Book Review – Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

FangirlFangirl by Rainbow Rowell

”There was a boy in her room”.

Cath and her identical twin sister Wren are about to start their first year of college. Wren, the more outgoing and socially comfortable sister decides that she doesn’t want her and Cath to become roommates. She wants to go off on her own and start living her life without being tied to her sister, who is the complete opposite of Wren. Cath has social anxiety and Wren has been her safety. When Wren decides to go off without her, she feels betrayed by the only person who understands her as well as incredibly afraid of everything unknown that she now has to face on her own. As a well-known fanfiction writer, she escapes into the world she created based on the characters Simon and Bas and bunker up with protein bars to not have to leave her room. Her roommate, the sarcastic and very confident Reagan, reluctantly takes her under her wings and becomes her friend. Reagan also has a boyfriend, Levi, who is the nicest and most cheerful person Cath’s ever met.  Levi’s always spending time in their dorm room which makes Cath quite uncomfortable at the start.

Roughly, one can say that Fangirl is about sisterhood, first love, fanfiction and growing up.

I really loved reading this book. It was funny, heartbreaking, nuanced and truthful. I really enjoyed reading about the relationship between the sisters and how different they really are. Cath was also, to me, an easy character to relate to. To face change and new situations are scary, as well as trusting people enough to let them get close to you. I also found it very true to how it might be to find social situations difficult to cope with as well as how it might feel like to get everything that is safe taken away from you, leaving you to fight for yourself.

I’m sorry if I make it sound like a difficult and emotional read, but it’s a very easy read.  It’s written with an enormous amount of empathy and humor even though there is a hint of seriousness to it. I also love that the act and love of writing are such a huge part of the story and who Cath is.

The only thing that I didn’t like at all was the extracts of the stories of Simon and Bas at the beginning of the majority of the chapters. They put me off and it just felt like they were thrown in there with no connection to the rest of the plot. But that’s a minor problem, it’s still one of the most amazing books I’ve read this year.

I recommend all of you to read it and especially those of you who enjoy reading books by John Green.

How to blog about books without writing reviews

I stumbled across a post by a fellow blogger Bluchickenninja where she gives her readers some advise about how to read more, and it got me thinking. Since I started this blog I’ve tried to read more and more books in a shorter amount of time. Because, by starting a blog one commit to write about a certain subject and upload blog posts regularily.

It comes with some sort commitment or responsibility towards your audience, at least that’s how I feel about it. Thus, to be able to blog about something you must create some sort of content, in my case, my content is based on books and reading which requires me to read more books faster to be able to write something about it.

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Image: Gemzell.se

I’m amazed by people who are able to read several books a week (how do you do it?!) and still manage to keep up with everything else, school, work etc. However, I’m not one of those people and not everyone is and that’s okay. I consider myself a slow reader, thus I’ve had to consider other means of creating content.

Here’s what I’ve leart about filling the the empty space between book Reviews:

  • Google, yes, as simple as that. If you don’t feel creative let others lend you a hand.
  • Use books as inspiration! Write a letter to the dead, rewrite the ending of your favourite book and so one.
  • Write about your thoughts about reading, books, writing, authors etc.
  • Make lists like this one or of your favourite quotes, authors, bookmarks, covers etc.
  • DIY, who doesn’t like to read about and see what you can do with books or how to make book related accessories and such?
  • Read other blogs and let them inspire you.
  • Make time for your writing, you can’t get away from that one.
  • Buy a notebook, and write down your thoughts and ideas about your content.
  • Don’t put too much preassure on yourself. It’s not a competition and it’s okay to take a break and have a off week (month, year), we all have them.
  • Have fun and be silly! The world is too serious anyway, or be serious and critiqe things, it’s your blog, do what you like and like what you do.

Personally, I use Google a lot for inspiration as well as other peoples blogs.

If you have any advice yourself, feel free to comment or tweet me, I love hearing from you!

The Swenglish dilemma

I’ve been thinking, trying to figure out how to relate to the fact that I’m Swedish writing a blog in English. Since I started this blog, I’ve mostly read and reviewed books by English-speaking authors because it would be more available to an English-speaking audience, which I don’t mind at all. The problem, or rather my dilemma is; whether or not I could review Swedish books too and try to adapt it to an English-speaking audience even though some of the books might not be available in English. Is that possible?

Personally, I’d love to read about books from other countries and cultures even if it might not be immediately available in Swedish or English.

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I’ve been thinking about this for a while now, the reason being I’ve started reading more and more books by Swedish authors, which I haven’t done in about five years. And I really feel like reading in my mother tongue for a while. Not that I’m discarding everything that has to do with books in English (I simply can’t) but I think I just need this somehow.

Thus, to be able to continue blogging, which I love, I’d really like to know what you guys, my readers think about that. It would definitely generate more frequent posts (at least, that’s what I’m hoping).

Is it something you’d like to read about and have me discuss with you and talk to you about?

Book Review – All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

All-the-Bright-Places-jktAll the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

‘Is today a good day to die?’

Violet is devastated by the loss of her sister and is having a hard time. Everything has changed and she lost herself when she lost her sister.

Along comes Finch, the weird guy at school no one really want to be seen with, helping Violet to start living her life again. In the meantime, he struggles with problems of his own. He is broken beyond repair and is trapped in a dark place of his own.

They meet on a rooftop staring into the depth of their own darkness. A meeting that introduces a beautiful story about finding a way out, the single stream of light in all that darkness.

The two protagonists, Finch, and Violet are two completely different people from different social groups and family situations, but bond over the fact that they are both hurting in a way that isn’t visible to others.

Mental illnesses like depression (and suicidal thoughts) can’t necessarily be seen on the outside. The seemingly happy people can be breaking inside. No matter who you are and where you come from. However, a kind or caring action or word can make one find that little stream of light in all of that darkness and change everything.

On the other hand, not everyone can be saved. Their darkness is too thick and they can’t see of find that single stream of light.

Mental illnesses and suicide need to be talked about more. It’s out there, no, it’s here, it happens right here among us and it won’t go away  just because we ignore it or label it differently.

A truly amazing story that really gets underneath your skin and stays with you for a long time. This book is a great way to get a discussion about suicide, mental illnesses, norms and ethical issues going. Read it with you child, friend, parents or students.

Book Review – Allegiant by Veronica Roth

21143500Allegiant by Veronica Roth

‘I pace in our cell in Erudite headquarters, her words echoing in my mind: My name is Edith prior, and there is much I am happy to forget’.

As you probably know, Allegiant is the final book in the Divergent series and what an ending it is. The faction-based society in which Tris believed in crumbles before her eyes as Evelyn and the factionless take control of the city. To escape the power struggles and to satisfy her curiosity she joins a group called the Allegiant, exploring the world outside the fence keeping them all from the truth about themselves and their existence. But the truth is, beyond the fence lay a more complex reality.

I enjoyed reading the Divergent series, I really did and here’s why, strong female characters. Tris stands up for what she believes in and she doesn’t just whine about it, she takes action. She isn’t a typical girl, chasing after boys, weak and polite. Even though there is a typical girl-meets-boy love story, the plot isn’t centered around that relationship, it’s just there.It’s more about the characters’ mental struggle, trying to figure out what’s right and wrong. As we do too. There’s a glitch between what we think is the right thing to do according to others and our own moral compass.

As much as I liked Allegiant, some parts were very predictable, I’d like o discuss them, but I don’t want to spoil anything for those who haven’t read it yet (dilemma).

But, the ending folks, the ending! I’m not sure whether I love it or I hate it. I think I love it actually. If you know what I’m talking about, what did you think about it? Love it, hate it?

If you like dystopian literature such as The Hunger Games, fantasy, strong female characters or contemplating dilemmas about human nature, sacrifice and impossible choices, Allegiant, or rather the Divergent series as a whole would probably interest you.

Book review – ‘Haroun and the Sea of Stories’ by Salman Rushdie

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‘Haroun and the Sea of Stories’ by Salman Rushdie

‘There was once, in the country of Alifbay, a sad city, the saddest of cities, a city so ruinously sad that it had forgotten its name.’

Haroun, the son of the greatest of all storytellers asks his father a question which causes him to run out of stories to tell. In a desperate try to right this wrong, Haroun flies to the Sea of Stories to cancel his father’s subscription of Story Water, which makes it possible for him to tell stories. During his time at this strange and foreign place, Haroun experiences an incredible and magical adventure.

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‘Haroun and the Sea of Stories’ is originally written as a children’s book dedicated to Rushdie’s son, however, it also contains themes aimed at adults. I must say, I loved this story. For me, it was the complete randomness and the focus on the importance of stories and storytelling, that made me love this book. I fell for it the moment I read the title, then the title of the first chapter ‘The Shah of Blah’ and was completely hooked after I’d read the first sentence. It was an amazing read full of magic, imagination, politics (one of the adult parts), friendship and love of stories. The language Rushdie use is very colourful, painting pictures before your eyes and conveys oceans full of wisdom just below the surface.

If you’re a child in heart, love stories and storytelling and believe in the freedom of speech, you’ll love ‘Haroun and the Sea of Stories’.

How to pick a book

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First page of ‘The Goldfinch’ by Donna Tartt

Picking a new book to read may be the easiest thing in the world, you pick one you like and find intriguing. But everyone still doesn’t pick books in the same way. We all use different strategies. I usually choose my books by reading the synopsis or after reading a good review. A friend of mine, however, picks her books by reading the first page. Another goes for a book with an appealing cover. There are so many different ways to pick a book.

  • Reviews of a book
  • Recommendations
  • Synopsis on the back (or inside flap)
  • First page of a book
  • First sentence of a book
  • First chapter of a book
  • Cover of a book
  • Last page of a book
  • Title of a book

If you have trouble choosing your next read, trying a different approach, one that goes against your previous strategy might help. It most certainly would make choosing a new book a lot more interesting.  By going for a completely different strategy, it might open your eyes to a different genre of stories and books. Maybe you find ‘the book’, the one that changes everything.

But, of course, it might also end up being a complete disaster. It might be difficult to get through it because it’s sometimes hard to read something that you’re not motivated to read. Still, it’d be an interesting experience. I’m certainly going to try something different, as my friend said ‘you can tell a lot about a book from the first page’, well, let’s see if there’s some truth to that.

It’d be really interesting to know; how do you pick your books? If you try a different strategy than what you are used to, how did it go?

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

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The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

“It seems increasingly likely that I will undertake the expedition that has been preoccupying my imagination now for some days”.

Stevens, a butler at Darlington Hall is going on a trip to see one of his former colleagues Ms Kenton (now Mrs Benn). What he doesn’t expect is that it’ll also take him through his most painful and triumphant memories. The reader is invited to come with him on this, both physical and mental journey.

Stevens, the narrator and main character, is an honourable man who values dignity more than anything in the world; ‘The great butlers are great by virtue of their ability to inhabit their professional role and inhabit it to the utmost […]’ He lives his life according to his sense of what dignity is but in the process loses the himself, which he doesn’t seem to be able to understand.  At certain moments in the book, Stevens make me so incredibly angry and I want to shake him, make him understand that he must think for himself, make him realise that no human being is perfect and that it is impossible to live up to the standards he set up for himself without losing his identity, or what it is to be human and not an empty shell.

Even though he come across as completely brainwashed by society and his own ideas about dignity, there is sadness about him. I can’t help but to feel for him. He is so lonely, focused at his work and how to be a great butler that life passes him by. On the other hand, the way society worked during the time of Stevens (ca 1930-1950, the upstairs-downstairs), no wonder he thinks and behaves the way he does.

Books set during this time period has mostly been centred around people of higher class, the lords and ladies of great big mansions, but instead of continuing this tradition, Ishiguro tells a story from a servant’s point of view. He criticises the way society worked and how ‘lower class’ people were affected by it. As Stevens says; ‘All those years I served him, I trusted I was doing something worthwhile. I can’t even say I made my own mistakes’.

It’s sad how some can become their work, and that’s the only thing they are. I liked Stevens’ story because it made me think about how easily we can lose ourselves and that we are controlled by norms and unwritten rules. However, it was a slow read and sometimes very long.

If you like or are interested in books about society, injustice or class differences you should definitely read this book.

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If you had read it, what are your take on it? How did you like it?