Sunday, July 27, 2014

[Review] The Lucky Ones (#3) by Anna Godbersen

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(#3, Bright Young Things)

Publication (dd/mm/yyyy): 27/11/2012
Publisher: Harper Teen
Pages: 375
Source: Bought
Genre: YA (14+) - Historical

Violence | Sexual ContentProfanity

Book Tunes
♪ x

My Rating:
Entertaining to the very end.

My thoughts

Gee whiz, this series/trilogy was so delightfully fun and entertaining to read. I give it 4 stars simply because it didn't MOVE me (no tears, no big bouts of laughter) and there wasn't really much of a lesson to be learnt from reading these books. I enjoyed every page of this trilogy though; I guess I just love reading about horrible and vapid people (I mean, come on, I loved The Great Gatsby!).

I suppose if I expected more intelligence from these characters I would have been repulsed by some of their behaviour, but I just wasn't. I just read as is - I suppose this is what you'd call a guilty pleasure read. I was just coasting along, enjoying the ride, not really caring about the implications of what had happened. While none of the characters are REALLY likeable, with the exception of Max Darby, for me, the girls each fall at some point, as with Charlie and other secondary characters, I was still invested in their stories and cared about where they ended up. Because of the third person narrative I feel like my interest in these characters was more detached however, more that of an outsider looking in (kind of like a reality tv show viewer). The many romantic/sexual entanglements that these girls get themselves into was so... entertaining. I could not stop reading!

The writing style is on-par with the previous books. Godbersen provides some description so the setting isn't a complete vacuum; the pacing was neither too fast nor too slow (in my opinion) and the overall plot was easy to follow and did I mention enjoyable? I loved the inclusion of the epilogue - it ties in with the prologue from Bright Young Things and it all kind of just makes sense. The ending kind of reminds me a little of a mix between The Great Gatsby and Breakfast at Tiffany's.

My fascination in and utter obsession with the '20s Jazz Age started with The Great Gatsby. I read Bright Young Things in Sep-Oct 2010 (I remember because I was supposed to be studying for HSC but instead was engrossed in this book) which only fuelled my love for this rapidly changing and revolutionary era. I think if you also share my love for this famed period in history then you should definitely check out this series!


First line: On the second Sunday of August, Astrid had been Mrs Charlie Grey for exactly two weeks, and she was beginning to settle into the idea. They lay by the pool, in comfortable silence, as they had every day since the heat got bad. After dark he went out on his rounds. This was the order of married life, she was learning. A wife stays in her wifely place and occupies her mind with wifely thoughts, like who to invite for luncheon and when the furniture has gone out of style and needs to be replaced. Meanwhile, a husband goes off in the mornings to the mysterious world of work. Or, if he happens to be a bootlegger, he goes at night.


AUSTRALIA: Angus and Robertson | Basement Books ($5!) | Booktopia | The Nile

INTERNATIONAL: AbeBooks | Fishpond | Book Depository

I purchased this book with my own money. All opinions written here are my own.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

[Review] The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

(#1, The Winner's Trilogy)
The Winner's Curse | The Winner's Crime | Untitled

Publication (dd/mm/yyyy): 03/07/2014
Publisher: Bloomsbury UK
Pages: 368
Source: Publisher
Genre: YA (14+) - Fantasy

Violence | Sexual ContentProfanity
My Rating:
Bittersweet and engaging

My thoughts

I love that overarching concept: even when you win, you lose. That is the main idea of this book, and you see it in everything that happens. I only really appreciated the brilliance of it all once I'd flipped to that last page and everything kind of clicked. It's not my favourite of 2014 by far, however I am still eagerly anticipating the next book in this exciting new fantasy trilogy.

I was so wary of the romance in this book until near the end, when it had transformed from one tragedy to another. I can't get into too many details here, but I appreciated the slow-burning relationship that Kestrel and Arin form throughout the course of the novel. It never felt rushed or false. Rutkoski brings them together in so many different ways and they develop mutual understanding and companionship such that when the dynamic is, inevitably, destroyed the hopeless situation resonates within the reader. The romance is complicated and messy and tragic, which naturally meant that I would fall in love with it. (Also I love interracial/"interclass" romances.)

As for the characters themselves... I found Kestrel to be an extremely admirable and sympathetic character. It was easy to like her. She's bold, brave and rebellious, but also vulnerable and fiercely protective of the things that matter to her personally. She's competitive, cunning, intelligent, calculating. (Plus, she loves music and books!) She's also a victim of circumstance, kind of a loser either way. She's caught between two worlds and at war with herself and with others from start to finish; I loved following the tension rise within herself and among people around her. The father to daughter relationship and the massive power struggle that amasses between the two of them was extremely engrossing.

Arin is so so confusing. On the one hand I can understand him completely: he'd been a slave for 10 years; he was previously high class and his whole world crashed down on him when Kestrel's kind arrived. I think at that last scene the whole hopelessness of his OWN situation was also made clear to me. I can't wait to find out what happens next because Rutkoski left us with their lives completely screwed up.

The writing is pretty common for fantasy: third-person past perspective. No complaints from me: decent, consistent writing. Though... I would have liked more description. I can't imagine any of the characters or the places. Maybe that's my own fault though. (There are no maps!) I would love to know if anyone else had this problem or if it was just me.

I love the idea of "the things we love may be our downfall". This holds true for Kestrel (music and Arin) and Arin (Kestrel). Also there's the fact that Kestrel feels she MUST win, but ends up losing anyway. It instilled in me such a complex range of emotions as I was reading this book, especially nearing the end.

Rutkoski also managed to pack in quite a bit of politics and violence. The fighting scenes were done well enough, and the politics weren't too heavy that the reader wouldn't be able to follow it all. It was interwoven throughout and the pacing of the overall story was pretty standard for a fantasy novel.

Now that I've read The Winner's Curse I can definitely see why this debut novel had received so much buzz. There's a definite appeal to it-- the stunning cover, the forbidden/doomed romance, the politics and war aspects. It's all just really cool. And Rutkoski certainly delivered. I cannot wait to read on with the next book!


First line: She shouldn't have been tempted.

Favourite quotes:

"Her feelings were like banners in a storm, snapping at their ties. They tangled and wound around her. She focused, and when she spoke, she made her words disdainful. 'He is a slave.'
'He is a man, as I am.'
Kestrel slipped from her saddle, stood face-to-face with Ronan, and lied. 'He is nothing to me.'(154)

"If her heart were truly a scroll, she could burn it. It would become a tunnel of flame, a handful of ash. The secrets she had written inside herself would be gone. No one would know. (242)



AUSTRALIA: Angus and Robertson | Booktopia | QBD | Wordery

Check out:

The Bridge of Snow -- a companion short story to the trilogyRead the first 5 chapters!
The official The Winner's Curse website!

I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

[Reading the Classics] The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
Publication Year: 1925
Pages: 177

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My thoughts

The first (and second) time I read The Great Gatsby was for grade 11 English class (2009). It was one of the only books required for class that I actually read ahead of the deadline, and it was also one of the only ones that truly grabbed me and convinced me to love it. It was all so profound and felt somehow relevant to our times and just who I was as a person. I couldn't get enough of the story, the characters, the setting, the themes and ideas portrayed and explored by Fitzgerald, an author I've been itching to read more of since.

But in 2013, I dared to revisit this highly-revered modern classic: partly so that I'd be refreshed and ready to view the upcoming film adaptation (which I still have not watched!), but also because I was curious. Curious to see how I would react after a relatively significant amount of time had passed since my first reading it. It was like going to a reunion, a warm one, where everyone is the same as they were the last time you saw them, save for a few details here and there (that you may or may not notice).

Bottom line: I fell in love all over again.

The writing style, as with many classics, may require a bit of time for the reader to get adjusted. Fitzgerald's/Nick Carraway's descriptions are at times too abundant, but it is very in character and suits the storytelling well. The 1920s is encapsulated in the most amazing way--not quite as razzle-dazzle as the movie (or so I can gather from the trailer)--but Fitzgerald set the scene extremely well. After all, this book is what prompted my interest in the Roaring 20s and seek out other books and stories set in this time period.

The characters. They're all thoroughly unlikeable, but that's kind of the point. This book isn't meant to paint a perfect picture of the 20s and the social scene and the behaviours of the characters in this novel reflect that. Despite their flaws, somehow I was able to understand them and love them in some weird way. 

Fitzgerald uses symbols and imagery that strengthen the messages he wished to be portrayed. The billboard eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg, the green light at the end of the dock, the valley of ashes, the differences between the two "eggs"...

The ending is kind of amazing. The disillusionment that the narrator, Nick Carraway, faces is so terribly memorable and I doubt I will ever forget those last lines in the book. The ending is extremely depressing... and that's kind of why I like it. That's kind of why I love this book as a whole, because there is no sugar-coating, no sweeping under the rug the terrible injustices that occur to some of the characters. It is a raw, bleak and realistic account of the disillusionment that Fitzgerald himself witnessed back in 1920s New York.

About the author

F. Scott Fitzgerald (24 September 1896 – 21 December 1940) was an American writer, most famously known for his depictions of the Jazz Age -- a term which he coined himself -- in his writing. Born in Minnesota and raised in an upper-middle class family, his parents of Irish/English descent. He spent most of his childhood in New York, moving with his family back to Minnesota in 1908 after his dad was fired. From an early age he showed great interest in literature and wrote a detective story at the age of 13, that was published in his school newspaper.

In 1911 he was sent to a Catholic prep school in New Jersey. Following graduation, 1913, he attended Princeton University, was placed on academic probation and in 1917 he dropped out to join the army. 

He met Zelda Sayre, the "golden girl", at a country club and they fell in love. After the war ended in 1918 he asked her to marry him. She agreed, but broke off the engagement after he failed to convince her that he could support her financially. He went back home to his family and revised a novel that he had written while at the war, which would become known as This Side of Paradise. The book was a huge success, and they later got married. They had a daughter, Frances Scott "Scottie" Fitzgerald, born 26 October, 1921.

During the "Jazz Age", Fitzgerald formed a friendship with Ernest Hemingway, who disliked his wife and how he sold his stories off for good money. 

[To be continued in the next Fitzgerald "Reading the Classics"... whenever that is.]

Major Works by F. Scott Fitzgerald
(in order of publication)
  • This Side of Paradise (1920)
  • The Beautiful and the Damned (1922)
  • The Great Gatsby (1925)
  • Tender is the Night (1934)
  • The Last Tycoon (1941; published posthumously)
  • and several short stories

About reading the classics

I have been reading more classics lately, and rather than just reading them, I've decided to share some of my thoughts with you. Reading the classics also motivates me to research a little bit into each of these famous authors, motivates me to understand the context and think my thoughts more complexly.

I will never write an essay--that's not the point of this, but if it gets even one person even thinking about reading this book then I'll be happy. Discussion is encouraged. If you have read this book or anything by this author, please leave a comment. =)

#1: Of Mice and Men // John Steinbeck
#2: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn // Betty Smith
#3: Mrs Dalloway // Virginia Woolf
#4: Animal Farm // George Orwell
#5: The Great Gatsby // F. Scott Fitzgerald
#6: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz // L. Frank Baum
#7: Breakfast at Tiffany's // Truman Capote

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