Pan’s Labyrinth by Guillermo del Toro and Cornelia Funke (Book Review)

Publisher: Bloomsbury
Page Count
: 320

It seems that I am making a habit of not reading book-to-movie adaptations, but rather the other way round, where books were specifically written AFTER their other-media-format successor became popular. Admittedly, it has been a long time since I watched the Pan’s Labyrinth movie, but to me, it makes sense to want to expand on the story a little bit.

To start with, let’s show you the trailer and then I will also talk about the plot a little bit. Usually, I don’t add my own summary in my review, because mostly Goodreads takes care of that and then I just use it in my graphic, but this time I found it too ambiguous. So, here is the trailer for the movie for starters (from a time when trailers still had overly dramatic voice-overs):

As stated in the brief summary above, the book follows the tale of the film, which is about a young girl by the name of Ofelia, whose mother remarried a cruel officer after the father died during the war. They move to a cold and cursed abandoned mill in the Spanish mountains, where rebels are trying to fight for their cause. Things get truly interesting when Ofelia, a girl who is mainly interested in books and still grieving her father, finds a fairy that leads her on dangerous adventures with the promise of becoming the Princess of the Underground world. This truly follows the film quite faithfully, sometimes word for word in terms of dialogue, but it also adds immensely to the world building by including short stories about objects and past events that happened at the very place the people are now.

Ofelia didn’t remind her mother that for her, there was nothing better than a book. Her mother wouldn’t understand. She didn’t make books her shelter or allow them to take her to another world. She could only see this world, and then, Ofelia thought, only sometimes. It was part of her mother’s sadness to be earthbound. Books could have told her so much about this world and about places far away, about animals and plants, about the stars! They could be the windows and doors, paper wings to help her fly away. Maybe her mother had just forgotten how to fly. Ir maybe she’d never learned.

Ofelia’s mother didn’t know it, but she also believed in a fairy tale. Carmen Cardoso believed the most dangerous tale of all: the one of the prince who would save her.

When I was younger, I gobbled up Cornelia Funke’s books like they were magic itself and could take me to foreign places. The Inkworld trilogy and the Thief Lord are still among my all time favourite books, however, I had never read her stories in English before. So, I don’t know how much of it all was Guillermo del Toro and how much of it was her. Either way, they managed to recreate the darkness and fantastic visuals from the movie with simple language and added background story and thoughts.

He abruptly dropped his hand, summoning the mask of confidence that had become his second face, merciless, determined. Death is a lover to be feared and there was only one way to overcome that fear – by being her executioner.

Death sighed. She was used to men begging for another few years or months, sometimes even hours. There was always something unfinished, something undone, unlived. Mortals don’t understand life is not a book you close only after you read the last page. There is no last page in the Book of Life, for thelast one is always the first page of another story.

One thing I am not sure about is the claim that this book is made for readers of all ages. The first chapter/the prologue is literally about a young girl dying by stepping into the world and forgetting who she was before. As I’ve also mentioned a couple times now, it’s quite a dark story and the happy end is debatable (as is tradition with old folklore, if you ask me). So, I could see a child who is dealing with matters such as death and grief themselves to maybe find solace in this book, but I wouldn’t give it to someone who was never exposed to it or gets easily frightened. Just like I definitely wouldn’t show the movie to a kid.

A groan echoed through the floor, the moaning of a hungry bloodstained mouth, and when she stepped back, she felt the Pale Man pushing against the floorboards. The worst fears are always underneath us, hidden, shaking the ground we wish to be firm and safe.

Fazit: 4/5 stars! I really enjoyed this, although I am not sure if it will stay with me forever.

Have you read Pan’s Labyrinth? Have you watched the movie? Let’s chat!

Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich, Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Book Review)

Publisher: Penguin
Page Count
: 358

CW: anxiety, depression, suicide

If you are like me and you struggle to connect with musicals (even if I do occasionally adore some of them *cough* Hamilton *cough*), you will be happy to hear that there is a novel based on the hit show that is Dear Evan Hansen. I say this like it’s big news, but really, the book has been out for a year already. And I do even know and like some of the songs from the show, but I am not among the fortunate few who might get to experience it live and just listening to the songs gives me limited amount of joy, so I was really happy to dive into this in a more traditional book-format.

In all seriousness though, I was prepared to sob my way through this book from all I had heard, but I didn’t actually cry until very close to the end. It’s not that there isn’t inherent sadness to it all, but something about the way it was written and told just made it a very fast-paced and easy read for me. I don’t remember the last time I devoured a book in less than two days … Nonetheless, that didn’t keep me from connecting with the book on an emotional level too!

“If the pain is in you, it’s in you. It follows you everywhere. Can’t outrun it. Can’t erase it. Can’t push it away; it only comes back. The way I’ve been thinking, after all that’s happened, maybe there’s only one way to survive it. You have to let it in. Let it hurt you. And don’t wait. It’ll reach you eventually. Might as well be now.”

Evan Hansen is, at least to me, a deeply relatable character. He suffers from severe anxiety, feels lonely and like he doesn’t fit in. Although he has a very loving parent in his life, he feels expectations of what he should be and how he should act weighing him down and ultimately it leads to him making some really, really bad decisions out of fear. I cannot say that I have done anything nearly as terrible as what Evan did, but I like that the book did not try to make excuses for him. Not once did I feel as if this was a redemption storyline, but rather a plea to own up to your mistake, clearly communicate with the people you care about and maybe, just maybe, there is always someone in a similar situation as yourself, so don’t give up.

“I wish that everything was different. I wish that I was a part of something. I wish that anything I said mattered, to anyone. I mean, let’s face it: would anybody even notice if I disappeared tomorrow?”

If I had to criticize one part of it all, it would probably be the love story. I get that everyone handles grief differently, but the way this was told felt a bit off. But then again, so many of the decisions made were beyond questionable, so I don’t even know if you could consider that specific part strange. My head just wasn’t really in it, because all I really wanted was for Evan and Connor to have gotten the chance to be friends for real.

I obviously can’t attest to any of the differences between the musical and the book, however, from what I gathered from others, the book definitely expands on the story and the inner thoughts of the characters (which is neither good nor bad, but just a thing that comes with it being a different format that allows more content than a musical). As someone who did not know all the songs and all the details of what Dear Evan Hansen would be about, I can say that it’s a book you can definitely pick up if you haven’t had anything to do with the musical! 

Fazit: 4/5 stars! A heartfelt and relatable story about mistakes, loss, grief, family and much more!

Have you heard of the musical? Have you read the book? Do you want to? Let’s chat!

Evidence of the Affair by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Short Story Review)

Publisher: Amazon Original Stories
Page Count
: 115

We all know that I haven’t exactly been reading up a storm these past couple of months. Even when I have been interested in the different stories, it was just hard to find the time and energy to really focus on it and keep at it. However, this book was offered for free on Kindle and is told entirely through letters (one of my favourite forms of storytelling if you remember this post), so I just couldn’t resist.

Evidence of the Affair feels like such a simple story, but managed to really get across a lot of emotion in its limited amount of pages. It’s always such a shame when I connect with a short story and then just want it to go on for 300 more pages. And that’s not to say that this book had a terrible ending at all, it was quite fitting and yet, it still left a lot to the imagination. I think that I would have personally preferred just a bit more, but I’d like to imagine that the next thing happened away from letters and notes and that makes it all the more beautiful in my mind.

Carrie and David’s struggles were so relatable throughout, I just wanted them to lead their best lives and be happy too. Even as someone who hasn’t been in a long term relationship, I could understand their doubts and fears.

Often, I feel overwhelmed by this sinking feeling in my heart that I will never be enough.

But those characters were definitely enough and their short story was too. I am a greedy reader, I always want more, but this is a great book if you need a change of pace or a quick way out of a reading slump.

Fazit: 5/5 stars! This is the perfect little palette cleanser and story to wet your appetite for more reading.

Have you read this little nugget of a story? Would you like to? What are your thoughts?

The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman (Book Review)

Publisher: Titan Books
Page Count
: 400

It has been a while since I posted a book review on here, or since I have read a book in general if we are being real. I remember the days when I, no matter how busy I was, could just gulp up one story after another, but somehow that has just not been possible these past couple of months. I don’t blame the books for it. They are still filled with all the magical words! However, something about me and how I spend my time has changed and made it increasingly hard to focus on all the writing and retain the information it tries to convey after a long day at work. Who know? Maybe it will change again soon, but for now I am afraid you are stuck with less output in that department.

I am not exactly sure what drew me to picking up the Devouring Gray. The neon pink on the cover with the misty mountains definitely helped, but the promise of it being beautiful yet also terrifying and filled with magic was probably what sealed the deal. Having now read the book, I kind of get why everyone kept comparing it to the Raven Boys. However flawed that series might have been, I still loved it a whole lot and while reading The Devouring Gray, it kept popping up in the back of my mind constantly. I think it has something to do with how the group is set up and how the relationships among the different members are portrayed. I am not saying it is all love, but there are deep ties with the main four characters that will very likely continue to intertwine and strengthen and change in the follow up books.

Overall though, I can’t say that loved this read. I have definitely had worse and would probably pick up a sequel, but something didn’t quite click with me. I am still torn whether it had to do with the way it was written (which sometimes felt a little clumsy to me) or with me not entirely connecting to the characters. Too often, I felt like I was told how the people feel towards each other and how their pasts shape them instead of letting me naturally discover it. Everything was very direct and on the nose, even the secrets didn’t feel like anything I had just found out and gotten surprised with but rather like I had known all along and therefore didn’t care much now.

“People could hurt each other without being monsters.
And they could love each other without being saints.”

Still, it has some interesting family dynamics and the overall mystery with the monster remains. If I had to ship anyone (I know that I don’t have to at all, but since almost every second character in this book is bi, I feel like I am allowed to), I’d want the two broken beings that are Violet and Isaac to mend each other. The spark that usually makes me adore a read just wasn’t here with this one, but as I have mentioned before, I would maybe pick up any follow up books just to see how this plays out.

Fazit: 3/5 stars! Intriguing but not quite there for me.

Have you read The Devouring Gray? Do you want to? What are your thoughts on it?

The Wicker King by K. Ancrum (Book Review + The Legend of the Golden Raven Novella)

Publisher: Imprint
Page Count
: 305

CW: hallucinations, unhealthy co-dependency, negligent treatment of children, harmful behaviour and self-endangerment 

I’ve wanted to pick up The Wicker King ever since I saw a finished hardcover copy of it in a store in Canada almost 1.5 years ago. If you are a sucker for beautiful covers and extravagant design inside and outside of books, you will have a hard time resisting this one. Although I try to get better at not just buying books because of their beauty, the Wicker King definitely paid off.

All the superficial details aside, I honestly am glad I finally read the book. It’s not an easy read for sure, but it has lovely characters and such an important story to tell. I don’t want to spoil anything, but you don’t necessarily wonder as much about what is fantasy and what is reality as it might seem at first glance. I’ve had my fair share of books that mastered the art of completely bending your mind with the possibility of what might be happening, but there were very few doubts about the going ons in the Wicker King for me, which is probably why it was almost scary to read sometimes.

August and Jack are wonderful characters and I often just wanted to jump into the story and mother them, hug them and protect them. I did not agree with all the choices they made nor the behaviour they sometimes showed, but those boys did the best they could and deserved so much better. It’s not that I believe their parents didn’t love them, but they did a terrible job at it. Circumstances can make life hard and people crumble and break at times, but if you have kids, you really have to power through regardless. I know it’s easier said than done from where I am comfortably sitting childless behind a computer screen, but wow, did I wish that I could somehow help them and care for them, because their parents sure didn’t. In the end, it was good that they took care of each other, even if they could have done with a guardian in their lives.

There are a couple reasons I didn’t fully adore this book though and I think those are just very me reasons. While I love myself some short chapters, I was confused about the POV in the beginning (which is August’s by the way) and then felt like they hindered me from really connecting in some moments. I also didn’t love the continued hook ups, but my main sore point of the book was the relationship between August and Jack somehow. I liked that it was ambiguous in the beginning, because I am not the kind of person who just puts a romantic label on things just because I can. However, the longer I read on, the more I got afraid for them. They were so important for one another, so entangled in each other’s lives. The presence of August was like a necessity to Jack and vice versa. I understand that it’s one of the main points of the book, but it almost seemed unhealthy to me and therefore I couldn’t 100% root for them to be together. As I said though, this is a very me thing and maybe that worked perfectly fine for other people.

Fazit: 3.5/5 stars! Definitely worth a read even if I didn’t click with every part of it.

If you know me, you also know that I am not much of a novella person, but The Legend of the Golden Raven was free for Kindle, I got it and really enjoyed it.

In only 40 pages, The Legend of the Golden Raven shows Jack’s condensed view of the events of The Wicker King. I thought that was a really neat addition to the main book and was happy to see a whole lot more magical/fantastical elements included. Obviously, the author couldn’t go into detail with it, but it still fills some gaps and rounds up the tale nicely.

It’s most likely not a must-read, but if you enjoyed the Wicker King, then I would recommend this as well.

Fazit: 4/5 stars! 

 

Have you read The Wicker King and it’s companion novella? Do you want to? Let’s talk about it!

The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth (Book Review)

Publisher: HarperTeen
Page Count
: 352

TW: depression, self-harm, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidal ideation

You all thought I was raving about Echo North, didn’t you? Well, my enthusiasm for that one pales in comparison to all the feelings I have for The Light Between Worlds. I did not expect to relate to this book as much as I did and I definitely didn’t expect for tears to keep flowing for 100+ pages straight. I hope I can find the words to describe to you why The Light Between Worlds has managed to impact me so deeply. The book plays with your perception of reality, by adding fantasy elements in place of events that could be easily substituted by more ordinary things. So, you read something out of this world, but at the same time, your brain tells you that similar things happen for real all the time. You wonder about the meaning behind things and know that there is more to it.
I wasn’t ever whisked away to a Narnia-esque land, but I have lived and shared my life with people in other countries and on other continents. And sometimes, you leave a bit of yourself behind, you find home away from home but there are ties you cannot shake to your past regardless and it takes time and courage to find who you are at the end of the day. All the Hapwells struggle with finding themselves and keeping up appearances after something massive has happened to their lives.

“We’re all a bit frayed around the edges, aren’t we? It doesn’t surprise me and it doesn’t frighten me, finding out you’re only human like the rest of us.”

It was really easy for me to dive into the story, because the characters made it so easy to relate to them. This is a book for all the people who enjoy a good sibling-story (there aren’t nearly enough of those out there if you ask me). Family is always complicated and never easy and Evelyn and Philippa were the perfect example of that. Their love for each other went so very deep, but there are times when you have to take care of yourself and can’t continue to be the lifeboat the other might need. I wish they had included Jamie a little more in the tale, but I understand that the sisters had a special bond altogether. Still, he was an intriguing character nonetheless.

Once upon a time, I knew all the right words to say to Jamie, to my darling older brother who worked so hard to prove himself in the Great Wood, and who can’t quite stop feeling like he’s failing here. Now all I do is hurt him, when I want to offer words that heal.

Lastly, I also want to give a little shout out to the love interests in that book. These boys were so darling and kind and open-hearted. I wish I would meet more people like them in real life. Somehow they were there when needed, gave them space when necessary, understood being broken but still offered so much hope for what was yet to come. Love (especially the romantic kind) doesn’t fix everything, and the book in no way implies that, but if I needed a shoulder to lean on, these characters would be more than welcome.

I’ve seen war and death and darkness, but I’ve never before walked home with a boy, heart in my throat, knowing that at the end of the walk will be people who love him and who will take a measure of me.

I don’t know how else to tell you that I adore this book, except maybe by mentioning it’s brilliant use of paintings and poetry as metaphors and imagery that added to the story. It was a real treat of a read!

Fazit: 5/5 stars! Used up my entire reservoir of sticky notes, because this book is just full of magic words.

I hope I could give you at least a little bit of a taste of what The Light Between Worlds is about. Have you read it? Do you want to? I am definitely here to talk if you want to!

January 2019 Wrap-Up

For the first time in a long time, this section in the beginning that is always dedicated to books, isn’t completely empty. I’ve gotten a bit of my reading groove back and had a blast with most of the reads I picked. Not gonna lie, I have become even more careful with the selection of stories I actually read, just because I don’t want to end up in the slump that was the previous year again.

A Very Large Expanse of Sea  Dumplin’ Movie Tie-in Edition  Welcome to Lovecraft (Locke & Key, #1)  Echo North

Like in the olden days, click on the titles to get to my reviews and on the covers to get re-directed to Goodreads!

January was a challenging month for me. I don’t want to get into the details as most of what happened was very private and took me a long time to come to terms with, so I’d rather not rehash it all. However, all of that made January feel like years and the blink of an eye at the same time. It was a strange one, so much so that I didn’t even hesitate for a second writing the date in the title. I am DEEP into 2019 already.

All that aside, I did actually post a couple new chapters in the Google Doc for the #witchyWIP that still roams my mind just … every single day. I haven’t had the time and energy to write the way I wanted to, but maybe going with the craze and switching to Comic Sans as a font did help a little bit. I have also decided to publish the existing chapters on wattpad in the near future. Any takers for that? (I hope so, because at least some people were interested in a little Twitter poll I did)

So, while I’ve been productive to a certain degree and able to balance some aspects of my life better than others, I am somewhat glad this month is over. It just wasn’t exactly a smooth start into 2019.

FAVOURITE THING OF THE MONTH

Hands down, it just HAS to be a tie between Halt and Catch Fire and the Roswell reboot on the CW. Both of those shows have completely enthralled me for very different reasons, so don’t make me choose!

Halt and Catch Fire has complex characters that aren’t really likable … at all. They are so very flawed, but as you watch, they grow on you big time and you cannot help but love them regardless. Also, it’s set in the world of computer programming and engineering in the 80s with excellent female badasses. 10/10 would recommend if you are into slow character studies (and a better Mad Men).

Roswell, New Mexico on the other hand is everything CW represents and I am here for it. It has beautiful actors and actresses, most of whom will look very familiar from previous shows on the network. It feels very current, with them not holding back on making political statements and trying their best at integrating LGBTQ+ characters (I say try, because sometimes they are misguided, but I give them A for effort). Most importantly though, I like this reboot so, so, so, so, so much more than the Charmed one (They lost me when they butchered the whole whitelighter storyline). Roswell, NM is nothing like the show from the 90s, but you DEFINITELY have the chemistry between the characters. It works that they are all aged up to adults and I feel like they all got more pressing conflicts than their High School equivalents did. It’s still early days, but I am in love.

MY POSTS

2018 IN REVIEW

TV SHOW/MOVIE RELATED

TRAILER POSTS

That was a short recap of my month of January! I hope you had a less turbulent start into the new year and I am looking forward to chatting with you!