Book Review · Graphic Novel · Poetry

What I’ve been reading this week

In addition to John Green’s novel, Turtles All the Way Down, I have been reading some other books this week!

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Synopsis: Anda loves Coarsegold Online, the massively multiplayer role-playing game where she spends most of her free time. It’s a place where she can be a leader, a fighter, a hero. It’s a place where she can meet people from all over the world and make friends. But things become a lot more complicated when Anda befriends a gold farmer – a poor Chinese kid whose avatar in the game illegally collects valuable objects and then sells them to players from developed countries with money to burn. This behaviour is strictly against the rules in Coarsegold, but Anda soon comes to realise that questions of right and wrong are a lot less straightforward when a real person’s livelihood is at stake.

In Real Life is a graphic novel by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang. It features two female gamers and it’s just ‘my kind’ of book! It’s so refreshing to see a feminist spin on gaming literature, as I love books like Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (which is AMAZING – I would highly recommend it!) and, while they do feature female characters, it is very rare that I see a female protagonist lead a story. I was so excited when I read this because it interlinks gaming and feminism so captivatingly. You become immersed just as Anda is in her game, and you come to struggle with the decisions she has to make and whether or not her choices will be for the greater good. The pages are colourful and beautifully illustrated and I will definitely read this one again.

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Hollie McNish’s poetry is entirely new to me – and I adored it. I’m not going to lie, I saw Plum at the bookshop and was drawn to it because of its stunning cover. Then I read the author’s introduction at the front and saw that she is based between Cambridge and Glasgow (I lived in Glasgow for a year <3) and she also has a collection called Cherry Pie. I really like cherry pie. So I went ahead and bought it with my voucher!

On a more serious note, I’ve recently been getting back into poetry again (I used to attend poetry evenings when I was eighteen and was super into it!) but I’ve been finding a lot of poets that tell things like they are with a beautiful, minimalist approach. McNish’s Plum got me adding tons of sticky notes and folding pages just because I really connected to its words – and that is what poetry must ultimately do (in my opinion). I loved the switching narratives between Hollie’s younger self and her older self – it captured the contrasting innocence and naivete of being a young girl and the wisdom and pessimism that comes with age.  If you’re a fan of Rupi Kaur (who this month just released another poetry book – AHHH!) I think you’ll enjoy Plum. I just loved it.

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Even though it isn’t a book, I have also been enjoying Lush’s ‘Once Upon a Time’ moisturiser. It smells like apples and reminds me of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves – so it does have a literary connection! I’m pretty sure it also has a bit of glitter in it, which is never a bad thing!

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Book Review · Young Adult

Thoughts on ‘Turtles All the Way Down’ by John Green (Spoiler Free)

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I love my giraffe bookmark!

John Green. Where do I start? I went into Waterstones last Friday and bought my copy of Turtles All the Way Down. I was very curious to see what the author’s follow-up to The Fault in Our Stars would be like!

Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russel Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at sake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together they navigate the short distance and the broad divides that separate them from Russel Pickett’s son, Davis. Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts. 

I finished the book this morning and I enjoyed it immensely but there’s something I can’t quite pinpoint that I didn’t like about it.

So, let me start with the good things:

I loved the references to other works of literature. Green’s assumption that his readership would be able to identify with the quotations being cited really empower the Young Adult genre. These references have made the novel and its characters even more meaningful to his older audience, as readers like myself are the generation who grew up when the YA genre really took off. Turtles All the Way Down doesn’t undermine any of its readers, whilst still being typically John Green. You don’t need to have read Virginia Woolf’s non-fiction writing on pain and seen William Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ performed at the Globe to follow Dr. Singh’s metaphors for mental illness. I would assume that most of the references made are somewhat obscure to younger readers (even the most well-read probably haven’t picked up some of them), but Green executes them in such a way that only enriches the story. On that note, I thought the portrayal of Aza’s mental health (she suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) was a refreshing, realistic change from the typical depictions of mental health we read in contemporary literature, and particularly within the realms of the Young Adult genre. Her internal, moral battle with taking medication and exploring her sense of ‘self’ is a very authentic representation of what it’s like to undergo treatment for mental illness.

Lines such as ‘Photographs are just light and time’ are particularly memorable in the context of ‘seeking solace in the old light’ of the stars (p.206). While Green’s prose is relatively straightforward compared to other writers, there are snippets of pure poetry in this book that I adored. I even underlined them!

Now on to the not so good things:

I found Daisy’s character quite irritating at times; the way she would insist on calling the novel’s protagonist, Aza, by the name of ‘Holmesy’ was a particular annoyance. Yes, I understood that the surname Holmes is most likely a reference to the famous literary detective, Sherlock Holmes, and it was quite funny at first but every single time. Her character, from then on, came across as insincere and it wasn’t until the end that I believed Aza would genuinely continue to be friends with someone like her.

The more I think about it, though. It could be that Davis and Aza are more mature than Daisy because their difficulties have forced them to mature faster. It presents an interesting contrast with Daisy’s character, so maybe this isn’t a ‘not so good’ thing after all.

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Hello! (Mostly taken from my ‘About Me’ page!)

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Molly, my smiley Golden Retriever! (I like to read next to her)

My name is Emma and, in short, I’m a bibliophile. I love devouring books. Despite being severely dyslexic, I love stories in all shapes and forms: hardcore nine-hundred-page novels, imagist poetry, poetic prose, audiobooks, colourful graphic novels, children’s literature, YA, cultural studies, popular science texts, Olde English, film scripts, translated works, old letters (I’m a gamer, too!)

In essence, reading blogs/watching vlogs about new/old books makes me all giddy inside and I want to be a part of it all again. I’ve had a number of book blogs in the past but, due to my illness (I may elaborate on this in a future post), I have been unable to maintain them, so I have now decided to start afresh! I love reflecting on my literary experiences and look forward to ending my long-term hiatus. I can’t wait to rejoin the online book community!

The name Vintage Books and Tea may seem like a generic, bland title for a book blog but it is a reference to my old one, Turning Pages and Tea. I created the blog in my early twenties and, through it, I made a lot of friendly online acquaintances. I hope to make new bookish friends and interact with old ones on this blog 🙂 and even if you’re not a blogger/reader – I hope I can at least share my enthusiasm for reading with you in an entertaining way.