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review 2018-03-21 19:32
The Accusation by Bandi
The Accusation: Forbidden Stories from Inside North Korea - Deborah Smith,Bandi

This is a collection of short stories criticizing the North Korean government. Purportedly, it was written by an anonymous North Korean official still living in the country, and smuggled out as a handwritten manuscript. Upon reading the first couple of stories, though, I began to wonder if that backstory is a publicity stunt. I’ve read a lot of contemporary English-language fiction, and a lot of fiction from countries around the world, and what struck me about this collection is that it is written in a style characteristic of modern English-speaking authors. This makes it easy reading for those audiences: it’s written with the immediacy and emotional intimacy with the characters that one typically sees in English-language fiction; it has that pleasing balance of dialogue and narrative, that easy-to-read plot-driven flow, that immersion in the characters’ thoughts and feelings that characterizes most popular fiction today. Authors from cultural traditions very different from the mainstream western ones rarely write this way unless they have immigrated to an English-speaking country, even though almost all of them would have ready access to popular fiction, unlike someone living in North Korea.

Having these doubts, I poked around on the Internet for more information about the book (the New Yorker article is worth a read). No one has proven it to be a hoax, and a vocabulary analysis apparently indicates that the writer used North Korean language, which has diverged somewhat from South Korea’s over the decades of separation. However, I found it significant that journalist Barbara Demick, author of the fantastic Nothing to Envy (a nonfiction narrative of life in North Korea, based on her research and defectors’ accounts) also doubts the official version. Her doubt seems to stem primarily from the author’s keen awareness of the regime’s internal contradictions; this is apparently an understanding that takes defectors significant time outside the country to fully comprehend.

As for the book itself, each of its seven stories is a quick and easy read, though they average around 30 pages each. However, after the first two or three stories, which were fairly enjoyable, I began to tire of their incessant drumbeat. All of the stories are about how the regime and life in North Korea crushes a character in one way or another (usually metaphorically, but in one case physically): there is no conflict that doesn’t have the Party at its base and no possibility of happiness. At the end of the final story, a character, gazing at the red-brick local Party office, reflects, “How many noble lives had been lost to its poison! The root of all human misfortunate and suffering was that red European specter that the [party official] had boasted had put down roots in this land, the seed of that red mushroom!” Perhaps I ought to take the idea that the government could be the cause of all human suffering as evidence that the author does in fact live in North Korea, but in any case, such a simplistic view of the world doesn’t make for high-quality literary work.

Whoever the author may be, the fundamental storytelling skills are certainly there, despite a singular political focus, and it will be an especially interesting book for those who haven’t read much about North Korea. But for those who want to learn more about the country, I recommend starting with the brilliant Nothing to Envy.

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review 2018-03-21 10:06
Our Dark Stars - Audrey Grey,Krystal Wad... Our Dark Stars - Audrey Grey,Krystal Wade

I received a review copy for the blog tour.

So I was really excited about this book. Been meaning to read it for some time so imagine my delight when I spotted the blog tour and the chance to review it before it came out! I just had to take it! And in the end I quite loved this book, I flew through it. There were some parts that I didn’t quite like, but for most the good parts won.

We have two characters; Will and Talia. Will’s parts take place in the now, a world ruled by mocks. Talia’s parts first take place in the past, a world that was at war, a world where mocks were servants or looked at with distrust. Later on it merges with Will’s timeline. And that is when the true fun and excitement starts.

I was a bit confused by Talia’s behaviour. In the past parts we can clearly see that she is a princess, but she isn’t treating anyone wrongly (like so many others do). She is actually pretty fun, kick-ass, and I loved her there. I loved how she was kind towards mocks, Ailat especially. How she actually didn’t feel like being a princess that much, how she just wants to hug or talk to her dad normally. She was just a teenage girl with a crown. Plus I loved the fact that she could fly a figher plane with ease. My heart broke when she had to do that to her best friend. I wish that she could have whispered something to her friend, told her it wasn’t meant to be like this. That she was doing it to save Ailat.
However, the Talia in the now was just a totally different girl. I get that what happened traumatised her, but for some reason she started to also act like your stereotypical princess girl. Asking the mocks (Will and his crew) for all sorts of things (sandwiches and such), being disgusted that she had to help out, being a total bitch towards the crew. And also making so many stupid mistakes that almost cost them all their lives. It was like during that time she was frozen she also lost a few of her precious kick-ass braincells. I just found it such a shame as I really loved Talia of the before. :(
Thankfully, around the middle/near the end she slowly started to show more of those kick-assness again, and I saw that she was caring for the crew, for Will especially. The ending it was just the old Talia again, and I was so happy, so delighted. Welcome back, don’t leave us again!

Will was just a delightful character. He also didn’t have a good past, so where Talia is distrustful of mocks, he is distrustful of humans. I loved Will from the start, he was interesting, plus I was curious to see how he would grow. Would he be able to stand up for himself? Would he tell his brother and father to stuff it? And what about his growing attraction to Talia? Would something bloom between them? Sure, he made some stupid mistakes, but I can forgive him. There is so much manipulation, so many lies, it is hard to see what is good and what is the truth. Plus he just wanted something better for him and his crew.

Then there is the crew. At first I didn’t like Lux, but that girl just grew on me until she was one of my favourite characters. Followed by Tandy (I get that she was a holo, but dang that girl is just too awesome and feisty, I wish we could get a book about her), and then Leo and Jane.

Who the Queen was? Gee, I knew from the start who that was. Though I was also secretly hoping there would be a twist, something different from all the other books with the same idea. But no, so in the end I probably startled my neighbours when I shouted: “I KNEWWWWWWWW ITTTTTTT!!” when the “revelation” was there.

I did like the mocks and the fact they could jump out of their bodies into a new one. That must be pretty awesome, though I am not too sure if I am into living forever.

Big plus points to the cover, I just adore it to bits, it is so gorgeous.

There is tons of action, and the book is really fast-paced. You won’t be bored one moment while reading.

I would definitely recommend this book to all.

Review first posted at https://twirlingbookprincess.com/

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review 2018-03-20 14:50
Guardian of Darkness (Darkness #7) by Katie Reus
Guardian of Darkness - Katie Reus

We met Vega in the first book in the series. She used to be a rebel child but not anymore. She’s found her own path and now works for a special force that takes out rogue supernatural beings. I really liked this side of her. She came off as the strong, independent, sensible heroine she’s supposed to be.

Gabriel, knowing what he knew of their future, always proceeded with caution but was never overbearing or possessive. The romance trope was kind of fated mates however it was sweet and believable with a high dose of pure passion and explosive chemistry. During their mission, Vega and Gabriel always behaved as the true partners and the professionals they were supposed to be while keeping their emotions on check. I always love it when an author keeps the plot real yet knows when it should be about the romance. There was only a little scene that made me think “Uhm, why are they doing this now?” Then again that scene gave continuation to the arc so I guess it wasn’t so bad.

We also get to meet new characters and the story digs further into the paranormal world. I think we may be seeing more humans in the future since it seems supernatural and human beings are working together to keep peace all around. All in all it was a great book and I recommend it to anyone looking for a fast-paced, entertaining read. 


*** I received this book at no cost to me and I volunteered to read it; this is my honest opinion and given without any influence by the author or publisher.***

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review 2018-03-20 03:12
Openly, Honestly (Openly Straigh #1.5)
Openly, Honestly - Bill Konigsberg

Cute little post-holiday holiday short story. It doesn't really add anything to the series as a whole, but it was fun to spend a little time with Claire Olivia as she tries to cheer up Rafe, and we get to meet Ben's family which was nice.

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review 2018-03-19 04:01
Carry the Ocean (The Roosevelt #1) (Audiobook)
Carry the Ocean - Heidi Cullinan

This was amazing and I'm kicking myself for taking so long to get to it. Except by waiting, I got to listen to Iggy Toma's brilliant narration which made the book that much more special. He really studied and got lots of advice from people with autism on how to portray Emmitt and it really shows. He voices Emmitt and Jeremey perfectly. Toma and Cullinan are proving to be a match made in audiobook heaven.


Emmitt has autism and Jeremy has major depressive disorder with extreme anxiety disorder. This isn't a book about "love cures all" because there are no cures. Instead, this is a book that respects both the struggles and the accomplishments of these two amazing young men, and how they have learned to manage the world around them and navigate a new relationship with each other at the same time. They're oddly perfect for each other, because Emmitt is calm and controlled when Jeremey is not, and Jeremey can understand the emotions that Emmitt has a hard time expressing. But their disabilities can also aggravate each other as well, so they have to learn how to talk to each other and when to give each other space. 


I really liked Emmitt's family. His parents and aunt were a great support system for Emmitt and later for Jeremey. Jeremey's family were not understanding about his issues at all, but they're allowed their time to be humanized as well. They're not bad parents because they don't love their son. It's clear they want the best for him. But they're misinformed, sometimes purposely so, but there's more to it than just that.


Then there's Derek, who we meet later in the book and really shines instantly as a great friend to Jeremey, even if he's something of a foil for Emmitt, at least at first. 


I can tell that an amazing amount of research went into this book, and I'm looking forward to the next one.

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