Friday, 27 November 2015

Review: Trouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly

Trouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Released: August 6th 2015
My Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

Sherlock meets The Breakfast Club in this story of a wisecracking girl who meets a weird but brilliant boy and their roller-coaster of a semester that's one part awkward, three parts thrilling, and five parts awesome

After her parents get divorced, high school junior Zoe Webster moves with her mother from Brooklyn to upstate New York, determined to get back to the city and transfer to the elite private school her father insists on. But then she meets Philip Digby--the odd and brilliant and somehow attractive?--Digby, and soon finds herself in a series of hilarious and dangerous situations all centered on his search for the kidnapper of a local teenage girl who may know something about the tragic disappearance of his kid sister eight years ago. Before she knows it, Zoe has vandalized an office complex with fake snow, pretended to buy drugs alongside a handsome football star dressed like the Hulk, had a serious throw down with a possible religious cult, challenged her controlling father, and, oh yeah, saved her new hometown.

For fans of John Green and David Levithan, this is a crime novel where catching the crook isn't the only hook, a romance where the leading man is decidedly unromantic, a friendship story where they aren't even sure they like each other, and a debut you won't soon forget.
(from Goodreads)

Okay, this book? We need more books like this. Seriously. This is my kind of contemp.

Zoe, our main character, was not very happy with how her life had turned out. Her parents had just divorced, she was stuck in an unfamiliar public school, she had no friends and all she wanted to do was get through the next few weeks until she could transfer to Prentiss, a private school that would help her on her way to Princeton. Enter Digby. Calamity (and hilarity) ensued, including snooping around at the gynaecologists’ office, breaking and entering, dodgy police officers and the limo ride from hell. To say things had livened up a bit was definitely an understatement. But props to Zoe for how she handled Digby and all the craziness he brought into her life - she didn’t lose her head. She somehow managed to get through everything with her sense of humour in tact, and honestly, I was just curious as to what mad thing was going to happen next! I really liked Zoe and how she tried with Digby. She gave him a chance, and sometimes it was even worth it (other times she wondered why on earth she had ever agreed to his plans). It was interesting to see her relationships with the characters, and how her attitude towards her parents slowly changed as the book went on. I am very intrigued as to how she’ll get along with her parents after the ending, and can’t wait to see what happens with them next (and with Digby, but more on that later). Also, I also just want to say that I relate to Zoe on a very deep level about not wearing your retainer. I never wore mine (it made it impossible to talk!) and like Zoe, my teeth moved back and are all horsey again. Unlike Zoe though, my retainer is long lost…

Digby. I don’t really think I can describe his character? He was just a bit of an oddball. Nothing seemed to phase him, he seemed to always know how things would turn out, and he seemed to be an expert in technically not legal stuff. He drove Zoe mad half the time, but he also seemed to understand her in a way that not many others did. The dynamic between the two was excellent. I loved the way they spoke to each other and joked and how it just became a thing that Digby would eat dinner in Zoe’s room - she just got used to it in the end! And their lines were just so funny sometimes. Digby was so blunt when asking to see the gynaecologist, it was hilarious. And I don’t think Natalie Imbruglia counts as a great poet, either! Ahh it was just nice to see them become friends - because Zoe had no-one at school, and Digby only had Henry. And while Digby could undoubtedly be selfish and insensitive at times, I think by the end, he really was trying to be better. Maybe. A tiny bit. Now I just want to see more of these two, especially after that ending, because seriously, what is going to happen? The build up was excellently done. I need to know!

Henry was the only character who really, properly considered the consequences of Digby’s plans, and even then he still went along with them, because he was a loyal friend. You couldn’t help but like the guy, he just seemed so resigned to everything. Zoe had a bit of a thing for him (which he seemed to ignore - or did he? Dun dun dun! Until book two) and his girlfriend Sloane, who was basically Zoe’s arch nemesis, weirdly grew on me throughout the book. I mean, she was pretty horrible, but for some reason, I didn’t dislike her as much towards the end. And Felix! The saviour of the day! That unintentionally amusing guy. I didn’t know his presence was needed in the book until he was introduced, and now I can’t imagine the story without him.

Plot-wise, just know that this book was so fun and hilarious and yet still addressed some more difficult issues at the same time. The characters all worked so well together and every single scene was entertaining. The way the characters opened up to each other as they tried to solve the mystery is one of the things that made it so enjoyable for me, and I cannot wait for the sequel. There’s so much I want to know (what happened to Digby’s sister?) - I hope the wait isn’t too long!

Overall, this was a great contemp, and if you’re a fan of the genre, pick this up.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Review - Harry Potter: The Character Vault by Jody Revenson

Harry Potter: The Character Vault by Jody Revenson
Publisher: Titan Books
Released: September 25th 2015
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

Unlock new information about your favourite characters from the Harry Potter movies with this definitive coffeetable book profiling the good, the bad, and everything in between within the Harry Potter universe. Dive into the personal journeys of beloved Harry Potter heroes, and an insightful look at the motivations and actions of the films’ most notorious and complicated villains.

Concept art, behind-the-scenes imagery, and film stills track everyone from Harry, Hermione, and Ron to Dobby, Mad-Eye Moody, and Dolores Umbridge, telling their complete stories as they evolve throughout the film series. A comprehensive collection of the movies’ beloved characters, this beautifully designed book is the ultimate Harry Potter character overview.
(from Goodreads)

If you’re a Harry Potter fan, then there is no doubt that you will find Harry Potter: The Character Vault fascinating. Seeing all the ideas behind the character designs and traits seriously just made me want to rewatch all the films with my newfound knowledge!

I loved the images included in this book, especially the sketches and illustrations showing the original character/costume designs. I also really liked learning about the creation of the all the costumes; just making one could take several months and often the end results could be quite different to what was originally proposed. Sometimes certain actors had input into their designs; I loved that Helena Bonham Carter was the one who wanted Bellatrix to have rotten teeth and gross, gnarly nails! Jason Isaacs too had some influence and I thought he turned out to be a perfect Lucius Malfoy, so I’m glad the designers listened to his ideas!

It was interesting to see the reasoning behind certain designs and ideas too. Harry’s clothes were usually neutral or muted colours like light blues, greys, whites and browns, but he’d often wear the Gryffindor scarlet at times when he was in battle or facing Voldemort. I’d never really thought about that before or about how colours of clothing can affect the viewing experience, but when I consider it now, it makes so much sense! There was some interesting stuff about Voldemort’s design too, and a really funny line about Hagrid being “as groomed as Hagrid could be”. And some of the detail that went into these designs - the Death Eaters’ masks were so intricate and amazing! I really enjoyed exploring all the costumes and stories behind them, and it was nice learning a bit more about the actors too. Some of their stories were quite funny - James and Oliver Phelps, who played Fred and George Weasley, were happy to audition for their parts but mostly were glad they got a day off from school! And apparently, Alan Rickman, who played Snape, was told by JK Rowling herself about Snape’s secret love for Lily, and he played his role with that in mind for years! He was the only one on set who knew the truth (until Deathly Hallows was released). I never knew that before.

Another thing I enjoyed was seeing how the party clothes, such as the ones for the Yule Ball, were designed (the bit about Ron’s hideous dress robes was hilarious). There was still no real explanation for why Hermione’s periwinkle blue dress was made pink though! The designers said they wanted a look that was romantic and princess-like - blue can be romantic and princess-like! Look at Cinderella! Ahh I’ll never get over that, I’m afraid.

The book itself was very beautiful, with lovely pages (that smelled really good - and don’t tell me you never sniff the pages of a book, because all book-lovers do it) and the layout was pretty and really easy to read. There were some gorgeous double spreads too (my favourite illustration below - sorry about the terrible lighting) and there were even some mini posters included at the back in a nice gold envelope, which I thought was a cool idea.

Fred and George setting off their fireworks (I think?)

Overall, Harry Potter: The Character Vault was a great behind-the-scenes look at character designs, and you can really see how they all came to life, and the great amount of time and effort that was put into everything. Recommended, and I think this would be a fantastic Christmas present for any Harry Potter fan!

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Review: The Vanishing Throne by Elizabeth May

The Vanishing Throne (The Falconer #2) by Elizabeth May
Publisher: Gollancz
Released: November 19th 2015
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

My name is Lady Aileana Kameron.

First the fae murdered my mother. Then they destroyed my world.

Now I’m fighting for more than revenge.

Aileana took a stand against the Wild Hunt, and she lost everything: her home, her family and her friends. Held captive by her enemy, and tormenting herself over her failure, escape seems like only the faintest possibility. But when she gets her chance, she seizes rejoin a world devastated by war.

The future is bleak. Hunted by the fae, running for her life, Aileana has only a few options left. Trying to become part of a society scarred by – and hiding from – the Wild Hunt; trusting that a fragile alliance with the fae will save her; or walking the most dangerous path at all: coming in to her own powers as the last of the Falconers...
(from Goodreads)

It’s been a long time since I’ve read The Falconer - two years is a lot in the bookish world. I have to admit, I had to read the Recaptains summary of it to remember what actually happened, but I was soon reminded of all the important stuff and was excited to start The Vanishing Throne! I actually enjoyed it even more than The Falconer, I think (though just a smidgen) and I am very excited to find out how things will end in book three (though it’s going to be another long wait).

Aileana went through a lot in this book. She was taken by Lonnrach and tortured in the faery realm, and was starting to lose her grip on reality. When she finally escaped, not only was she left with the scars of what Lonnrach did to her, but she also learnt that three whole years had passed in her world. Everything was different to how things were in the the first book, where she had to go to balls and keep up appearances to fit into her society. None of that mattered anymore. Now, her city was in ruins, people were afraid and living in hiding, her friends had grown up and gotten married and their whole lives had changed - while she hadn’t aged at all. Aileana had a difficult time adjusting to everything, and all the while she was consumed by guilt, blaming herself for not being able to save anyone. I really felt for her, I really did. She managed to stay strong through it all, but you could tell how everything that had happened to her had taken its toll. I really liked her growing friendship with Aithinne, Kiaran’s sister, who we got to meet in this book. Aithinne had been through similar experiences and they both seemed to bond over that. Aithinne was also generally a bit more curious about humans than Kiaran was and seemed to be surprised by some of Aileana’s actions. And even though she still had the whole faery superior attitude going on, she was really helpful to Aileana and got her out of a lot of tricky situations. It was nice to see them get along and I really want to see more of these two together in the next book! I really liked Aithinne and it’s always nice to see a great female friendship.

Speaking of female friendships, I loved Catherine in this book! After all the terrible things that had happened, she had lost a lot of her naivety, and had adapted to a new world of living in hiding and unpredictable fighting. She was one of the only characters to still completely trust Aileana upon her return and I loved that she was such a loyal friend. She had changed during the time that Aileana was gone, but she was still the same kind and friendly person who stuck by Aileana all those years and refused to believe the rumours that Aileana was responsible for her mother’s murder. I really appreciated her presence in the book. I was also glad to see Derrick the pixie again in this book and he was one of my favourite characters! He really cared about Aileana and hated to see her hurt, but he was also quirky and funny and I just really really liked him.

Kiaran, well. He became a bit less mysterious in this book because we delved into his backstory, and it was really interesting to see how different he was now, and how his relationship with his sister had changed so much over the years. And the romance! I really enjoyed it, I have to say. There was a lot of chemistry between Kiaran and Aileana and even though it seemed like it could never work out, I was really hoping for a happy ending for these two.

Plot-wise, ahem, a lot happened here. We got to find out a lot more about the faery world and the different courts, and also about the Cailleach, who was somewhat of enigma. There was a bit of needless repetition at times which I found a bit strange, but mostly, I enjoyed the writing. Some of the scenes were quite powerful, especially at the beginning, and while I sort of predicted the ending, I am very intrigued to find out what happens next - in regard to Kiaran, certainly, because oh my God, but also in regard to Aileana’s future. What will she do? I don’t know how I’ll last until 2017, really.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Vanishing Throne. If you liked The Falconer, definitely pick up this sequel, and if you haven’t started the series yet but like faery stories with a hint of steampunk, then give these books a go.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

My Little Box November 2015 Review

The November box was definitely an improvement on October's box! Not one of my favourites, but I liked it, and it arrived early, which was a nice bonus. This month's box is called the "My Little Sweet Box" and while I'm a bit disappointed there was nothing sweet actually in it (e.g. chocolate), it was a good box overall. Here are my thoughts!

I love the design of this month's box! To start with, it's an actual tin instead of a cardboard box, which is amazing, and very useful. It's also just really cute! I love the illustrations - the wooden spoons and egg cups and scales! Definitely impressed. The only thing is that my box has a dent on one side, but it's not too bad, and I can live with it.

The card was a bit different this month, and featured a chef called Mimi (who was also interviewed in the magazine) which was quite interesting. I still prefer the illustrated cards but a change is nice once in a while.

My thoughts on each individual product:

My Little Beauty Sweet Hand Cream - well, it's another cream. But I have to admit, it is nice. It's not too greasy and has a light but sweet smell, and is pretty moisturising. I can't complain! And the packaging is very cute, once again.

Bliss Fabulous Foaming Face Wash - I haven't fully tested this one yet but I've done a patch test and so far it seems okay and my skin hasn't reacted badly to it. This foam face wash definitely smells a lot better than the last one I received (it has a very gentle floral fragrance) and it makes my skin feel really clean and soft. If it keeps working well for me, and doesn't affect my skin, I would probably consider using it regularly (which is saying something, because I really love the foam face wash I use right now).

Yves Rocher So Elixir Bois Sensual Fragrance - I actually really like this perfume. Originally I thought it would be too strong, but it was fine when I actually put it on my skin. The scent is difficult to describe, the card says it's a "feminine fragrance of aromatic substances including iris, vanilla and patchouli". So floral with some woody tones? I don't know, but I really like it. It's worth testing out if you ever come across it, anyway.

My Little Box Chef's Apron - this is a nice addition to the box, I think! Despite the fact that I actually really like baking, I don't own any aprons, so I'll be using this the next time I'm making something (and maybe it will encourage me to bake more, I've haven't made anything in a while).

My Little Box Jar Decals - well I don't know how useful stickers for jars are going to be for me. I don't put stuff in jars, I leave them in the packets, because I'm lazy, and it's more efficient. And even if I did put stuff in jars, I wouldn't then stick ugly while stickers on said jars. Not too impressed with these, but it was a nice thought, I guess.

That's my review of this month's box! What did you think? Did you prefer any other beauty boxes over this one for November?

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Waiting on Wednesday #75

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

See How They Run (Embassy Row #2) by Ally Carter
January 14th 2016
Find it on Goodreads

The second thrilling book in the EMBASSY ROW series.

Grace thought finding her mother's killer would bring her peace. But the truth has only made her a target. on Embassy Row, trust is a luxury. Death is a very real threat. And a girl like Grace should be very careful about which secrets she brings to light...
(from Goodreads)

Okay, so at this point, I will read pretty much anything Ally Carter writes, but could this synopsis be any more cryptic? Give us something! Especially after that ending in All Fall Down. Waiting for book two after that has been torture! Ahh. I honestly can't wait to read this and find out how Grace is coping. I have no idea what's going to happen (you never do will Ally Carter books) but I'm dying to know! At least January isn't too far away now (that's a scary though, I can't believe it's already November...). I'm not a huge fan of this UK cover though. And the title is in such tiny font on the left, you can barely see it. Oh well. 

What are you waiting on this week?

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Review: For the Record by Charlotte Huang

For the Record by Charlotte Huang
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Released: November 10th 2015
My Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

Chelsea thought she knew what being a rock star was like . . . until she became one. After losing a TV talent show, she slid back into small-town anonymity. But one phone call changed everything

Now she’s the lead singer of the band Melbourne, performing in sold-out clubs every night and living on a bus with three gorgeous and talented guys. The bummer is that the band barely tolerates her. And when teen hearthrob Lucas Rivers take an interest in her, Chelsea is suddenly famous, bringing Melbourne to the next level—not that they’re happy about that. Her feelings for Beckett, Melbourne’s bassist, are making life even more complicated.

Chelsea only has the summer tour to make the band—and their fans—love her. If she doesn’t, she’ll be back in Michigan for senior year, dying a slow death. The paparazzi, the haters, the grueling schedule . . . Chelsea believed she could handle it. But what if she can’t?
(from Goodreads)

This book just was not for me. I think if I were a bigger fan of bands and musicians and tours, I would have enjoyed this more, but for me, the behind-the-scenes of touring and the music industry just seemed awful and not something I would ever want to be part of! The stress, the living conditions, the amount of crap you have to put up with - nope. I’ll stick to reading books, thanks.

I didn’t like any of the characters in this book much, except for Chelsea (though I really didn’t understand her sometimes). She was the new lead singer of the band Melbourne, and the other band members did not seem to like her at all. At times they were hostile and other times they just ignored her and I felt so bad for her having to live with it! And don’t get me started on Chelsea’s supposed friend Mandy, because my God. I felt sorry for the girl, but still! What she did was horrible. Chelsea took it way better than I thought she would. And Lucas Rivers! What did she see in him? No okay that’s not the right question - why did she think an actual relationship would be a good idea? Uggh. They were all awful. Even when Chelsea’s band members did start to like her more (and by like her more, I mean insult her marginally less than before), they still weren’t actually nice, and they still didn’t seem to actually respect her. Beckett was the only one who attempted to be civil, and even then, he never defended Chelsea! He just let the others say all this crap and then tried to act like he was all nice and caring because he personally didn’t say it. I just didn’t like it, I didn’t really like him or how he treated his sort-of girlfriend or that whole situation, where he complained about things not going how he thought they would - err, maybe if you actually COMMUNICATED, you wouldn’t have this problem. Idiot.

I guess I do have to admit that I liked how honest this book was. I think it was a more realistic portrayal of what happens on tours like these and it didn’t sugar coat anything or edit out the more unpleasant aspects. I did appreciate that and the way the relationships between the band members were explored. I suppose it would be difficult to all be friends immediately, and I liked the fact that it wasn’t made out to be glamorous and sunshine and rainbows all the time. It definitely made the book more believable.

Plot-wise, there was so much drama! Poor Chelsea, honestly. And I felt like, by the end, there had been very little development for most of the characters. The only one who seemed to have learnt anything from the whole experience was Chelsea, and I was glad she managed to figure out what she wanted to do. I didn’t really mind the way it all ended (to be honest, I think it was better that way and healthier for everyone involved) and I didn’t really care about the romance so I was fine with that too.

Overall, I think if you are interested in a realistic look at what happens on tour, and love music and all the backstage stuff, then you might enjoy this book. I think it just wasn’t my cup of tea, and honestly, the whole experience just sounded terrible and made me wonder why musicians even go on tour if that’s what they go through! I’ve given it 2.5 stars, but I really do think you should give this book a go if it’s something you feel you would enjoy. I think a lot of people will like this one and I don't want my review to put people off if they were really interested in reading it before.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Review: Spinning Starlight by R. C. Lewis

Spinning Starlight by R. C. Lewis
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Released: October 6th 2015
My Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

Sixteen-year-old heiress and paparazzi darling Liddi Jantzen hates the spotlight. But as the only daughter in the most powerful tech family in the galaxy, it's hard to escape it. So when a group of men show up at her house uninvited, she assumes it's just the usual media-grubs. That is, until shots are fired.

Liddi escapes, only to be pulled into an interplanetary conspiracy more complex than she ever could have imagined. Her older brothers have been caught as well, trapped in the conduits between the planets. And when their captor implants a device in Liddi's vocal cords to monitor her speech, their lives are in her hands: One word and her brothers are dead.

Desperate to save her family from a desolate future, Liddi travels to another world, where she meets the one person who might have the skills to help her bring her eight brothers home-a handsome dignitary named Tiav. But without her voice, Liddi must use every bit of her strength and wit to convince Tiav that her mission is true. With the tenuous balance of the planets deeply intertwined with her brothers' survival, just how much is Liddi willing to sacrifice to bring them back?

Haunting and mesmerizing, this retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's
The Wild Swans strings the heart of the classic with a stunning, imaginative world as a star-crossed family fights for survival in this companion to Stitching Snow. (from Goodreads)

While I didn’t enjoy Spinning Starlight quite as much as Stitching Snow, I did like it and I’ve become a real fan of R. C. Lewis’s work. Looking forward to whatever she writes next!

I wasn’t very familiar with the fairytale this story was inspired by (The Wild Swans) but I really enjoyed the way it was retold in this sci-fi setting. Liddi was definitely an interesting character to follow. As an heiress with eight genius older brothers, she was under a lot of pressure to be just as smart and talented as them. Her entire life was in the public eye; she was constantly followed by cameras and reporters and rarely had a private moment to herself. You could understand how she felt and how frustrated she was when she was underestimated or told to sit by and wait for someone else to fix something for her. When her brothers lives were in danger though, she didn’t give up, even though she was told to several times. She wanted to save her brothers, and the other people involved in the situation. And after discovering what was really going on, there was no way she was going to sit back and do nothing. She listened to her instincts, came up with a plan, and executed it - all without her voice! It was pretty impressive, even if she did start off a bit all over the place. I liked the way she persevered with learning how to read and write even though she absolutely hated it - on her planet, there was no longer a written language because it just wasn’t seen as necessary, but in her new surroundings, it was the only way for her to communicate, and she knew she needed to get people on her side if she was going to succeed. I do think it would have been a lot easier for her to mouth words sometimes instead of trying to learn a new method of communication from scratch, but for some reason, that wasn’t really an option they considered, and she only mouthed words occasionally, even though it seemed an effective way of getting people to understand her. Never mind!

Tiav was one of the first people Liddi encountered when she left her planet and he was also one of the only people who decided to trust her and try to understand why she couldn’t speak and what her goals were. A lot of people were wary of Liddi and some downright hated her, but Tiav made an effort to figure out what was going on. He was the one who was teaching her to read and write and I liked the time they spent together! Even though the Liddi couldn’t speak with her own voice, you could see the other ways in which they became closer, and it was really sweet. It was nice to see Liddi expand her horizons and consider things in a way she never had before, and Tiav was partly responsible for that.

Plot-wise, I have to admit, a lot of the science/portals/conduit stuff was lost on me. I got the basics but I really didn’t understand how it all worked, how these portals existed, how they were sentient and all the technology etc. etc. It was just a bit confusing and perhaps could have been explained a little better. I did enjoy the main story though and I liked seeing the differences between the planets and the way people communicated with each other. I wasn’t a huge fan of the flashbacks of Liddi when she was younger, I felt there were a bit too many for the point they were trying to make, but I did enjoy getting to see Liddi interact with her brothers and understand how close they were as a family.

Overall, while some parts were a bit confusing, I did enjoy this book and would recommend it to fans of fairytale retellings and sci-fi, and especially if you liked Stitching Snow.