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!

Mini Reviews: Dumplin’ and Locke & Key

I am actually one book ahead of schedule for my Goodreads reading challenge and that has me super pumped. I started out the year definitely less in a reading slump than before, but now that some urgent stuff at work has crept in and I have been distracted, it slowed down again. Anyway, I wanted to share with you a couple more books I read this month, so here we go:

Dumplin‘ by Julie Murphy

Dumplin’ Movie Tie-in EditionI knew of the existence of this book for quite some time, but I never really paid attention to it (my bad, I am sorry). However, after the Netflix trailer for the movie adaptation dropped, I kind of knew I had to read it and I am so glad I picked up this book.

Dumplin’ was such a relatable and heartbreaking yet heartwarming read – I had the best of times flying through the pages. I don’t want to necessarily compare it to the movie (which Netflix still hasn’t released in my current territory by the way), but it had a completely different focus in my opinion. While I really enjoyed seeing more of Bo on the pages (he’s seriously such a great love interest. He’s not without flaws, but I love how he never really gave up on Willowdean), I felt like the mother-daughter-relationship was actually explored in a bit more depth in the movie. Both still had very interesting explorations of grief, confidence, changing relationships, experiencing life at different speeds and body shaming of all sorts; I enjoyed it!

Fazit: 4.5/5 stars! Would recommend, especially if you are into trying Dolly Parton as your reading soundtrack while you are at it.

Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft (Vol. 1) by Joe Hill/Gabriel Rodríguez

Welcome to Lovecraft (Locke & Key, #1)Reading comics every now and then just makes sense to me. It cleanses my pallet, because there is so much less text and sometimes that’s just what I need. I picked this one in particular due to it being free on my Kindle at the moment of my reading it and because this is yet another comic book that is getting adapted for the small screen. By now I don’t think I need to explain that I have a thing for adaptations anymore.

The concept of the series is definitely fascinating. It opens up the doors for so many possibilities and I am more than curious to see how this will translate in the show they are making. I am a sucker for a good supernatural story after all! However, an issue I have found with quite a few comics lately is that I don’t enjoy violent content. Sure, it’s gritty and dark and often the igniting incident that propels the characters into a new life, but … I don’t particularly want to see that?

Fazit: 3.5/5 stars! Whenever we start telling stories without the gore, my ratings for comics will be higher than average.

That’s it from my side. I hope you’ve enjoyed those really rather short reviews! Let’s chat in the comments below!

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi (Book Review)

Publisher: HarperCollins
Page Count
: 310

Tahereh Mafi is one of my all-time favourite authors. I haven’t read everything by her, however, most of what I have read was more in the dystopian (??? gosh, I am terrible with genres) category, whereas A Very Large Expanse of Sea is Mafi’s first YA contemporary! I wasn’t sure how her writing style would translate to this genre, but it was a truly amazing read!

Where to even start? Set one year after the terrible events of 9/11, it chronicles a particularly memorable time for Muslim teenager Shirin. You can immediately tell that it is a very personal story and while I don’t know all the specifics that went into this book, I am certain that Tahereh drew some parts of it from her own experiences. Even though I can’t say I was really a teen in 2002 just yet myself, I was slowly getting there, and it instantly brought back some memories from that peculiar time. I remember the news reports and the fear and all that even though I was living on an entirely different continent. But I also associate those years with a certain kind of nostalgia, when everything was getting more digitalised while not quite being there yet.

Aside from a setting I could easily wrap my head around, I was most enamored with the characters. Shirin is a no-bullshit kind of narrator and a really smart one at that. She manages to paint a picture of all the people in her life in a way that makes them seem real, even if you only meet them briefly on the page. Her growing relationship to Ocean was exactly how I picture teens in love for the first time. Everything happened fast but at the same time with caution and the awareness that the other person might just have the power to break their heart.

The entire story tackled so many different topics. This isn’t just a love story, although there certainly is a focus on it, but also a tale about family, friendship, finding your passions and having to handle racism and Islamophobia. It hurts deeply to know that there are such vastly ignorant and hateful people out there. I always wished that those parts of the story were fiction only, but unfortunately that’s not the case.

Lastly, Tahereh Mafi finished the story off in the most bittersweet way. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I am not going to go into the details here, but it felt right to end it in that certain way, while you also wanted so much more afterwards.

Fazit: 4/5 stars! This book was packed with so much in such few pages in comparison.

Have you read A Very Large Expanse of Sea? Is it something you’d be interested in? How did you feel about Tahereh writing in another genre? Let’s talk about it!

Mini Reviews: Parsnips, Buttered and The Darkest Minds

It’s no secret that I have read very little during my time in Berlin so far. Being busy, tired and just generally occupied with other things will do that. I also have a very short way to and from work (which I love), so there’s not even really an opportunity to read on the train or so. But I am nonetheless quite happy I read something and here’s what that something was:

Click on the covers to get redirected to Goodreads!

Parsnips, Buttered: How to win at modern life, one email at a time by Joe Lycett

Parsnips, Buttered: How to win at modern life, one email at a timeEvery now and then, when the mood strikes, I like to dabble in some non-fiction books. And when I do, I am mostly drawn to works written by either actors or comedians I already know – Parsnips, Buttered was no exception to that.

People who have seen some of Joe Lycett’s work, know exactly what kind of ridiculous email-exchanges he gets himself tangled up in. This book is a hilarious compilation of some of his mischief, but it is by no means a guide or how-to-book. It’s just a little bit of short-lived fun that definitely got better with me hearing Joe’s voice narrate the whole thing in my head.

Fazit: 3/5 stars! I can see this working for some people and not at all striking the right chord with others.

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

The Darkest Minds (The Darkest Minds, #1)Some of you already know this, but I won tickets to see a preview of The Darkest Minds in August. Even though I usually try to avoid dubbed versions of movies, I didn’t even mind it as much for this one and really enjoyed the film. In my opinion, that movie would have worked a whole lot better a couple years back, because dystopian YA book adaptations just aren’t really that sought after these days and all the adult reviewers kept comparing it to the likes of Hunger Games and Maze Runner, even though it could have been its own thing.

I am rambling too much tough. What I meant to say was that I enjoyed the movie, but that made reading the book in hindsight a little more tricky. It’s not that I think one or the other is better per se, just that there are almost as many similarities as there are differences and therefore reading can get a little tiresome.

For me, the book filled in some questions that were left open after watching the movie, while I generally enjoyed some of the visuals better than reading about those events. I am curious where this story will go, but it is not exactly a priority of mine. Chubs is definitely one of my favourite characters now and the guy who played Liam in the movie is on my radar for young talent!

Fazit: 3.5/5 stars! Is it wrong of me to say that the prime of those kind of stories is past?

3s

Have you read either one of those? Did you read more installments in the Darkest Minds series? Did you see the movie and would you like a more thorough comparison from me? Let’s talk about it!

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin (Book Review)

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Page Count
: 352

CW: death, graphic sex scenes, suicide, animal cruelty

I was so looking forward to this book. The premise, as strange and gloomy as it may sound, really captivated me and I was ready to dive into it immediately. I quite enjoy family-centric books that focus on the bonds that are built, strained and possibly destroyed over time, which made the whole aspect of the story spanning over several decades even more endearing. After actually reading the book though, I was rather torn. I debated whether I could actually find the words to write this review, but here we are and I am trying.

“She’d tell herself that what she really wanted was not to live forever, but to stop worrying.”

I both liked and very much disliked this book. Don’t get me wrong, there were many powerful and enchanting moments in the Immortalists but something about the execution irked me. I was prepared for sadness and difficult scenes, after all, this book is about death. However, the read stayed kind of illusive to me until the end and therefore made some of the more hard-hitting moments difficult to grasp. I was confused by several passages, never quite sure if it could be classified as magical realism or if this was supposed to just be reality. I understand that there isn’t always a need to explain everything, but if you are indicating there was e.g. a mental illness at play and you make it look like magic instead, I will definitely be confused. Also, even though the topic of the book is supposedly about fate vs. self-fulfilling prophecies, I don’t actually know where it stands on that subject by the end of it. Maybe it’s good to question that. Maybe it was designed that way to make the reader think, but I would have liked to explore the intricacies of that concept a little more.

“Character is fate—that’s what he said. They’re bound up, those two, like brothers and sisters. You wanna know the future?” She points at Varya with her free hand. “Look in the mirror.”

Overall, the Immortalists reads a lot like historical fiction. Since we start in the late 60s and go all the way to the mid 2000s, they cover a lot of ground and events during that time. That was also the reason why I let them get away with language I would not have liked to read in a book set in contemporary times.

“She knows that stories have the power to change things: the past and the future, even the present.”

Lastly, I don’t need my characters to be likable. We aren’t all likable humans, but these four siblings really didn’t make it easy to root for them sometimes. And the way some of their bodily changes were described just felt unnecessary to me. Do you really have to introduce a 13 year-old in the second sentence of a book by mentioning her pubic hair? I am not trying to say there’s anything wrong about pubic hair, but what was the point of that description?

This may be an odd way to end the review, but this was also an odd read for me. From what I understand, a lot of people really enjoyed this book and therefore it could just be a me-problem here. I cannot put into words what it was lacking for me, but there definitely was something missing that could have elevated The Immortalists by a couple stars.

Fazit: 3/5 stars! While it had some great moments, it ultimately wasn’t the kind of book I wanted it to be.

Have you read The Immortalists? Is it a story you can see yourself enjoying? Let’s talk about it!

Jackaby by William Ritter (Book Review)

Publisher: Algonquin
Page Count
: 299

Something very simple drew me towards this book – the cover! I swear, this entire series is so freaking beautiful and I love the colors, the person in profile with another one in movement. It’s a reoccurring theme for all the books and I cannot wait to have them all on my shelf (and yes, book two is already waiting to be devoured next). But aside from its beauty, Jackaby is a mix of Elementary, Doctor Who and Teen Wolf set in the 19th century and I couldn’t be here more for it.

Jackaby was a fun book to read. I am not the biggest fan of detective stories usually, because for some reason I find most of them too predictable, but I didn’t mind it too much here. I saw this book more as a way of getting to know the characters and setting the scene and parameters than an intriguing and unsolvable case study. Jackaby seems like Eleven (from Doctor Who not Stranger Things) meets Sherlock with his funny, child-like quirks yet his complete misunderstanding of basic human interactions sometimes. At the same time Abigail Rook makes for a formidable and independent Watson-like associate. I loved that she didn’t buy into the stigma of how women were supposed to be at the time and the way she knew how to use that knowledge to her advantage. The two immediately clicked as a team and offered some hilarious conversations. My heart was captured by the one and only Detective Charlie Cane though. I think I may have found my latest literary crush and hope he will continue to be a fixture in books to come as well.

“Monsters are easy, Miss Rook. They’re monsters. But a monster in a suit? That’s basically just a wicked man, and a wicked man is a more dangerous thing by far.”

Again, the actual case wasn’t all too interesting for me. I was far more intrigued by the variety of supernatural creatures that were introduced, opening up a whole universe of possibilities for future stories. My inner know-it-all rejoiced whenever I guessed the type of supernatural being correctly and was equally amazed when I heard about something I didn’t know much or anything about before.

Overall, I really liked the book and am looking forward to what the future holds for Jackaby and Rook and all the other characters! I can’t wait to see where some relationships will be taken in the upcoming installments and am sure that there is far more supernatural stuff to discover.

Fazit: 4/5 stars! A fun, if a little bit predictable, read.

Have you read Jackaby? Do you think it would be an interesting story for you? Let’s talk!

Restore Me by Tahereh Mafi (Book Review)

Publisher: Electric Monkey
Page Count
: 448

CW: anxiety, panic attacks, transphobia, recollections of abuse, depression, mention of suicide

Restore Me is the continuation of the Shatter Me series (I once talked about it way, way back in the day and you can read that post here) and I got to read it with my very good friend Marie @Drizzle and Hurricane Books. Definitely stay on the lookout for her review in the near future!

When I first heard the announcement for the new additions to the series, I was both super excited and dreaded their release at the same time. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adored the original Shatter Me trilogy, but they were tied up nice enough for me. Obviously there was room for more to tell, but I was a little worried about whether the things to come were really necessary and afraid that they might change my feelings towards characters I love. I think Tahereh Mafi managed to truly create another plot element that made sense to the history of the characters and at least I wasn’t disappointed in that area.

I wish I could say this book was everything I had dreamed of, but that would be the overstatement of the year. It took me quite a while until I was really back in that world. Something about the writing style has changed and didn’t feel as enchanting and unique as it used to. I think that’s really a shame, because the writing style is what made the original trilogy so special to me and made me want to revisit it time and time again. Also, I felt myself being far more impatient with the characters than I used to be, annoyed at their utter lack of communication. They kept tiptoeing around each other, assuming things that sometimes weren’t even true or just plain exaggerating for … drama? I don’t even know.

As much as I just complained, it was nice to have the old gang back. Obviously, Kenji is still my most favourite person in the entire series (and I honestly don’t think that will ever change). At first, I struggled with Warner’s perspective a little bit, feeling quite detached from his narration style, but by the end, I think I often felt more with him than with Juliette. There are a lot of things that surface from his past and I just think that he was judged unfairly sometimes. Do I condone everything he did and feel like he shouldn’t suffer any repercussions? No. But the way he was brought up and plain had to survive sometimes, I just don’t think most of what he did was really news to anyone (except J apparently).

This book also introduced some new characters and I love, love, love one of them especially and am intrigued, to say the least, about the others. I don’t really want to talk about anyone by name just so you get to meet them all by yourself and can form your own opinion, but I have a weird trust for that person and hope they’ll continue to play an important role.

Overall, Restore Me was mostly an introduction of what these new books would be about. It was an incredibly fast read and interesting to see alternating chapters from Warner and Juliette’s POV. I didn’t find much of the plot surprising, but … maybe that’s just me? There was definitely A LOT happening without much happening at all at the same time. Again, it felt like a set-up for the future the majority of the time. There’s also a cruel cliffhanger, so consider yourself warned!

On a final side rant, I am really sad that the font for the paperback was changed. I do realise that they rereleased the entire series with Electric Monkey and changed the font for all the books, but why wasn’t it also available from the same publisher as the hardcover, that had the previously established font still? I will never understand certain decisions …

Fazit: 4/5 stars! Interesting continuation of one of my favourite series.

Have you read Restore Me? Do you want to? Have you read the original books in the Shatter Me series?