A Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston

a thousand nights

Pinched the image off E. K. Johnston’s website

I was provided an arc by Disney Hyperion through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to her village, looking for a wife. When she sees the dust cloud on the horizon, she knows he has arrived. She knows he will want the loveliest girl: her sister. She vows she will not let her be next.

And so she is taken in her sister’s place, and she believes death will soon follow. Lo-Melkhiin’s court is a dangerous palace filled with pretty things: intricate statues with wretched eyes, exquisite threads to weave the most beautiful garments. She sees everything as if for the last time.But the first sun rises and sets, and she is not dead. Night after night, Lo-Melkhiin comes to her and listens to the stories she tells, and day after day she is awoken by the sunrise. Exploring the palace, she begins to unlock years of fear that have tormented and silenced a kingdom. Lo-Melkhiin was not always a cruel ruler. Something went wrong.

Far away, in their village, her sister is mourning. Through her pain, she calls upon the desert winds, conjuring a subtle unseen magic, and something besides death stirs the air.

A Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston is a retelling of 1001 Arabian Nights – a tale which I personally have never read. Thus I didn’t know what to expect of the novel, other than from the blurb above.

Even if I had known more about the plot, the story would still have surprised me, if only for the way it is told. Only occasionally, does Johnston use names (there are three named characters that I can think of, but they’re really more nicknames) – a surprising feature which I hadn’t initially noticed (and it did have me think about the purpose of names for a while), but it is never an issue: it is evident who each character is.

There’s a dual-narrative, but rather than the usual 50/50 split, it seemed to be more 20/80. There’s a reason for this split though: our main character is one of them, and narrates most chapters, but who the other narrator is remains a mystery for the majority of the novel (and this narrator has fewer chapters). Though you get given a vague idea, even at the end of the novel, you still don’t really know who this narrator is.

These techniques aside, Johnston writes amazing prose in A Thousand Nights. I feel like each word has been measured and carefully chosen before it was put into the book, which is a feeling I don’t get very often. Other than that, I can’t quite put my finger on it, but this story is told in a very unique manner.

One thing Johnston certainly succeeds in is maintaining an air of mystery: some things are carefully revealed or explained in a very subtle manner, whilst others remain mysterious (like one of the narrators). Another thing I liked about A Thousand Nights is how, despite having only briefly glimpsed our main character’s family life before she is taken by Lo-Melkhiin, you get a very strong feeling of her familial relationships and what sort of communities she’s lived in. What goes hand in hand with this, I think, is the different terms used, like ‘wadi’ and ‘dishdashah’, which are never really explained and may be foreign, yet it is clear what each of those things is through the manner in which they are integrated into the story and text. There’s no over-explaining (like there might have been in that sentence of mine…).

Overall, I really enjoyed this story – it was rather a surprising novel to me. The only reason I’m not giving it 5/5 stars on Goodreads is because I’m simply not head over heels in love with it: I wouldn’t want to shout about this book from the rooftops. However, I would recommend if someone were to ask. So go ahead and give it a try for yourself!

A Thousand Nights was released in the USA by Disney Hyperion on October 3rd and will be published by Pan Macmillan in the UK on October 22nd.

Let me know what you thought of this book in the comments!

Love,

Christa

PS. You’ll notice that in ‘tags’ I’ve tagged this novel as ‘diverse fiction’. I’ve chosen to do this because, from what I understand, each character is a POC and the entire story plays out in a non-western setting.

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Everything, Everything

Pinched the image off Nicola‘s website!

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon will be published by Penguin Random House Children’s on the 27th of August, 2015 (and on the 3rd of September in the UK). I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review, so here goes!

Everything, Everything tells the story of Madeline Whittier: an eighteen-year old girl, who was raised by her single mother, and is allergic. To everything. Madeline is comfortable living in her squeaky-clean, decontaminated, sterile bubble, being tended to by her nurse, Carla, and her mother. Then, she hears new neighbours moving in, and discovers amongst them is a boy her age. Noticing her, he gives her his email address and soon the two are getting to know each other online – and in doing so, they’re threatening to break Madeline’s bubble of health.

From what I’ve seen on booktube, Everything, Everything has received a lot of buzz and love already, which is mainly what made me curious about it too (because I will never be able to help myself and always want to read the books that people are loving so much) – thanks to Netgalley I had the opportunity to read it.

Yoon’s debut novel is a YA Contemporary, and reads very much like one: it’s a quick read, but at the same time enticing, sweet, and… nice. I enjoyed reading it, and I would recommend it if you’re on the look-out for a contemporary YA novel with a sweet romance and a plot that doesn’t merely revolve around that romance, but I’m, unfortunately, not as head-over-heels in love with this book as so many people seem to be.

There are a few things that I didn’t like that much about it. First of which, is that I guess the plot twist soon after I’d started reading it. It was a good twist nonetheless, and I think surprising for plenty of people, but I feel what came after was a bit too sped up (which is my second ‘dislike’ if you will). After the twist was revealed, the ending to the novel came very soon and I feel there were characters that could have been explored so much more in the aftermath of that twist – characters whose experiences I wanted to be shed more light on.

What I did like about the novel were Madeline and Olly: I enjoyed reading their communications (especially the IM parts), how they got to know each other and the tensions between them. Another thing I liked very much about the novel were the many doodles and illustrations that were scattered across the pages. Some were merely decorative, whereas others were a part of Madeline’s story and depicted something that was described or told you about what she planned to do. In a way, this was a very nice way of taking the ‘showing-not-telling’ (that all writers are drilled about) to the next level. What makes them even sweeter is that they were drawn by Nicola’s husband, David Yoon.

In the end, I gave the novel a 3.5/5 on Goodreads.

Let me know if you plan on reading Everything, Everything!

Love,

Christa

Lying Out Loud by Kody Keplinger

Pinched the image off Kody‘s website!

Lying Out Loud* is Kody Keplinger’s newest novel and a companion to her, now turned into a feature film, novel The Duff.

Like The Duff, the novel is set in the small town of Hamilton and the high school there, Hamilton High. Lying Out Loud follows Sonny (or Sonya), who is best friends with Wesley’s sister Amy (Wesley from The Duff) and a perpetual liar. Due to problems at home that she doesn’t like to talk about, Sonny secretly lives with Amy.

A new boy, Ryder, has transferred to their school. He is obnoxious, arrogant, and considers everything in Hamilton inferior compared to his previous school and life in Washington. One night, though, Sonny accidentally messages Ryder and the two get talking online. Soon enough, Sonny’s lies get her caught in a web of her own weaving and it becomes difficult to find a way out without hurting herself – or those she cares about. 

I think, once again, Keplinger has written a very solid YA novel. It is an incredibly fast read (I want to say I finished it in about 3.5 hours), and at no time gets boring. One thing I liked about The Duff when I read it, was how although a conflict with a boy was one of the big issues the main character dealt with, there were also so many more elements that were focussed on. In Lying Out Loud, Keplinger has managed to do the same once more: friendships, familial relationships, and how wrong first impressions can be are all important themes in the novel and handled very well.

Keplinger has a knack for writing YA that feels very genuine: in The Duff she didn’t gloss over the sex the main characters had (in fact, there was quite a bit of it) and in Lying Out Loud she makes excellent use of swear words; they’re not used very frequently, but when they are used, it feels very appropriate. Furthermore, the overall diction used by the teens felt very apt and real.

Although most of the characters sometimes acted (somewhat) irrationally, and I personally would not have done as they did,  I definitely understood why the characters acted as they did: all their actions were driven by something deeper.

My only “negative” comments would be that Sonny changed her mind about Ryder rather quickly – but then again, I can imagine one would – and that I would have liked to know more about Sonny’s dad. Lastly, the ending was a little too abrupt for my liking and stopped just a little too soon (but really, that’s just a compliment for Keplinger!).

Overall, I really enjoyed Lying Out Loud: it left me curious about what might happen after the book ended and, although I sometimes wanted to shake Sonny to stop being so silly, I really rooted for her and I wanted all to turn out well. I would recommend this book to anyone who’s in for a quick, fun read that deals with romance, but also so much more. I gave it a 4/5 on Goodreads.

Love,

Christa

ps. is calling your friends’ parents “Mrs […]” and “Mr […]” and American thing?

*I received a copy of the novel through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.