Book review: “The Importance of Being Earnest” by Oscar Wilde (play)

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(Look at all those tabs!)

Ever since I watched the play on stage (broadcasted by Cineplex from West End with an amazing David Suchet as Lady Bracknell, I have been eager to read the play. I got it off Audible first and listened to it as an audio play, but it had different cast and even though I enjoyed it, the way they accentuated some lines irritated me. (I blame David Suchet for forever ruining any other performance of Lady Bracknell for me.) I wrote the review of the play here if you are interested to read it.

Finally I got my hands on the copy of the play. It was delivered to me by BookDepository in a different edition from what I ordered but I actually like it now.

The play is the epitome of Oscar Wilde’s wit and satire aimed at high society. He laughs at their habits, stupidity, narrow-mindedness and obsession with status. Reading the play might be confusing for people who are not used to reading plays. Stage directions in first part are scarce and largely left to interpretation to the reader. Reading it now, though, after watching the play let me revisit it again and I once again fell in love with Wilde’s language.

I tabbed all of my favourite lines in the play. I have 20 tabs in 54 pages. Basically every other page has a gem of a line in it.

My favourite moment in the play all involved Cecily as she is so simple minded that she says the most ridiculous things. My favourite line of hers was:

Miss Prism. Do not speak slightingly of the three-volume novel, Cecily. I wrote one myself in earlier days.
Cecily. Did you really, Miss Prism? How wonderfully clever you are! I hope it did not end happily? I don’t like novels that end happily. They depress me so much.

Another gem about literature:

Algernon. The truth is rarely pure and never simple. Modern life would be very tedious if it were either, and modern literature a complete impossibility!

Sometimes the way Oscar Wilde phrases things scares me as even over a hundred years later his words are still true.

Do yourself a favour and watch this on stage or at least listen to it as an audio play on Audible. I promise, you will spend 2 hours laughing non-stop.

Personal rating: 5 stars

Book Review: “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” by J.K. Rowling

I picked this book up as I wanted to have some sort of basic knowledge of what the movie is going to be about (this book was also my pick for BookTube-A-Thon readathon). I don’t know why I expected it to be helpful, but it is really not. I haven’t watched the trailer (just bits) but what I have seen gave me an idea about the movie. You don’t need to read the book to watch the movie – I can tell this right off the bat. I did enjoy the book but since it is written as a textbook, it is no way as entertaining or engaging as Harry Potter books.

I think I enjoyed the introduction and some notes on the margins way more than the content itself. Rowling came up with a lot of unique magical beings and even reading the series I wasn’t able to remember them all, so reading this book was a bit “meh” and it is NOT the reaction that I am used to associate with HP series.

Was it interesting? Somewhat. I think I was engrossed in the book only because I haven’t read any Harry Potter books in awhile and being emerged in the world again was very exciting.

Do you have to read it to watch the movie? No. Read it if you are a hardcore fan and you want to read everything in HP universe (which means that you have probably already read this one).

I expected this book to have more notes from Harry and Ron on the margins. The fonts used for their hand writings looked a bit similar and it was hard for me to tell at times whose note that was.

It was a great pick for the readathon though as it is an easy read.

Personal rating: 3 stars

Book review: “You Know Me Well” by Nina LaCour and David Levithan

Let me start with saying that I really enjoyed this book (in some ways more than I expected), even though it is your typical “in love with your best friend/high school/coming of age/figuring things out” type of story. I have read too many of those and only because it was by both authors that I read and enjoyed previously, I picked it up. (And also because it was my pick for BookTube-A-Thon readathon.)

I read very few books which were co-writing and recently the one that I read (by indie authors) made me cringe so hard as I could totally tell who wrote which part and the switching point of view was not working at all.

This book is written extremely well. I read books by David Levithan (for whatever reason I only vaguely recall his writing style) and I read “Everything Leads to You” by Nina LaCour (which I liked but found too slow placed for me), so I expected to be able to tell exactly who wrote which part – and it is quite obvious, even before you pick the book. BUT even though POVs of Mark and Kate are different, they have their own voices, they do compliment each other and you don’t get the feeling as if you are reading two separate books. Writing was great. It was more paced than I expected it to be and equally heartwarming (and heartbreaking) and funny.

The parents are barely present in the story, which is typical for these books. Both Kate and Mark at times seemed a bit older than they were.

Even though both of main characters in the book are gay, it is not the focus of the story. The focus is on the relationships: Mark is in love with his friend and Kate is in love with a girl, she has not met yet. There is no “coming out” aspect in the story at all, which is really refreshing. Nobody is agonizing over being gay or coming out to parents. The focus is on relationships and feelings. I was worried this might turn into another “coming out” story but thank goodness it wasn’t. Thank you, David and Nina!

There were some parts that I did not particularly like. For example, how hard Kate was trying to impress that girl or how Mark and Kate were ready to lie to seem cool, essentially. Even though they said that they would tell the truth if asked directly.

Both Mark and Kate are very easy to relate too. Their characters would have been rather cliched (Mark is into sports and Kate is very artsy) if they were less two dimensional. Both Mark and Kate have certain fears and feel the pressure of expectations. Kate is suffering from anxiety and the fact that it is never really addressed directly as a mental health issue made me a bit disappointed.

In many ways this book reminded me of less known “Anything Could Happen” by Will Walton. It has a similar story line (without added perspective by Kate) and a similar ending. If you like your heartstrings to be played with and you are feeling nostalgic about your first love at high school – read this book. (And also read “Anything Could Happen” and “Simon vs Homo Sapiens Agenda” because those are very similar in tone and feeling, and after reading this you will probably need Simon to make you feel better.)

This book has several quote worthy lines and I had fun reading it.

Personal rating: 4.5 stars

Book review: The Darkest Part of the Forest

I started reading this book and fell in love with the writing style immediately. I loved it so much that after reading 20 pages of a library book, I went and purchased my own copy. Because I knew that this book would become one of my favourite reads of this year.

It is a stand alone YA novel based on folklore/fairy tales.  Seeing how tightly the world of fairies is tied to the real world, I am almost tempted to call it magical realism and not fantasy.

It is the very first book I have ever read by Holly Black and, oh boy, did she exceed all of my expectations.

There is a boy and a girl, who live in a small town. There is a forest where fairies live. A girl used to slay monsters, a boy used to tame them with his magical music. There is a horned boy sleeping in a glass coffin. There is a some evil threatening to hurt everyone. And there is someone leaving obscure clues to our characters.

I am bad at summaries but the story is a whimsical action packed narration that gave me everything I could have dreamed of: a strong female lead, lost children trope, magic, one or two broken hearts, lots of monsters, and queer themes.

I wish I could write a more coherent review (the one in which I don’t squee and gush and yell at people to read this book).

I am very glad that it is a stand alone novel, as the market right now seems to be oversaturated with book series, but at the same time I wish I could spend more time in the universe.

Can’t really talk about the ending as it would a spoiler. But you have to read it! It is wonderful!

Personal rating: 5 stars

Books: January Wrap-Up

Yes, I am posting a January wrap-up today, on March 1. Yes, I am quite aware of it. I ran in a bit of a “writing reviews” slump. Apologies for that. Book video is up today as well.

I listened to a lot of audiobooks in January. To the point that I have already completed my goal of 10 audiobooks for this year. XD Yes, I am an overachiever, apparently.

I posted all of the reviews (long and short) on GoodReads with the exception of two (linked below), you will have to go to GR to read my reviews. I am sorry, if it is inconvenient.

Here is the full list:

(** – means a re-read)

Print books:

  1. “The Darkest Part of the Forest” by Holly Black (my review is HERE) – 5 stars
  2. “Otherbound” by Corinne Duyvis (my review is HERE) – 4 stars

Audiobooks:

  1. “Welcome to Night Vale” by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor (started as an print book but switched to an audiobook – my review is HERE) – 4 stars
  2. “The Importance of Being Earnest” by Oscar Wilde, narrated by full cast – 4 stars
  3. “Stories for All Ages” by Oscar Wilde, narrated by Stephen Fry – 4 stars
  4. “Stephen Fry Presents a Selection of Anton Chekhov’s Short Stories” – Anton Chekhov, narrated by Stephen Fry – 4 stars
  5. “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, #7)” by Conan Doyle, narrated by full cast – 4 stars
  6. “Click-Clack the Rattlebag” by Neil Gaiman, narrated by Neil Gaiman – 4 stars
  7. “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Poe – 4 stars
  8. “Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar” by Neil Gaiman, narrated by Neil Gaiman – 4 stars
  9. “A Vintage Affair” by Josh Lanyon** – story 4 stars, performance 3 stars

Graphic novels:

  1. The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 1: The Faust Act (The Wicked + The Divine, #1) – 3.5 stars
  2. East of West, Vol. 4: Who Wants War? – 3 stars
  3. The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 2: Fandemonium (The Wicked + The Divine, #2) – 3.5 stars
  4. “Blankets” by Craig Thomson – 3.75 stars (review is HERE)
  5. The Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman – 3 stars

E-Books (novels and short stories):

  1. Becoming Elite (Sin City #1) by Tricia Owens – 3 stars
  2. The Concubine Prince: Book One (The Concubine Prince, #1) by Cat Summerfield – 2 stars
  3. The Concubine Prince: Book Two (The Concubine Prince, #2) by Cat Summerfield – 2 stars
  4. The Concubine Prince: Book Three (The Concubine Prince, #3) by Cat Summerfield – 2 stars
  5. “My Dearest Holmes” by Rohase Piercy** – 4 stars
  6. “A Ghost of a Chance” by Josh Lanyon** – 4 stars
  7. “Learning from Isaac (Tarnished Souls, #1)” by Dev Bentham – 3.5 stars
  8. Spice ‘n’ Solace (Galactic Alliance #1) by K.C. Burn – 2 stars
  9. The Horse Mistress: Book 1 by R.A. Steffan – 3.75 stars
  10. “In Plain Sight” by Josh Lanyon** – 4 stars

 

Book review: “Otherbound” by Corinne Duyvis

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“Otherbound” is, undoubtedly, a very unique novel. It is a YA fantasy novel, told from two perspectives – one is a disabled boy in our world and another is a disabled girl in a fantasy world. Whenever Nolan blinks, he is not Nolan, but Amara – a mute girl servant who has to protect the cursed princess. Because Nolan can’t quite literary close his eyes even for a second, unless Amara is asleep, he is considered to be epileptic, as he is constantly sucked into a different reality.

This book has two very diverse protagonists who have to deal with a lot of hardships in their lives. They are connected in some inconceivable way, which is very disruptive for their lives. They want nothing more but to be rid of this link. But when they try to do it, something goes wrong.

I don’t want to say much about the plot as I might give something away.

I liked the book although the jerky narrative sometimes made it a bit difficult for me to get into. I really tried to like Amara, but she seemed too volitive and unpredictable for me. I liked Nolan way better, and I found his perspective to be more engaging, even though I did love Amara’s world and their system of magic. I disliked Nolan’s parents though, even though they were trying really hard.

I can’t say much about the princess as I tried liking her and failed. But the plot line surrounding her is really well done.

Overall, it was a very pleasurable read. Not something that I would like to read again, but definitely a book that deserves attention. I had a bit of an issue with the way the plot was wrapped up at the end, but I want to give the author kudos for keeping me on my toes till the very end.

Personal rating: 4 stars

Book review: Welcome to Night Vale (a novel)

 

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Let me start with saying that I am a fan of the podcast (even though I keep getting behind with episodes all the time). I have been to 2 live shows (The Librarian and The Investigators). I had a WTNV iPhone case designed for me by my talented friend. I even made a fan art once.

So, naturally, I got really excited about the book. I pre-ordered it and set on reading it before going to the book signing in November. Sadly, I got sick and couldn’t go to the book signing, so I set the book away for some time.

When I started reading it, I was a bit confused by the narrative, which read exactly like a script of a podcast episode. The chapters were too short. I couldn’t get into the reading mood, and after a couple of pages I put it back on the shelf, horrified at the fact that I am on my way to disliking the novel.

And then I read on Twitter (or, maybe, it was the podcast website) that there was an audiobook coming out.

This news confused me both by the fact that there is an audiobook of a novel based on a podcast (a weird recursion) AND that I didn’t think there would be one (which in retrospect seems pretty obvious). So, of course I immediately purchased it on Audible.

I started reading the audiobook in bits – on the way to and from work, which is not really much of a commute. It was not until I went on a trip to QC when I really got into the book. Listening to WTNV novel read masterfully by Cecil on a train was the best thing possible. It allowed me to really get into the novel. I also listened to it while walking around QC and in my hotel.

I finished listening to it on my way back (I listened straight through the remaining 5 hours).  And I loved it.

I gave the plot 4 solid stars and 5 stars to Cecil for performance.

According to Audible website, the book is unabridged and narrated by Cecil Baldwin, Dylan Marron, Retta, Therese Plummer and Dan Bittner. But it is not exactly true. If you look at the audiobook cover, it states that Cecil is the narrator and others are guest stars. It is actually a big difference, as it is not a full cast audiobook. It is narrated only by Cecil.

And here is the fun part. The novel is written in third point of view, except for the chapters that are titled “The Voice of Night Vale” and are basically transcripts of the radio show (as part of the novel). Those chapters are read by Cecil Baldwin as Cecil and not the narrator (and he does a great job at this distinction) and only ONE of those chapters includes other characters and thus guest stars.

I just wanted to point it out because I expected the audiobook to be the full cast but it was not.

The plot itself involves both old and new characters with the focus on the characters that we knew nothing or very little about. It has all the wonderfully obscene and ridiculous aspects of the show. (I think Joseph Fink said on Twitter that someone “complained” about the book having only or mostly queer characters, and it is both wonderful and absolutely true! I couldn’t find the exact comment, so I am citing by memory.)

Describing the plot is not an easy endeavour. It involves a 19 year old antique shop owner (who has been 19 for many years now), her estranged mother; another woman who is trying to reconnect with her teenaged son (who takes any shape he wants or likes); and a mysterious King City.

I don’t think this book can be appreciated by someone who knows nothing about WTNV. You really don’t need to know anything per se, but if you are not used to the style of the podcast, the book might shock or disappoint you. (My problem getting into the style of a written book was exactly that – I am too used to listening to it being narrated.) Otherwise, give it a go. Once I got the hang of the plot, which develops rather slowly and in too many directions at once, it seems, it all started working out for me.

Highly recommended for fans. I feel like listening to it again soon.