Jonathan Stroud: Lockwood and Co. books 3-5

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On Monday afternoon I managed to finish this jewel of a fantasy series. It is such a comfort read because the characters are at times insanely funny, their interactions filled with sarcasm and witty remarks, their affections towards each other unwavering, yet each one is so clearly fleshed out that you can’t help but picture them sitting right there beside you, watching over your shoulders while you read.

I read the final three books in the series while away on holiday and loved all of them. The cases which they investigate are so creepy (especially the one with the cannibal!) that I was afraid to read the books before bed. Character development can be spotted immediately if you read the books in succesion and I love that the reader gets to grow up with Lucy, Lockwood and George (who is by the way my favourite character in the books).

The arc of the series and the overall plot was genius! The revelation at the end of book 4 was just shocking and it plays nicely into book 5 where we finally get closure. That ending by the way, of book 5 and with it, the series – it made me very happy indeed. I also loved the fact that we got to see Lockwood’s story because if it would stay a secret, I would be mad as hell.

I’m quite sad to have read the entire series but then again I can just pick up the first book and start rereading it. Before I started book 3, I was quite disappointed with the YA genre in general because I’ve read the second book in the Grisha series and it was SO BAD! It just made me furious that this series gets so much recognition and praise when it’s written so poorly. Luckily Locwood and Co. delivers on a much higher level and it is superb.

I would highly recommend this series to fans of YA fantasy literature because although it’s not your typical story (there is much less romance for example, but the moments that are included are HEART WRENCHING), the characters are for example a bit younger when we first meet them, it is still essentially a YA paranormal series and the writing is BRILLIANT. Stroud is a master of his craft. So forget about the shitty Grisha-like stories and try this one instead – you might just find yourself with a new best friend.

 

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The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

The third book of our beloved The Order of Fiction Book Club was The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. For both of us this jewel of a book became one of our yearly favourites and we actually listened to it on audio – the narrator is brilliant and her reading is magical. This book falls under the magical realism category and is perfect for fans of fantasy as well. Beware though of the trigger – rape and abuse. This is on one hand a major spoiler but as a firm believer in trigger warnings, this had to be said. The writing of the book is extremely beautiful and lyrical so the story reads as a modern day fairytale. Samanta and I decided to talk about two things with regards to the book.

The first is our favourite character and to me that was Viviene. She was the middle generation of the women in this book and I think I identified with her the most because she experienced depression and was unable to leave her home for a while. And the tragic love story that she had to endure broke my heart and that just made me love her even more. Her continuing story with Gabe was so bitter-sweet and I kept rooting for them to finally be together because Gabe was such a good person, so very kind and gentle. I did love the ending A LOT and I also loved Viviene’s character development, how she went from being hopelessly in love with that asshole Jack to finally getting over him and realising that true love was actually always there, waiting for her just a couple of steps away.

The second thing we talked about was the difference between plot driven stories and character driven narrative. This book was mostly character driven despite also being plot oriented but mostly it concentrated on the women of the family. For me this style of writing is my favourite. I don’t particularly like plot driven stories because I do care primarily about the characters and what drives them, what makes them tick. Also I value beautiful writing styles and this book definitely has that. The writing is absolutely stunning, mesmerising and enchanting. The characters were fleshed out so vividly, it really felt like we knew them, like they were our friends. And I think that’s what good writing is all about.

Your Soul is a River by Nikita Gill

Hello, bookish people! It’s been a while, I know, but I’ve been super buys with uni and exams. I’m done with all that for now so you know what that means – bring on the books! 😀 My bookish friend Samanta (https://samyinbookworld.wordpress.com/) chose last month’s book for our book club and so we read a poetry collection called Your Soul is a River by Nikita Gill. While she loved the book, I found it to be too simplistic, Rupi Kaur-like and so I only gave it 3 out of 5 stars. There were some poems however, which I really liked and this was my favourite.

 

OCEAN PEOPLE

Some people grow entire oceans

inside themselves instead of hearts.

It’s  why they have more love to

give than anyone can ever return.

It’s why they awaken sometimes

to heartache and tear soaked pillows.

Sometimes it is a blessing to love something

so much more than you love yourself.

Sometimes it is a curse to love anything

so much more  than you love yourself.

What I love most about this poem is how it conveys the utter agony of being an overly emphatic, sensitive person. This is so me! I cry at commercials with cute kittens in them and it takes me a long time to get over a book hangover. I often wonder what it would be like to just feel flat all the time. To be emotionally stable. It feels like it would be so much easier to deal with general life stuff but at the same time it also feels so sad, to not be excited about your favourite books and obsessed with stories or TV series. There is a thin line and when you can walk properly on it, it means you get to enjoy life so much more. You just have to remind yourself not to step over into the moody parts.

Moving on from my favourite poem from this collection, Samanta and I chose another poem together which we both liked and we ended up choosing this one.

 

THIS BRUISED SKIN

I

To be fully human

fully kind and true

is full of bruising.

Because

that is how things

become soft.

II

What you have

hidden inside

your skin.

It is more precious

than diamonds

or gold.

 

This poem represents something completely different to me than it does to Samanta. What I see is the daily struggle of someone who suffers from mental illness. While our scars may not (always) appear on our physical bodies, we do wear them on the insides of our skin. And although it is pure hell sometimes, it also makes you a kinder and softer person. Someone who understands and doesn’t judge. And kindness is such an underestimated quality nowadays.

Despite the fact I didn’t love this book, there are some pretty good poems in it. I just don’t like this modern, tumblr inspired poetry, because too often it seems like a random sentence broken down into verse. And there is nothing wrong with that but at least try making it original and meaningful. I have yet to find a poetry collection that will inspire and move me (I’m counting on Jen Campbell’s Girl Aquarium).

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (part 2)

As promised, the second part of our book discussion. 🙂

7. Do you agree with Isola that “reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones”?      

I sure do! It often happens that when I read a book I really, really love, I can’t pick up a new one for a while. This also happened with this novel in fact. I was still thinking about the characters and living in Guernsey and I just couldn’t leave it and face the real world. And all the books I’ve read since, have been somewhat lacking. It’s gotten better now because a whole month has passed since I finished the book. But I do agree that reading great books, those that change you and stay with you, ruin you for the average story lines and you may even grow angry and impatient and even take it out on some harmless book from that decent authors that you used to kind of liked but now can’t bring yourself to even look at their books. I think this is the same with everything in life, for example great friendships ruin you for mere acquaintances because once you find that one person with whom you can talk effortlessly about anything, it’s hard to be patient and deal with boring people.

8. Guernsey book club brought different people together. Do you believe that books truly have the power to bring people together and in so help create a community?

Books are such a unique kind of art, they whisper different things to different people. A book is always being remade by the reader and it’s never the same for two people. So yes, I do agree that books have that magical quality about them that bring people together. I have a friend whose personality clashes with mine but one time, we both loved the same book and kept talking about it for hours even though we normally just chat about silly things!

9. There were many themes in the novel- war, love, books, and friendship to name a few. Which theme impacted you the most?

Friendship and the courage to stand up for what is right. Elizabeth’s bravery made such an impact on me and I felt crushed when I found out what happened to her and to Kit’s father. They seemed such good people and they should get their own happy ending but wars take all the happiness away and throw it in the ocean. What I found most endearing was how the book club took care of Kit without questioning what to do with her. They all shared their love and kindness with the child and that to me shows that love endures and friendships can extend even beyond one’s lifetime. I also loved the notion of books as this universal forces of friendship and bonding and how they read to keep boredom away and shared stories with each other in order to make their lives more tolerable.

 10. Through researching material for her book, Juliet got first-hand accounts of many Guernsey’s residence memories of the Occupation. Which memories or stories made an impact on you? Which one was the most memorable?

The most memorable were the terrible stories of Guernsey’s prisoners. How they were left to death, how they roamed the island searching for food. How they were basically treated like meat because they were expendable. What a horrific notion. I also took to heart the stories of evacuated children. I cannot even imagine how terrible it must’ve been, to not see your children or grandchildren for several years and to not know if they were all right. But what made me feel better is to hear the stories of German soldiers who shared their medicines with worried mothers, desperately trying to save their children. This showed such compassion and universal love, it made the unbearable war stories slightly less painful.

 

 

 

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

TRIGGERS: domestic abuse

As a deeply personal novel, this story offers a lot and while it is not my favourite CoHo book it is perhaps the best when it comes to the structure and the overall message. I had some issues with the writing (again) and wasn’t blown away by the story as a lot of people were. To me it was good but a bit over the top when it comes to characters and their personal stories.

I’ve noticed this before with Hoover, she tends to write characters who are deeply scarred and “damaged” but here it felt too much, every person had their own tragedy lurking in their past. And yes, I do think we are all a bit screwed up but this was just taking it to a whole new level and it was simply TOO MUCH.

My favourite parts of this novel were actually the flashbacks. I didn’t care for Ryle that much because I got a hunch something would be off with him, like the relationship was too perfect. Atlas was such a sweetheart but perhaps a bit too cheesy at times. I really liked how the relationship between Lily and her mother was portrayed, and the ending was just beautiful.

However, I do have some issues with how CoHo wanted to sort of excuse Ryle’s behaviour by giving him this tragic childhood backstory. Yes, I agree, it was horrendous (and a bit too much in my opinion) but I felt like she used that story to explain his awful behaviour. So what you’re saying is, he wouldn’t have acted the way he did if he had a happy childhood? Seriously?

Lilys bravery and her final decision was what made this story a good one. I applaud her for her courage. And I also think CoHo was really brave to tell her side of the story and to go this deep into it. Domestic abuse is something that is still not discussed enough and I think she really helped women by sharing her experience.