Monday, May 30, 2016

Falling in Love (With a Book)

You never expect to fall in love.

It always comes when you're not looking.

Or when you're not sure what you're looking for.

You're reaching blindly out into the dark, scratching at something, until a hand finally reaches back. All you intended for the day was a coffee, a bit of time out with the girls, when that striking someone catches your eye from across the room, jacket hugging them just right, all sleek and sharp. Attraction is undeniable, but you're not looking, just out for a good time.

Something tips your favor, and you decide to walk over, just to test the waters. An introduction isn't a commitment, after all. Something clicks, right from the start. It could be the entrancing art stamped on their jacket, or the swell of words and wisdom that spill forth once you get them to open up. Before you know it, an introduction becomes a fluttering of attraction and suddenly you can't walk away. Not that you can think of a single reason to anymore.

You spend hours together, pouring out words and sharing a connection you can't put a label to. There are ups and downs, tense moments, and times where you cry from sheer joy at knowing this someone was out there, just waiting for you. Inside the honeymoon phase with the two of you, it seems as though nothing could ever break up your happiness together.

Eventually, the firsts run out.

The last new words are spoken, and though you can replay the favorite stories again and again, you've grown comfortable in your knowledge of each other. So you bring your love to meet your friends, your family, and you know they will love them as much as you do. Your someone is perfection personified, and the people who know you best will recognize that.

Except they don't.

Because there are flaws in your special someone, in your perfect love. Some you don't want to admit to, some that don't bother you in the way they do others. And though you're disappointed-- how could people not see what you see?-- there's a small part of you that's relieved, because this is a love that is yours.

It's a love that makes you feel like the only one who matters in a crowded room.

A love that makes you the star of your own Hollywood happily ever after.

That piece of your heart clings to your words, to your love, because though they may not be perfect, something about them just syncs with you. All their jagged pieces fit your jagged pieces and you feel invincible. They press up against your back; a reassurance that you will never be alone. You can't describe why you're filled with such warmth, where this love for this flawed someone wrapped in an artist's jacket came from.

But you know it's magic. There's something otherworldly in the feeling.

You vibrate on the same frequency. Their words are your feelings.

They speak to something in you that you never knew could be communicated with words before.

You never expect to fall in love.

You never know when you'll find the book that seems like your soul personified on paper.

But when you do, you'll wonder how you ever did without it.

Book Review: Dreamers Often Lie

Book Review: Dreamers Often Lie by Jacqueline West 

Goodreads Description: Jaye wakes up from a skiing accident with a fractured skull, a blinding headache, and her grip on reality sliding into delusion. Determined to get back to her starring role in the school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, Jaye lies to her sister, her mom, her doctors. She's fine, she says. She's fine. If anyone knew the truth - that hallucinations of Shakespeare and his characters have followed her from her hospital bed to the high school halls - it would all be over. She’s almost managing to pull off the act when Romeo shows up in her anatomy class. And it turns out that he's 100% real. Suddenly Jaye has to choose between lying to everyone else and lying to herself.

Troubled by the magnetic new kid, a long-lost friend turned recent love interest, and the darkest parts of her family's past, Jaye’s life tangles with Shakespeare's most famous plays until she can't tell where truth ends and pretending begins. Soon, secret meetings and dizzying first kisses give way to more dangerous things. How much is real, how much is in Jaye's head, and how much does it matter as she flies toward a fate over which she seems to have no control? 

My Review: Dreamers Often Lie is a delightfully tense mystery and a must-read for any fans of the Bard. After a skiing accident leaves her hallucinating Shakespeare characters, Jaye convinces everyone in her life she's fine in order to get back to her rehearsals for A Midsummer Night's Dream. Though the book is pitched as heavy on the Shakespeare hallucinations, the book's real story and strength laid in the mystery behind what happened to Faye’s family long before the book ever started. 

That’s not to say that the hallucinations and head injury don’t play an important part—they create an atmosphere where Faye doesn’t know if she can trust what she’s seeing to be real. Despite this, the story is actually light on the unreliable narrator aspect, in that the author doesn’t try to deliberately mislead the reader. In contrast to books like Liar by Justine Larbalestier, where the reader can’t trust the narrator, in Dreamers, the reader can trust Faye, but Faye doesn’t know if she can trust herself. Fans of the unreliable narrator may be disappointed, but for someone like me who finds unreliability just frustrating, I was very happy with the lighter touch. 

If you’ve read some of my other reviews, you’ll know I have a deep hatred for love triangles. Dreamers Often Lie is definitely the exception. It has a love triangle, and in some ways it goes the route of standard love triangles, right down to the two guys fighting over Faye. But it avoided the clich├ęs and kept me engaged for several simple reasons: 1) the love triangle did not interfere with the story. In fantasy, the two guys fighting over the girl often takes away from the serious plot issues going on, which frustrates me. But the love triangle was the story here, so it didn’t distract from anything. 2) Each guy is their own person outside of Faye. Their reasons for wanting to be with her are not grandiose or out of character. 3) Both guys are shown to have a good time with Faye without romantic implications. So many books rush the romance that we don’t get to see WHY the characters like each other. 4) There is an evolution of attraction. Faye doesn’t immediately fall head over heels. There’s attraction, interest, and lust, and then once they get a chance to really talk, that attraction blooms into the fluttery in-love feeling. Those simple things made me fall in love with this romance in a way I haven’t in a long time. 

Aside from the romance, the handling of this book was very precise and deliberate. The prose was beautiful, complementing the Bard’s lines that were spliced throughout the book like sprinkles. They were used with purpose, often mirroring Jaye’s life and experiences with something or someone out of Shakespeare’s texts. It fit without feeling overbearing, doing the words and characters justice in their representation, which was absolutely essential to me, as someone who loves Shakespeare. 

Dreamers Often Lie wasn’t the dark, twisted thriller like the back cover pitches it to be. It was definitely a psychological thriller, though without any huge twists or turns. However, the lack of heart-pounding tension didn’t disappoint me, because the story behind the hallucination spin was solid on its own. The question of what’s real only added a delightful bit of flavour to an already excellent meal. 

TL;DR: 4/5 stars. A delightfully Shakespearean-flavoured tale. The power’s in the characters, not in the psych twist. 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Book Review: A Darker Shade of Magic

Book Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab

Goodreads Description: Kell is one of the last Antari, a rare magician who can travel between parallel worlds: hopping from Grey London — dirty, boring, lacking magic, and ruled by mad King George — to Red London — where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire — to White London — ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne, where people fight to control magic, and the magic fights back — and back, but never Black London, because traveling to Black London is forbidden and no one speaks of it now.

Officially, Kell is the personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see, and it is this dangerous hobby that sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to take her with him for her proper adventure.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save both his London and the others, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — a feat trickier than they hoped.

My Review: Normally when I sit down to write a review, I have a list of criticisms that I have collected through reading. Even when I supremely enjoy a book, I still have things to say about the pacing and tension, characters and their development, plot, and so on. I almost have a mental checklist that I go through when reading any book.

Victoria Schwab's books blow all that out of the water, and A Darker Shade of Magic was no exception. In fact, it far exceeded some of her previous novels in the sense that every part of the story-- tension, character development, relationships, everything-- fit together like a perfect puzzle, so seamlessly that you can barely FIND the seams.

ADSOM is not my favorite of her books, which comes down simply to personal preference, but it is probably one of the best executed novels yet. It has rendered me pretty much speechless. I can't find words for this other than 'wow,' which almost irritates me. It means Victoria Schwab has taken that next step into crafting novels, truly mastering the art of storytelling, which makes my job as a reviewer a hell of a lot harder, but my experience as a reader so much richer. I could not help but get swept away by the story every time I opened the pages. The truly amazing part was what brought me back when I had to put it down wasn't the story's tension, but the story itself. Yes, there was the perfect amount of tension to accent what was going on, but what kept bringing me back was just a pure love of the story on its own. Kell and Lila could have been picking daisies and going grocery shopping and it would still have me desperate to have more.

If you love magic, if you love adventure, if you love a damn good story, you've got to read this. It's not even a book I feel I have to scream about from rooftops because the book does that all its own. This book envelops you as completely as the Black London stone does to Kell. It's rich, intoxicating, and something incredibly special-- luckily for us, this book isn't about to turn our veins black. Then again, knowing Schwab...

TL;DR: 5/5 stars. Just... speechless.