In his essay The Death of the Author, Roland Barthes argued that the only way to read a book was to separate it from its author. According to Barthes, authorial context and intent wouldn’t provide insight into the meaning of the text. Instead, it would limit the amount of meaning a reader could take from it. Giving a text an author before you analyse it was nothing more than a convenient and simple way to understand it. For Barthes, the meaning of a book wasn’t dependent on who the author was but on who the reader was. As we can never really be sure of what an author intended, trying to understand a novel based on who they were as a person would always be flawed. The author, thus, becomes not a God but merely a “scriptor”. They aren’t imposing meaning but merely translating putting the meaning on paper for the reader to untangle themselves.
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been rewatching the whole of the Game of Thrones TV adaptation. Until season 7 and 8, it was a great reminder of how good a show it was. It’s weird to think now, that it was once one of the greatest shows ever created. It also got me wishing that George RR Martin was ready to release the next instalment in the A Song of Ice and Fire series. I can’t even remember how long ago it was that I read A Dance With Dragons. When the new book eventually comes out, I’m not going to be able to remember a damn thing that happened. Not that I’m complaining. I’d rather he take his time and do it right. If the last two seasons of the show taught us anything, it’s that it isn’t a series you can rush. I’ve often thought about going back and rereading the fifth book but it always seemed like a silly thing to do. My TBR is too big and The Winds of Winter won’t be out for ages anyway. This week I decided to get my George RR Martin fix elsewhere. I’ve tried and failed to read some of his non-ASOIAF books in the past but I just couldn’t get on board with them. So, this time I went for a related book. It’s not actually part of the same world but it’s in the right area.
In my time writing this blog, I have been lucky enough to meet a lot of great new people. I’ve been introduced to some fantastic writers and been given opportunities to read some amazing books. One of the greatest of these new connections has been with Alexis Marie Chute. Back in January 2018, I was given the chance to help reveal the cover of her first novel, Above the Star. Since then, I’ve had the chance to read every book in the series and loved each of them. The final book in the trilogy, Inside the Sun, came out in April. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic caused disruption to the book tour. When Alexis Marie rearranged the tour to be a virtual one, I jumped at the chance to become one of the stops. I sometimes feel a bit uncomfortable recommending books to people because I think it’s quite a personal thing. Our tastes are all so different and I don’t ever like forcing my opinions on people. But, I’m incredibly passionate about this trilogy. If you’re looking for something to start up during quarantine, The 8th Island Trilogy could definitely be the one for you.
Pixar has been responsible for some of the great family films that have ever been released but they have been pretty focused on sequels recently. They haven’t released an original film since 2017’s Coco and that was a massive hit with everyone. So, it’s safe to say that Onward had a lot to live up to. Pixar has never been afraid to experiment with styles and show children the harsh realities of life. Let’s not forget that Inside/Out offered a better analysis of mental health than anyone had before. Unlike Disney, Pixar is always trying to change the game and do something different. Well, they did before they decided to keep going back to the same old characters and do the same old things. Surely Onward was going to be something special. Plus, it stars Chris Pratt and Tom Holland fresh off of their Endgame high. At the very least, it was something to take notice of.
I’m not the kind of book blogger who desperately tries to get free stuff. I’m in a lucky enough position to be able to buy books for myself or, if I need to, I still have access to a library. That said, I like helping out authors who ask me to help out. Promoting your book is a huge job so if I can help out then I will. One of the best things to come out of my blog in the last few years is being able to work with writers. Alexis Marie Chute first approached me to help reveal the cover of the first book in her YA trilogy Above the Star. I was beyond grateful for the opportunity and agreed without a second thought. The book sounded incredible and I was excited to introduce my followers to it. Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of reading and helping to promote the books on social media. I loved the first book and was super excited to read the second book, Below the Moon. So, when I also offered the chance to get a copy, the final book became one of my most anticipated books of 2020.
I’ve had such a dreadful reading week that I wasn’t even sure I’d get this book finished for my review today. I was reading right up to the last minute but I did it. And it was a suitable October read to boot. Okay, so it’s not scary but it’s got witches in it. I’ve read a few Terry Pratchett novels over the years but there are still loads that I’ve not got round to yet. My TBR is already longer than I can remember and there are so many Discworld novels out there. So, I’m slowly trying to make my way through them. Very slowly. I like Terry Pratchett but sometimes he does get a bit distracted in whimsy. It’s why I think Good Omens works so well. Neil Gaiman keeps him on track and Terry brings a lighter touch to Neil’s normal style. It really is the best of both of them. Not that either of them are bad writers but nobody is perfect.
It’s been a while since I read and reviewed Above the Star the first in Alexis Marie Chute’s Young Adult fantasy trilogy. In an ideal world, I would have reread it before reading the second but, unfortunately, I didn’t have it on me. I’ve been forcing everyone I know to read it because I absolutely loved it. I’m always a bit scared of recommending books that I love to people because, well, what do you do if they hate them? You either have to reevaluate your literary choices or your friend choices. And, let’s be honest, books are going to win every time. But I do make an exception when I think a book is good enough. And I definitely thought that Above the Star was good enough. It was one of my favourite reads of last year and I’ve been eagerly awaiting news of the second book’s release. Luckily for me, Alexis Marie Chute offered to send me an ARC copy so I didn’t even have to wait for the actual release date in October this year. I already had about 3 books on the go when this arrived but I knew I had to start it immediately. And I was hooked from the start. If it hadn’t been for my inconsiderate niece deciding to be born early, I would have finished and reviewed it weeks ago.
I have to be honest, when I first requested this on NetGalley, I didn’t realise this book was part of a series and, embarrassingly, it took me a while to realise once I’d started. So, what was I going to do at that point? Stop reading altogether? I was invested now. And who is to say that you can’t just totally ignore the first book in a series? Well, pretty much everyone but it’s okay. This was a children’s book and, if I’ve learnt anything from trying to re-read The Chamber of Secrets over and over again, it’s that the second book in a kid’s fantasy series is just going to recap the whole of the first book anyway. In the case of JK Rowling, that almost literally means retelling the whole story whilst writing some half-arsed plot about a massive snake. Sorry to go off track as always but I bloody hate The Chamber of Secrets. Nothing happens for the first 2/3 chapters. It’s just Harry thinking about everything he did in his first year. It’s no wonder she had to keep spacing out her releases. It’s only when you read those babies back to back that you realise how repetitive she is. But, let’s not let She Who Must Not Be Praised ruin this extra bookish post. On with the review I should have written on Wednesday.
I’ve had this book sat in my NetGalley account for a while now and, as I’m trying to get better at sending my feedback, I decided it was finally time to read it. This was one of those books that sounded like a really interesting read. I don’t tend to read much fantasy these days and I tend to particularly avoid fantasy for younger readers. It’s the kind of genre that can be done so well but, on the flip side, just be turned into a horrible stereotype of things gone before. There is a fine line between creating a brilliant fantasy world and just shoving a load of random letters together to get a magical sounding city name. But, despite my misgivings, I’m always willing to give the genre a chance and this one sounded interesting.
You know that thing where you’ve been saying something for years and then everyone jumps on the bandwagon? I feel like that about JK Rowling. I’ve been ranting about that woman and the damage she’s causing the Harry Potter series for years and now, all of a sudden, it seems that people are finally catching up with me. It was way back in 2012 that I first started complaining about her ability to fuck shit up. Then, with every passing year and every new revelation, I’ve continually begged her to just leave the series alone. I was definitely in the minority back in those days. Now? Now I’m reading articles in The Guardian saying exactly what I’ve been saying. It’s really infuriating. But also good, I guess. It helps to know that I’m not just being petty. That I’m not just targeting a famous and successful writer to make myself feel important. I’m just a fan who is sick of this dead horse being flogged for everything it’s worth. A fan who went into the new Fantastic Beasts film expecting to come out in an absolute rage because I’d already reached my limit thanks to the Nagini and McGonagall news. Plus, you know, Johnny Depp.