Friday, July 3, 2015

Review: Eleanor & Park

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Published January 1st 2012 by St. Martin's Press

Two misfits.
One extraordinary love.

Eleanor... Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough...Eleanor.

Park... He knows she'll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There's a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises...Park.

Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.
Eleanor & Park was my second Rainbow Rowell read (after Fangirl) and probably THE most popular and hyped book the author has put out so far. So, I suppose that I don't have to tell you guys that my hopes were pretty high for this one.  As much as contemporaries aren't particularly my genre, I really enjoyed Fangirl and I felt sure that Eleanor & Park would be a win for me. Unfortunately, as much as I wanted to love it...I didn't.  Now before anyone starts throwing rocks in my direction, let me be clear: I didn't hate this book either. I just didn't especially enjoy it nor did I get all that many feels compared to how swept away I felt with my previous Rowell read.  Soooo, if the mere thought of someone not liking this book fills you with murderous rage - or you know, makes you think you won't like me anyone after you read this - then you should probably turn away now.

Before I get into the nitty-gritty here, I should share that I listened to Eleanor & Park on audio and I did not care for the narrators at.all. There was a guy doing Park's chapters and a woman doing Eleanor's but to be honest, neither one of them did the greatest job of capturing either of the character's tone. The guy doing Park wasn't too bad though he sounded bored throughout most of it. And don't get me started on the chick. She sounded flat and uninterested at best and at worst she failed to capture Eleanor's snark and sarcasm completely.  I just feel like their voices caused me to be harsher with this book than I might've otherwise, so I wanted to put that out there before we move on to anything else.

At it's core, Eleanor & Park  is a romance, one that I expected to make me swoon something fierce. Only it didn't.  I didn't buy into Eleanor and Park becoming a couple - especially not as quickly as they did here.  I wouldn't necessarily call it insta-love, but they went from hating each other to tingly feelings without much in between and to be honest, it bothered me. Granted, they're both in high school and those kinds of romances can happen pretty quick, but at the same time, it was like they couldn't even stand to look at each other at first. Park thought Eleanor was a weird, gross freak and Eleanor just though Park was ''that stupid Asian kid''. Then they barely talk while somewhat warming up to one another until it turns into mad love. It simply did not work for me and it's hard to become invested in a romance when you fail to see any real chemistry between the two main characters. A part of me feels like the story would have worked better if Eleanor and Park had just been friends...Sigh.

As individual characters, both Eleanor and Park should have worked for me.  Both feel like outcasts and struggle to fit in at high school. Eleanor worries about her body, her looks, she's bullied and her family life sucks hard, to say the least. Park tries to coast under the bullies radar but his mixed heritage and unique tastes that set him apart from the mainstream. You'd think I'd have connected with both of them, but instead I felt 'meh'.  As much as I pitied Eleanor for being bullied and her terrible home life, it seemed odd to me that she was the only one in that school who seemed to be dealing with discrimination.  I mean, when I was in high school, pretty much no one was safe from teasing and name calling, regardless of sex, race or whatever. Conversely, Park is dubbed a ''misfit'', but he didn't seem to be suffering through any prejudice or bullying. Like, at all.  It was like, out of an entire high school full of students, Eleanor is the only target, because she's supposed to be fat. Erm, ok...O.O

Needless to say, that when I got to the end of Eleanor & Park, I was already feeling underwhelmed. At that point though, I wanted to know what happened with the rest of Eleanor's family. What the hell happened after she left? Where did they all go? I know that the book focuses on the romance but her family issues were still at the forefront throughout the book and I needed some closure - the story still seems unfinished to me. And as much as I enjoyed Fangirl, I had a similar complaint about it feeling unfinished too. As for any feels? Well since I didn't buy into the romance from the start, I didn't especially feel heartbroken by how things go down, which is surprising since I'm quite sentimental and emotional. I did enjoy the references to 80's music and popular culture, but that's about the only plus I can think of at the moment. Which is sad. I honestly wonder if maybe reading the book instead of listening to it might have changed my impression here, but my issues do seem to go beyond the flat narration of the audiobook, which was unfortunate enough. I had hoped that Rainbow Rowell would deliver for me once again but sadly, it wasn't the case. And just when I thought that I was getting the hang of contemporaries. Sigh.

My Rating: 1.5 out of 5 Stars

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Harry Potter Moment #97

Harry Potter Moment of the Week 

Harry Potter Moment of the Week is a  meme hosted by Leah @ Uncorked Thoughts  and Me @ Lunar Rainbows Reviews. The idea is to share a favorite moment, magical item, character, spell, quote, object from the books, films or J.K.Rowling herself!  How to join up &  upcoming topics here.

Hi everyone! The Harry Potter takeover continues here with our regular Harry Potter Moment of the Week :)  I've posted a slew of new topics in case anyone missed it and they can be found here. We've got topics lined up all the way into 2018! I wanted to say thank you again to everyone who pitched in with topic suggestions ♥ You guys are the best! Also, to those also participating in HP Month, don't forget to swing by Faith's House Cup Post and record your HPMotW posts in the comments to claim your points for your respective Houses ;) Ok! Let's get to it then:

If You Could Change One Thing About Book 1, What Would It Be?

Eep, we're talking about changing things from the books. But but but...the books are PERFECTION. HOW am I supposed to want to change any single detail?! I can't.
Ok. Ok.  For the sake of this post, I'll wrack my brain and try to think of a single thing I'd change.  I mean sure, I wish that Harry didn't have to go back to Number 4 Privet after getting all of his magical things. It's like he gets a taste of the wonders to come and then: womp womp. Stuck in this dump again!  I also wish that Snape hadn't started in on Harry right in their first Potions lesson. I mean, the guy never gave the kid a chance!  He just hated him without knowing Harry at all. Sigh. And since Hermione is such a kindred spirit, I do wish she hadn't overheard Ron making fun of her for being a know-it-all.  But as a plot device, it serves for her crying in the bathroom, facing the troll and having the boys help her out so that they can all become friends so I'll keep it as is I guess.  

I think I would change all the stuff about Norbert. He was cute, granted but  Hagrid getting the beast gets him in trouble, it gets the trio in trouble (first years getting detention in the Forbidden Forest, hello!!)
Not to mention the fact that getting Norbert meant that Voldy gets the information he needs to get past Fluffy and closer to the Philosopher's Stone.  That was too close for comfort for me, I don't know about you guys...I know it needed to happen the way that it did but, there you have it.

Did you all struggle as much as I did with this question??

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Harry Potter Month (1)

Harry Potter Month
Harry Potter Month is a yearly event taking place throughout the month of July, to coincide with Harry Potter's birthday. Hosted by Faith @ GeekyZooGirl and myself here at Lunar Rainbows Reviews, the aim is to fill the month with all things Potter.  There will be themed posts, discussions, art and fans rereading the books and rewatching the movies, all of which will earn the participants House-Points towards the House Cup at the end of the month. For more information or to sign up, click here.

Hi Potterheads and Happy Canada Day to my fellow Canadians!  Welcome to the official kick off for Harry Potter Month! Be sure to head on over to Faith's House Cup post that explains how you can claim your points for your house throughout the month which includes a list of participants and why House they're sorted in. Faith also has tentative 'Harry Potter Month Schedule' up to give you an idea about what's going on in July!  As for me, well today I'm sharing some of my all-time must-have wishlist items from the Harry Potter fandom.  All of these images have been taken from my 'The Boy Who Lived' Pinterest board so for information on where to buy and product credit, please check there. Let's get started:

A Deathly Hallows Fob Watch^^ To release your inner Wizard AND your true Timelord self ;)

Hogwarts Wax Seal  and an authentic Time-Turner replica (mine's cheap plastic LOL)

A Harry Potter cuff bracelet and Harry Potter book cover charm bracelets

The Marauder's Map thermal mug and the Ultimate DVD Collection!
An authentic Prophecy replica^^ and as much as I don't drink, I love the idea of an 'Obliviate' shot glass XD

I know I showed you guys before, but look: A JKR BARBIE doll!!  And a HP book cover purse!

Hogwarts Houses Dresser (SO AWESOME) and THE HP Boxed Set with trunk ♥

Gorgeous Hedwig + Hogwarts letter necklace

Marauder's Map underbust corset top. YES PLEASE.

Deathly Hallows ring set. I need it.

And finally a few HP/DW crossover t-shirts. These are SO cool!

What are some of your must-have fandom items?
Do we share any? Let me know!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday #26

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish which features a variety of bookish top ten lists!

Top Ten Books I've Read So Far In 2015

Blue Lily, Lily Blue (1st 5-star of '15)
The Wrath and the Dawn
Alanna: The First Adventure

Dealing with Dragons
ADSOM (5-stars)
A Monster Calls (5-stars)
The Archived
Sabriel (5-stars)

Honorable mentions: Grave Mercy and Owl and The Japanese Circus

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Fandom Mashup #8

Fandom Mashups
Fandom Mashups is a new original feature here at Lunar Rainbows Reviews and it's basically my way of creating dream teams of all my fandoms and having some fun with them.  The idea is that every week, I propose a unique fictional scenario and then build my personal dream team of five fictional characters from five different fandoms to complete the task!  Anyone is welcome to join in on the fandom fun and whip up a post - all I ask is that you link back to me somewhere in your post :)

Hi all! Are you ready for this week's Fandom Mashup?  Here we go:

In your adventuring, you've encountered a dragon :O  but you have no clue how to figure out if it's a friendly dragon or a human barbecue. Who do you take with you to investigate?

September (Fairyland)

I know...I know...September deals with a wyvern, not a dragon, but I feel like the skills could be transferable. In any case, her wyvern is brilliant so he could probably tell us if the dragon we're dealing with is friendly. Or not.

Harry Potter

Let's face it: Harry not only has experience in dealing with dragons (not to mention battling them), but he has experience with ALL KINDS of magical creatures. Downright scary ones at that. I'd want him by my side here for sure...but, then again, I always do ;)

Sam Winchester

Sam is a pro at research, so if we'd need to figure out what kind of dragon we're dealing with, he'd be the best choice. He'd go above and beyond too, telling us dragon-lore about our particular dragon and how to approach it as well.  Plus, if we did need to battle our dragon, Sam is brave enough to help us out.

Cimorene (Dealing with Dragons)

I mean, it's right there in the title^^ Cimorene learns all about Dealing with Dragons!  She's brave, unconventional and she was willing to walk straight into a dragon lair. WITHOUT knowing if they would be friendly dragons or if they would gobble her up!

Bilbo Baggins

An obvious choice I suppose but I can't think of anyone better suited to help us out here.  Bilbo willingly walked into the lair of THE MOST fearsome dragon of life.  And he lived to tell the tale!  Yup, Bilbo is coming with us. Just chalk it up to another adventure ;)

Friday, June 26, 2015

Review: Sabriel

Sabriel by Garth Nix
Abhorsen #1
Published 1995 by HarperCollins

Ever since she was a tiny child, Sabriel has lived outside the walls of the Old Kingdom, away from the random power of Free Magic, and away from the Dead who won't stay dead. But now her father, the Mage Abhorsen, is missing, and to find him Sabriel must cross back into the nine Gates and Precincts of Death. Though her journey begins alone, she soon finds companions: Mogget, whose seemingly harmless feline form hides a powerful-and perhaps malevolent-spirit, and Touchstone, a younger Charter Mage imprisoned two centuries in a wooden ship-head, still trapped by painful memories. With threats on all sides and only each other to trust, the three must travel deep into the Old Kingdom, toward a battle against vicious Hands, Mordicants, and the evil Kerrigor.
Sabriel is classic fantasy book that has been on my reading list since 2011 (according to my Goodreads). Basically, I knew I wanted to read it since I first read the blurb, but for whatever reason, I didn't give it the attention I knew it deserved. Until now.  Having finished the audio version yesterday - narrated by the fantastic Tim Curry - I find myself wondering: WHAT WAS I THINKING not reading this sooner? WHAT'S WRONG WITH ME? WHAT IS LIFE? Gah! Yes, this book is THAT good.  I officially have a new favorite on my hands, and that hasn't happened in a long time.

Sabriel is the kind of fantasy story I live for.  Why? Because it's brilliantly and realistically plotted. There are intense, edge of your seat scenes, perfectly mixed into those slower, more normal moments, which other people might find slow, but I found that it made the story feel more concrete and plausible, despite being a straight up fantasy read.  Let's face it: life isn't always action and suspense. Life is made up of moments. Some are intense and others are more ordinary but it's those simple moments that make the big, poignant moments stand out all the more!  There's a sense of urgency that's woven into every single aspect of this story and that builds all the more within those dark moments, until you feel like you're going to jump out of your skin. I won't go into the finer details here, because I want to let the story speak for itself, but to say that I was captivated from the word go would be an understatement.

Beyond the plot, Sabriel boasts an intensely atmospheric tone that wraps itself around you and takes you for one hell of a ride.  It's dark, dangerous and outright scary at times.  I know it's considered to be a YA book, but Sabriel is an 18 year old young woman and I found that the plot and tone both reflected that more mature YA-feel. Beyond the character's age, the magical system reflected a greater maturity as well, incorporating unique magic, psychic abilities and above all, necromancy. There are good necromancers who help usher the dead spirits into death (like Sabriel herself), and then there are vile necromancers who can do anything from possess dead bodies, spirits and even, in extreme cases, fashion themselves into immortal beings of pure evil.  Beyond the mystery of the necromantic aspects, the magical system works with sounds. A necromancer has special bells, whose sounds have different powers, but in a pinch, they can whistle the notes to the same effect.  I found this to be quite innovative and unlike most magical systems I've encountered in my fantasy reads.

Let's talk more about our heroine here. Sabriel is a young adult with a level head and a strong sense of what's right and wrong.  She came off as something entirely different from all of the other main characters I've ever encountered which seems increasingly rare nowadays.  She wasn't soft by any means, but she wasn't too hard either.  She had a warm heart but she never let it cloud her judgement or stop her from doing what needs to be done.  Sabriel, being one of the good necromancers, can sense death. She can travel from our realm into the realm of the dead, where the spirits reside. Since a very young age, her father, one of the most powerful good necromancers in existence has been teaching her the ways of the dead.  It soon becomes obvious why this girl seems so mature - she's obviously had much of her innocence taken from her at an early age by the sobering reality of death.  Despite that, she remains kind and caring of the people around her.

As the blurb above says, Sabriel sets off on her quest alone.  I admired the hell out of her for that, especially since you don't often encounter that in YA fiction, especially when the main character is a female.  She faces more than one harrowing ordeal before she finally gets herself a few traveling companions.  First there's Mogget, a magical white cart, who isn't really a cat at all.  Knowing me, I'm sure none of you will be surprised at my love for Mogget.  He was snarky and sassy and quite frankly, scary at times but he was a joy to get to know through and through.  Eventually, they meet up with a young man called Touchstone, who I loved as well.  Touchtone is something of a mystery but I like how he and Sabriel slowly warmed up to one another and became great allies.

As any quality questing story, Sabriel has quite a few twists and turns before the end, and I adored every second of it! This is a story surrounded by death, but it managed to carry a lot of light within it as well.  The story has a lot of darkness, but it was sweet and sad and clever all at once.  I laughed, I teared up on more than one occasion but through it all, I was hooked.  I know that I'm incredibly late to the party with this one, but I also know that a lot of fellow fantasy lovers have yet to read this one as well.  All I can say to that is: READ.THIS.BOOK.  You have no idea what you're missing! I honestly can't praise the story enough, and I know my words aren't doing it justice but nevertheless I want EVERYONE to read this book! This was my first experience with author Garth Nix, but I can assure you all that it won't be the last. In fact, I plan on diving into the sequel very soon.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Harry Potter Moment #96

Harry Potter Moment of the Week 

Harry Potter Moment of the Week is a  meme hosted by Leah @ Uncorked Thoughts  and Me @ Lunar Rainbows Reviews. The idea is to share a favorite moment, magical item, character, spell, quote, object from the books, films or J.K.Rowling herself!  How to join up &  upcoming topics here.

If you had to use one, which Unforgivable Curse would you use?

Oh gosh.  All of the Unforgivable Curses are simply too, well, unforgivable to use. I don't want to torture anyone but taking away their free will sounds just as bad.  I can see though how, in certain situations, like when Harry used Imperius to break into Gringotts, or when he used Crucio against Bella and Amycus Carrow, that they were a bit more...forgivable.  I'd never ever use Avada Kedavra though, that's for sure.  I guess, when push comes to shove, I'd pick the Imperious Curse, but I'd ONLY use it to like, distract someone, or something bland like that.  Never to control them to do my bidding or anything of the sort!

More on the Imperius Curse:
The Imperius Curse (Imperio) is a tool of the Dark Arts and one of the three Unforgivable Curses. It is one of the most powerful and sinister spells known to wizardkind. When cast successfully, the curse places the victim completely under the caster's control, though a person with exceptional strength of will is capable of resisting it.
The fact that the curse can be defended against makes it unique amongst the Unforgivable Curses. -Source