Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Get Hamilton Out of My Head

Seriously. Every single day I wake up with a Hamilton song in my head. At work, I absentmindedly hum to it. Sometimes I actually sing and get weird looks from colleagues who have no idea why I've suddenly burst into "Eliza, I'm looking for a mind at work, work". I mean, if I were them, and didn't know what Hamilton was, I would just be like, "who the hell is Eliza?"

IT'S BECOME A SERIOUS PROBLEM. One time, I listened to Satisfied like, 30 times, on a loop. I mouth the words on the TUBE. The tube! WHY. Everyone stares. But I can't help it. And I think about the lyrics too much. Like in Take a Break. That comma in the middle of a phrase. It changed the meaning. DID HE INTEND THIS?

MAKE IT STOP.

(I haven't slept properly in a week, don't judge my fragile mind right now.)

In any case, if you have no idea what I'm talking about, Hamilton is a musical. A few months ago I listened to the soundtrack and have since been lost in endless replays of all the songs. It's currently only showing in New York at the moment (I think? Correct me if I'm wrong) but I heard it's coming to the UK in 2017 and you can bet that I will be going to see it. If only to finally get the damn songs out of my head, once and for all! In my head every second I'm alive, ugh.

Sometimes I'll just be answering emails, you know, innocently preparing some report or other and then bam, instead of focussing on whatever crappy vlookup I'm supposed to be doing, I get a random burst of "Angelica...Eliza, and PEGGY" in my head.

You think this is a joke, the amount of times I have actually said "and PEGGY" randomly would shock you. My colleagues think I'm super weird and I do not blame them.

I have tried listening to other songs to stop this from happening, but Hamilton always sneaks back in. Oceans rise, empires fall, AND HAMILTON IS ALWAYS IN MY HEAD.

I am starting to think it'll will be there forever. Which is embarrassing, because I really, really cannot sing. But I sing a lot. And I get really into singing. To the point where I accidentally knock into things. Like tables. And cupboard doors that I forget to close after getting myself a snack, leaving me with red marks on my forehead like a total idiot. Ahh at least no-one else was in the room where it happened.

(Make it stop.)

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Review: Burning Midnight by Will McIntosh

Burning Midnight by Will McIntosh
Publisher: Macmillan Children's
Released: February 11th 2016
My Rating: 2 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads
Sully is a sphere dealer at a flea market. It doesn't pay much - Alex Holliday's stores have muscled out most of the independent sellers - but it helps him and his mum make the rent. No one knows where the brilliant-coloured spheres came from. One day they were just there, hidden all over the earth like huge gemstones. Burn a pair and they make you a little better: an inch taller, skilled at maths, better-looking. The rarer the sphere, the greater the improvement - and the more expensive the sphere.

When Sully meets Hunter, a girl with a natural talent for finding spheres, the two start searching together. What they find will change more than just their lives... Because the entire world fights over spheres, but no one knows why they're here or what their powers are... until now. (from Goodreads)

Burning Midnight was a very odd book. I liked the original premise and enjoyed the first half, but the second half was just weird and the things that happened seemed a bit random, and weren’t well explained. 

Our main character Sully was a sphere dealer. Don’t ask me about the spheres, because nothing about them was explained until the last quarter of the book, and even then it made hardly any sense. All we were told at the start was that spheres gave people abilities - from a high IQ to good hearing and a whole range of other things. As a result, they were in high demand, and rarer spheres were sold for thousands, if not millions of dollars. Sully was mostly sphere hunting to try and make some money, though it wasn’t really going well. He hadn’t found anything worth much since his discovery of the Cherry Red sphere a few years ago - and back then, he was conned out of the over two million dollars he was owed, so it wasn’t the best of times for him. After meeting Hunter, however, he started getting his hopes up again. She was a natural at finding spheres, and if together they could find something with a high rarity level, they’d be set for life. The romance between these two was really, really unnecessary and I didn’t enjoy it at all. Sully seemed like a decent enough guy but he got too fixated on Hunter too fast and it was weird. And I really liked Hunter to begin with, she was really cool, had been through a lot in her life, but was determined to succeed. Then in the second half of the book she suffered a completely personality alteration and it was just ugh. Whhhy? And the romance became all sappy and these two barely knew each other yet were perfectly happy to risk their lives in ridiculous ways and I just didn’t believe it. Even Sully’s friends who came along for the journey seemed too eager to die for this - in my opinion, most people would have tried to talk Sully and Hunter out of their plan instead of going along with it.

Plot-wise, oh dear. I mean, I did like the first half of the book. I really did. The writing started a little choppy but got better a few chapters in. The concept of the spheres was really interesting and I was definitely intrigued by them. I liked getting to know Sully, I liked the reveal about who stole the sphere he and Hunter found (that could have been developed and used in the second half!). I enjoyed the scenes where Sully and Hunter went out looking for spheres. I had my suspicions about the spheres, and I was hoping we’d get a good explanation as to where they came from. But nope. The explanation was so odd and then what happened after the Gold spheres were burnt was completely random and barely explained. Why did those events occur? Where did the spheres even come from, exactly? It was all a bit of a mess - the ending conflict was introduced so quickly and then solved so quickly, and it just seemed out of place. The world-building in general was poor and one of the biggest weaknesses of this book.

Overall, while I liked some parts of this book, it took a direction that I didn’t think made much sense and the personality changes in some of the characters were just too much for me. I wouldn’t actively discourage anyone from reading this book, especially if you like science fiction, but just go into it cautiously if you do pick it up. Personally, it wasn’t for me, but if you are a fan of very unexpected twists, you may enjoy it. 

Monday, 28 March 2016

Review: Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

Glass Sword (Red Queen #2) by Victoria Aveyard
Publisher: Orion
Released: February 11th 2016
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads
If there's one thing Mare Barrow knows, it's that she's different.

Mare's blood is red - the colour of common folk - but her Silver ability, the power to control lightning, has turned her into a weapon that the royal court tries to control.

The crown calls her an impossibility, a fake, but as she makes her escape from the prince and friend who betrayed her, Mare uncovers something startling: she is not the only one of her kind.

Pursued by the Silver king, Mare sets out to find and recruit other Red and Silver fighters to join in the struggle against her oppressors.

But Mare finds herself on a deadly path, at risk of becoming exactly the kind of monster she is trying to defeat. Will she shatter under the weight of the lives that are the cost of rebellion? Or have treachery and betrayal hardened her forever?
(from Goodreads)

If you read my Red Queen review, you will know that I absolutely loved that book and was very excited to find out what happened next. Glass Sword wasn’t exactly what I expected - but it was still good, and ended well enough that I’m still looking forward to book three.

Mare changed in this book. Quite understandably, after being so horribly betrayed - she didn’t trust anyone, she found it easier to lie and had less qualms about killing than she had before. Basically, her morals were slipping into a rather more grey area - and I actually kind of liked seeing this side of her. Anyone can betray anyone, after all, and after everything Mare went through, I didn’t blame her for feeling like everyone could turn on her at any second (though maybe she could have given Shade the benefit of the doubt, he was her brother!). Her feelings for Maven…it was just all so complicated. In this book, Maven did terrible things. Really bad, worse than in book one. And Mare SAID she wanted him dead, that she would kill him if she had the chance…but really, I’m not sure she’d actually be able to do it. She was more hardened now, sure, but she had a weakness when it came to Maven (minor spoiler, highlight to view: she kept all the letters he wrote to her, no matter how horrific a place she found them in. That doesn’t mean nothing - even Cal noticed, and he was obviously hurt by it). And after the ending of this book (I knew it would happen, but even so, ON TO BOOK THREE!) I am even more intrigued to see how Mare deals with lingering feelings for Maven and who he used to be (and whether Maven can ever be redeemed. I suppose we’ll see more of that in book three - book three! So far away!).

Cal. This boy endlessly confused me. I liked him but I disagreed with him on so many things. I was more inclined to agree with Mare and while I got where Cal was coming from…I wanted him to step up! To be fair to him, I did think he did grow as a character. He realised how bad things were and that he was to blame for some of that. And at times, he was so sweet. And he cared about Mare…and it was heartbreaking that he knew that some part of her still loved Maven. And I just, I don’t know where this romance is going. I don’t. I liked Cal, but then I DID like Maven and ughh, what will happen!

Shade, I adored. He was probably my favourite character (though I have a special place in my heart for Julian) and I loved his sense of humour and his dedication to Mare and his awesome teleportation ability and the way he was always willing to help. I can’t even explain how I felt at the end of this book (minor spoiler: because while I predicted it, I wasn’t ready) and Shade was definitely the best of Mare’s brothers (though hopefully we will get to know the other two a bit more as well in book three). Kilorn surprised me. I expected him to be that annoying whiny “why don’t you love ME” guy who tried to interfere with the main relationship - but he actually matured a lot in the book, and grew on me to the point where I actually quite liked him by the end. Surprising, I know! Farley grew on me too, and while I knew what was up with her, like halfway through the book, I’m intrigued to see what part she plays in book three.

Plot-wise, I have to admit a lot of things in this book were predictable. But because they were also exciting it didn’t take too much away from the story. I felt like a certain thing towards the end was dealt with too easily (if it were that easy, why had no one done it before?) and there was of course that THING that happened that CRUSHED MY SOUL. And the ENDING. I have so many predictions for book three (minor spoiler: Maven’s redemption arc? A rescue attempt? Maven and Mare romance? Maven and Cal fight? But not over Mare because they have better things to fight about. Okay, maybe a little bit about Mare. But mostly Elara and the previous King).

Overall, while this wasn’t as good as Red Queen, it was a solid sequel and it’s definitely got me more invested in all the characters, and excited about the next book. If you haven’t started this series yet, I highly recommend it.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Review: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

(Note: I'm so sorry I haven't blogged in so long! Turns out work takes up a lot of time. I have to get up at 5am some days. I'm not sleep deprived or anything. Hahaha. Ha.)

Truthwitch (The Witchlands #1) by Susan Dennard
Publisher: Tor
Released: January 14th 2016
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads
In a continent on the edge of war, two witches hold its fate in their hands.

Young witches Safiya and Iseult have a habit of finding trouble. After clashing with a powerful Guildmaster and his ruthless Bloodwitch bodyguard, the friends are forced to flee their home.

Safi must avoid capture at all costs as she's a rare Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lies. Many would kill for her magic, so Safi must keep it hidden - lest she be used in the struggle between empires. And Iseult's true powers are hidden even from herself.

In a chance encounter at Court, Safi meets Prince Merik and makes him a reluctant ally. However, his help may not slow down the Bloodwitch now hot on the girls' heels. All Safi and Iseult want is their freedom, but danger lies ahead. With war coming, treaties breaking and a magical contagion sweeping the land, the friends will have to fight emperors and mercenaries alike. For some will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

Truthwitch was really good, guys. It wasn’t my absolute favourite book ever, but I understand why so many people have been excited about it - it’s definitely an addictive read (seriously, I finished it in a day). This is going to be a short (well, short for me) review, because I really feel like Truthwitch is one of those books you should go into without knowing too much - trust me, you’ll enjoy it so much more.

Truthwitch was, essentially, about two friends, Safi and Iseult. Safi was a Truthwitch, able to always determine truth from lie, and Iseult was a Threadwitch - a concept somewhat more difficult to explain (so read the book because Susan Dennard does it much better than I do) but basically involved the ability to see the threads (bonds) of individuals and those around them and how they connected. I loved how close Safi and Iseult were - they were Threadsisters who would never turn their backs on each other. Safi was in danger as a Truthwitch - her powers were highly sought after by those who wanted to use them for their own gain - and she had to spend a lot of time laying low and hiding. Iseult stuck by her and ugh guys I just loved these two so much. At first I really favoured Safi and enjoyed her POVs a lot more - she had some awesome fight scenes and she was hilarious and oh the parts with Merik (more on that later) and while she still is my favourite, I have to say, Iseult really grew on me. There was a strength to her that was different from Safi but which was equally as awesome and I loved getting to know more about her, her family, and her abilities toward the end of the book. 

Prince Merik. I adored him. His point of view was one of my favourites, because his inner thoughts were just fantastic. Sometimes hilarious, sometimes sarcastic, sometimes focussed on whatever task at hand, I just, I can’t even explain to you what I mean, I’m not gifted enough (clearly, I read books, I don’t write them) - so please just pick up Truthwitch because then you’ll understand what I mean. And the romance! It’s started off rocky (that’s an understatement) but the way he and Safi connected over time…it was just brilliant. Really. I am so for this relationship, it’s unreal. And speaking of relationships…are we thinking Aeduan and Iseult for book two? I’d love to find out more about Aeduan, he was such an intriguing character. 

Plot-wise, I don’t know where to start. I’m making this book sound less complex than it was - there was so much going on. There was politics and feminism and cool fighting action scenes and romance and humour and mystery and diverse characters and great world-building and fab secondary characters and a dancing scene that was amazing and so much more. As I said, I am not good enough with words to describe to you how excellent this book was, so please, just read it. I will admit it did have a bit of a slow start, but once you get past that, it’s non-stop exciting things until the end.

Overall, this book was such an great start to a new series and I am already excited for book two. If you like fantasy and great characters (and who doesn’t like fantasy and great characters?), you’ll probably like Truthwitch.