Monday, 23 January 2017

Last Week's Shenanigans (16th January - 22nd January)...

So some of you may remember that I have had the entire week off of work, which has been absolutely wonderful. It's been such a long time since I've really felt that I've been able to take time to myself, and this week has allowed me to do just that. I've been as productive with my time as I could muster (reading, blog, household chores, the odd spot of job hunting and writing) but I've also really loved taking some time to play games and watch TV (the new 'A Series Of Unfortunate Events' series has Mat and I hooked). 

On Monday, Mat and I attended the surprise that I had booked for his birthday: tickets to see the Star Wars: Identities exhibition! I was expecting a room filled with props and set/scenery from the film with a few interesting facts but I was massively impressed by what actually greeted me. Visitors are given the opportunity to reflect upon their identity and what makes us the person that we are. As you do so, you are invited to create a character of your own and choose everything from race to parenting style to planetary traditions. There is so much information on the process behind creating the characters of Star Wars and much more to see than I had imagined there would be! Mat loved it and for the ticket price, I would definitely recommend it for fans of the franchise!

Mat had a couple more days off after that too so on Tuesday we went to the cinema to see Assassin's Creed. While I didn't think the film was terrible, it didn't really grip me in the way that I wanted. In fact I felt very unattached to everything that happened, both character and plot-wise and I was hoping for some better references to the games. Still, there was plenty of actions and I liked the SFX a lot! Nothing really happened as such until Friday, when I went out with Mat and co to Stratford's Las Iguanas to celebrate Tash's new job. It was certainly a lot of fun and broke up my day which was nice. The only thing I had after that was a two hour management meeting on the Sunday and then I was free to spend the rest of my time as I pleased!

I Read...

I Received...

- 'The Lonely Hearts Hotel' by Heather O'Neill: Approved by Netgalley (19/01/16)

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Book Review: Rebel Of The Sands; Alwyn Hamilton.

This is a book I've been really looking forward to reading, most;y because it follows in the path of books I've loved before regarding the setting: a hot desert filled with sharpshooting heroines and/or magic, Arabian folklore and the supernatural. In fact, this book has all those things and I liked it a lot! Also, I'm entering this book into the monthly Key Word challenge.

SOURCE: Bought
TYPE: Paperback

TITLE: Rebel Of The Sands
AUTHOR: Alwyn Hamilton
SERIES: Rebel Of The Sands (#1)
PUBLISHER: Faber & Faber
PAGES: 358
GENRE: Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance

RATING: 4/5 Stars

Dustwalk is an unforgiving, dead-end town. It's not the place to be poor or orphaned or female. And yet Amani Al'Hiza must call it 'home'.

Amani wants to escape and see the world she's heard about in campfire stories.

Then a foreigner with no name turns up, and with him she has the chance to run. 

But the desert plains are full of dangerous magic. The Sultan's army is on the rise and Amani is soon caught at the heart of a fearless rebellion...

What I Liked:
  • Obviously the world-building was my favourite part of the book purely for the above-mentioned reasons: I really like Desert settings. 'Vengeance Road' by Erin Bowman was my favourite read of 2015 and like that book, this had the spirit of a rootin', tootin' Wild West novel including the sharpshooting heroine. But more than that, it contained elements of the Arabian/Indian folklore that has surrounded some of my other favourite novels: 'The Star-Touched Queen' by Roshani Chokshi or 'A Thousand Night's by E.K. Johnston for example. Hamilton did a gorgeous job of combining those two worlds together and made it feel comfortingly familiar yet new and exciting at the same time!
  • Amani was a really great heroine and I adored her feisty, stubborn nature mixed with intelligence, wit and quick-thinking to get her out of a sticky situation. Also, I'm so glad that Hamilton made her a PoC because I constantly harp on about the need for more representation for minorities in YA and when it happens, it warms my heart. Jin was a great character too and I really adored him more and more as I read on. What can I say? I'm clearly a sucker for the charming guys that have a sense of humour!
What I Disliked:
  • While this was a great book, I have to say it didn't grab me in the same way that those other desert reads I mentioned did. I feel that this is partly down to the incredibly fast pace of the novel. While I appreciate a book with plenty of action, this felt non-stop and allowed very little time to meet or get to know any characters. I would really have liked some areas to be slower so that more development could have taken place (particularly regarding Amani and Jin as a couple, I liked them together but it felt pretty rushed).
Overall Conclusion:
I liked this first installment a lot and I really feel like this series has so much potential. Hamilton demonstrates some pretty rich world-building talents, the writing was good and I liked the characters a lot. I wish that there had been some slower moments in the book where I could have got to know characters other than Amani and Jin better. I especially felt that the last third or so with Jin's family was rushed. Suddenly Hamilton unloads a ton of new characters on you and barely scratches the surface with any of their personalities, even revealing portions of their backstory through some very forced dialogue. Frankly, I got confused about who was related to who and skimmed a fair amount of that section. This series has a LOT of potential though and I'm still hoping that Hamilton will find her feet a bit better in 'Traitor To The Throne' because I'll definitely be reading it.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Last Week's Shenanigans (9th January - 15th January)...

This week has been pretty quiet, with nothing really to do except work and wait for the end of the week so I could start my time off work (I booked a week's holiday). On the Monday, Mat and I went to the cinema to see 'A Monster Calls' and it was so good! I've been wanting to see this film for months, especially as the book was amazing! Just like the book, the film was heart-wrenching and beautiful. The cinematography, animation and acting really stood out, and I loved every second of it (I also cried...a lot).

And that about sums up the week. On Sunday I spent the day relaxing and taking some time out for myself, because recently I've been feeling pretty drained and in need of respite. I'm really glad I was able to take some time off so early in the year!

I Read...

I Received...

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Book Review: A Quiet Kind Of Thunder; Sara Barnard.

This book has been pretty high on my TBR list ever since it was first announced! After all, I really enjoyed Barnard's debut 'Beautiful Broken Things' and I was overjoyed when Pan Macmillan sent me an ARC of my own to read. I finally got round to this gorgeous book and it blew my expectations out of the water! It also contributes to my Monthly Key Word Challenge!

SOURCE: ARC Sent By Publisher
TYPE: Paperback

TITLE: A Quiet Kind Of Thunder
AUTHOR: Sara Barnard
PUBLISHER: Macmillan Children's Books
PAGES: 320
GENRE: Contemporary, Young Adult, Romance

RATING: 5/5 Stars

Steffi has been a selective mute for most of her life - she's been silent for so long that she feels completely invisible. But Rhys, the new boy at school, sees her. He's deaf, and her knowledge of basic sign language means that she's assigned to look after him. To Rhys, it doesn't matter that Steffi doesn't talk, and as they find ways to communicate, Steffi finds that she does have a voice, and that she's falling in love with the one person who makes her feel brave enough to use it. 

What I Liked:
  • The diversity was by far the best aspect of this book because Sara Barnard became one of those few, rare authors who remembered that not everyone is white, straight and physically/mentally able. Steffi, the MC, suffers from crippling Anxiety and Selective Mutism. Rhys, the love interest is mixed race and deaf which has to be the first time I've read that in a story ever. Even side characters such as Tem (who is black) are diverse and it really gave the story much more depth.
  • Barnard's ability to write good characters and gorgeous relationships is incredible. I knew this from 'Beautiful Broken Things' but didn't know that she could pull off romance just as well as friendship! She didn't let friendship go completely, and watching Steffi and Tem interact was just as heart-warming to read as following Steffi and Rhys' relationship. I liked that they started as friends, I like that their feelings grew over a longer time than is usually found in YA, and everything from the initial 'crush' to the development into love felt so realistic. 
  • Boy, did this author do some fantastic research. I already know from my own experiences about anxiety and I can safely say that Barnard was either pulling from her own experiences or went to town in nailing exactly what it feels like from other people because she got it so right. As for the inclusion of the deaf community, BSL and the hardships that come with being deaf, Barnard taught me so much and I'm glad she bravely decided to tackle the topic. Rhys, as I said before, was a great character with boyish charm and a adorable, fun nature. But even better, he came with his own insecurities and vulnerable moments which is important to be seen in a guy too.
What I Disliked:
  • Honestly, I didn't dislike anything about this book. If I had to pick something I wanted to be improved I'd say that the ending seemed to cut off a little strangely, as if Barnard wasn't 100% sure how to finish her masterpiece. The pacing towards the climax of the book felt a little quick too, but I still really liked how the book ended and have 100% fallen for every one of those characters.
Overall Conclusion:
Gah! Everything about this book makes me want to squeal and I think I'll be having a book hangover for a few days after this one. I don't usually like romance but this perfectly and realistically portrayed how teenage romance feels, and I loved the inclusion of so many realistic scenarios such as first time sex (and hand job) in a way that doesn't normally get seen in YA or in fact most books. It was messy, awkward and yet still kind of hot, which is exactly what it is like. Especially the first time. I liked this book even better than 'Beautiful Broken Things' and I'm really looking forward to the next Barnard book!

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Book Review: The Bear & The Nightingale; Katherine Arden.

So for my first read of the year, this was the perfect choice because it was wintery and a 2017 debut and based around Fairy Tales and folklore, my favourite kind of story! I really liked it too!

SOURCE: Netgalley
TYPE: E-Read

TITLE: The Bear & The Nightingale
AUTHOR: Katherine Arden
PAGES: 336
GENRE: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Adult, Retelling

RATING: 5/5 Stars

In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, an elderly servant tells stories of sorcery, folklore and the Winter King to the children of the family, tales of old magic frowned upon by the church.

But for the young, wild Vasya these are far more than just stories. She alone can see the house spirits that guard her home, and sense the growing forces of dark magic in the woods...

What I Liked:
  • The characters were really well constructed. The MC was obviously Vasya who was kind, independent and a pretty badass heroine, but other characters were given a turn of revealing backstory and complex character qualities too. Anna Ivanovna was a prime example of this, as she would have only been considered a wicked step-mother archetype if she had not been given a couple of POV chapters towards the beginning of the story. I also loved some of the mythical characters, especially Morozko, the Rusalka and the Domovoi because they were given such interesting personalities.
  • Speaking of the magic and mythical lore, there was so much of this in 'The Bear & The Nightingale'. I'm not overly familiar with Russia's culture and Slavic mythology: the extent of my knowledge is having heard of Baba Yaga and barely knowing what a Rusalka is. So, it was so much fun to learn new things about another country's stories and legends. It was done in such an enchanting and magical way too, Arden really does write beautifully and has a knack  for both storytelling and building a rich world. 
What I Disliked:
  • Towards the end, I did feel like the pacing became a little too fast in that it felt rushed in some areas. So many events happened at once that it was a little hard to process everything after such a slow build over a number of years. This was really only a minor quibble however, because there was just so much good in this story!
Overall Conclusion:
This book was such a great read, and gave me all the feels. There was some really interesting character work that played to archetypes and yet felt fresh, and I adored the visual imagery and rich world. Arden deserves all the credit for this debut and I'm seriously so happy to find out that Arden is creating a three part series set in this world because there were a few unresolved plot-lines that I'd like to find out the conclusion of!

Monday, 9 January 2017

Last Week's Shenanigans (2nd January - 8th January)...

I had a lovely week despite being fully back at work now. Monday was another day off with Mat so we spent it together, and had a 'Date Day'. Firstly, we went to Stratford so I could go to the opticians (not so romantic) and shopping. I bought a few bits from LUSH, browsed HMV for some vinyls for my record player, and ate waffles for brunch, followed by pie for lunch. Then we made our way to the cinema to watch Moana, which is my new favourite film! The soundtrack is so addictive and I think they've done the Polynesian culture real justice. Amazing day all round!

Then, after working for five days straight again, Sunday was George's birthday so he (and later Tash) came over to watch Star Wars, play games and have a chill day. Later in the evening we braved the Tube strikes and headed to Stratford in order to see our other friends at the Loading Bar, a place that Mat and I had never been. Fans of video, tabletop and arcade games should definitely check this place out. It's definitely one for the nerds and they have a huge selection on offer as well as some neat themed cocktails to try!

I Read...


I Received...



Top Ten Tuesday: 2017 Debuts I'm Looking Forward To

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: My picks for '2017 Debut Novels I Am Looking Forward To'.

This time of year is my favourite for this meme because there are so many reflection and looking forward posts! Debut novels are always fun to read, and like last year I'm hoping to read more of them, so I'm pleased this post is going to let me look forward to next year's!

1) 'The Bear & The Nightingale' by Katherine Arden.

As I'm currently reading this (a little ahead of it's release date) it felt like the ideal choice for this list. I've been really excited about reading it because it's not only a retelling, but is also based around Russian folklore rather than the kinds of fairy tales I'm used to. It's gorgeously written so far and I'm hoping it remains a strong debut.

2) 'Caraval' by Stephanie Garber.

Man I am so looking forward to this book! Who can blame me though really, as I'm pretty sure this pick will be appearing on everyone's list due to it's strong position on the hype train. I like books that involve circuses and performance, it promises a sisterly bond, and plenty of magic too to keep me interested! I can't wait!

3) 'Wintersong' by S. Jae-Jones.

Okay, so I love the film 'Labyrinth' and the synopsis for this sounded similar which got me excited! It also has elements of 'Beauty & The Beast' incorporated, which is even better! This is definitely very high on the anticipated reads list, largely due to the very intriguing synopsis, but also because of that beautiful cover. I cannot wait to get hold of this book!

4) 'Blood Rose Rebellion' by Rosalyn Eves.

Every year there's a new craze for covers and this year it's roses. I've seen so many gorgeous books with silver or white roses on them, and this cover really caught my eye. Upon reading the synopsis I was pleasantly surprised to discover a read that sounds like it has real potential. Historical fiction is a genre that I love, and that is where Eves' debut falls. Of course this also happens to include a little Fantasy, which is just what I like!

5) 'Wicked Like A Wildfire' by Lana Popović.

I've had mixed experiences with books involving witches, either finding them totally spellbinding, or lacking in personality and originality. I'm hoping that this will have elements of Sarah Addison Allen's work while still feeling fresh, and the ideas behind their powers shown in the synopsis seems like a lot of fun. Also, that cover is beautiful

6) 'Poison's Kiss' by Breeana Shields.

We all know I love folklore, myths and legends and after reading Chokshi's 'The Star Touched Queen' I want to read more books based around Indian culture and legends. This book has appeared a couple of times on my radar but it wasn't until reading the synopsis that I really wanted to read it. It also includes assassin's, which is an added bonus for me because books with assassins included are probably my favourite kind.

7) 'Girls Made Of Snow & Glass' by Melissa Bashardoust.

The title more than anything drew me to this book, because it sounded like it was going to be based on a Fairy Tale or two. I certainly wasn't wrong. It's a re-imagining of 'Snow White & The Seven Dwarves' of course! The synopsis also describes it as a feminist novel, so that has me really hopeful for the female characters of the book. Sadly no cover yet for this one, but I have no doubt it will be beautiful!

8) 'A List Of Cages' by Robin Roe.

I requested this book from Netgalley a while back. Admittedly this was mostly due to the gorgeous cover, but having since read the synopsis of this darker contemporary, I'm totally into it! I haven't read many books that involve the foster system, have an MC with ADHD or goes into some 'dark places' so I'm intrigued to see exactly what happens.

9) 'The Hate U Give' by Angie Thomas.

This book intrigued me when I was hunting for some more diverse reads and it is of particular import right now because it's entire plot-line is based on the 'Black Lives Matter' movement, which is an important social issue right now. I haven't even read it yet but I am rooting for and excited by this book because of it's synopsis and relevance right now.

10) 'The Love Interest' by Cale Dietrich.

Yet another pick for the diverse reads list, and this one's a cracker because it takes those age old YA tropes and completely blows them off the map! Everyone knows the story of the girl who meets and half falls for two boys, one normally kind-hearted and the other the local bad boy, and then is forced to choose between them. Now imagine that those two boys were agents, sent to spy on and seduce her. Now also imagine that instead, they begin to fall for each other... As if this doesn't sound like a great read!