Thursday, 28 January 2016

ARC Review: The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

Book: The Rest of Us Just Live Here

Author: Patrick Ness

Publisher: HarperTeen

Pages: 336 Pages

Format: ARC

Source: Provided in exchange for an honest review by the lovely ladies at HCCFrenzy

Thanks to HCC Frenzy for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Sorry this took so long to get to and review!

What if you aren’t the Chosen One? The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?

What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions.

Award-winning writer Patrick Ness’s bold and irreverent novel powerfully reminds us that there are many different types of remarkable.

I wouldn't call myself a huge Patrick Ness fan. To be completely honest. I found A Monster Calls, the only other Ness book I read, to be underwhelming. Now, whether that was because it was super hyped for me by close friends, or I just honestly wasn't impressed by it, we'll never know. But I was really intrigued by the concept of a book that was about all the normal kids in a world where Chosen Ones and Indie Kids, as they're referred to as, dominated the social hierarchy. It seems like our society is so infatuated with the Chosen One stories, and it's not a coincidence that this review comes right after my review of Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, another take on the Chosen One trope. These stories are prefered escapes, for myself at least, and it's with books like this that i'm reminded why.

The story follows 4 main friends, all of whom are what someone would call normal. They're messed up in their own ways, and while their to-do lists, don't involve saving the world and getting back in time for homeroom, their stories are still fascinating and interesting. Ness didn't make their stories boring, or mundane because none of our lives are mundane. While the Indie kids are trying to save the world, Ness gave just as much weight to the lives of Mikey and Jared and Henna and Mel, who are all dealing with real, tangible issues. Their stories were put in the spotlight, and I really appreciate this novel because of that. Mikey and Co. were fully formed and interesting characters that I related to in more ways than I can list, and I just loved getting to hear their story.

And Patrick Ness' writing. So, when hearing about this novel, all I heard was about how incredible the writing was, and I have to say that I wasn't blown away by it. I found nothing extraordinary about the writing. It was very... I mean, I don't want to use the word bland, but kind of? I mean, the world was vivid, and the characters were real, but beyond that? I didn't think that it was anything special. And that's all i'll say about that.

Overall, Patrick Ness' characters and great commentary on Chosen Ones make this book a wonderful read. I loved getting to see these characters in their elements, and I don't know. Maybe I'll have to give Ness another try after this. 

4/5 Stars

Have you read The Rest Of Us Just Live Here? If you have, link me to your review, or let me know what you thought about it! I'm excited to hear your thoughts!

Thanks everyone, and happy reading!

Monday, 11 January 2016

First Impressions of My University Classes: Winter 2016

Ah, second semester of second year. The time when I begin to panic about my degree and credentials and resume and the fact that i'm almost halfway through university. But, even with all the panic, this semester is going to be incredible. Besides the fact that I have an amazing support group, I get to edit and publish my first thing this term, and get to hang around with all my friends on the Dalhousie English Society, I have a course load that I'm really excited for.

So, just quickly, for those of you that don't know, I'm in my second year studying English and German at Dalhousie University in Eastern Canada. Almost all Dal English classes are literature focused, so I get to do a ton of readings and get to study some really cool topics - like I took a Literature and Propaganda course last semester. So cool.

Moving on, here are my first impressions of my courses!

Intermediate German - GERM 2000X/Y
This is my second semester of German, as it's a full year course. I'm really enjoying learning the language, but I'm still not very good at it. I have a crap memory in general, and I can barely write and speak coherently in English, so a second language is a bit tough. But, my teacher is incredible and is really pushing for me to succeed, so I have faith.

Shakespeare - ENGL 2214 X/Y
Again, second semester of this class as well. My prof was originally my TA, but has now taken over the class, and he's golden. His lectures are so wonderfully crafted and you can tell that he cares about Shakespeare. We're starting off this semester with King Lear, and then go onto Timon of Athens, which he did his PhD thesis on, so it should be fun! I'm looking forward to reading stuff from the later half of Shakespeare's career!

American Literature - ENGL 2003
This is one of two survey courses I have to take in my second year. I took Canadian Literature last semester and I loved it. My teacher, Erin Wunker (who's an editor and founder at Hook and Eye and Chair of the Board of Canadian Women in the Literary Arts. So cool) made Can.Lit. super interesting and accessible and i'm hoping that my teacher for Am.Lit. will be able to do the same. We start off reading the 'Founding Documents', like the Declaration of Independence, and Common Sense by Thomas Paine (and if you're now singing Hamilton, we are the same person and you need to message me on Twitter). The syllabus seems like it covers a huge amount of time, and we focus mostly on poetry, which I'm excited for!

Close Reading - ENGL 3000

Another required course for my major. It's also my first third year class, which has me both excited and terrified. The class is focused on the formalistic approach to literature, so we're close reading a lot of poetry, some short stories, a few novels, and a play. It's a really odd class, and I can tell that it's going to be a lot of hard work. My reading list is absolutely nuts and the essays look like they might kill me, but i'm hopeful. Nothing good comes easy and all that jazz, right?

Paris in the 19th Century - HIST 2042

This is my first history class in 5 years, so i'm just the slightest bit terrified. But it's paris in the 1800's. I mean, the art! The culture! The architecture! The revolution! (Les Mis playing in the background). No but seriously, I love Paris. And I'm excited to learn about it. My teacher seems really passionate, and save for the pretentious guy who scoffed at my major (HE SCOFFED), i'm excited. 

So those are my classes for the semester! I don't get to read a ton of books, but I get to read a lot of poems and short stories and criticism so yay? We'll see how this goes. What classes are you taking? I want to know!

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Review: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Book: Carry On

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Pages: 517 Pages

Format: Hardcover

Source: Purchased at Woozles Independent Bookstore

Simon Snow is the worst chosen one who’s ever been chosen.

That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.

Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he sets something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here—it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.

Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story—but far, far more monsters.

After reading Fangirl, I went to an event in Toronto where I got to meet Rainbow Rowell, and she was asked the question "Would you ever write Simon and Baz's story?" and her response was that those scenes we read in Fangirl were her trying her hand at fantasy, and that maybe one day, she would write it. And i'm so glad she did, because Carry On has the charm and honesty that all her novels have, but it's got a little something extra.

Simon's story was the perfect amount of sweet nostalgia, and something completely new. With all of the Magical-Chosen-One stories out there, I was very afraid when I started this book that it would be hokey, and just good for a laugh. Note: If I ever doubt Rainbow Rowell again, please hit me over the head with one of Cath's commemorative busts of Simon. Rainbow's story felt timeless, yet so contemporary. It wasn't like I was reading this for the first time, but it felt like this was a childhood favourite I was revisiting. And this motley crew of characters is one of the main reasons why.

Simon Snow had my heart from page one. I saw so much of myself in him that it was easy to sympathize, but also easy to have moments of frustrating when he just. Shouldn't. Do. The. Thing. One of my favourite things about him was the different relationships he managed to keep up. Each relationship was so different, but you could tell that he was invested in all of them, which is a testament to how great Rainbow Rowell is at writing characters. Characters like Penny and Agatha and the Mage rounded out the story and make it so full that it was overflowing.

And how can I write a review and not talk about Baz? What to say about Baz that Simon Snow hasn't already said about him. I really loved him. He was a great play on the dark character, and he did what I don't think has often been done. He was humanized. He was given this great vulnerability and fear, but he wasn't weak. I love when I find characters like him because  they're just so refreshing when your bookshelf is filled with melodramatic heroes and heroines.

I do stand by what i've said in the past, that Rainbow's characters are the strongest point of her writing. I still believe that she writes characters that readers can love, and tells that character's story, screw the reader's feelings. But the plot in Carry On was something I haven't really read in one of Rainbow's novels. Chalk that up to a new genre, or possibly to just getting better. But I loved it. I was so in love with the intricacies in the plot, and how well all the changing narrations flowed. I loved every second of reading this book.

And that ending got me all swoony, let me just say ;) No spoilers!

All in all, Rainbow Rowell has done it again. She's written a book that has stolen my heart, and that I will be shoving into the hands of all my friends. It's witty, it's fun, it's full of heart, and what else can you ask for? I love Simon and Baz, and i'm so glad that their story got told.

5/5 Stars.