Books Books

Eliza and her Monsters

I’ve mentioned earlier in a previous Books Books how I was subscribed to Owl Crate, a service which would deliver a book to my door every month. Unfortunately, I’ve had to cancel my subscription for the time being. However, while I was subscribed I enjoyed quite a number of the books I was sent. It is one of those books that I’d like to talk about and share with you today.

I had no idea what I was in for when I first held Eliza and Her Monsters. I was definitely not expecting the roller coaster that Francesca Zappua took me on.

Eliza was a wonderful character, who suffers from anxiety and depression. It didn’t take me long at all before I connected with Eliza. An artist first and writer second, she had a blog she updated regularly with a story of her own creation, which had become quite popular. Of course, no one knew that it was actually shy little Eliza who was the artist in question. No one, save for two of her best friends, who she only really knew online.

I related to Eliza very heavily. Even if I’m miserable at art, and don’t have a crazily successful webcomic. I relate because like me, Eliza is a creative person, who uses her creativity as a way to get away from things sometimes. An escape from the world. Like me, she has created a world that she knows backwards and forwards, and characters she knows better than the people she lives with.

As a writer, I could definitely relate. Much as, as an anxious and depressed person, I could relate with her on that level. Eliza wasn’t diagnosed at the start of the book, but France wrote her so well that it came through clearly anyway. At least, it did for me.

Because I related so much to Eliza, I soon became desperate to finish the book, to find out what would happen, how this was going to go. Not going to lie, I had a bit of a sleepless night, with a fair bit of gross sobbing as certain things went down.

[Spoiler alert] When it came out without Eliza’s wishes that she was the author that everyone was obsessed with, she broke down. I also felt like I was breaking with her. The writing was so beautiful that I felt as though I were there, that my boyfriend and friends suddenly hated me. [End spoiler]

I was sobbing in the middle of the night, because the writing and characterisation was so perfect. I related so much to Eliza at that point. I understand how hard it can be to open up about things. Particularly big things. It seems easier to just keep it close to your chest, to never let it out. I’ve never had a secret as big as Eliza’s, but I’ve had moments where things have come out that I’ve been trying to keep in. It can be devastating, no matter how small it is, no matter how supportive people around you might be. It can be hard to have something like that come out.

Eliza wasn’t the only character I came to love in this book. Wallace was an absolute sweetheart. Then there’s Eliza’s family. Her brothers were wonderful, but I think I have to give some parent of the year awards to her parents. Certainly, they weren’t the best to begin with. They had some typical problems that parents of teenagers in Young Adult novels seem to have. They didn’t really understand their child, for one. However, when shit went down, they soon realised their mistakes. They fixed their ways, and worked hard to understand their child more. Zappia also did well to make it quite clear that it wasn’t purely the parent’s fault. Eliza wasn’t particularly open to her parents, to begin with. Yes, this is one of the things that a good parent aught to be aware of with their teenage children, and try to work around. Because, let’s face it, teenagers rarely talk to their parents. They’re almost never completely open with them about how they feel. I know I certainly wasn’t.

The ending was absolutely beautiful. I couldn’t have asked for more. It was so real There was no “she was fixed, everything was perfect.” Instead, Eliza started working on her problems.

Another thing that made this book so beautiful and special was the art that Zappia shared throughout it. Art from Eliza’s webcomic Monstrous Sea. With it, there was also shared some of the backstory and facts about the webcomic. There were some beautiful quotes which had meaning not only within the webcomic and the novel, but which has more meaning beyond that.

“There are monsters in the sea,” and “You found me in a constellation.” There are so many other beautiful quotes, both those that were in the webcomic which Eliza and other characters reflect on throughout the book, and in the book itself. These two are simply some of my favourites. And I may need to choose between them one day as to which will be inked permanently upon my body. One day.

I will most certainly be reading this book again, and I cannot possibly recommend it enough for everyone else to read. I cannot understate how much I loved it. It was positively beautiful. It made me ugly cry late at night while desperate to finish. I loved the art, the characters, and the story telling so much. Everything about this book was absolutely beautiful, and even though I know I’ll cry when I read it again, it’s going to happen.

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Books Books

Kingmaker Chronicles

I mentioned in my latest blog/Books Books how I recently read the first book in The Kingmaker Chronicles by Amanda Bouchet, and had to go out and buy the next two in the series. I don’t know if I can do this series justice in my review, but I can try.

I couldn’t tell yo how long I had A Promise of Fire before I started reading it. I may not have mentioned in the blog that accompanied the last Books Books that I have a bit of a problem when it comes to buying books. I’m certain I mentioned that I tend to buy books a lot, but that’s only part of the problem.

The other part is that while I do read a lot, I don’t always read every book I buy. At least, not right away. I fully intend to read all of the books I’ve bought. Eventually. When I was still buying four Discworld books a month, I would wander through the bookstore, and buy a book that caught my fancy, while placing the next four books on order. Then when they were in, I’d buy them, along with another book that caught my fancy. Sometimes, I would read the book that caught my fancy right away, other times they went to… the shelf.

The shelf doesn’t exist because I don’t want to read the books. Instead, it’s where books that I’m interested in reading will sit until I’ve read the books that caught my attention more recently. The books on the shelf are never bad, I’m simply more taken by something else at the time. Often, as is the case here, when a book finally makes it off the shelf and into my hands, I find myself so enamoured that I simply must consume it as quickly as I can, and continue on to consume anything else that there is to do with it.

When I went down to Melbourne recently, I brought four books with me. There was the one I had just started reading (The Witch’s Blood, by Katharine and Elizabeth Corr), Mirage, by Somaiya Daud, which I discussed last week, Bitten, by Kelley Armstrong (which I still haven’t gotten around to reading. I have much of the series, and will eventually get there) and finally, A Promise of Fire.

I finished the first book shortly into my stay, and began Mirage. I didn’t end up starting A Promise of Fire until just before my flight back home. I was happily surprised that I spent more time being social down in Melbourne than reading books. At least that means I didn’t end up finishing all of my books and not having anything to read for my flight home.

I was enamoured very quickly. Catalia was simply a wonderful character and Bouchet a brilliant story teller. I was soon drawn into Thalyria, alongside Cat as she was kidnapped by Beta Sinta, and his team.

Sometimes when a book introduced a number of characters who are often seen together, I find it can be difficult to distinguish between them. As great as the book might otherwise be, it can be disappointing to find two characters who could easily merge into one and not be missed. I initially found myself worrying, when Flynn, Carver, and Kato were all introduced along with Griffin. Griffin clearly stood out as the love interest, so I worried that the other three might blend together.
This was definitely not the case though, which I was very pleased to discover. Each member of Beta team was incredibly distinct, all the way throughout the series. (SPOILER ALERT: Oh Gods, I’m crying at the loss of Kato. Such a pure soul.)

Amanda Bouchet promised fire with the first novel, and Gods did she deliver! Clearly she must be a Magoi herself, for when she used that name, she must surely have been compelled by magic to deliver.

The story was engaging, with wonderfully unique characters. Thalyria was a fantastically built world with a recognisable pantheon of Gods (who may just happen to be my favourite pantheon already). All public domain characters were written brilliantly, without betraying their true characteristics, which is always good to see.

The love story was beautiful, and didn’t make me roll my eyes, which is always a plus. I often find myself bored with love stories, because often fantasy books feel that they need one when it’s not absolutely necessary for the story to make sense. In this case, the love story was integral to the story, but it also wasn’t the only thing that the story rested upon, making it that much better in my mind.

Another thing I love about a good book is that it leaves you with a strong message. There are quite a few strong messages from this series which I took away, and would like to share with you reading this now.

One that is strong in a lot of fantasy media is the concept that family doesn’t end in blood. This concept is in Harry Potter, with Harry and Hermione being all bar adopted into the Weasley family even before they became official members. It’s also particularly strong in Supernatural, with Bobby at one point saying “Family don’t end in blood, but it doesn’t start there either.” Family isn’t what you are born into. Harry’s blood family may be the Dursleys, but the family of his heart is the Weasleys. Sam and Dean may be blood brothers, but their father wasn’t the best, and the rest of their family is those who they gather around them. It’s Bobby. Jo and Ellen. It’s Charlie, Claire, Jody and Alex.

It’s prominent in another fantasy series that I’m in love with at the moment lately, The Medoran Chronicles by Lynette Noni. It’s there in Vampire Academy, Bloodlines, Succubus Blues, and The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead. I’m finding it in the Vimes or other Watch books by Terry Pratchett. This is a message which I love and find incredibly true.

I have a good family, but my friends are also my family. I care about them and love them, and will always be there for them. Family doesn’t end with blood, and it’s always nice to see a book pull this message off well and without trying to sound preachy about it.

Similarly, and another message that’s prominent in a lot of fantasy novels, including the ones that I’ve mentioned, is that caring for people, and having people care about you, makes you stronger, not weaker. Again, Bouchet manages to get this message across without sounding preachy about it, which is always amazing.

Another message that is important that I took away from this series was that people can be contradictions, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Cat is a wonderful contradiction. She doesn’t want to care for anyone, but when she does she cares hard. She doesn’t want to have responsibility, but when she does she carries it on her shoulders with pride.

I know that I feel like a contradiction myself so often, and it’s just lovely to see that being reaffirmed in a novel, particularly one that I found as lovely and beautiful as this series. Amanda Bouchet is an absolute master craftswoman, and I look forward to reading more from her.

As I mentioned in my previous review, I will rate books more by whether or not I would read them again. I would, and one day I certainly will, absolutely read this series again.