literalottie's reviews
130 reviews

The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro

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reflective sad slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.5

Absolutely beautiful. After I read (and loved) Never Let Me Go I knew I had to read more of Ishiguro's work, and I figured his most acclaimed novel would be the best place to start. While this didn't floor me quite as much as the former did, I am still amazed by how beautiful Ishiguro's writing is.

Much of what made Never Let Me Go brilliant also makes this brilliant, despite them also being so different and distinct from each other. To borrow a phrase I used in my review of the formed, The Remains of the Day is a similarly "quietly heartbreaking" novel. The voice of our main character, Stevens, feels so authentic and compelling, and despite me not being an aging English butler, I found him strangely relatable. I felt like I learnt a lot from Stevens, and also learnt a lot beside him.

I love how Ishiguro frames the story around memories and the recollection of them - how one moment can inspire recollection of another, which in turn leads to another. Despite it being incredibly genuine to how people think and feel, you'd think it would make for unruly and messy storytelling, but Ishiguro pulls it off expertly. I already have my next book of choice of his on order, and I look forward to seeing more of what he has to offer.

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The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, by Arthur Conan Doyle

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mysterious relaxing fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

4.0

These short stories were surprisingly fun! I don't have a whole lot to say about them - except that this collection worked better for me when I read the stories one-at-a-time rather than trying to binge through them all at once. I think that might be because there's a certain formula to them, but they're enjoyable and it's always fun to see how the many little details come together in the end of each one. Holmes is, of course, an iconic character, and given how many times he's been reimagined throughout the past century it's nice to see what the "original" is like (more eccentric than I was expecting!). I can definitely see myself coming back to the rest of the Holmes canon to see what else it has to offer.

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Ace of Spades, by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

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dark mysterious tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

4.0

This was an incredible thriller - after having a fairly slow reading month where even books that I'm enjoying are struggling to hold my attention, I absolutely flew through this. I just couldn't put it down. The "Gossip Girl meets Get Out" description that this book is marketed with set my expectations very high, and it turned out to be perfectly apt, with the combination working extremely well to tell a truly chilling story.

As expected of a YA contemporary, the writing of this book is very "current", with modern teen references and slang sprinkled in, however unlike many of the YA books I read this one manages to be believable and avoids coming across as cringeworthy or "how do you do fellow kids". I think this is a book that will age very well compared to some of its peers.

Also, I really felt like this was a well-plotted thriller, with an adequate trail being laid for the reader to work things out, while also creating plenty of ambiguity and confusion to keep us guessing. Some of the twists I felt became clear to me a bit too early on due to the hints that I picked up on, however that's better than the alternative where authors just pull revelations out of their ass.

I did feel a few of the "breadcrumbs", so to speak, were not adequately revisited - I think this might have been a deliberate choice by the author to not treat the reader like an idiot and allow them to make connections by themselves, but a couple of things I feel could've at least been mentioned in the text for the sake of tying them up in a satisfying way For example, I felt that
SpoilerBelle mentioning she's good at picking locks was an obvious hint that she was involved and was likely the one who stole the science supplies, but unless it was a blink-and-I-missed-it moment this never actually gets brought up again once her true nature is revealed
. Of course, as a reader having finished the book I am aware of this detail, and in the grand scheme of things its only a minor one, but it would've been nice to have the characters themselves acknowledge and come to realise it too.

Overall, I believe this is a debut worthy of the hype its receiving, and I will definitely be keeping an eye out for future works from Àbíké-Íyímídé.

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The Gilded Ones, by Namina Forna

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adventurous fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

2.0

I found this to be a pretty stock-standard, average YA fantasy, without anything special to make it stand out. It has many of the common tropes, but doesn't really execute them in any particularly amazing way. I was particularly disappointed by the setting, which was a lot more generic than I was expecting.

The diverse cast is nice to see, but that alone isn't enough to carry the book, and the commentary on societal issues was very simplistic and on occasion a bit too on the nose for my liking (though this isn't an uncommon trend in YA books). Overall, this wasn't terrible, but I struggle to think of anything here that I haven't seen done before, and better

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Norwegian Wood, by Haruki Murakami

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emotional reflective medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.0

"I don't know, it's stupid being 20," she said. "I'm just not ready. It feels weird. Like somebody's pushing me from behind."

I'll start with the positive - without a doubt, Murakami's writing style is beautiful. What finally encouraged me to pick up this book was seeing the above quote out of context, and I can say that there were many moments that this book really captured the feeling of being lost at that age, the feeling of being stuck while others around you seem to move through life effortlessly. That's something that really resonates with me, and I really appreciated how Murakami captured it so well. I found the characters to all feel very believable and human - although there is definite room for improvement in how Murakami writes women... from what I've heard though, this is a prevalant issue in his work.

However, I disliked the way this book handled sex. Sex, of course, is a natural and healthy part of life, and given that this book could be boiled down in simplest terms to a "love triangle" romance, sex is somewhat of a given, but this book seemed to hyperfocus on it to a fault, and presented sex as an inevitable or necessary part of any male-female relationship or friendship. This particularly came into play at the end, which I won't elaborate on because of spoilers, but suffice to say I felt disappointed at what happened in that last chapter.

And while we're on the topic of sex, there is also a strange, highly disturbing passage in the middle of the book (view spoiler). It was just so unnecessary, had it not been there my rating could have very well been a whole star higher.

This isn't to say I would never want to read a Murakami again - again, he writes beautifully. I do feel like there was a lot to love about Norwegian Wood, but unfortunately it was held back by some more unsavoury aspects that I struggled to look past. I know this is somewhat of an outlier in his bibliography, as he's known for more "surreal" works, which I would definitely be interested in. 

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The Devil and the Dark Water, by Stuart Turton

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mysterious tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

4.0

I read Stuart Turton's previous book, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, a couple of years back, and found that the ending let it down for me (purely a matter of personal taste, it has a twist that didn't work for me but that I know a lot of other people love). However, I was still impressed by the ambitious and unique concept, and when I read the synopsis of The Devil and the Dark Water I found it also had an exciting premise (helped by the fact that it is heavily reminiscent of Return of the Obra Dinn, one of my favourite video games which also happens to feature a big mystery centred around a ship in a historical setting that sets out on a catastrophic journey that is plagued by potentially-supernatural happenings). So, I was more than willing to give the author another chance. And I'm glad that I did, because this was a really good mystery.

The setting of this book is executed brilliantly - you can really feel the growing tension on the ship as the rumours of a devil grow and become more frantic. The characters are all also really well written - I particularly really enjoyed the companionship that Sammy and Arent had. I also liked how Arent was the main "investigator" due to Sammy being imprisoned, it was an interesting subversion of the usual "detective & sidekick" trope.

I'm still trying to work out exactly how I feel about the ending - it was good but there were maybe a couple of details that I didn't quite pick up on throughout the book that I really should have in order for the reveals to have their intended impact. However, I will say that I did love how it kept me guessing, and how there were a number of little things that were slowly tied together as the truth came to be revealed. Overall, this was a great read, and I'll definitely be looking out for future books by Stuart Turton

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Looking for Alaska, by John Green

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emotional reflective sad medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0

This is still one of my all-time favourites - it takes a special book to get me to sit and read it all in one night, but this is one of those books (granted, it's short, which helps, but still). Now that I've given it a long-overdue reread, I can actually leave a gushing, effusive review for it, so here goes!

There's just so much about Looking for Alaska that resonates with me. The characters are all so flawed and yet so real, their actions and interactions throughout this book are equal parts heartbreaking, heartwarming, and, sometimes, hilarious. I watched the miniseries last year and absolutely loved it. I'm so grateful they got it right, because this story deserves it.

Whenever I think about this book, I think about the overarching motifs - the labyrinth of suffering, and the "Great Perhaps". The idea that we ultimately don't get out of the labyrinth, but we have to choose to be in it, always in search of our next "Great Perhaps". There are plenty of people who deride this book, along with John Green's other works, as "fake deep". I'm not going to say I adore all of his work (see my 2 star review of Paper Towns I posted a mere few hours ago), nor will I say anyone who dislikes his books are "wrong". But this book speaks to me in a matter that's, at least to me, real. And that's what matters in the end.

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House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski

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challenging dark mysterious tense slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0

This was a true experience from beginning to end. Between the layers upon layers of narration, the jumping around between footnotes and appendices, and the formatting which mirrors the story as well as deliberately seeks to disorient and confuse the reader, this is easily one of the densest, most demanding books I've ever read. I absolutely loved it.

There are just so many little details in this book, little secrets that are left for the reader to uncover. I definitely did not get everything out of this book that I could've the first time round - this is definitely one that I plan to reread at least once. Maybe I'll reread it when I move out to my own place (whenever that may be), which will either be the best idea I've ever had or the worst. I'm excited to find out. 

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The Sea Is Salt and So Am I, by Cassandra Hartt

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dark emotional reflective slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.5

This was a well-written and, for the most part, an engaging literary YA contemporary. I really liked how believable and flawed the three main characters were, and thought that the author, Cassandra Hartt, did a really good job of capturing the complexities of their relationships.

However, ultimately I didn't quite get the emotional connection and impact that I was hoping for from this book - many of the big reveals towards the end didn't quite hit me the way I was expecting and I found the ending in general to be a bit abrupt.

Overall though, I liked the "atmosphere" of the story as a whole and still think this was a commendable book and one I'm glad to have picked up! I haven't seen much buzz for it - I hope it does get some because I think there are a lot of people who would enjoy this. I think plenty of people will find the emotional connection that wasn't 100% there for me, particularly given the poignant mental health themes that run through the story (this is a book to make sure you note the TWs for before reading as it does discuss suicide and depression).

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Going South, by Ella Yelich-O'Connor (Lorde)

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informative reflective

4.0

 Yeah, I'm counting this towards my reading goal. I waited almost 8 months for this goddammit.

There's not much I can really "review" here - it's pretty much exactly what was promised - pictures from Lorde's Antarctica trip and a short essay at the beginning which touches on the theme of environmentalism (psst, you can also read the essay in this article). It's well written, and I liked how she discusses the conflict between wanting to protect the environment and wanting to observe and experience it, even when to do so causes damage. The pictures are nice to look at - Antarctica really is a breathtaking landscape. Penguins are also my favourite animal, and there are pictures of penguins in here, so ❤️❤️❤️

As a long-time Lorde stan, I was excited for this to provide more of an insight into the album, but I can't really judge on that until the album actually releases (August 20 can't come soon enough!!). I have a feeling that this isn't really going to be as intertwined with the album as I had originally thought; I think the Antarctica trip just planted the seed for the environmentalism theme that will be one part woven into the whole album, rather than the album actually being directly inspired by the Antarctica trip. Alas, this book is a cool companion piece nonetheless, and I'm glad to have it even just as a collector's item from my favourite artist.