Wednesday 25 March 2015

stasialikesbooks | Book review: The Isobel Journal by Isobel Harrop.

The Isobel Journal is no ordinary snapshot of a contemporary teenage life. A charming and vivid narrative scrapbook of the eighteen-year-old author's sketches, mini-graphic novels, photography and captions, it captures her wit, her observations and her creative talent as she takes us through the three central themes in her life: 'Love', 'Friends, Art and Otters' and 'Me'.

The Isobel Journal is sort of a graphic novel, except not really. There are illustrations and photographs, beautiful drawings and funny captions, and there is no story line or anything that really resembles a plot.

What The Isobel Journal is, really, is exactly that. It is a journal. It is Isobel Harrop's journal, to be precise. This means that there is no solid narrative and very little structure but what is here in abundance is Harrop's wonderful drawing style and wit. Her drawings are charming and a little quirky and very much the style of a teenage girl drawing in her sketchbook. They remind me a lot of the drawings my artist friends would make in their sketchbooks when we were teenagers, in fact. Some of the illustrations are very personal and others less so but they are all lovely and they all give the reader a view into the life of this teenage girl.

I love stripes!

Above is an example of a spread from The Isobel Journal. Harrop also uses photographs and snippets of text in some of her illustrations (and one of those snippets of text won me a nice stack of books from Hot Key last month. More on that in another post!) and these techniques work together to create a real scrapbook feeling. The book is split into three sections. The first section 'Me' is Harrop introducing herself to the reader, the second 'Friends, Art and Otters' delves a little deeper into Harrop's life and interests, and the third section 'Love' almost has a narrative and is certainly the most emotionally personal of the three sections.

There may not be a clear plot to this book but Harrop's illustrations do tell a story. They tell the story of Harrop's teenage years and they do so in a way that makes this book both beautiful and relatable. I read the whole thing in less than an hour but I know that I will go back to it again and again.

4/5 stars.

Wednesday 18 March 2015

stasialikesbooks | Book review: Fearsome Dreamer by Laure Eve.

In the remote country of Angle Tar, apprentice hedgewitch Vela Rue has had strange dreams all her life: mysterious and incredibly real. Then she learns that her dreams mean something more - and that her government will do anything to nurture her talent. Embarking on her clandestine training, she meets the enigmatic White, who has been forced to flee his own unforgiving country to the safer realm of Angle Tar. White is seen as a prodigy - perhaps even the ultimate weapon the government have been waiting for. But the electric attraction between Rue and White may spell disaster... or change everything.

From the very beginning of Fearsome Dreamer Laure Eve brings the reader into a rich and intriguing fantasy world. Angle Tar, where most of this book takes place, is an alternate universe version of the UK with little to no technology, where people who live in the countryside are treated not by doctors but by hedgewitches. On the other side of the ocean is World, a conglomeration of countries that is so technologically advanced that people there have become dependant on a virtual reality system called Life.

Laure Eve's world building is fantastic and as I was reading I found myself fully immersed in the world that Rue and White inhabit and intrigued by the special Talent that they possess. There isn't a lot of action in Fearsome Dreamer and the story line isn't quite as defined as it might have been, but Eve's writing style more than made up for that. The reader is dropped straight into White and Rue's respective lives at the start of the novel and those characters and the world they inhabit are the driving force of the story.

There were many great aspects of Fearsome Dreamer, including the mysterious Talent, the fantastic world building, and the interesting characters, but I don't think I quite believed Rue and White's love story. There are moments where we see Rue and White falling for each other, yes, but on the whole I felt more as though I was being told that they were falling in love, rather than shown it. And the whole thing seemed to escalate very quickly toward the end of the book. An ending that left such a cliff hanger I ordered the sequel immediately after finishing the last chapter.

Despite it's faults I would still recommend Fearsome Dreamer for the fascinating world that Eve has created and because Rue is such a great character and I will definitely be reviewing its sequel, The Illusionists, soon.

3/5 stars.

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Sunday 1 March 2015

stasialikesbooks | GGRP: You Know You Love Me.

Hello and welcome to part two of

For those of you new to this, The Gossip Girl Review Project is a series in which I plan to review every Gossip Girl book pretty much by just comparing them to the TV show. So far it's going well.

Last time, in Gossip Girl we saw what was basically the pilot episode of the TV show except every single character is just a little bit more awful. So, on to book two, You Know You Love Me, in which everyone gets even more awful and things are no longer anything like the TV show.

Blair's mum is marrying Cyrus Rose on Blair's birthday, the day when Blair had decided she would finally have sex with Nate. Something Blair is worryingly obsessed with given that she also has an interview for Yale coming up. Priorities, Blair! Also Aaron Rose, Cyrus's son, who in the TV show is a beautiful but ultimately douchey artist and in the book is just a weird, chillaxed stoner, moves in, much to Blair's annoyance. Dan is coming on way too strong with his intense, coffee obsessed, emo poetry thing and Serena is understandably not digging it. Nate decides that cheating on his girlfriend with the 14 year old Jenny is a wise idea. Also everyone has college interviews and somehow Nate ends up coming out of that better off than anyone else.

Familiar scenes
Nothing, really. In the TV show Jenny and Nate almost have a thing but it never takes off like it does in the book. Even Cyrus and Eleanor's wedding is completely different.

What's different?
Everything! For a start, Blair nearly misses her interview because she and Aaron spend the evening eating junk food and drinking and Blair forgets to set an alarm. Blair Waldorf in the TV show would never risk Yale like that. As we all know, in the tv show it was fighting with Serena and scheming to punish a teacher that were Blair's downfall. Much more befitting in my humble opinion.

Fanciest fancy party
The Waldorf-Rose wedding, of course. Although unfortunately we don't actually get to see much of it because Blair spends the whole time trying to sneak away with Nate and Nate spends the whole time trying to sneak away with Jenny.

Most conniving scheme
Blair persuades her dad to pay for a new course at Yale to try and save her application after messing up her interview. Not just a new building, a whole new course. In France.

What is Chuck Bass up to?
Nothing! He only shows up for the wedding and even then we only see him make a few inappropriate comments to Dan, Nate, and Serena at the reception before he disappears again.

How off the rails is Jenny Humphrey?
You know, she may be smoking pot in the park with Nate and seeing him when she knows he already has a girlfriend but I'm going to put the blame on Nate for this one. He's the older boy here, he's the one with the girlfriend, he should know better.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Chuck will make more of an appearance in book three, All I Want Is Everything, but we'll have to wait until next time to find out!

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