in exchange for an honest review.

I know you’ve heard it before, but I love Catherynne Valente and would gladly devour anything she writes, be it short stories, full-length novels, or daily tweets. I love the way she blends existing myth and folklore to construct sublime new worlds. With Radiance, she brings old Hollywood glamour and the age of silent film into celestial space. The result is an enchanting and dream-like mystery spanning across multiple genres.

“She is dead. Almost certainly dead. Nearly conclusively dead.
She is, at the very least, not answering her telephone.”

Radiance

Read More »

Book Review: The Dead House

The Dead House

4-star

Title: The Dead House

Author: Dawn Kurtagich

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Series? No.

Goodreads

Book Depository


In the name of getting into the mood for Halloween, I went on a little horror movie and horror books binge last week. Note to self: you’re too much of a chicken to ever attempt this again. I found The Dead House incredibly riveting and engaging – I also adored the epistolary nature of the novel!

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Creative Formatting!

I fancy myself an amateur designer, so I get all excited when I see books that are told through special formatting. At times, this can come across as a little bit gimmicky (*cough Illuminae, I am having some doubts about you*) – I though The Dead House benefited from this form of narration.  We got a mixture of diary entries, video logs, interviews, and police files that patched together a story.  The missing information and the non-linear style of the writing truly elevated what would have otherwise been a mediocre plotline.

It also helped that the writing was stunning in the way it portrayed Kaitlyn/Carly’s slow descent into madness.  The prose was always dark, atmospheric and unpredictable. I didn’t even mind a couple of pages where a single word was just repeated incessantly! In fact, I have a couple of graphics in this post that was inspired by the unique way this story was told.

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Kaitlyn & Her Unreliable Narration

“They think I don’t exist . . . they think I’m like a disease. I’m infecting Carly.”

The main character of this book is Carly Johnson, the primary suspect in the burning of Elmbridge high school in what became known as The Johnson Incident. Carly is referred to by all the reports and professional personnels by her legal name – but the star of the show is actually Kaitlyn, her nocturnal alter ego.

Carly/Kaitlyn was diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, with Carly representing all that is warm and light – while Kaitlyn lives on in the darkness and exhibits deviant characteristics. Despite her instability and depedence on her diurnal alter – I found Kaitlyn a very easy protagonist to root for. I loved that as a reader, we had to constantly second guess all the information she is giving us. There’s never a clear answer on whether the voices that haunts her are supernatural or a product of a decaying mind. I also enjoyed the fact that the authority such as Kaitlyn’s psychiatrist do not have all the answers, and may also be implicated in the bigger mystery.

The author definitely excelled in painting a teenage girl who’s looking for acceptance and yet only finding madness. I was kept guessing throughout the book, which is ironic, as I saw the final plot twist from a mile away.

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It’s Creeptastic!

“Hang up.”
“But why? What is it?”
“I can hear someone breathing on the line”

Finally, the book is definitely delivers the scares – which is more than I can ask of it.  While I am very susceptible for TV/Cinematic horror, I find myself a bit more immune to books (perhaps because I admittedly don’t have an active visual imagination, for shame!) However, I still found myself double checking the mirrors and turning on all the lights while reading this book. More than that, the book also made me ponder about the mental illness that Kaitlyn may suffer from – and whether she was mistreated all along. This particular line of thought is even more chilling than any supernatural happenstance.


Overall, I highly recommend this unique book, especially with the spooky season looming near!  If you’ve read it, please share with me your thoughts and let me know whether you were scared?

Book Review: The Accident Season

The Accident Season

5star

Title:  The Accident Season

Author:  Moira Fowley-Doyle

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Series? No

Goodreads

Book Depository


The Accident Season was a bit of a surprise for me, I didn’t expect it to bowl me over and delight me in EVERY way possible. I eagerly read every beautiful, haunting sentence. I craved its slight dark and off-kilter spin on reality. I laughed, cried, and loved along with all of the main characters. It’s a story about a family curse, with a big fat highlight on the family, identity, and the memories which define us.
Review-The-Accident-Season

It’s the accident season, the same time every year. Bones break, skin tears, bruises bloom.

Every October, Cara and the rest of her family suffers through the inexplicable accident season. Around every corner, tragedies of every size awaits them: from the little, such as a landslide of hardbacks (being a book worm is, as you are all aware, a deceptively dangerous hobby) – to the large, such as the passing of their beloved uncle, Seth. This year, Cara also discovers that Elsie, a childhood friend she has lost touch with, lurks in the background of all her photos. The mystery that is the Accident Season and Elsie seem intrinsically linked, and this book follow our protagonist as they unravel the truth.Read More »

Book Review: Half A World

4-star

Title: Half  A World

Author:  Joe Abercrombie

Series?  Yes, 2 of 3

Rating: 4.5/5

Goodreads

Book Depository


Note:  Contains spoilers for Half A King.

I loved Half A King so I was so excited to come plunging back into The Shattered Sea series.  Though the story in this book was driven by different characters, I still found the cast utterly charming in all their double-crossing and murderous glory.

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1. Awesome Female Characters

Sometimes a girl is touched by Mother War, and put among the boys in the training square, and taught to fight.

One of the things I really enjoyed about Half A King was its treatment of female characters.  The book featured ladies in position of political power, ladies who were physically strong, ladies who were mentally strong, ladies who never took a backseat to the dudes – despite the story being narrated by a male protagonist.  Half The World go one step beyond that to give us more than half a book narrated by Thorn, a veritable badass.

Now, there are many a ‘warrior princess’ type floating around in fictional universe, but Thorn is different from them all in how unabashedly crude and vicious she is. Gone are the beautiful heroine who saves the day while conquering hearts all across the land, all the while leaving not a strand of hair out of place.  Thorn will fight dirty, she will curse and kill, she will get stabbed in the cheek, all to get revel in the glory of battle.Read More »

Book Review: Uprooted

5star

Title:Uprooted

Author: Naomi Novik

Rating: 4.5/5

Series? No

Goodreads

Book Depository


Book Review, Read at Midnight

Uprooted is a modern take on a classic coming-of-age fantasy, the tone reminds me of all of my old favourites: Juliet Marillier, Robin McKinley, Diana Wynne Jones.  It also reminds me of Naomi Novik’s previous series: the wildly entertaining Temeraire.  This time, the dragon in the story isn’t the adorably blunt Chinese Celestial Temeraire, but a (mostly!) human man.  The focus of the tale is on Agniezka (henceforth referred to as Nieshka, I can’t spell her name, ok), her friendship with Kasia, her tumultuous relationship with Dragon and magic, and her struggle with the Wood.

Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley… They talk as though we were doing human sacrifices, and he were a real dragon.  Of course, that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years.  He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.

Oh, this book has one of the best opening paragraph ever, I knew I had to own it as soon as I read the free sample on Barnes & Noble.  Go on, click the link, go buy it, I’ll still be here waiting.  Anyway, the Dragon takes these girls, then return them with a handsome fortune ten years later.  The girls never choose to linger in the village, they set abroad almost immediately.  Nieshka was born a Dragon-girl, but everyone knew that the Dragon will undoubtedly choose her best friend: bright, beautiful, brave Kasia.  However, expectactions are quickly turned on its head when the Dragon whisks Nieshka to his tower instead.

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Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes

An Ember in the Ashes, Sabaa Tahir, Young Adult Book

4-star

Title:  An Ember in the Ashes

Author:  Sabaa Tahir

Ratings: 4.5/5 stars

Goodreads

Book Depository


Book Review, Read at Midnight

In this Roman-inspired setting, the empire is ruled by the Martials, a group of brutal and merciless warriors.  The Scholars live oppressed lives and are often enslaved, Laia is one such Scholar.  When her brother is enslaved, she is forced to infiltrate Blackcliff Academy, an institute that churns out the empire’s most feared human weapons: The Masks.  Elias is the academy’s best student, but he’s also having second thoughts about this dark path. Just as he’s planning to leave the Academy, he’s forced to enter a dangerous contest to become the next Emperor.

“The field of battle is my temple. The swordpoint is my priest. The dance of death is my prayer. The killing blow is my release.”

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