1. happy ever after: nora roberts [book four of the bride quartet]

unfortunately, the summer holidays has left me in a dazed state of listlessness + in the mood for soppy reading. i've read a few of nora roberts' books before + i own a few, so i knew what to expect when i picked up this quartet of romance novels. there's no doubt that nora roberts' is untalented; she isn't called one of the best novelists on earth for nothing.

"happy ever after" covers the perspective (in third person like the previous three books in this series) of parker brown. like her three friends emmaline, mackensie + laurel, she runs a successful wedding planning business, vows. i liked this book better than the previous three - the first one just annoyed me - because the love life of parker + malcolm came across as more realistic + had more complications than the other three girls + their partners. what i didn't like was how unrealistic that after only a few months of dating, parker + malcolm became engaged. maybe that's just the cynic in me. then again, it seems to be the successful formula that roberts' books pride themselves upon. i can admit though that i lapped up every frothy minute of it.

2. stardust: neil gaiman

i've heard for years what a literary wizard neil gaiman is, and my oh my i have most certainly missing out until now. what a genius he is. 
stardust follows tristran thorn as he ventures from his home town of wall, england, to bring back a fallen star for his one true love, victoria. if written in any other book, this formula of "chivalrous-quest-for-my-darling" would have been boring + stale. neil gaiman not only handles this storyline well, but he refines, changes + eclipses the somewhat paltry attempts of his literary counterparts.
when i was a child, my grandmother gave me an enormous tome (to my five-year-old self) that covered all the common fairy tales + since then i have remained enchanted by them. reading stardust gave me a combination of feeling like a child again, mixed in with the happiness that there are books out there that can still give you the whimsical feeling of being a child again. furthermore, despite it being a relatively short book it does not make you feel cheated when its over because it encompassed so much in such a short amount of time (NB: i finished reading it in less than two days). i must buy this when i have the chance.

3. neverwhere: neil gaiman

neverwhere: where do i begin? neil gaiman did it again + hooked me in right from the start. this was a lot darker than stardust + definitely had quite a few fear elements thrown in. i have read horror before but mr. croup + mr. vandemar are truly the most scary characters i  have ever come across in fiction + every time they popped up in this, i felt like they were after me too! 
the scope of gaiman's vision in neverwhere is endless. he has created a london below - a place for londoners who fall through the cracks. to survive in london below, its inhabitants have to learn bravery, ruthlessness + how to be cunning. in this tale, there is the continuous question of who is really on whose side. even when you think you have a character pegged, you can be wrong. i really liked the central character, richard - he really rose to the occasion when push came to shove. he wasn't spineless but he wasn't cocky either, which is gaiman's true talent - to create a character that is real without being predictable or repetitive. i loved door too - she was brave without being whiny about her quest to avenge her family. female characters in fiction should embody door's qualities more often. another unique factor was the idea of the london underground housing real people or a different place to what you imagine - the angel islington, for instance. truly a fascinating, imaginative + fulfilling read. i found it so good that for the time being all other fantasy fiction is ruined for me + in fact i really don't feel like reading another book yet because this was just so spectacular.

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