Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

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I was sent this book in my Ninja Book Swap parcel and wanted to read or almost immediately (the second I made a dent in the five books I already had on the go). I read it Saturday over the course of a day and loved it.

I’ve seen quotes gloating around Tumblr for quite some time now but before I added it to my wish list I never really looked into it. I assumed based on the cover that it would turn out to be some sort of fantasy teen book… Which is about as wrong as I could get. It’s actually a coming of age story set in America in the 80s and revolves around two Mexican boys, Aristotle and Dante.

Aristotle narrates and I loved the contrast between his unsureness and Dante’s confidence. They are polar opposites to one another but neither felt like a stereotype or parody. I liked seeing things from the less confident boy’s eyes, I think it was important to see feelings and emotions develop slowly, as much as I loved Dante.

I liked the way it was set out, with chapters of different lengths and sections to show slight changes in the boys situation. It was a fairly quick read, like I said I finished it within a day, and I think the layout helped that.

It was also nice to read a book that was explicitly about a gay relationship, particularly one where the characters were also not white. It’s not written for ‘me’, in the sense that I don’t fall into that demographic, but I know that it’s an important thing for people who don’t see themselves mirrored positively in fiction. I can see why the hype as there online!

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Wise Children by Angela Carter

  

This was my first book of the Rereadathon and the one that immediately popped in to my head when I first signed up. I first read Wise Children back in 2007 when I first started my A Levels and I loved it back then, and I love it now. I think the general consensus amongst the people I’m still in touch with from school that it’s a pretty glorious book (even with the incest). The annotations by myself and my best friend were also particularly spectacular, my favourite being ‘fornication (sex)’. Clearly a more innocent time.

Wise Children revolves around twin sisters, Dora and Nora, on the day of their 75th birthday. Which coincidentally is also the 100th birthday of their illegitimate father. Dora narrates and chronicles the ups and downs of the Hazard/Chance family from their father’s birth through to their childhood and to the steady decline of their showgirl career in the sixties. 

The book is basically a homage to all things Shakespearean, show business, nostalgic and feminist. There’s family drama galore; legitimate, illegitimate and almost legitimate children; absent fathers; ex wives and mistaken identities. Twins run in the family. 

Throughout the book Dora narrates with humour, a darkly funny take on tragedies long past, and matter-of-factness. Angela Carter’s style of writing remains the only thing that has ever tempted me to write anything myself because of how lyrical yet accessible it is. It remains one of my favourite books I have ever read.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

  

My best friend insisted I read this one before the film came out and I’m glad she did because I’ve been meaning to read this one for ages! The book revolves around vintage photographs sourced by the author (with credits for the collections they came from at the back) and a mysterious home for strange children off the coast of Wales.

I’ve never been much of a fan of fantasy books and really, there has to be something slightly more to them for me to pick them up. So the inclusion of the photographs really got me involved in the story. I loved how well they wove in to the plot and the extra dimension of being able to see the strange characters involved.

As for the plot itself I’d say it’s definitely one written for children as well. I am half tempted to tell my nine year old sister to read it next. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it! I liked the little world that Ransom Riggs has created, including the monsters and the myths. It wasn’t overly complicated but it also felt original. 

I’ll have to read the next books and see the film!

Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid

  

This one was a cute little semi-love story that I picked up on an Amazon Marketplace Young Adult binge. Quite a few of Adi Alsaid’s books caught my eye but this one in particular was the one I was looking forward to the most. At the beginning of high school Julia and Dave, best friends, make a pact to never be cliches. To seal the deal they make a list of ‘nevers’, high school cliches they swear to never do.

The bulk of the plot occurs after Julia suggests, three months before the end of high school, that they try out every never on the list to see what they’ve been missing out on. Which is, of course, a lot it turns out. Parties, new friends, love triangles and drama occurs.

I liked the fact that Julia and Dave, arguably two ‘ironic’ hipsters (certainly in Julia’s case) realise that they have missed out on stuff thanks to their refusal to do anything ordinary. There’s no glorifying of deliberately going against the grain for the sake of it (a trope I hate both in real life and books) and at the end of the book they both come away a lot more rounded than they do at the beginning. The romance, for me, was secondary and not as predictable as I thought it would be.

The characters were pretty diverse, which I’ve said before seems to be much more common in young adult fiction than others. I didn’t like Julia that much to begin with… But I warmed to her! Dave I loved from the beginning, even if he was a tad whiny. Overall, very much enjoyed this one!

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

  
This was one of those books that I wanted to read before the film came out and, despite being a fairly thick book, I got through it pretty quick! It falls under that category of Young Adult dystopian books that tend to make pretty good film franchises so I’m looking forward to that too.

I liked the switching narratives and the fact that each character had a very different idea of what was going on. It was fairly easy to piece together what was happening, which meant that I spent a lot of the novel waiting for the characters to catch up, but the plot wasn’t as convoluted as other Young Adult dystopian series I’ve read in the past (ahem, The Maze Runner). It flowed well.

One of the main things that struck me was how well a male author wrote a female main character. Not to assume that men can’t write teenage girls, but the way Cassie was written was so different to the way I’ve seen teenage girls written before. She was in equal parts cranky, sympathetic, terrified and brave. She was also concerned about her dwindling supply tampons, which I really appreciated as an aside. It’d be what I’d be worried about after the apocalypse. After any promises to my siblings.

I wasn’t enamoured with the romance aspect of the plot, but that may change in the rest of the series. Which I immediately ordered!

My Rereadathon To Be Read pile

  
I’ve finally narrowed down my To Be Read pile for next week’s Rereadathon! I had also planned on rereading Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman but I couldn’t find it. I might have a look in the library

This seems like a lot of books for ten days, especially as I’m planning on reading other books too… But I am on Easter holidays as of the 24th and need plenty of books to occupy my time!

Three of these books (Wuthering Heights, The House on Mango Street and Wise Children) are books I read at university and school so I’m looking forward to reading them without that pressure. Wise Children even has my old annotations written in it! Lolita and Timbuktu I probably haven’t read in the best part of eleven years, so this whole week is exciting!

What is everyone else reading this week?

Doris Morris… and The Invasion of The Neighbours by Janet Kelly

  

I got a lovely little book parcel in the post this morning and thought I’d review one of the books now! This will be my first review of a children’s book (fun fact: I work with kids and my siblings are much younger so I have a bigger interest in children’s books than you’d think).

I loved Doris Morris, not least because she slightly resembles my own decrepit old cat (pictured). But also because I liked the idea of a series with a message for kids. In this story, the first in the series, Doris learns that family will always be there to help when her owners protect her from the neighbour cats.

  
Illustrations are by Sam Porter and each page is colourful and kooky. I particularly like the page above… Mainly because I know it’d be a hit with kids (many hours of listening to David Walliams books has taught me that kids love reading about poo and bums in their books).

  
Overall, it was a cute, quirky book with a lovely message behind it. The rhyming was a nice touch for the Dr Seuss fan in me and I can imagine you’re really children really enjoying reading about Doris the old cat.

Doris Morris is available from May at Bobaloo Books!