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Review: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

cover of an absolutely remarkable thing by Hank Green

What I’m reading

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing

by Hank Green

I received this book free from the publishers in exchange for an honest review

I beginning-loved this book. But it beginning-tricked me.

I went from addicted, ‘just one more page’ reading sessions to thinking ‘who is this person and do I really care.’ I wanted moar robots but got pages upon pages about internet fame instead.

A third of the way through I forgot the main characters name, even though she’s called April May. Maybe that’s why I forgot it? Was it my brain rebelling? Her name put me off in the same way I abandoned (500) Days of Summer halfway through, despite everyone saying I’d love it. Too artificial-cutesy-whimsical. I can enjoy cutesy, but it needs to earn its place.

I think I was supposed to forgive April May some of her failings because she was ‘Quirky,’ but really I needed her to be strong enough a character for me to forgive her quirkiness.

I don’t think it’s a bad book, and when I checked the blurb it did say it’s a book about

“how the social internet is changing fame and radicalisation; how our culture deals with fear and uncertainty; and how vilification and adoration can follow a life in the public eye.”

I enjoyed some of the riffs about marketing, and I liked that the characters were older than most YA casts (post-college, first job, still uncertain about money & love). But the pacing was patchy, the theme over-wrought, and getting to the end was a slog. I understand why other people like it, but I was relieved to move on to my next read and I won’t be back for the sequel.

Setting

The New York of action movies, all bustling sidewalks and apartments too tiny to sneeze in. A city so full of wonder and activity that when a giant robot appears on a street one night, no one cares. Apart from April May…

Favourite character

Miranda, the scientist.  I recognised my own science-y friends  in how enthusiastic & unstoppably-inspired she gets. My BFF’s eyes light up when she talks about genes & she loses track of time, the same way Miranda gets excited about the strange, giant figures in NY.

What can I learn as a writer?

There are lots of writing books and classes who warn novelists not to mislead the reader about what kind of book they are getting.

Holly Lisle talks about Promises in her writing classes, Les Edgerton’s Hooked is a book all about controlling what you’re signalling with your first chapter, and my writing lecturer swore by Nancy Kress’ Beginnings, Middles and Ends.

I’m not saying Hank Green personally wanted to trick me, but a couple of tweaks to the start of An Absolutely Remarkable Thing could have re-framed my expectations in time for me to like it more.

File with

Not Transformers 😉

 

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Etsy does Bookish: Literary Gifts for your Fantastic Gang

james and the giant peach cushion pillow roald dahl

The creativity of bookish folk is magical. 

The imagination used to fall down rabbit holes, explore fantasy kingdoms, and pledge ourselves to our fae overlords boyfriends must switch on something sparkly in the brain. 

How else do people find enough wi-fi in those witchy attics, roof-top mirror worlds and spooky forests to set up Goblin Market Etsy shops? 

Does imagination come first, or does reading fiction turn us into dreamers, makers, conjurors? 

I pulled on my selkie-armour and finest spell-helmet to go foraging for the shiniest and brightest baubles, and this is what I found:

red london candle, ve schwab a darker shade of magic gift

1. A Darker Shade of Magic Candle

‘I’d rather die on an adventure than live standing still.’

Let Lila do the swashbuckling while you live lying down, reading, burning this Red London candle to conjure Kell’s city instead.
The Polished Parlour is a treasure-trove of bookish goodies, with this one smelling of lilac, firewood and mulled wine. They stock White and Grey London candles too, but why take the risk?
As travars!
The Red London Candle: Inspired by V.E. Schwab’s a Darker Shade of Magic Series

raven boys maggie stiefvater dream thieves blue lily blue raven king aglionby ronan lynch adam parrish blue gansey gift present book read book read present gift etsy bookworm

2. Raven Boys Aglionby Pin

Drop in on the Raven Boys on your way back from London. It may seem far but there’s a lay-line for that, right?

Pin on this beauty to show your love for Noah/Adam/Ronan/Gansey, just be careful what you say around those trees. They can hear you…

Aglionby Pin from ArtofIVDP (a shop crammed with fandom delights)

little women tee tshirt meg & jo & Beth & Amy

3. Little Women Tee

I’m mournful now. Being #TeamNoah has that effect. Time to indulge myself with some Little Women merchandise. I’m straying from the fantasy stable here, but Jo is definitely made of magic.

I want seven of these so I can wear one every day of the week. One wouldn’t be enough to soak up my tears. There’s a reason Joey put this book in the freezer

Little Women tshirt from Mighty Circus. (They also do a Care Bears tee I’m dying for!)

sarai funko from strange the dreamer laini taylor

4. Sarai Funko (Strange The Dreamer)

Back to true fantasy with this beauty from Fandomly Selected. I love her, the hair is the exact cinnamon red I imagined while reading.

Does not come with a handle at the back which you turn to eject one hundred moths, but you can’t have everything*.

Sarai Funko from Fandomly Selected

everything everything literary print picture nicola yoon framed

5. Everything Everything Print

*You can, however, have this pretty-pretty Everything Everything print as a gift. How cool would this look in a bookish boudoir, or next to your bedroom window?

It’s made from antique paper, which is a tender touch that matches the spirit of the book. This is another one which makes me cry, so I’d have to frame it fast to catch my tears on the glass.

Everything Everything Print from Book Cover Art.

handmaid's tale tee tishirt praise be margaret atwood

6. Handmaid’s Tale Tee

Time to stop crying & take action. March on the menfolk – no, away from the menfolk!- in this zinger of a red tee. Not the best colour to blend into the snow, granted, but you’re clever enough to overcome that.

Praise Be tee from Ninety5 prints

howl's moving castle calcifer pin

7. Howl Pin

There’s an age where you’re supposed to stop believing in magic. Or, so some people think.

I remember being a kid, as my friends gave up on spells and broomsticks, thinking, ‘But what if I stop believing and  right then something magical happens and I miss it?’

The risk was never worth it. I’m now officially Grown Up and can report no ill-affects from continuing to believe that fairies could be lurking under hedges and that, given the right pair of wings, I might fly.

This Calcifer pin from Howl’s Moving Castle is the perfect small accessory to signal to others that you know about magic and other worlds, while blending in with the muggles. NayukiDraws has the cutest gang of Ghibli characters around, alongside other anime, video game artwork and keyrings.

james and the giant peach cushion pillow roald dahl

8. James and the Giant Peach Pillow

Cushions for book-lovers make the best gifts, because after a long afternoon’s reading they’ll need a good nap. This Roald Dahl pillow is my favourite because it’s so cheery, but it’s a hard choice with so many in the Storiarts shop to choose from. The same seller stocks literary scarves, gloves and bags, ranging from Shakespeare to Strange The Dreamer, so I’m sure I’ll be back next time I need a gift for a book loving pal.

Keep an eye on my bookish etsy treasure-trove list as I update it through the year – and let me know if you find new shops for me to add! Why not check out my list of crafty geek presents next?

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Editing The Dream Feeders

A witchy bar in the mountains of Switzerland

Found this witchy bar in the mountains of Switzerland

Edits & self-doubt

I cautiously went back to my Dream Feeders edits this week, after 5 months away. That’s how long it took to go near it without flinching. Even after reopening the Scrivener project, it took 3 days for me to actually look at the contents.

And…

I think it’s going to be alright. I think I’m going to be alright. I think I can finish this without going mad. Maybe?

With fresh eyes, and a rested brain, this feels manageable. Big, and complicated, but not beyond my reach.

I can see how i got tangled up – the start of my edits list makes sense, and my optimism grew while reading it. ‘Hey, this might be more than just finishable, it might even be good!’

Then, blam! kerpow! my notes-to-self turn into a black lump of confusion & lostness, & I’m not surprised I ran away. I might just delete those notes, rather than try to unpick what I was trying & get trapped in the same messy worries as last time. Bravo, self-doubt, you did a tremendous job.

Reading: Borne, by Jeff Vandermeer

borne by jeff vandermeer, illustration by keith negley

Borne illustration by Keith Negley

I chose a Jeff Vandermeer novel for my holiday read, because I always get gripped & absorbed and can read for hours. I hate airports and there was a 4 hour train journey to follow the flight, so I took Borne.

I hadn’t factored in how creepy his stuff is though, & forgot that sometimes I’m obsessively page-turning Vandermeer stuff because I’m too terrified to look away.

So my holiday reading experience was an odd mix of stunning Swiss scenery past the windows – model villages, alpine flowers, snow topped mountains – and Vandermeer’s warped, dark-tech version of the future in my e-reader, alive with mutant children and giant, flying bears.

I finished reading on the midnight coach from Heathrow, and without spoilering I’ll just say that the shadowy, slippery landscape & lights of a late-night motorway (combined with very little sleep) was a suitably eerie backdrop.

Verdict: do read it (I rated it 4/5 on Goodreads), but maybe not in the dark…

Borne print (& other cool illustrations) available from Keith Negley at Society6

Writing advice I liked this week

The creative process will always have downs. It’s part of the cycle. Everyone gets them, and it doesn’t mean you are failing. The next part of the cycle will come along soon if you just keep going.

That’s my paraphrasing of Joanna Penn’s interview with David Kadavy on the Creative Penn podcast:

Joanna: ‘It happens every time and you have to go through that part…it is a cycle…this creative process, it has these stages and it’s not like you can skip any… One of those stages is fear and anxiety and it seems to happen wherever you are on the journey unless perhaps, you’re a sociopath.’

David: Yeah. ‘And if you are, then hey, go for it.’

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Reading update: Spring into Contemporary YA

ya-fiction-contemporaryNearly halfway through the year – how’s your reading going?
Here’s my reading so far:

2017 Reading Challenge

2017 Reading Challenge
Rhian has
read 26 books toward
her goal of
50 books.
hide

UPDATE – ugh, there’s supposed to be a fancy grid of book covers here but I can’t get the coding to work. Apparently Goodreads doesn’t play nicely with WordPress. 🙁

So, instead I need you to imagine a pretty grid of book covers here, and head over to my Goodreads if you’d like to check the titles out. Visualise some graphic novels (one with a cute-but-sad robot on it), a couple of Fancy Literature covers (looking all serious), and a glut of YA Contemporary.

Yup, you read that right: Contemporary. I read a few books in a row that had NO magic in them: and I liked it! (They would have been even better with magic in, though. Just sayin’…)

My favourite? It’s hard to choose – The Sun is Also A Star was gorgeous, but the Holly Bourne books & Beautiful Broken Things were more relatable because they mirrored my own teen experiences with food, friendships & feminism. They are funny, & sensitive, & I wish I could have read them when I was still in school. Also, Holly’s Spinster Club idea is AWESOME, so, with stiff competion, Am I Normal Yet wins. Go forth & read it!

Right now I’m reading Lady Midnight (back to the magic & demons for me!). Not my favourite Cassie Clare so far, partly because I don’t need all the Shadowhunter background info-dumps, having read them all loads of times, but the more I read the more interesting it becomes.

Emma reminds me of a female Jace, and I love poor, tortured Mark. Will there be anyone I love as much as Tess, Clary, Will or Simon, though? Maybe not – but here’s hoping.

Which read has you lit up this year? Let me know & I’ll add it to my TBR list!

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