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Book Review: A Song for Ella Grey

Sorry I waited so long before writing this. My life is a bit hectic at the moment.

I found this book really quite strange – but then everything I’ve read by David Almond has been a bit different. It really teeters on the line between the real world and fantasy, and I honestly couldn’t be sure whether some of the story was metaphorical or actually literal. It was a really interesting read.

Claire is the narrator of this book, telling us the events of the past. The story isn’t told entirely chronologically but more like a person would speak, with tangents and relevant contextual events thrown in.

Ella Grey is Claire’s best friend and possibly the protagonist of this book. Claire tells the story of how she met a strange boy called Orpheus on a beach one day, and how he turned up outside their school for Ella. The couple had a marriage ceremony soon after, but the day ends in tragedy.

Claire’s affections for Ella seem to blur the line between friendship and romance, which was definitely an interesting aspect. Her opinions of Orpheus seem a little mixed, and she is clearly looking out for her friend’s welfare.

Orpheus’s ‘journey’ at the end of the novel was especially strange; as was the way it was told through Claire. The entire book – especially when describing Orpheus and Ella – was extremely lyrical. The language was all very romantic and poetic, which I guess was to emphasise the musical quality that surrounds Orpheus’s character. It also really added to the sense of fantasy and mystery, giving the whole tale a strong ethereal quality.

This book was fantastically written, and definitely unique. I must say it was a little too romantic and poetic for my personal tastes, so I’m giving it 3 stars out of 5. I can definitely appreciate the beauty of Almond’s writing, though.

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Book Review: History Is All You Left Me

Wow. Just… wow.

Okay so the main/underlying theme in this is the death of Griffin’s closest friend and first love, Theo. We’re given alternating excerpts from different moments in the past (such as when Theo and Griffin first got together, fun memories they made, sad moments etc) and excerpts from “now” (after Theo’s death). While this alone is a huge topic that is so important to address, this book manages to discuss several other issues at the same time.

The most important part of this book (to me) was Griffin learning how to move on without feeling guilty for betraying Theo. My boyfriend lost someone a few years ago and sometime’s I get scared I’m “competing with a ghost” (which is a fantastic quote from in this book, but I won’t tell you who said it because that’s a pretty big spoiler). I can only imagine how awful it must feel to lose someone you love, and how crap you’d feel for ‘forgetting’ them. But Griffin tackles this, not quickly or easily, but through mistakes and heartache and small realisations. It’s a very realistic portrayal of the journey, I think, and offers hope at the same time.

Other themes include homozexuality – which is explored through four different characters, as opposed to just one or two – and even OCD. Griffin’s OCD isn’t by any means the “main” plot, but it impacts everything in his life – which is, of course, very true for anyone with a mental illness like that. It reveals itself in tiny ways throughout his life, and is even seen as a sort of “quirk” by Theo. I especiay liked how Griffin’s new love interest at the end of the book tackles his compulsions so differently to Theo – he encourages him to move on and fight them, rather than just accepting them and letting them rule both Griffin’s and his behaviour.

I’m not sure if this counts as a theme, but there’s also the big issue of Griffin actually meeting the boy Theo was dating when he died. (Theo moved away to go to college, and his relationship with Griffin came to a weird end-but-not-quite. Theo found a new boyfriend, Jackson.) Jackson and Griffin had spent months hating each other, and refusing to even try to get on. But after Theo’s death, Griffin realises that this is the only other person who understands exactly what he’s going through. Although he hates that they had their own history together he knows that it means Jackson is grieving in the same way as Griffin. They eventually decide to help each other through the first month following his death, but when Jackson reveals how Theo told him some very personal information from Griffin’s childhood, Griffin begins to see Jackson as a weapon. Since his death, Griffin has been talking to Theo in his head. Now he wants him to watch as he has sex with his boyfriend.

Like I said, Griffin makes a lot of mistakes. He knows that. He made mistakes while Theo was alive, too – there are references to the “taboo” issue between him and Theo and the betrayal Griffin felt he committed that we are later informed about. But Wade, their closest friend since childhood, becomes the rock that Griffin had never expected. He helps Griffin see that Theo is in the wrong by asking him to wait for them to get back together when he has clearly moved on himself. Wade later helps Griffin see that Theo would be happy to see him move on, too, and that despite being his first love, Theo doesn’t have to be his only love.

So yeah, a pretty emotional book with a hell of a lot of twists. I loved it. I have another book by Adam Silvera on my shelf to read (I bought it back before I’d found this) and I am seriously looking forward to it now. Amazing book: 5 stars.

Book Review: Ensnared

Ensnared

Ensnared by A.G. Howard (Splintered #3) – Paperback, 416 pages – Published January 13th 2015 by Amulet books

I read the first novel of the Splintered series and immediately fell in love with it – purchasing the entire series as paperbacks. This is book #3 in the series by A.G. Howard.

If you haven’t read the first two novels then I don’t want to spoil anything for you. But I will say what I can about the plot and character development (of which there is plenty).

Alyssa takes us on another crazy journey, from the human realm through AnyElsewhere and, of course, Wonderland. Again, she finds herself stuck between her two halves – and between her two loves.

Along with her parents, Morpheus and Jeb, Alyssa must banish Red’s spirit forever, return Wonderland to its former glory, and find a way to balance the two halves of her heart. But the travel to this magical realm has changed Jeb, and he’s found something he’s not willing to leave behind anymore.

There’s a lot of madness and magic in this, which is my favourite part. The pure craziness and mystery of Carroll’s Wonderland is captured beautifully by Howard. There are weird and terrifying creatures – my favourite being the strange butterflies native to AnyElsewhere, even if they do endanger the life of one of our beloved characters – as well as beautiful landscapes and clever backstories. The whole origin of Carroll’s story is put into question, Alyssa slowly uncovering how he discovered the magical land all those years ago.

The main part of this is about Alyssa trying to placate the two halves of her heart. After her previous run-in with Queen Red, there’s something strange going on inside her heart – something that hurts when her human side and netherling side are fighting. What’s wrong with her? How can she live like this?

And Morpheus and Jeb still aren’t the best of friends, either. They’re almost constantly competing for her affections – despite being stuck alone together for who knows how long. I’m always routeing for Morpheus, even if he is a bit of a troublemaker.

The ending is quite a nice compromise, a clever and clean way to stitch everything together. And the epilogue is really good, in my opinion. I won’t tell you what happens. But it’s short and brief, leaving so many questions and opportunities at the end that makes me reeeally want to read the companion book.

It is sometimes a little too perfect, if you know what I mean, but it’s not sickeningly good or sweet. I think the solutions they conjure are really creative and clever, and when they’re in trouble I’m always wondering what they’ll come up with this time.

As for development, Jeb and Morpheus have a clear “epiphany” sort of moment toward the end. But I found that Alyssa also developed a lot, slowly – little realisations that shape her being over time, shape her as a queen.

I do love a good Wonderland story. This isn’t, in my personal opinion, quite as the first novels, but I still really enjoyed it. 4 stars for Ensnared.

Check this book out on Amazon here.

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