Rachel Reviews: The Virgin Suicides

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Title: The Virgin Suicides

Author: Jeffrey Eugenides

Genre: Contemporary

Format: Ebook

Date Completed: 28 August 2017

Goodreads Rating: 4 stars

Blurb: 

The five Lisbon sisters are brought up in a strict household, and when the youngest kills herself, the oppression of the remaining sisters intensifies. As Therese, Mary, Bonnie and Lux are pulled deeper into isolation by their domineering mother, a group of neighbourhood boys become obsessed with liberating the sisters. But what the boys don’t know is, the Lisbon girls are beyond saving.

I’ve now read The Virgin Suicides twice. Both times, I read it in one sitting, over the space of around 3 hours. Both times, I’ve finished it feeling as though I’ve just read something incredible, something I can’t quite put my finger on, and yet at the same time feeling slightly detached from the whole experience. I think that feeling of detachment says more about Eugenides and his writing style than anything else could.

The genius of The Virgin Suicides is that it is told entirely from the outside. Not once do we get a glimpse inside the minds of the five Lisbon sisters. We never get to understand their motivations, their wishes, their justifications. The closest we get to them is through the imaginings of the group of males who were infatuated with the Lisbon sisters in life, and remain infatuated with them in death. We, like the boys in the novel, are forced to poke around, to draw our own conclusions, to rely on hearsay and assumptions to form a picture of the sisters in our heads. And I think this is genius. Would the book have been good if it gave the sisters a voice, allowed them to tell their own story? Of course. But it wouldn’t be the same book. And it probably wouldn’t be as atmospheric.

Reading The Virgin Suicides the first time is a very different experience to re-reading it. When you’re first reading, you’re trying to figure out the mystery along with the boys. You’re using their evidence, their accounts of the events, their perceptions, to piece together the Lisbon sisters and try to understand why they came to kill themselves. On the second reading, however, your focus is pulled more towards the boys themselves, their obsession with the girls and their simultaneous detachment from their suffering. The Virgin Suicides isn’t really about the Lisbon sisters. Their tragedy is merely used as a means to explore the attitudes the group of teenage boys held towards them, or towards women in general. It is a masterful exploration of the misunderstandings and assumptions society makes about other people, about their motivations and desires.  In particular, The Virgin Suicides explores the fetishisation of teenage girls by those around them, how easy it is for unique individuals to blend into one being, devoid of any autonomy or power over the direction of their lives.

The Virgin Suicides is best devoured in one sitting. It’s almost cinematic in its delivery, and as a result it feels like something that needs to be consumed all at once, rather than spread out over multiple sittings. Upon finishing The Virgin Suicides, I had a moment of detachment, of feeling as though I was somehow separate from what was happening around me. In essence, I felt the way the novel feels: separate and isolated, desperately trying to put the pieces together to justify my own interpretation. And to me, that’s the sign of a great book.

4.5/5 stars.

 

Expanding?

I’ve been thinking about starting up a bookstagram for a while now. I absolutely bloody love instagram. It’s my favourite social media (I get bored on Facebook and I honestly just can’t even with twitter), and I’m quite proud of my current instagram account. I just don’t really feel like it’s the right place for me to post writing or book related things. I dunno. I also don’t know if the people interested in writing/books necessarily want to see all my random pictures of food, landscapes, and Edinburgh castle. So I thought I might start a second instagram, dedicated purely to reading, writing, and pretty pictures of books.

How do you feel about instagram as a social media tool for writers and readers? Would you follow my bookstagram? Do you have your own bookstagram? Do you hate all social media and wish you could just get on with your blog in peace? I’m interested to hear any and all opinions!

Watching – WIPpet Wednesday

Welcome back to this week’s WIPpet Wednesday!

Today’s snippet is 30 words, adding the date (26) and the month (4) together. Another short snippet, I know. They’ll get longer soon, I promise.

Just an FYI, Fier is a work in progress name. Because I’m so terrible at coming up with names, I have a list of names I really like, and if I’m really stuck I borrow one from the list, mix it around a bit, and use that. Fier comes from the name Fierro, which is just such a cool name.

This is the beginning of his very first chapter, which means you don’t get any context!

The newly crowned Empress uttered every word of the oath without stuttering, and turned to survey her subjects. From his spot in the crowd, Fier raised his eyebrows and exhaled.

If you want to join in WIPpet Wednesday, come find us at this linky thing, post your link, and join in the fun!

Rapid Fire Booktag

I was tagged to do this booktag by my friend over at Ríona O’Inabha to do this challenge on my instagram literally 20 days ago. Oops. Still, better late than never, right? You are technically supposed to respond on instagram, but I decided to do it here.There’s more space here, anyway.

1. E-book or physical?
Always physical. I’ve tried e-books in the past, but they just don’t quite have the same magic that a physical book does. Obviously, physical books aren’t the most practical, so I subsitute them with audiobooks as well. I know a lot of people hate audiobooks, but I’ve grown up listening to them, and for some stories I feel that it really adds to the experience of reading the books (autobiographies, for example). But yes, always physical books.

2. Paperback or hardback?
Hardback. Paperbacks are easier to throw into a handbag, and are lighter, but I honestly prefer reading hardbacks, and I think they look so beautiful all lined up on a shelf together. At the end of the day though, I’ll go for whatever version has the most beautiful cover across the entire series.

3. Trilogy or series?
I honestly don’t really have a preference, I just want as many books as are appropriate. For example, Harry Potter wouldn’t really work the same with more or fewer than 7 books. Many books are designed to be part of a trilogy or series from the outset, whilst some end up feeling as though they could have been condensed into fewer books. I’m happy to read standalone, duology, trilogy, or series, as long as it doesn’t feel too rushed or too drawn out.

4. Recommended and underrated book?
The Mirrorworld series by Cornelia Funke, starting with The Petrified Flesh. You might have noticed by my review of the third book, The Golden Yarn, yesterday, but I love this series, and Cornelia Funke in general. Otherwise, I’d have to say the Trickster duology by Tamora Pierce. They’re probably my two favourite fantasy series. Ever.

5. Last book you bought?
I actually bought three books at once the other day when I found them, brand new, in a charity shop. They are the Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness: The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer, and Monsters of Men. Their pretty hyped up in the booktube world, and for £1.50 each I figured I could give them a try.

6. New or used books?
Used, but only if they’re in good condition. When I was younger, there was a huge secondhand bookshop down where my grandma lives, and I spent a lot of time in there buying books, particularly old editions of Enid Blighton novels. It’s always fun to go into Dymocks or Waterstones and buy a brand new book, but it’s just as wonderful to pop into a charity store and find a barely used copy of a book you’ve always wanted to read for only a few dollars!

7. Top three genres?
It will probably come as no surprise to anyone, but fantasy, historical fiction, and sci-fi.

8. Character or plot?
Both are obviously important, but I’d have to say character slightly edges over plot. If a book has a terrible plot, obviously I’m going to struggle, but I can forgive one or two plot holes if the characters are amazing. At the same time, a pretty good plot with characters I just can’t connect with, or that feel 2D/trope-like, just isn’t going to grab me the way a good plot with good characters will.

9. Long or short chapters?
Again, it depends on how well they are executed, but, in general, I’d have to go with short chapters. I like how they help the story progress, and you’re less likely to get bogged down or lose interest.

10. Name 3 books that come to mind.
Nevernight – Jay Kristoff
Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien
The Last Kingdom – Bernard Cornwell

11. A book that made you laugh and cry.
Inkspell by Cornelia Funke. So much laughter, so many tears.

12. Our world or fictional?
Always fictional. I’ve been dreaming of escaping to fictional worlds for as long as I can remember. It’s one of my favourite things about reading.

I haven’t tagged anyone in this, but if you feel inspired to answer these questions, definitely let me know down below and I’ll pop over and read your answers!

Going Ok – ROW80 Check In

This week is the last week of April, which is pretty terrifying. We’re also pretty solidly into Round 2. Well, everyone else is. I’m still getting into the swing of things. But hey, that’s what happens when you plan a two week whirlwind visit back to Australia in the first two weeks of the round. I’m not fussed. 

Last Week’s Goals

  • Write 1,500 words per day, for a total of 7,500 words by Sunday. Yeah, no. This did not happen. I started work this week, and that, combined with jetlag, settling back into Edinburgh life, and a solid case of life-block. I think I ended the week with about 1,500 words.
  • Finish The Golden Yarn. You can read my review here.
  • Start The Celts and Nevernight. I’m only aiming to finish one by the end of the month, but non-fiction books are never as quick to read as you expect, hence the addition of a (rather long) fantasy novel.
  • Catch up on blog posts. Despite only starting on Wednesday, I did manage 6 blog posts this week. Four of them were here, and two over on my other blog, Success!
  • List all major Blood of Kings characters ready for character interviewsTwo of them still don’t have names (I’m SO bad at names), but this is done. Only the major characters, the supporting case will follow at a later date.
  • Make a list of major settings and corresponding plot points. I still have a lot of questions for myself with regards to setting, but I at least have a list of the main places of action for Blood of Kings. 

So, aside from the actual most important part of the goals (aka the writing), this week was a success. Seeing as it really kicked off on Wednesday, I’m calling it a resounding success! Huzzah!

This Week’s Goals

  • 1,500 words per day. Even though I didn’t do much writing last week, I really worked on the plot of Blood of Kings. I now have a pretty solid idea not only of the entire plot, but also of each of the major characters’ plot arc. Hopefully, this should make writing a lot easier this week. I just need to find/make time to write every day.
  • Finish Nevernight. I’m not optimistic about finishing The Celts, because I’m notoriously slow at finishing non-fiction for anything but uni. Then again, I  have a lot of Nevernight left. So, we’ll see. But finish at least one book, that’s the goal.
  • Blog x6 per week. Easy peasy (hopefully).
  • Write character interviews for major characters. I currently have five POV characters for Blood of Kings, and I’m aiming to write their character interviews first. Hopefully, they’ll be talkative and it won’t be too much of a stressful process!
  • Work out settings in more detail and add relevant pins to Pinterest board. I’ve got a list of major settings (they don’t have names yet, ugh names), but there’s a lot I still need to figure out. So that’s this week’s job.

All in all, it looks as though it’s going to be a very busy week. But busy is good, right?

Rachel Reviews: The Golden Yarn

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Title: The Golden Yarn (Mirrorworld, Book 3)

Author: Cornelia Funke

Genre: Fantasy

Format: Paperback

Date completed: 18 April 2017

Goodreads rating: 5 stars

Blurb: 

Jacob Reckless continues to travel the portal in his father’s abandoned study. His name has continued to be famous on the other side of the mirror, as a finder of enchanted items and buried secrets. His family and friends, from his brother, Will to the shape-shifting vixen, Fox, are on a collision course as the two worlds become connected. Who is driving these two worlds together and why is he always a step ahead?
This new force isn’t limiting its influence to just Jacob s efforts it has broadened the horizon within MirrorWorld. Jacob, Will and Fox travel east and into the Russian folklore, to the land of the Baba Yaga, pursued by a new type of being that knows our world all to well.

I will preface this review by saying two things. Firstly, this review won’t be super in depth or long, because as the third book in a series there’s quite a lot that could be spoilers, and I don’t want to spoil any of this for anyone. Secondly, Cornelia Funke is my favourite author, and as a result I’m somewhat biased in that I love literally everything of hers I read. Because she’s amazing.

I read the first book of the Mirrorworld series a long time ago, when it was called Reckless, and it’s sequel was Fearless. Now, for some unknown reason, these books have been rebranded as Reckless: The Petrified Flesh and Reckless: Living Shadows. This annoys me slightly, because I thought that Reckless and Fearless were cooler names. I’m also a bit annoyed that the English edition covers aren’t quite as beautiful as the German covers (this seems to be a theme). Seriously, look how beautiful they are!

Anyway, onto The Golden Yarn. I actually picked up my edition as part of the Dymocks free book boxes they sometimes have in store, where you can pick up books that have been damaged/lost the dust jacket/are ARCs for free if you have a student card or dymocks card. As a result, my copy of The Golden Yarn is actually an uncorrected proof copy. This doesn’t bother me in the slightest, particularly as (because of the various cover/branding changes that have occurred), I’m going to need to repurchase book 1 anyway, and I only have book 2 on audiobook. I brought it back to Edinburgh with me from Adelaide to read on the train up from London, which is exactly what I did.

The Mirrorworld series is set, unsurprisingly, in a world called the Mirrorworld. The Mirrorworld is quite similar to our world, however a few centuries behind. By this point in the series, the Mirrorworld has entered the industrial revolution, and horses, carriages, and candles mingle with trains, automobiles, and the beginnings of electricity. The Mirrorworld is also filled with magic and magical creatures: witches, nymphs, faeries, and elves. The Mirrorworld is actually one of my favourite fantasy worlds I’ve ever encountered in literature. I like that it’s not your bulk standard medieval alternative world that often appears in fantasy. I like that it’s a bit gritty and dark. And I actually really enjoy that its geography mirrors that of our world, just with slightly different names. I enjoy that I don’t need to constantly flick back and forth to a map in the front to know where my characters are.

All three of the Mirrorworld novels so far as essentially quest stories that follow our main character, Jacob Reckless. Jacob Reckless is from our world, but has been able to travel to the Mirrorworld through a mirror in his house since he was a teenager. Like all of the characters in this series, Jacob is wonderfully developed. He isn’t the typical loveable flawless hero, but he also isn’t the classic anti-hero. He’s a mix of both, and as a result he comes across as an actual person, someone you could imagine meeting. Because the Mirrorworld series is not strictly YA, the characters are given much more scope to be developed and behave in realistic, complicated, conflicting ways, rather than being bound by classic YA tropes. Jacob isn’t always likeable, in fact sometimes he’s downright infuriating, but that just adds to his charm and developed-ness.

In The Golden Yarn, we get to explore a bit more of the Mirrorworld, and its various magical creatures (often based in the myths of the European countries they’re set in). We also got to experience the story from multiple points of view. I’m a huge fan of utilising MPVs, but only if it’s done well. Funke manages to make sure all the characters have a distinct voice and personality, and this comes through into their chapters.

In general, Funke is such an incredible author, and her translator Oliver Latsch does an amazing job of carrying this through into English. The writing flows so well, and it makes the books really easy to read without feeling undeveloped. The Golden Yarn is no different. The beautiful writing style, which is quite simple, just adds to the experience of reading such a wonderful work of fantasy.

If you’ve never read any of Funke’s work, I would almost recommend starting here, rather than her more popular Inkworld series. Don’t get me wrong, I adore the Inkworld series, but I just feel that the Mirrorworld is a bit different and a really wonderful place for adult readers to begin their Cornelia Funke experience.

It’s always a good sign for me when I don’t want to finish a book because I’m enjoying it so much, and that’s what I had with The Golden Yarn. I didn’t want to leave the Mirrorworld, its wonderful characters, its beautiful worldbuilding, and its stunning story. If I had the first book here with me in Edinburgh, I would have picked it up and started reading it again straight away. And I can’t really give a book series a higher praise than that.

5/5 stars.

Reassessing Already – ROW80 Update

Long time, no speak, blogging world. How have you been? As I suspected, the whirlwind journey back to Australia at the start of April was not conducive to writing, reading, blogging, or any other sort of ROW-related progress. Even though I love reading, and I really do want to be a writer one day, the fact of the matter is that spending time with family and friends I won’t get to see for another 6 months was more important, and will always be more important.

We’ve been back in Edinburgh since Saturday night, and I decided to take the first few days back off from blogging or writing work to settle back home. But it’s now Wednesday, and that means it’s time to get back into things. I’ve decided to slightly reassess my Round 2 goals, and to completely reassess a few of my April goals. Thankfully, because ROW knows I have a life, I can do this without feeling guilty. Let’s be honest, I wouldn’t feel guilty anyway. But still.

Not much has changed for my round 2 goals as a whole, except that I’m now aiming to read 9 books this round instead of 10. This actually ends up working better with my overall reading goal for the year, and gives me a bit more leeway with my reading.

Updated April Goals

Write 1,500 words per day. Seeing as I never actually signed up for CampNaNo or joined a cabin, I don’t feel bad in the slightest changing my goal so drastically. If I write 1,500 words per day between now and the end of April, that will be a total of 18,000 words by the end of the month. This keeps me well and truly on the track to finish the first draft by the end of the round.

Read 3 books (from at least 2 different genres). I’ve deliberately cut out one of the books I wanted to read this month, because it makes my overall reading goals for the year more even. If I read more, that’s a bonus.

Blog x6 per week. 

Write character interviews for the Blood of Kings cast. 

Work out settings and create pinterest boards.

This Week’s Goals: 17th-22nd April

  • Write 1,500 words per day for a total of 7,500 words by Sunday
  • Finish The Golden Yarn
  • Start The Celts and Nevernight 
  • Catch up on blog posts
  • List all major Blood of Kings characters ready for character interviews
  • Make a list of major settings and corresponding plot points

I will check in again on Sunday (I promise) with an update on how this week went. Do you find yourself having to adjust your goals after you’ve made them as life gets in the way?