The Cliché Book Tag

I’m always on the look out for fun book tags to pass the time with and this one recently caught my eye. I tried to backtrack through all the tagging to find the original creator but unfortunately reached a bit of a dead end with a deactivated blog. *sigh* Still, let’s tackle some terrible (yet, fabulous) cliches.

Actions Speak Louder than Words: A Book that Wasn’t or Couldn’t be Better than the Movie

The Lord of the Rings Series – J. R. R. Tolkien

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I know, according to Tolkien fans, there’s probably a special place in book hell reserved especially for me purely for having this opinion. But to that I say: worth it. I gave The Lord of the Rings book series a red hot go, I really did, but I couldn’t make it past The Two Towers. SO. MUCH. UNNECESSARY. INFORMATION. I was drowning in it. Add in a smug writing style and not enough attention devoted to the actual story & its big dramatic moments, and I’m out. On the other hand, the movies are some of my favourite films – the scenery, music, costumes, humour, amazing battle sequences, wonderful characters – AH, I love them. Amazing.


The Grass Is Always Greener On The Other Side: A Rags to Riches or Riches to Rags Story

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Taylor Jenkins Reid

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Evelyn Hugo is easily one of my favourite books and one of the reasons I enjoy it so much is Evelyn herself. Evelyn comes from a Cuban immigrant family with very little to their names and wants nothing more than to get out of Hell’s Kitchen, away from her alcoholic father and his heavy hand, and to make it to Hollywood. At fifteen, she marries, moves to California and slowly starts to work her way towards becoming one of the country’s most famous actresses. Wealth, fame, notoriety – it’s not an easy road and she has to sacrifice a lot of herself to get there, but get there she does and with plenty of cash to spend.


The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From The Tree: A Parent-Child Relationship you Love

Anne & Matthew (Anne of Green Gables – L. M. Montgomery)

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While Matthew and Anne aren’t blood related, their relationship is 100% that of father and daughter. Where Anne is a massive chatterbox, Matthew is quiet and more than happy to sit and listen to her prattle on for hours. She makes him laugh and he’s there when she needs some encouragement. Every time I think of their relationship, I’m reminded of two things, 1) him going out to buy Anne a dress with puffed sleeves, knowing it was the one thing she wanted more than anything, and 2) shortly before he died, him calling Anne his girl, who he was proud of. *cries*


You Can’t Judge a Book by its Cover: A Great Book that Needs a Better Cover

This Savage Song – V. E. Schwab

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I really enjoyed The Monsters of Verity duology but goodness me, the UK/Aus covers for these books were lazy and boring. The font looks like it could be chilling on the front of a copy of Twilight while the graphic design elements aren’t doing anything for anyone. I mean, at least the sequel tried to incorporate a violin but this rose seems really out of place. Every time I look at the US covers for this series I think about what could have been and wish I’d taken the time to order them from Book Depository. Re-cover these, stat!


You Can’t Please Everyone: A Book You Hate That Everyone Loves

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer – Michelle Hodkin

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I don’t know if the problem is that I read Mara Dyer too long after books of its type were popular or whether it’s just me. Still, either way, I really don’t get how this ended up with a 4.06 average star rating on Goodreads. It’s full of tropes & cliches – the bitchy mean girl, the comic relief bestie, the bad boy love interest. *sigh* The thing that frustrates me the most is that the author starts out by trying to hook the reader using a paranormal mystery plotline but in reality it’s just a romance and an unhealthy, eye-roll worthy one at that. Also, the slut shaming in this book – not cool.


What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger: A Book That Made You A Better Person For Having Read It

Becoming – Michelle Obama

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I’m slightly cheating here as I’m not finished this yet but eh. Michelle Obama is an elegant, intelligent, kind and inspiring woman, but at the same time she’s wonderfully relatable in so many ways. So far, her biography has already taught me a lot about life, relationships, motherhood, loss, the experiences of African Americans, and growing up working class in the US. She shares many pieces of advice/wisdom that I think people could benefit from – some I wish I had heard earlier, and others I’m glad to have before they become relevant. I honestly believe I’ll be a better person for having read this.


Love Is Blind: A Book With A Disabled Character Or Actual Blind Love

100 Days of Sunlight – Abbie Emmons

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It’s pretty sad that when trying to think of an answer for this prompt, only four books came to mind. It might just be my limited reading range but somehow I don’t feel like that’s the case. 100 days of Sunlight actually fits both parts of this prompt as the two lead characters are Tessa, a girl with temporary blindness, and Weston, an amputee. The story revolves around Weston assisting Tessa with producing content for her poetry blog during her period of vision impairment and helping her to experience the world despite her disability. As you would expect of a fluffy YA contemporary, the two eventually fall in love.


Ignorance Is Bliss: A Book That’s Bad But You Just Don’t Want To Admit It

The Selection – Kiera Cass

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I know the prompt says to select a book you don’t want to admit is bad, but I have repeatedly said that I realise how dodgy The Selection series is. The thing is, I just don’t care. I binge read this series like a kid shoveling in Halloween candy. The story is tropey (hello there, love triangle), the world building is as weak as anything, the lead character can be a whingey pain in the butt and the story is kind of a feminist’s nightmare, but I DO NOT CARE. It’s the reality TV of YA fiction. Loveably trashy.


There’s No Time Like The Present: Your Favorite Contemporary Book

The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

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I hate questions involving the word ‘favourite’. They’re just downright cruel because I have a long list of favourites, thank you very much! The Time Traveler’s Wife has been a favourite of mine for years now. I received it as a gift from my mum and fell instantly in love. While it does involve time travel, its main story is grounded in the present. The ending has made me cry on more than one occasion. I will say though, the last time I read it was about 7 years ago so who knows whether it’d still remain a favourite. Guess I’ll add it to the enormous list of books I want to re-read but don’t have the time to.


Better Safe Than Sorry: A Book You Don’t Want To Read In Case It’s Bad

The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive 1#) – Brandon Sanderson

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Ask an avid fantasy reader about their favourite series and I guarantee you they’ll mention The Stormlight Archive. The love for this series is insane. If I order my to-read shelf by average rating, The Way of Kings is no.2 on 4.65! So, I have to question, how can anything with that much hype possibly live up to it? According to reviews I’ve seen, the book has a bunch of different characters to follow, involves a heavy amount of world building and takes a good while for the story to get going. For these reasons I’m really concerned that won’t enjoy it. And yet, it’s still on my to-read shelf after all this time. So maybe, just maybe I’ll eventually take the plunge.


That’s it! We’re done. I had fun with this tag. While cliches certainly make you want to roll your eyes, they’re also kind of fun to play around with. What’s your favourite cliche?

Music, Monsters, and Friendship: This Savage Song by V. E. Schwab

4 stars

TSS

What if the worst deeds of humanity somehow created something living, breathing and equally monstrous?

It’s a simple concept, but it’s one that Victoria Schwab takes and, unsurprisingly, manages to turn into an engaging story full of shocking twists and interesting characters. Schwab herself describes TSS as: Sin City + Romeo & Juliet – Romance + Monsters, and to be honest, this is a pretty much perfect explanation of the book. The story is set in the troubled city of Verity, plagued by the existence of terrifying monsters which are formed by violent acts. The province is split down the middle between two very different controlling powers (or houses, if you want to use the R+J analogy). In the north, there’s Callum Harker, the powerful crime lord who has devised a way to control the monsters whilst demanding payment from citizens for continued “protection”. In the south lies the Flynn family, set on simply exterminating the monsters and who possess a zero tolerance for the individuals who create them. For some time there’s been a truce between the two families which has continued to grow increasingly rocky over the years, with a break down expected to be imminent. And so, when Harker’s teenage daughter Kate returns to the city, the Flynns send their youngest family member, August, to school with her to gather intel. As you can expect, this all gets very messy when an attempt is made on Kate’s life and blamed on the Flynns. But who’s behind it and is it as simple as it seems? If you guessed no, you’d be right.

Plot

I’m not sure what I expected going into TSS but it wasn’t what I got. I have a feeling I didn’t read the blurb properly, (probably too busy jumping for joy at the idea of having another Schwab series to read). The first part of the novel sets up our two main characters and establishes the flip sides of the pretty dystopian world they live in. From here, to my surprise, it moves into an almost typical high school setting involving classroom learning, social politics, and friendly banter over lunch. It’s a little odd to get used to at first amongst all the broader fear of getting brutally murdered. Yet, this section of the book provides essential scenes for the development of August and Kate’s relationship as well as their individual characters. We also never forget about the broader implications of what is happening inside the high-school ‘bubble’ as these scenes are balanced out by each character’s experiences outside of school hours. The last third of the book is a The Fugitive like section in which we see our two-some on the run. It’s during this part that we get some great action-packed scenes, emotional conversations between Kate and August, and entertaining twists which kept me entertained as well as drove me to pick up book two pretty quickly.

Characters

One of the best parts of the book is the sense of duality between August and Kate. Schwab has said that her inspiration for this story came from a line she wrote in Vicious:

“Plenty of humans were monstrous, and plenty of monsters knew how to play at being human.” 

It’s very easy to see how this was utilised to create her two main characters here. As the daughter of quite a monstrous person, Kate goes through a large part of TSS determined to live up to the reputation of her father. To not only survive, but rule, a place like Verity, Kate believes that she needs to be cruel, cold, and dangerous. In other words,  that she, too, needs to be a monster. Her father is the only family she has left and for reasons even she doesn’t fully understand, she desperately craves his approval and acceptance. The only problem is that Kate is a far better person than her father and he’s not in any way someone she should aspire to be. It’s something she comes to realise eventually but it takes time. The slowness of this development may come across annoying and unlikeable for some people, but looking at the underlying reasoning for her actions, I quite liked Kate and found her to be a good, strong character in the moments that mattered.

August, on the other hand, is a monster. A Sunai, August is driven to reap the souls of the impure which he achieves through the enchanting melodies of his violin. This is something he takes very little pleasure in, unlike that of his older ‘brother’, Leo, but it’s a process necessary to his existence. It’s a well-used trope, the monster who wishes he was anything but, and yet August never felt cliché to me. Instead of spending all his time moping about the nature of his existence, August simply tries to live his life as if he were the person he wants to be. It’s a serious case of denial, yes, which gets him into trouble later on, but it’s both sweet and endearing.

The friendship between Kate and August works so well because of their differences. They bring out the best in one another whilst also forcing each other to deal with the parts of themselves that they’d rather not. I read so many YA novels with underdeveloped romances which seem like they’re there just for the sake of ticking off a box. It was a wonderful change to read something that focused on building a solid and balanced, platonic relationship without any romantic elements. Yep, that’s right. You heard me. NO ROMANCE. None. Nada. Zip. And it’s a choice that works perfectly for this particular story.

Monsters

There are three forms of monsters in Verity – Corsai, Malchai and Sunai. Corsai, animalistic in nature, are born from non-lethal forms of violence and live off human flesh. Malchai, closely resembling vampires, are the result of murder and bare some of the warped characteristics of their creators. Last are the Sunai. Much more human-like in nature, Sunai are products of crimes involving the large-scale murder of innocents – massacres, bombings, and so on. They are akin to avenging angels who use music to reap the souls of those who have committed violent acts.

Despite the general similarities of each type of ‘monster’, there’s a great degree of variation within the classes which provides for some interesting character contrasts. This is particularly so for August and his adoptive Sunai siblings, Leo and Ilsa, who each have their own vastly different personalities and attitudes towards their role in the greater scheme of things. The differences among the Malchai don’t become prominent until book two, however, Callum Harker’s right-hand man (or monster, rather), Sloan, is still an interesting and frightening figure in this story.

To put it simply, the monster elements of the story are definitely some of the most interesting, and I absorbed every little detail like a dry sponge.

Writing

If you’ve read Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic series, you’ll be satisfied with her still excellent writing here. However, do keep in mind that unlike ADSoM, this series fits solidly within the YA classification and as a result the descriptions are briefer, language is more to the point, and the plot speeds along far quicker.  It’s not a bad thing, nor is it unfulfilling, just different. Her worlds are still well constructed, characters distinct, and concepts sound. If you’ve loved her other work, you’ll at the very least like this.

This Savage Song was an enjoyable read with an engaging concept and interesting characters. Did I adore it as much as the ADSoM books? No. Did I speed through it, set on reading the sequel to find out what happened next?  Very much so. I have no hesitation recommending it to anyone looking for an entertaining YA fantasy read.

4 Stars

Have you read This Savage Song? What did you think?

Top Ten Tuesday: Back to School

So, first up, sorry for the lack of posts last week. Turns out that getting home at 8 PM multiple days in a row is not conducive to publishing blog posts but I promise that this week I will back in full force – tags, memes, reviews and discussions. Let’s get the ball rolling with TTT.

This week’s topic is Back to School and the lovely ladies over at The Broke and the Bookish  have given us quite a bit of freedom as to how we interpret this. I’ve decided to go fairly literal and discuss books that involve schools or academies of some kind. It’s a bit of an odd collection of books but eh, my blog, my list. In no particular order…

1. Nevernight – Jay Kristoff

My current, amazing read. This novel features a “school” of sorts except that in this instance it’s focused on shaping its students into proficient assassins. With the teachers not above theft, poisoning, dismemberment, and torture, the trick is surviving the training process. Yikes!

2. Vampire Academy Series – Richelle Mead

I was the biggest fangirl of this series in my mid and later high school years. You’d think it’d be the most trope-y, lame thing ever, but it’s not (well, in my opinion). This series was when I first fell in love with one of my favourite authors – Richelle Mead.  A school that teaches it’s students to use elemental magic and kill bad vampires, yep, sign me up.

3. This Savage Song – Victoria Schwab

To be honest I actually wasn’t expecting a school setting for the first half of this book.  I don’t know what I was expecting, really. Regardless, the two main characters meet at school while one is doing reconnaissance and it all ends up a mess from there (for the characters that is, not the plot because this book was great!).

4. Nineteen Minutes – Jodi Picoult

Quite a socially relevant book for the United States when it came out, a time in which school shootings were regularly in the news. It’s an interesting look at the students, teachers and families linked to a high school in the lead up to and aftermath of a shooting by one of the students. Both emotional and a little scary.

5. Harry Potter Series – J. K. Rowling

I’ll probably use Harry Potter on almost every list I ever create from here until the end of time but I think you can see why it’s justified here. Hogwarts: the most awesome magic school in literature. Enough said.

6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky

The events that make up this novel are triggered by the main character, Charlie, starting high school. It’s here that he meets the interesting cast of characters that we follow throughout that year. We get the usual high school story plot points – the big dance, relationship dramas, bullying, house parties – and yet they never seem to feel cliché here.

7. The Raven Cycle – Maggie Stiefvater

The focus of these books isn’t the school setting, especially considering the characters always seem to be busy dealing with other things like disappearing forests, mixed up timelines, searching for dead kings, and so on. However, Aglionby Academy does play a role in shaping the characters’ identities – Ronan’s disregard for his studies, Adam’s dedication to them, Gansey’s outward appearance as the almost stereotypical Aglionby student, etc. Plus, it’s the whole reason the boys are referred to as ‘The Raven Boys’.

8. The Austere Academy – Lemony Snickett

Across the thirteen books that make up A Series of Unfortunate Events, the Baudelaires find themselves in every possible setting you can imagine – a circus, a reptile house, ski slopes, a submarine, a mill, and of course, a prestigious preparatory academy. As with every book in the series, it’s weird and yet very enjoyable.

9. The Mediator Series – Meg Cabot

Going back to my tween years with this one. I used to love this series. Suze is a catholic school student with the ability to see ghosts. She often has to work with her school principal, Father Dominic, to work out what’s going on with restless spirits in order to get them to move on. The first book involves her trying to rid her school of a very angry former student turned poltergeist.

10. IT – Stephen King

I’m probably stretching things with this one but whatever. In one of the two concurrent story lines, the characters are all kids aged about 12 or 13 and attend the same school which is how they meet one another. It also means they all happen to attract the attention of the same awful, older bully.

The Disney Princess Tag

I had so much fun doing the dim sum book tag last week that when I saw Sydney @ Fire and Rain Books had done this particular one, I couldn’t resist trying it out for myself. I absolutely love Disney so why not blend it and books together? This wonderful tag is the product of a collaboration between the lovely Zuky from BookBum and Mandy @ Book Princess Reviews. Great job guys!

Rules:

  1. Mention where you saw the tag/thank whoever tagged you
  2. Tag Mandy & Zuky so they can track the tag fun across the blogverse.
  3. Play a game of tag at the end!

So without further ado, let the tag begin!

Snow White

 This Book (Like the Movie) Started It All: Favourite Debut Book from an Author

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (J. K. Rowling): Yes, it’s a super cliché and obvious answer but I don’t think I’ll ever love a debut from an author as much as I did HP when it was read to me at age six.


cinderella

Cinderella

A Diamond in the Rough: Just Like Cinderella, You Either Didn’t Expect Much Out of this Character in the Beginning but they Turned Out to be a Total Gem 

Gilbert Blythe – Anne of Green Gables (L. M. Montgomery): When we’re first introduced to Gilbert he’s a typical, annoying schoolboy. He calls Anne names, tugs on her hair, and becomes her biggest rival at school. Eventually though he ends up being one of the best and most loveable characters in the series. Anne ❤ Gilbert forever basically.


aurora

Aurora

Sleeping Beauty: A Book that makes you Sleepy or Just Could Not Hold Your Attention

Unearthly (Cynthia Hand): I just couldn’t really get into this one. I did manage to finish it but unfortunately I found the characters kind of boring and the story lacking. Today I barely remember anything about it, it was that unmemorable.


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Ariel

Under the Sea: A Book with a Water/Ocean Setting

Voyager (Diana Gabaldon): Okay, I seriously struggled with this one because basically nothing I read is set on around the water/ocean. Note to self: read more pirate and mermaid books. However, in this book Jamie and Claire spend some time travelling across the ocean to Jamaica and then eventually to America.


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Belle

Beauty and the Books: Name a Book with the Best Bookworm/Book Lover

Irene – The Invisible Library (Genevieve Cogman): Ordinarily I’d answer Hermione for this one but just for something different, I’ll say Irene. Irene has devoted her entire life to books, so much so that she’s actually lived inside a magical, interdimensional library. This is a woman who’ll fight off fey, dragons, werewolves and God knows what else just to get a rare copy of a particular book. Not only is she awesome but she seriously loves books!


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Jasmine

The Thief and the Princess: Name Book with an Unlikely Love Story (Either In Terms of Romance or a Book You didn’t expect to Love So Much)

Illuminae (Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff): I’m usually not much of a fan of books that like to play around with writing styles. I was super nervous when I bought Illuminae because I’d heard wonderful things about it but even just flipping through I could see that it had some weird things going on. I ended up loving it and have recommended it to people ever since.


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Pocahontas

The Real Life Princess: Name a Book that is based on a Real Life Person you Want to Read/Have Read

The Princess Diarist (Carrie Fisher): I don’t usually do non-fiction, however, I really love the Star Wars films and Carrie was always someone who really didn’t seem to give a damn what people thought of her. She was strong, sassy, and very intelligent. I think this would be a really fun and interesting read.


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Mulan

The Princess That Saved Her Country: Name the Fiercest Heroine You Know

This one was so hard because I’ve read about so many amazing heroines, I even did a post about them a little while back. So I’ll just mention two super awesome ones.

Alanna – Song of The Lioness (Tamora Pierce): Alanna disguises herself as a boy for several years so that she can learn to become a knight. She fights in a war, recovers magical artefacts, saves the royal family from a wicked sorcerer, and wins the hearts of both a prince and a thief.

Lila Bard – A Darker Shade of Magic (V. E. Schwab): She’s a thief, an adventurer, a pirate, and a magician. Doesn’t get any more amazing than that.


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Tiana

The Princess with the Coolest and Most Diverse Crew: Name a Diverse Book whether it is a Diverse Set of Characters (Like Tiana’s Group of Naveen, Louis, Ray, And More) Or Just Diverse in General

The Dregs – Six of Crows (Leigh Bardugo): I know, I use this one a lot in my lists but I just love it so much! Each of the members of the Dregs are so different and yet they work together super well – a calculating thief, a silent spy, a religious convict, a gambling sharpshooter, an aristocratic runway, and a witch with a love for waffles. Such a wonderful cast of characters.


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Rapunzel

Let your Longggggg Hair Down: Name the Longest Book You’ve Ever Read

I’ve read quite a few long ones but try to avoid doing it too often. They take a lot out of me! Here are some of the biggest:

George RR. Martin: A Storm of Swords – p.1177

Stephen King: It – p.912

Diana Gabaldon: Drums of Autumn – p. 898


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Merida

I determine my Own Fate: A Book Where There is No Love Story/Interest or Isn’t Needed

This Savage Song (Victoria Schwab): Okay, so I haven’t actually read this one yet but I definitely have plans to get to it very, very soon. From what I’ve heard it focuses on a friendship between the two main characters rather than a romantic relationship which is kind of a nice change with all the romance you find in YA these days.


Anna/Elsa

Frozen Hearts: A Book in a Winter/Cold Setting

Shiver (Maggie Stiefvater): I feel like this one speaks for itself just from the cover and title.


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Moana

How Far I’ll Go: A Character that goes on a Journey

Rose – Blood Promise (Richelle Mead): I love the VA books and I’ll admit that this one grew on me a lot more the second time I read it. Perhaps being older helped. Rose heads over to Russia in search of Dimitri. She travels across the country meeting new people and dealing with the fallout from the previous book.

Hurrah! All done. There were some really hard ones in there that I wasn’t expecting to be challenging when I decided to do the tag. Apologies for the lack of book covers, they just kept completely messing up the layout. divider

Tagging:

Seeing as this is a bit of an older tag, I tag whoever wants to have some Disney Princess and bookish fun. Go for it!