Monday, 4 July 2016

Books I read in June!: The Girls, This Savage Song, Gotham Academy, Shrill, Harry Potter, And I Darken

I definitely began the month reading Emma Cline's The Girls in the glorious sunshine in the park, and ended it sheltering from the heavy winds and rain reading Kiesten White's And I Darken. Now I think about it, perfect settings in which to read each of these books! June in Scotland is just so autumnal, sigh. (So is July apparently, it has rained x1000000 today) In between these I read This Savage Song by V.E. Schwab, which was very enjoyable and monstery (full review of which can be found by clicking here), Gotham Academy for some Gotham meets Hogwarts vibes, listened to Lindy West's Shrill on audiobook, and finally got round to reading the illustrated version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone! So without further ado, it's review time!

The Girls
I saw The Girls recommended by Candice on YouTube in her review of the book, and was very intrigued- think dreamy California hippy summer vibes of 1969, murder cults included. The story is from the point of view of Evie, and is set partly in the present day reflecting on this pivotal summer of her life in 1969, where most of the story takes place- when she was 14 and drawn into a hippy cult. Based on, or drawing a lot of influence from the infamous Manson family murders, the cult in this story lives out on a ranch, with enigmatic wannabe songwriter Russell at its centre. There is sex, drugs, and petty crime, and eventually a horrific multiple murder, which Evie is thankfully not a part of. The focus of this story is not on Russell or really on the murders, but on Evie and the other girls in the cult, who she spends so much time with, especially Suzanne, who is so alluring to Evie and ultimately the reason she becomes drawn into the cult. It is fairly dark and grim in places, but so beautifully written. There is a real sense of reflection and almost remorse in the present day set chapters, with Evie clearly still struggling with how to come to terms with that summer. Certainly not a fluffy beach read, but if you are interested and intrigued by this period of recent history, I'd definitely recommend it.

This Savage Song
I love V. E. Schwab's writing, in particular her Shades of Magic series, and this book did not disappoint. Monsters! Reading the blurb, I had fully imagined another medieval-esque setting, but I was so wrong- we're deep in a future American but with whole new cities situation...

Read my full review here! It'll be worth it I promise! Just click here! Thank you!

Gotham Academy
This month's graphic novel read- a bind up of the first 4 volumes of Gotham Academy, which is essentially Batman's world meets Hogwarts. I was recommended this as Harry Potter fan, and indie comics reader, who doesn't usually love the artwork of traditional super hero comics. This is meant to be DC's attempt at indie-ing itself up and appealing to the Lumberjanes demographic of readers- and they're currently doing a Gotham Academy/Lumberjanes crossover- I approve! I'm totally sold on this, the story is great, with an awesome ensemble cast of Gotham Academy students. Olive is so cool and Maps is just great. Aesthetically it gets pretty close to a more indie-comics style, all it's missing is the 'quirk' of extra details you get in Lumberjanes bind ups, and also the physical paper quality and cover design you'd expect from a good indie comic or graphic novel. All they'd have to do is make the covers matte with some shiny bits, but pages a thicker more matte quality, and I'd be 100% sold. It would just make it feel more satisfying and like a more quality object. Buuuuuuut that's all physical- awesome story, which I'll deff be reading more of!

I'd seen Louise O'Neil mention this book a couple times on twitter, and after Lindy featured on an episode of This American Life (and I recalled her previous appearance on the podcast, which I had super enjoyed), I was sold and got the audiobook, like immediately. Shrill is a memoir by writer, journalist and humorist Lindy West, covering her childhood as a shy, invisible fat girl to her adulthood as an outspoken, unashamed fat woman not afraid to Take. Up. Space. Her writing is at once eloquent, funny, raw, and unapologetic. I would definitely recommend this on audiobook, as it is read by Lindy herself, and she just lends such an ernest voice to her accounts of things like calling out her boss on his fat-shaming, and confronting twitter trolls head on. Great voice, great storytelling, solid message.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone- Illustrated

Ok so I'm not going to review Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone obviously, because everyone knows its a beautiful, wondering, precious masterpiece. But I can review the illustrated reading experience- Just beautiful! As expected it really brings the stories to life. The illustrations are lush, detailed, expressive pieces from full double page spreads to tiny paint splatters on pages of text. Jim Kay is an enviable illustrator and you may now see lots of Jim Kay inspired techniques in my work! When I read Harry Potter I usually have my own imagery in my head, interspersed with a bits of film imagery, and now I have these beautiful illustrations to add to all that. I am soooo looking forward to the illustrated Chamber of Secrets, and I am already slightly concerned with how much bookshelf space the whole series will eventually take up! 

And I Darken
I have loved the marketing surrounding the release of And I Darken in the UK- essentially drawing attention to lots of great fictional heroines from Buffy and Jessica Jones to Arya Stark and Hermione Granger. I absolutely loved this book and I've actually already lent it out to a pal. Set in the Ottoman empire, around the 1450s I believe, this story provides a sort of alternative history to Vlad the Impaler, creating instead Lada, born in Transylvania to a father nicknamed 'the dragon'. Lada is fierce, not beautiful, and ruthless, and along with her beautiful, sensitive, younger brother Radu, she is abandoned by her father in the Sultan's court, essentially as ransom to keep her father in line with the Sultan's rule. Together they are raised in the courts of the Sultan along with one of his sons, the eventual heir to the throne. In Lada we find a brilliant anti-princess, and an anti-prince in her brother Radu. Both use their own unique skills, be that brains or brawn, to work the royal system to their advantages. Themes of loyalty, sexuality, religion, strength and weakness are explored very artfully within this alternative historical fiction. If you love great female characters, this book is definitely for you- equally it provides a great sensitive male character.

Phew! Hopefully some of these have tickled your fancy! I'm currently finally reading Naomi Novik's Uprooted, and it is wonderful so far. Apologies for any typos or grammars issues- I may have had a couple of wines (a girl's gotta live!).

I received physical proof copies of This Savage Song and And I Darken, and an ebook copy of The Girls on NetGalley. All in exchange for honest reviews. 

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