Hi all, it’s Sabrina! I was in a massive reading slump at the beginning of April, but I’m happy to say I’ve since overcome it and finished reading four books. This post is me chatting a bit about those four books and the conflicts they caused in me – though I suppose “musings” or “contemplations” would be more apt words. Don’t worry, they’re not too serious, and there will be no spoilers for the mentioned books. Basically, here’s four bits of writing that I would describe as half mini review, half unnecessary raving. Please enjoy 😛
“Do I actually like sad, reflective books?”
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
I have talked previously about how I find it difficult to rate books that are slow, reflective and sad, because though those elements often have a profound effect on me, I will most likely appreciate but not enjoy that experience. The same can be said for The Remains of the Day with one important distinction – I did enjoy the experience of reading this book.
It follows a butler called Stevens as he goes on a road trip and reflects on his life and career in the service of Lord Darlington. I am a little embarrassed to admit that this book reminded me of watching Downton Abbey with my sister and that a decent amount of my enjoyment of it came from that aspect – not to say that it’s a bad tv show (it’s not), only that I am comparing two very different things here. I did however also love a lot more about the book such as the musings on dignity and Stevens’ quaint encounters along his journey.
Possibly my favourite thing though, was the ways, big and small, that the story showed Stevens to be an unreliable narrator, and how what was omitted from his tales was sometimes just as important as what was included. Connecting the dots between different parts of his recollections was not only intriguing because of the solutions to various little mysteries, but because there was often great emotional impact.
I found myself wondering often during this book why, in this case, I was enjoying this reflective style of narration and the sad nature of the story more than any other sad, reflective book I’ve read. I’ve concluded that it must have been a lucky case of the right book at the right time! Hopefully I’ll watch the movie soon too, as I’ve discovered it’s on Netflix.
“I might be just a bit too close to this.”
Stardust by Neil Gaiman
I’ve mentioned this before a couple of times at least, but Stardust (2007) is quite possibly my favourite movie of all time – it’s fun, action-packed and adventurous, with an enemies-to-lovers romance (it’s definitely not the least problematic thing in the world, but I like it) and a bunch of connecting plot threads. I discovered years after having watched the movie is that it’s based on a book, and I immediately wanted to read it. Unfortunately my library only had it in audiobook format, and that was not my preferred reading method at the time (let’s be honest, it’s still not) – especially as it was on CDs. I did attempt to get through the book this way and even broke out my family’s old walkman, but I was unsuccessful and honestly, looking back, I don’t think I got past the first chapter. Fast forward to a few weeks ago, and this time when I checked the library (for what was probably the ten millionth time over the past few years) I found that they had finally obtained a physical copy of the book.
Anyway, all this is to say that I’m very attached to this story and I was looking forward to reading the book for a long time, leading to some high expectations. It soon became apparent to me though, that I might just be a bit too close to the story to properly appreciate the book, especially considering all its differences from the movie.
Both the book and the movie follow a boy who sets off on an adventure to find a fallen star and bring it back to win the love of Victoria, a young woman he is infatuated with. They also both include a race for the power of Stormhold and a trio of old witches, however those aspects are merely similar to each other, not the same. Often I would find myself scrunching my face in distaste, and I’d have to ask myself – do I truly not like this, or is it just because it’s different? Sometimes, I genuinely did not like a certain aspect of the story and other times, I couldn’t actually tell.
This was very apparent when it came to changes in the plot, particularly towards the end of the story. Without spoiling anything, I found the ending to the movie to be very exciting whereas the ending to the book was a bit anticlimactic. I have to admit I thought some interesting choices were made there, but they did lead to a more boring and melancholy ending – and even in my wording there, you can see that I could not stop comparing the book to the film. Had I not watched the movie first, would I have had a greater appreciation for the ending, or even the book as a whole? I have no idea.
I also have to question whether I would have liked the characters in the book if I didn’t already have a fondness for them because of the movie – so it goes both ways. The book was much more plot and writing style focused, in my opinion – they were very reminiscent of fairytales, though the story itself had a more adult edge to it. Sadly, because of this different focus, I don’t think the characters were really fleshed out at all.
I’ve changed my rating of the book several times since finishing it on the weekend, but I have settled on 3.5 out of 5 stars. I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the book, but also lying if I said I loved it. It’s certainly an interesting read and I am glad that I picked it up, but I definitely still prefer the movie!
“I am not the target audience.”
Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend
As part of the “Out of Your Comfort Zone” reading challenge this year, I challenged myself to read five middle grade books, and having seen many, many people talk about the Nevermoor books, I decided to pick the first one up. I was hesitant in the beginning (it was sad and I was comparing it to other books I’ve read), but I quickly began to fall in love with the story – which follows Morrigan Crow, a cursed child that is whisked away to the world of Nevermoor in order to escape her death. She has to participate in trials in an attempt to join the Wondrous Society. It has the whimsical magic that I usually find is missing from the YA and adult fantasy that I read most often now. This also goes for magical elements that are included for the hell of it, rather than to serve some plot based purpose. If you can believe it, I even found myself laughing out loud in some places, which was a welcome surprise.
Sadly, the last quarter of the book didn’t live up to the first three for me. But, I kind of feel like it’s my fault – or, at least, not the book’s fault. This is where I started being reminded that I am not the target audience for this book and that Morrigan, the main character, is a child. Some of her decisions started to get on my nerves and the chain of events felt very unrealistic to me. I’m not saying this as a criticism of the book, because I am sure the main intended readers (kids) would not have these problems. It’s just something I had to try and look past, which honestly I wasn’t very good at doing and in the end, I left this book unrated.
I guess this leaves me with a quest – to find adult fantasy with a complex plot and whimsical magic. I know it’s out there, I just have to look a bit harder for it.
“Should I reread Get A Life, Chloe Brown?”
Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert
The final book I’m chatting about today is Take a Hint, Dani Brown which I absolutely adored and is a new favourite of mine. The two main characters were completely perfect for my taste (both very precious, they immediately tunnelled into my heart) and perfect for each other. I loved their strong personalities and how their interests and experiences shaped both the story and their relationship. I also ended up loving the tropes used in this, including friends-to-loves and fake dating. I also found the humour to be spot on for me.
I was taken a bit by surprise by the extent to which I loved this book, because though I enjoyed The Princess Trap by the same author, I didn’t love Get A Life, Chloe Brown which is the first book in this series. It got me thinking that maybe I should reread Chloe Brown, that maybe it was my mood or otherwise my fault the first time around that I didn’t like it as much as the second book. Thankfully, I expressed this concern to Vera, and she tells me that she found Dani Brown to be quite a different book, being both faster paced and funnier. And looking back on what I’ve said about Chloe Brown in the past, the pacing was one of, if not the biggest issue I had with it. I’m still a little hesitant to completely rule out rereading it one day, (mostly because my other complaint was the writing style and I’m not entirely sure that I wouldn’t gel with that now), but at least I have more trust that my taste is not totally different now.
In conclusion: I loved Take a Hint, Dani Brown and if you like contemporary romance, you should definitely read it!
What do you think?
Have you read any of these books? Experienced any similar conflicts? Let me know!