February favourites

I am not feeling a book review today. I’m in a bit of a reading slump to be honest. I thought I’d just wrap the month up early but I haven’t read that much, so instead I am going to do a beauty vlogger-style monthly favourites post.

Because why not?*

*Note: This post does not include even a single beauty product.

TV: Riverdale

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Netflix.com

I started watching Riverdale about a week ago, and it has since completely taken over my brain. Everyone in that show is so good looking. At 25 I have come to realise I will likely never grow out of enjoying a good teen show. However, it does come with some pitfalls. Like googling Cole Sprouse with one hand over my eyes to check his age to find out whether or not my GINORMOUS HUGE crush was inappropriate.

Finding out he was 25 may have been the best part of my week.

Being an adult is the worst. I can’t tell you the trauma of Googling a famous crush only to find they are significantly younger than you. It’s real. These are the things no one tells you about getting older. You turn into kiiiind of a creep.

Instagram: @tamanegi.qoo.riku

. . ✳︎大きなボク小さなわたしプレゼント企画✳︎. . 絶賛集計中(≧∇≦). 抽選結果は、明日19日に、ブログやインスタにて、ハンドルネームでお知らせします。時間は未定です( ̄▽ ̄;). また、当選者には直接メッセージもお送りいたします。. メッセージをお出しして3日以内にお返事がない場合は、当選無効とさせていただき、補欠抽選をさせていただきます。. . 誰が当たるのかなぁ(๑>◡<๑). ワクワクドキドキ(≧∇≦). . . #standardpoodle #poodlesofinstagram #スタンダードプードル #whitepoodle #大型犬と子供 #poodle #dogstagram #east_dog_japan #いぬのいる生活 #もふもふ部 #わんこ部 #赤ちゃんと犬 #baby #babyanddog #adorablebaby #kawaii #1歳6ヶ月 #コドモノ #ママリ #ベビフル #キズナ #書籍化 #12月8日発売 #大きなボク小さなわたし #大きなボク小さなわたしプレゼント #プレゼント企画 #集計中

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I don’t think this requires any explanation.

Movies: Black Panther

black panther

I mean obviously. I loved everything about this movie. Shuri is my favourite. I love her.

Podcast: Thirst Aid Kit

thirst aid kit
buzzfeed.com

On hiatus currently, but they are back in March. Bim Adewunmi and Nichole Perkins host a podcast all about: thirst. You know, that feeling you get about hot people on TV. If you have ever needed somewhere to go to talk about your pervy feelings (I know I did!), this is the podcast for you. I recommend it to everyone: it is pure joy.  If you’re looking for a starting point but not sure if you want to commit, try the John Cho episode.

Yes, you read that right. They dedicated an entire episode to him.

Bookish thing: Before The Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray

Last week I gushed about how much I loved Before The Devil Breaks You, the third book in Libba Bray’s Diviners series. After I wrote that review, I read the afterword of the book (like a pro, I know #facepalm) and it gave me CHILLS.

Anyway. I have to go watch Riverdale now. I am on season two and no spoilers, but my heart is broken by a certain situation and I don’t think I can resume my normal life until it is resolved.

What are some of your favourites this month? I hate spending time with my thoughts! Tell me what they are so I can avoid my feelings! Also, if I did this again next month would you read it? I enjoyed writing it – as you can see I consume a lot of media.

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Before The Devil Breaks You

New York City. 1927. Lights are bright. Jazz is king. Parties and wild. And the dead are coming.

After battling a supernatural sleeping sickness that nearly eliminated two of their own, the Diviners have had enough. They’re more determined than ever to uncover the mystery behind their extraordinary powers, even as they face off an all-new terror. Out on Ward’s Island, far from the city’s bustle, sits a mental hospital haunted by the lost souls of people long forgotten – ghosts who have unusual and dangerous ties to the man in the stovepipe hat, also known as the King of Crows.

With terrible accounts of murder and possession flooding in, and New York City on the verge of panic, the Diviners must brave the sinister ghosts invading the asylum, a fight that will bring them face-to-face with the King of Crows. But as the explosive secrets of the past come to light, loyalties and friendships will be tested, love will hang in the balance and the Diviners will question all that they’ve ever known.

Heart-pounding action and terrifying moments will leave you breathless in the third book of the Diviners series by number one New York Times bestselling author Libba Bray.

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Well. This was quite a ride.

The Diviners series by Libba Bray is a commentary on the state of current American politics wrapped up in a 1920s paranormal thriller. Though the novels have always been explicitly political – the first looked at how the roaring twenties were a reaction to what many felt were the broken promises of the First World War and in the second, Bray addressed immigration by delving into the effects of the Chinese exclusion act, the first federal law implemented to prevent a specific ethnic group from entering the United States – in book #3, Before The Devil Breaks You (the first Diviners novel to come out in a post-Trump America), Bray is relentless.

Before The Devil Breaks You, ostensibly a book about a group of paranormally powered teenagers fighting to save New York from a horde of murderous zombie ghosts (they are definitely incorporeal but have been known to eat people), is actually a battle for the future of American society. Will we lean towards tolerance and inclusion, or away into fear, anger and violence?

Sounding familiar? It certainly should.

In book #3 our various factions are more divided than they have ever been. Trust has broken down completely between Uncle Will and the Diviners, leaving he and Margaret Walker excluded from the main events of the novel, which, honestly, is more than they deserve. Reliable liars from the start, whether they are truly evil or not – and the point of this book, if anything, is that question – Will and Margaret have been rumbled and the mistakes of their past have truly come back to haunt them. Literally. The city is swarming with ghosts. But the fact is, whether you agree with their actions or not – I’m leaning towards not – like everyone else in this shit show, Margaret and Will were only trying to build the America they wanted to see. They thought they were doing good, and whether they actually were is a question both of them – and the Diviners and us, the readers – are all still trying to answer.

Mabel falls into a similar trap. Her desire for personal glory – prefaced by a genuine need to do good in the world – leads her to join with an organisation called The Six. To many, The Six is an anarchist organisation and perhaps even a dangerous one, whereas to others, they are pioneers of human rights, fighting for those who don’t have a voice in society. Their methods veer into some pretty terrifying territory, and again as the reader we are prompted to ask: do the ends justify the means?

Honestly, it’s too soon to tell.

Before The Devon Breaks You is a great addition to a really noteworthy series. It’s not perfect – there are in my opinion too many primary characters at this point, and the close third person plot skips around a lot, sometimes focusing on multiple people in a single chapter, which I’m not crazy about. But the overarching themes of the series are so relevant and interesting, and the plot pacey enough that none of the issues bothered me too much. And my primary prolem with book #2, the serious lack of Evie, was more than rectified in this round.

Can’t wait for book #4, though past experience with Libba Bray means I am scared for everybody, and particularly any Diviners who may have ended book #3 in need of some redemption. We all know how you get that…

October Wrap-Up

Where has this year gone? Why does my total shock at the passing of time increase with age? When will I get a job that I keep for more than a week?

I have answers to none of these questions.

I do however, have a summary of the month’s events, in book form:

Where has this year gone? Why does my total shock at the passing of time increase with age? When will I get a job that I keep for more than a week?

I have answers to none of these questions.

I do however, have a summary of the month’s events, in book form:

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This month I reviewed:

Lair of Dreams – Libbra Bray

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Feelings: This didn’t quit live up to expectations. I think I loved the first book too much. I am hoping for more Evie in the next book.

Asking For It – Louise O’Neill

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Feelings: An important and powerful book about rape culture and sexual consent. Everybody should read this.

Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo

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Feelings: I loved every second of it.

Is It Just Me? – Miranda Hart

is it just me

Feelings: One of my very favourite audiobooks for insomnia.

Dracula – Bram Stoker

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Feelings: Stoker isn’t half as scared of vampires as he is female sexuality.

I also read:

Why Not Me? – Mindy Kaling

Everything Everything – Nicola Yoon

The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories – Angela Carter

Currently Reading:

Carry On – Rainbow Rowell

Lair of Dreams

After bringing down the supernatural evil, John Hobbes, only to be faced with Uncle Will’s plans to eject her from New York and back to Ohio, Evie makes the decision to share her diviner powers with the world. The resulting fame and fortune provides her with all the independence she ever wanted. She has a radio show on which she demonstrates her object-reading powers and her fame is growing fast.

Meanwhile a mysterious and deadly sleeping sickness is spreading through Chinatown. People go to sleep and never wake up. Mysterious burns spread across victims’ bodies as they slumber, and after a few days, they die.

After bringing down the supernatural evil, John Hobbes, only to be faced with Uncle Will’s plans to eject her from New York and back to Ohio, Evie makes the decision to share her diviner powers with the world. The resulting fame and fortune provides her with all the independence she ever wanted. She has a radio show on which she demonstrates her object-reading powers and her fame is growing fast.

Meanwhile a mysterious and deadly sleeping sickness is spreading through Chinatown. People go to sleep and never wake up. Mysterious burns spread across victims’ bodies as they slumber, and after a few days, they die.

96b01dade1f8b017bf1228145ffe61b8It’s quite difficult to write an accurate synopsis for Lair of Dreams, the second book in Libba Bray’s Diviners series. There are a lot of characters to keep track of, and some who were very visible in the first book play a much smaller role in the latest offering. Jericho and Mabel, Memphis and Isiah, and even to an extent Sam and Evie, are much less central to the narrative of the sequel.

This was not totally okay with me. I fell in love with Evie’s character completely during book one, and her relatively small role in the sequel was something I found frustrating at times. I definitely wanted more from her story than I got.

We spend much of the book with Henry and a new character, Ling. Ling is a dream walker, like Henry. She lives in Chinatown with her Chinese father and her Irish mother. She’s recently recovered from infant paralysis, which has left her having to wear leg braces to walk. When she dream walks her body is as it was before her illness, so dream walking is how she spends a lot of her time. Even dreams however, become tainted when her best friend George falls victim to the sleeping sickness.

This series is the set in 1920s New York, the time of the Chinese Exclusion Act. This act made it pretty much impossible for labour workers from China to travel to America. It was a time in which immigrants were blamed for high levels of unemployment and incidence of racist hate crime was high (I don’t know why I’m even talking about this like it’s past tense behaviour. It is depressing how times don’t change). Chinese immigrants had to carry their visas with them at all times, as the police were big on spot arrests. The rise of the sleeping sickness only serves to make the situation worse, to the point where Ling is often no longer safe on the street.

I really love how well researched this series is. In the first book we were given a sense of the flapper lifestyle as a retaliation against the previous generation. They established themselves in direct conflict with the values they grew up with, because, as they saw it, those values led to the death and destruction of the First World War. In Lair of Dreams, the focus zooms out, away from flappers, to study of the experience first generation immigrant kids have navigating a world hostile to their very existence.

Overall, Libba Bray does a really good job of representing diversity of experience in her characters. From Evie the hedonistic flapper, to Ling the well behaved child of immigrants, to Memphis, numbers runner from Harlem living under his aunt’s restrictive conservatism, points of view within the novel are vastly different. It is refreshing to read a YA novel with such a diverse cast of characters.

Speaking of difference life experiences, watching Ling and Henry’s friendship develop was one of the greatest joys of the novel. I’m talking about Henry the wannabe musician who plays piano at raunchy dance shows. Henry, who has been searching in dreams for his long lost boyfriend, Louis. Ling and Henry’s bond is unlikely to say the least. Ling isn’t interested in Henry’s humour and she doesn’t approve of the flapper lifestyle he leads or the recklessness that comes along with it. Watching Henry work his way under Ling’s skin is a lot of fun. However, I did find that the very long dream walking sections of the book began to drag. It took a long time for the Ling/Henry storyline to meet up with the sleeping sickness thread, and during some chapters I found myself wondering what exactly the point of their meetings were.

I hate saying this because of how much I loved the first book, but for much of Lair of Dreams I found myself wondering when the action was going to start. There are so many characters in the world now and each of their stories took time to build to the point that by the end of the book, most had hardly achieved anything. I know that it’s a series, and presumably as such all my questions will at some point be answered, but Libba Bray began a lot of threads in this book that by the end hadn’t really gone anywhere.

That said, Lair of Dreams kept and even expanded on many of the elements that made me fall in love with the series in the first place. I remain quietly hopeful about the next book in the series.

My Top Three Female Characters

I think the need to read about women I related to (and women I didn’t) was part of what drove me toward reading. The girls I read there were real. They made mistakes and they had complicated friendships. They weren’t simply the subplot to somebody else’s epiphany. They were my friends and the people I aspired to be like.

I love female characters. I love to read women with depth, women who are complicated and not a mess of gender characteristics stuck awkwardly together by a clueless author.

Often when I watch television, I find the female characters fall flat. They are so frequently pushed into the same boring gender roles and their friendships reduced to shallow one way streets where the only topic of discussion is dating. Or, worse, the female character is only there to facilitate some guy’s character development and has no storyline of her own.

Unfortunately on TV this can start to feel like the norm.

I think the need to read about women I related to (and women I didn’t) was part of what drove me toward reading. The girls I read there were real. They made mistakes and they had complicated friendships. They weren’t simply the subplot to somebody else’s epiphany. They were my friends and the people I aspired to be like.

So with that in mind, today I want to write about three of the women in young adult fiction who have stayed in my mind long after the end of the story.

Frankie Landau-Banks

From The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

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This book should be required reading for all teenaged girls, I think. Frankie is a sixteen year old girl in the midst of a feminist awakening. She is keenly aware of what the people around her expect and want from her – a sweet, quiet girl who doesn’t want to cause any trouble – and she realizes more and more than she cannot be it for them. She’s smart and adventurous and she wants to be at the heart of the action even when it is in the end at the sacrifice of those things she always thought would make her happy. She is a girl in the process of figuring out who she is.

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Cather

From Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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I so wish that Fangirl had been published in time for my first year of university, because me and Cath had pretty similar feelings going in and reading about hers would have gone a long way toward convincing me that I was not in fact going crazy.

Cath is the suspicious type. She doesn’t let people in much, apart from her twin sister Wren, but since they went to university together and Wren decided to get a roommate who wasn’t Cath they haven’t talked much. Cath is fearful. It takes her weeks to go down to the refectory in her dorm because she doesn’t know how the place operates. She doesn’t get out much. She isn’t a party person.

The reason Cath felt so real to me was that she never lost the deep reservations she had about life. Just because a lovely boy came along didn’t mean she instantly stopped being suspicious about relationships. Just because she made a couple friends didn’t mean she suddenly started going out to the kind of parties that she hated. Just because she left home she didn’t stop worrying about her dad, who has bi-polar and isn’t particularly stable at the best of times. Cath and her stresses came as a pair, and her journey to live her life in spite of them is what makes Fangirl such great reading.

Evie O’Neill

From The Diviners by Libba Bray

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In case it wasn’t obvious, I’ve recently got totally re-obsessed with The Diviners in anticipation of the sequel being finally almost here.

Evie is everything I wish I was. She’s extroverted, witty, brave and always up for a party. She is desperate to be famous, whatever the cost. She’s also… pretty haunted. She lost her brother in the Second World War and since her already frail relationship with her parents has completely broken.

Evie needs more than anything else to be noticed. She has been lonely ever since her brother died and tries to plug the gaping hole he left behind with the shallow attentions of… whoever she can get to listen. It goes without saying that the need for attention never ends.

But she’s also pretty selfless. She puts herself in positions of grave danger throughout the novel in pursuit of the murderer haunting the streets of New York. She almost dies chasing him, but she keeps going anyway because ridding the world of him is the only way to make people safe.

Did I mention I’m excited for the sequel?

Who are your favourite female characters and why? Let me know in the comments!

5 Weird Reads

5 Weird Reads to Get You Out of Your Real Life and/or Reading Rut

Sometimes real life gets kind of boring.

Boredom is contagious. It infects all areas of your life. Sometimes – and I hate to admit it – boredom even invades your sacred reading space.

YA has trends like everything else after all. There are only so many dystopian novels a person can read, you know?

I might have a solution.

5 Weird Reads to Get You Out of Your Real Life and/or Reading Rut:

1. Going BovineLibba Bray

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Cameron has mad cow disease. He’s going to die. Unless he does as the hot angel Dulcie tells him to, and takes his hypochondriacal dwarf buddy, Gonzo and an angry Viking gnome across America in search of a cure. And defeat the evil United Snow Globe Wholesalers in the process, of course.

2. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender – Leslye Walton

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This book is a beautiful example of magical realism. The story weaves throughout the tragic history of the Roux family. Ava Lavender, a girl born with wings, traces back through the saddest stories in order to find her place in the world. Is she an angel, or just a girl? Can she be both?

3. The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman

the graveyard book

Bod is the only living resident in a graveyard. It’s hard to grow up around the dead, but it comes with certain perks. Bod knows about to fade, like a ghost. It’s a killer move for hide and seek, but sadly Bod doesn’t have anyone living to play that with.

4. Grasshopper JungleAndrew Smith

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Austin and Robby may have accidentally brought about the end of humanity by accidentally releasing an army of unstoppable, six foot praying mantises in Iowa. Unstoppable praying mantises who pretty much only eat and fuck, which wouldn’t be so bad if their diet weren’t strictly human.

5. John Dies @ the End – David Wong

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This book isn’t YA, and absolutely isn’t for younger readers, but remains one of the weirdest pieces of fiction I have read ever. Basically if you take the soy sauce Korrock (evil God of evil) becomes your responsibility. You can’t un-learn about the invasion (led by Korrock). Once you’ve taken the sauce you must fight the forces threatening to enslave humanity. This might involve killing the same two headed creature with the same ax twice.

Sequel Watch: The Diviners

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The second book in The Diviners series comes out soon. With this in mind, it seemed like The Diviners #1 was worth a re-read. I absolutely love Libba Bray. I think she writes fascinating female characters who are deeply engaged with the frustrations, limitations and possibilities of whichever time period she has chosen to write in. She constructs immersive worlds that weave easily through fantasy and reality. (Go read her entire back catalogue and come back to this review when you’re done)

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An evil force has sprung up in New York. Heinous murders are committed and bodies missing limbs are left covered in mysterious symbols. Meanwhile a young flapper run wild – Evie O’Neill – is banished by her parents from Ohio to stay with her uncle at his Museum of the Creepy Crawlies (occult studies, etc) in New York as a punishment for her behaviour. Her parents believe that she has been spreading slanderous rumours about a local young man, but Evie knows everything she claimed is true. When Evie holds an object and concentrates, it tells her its owner’s secrets.

Life starts for Evie once she arrives in New York. She’s clever, a drama queen and seeking fun over all else. She wants to dive headfirst into all that life can offer her, so New York is the best thing that could have happened. I loved getting to know Evie. She’s complicated. Her brother, James died during the First World War and her family have never recovered from his loss. She’s often torn between being the confident, dramatic, snarky personality that she is and being the good, quiet girl she knows that the people around her would prefer. She can be selfish, and some of her actions in the book made me cringe as a result.

She wants to be famous and is at times ruthless in the pursuit of that goal. She strikes up a very ill-advised deal with a journalist. She knows how to take advantage of a situation.

Horrifying occult-style murders happening across the city? An opportunity to get more tourists into the museum. If that opportunity also means getting herself in the papers? All the better.

There is a real sense of the abandonment of the values of the previous generation running throughout the book. Theta, a young dancer has run to New York away from her abusive husband. She’s moved in with her best friend, Henry (he’s her brother, as far as the landlord is concerned), a piano player and gay. Memphis has turned away from the church he was brought up in because he can’t see the relevance of it in his life. He writes poetry about the future he wishes to have.

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Libba Bray writes about navigating a world ruined by the very people who were supposed to save it: A world in which traditional values are seemingly meaningless in the aftermath of the grief and loss of the First World War; where you never know when the rug is going to be pulled out from under you so you may as well dance on it. A world in which the present can barely stand under the weight of its own history – and in fact may be destroyed by it. Evie and co. must fight the forces of evil threatening to take over the city while negotiating their own pre-ordained fates. I can’t wait for the sequel.