Wednesday, 27 July 2016

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Mist and Fury
by Sarah J. Maas

Summary: Feyre survived Amarantha's clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can't forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin's people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two.
Sarah J Maas has thoroughly earned her spot on my favourite authors/insta-buy list in the past couple of years. I've yet to read a book of hers that I didn't love and this one -- this one might actually be one of my favourites to date.

I don't want to talk too much about the plot, because spoilers, but I want to talk about what it is I love about her books because she did those things particularly well in this book.

One of my absolute favourite things about her books is the way she writes romantic relationships. A lot of fantasy series (or YA/NA series in general) will have there be this one epic love story...that one couple, who, right from the start you just know they're going to be together. Even when there's a love triangle, you can still tell which pair will be endgame. But Sarah doesn't do that.

You don't always know which couples will be endgame in her books -- she shows really well that relationships can change and grow and that people can change and grow to the point where the relationship that worked for them before just doesn't anymore... and because of that, her character development in general is done really well because its not being held back by forcing a couple together that just don't make sense anymore.

And I love that she shows that love isn't always enough and sometimes love can be unhealthy, and she shows that there is a difference between being protective of someone because you love them and crossing a line to the point where protectiveness becomes possessive and controlling and mentally abusive.

I love that she writes female characters that are strong and independent but aren't afraid to be vulnerable and show when they need help. We women are often shoved into one of two categories: feminine or strong...and they're too often treated as mutually exclusive things when they're really not. Femininity is not weakness, so I love female characters that appreciate "girly" things while still being totally bad ass. Feyre is definitely one of those characters.

And I lovelovelove when an author changes my opinion of a character -- I did not expect to adore Rhysand but I really, really did. And Mor and Amren (and I loved the friendship group in this book too).

Basically...I loved this book. I'd rate it 5 stars out of 5. There were a few issues I had with it, but they were minor and were totally eclipsed by the stuff I loved.


Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Ten Things Books Have Made Me Want To Do/Learn

So...I sort of took a little blogging hiatus. Partly because I was doing Camp NaNoWriMo, but mostly just because I've been in a major reading slump. I've finished two, maybe three, books since I last posted a review (and started about 5). Anyway, I figured a Top Ten Tuesday would be a good way of jumping back into blogging.

The topic of this weeks TTT is ten things books have made me want to do or learn about after reading them.

Before I start my list, I just want to clarify that with the list I was very literal with the topic -- just things books have made me want to do, only a few on the list are things I'm ever likely to actually accomplish or even attempt.

1. Write

This one is probably the most obvious one. I've always been a bit of a dreamer and a story teller, but it wasn't until I read a few of my favourite books in my teens that I ever considered actually writing down those ideas. It started with short stories, then moved onto long fanfiction, then migrated to just original novels. It was actually probably Twilight that made me realise that it's something I could do, then reading books by people like Melina Marchetta made me realise the kind of writer I wanted to be (although I'll never achieve that level of awesomeness). I'm actually aiming to try querying agents later this year/early next year (assuming my current WIP's go as well as I hope them to).

2. Travel 

Again, another obvious one. But sometimes it feels like I've travelled the world (ours and others) in books and I want to see it all and experience it for myself too. I want to see Iceland (Burial Rites) and Romania (Dracula) and France (Anna and the French Kiss) and Greece (Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants) and so many other places that I've read about it stories.

3. Learn about history 

I do this thing where I'll hear about something or read about something and I'll latch onto that something and become obsessed for a little while. The obsession normally passes, but it remains under my skin and flares up unexpectedly from time to time. 

History in books does that to me -- certain events, certain time periods...I get obsessed and want to learn more. World War 2 is one of the biggest obsessions, mostly because books have taught me about sides to the war I never even knew existed because they teach us a very limited view of it in school and don't really give us the other sides to the story (e.g. the Soviet deportations of the Baltic States, the Siege of Leningrad, what happened in Germany after they lost, female spies, female pilots).

4. FLY!

You can blame Elizabeth Wein for this one (and I guess to a tiny extent, J. M. Barrie). I've read three of her books now that all feature fantastic female characters who are also pilots and omg, I wish so much that I could do that. I think I would probably love it but it's just not an option for me for multiple reasons. The first and most practical one is that it's just not financially possible for me right now, the second reason is that I have a crippling fear of...not flying, per se, I guess a fear of that control and responsibility? It's kind of like the stage fright thing. I could learn all that I need to do but in that moment in the cockpit of a plane when it would really matter, I think I'd freeze.

5 a) Learn to read ancient Greek 

Odd one, perhaps. It's mostly because I really want to be able to read classical Greek lit in their original form. Ideally, I'd love to read every book in their original language but I don't think that's within my capabilities. Languages are not my forte, but this one is one that I might maybe be able to time, a lot of time 

5 b) Learn to read Dutch 

This specific one is because there are some Dutch novels I want to read that have not been--and show no signs of being--translated into English (like Thea Beckman's books). Perhaps I won't even like those books but the very fact I can't have them makes me want them even more. I don't think I will ever be able to learn Dutch though -- it's not the easiest of languages (my uncle has been living in Belgium for years and still can't speak it, despite his best efforts, even though his partner and step son speak Dutch with English as their second language and his two sons will grow up bilingual too).

6. Learn to understand spoken German

Well, written too, for the same reasons as above but mostly spoken because I love the Ruby Red trilogy by Kerstin Gier. They've made movie adaptations and the first one was available dubbed and subtitled in English (either are fine with me) but with the sequels, they decided not to bother...a wonderful bilingual German fan translated the second movie and tried to make subtitles for us English speaking fans but it wasn't quite the same and I'm not sure if any will bother for the third (out this year). Basically, I just want to be able to watch and understand the movie adaptation of a series I adore.

7. Surf, ice skate 

Grouping these two together. Now, I have the grace and poise of a hippo and the balance of an arthritic pensioner trying to walk a tightrope in stilettos (oddly, I was quite a good gymnast when I was younger but all of that skill seems to have evaporated out of me) I'm so never going to do either of these things (plus, with surfing, I'm not a strong swimmer), but certain books have made me want to try. Books: Raw Blue (surfing), Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler (ice skating -- although, there've been a couple that made me want to try skating).

8. Theatre

There have been a few that have made me want to be involved in theatre, but books like Eyes Like Stars in particular...they just capture a sort of magic and atmosphere with theatre that I'm fascinated by and mildly obsessed with. Except, I have zero musical talent or acting ability and I have the level of stage fright that would have me incapable of saying lines out loud in front of an audience. I'd just be standing there, in a panic, not making sound while panicking even more about the fact I'm not making any sound. Basically, I'd love to be involved in some way with with theatre but I just don't have the sort of talent or confidence. But I wish I had.

9. Write poetry/music

Linking these two together and keeping them separate from the writing one because while I can write...I cannot write songs or poetry. I lovelovelove music, but I just don't have the basic skill set required to actually be able to make music (best friend bought me a ukulele for my birthday a few years ago and I still can't play even the most basic of songs)...and my attempts at poetry, oh boy, I cringe so hard even thinking about it. I mean, I still attempt poetry sometimes but what it boils down to is I ramble way too much to be able to write poetry -- poetry tells a story or paints a feeling with as few words as possible and I just can't do that very well. But books like The Sky is Everywhere and so many others make me wish I could.

10. Read more classics 

Sometimes I'll read a retelling of a classic before reading the classic itself, and I'll love it and it'll make me want to pick up the classic. And then I do and I realise that, actually, I do like classics and they're not the chore to read that my brain always defaults to thinking of them as. But I still end up falling back to that default mindset over and over again -- and I want to change that. I want to read all of the classics (or try to). Or just - I want to read all of the books. 

Bonus: I stuck to the sort of realistic options for this list but books have also made me want to be a knight, a princess, a pilot, a spy and so many other things. But that's part of the beauty of books -- they allow us to live very briefly in a world we can never know or experience in our own lives.


Monday, 11 July 2016

You Know Me Well by David Levithan and Nina LaCour

You Know Me Well
by David Levithan and Nina LaCour

Summary: Mark and Kate have sat next to each other for an entire year, but have never spoken. For whatever reason, their paths outside of class have never crossed.

That is, until Kate spots Mark miles away from home, out in the city for a wild, unexpected night. Kate is lost, having just run away from a chance to finally meet the girl she has been in love with from afar. Mark, meanwhile, is in love with his best friend Ryan, who may or may not feel the same way.

When Kate and Mark meet up, little do they know how important they will become to each other—and how, in a very short time, they will know each other better than any of the people who are supposed to know them more.
I started reading this book before the Orlando shooting and couldn't pick it up again for a while without getting sad. But when I did, I did enjoy it. There were things I loved about it, but overall I just liked the book -- a lot, but still like instead of love.

I loved that the main characters were a gay guy and a lesbian, and all of the Pride stuff. I loved that they were already out and happy being out and that their entire story didn't revolve around Coming Out -- coming out stories are incredibly important, but those aren't the only stories LGBTQ+ characters should have to tell so I really loved that this book didn't make it the focus and it just let it be about them being teenagers and everything that goes with it.

I really, really loved that even though there was romance in the book, the big relationship was a friendship. If you've ever met someone and just clicked with that person, especially someone who has always been in the peripheral of your life, then you'll get it -- that feeling like you've found a soulmate, a friend you want to know for the rest of your life. That was probably my favourite part of the story.

And the romance...the romance was odd for me, because I loved the idea of it more than the execution of it. The falling for your best friend cliche is one that I do like to read, but it was refreshing to see a different side to how that can play out -- and how it so often does play out outside of fiction. And I loved that it showed how we can build up a person so much in our minds that reality can become terrifying because what if the reality doesn't live up to those expectations.

So...yeah, I did really appreciate what the romance was -- I just didn't really click with it, the execution of it fell a little flat (particularly the Kate/Violet relationship). Maybe because Kate and Violet had never even spoken to each other, so it felt like it should've been one of those new relationships and we're taken along for the ride as the characters fall for each other...except that the characters are already in love/obsessed with each other when the story begins in spite having never met/spoken before so it had that insta-love element that I'm just not into.

Basically, the book was cute and fun and it did so many things right. I should have loved it, probably, but it was just lacking a spark of something more, something to take it beyond what it was. I'd rate it 3.5 stars out of 5.


Monday, 4 July 2016

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

Wolf Hollow
by Lauren Wolk

Summary: Annabelle has lived in Wolf Hollow all her life: a quiet place, still scarred by two world wars. But when cruel, manipulative Betty arrives in town, Annabelle's calm world is shattered, along with everything she's ever known about right and wrong.

When Betty accuses gentle loner Toby - a traumatised ex-soldier - of a terrible act, Annabelle knows he's innocent. Then Betty disappears . . .

Now Annabelle must protect Toby from the spiralling accusations and hysteria, until she can prove to Wolf Hollow what really happened to Betty.
I don't read many middle grade books, but I actually really liked this one. It's one of those books that hits you right in the feels -- if a book can make me cry, it's probably doing something right and this one definitely had me tearing up at the end.

I really liked the writing and most of the characters (the ones I didn't like were ones we weren't meant to like though). And the story? It's predictable in some ways, but it still had me hooked through the second half of the book.

And I really loved the setting -- both the time period and the location. It's set during the second world war (my favourites character served in the first world war) and I loved the way those things were woven into the story. The small town location was perfect for showing that mob mentality and the way gossip and likes can spread like wildfire.

The only problem I had with the book really was that it felt very...emotionally manipulative? Like, instead of trusting the reader to feel the things we should be feeling and to discern right from wrong, it over simplifies the antagonist of the story.

Betty has no depth at all, it's impossible to feel sympathy for her or care about what happens to her. The only thing that almost makes her marginally more human is her feelings for Andy but then the way they are together cancels that out. There are certain things she does that felt like overkill. The story would've made all the same points but would've had an added layer of moral complexity had Betty just been a "regular" bully whose actions went a bit too far and her lies spiralled out of control, but instead she seemed more like a genuine psychopath or sociopath. Very much a Wicked Witch of the West type villain.

Basically, I really liked the book and it's definitely the kind of story I'd have my niece or nephew read, I just wish it had given the readers (especially younger ones) a bit more credit to think and feel the right things in response to the story without making it so simple, because in real life it's not usually so black and white and people are usually more complex than that.

I'd rate the story 4 stars out of 5.


Sunday, 3 July 2016

The Choice DVD Giveaway & Book to Movie Comparison

The Choice is out to download now and on DVD from 4th of July and the lovely people at DnA PR are giving away three copies to celebrate the DVD release. You can enter by filling out the form at the end of this post.

The movie:

The book:

The Choice

by Nicholas Sparks

Summary: Travis Parker has everything a man could want: a good job, loyal friends, even a waterfront home in small-town North Carolina. In full pursuit of the good life - boating, swimming , and regular barbecues with his good-natured buddies -- he holds the vague conviction that a serious relationship with a woman would only cramp his style. That is, until Gabby Holland moves in next door. Spanning the eventful years of young love, marriage and family, THE CHOICE ultimately confronts us with the most heart wrenching question of all: how far would you go to keep the hope of love alive?

Book vs. Movie:
Let's start with the movie: I loved the characters and the cast (the dogs too! and the little feature about them in the DVD extras was my favourite), they were the best part of the movie and had such an easy chemistry with each other. 
The plot, my feelings were a bit more mixed on that. I loved the first chunk of the movie, that part was fun and funny and cute. It was just the last quarter of the movie that I'm unsure about. In that bit, it was still really cute and I did like it but the ending was a bit too cheesy and too unrealistic and made it hard to suspend disbelief. And yet, I wouldn't have particularly wanted it to end the other way it could've gone either -- so I'm conflicted on that.
Overall, I'd rate the movie 4 stars out of 5, for making me laugh and smile.
As for the book: This is the first Nicholas Sparks book I've read (even though I own three of his books) and...well, it was okay. I liked it most of the time, but his writing style was a bit too dry and rambling for my taste. 
Parts of the story that I loved in the movie were scenes that felt too mundane or too dragged out in the book. I liked the characters, but Gabby annoyed me quite a bit in the first part of the book and I was kind of indifferent to the romance -- the book characters didn't have much spark or passion, I liked them as a couple but I wouldn't have minded if they didn't end up together either (which isn't how I should feel reading a romantic story).
Basically, the book was okay but it just wasn't my cup of tea. I would probably give more of his books a chance though. I'd rate this one 2.5 stars out of 5.
Now, the book vs. the movie...

I think my verdict is obvious: I definitely preferred the movie. The issues I had with the book weren't an issue in the movie (although the ending worked better in the book).
Normally when I'm watching an adaptation of a book I've read, the changes will bother me but I actually really liked most of the changes they made in this one -- scenes that seemed silly or dragged out in the book worked well in the movie with the little changes they made.
And the cast? The cast totally sorted out the lack of romantic chemistry between the two characters -- I loved them together in the movie, and movie Gabby didn't annoy me, I actually really liked her. I definitely recommend the movie if you want to watch a cute romance.

The giveaway will end on the 7th of July and is open to people in the UK only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, 1 July 2016

Last Kiss by Laurelin Paige

Last Kiss
by Laurelin Paige

Summary: Emily Wayborn has made a decision.

She might not fully trust handsome and deadly Reeve Sallis, but he is the one person that gives her what she needs. With Reeve she can finally be herself. Submitting to him is the only thing keeping her grounded as the rest of her life falls apart. But the hotelier is a master at keeping secrets and as she continues her quest for answers someone is making sure she doesn’t find them.

Time is running out and she is questioning everything she thought she knew about friendship and love. She must now make an impossible choice that will determine if she will survive with her heart…or at all.
I had mixed feelings about the first book (mostly because I'd expected it to be something different than it turned out to be) but I did really like it and the cliffhanger ending left me desperate for the sequel...and the sequel didn't disappoint. I went into it knowing what to expect this time so I could enjoy it for what it was -- and I did, I really enjoyed it.

This one hooked me just as much as the first one did and nearly everything I enjoyed about the first book was still there and expanded on.

I loved the romance. The relationship wasn't perfect and the characters weren't perfect but I liked it because of that, I liked that I was rooting for them anyway and I liked that it was angsty and wasn't all smooth sailing -- particularly because the angst wasn't because of their Dom/sub preferences (unlike Fifty Shades of Gray), they both wanted that and accepted that they wanted that to be a part of their lives.

I'm not particularly into Dom/sub stories, it's just not my thing, but I did really like the way it's written and portrayed in this because it makes it clear that it has to be a mutual thing between two people and that there is a line between abuse and a consensual, caring Dom/sub relationship. I loved the psychological side to that and the way Amber's appearance in the story showed a different side to it.

And Amber -- I really didn't know what to expect with her showing up, but I did like how it was done. She was kind of a toxic character and her relationship with Emily was pretty toxic too and I loved the way it showed that. Toxic friendships are often badly written or trivialised and turned into petty catty behaviour but this one didn't do that -- it showed you can care about someone but it doesn't mean that they're good for you or should be in your life.

Basically, I kind of loved this book by accident. I thought the first book was going to be a mystery/thriller novel, but it wasn't but it had already hooked me to the point where I couldn't not read this book. I'll definitely read more of Laurelin Paige's books because it takes a talented author to make me enjoy a book in spite of it not being the type of thing I wouldn't usually like.

I'd rate it 3.5 stars out of 5.



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