Book Review: Pan’s Labyrinth By Guillermo Del Toro & Cornelia Funke

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Rating: ★★★★★
RRP: $29.99 AUD | $32.99 NZ
Publication Date: 2nd July 2019
Find it on Book Depository

A huge thank you to Bloomsbury Publishing for gifting me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads Synopsis:

Oscar winning writer-director Guillermo del Toro and New York Times bestselling author Cornelia Funke come together to transform del Toro’s hit movie Pan’s Labyrinth into an epic and dark fantasy novel for readers of all ages, complete with gorgeous and haunting illustrations.

This book is not for the faint of heart or weak in spirit. It’s not for skeptics who don’t believe in fairy tales and the powerful forces of good. It’s only for brave and intrepid souls like you, who will stare down evil in all its forms.

Inspired by the critically acclaimed film written and directed by Oscar winner Guillermo del Toro and reimagined by New York Times bestselling author Cornelia Funke, this haunting tale takes readers to a darkly magical and war-torn world filled with richly drawn characters like trickster fauns, murderous men, child-eating monsters, courageous rebels, and a long-lost princess hoping to be reunited with her family.

Perfect for fans of the movie and readers who are new to del Toro’s visionary work, this atmospheric and absorbing novel is a portal to another universe where there is no wall between the real and the imagined. A daring, unforgettable collaboration between two brilliant storytellers.

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This was incredible, heartbreaking and thought provoking. I think I may be one of the only people left on the planet that hasn’t watched the Pan’s Labyrinth film, but after reading the book, I’ll definitely be watching the movie. This was a beautifully dark, magical journey from start to finish and I loved every second of it! Written by the film director and Cornelia Funke, this book gives new insight into the 2006 film.

Pan’s Labyrinth (for those few, like me, who haven’t seen the film.) is a dark fantasy tale that follows 11-year-old Ofelia. After picking up her life, along with her pregnant mother, and moving to the secluded home of her new stepfather, the tyrannical and sadistic Captain Vidal, Ofelia finds herself drawn into a world of fairytale fantasy. But, like most fairytales, all is not what it seems.

This book was a-ma-zing! Each scene was written in such a way that you felt as though you were a spectator in these characters lives, like you could be walking in and out of this world watching their every move. The world building was rich and atmospheric and had an incredible knack of making me feeling completely uneasy. From the very beginning I found it hard to discern who to trust and who to fear most. It was done so well, that the feeling of unease seemed to stick with me well after I had put the book down. It even chased me into my dreams on a few occasions!

I would like to mention that this book is not for the faint of heart. Set in 1944, in Nazi-held Europe, there is a lot of brutal content that could make some readers feel uncomfortable. However, it all combines perfectly to create a dark and menacing read. The characters felt completely raw and real, which I think is what this book is all about at the heart of it. Human emotion, good, bad and truly evil.

Honestly, I cannot fault this book. I’d even go as far as to say that it’s probably one of my favourite reads of the year! The beautifully written story, along with some truly gorgeous illustrations combine to create a mesmerising reading experience. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to watch Pan’s Labyrinth and bawl my eyes out some more.

Book Review: The Rift By Rachael Craw

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Rating: ★★★★★
RRP: $19.99 AUD
Find it on Book Depository

A huge thank you to Walker Books for gifting me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads Synopsis:

For generations, the Rangers of Black Water Island have guarded the Old Herd against horrors released by the Rift. Cal West, an apprentice Ranger with a rare scar and even rarer gifts, fights daily to prove he belongs within their ranks. After nine years away, Meg Archer returns to her childhood home only to find the Island is facing a new threat that not even the Rangers are prepared for. Meg and Cal can’t ignore their attraction, but can they face their darkest fears to save the Island from disaster?

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I need more! This book was incredible and I need more!

I honestly wasn’t expecting to love this as much as I did! I don’t really know what I was excepting, but this book took me back to the feeling of reading The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater for the first time and it was amazing! I knew it was going to be one of my new favourite books when I got about 3/4 of the way through and was frantically googling if there was a sequel in the works! Please, please, please let there be a sequel in the works!

The Rift by Rachael Craw is told from two different points of view. That of Cal West, an apprentice Ranger with rare abilities living on Blackwater Island and responsible for the safety of an ancient herd of deer, coveted for their antlers magical healing properties. And Meg Archer, the daughter of the Master Ranger swept away to the mainland by her mother to live a “normal life” after a terrible childhood accident. Upon Megs return to the island the pair must navigate their way through their growing attraction for one another all while facing their greatest fears to save the island and the Old Herd from disaster.

This book took the term “magical realism” and ran like hell with it! It felt incredibly magical and rich. The world building was so atmospheric and engaging, I could have looked up from my book and been on Black Water Island, surrounded by thrumming lay lines, hell hounds and ancient mythical deer, and I wouldn’t have been surprised. The pacing of the plot was brilliant, I was never once bored with the story and ended up burning through this book in a matter of hours.

The characters were really likeable and despite possessing rare, magical abilities, they still felt completely authentic and real. The slow burn romance was perfection and the interactions between Cal, Meg and other minor characters was really fun and enjoyable.

Overall, The Rift was incredibly whimsical and original. It felt a little murky and confusing to start with, but the more I read, the more clear everything became, and I was able to understand the dynamics of the world and how the characters fit into it. Despite this, I couldn’t bring myself to deduct any stars from this review. I really, truly, LOVED this book and I will definitely be reading any future sequels. Now, excuse me while I go to the store and purchase every other book Rachael Craw has ever written.

Book Review: A Curse So Dark And Lonely By Brigid Kemmerer

we are okayRating: ★★★★
Title: A Curse so Dark and Lonely
Author: Brigid Kremmerer
Find it on Book Depository

Goodreads Synopsis:

It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper Lacy. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom.

A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. But as she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.

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This was great! I enjoyed it. I would say it has a very similar feel to the ACOTAR series while reading, but probably aimed more at a slightly younger audience. Nevertheless, I liked it a lot and will definitely continue the series!

A Curse So Dark And Lonely follows Harper, a teenage girl, swept away from her home in Washington DC by Grey, the Commander of the Royal Guard, to Emberfall, a fairytale-esque Kingdom, currently cursed by a powerful enchantress. The only way to break the curse is for Harper to fall for Prince Rhen. But with very little time before the prince is doomed to live as a beast forever and his people are left without a ruler, Harper struggles to know her true feelings. With Emberfall slowly going to ruin, Harper must navigate her way through love, loss, war and heartache.

I actually really enjoyed this Beauty and the Beast retelling. It felt fresh and different, while not straying too far from the original source material  for the reader to know it’s a retelling of a classic fairytale. The novel was right up my alley in terms of genre, and the romance was very sweet. However, I do get the feeling that a love triangle will be a predominant part of the next instalment as there were quite a few moments that it was hinted at and slowly built upon. The love triangle troupe is something I really dislike, so I hope that the author chooses to go a different route or does it in a way I am able to enjoy.

I loved the rich world building! I felt like I was right there in Emberfall with Harper, Rhen and Grey. Speaking of which, the characters were fantastic! I loved that we were given a really strong, female main character with cerebral palsy. It’s not something I have ever seen represented in a YA book before, so it was really great seeing it represented so respectfully. Despite the hints of an impending love triangle, I actually really liked both the male leads and found them both equally as interesting and charismatic. Although, personally, I wouldn’t go past a Commander of the Royal Guard! Ha!

Overall, the story was great! There were a couple of things I didn’t overly enjoy, but it wasn’t enough to stop me from wanting to pick the book up and devour it in a matter of hours. I really liked this retelling, and with the way it ended, I look forward to reading the next instalment!

My Bookish Confessions

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Every now and then I do something while reading that I just know would be looked down upon by a more sophisticated reader than I. So I decided to write them all down, show everyone and run the risk of being shamed for it. HA! Below you will find a few of my bookish confessions.

I never pay attention to the map in the front of a book. Ever.

I love fantasy! I adore it! It’s easily my favourite genre. It’s also easily the most likely genre to have/need a map printed in the front due to all the world building that takes place. But do I ever look at the map? Well, with the exception of Holly Black’s ‘The Folk of the Air series’ (and only because it’s pretty) no, I never read the map. I don’t even really care much about where places are in relation to one another, I just read it and move on with the story.

I’m a spine cracker.

Ok, so I draw the line at dog earring a page, I hate that! But I will 100% crack that bad boys spine. In fact, I’d go so far as to say I love the feel of a paper back book, folded over itself to be made easier to hold one handed. It’s great! The perfect life hack for leaving the other hand free for coffee and/or snacks. Please don’t kill me!

I skim over words.

If I don’t know a word, I’ll just say “sfbuyerbfjk” in my head as I skim over it. Yeeeeaaaaahhhhh, I am the worst. If I can remember, occasionally I’ll look the word up to learn it. But more often than not, I just skim right over it and see if I can make sense of the the sentence as a whole.

I make up names.

I’ve actually spent the entirety of a series calling a character the wrong name. I didn’t learn how it was correctly pronounced until well into the series (I’m looking at you Chaol Westfall from the Throne of Glass series.) So I’ll either pronounce the name wrong for the whole series, or, if the name is particularly weird or misleading with its spelling, I’ll remember what it looks like and just do as above and “sfbuyerbfjk” over it. For those wondering, I called Chaol ‘Coal’ the whole time! For some reason my brain didn’t register the spelling at first and just made up a new name. It’s actually pronounced like ‘Kale’. It blew my mind the day I found out!

I will judge a book by its cover. Ruthlessly.

If it has a persons face on the cover, I struggle to pick it up. This is my most hated cover style. I’ve written a whole blog post about YA books that were given terrible covers to begin with, and most of them are terrible because they have models on the front cover. I really hate being shown how a particular character is meant to look. I’d much rather use my imagination and develop my own sense of the characters appearance. Movie covers are another one I absolutely hate, for the same reasons as above.

I prefer female protagonists.

I’m not saying I won’t read a book with a male protagonist, but I do prefer reading from a female point of view. But I suppose as long as the story is gripping, I’m not too fussed. Still, if I had to choose the same story but from a male or female point of view. I’d always pick female!

So that’s it, to name a few. Do you have any bookish confessions? Let me know in the comments or find me on bookstagram (@readingsumpton) and tell me all your secrets!

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Blog Tour: We Are Okay By Nina LaCour

we are okayFirst of all, I’d like to say a huge ‘thank you’ to Aussie YA Bloggers and The University Of Queensland Press for giving me the opportunity to be part of this blog tour! This book really hit home for me in terms of dealing with grief and trying to find your way back to the person you were prior to being impacted so heavily by the tragedy of death.

Synopsis:

Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend, Mabel. But even far away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.
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Rating: ★★★★.5
Find it on Book Depository

This. Was. Beautiful.

“But I know there’s a difference between how I used to understand things and how I do now. I used to cry over a story and then close the book, and it all would be over. Now everything resonates, sticks like a splinter, festers.”

This book was so relatable for me in terms of dealing with grief and navigating those horribly deep, dark waters back to some semblance of who you used to be before you were touched by tragedy. Reading it took me back to a time just after my brother passed away and had me feeling so much love and compassion for the main character. I don’t want to use the words “I loved it” because honestly, it felt deeper than that. It felt like it stripped me a little raw, and got me thinking about all those times I too wanted to run away and fall into that all encompassing grief.

We Are Okay follows Marin, a grief stricken college student who, after losing the only family she has ever truly known (her grandfather) decides to up and leave her old life behind. She not only walks away from the house and possessions she shared with her grandfather, but she also walks away from her best friend, Mabel. This book takes an emotional dive into what it is like to be Marin as she navigates her way through love, loss, loneliness and betrayal, and how the strength of those who love us most, can be the most powerful and healing tool of all.

This book has some really beautifully done LGBTQ+ representation and executes the raw emotional state of grief perfectly. I was undone so deeply several times while reading this as the way in which Marin sees the world at the beginning of this book and the way she feels throughout was all too familiar for me. I could really get on her level and understand that deep, hollow feeling you get that comes with the loss of someone you love.

In terms of plot, this book almost bypassed the need for one. It focused so intently on character interacts, emotional connections and self growth that it didn’t feel as though it was lacking anything at all. The connection between Marin and Mabel was perfection, their relationship was just beautiful to read. Their love and compassion for one another and their deep understanding of one another was what really made this book for me.

Overall, this book was fantastic, some may find it a little slow or lacking in plot, but as I said, this wasn’t really an issue for me due to the incredibly deep and fleshed out characters. We Are Okay had me in tears several times throughout and really took a good look at grief and the impact one person can have on another. I finished this book in one day! The words flowed so perfectly that it felt like I could continue reading Marin’s story forever. Because of this I am giving We Are Okay 4.5 stars.

Thank you again to Aussie YA Bloggers and The University of Queensland Press for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour!

5 Ways To Survive A Reading Slump

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We’ve all been there. You’re smashing your TBR pile/shelf one book at a time, writing all the reviews and just generally living your best book loving life. Until all of a sudden, that drive is gone! Vanished! It’s in the void! You can’t even fathom picking up a book. I’m a weird reader. One moment I’ll be reading constantly, all I want to do in my spare time is pick up the book I’m currently reading. Then the next moment, I won’t feel like reading anything! My worst/longest reading slump lasted almost a year! It was of course around about the time I found out I was pregnant all the way through to after she was born which was both a beautiful dream of baby cuddles and total feelings of love and completion but it was also a total nightmare of no sleep and a crying baby I had no idea what I was doing with.

fast forward 8 months and I can feel myself getting to a point that I may be hitting another, slightly smaller slump. My kiddo is getting teeth, and as most parents know, THIS IS NOT FUN! In addition to this, she also needs to be highly supervised as she is becoming more mobile now, so half my “spare time” is now taken up by a baby who won’t sleep or a baby who just wants to touch everything. So here are the tips and tricks I’ll certainly be following to try and get some reading done and some books completed this month!

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Forget About Your Reading Goal

If you’re anything like me, you’ve set a reading goal on Goodreads this year. I am a total sucker for it, but it comes with both positives and negatives. Positives being, well, it’s fun! Until you hit a reading slump, then those numbers just feel like a burden! So my first tip is to just forget about the numbers! Reading is supposed to be fun. If you only read half a book one month, so be it! As long as you enjoyed that half of a book, the numbers don’t matter! Just roll with it!

Reread Something You Love

Read a book you know you adore (hello ACOMAF)! I find rereading a story with characters I love/have an unhealthy obsession with (hello Cassian!) really helps me get back on track with my reading! I have also found it helpful before, to read a book I haven’t read, yet written by an author I love! Give it a go, you’ll be out of that slump in no time!

Join A Buddy Read

Ask your friends if they’d be interested in doing a buddy read with you! Set small reading goals for the week and then chat about it, preferably over coffee! If you don’t have anyone in your life that is interested in reading, jump on Bookstagram! There are bound to be so many other readers in the same boat as you that would be really happy to do a buddy read with you and chat about it online at the end of the week!

Switch Genres

I’m a total fool for fantasy novels. I love them. LOVE THEM. But sometimes, especially if you’ve been delving into a lot of different worlds, it can get a little repetitive. So why not switch it up! Try reading a contemporary or sci-fi! Or maybe even switch to non-fiction and try that instead. Sometimes all you need is a break from your usual read!

Ride It Out

Sometimes, a book slump is going to win. But instead of forcing yourself to try and get back into reading, why not instead do something else with that spare time! Focus on other bookish things! Write for your blog, takes pictures of Bookstagram, get started on that novel you’ve been thinking about writing for 300 years (you must be a Fae or something if you’ve waited that long though and if that’s the case, hit me up I’d like to visit the Night Court!)

And if all else fails, there’s always Netflix. Go binge watch something awesome and forget about books for a while, the slump will pass eventually. I recommend Brooklyn 99 if you’re looking for a good laugh.

Book Review: The Graces By Laure Eve

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Find it on Book Depository

Goodreads Synopsis:

Everyone said the Graces were witches.

They moved through the corridors like sleek fish, ripples in their wake. Stares followed their backs and their hair.

They had friends, but they were just distractions. They were waiting for someone different.

All I had to do was show them that person was me.

Like everyone else in her town, River is obsessed with the Graces, attracted by their glamour and apparent ability to weave magic. But are they really what they seem? And are they more dangerous than they let on?

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What the heck did I just read?!

Ok, so I don’t really want to just throw the words “this was just like Twilight” around, but.. This was just like Twilight in so many respects.

The Graces follows the new girl in school, River (Bella), who is, along with everyone else at school, infatuated with the Graces (Cullens). The Graces are a threesome of super attractive teen siblings, that are supposedly witches (vampires). For one reason or another they choose River to be their new best friend and together they navigate love, loss, magic and betrayal.

Unfortunately I felt like this book completely lacked atmosphere, and although I believe it was the authors intent to create deep, dark and emotional characters, they mostly just came across as down right pretentious. The pacing was completely off! Nothing happened plot wise for the first 300 pages, by which time, it felt like a dam burst and we were flooded with a lot of information and a really obvious plot twist.

River as a character was horrible! I am really over reading stories about young, hateful girls who rip other girls to shreds because they differ from them. Not to mention her complete and utter adoration of the Graces was cringe worthy! The Graces themselves felt very one dimensional and, for lack of a better word, completely unbelievable and uninteresting. I had absolutely no strong feelings for any of the characters, they all felt completing lacking in substance.

The unoriginal characters are accompanied by unoriginal dialogue. The supposedly “deep” conversations just come across as weird and unbelievable and having to read about River fawning over Edward Cullen’s, oops, I mean, Fenrin Grace’s “crooked smile” and how he smelt “like a thicker, manlier kind of vanilla, was down right nauseating.

I really don’t know how else to describe how I feel about this book. The ending felt really unsatisfying, which I assume is because it’s meant to lead you into reading the squeal. However, due to the first half of this book being totally boring and the last half feeling like it was just too little, too late, I won’t be reading any further. It felt like the author was trying too hard to push the dark and moody vibes of the story that, in the end, it didn’t quite hit the mark. Because of this, I am giving The Graces 1 star.