Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Top Five Books I'm Looking Forward to in 2015

It is the last day of 2014, and looking back at the year I accomplished...pretty much nothing. My biggest hope for 2015 is that I actually manage to graduate - fingers crossed for that! I'm also looking forward to a lot of books in 2015, so I thought I'd make a list of the five I most want to read.

Top Five Books I'm Looking Forward to in 2015 (in no particular order):

1) The Sin Eater's Daughter by Mel Salisbury - erm. I can't even tell you how excited I am for this book. Have you read the blurb? Because it sounds freaking AWESOME. Girl who kills anyone she touches, a prince who is immune, a guard who likes her for who she is, a kingdom that needs to be protected - I mean, how can you not love the sound of this? I need it. I need this book now. Plus, the cover is amazing. And all the early reviews I've read so far have been very positive so...excitement!

2) Half Wild by Sally Green - I absolutely loved Half Bad and cannot wait to read this sequel. First of all, because I just have to know what is going to happen, and second, because I love the characters and I miss them! Nathan and Gabriel are definitely my favourites, and ugh I want to read this book so much! March seems so far away. I have't read the short story, Half Lies, yet so maybe I'll give that a go and see if it can tide me over until Half Wild is released (though I have a feeling it will just leave me wanting this book even more).

3) Royal Wedding by Meg Cabot - the eleventh Princess Diaries book! For adults! Omg! Guys I grew up with the Princess Diaries series. Book one was one of the first YA books I ever read. I am so incredibly excited to read this book. Mia and Michael are getting married, there's a scandal to deal with (of course) and nothing is going to plan - ah! It's been ages since the last PD book (2009!) and I'm so happy we get to revisit these characters (it'll be weird to see everyone older and grown-up, but I am definitely curious to see what's changed).

4) Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman - I have talked about this book before and I will continue to talk about it, because I have been waiting for it for so long. Sooo long. Seraphina was one of my favourite books of the year...back in 2012. 2012! I don't even know how I've managed this long without the sequel. I am desperate to find out what happens, especially between Kiggs and Phina because the way Seraphina ended...ugh! Finally I will have the answers and I don't have the words to explain how much I want this book.

5) A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas - I love Sarah J. Maas's Throne of Glass series, so I am very interested to see what I think of this book. To be honest, I'm already convinced I'll love it. Sarah's writing style is addictive, her characters are awesome, and the synopsis already has me intrigued. Plus, it seems that pretty much every (incredibly lucky) person who's already read this book has said that it's fantastic. I have heard some very good things about the character Tamlin already, so obviously I'm dying to read this book and I can't believe it's not out until MAY. How will I live?

Notable mentions that didn't quite make the list: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, Tell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan, Untitled Throne of Glass #4 by Sarah J. Maas and The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan.

Books that would be on this list/in the notable mentions had I not already read them: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon and The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski.

And there you have it! Which books are you looking forward to in 2015? Any from my list? And, last of all, have a very happy New Year, everyone!

Monday, 22 December 2014

Review: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Released: November 6th 2014 (this edition)
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

Fifteen-year-old Frankie Landau-Banks has grown up a lot over the summer. She's no longer daddy's little girl - and almost immediately after starting the new semester at her highly prestigious school, she bags goofy-but-gorgeous Matthew Livingston as her boyfriend. They get along great but then Frankie discovers that Matthew is a member of a boys-only secret society that specialise in 'hilarious' pranks. Which hardly seems fair... especially when Frankie knows she's smarter than any of its members. And to prove this, she's going to teach them a lesson.

Impersonating lead member Alpha by using a fake email account is surprisingly easy, and soon Frankie is setting the boys up with all sorts of ridiculous schemes and sending them on wild goose chase after wild goose chase. Alpha's not prepared to lose face and admit it's not him sending the emails - but the fun can't last forever, and soon Frankie will have to choose between what she think she wants, and the reputation she deserves.
(from Goodreads)

I had only a very vague idea of what this book was about when I started it, and had no clue what to expect. The synopsis had me very intrigued though, so I was looking forward to reading it. I never read We Were Liars (I know, I know, but it just didn't appeal to me!) but I have read some of E. Lockhart's other books and pretty much loved them all, so I was hoping I'd enjoy this one just as much. I am happy to say that I did and while I had a few problems, it was a really good book overall.

Frankie Landau-Banks was a great character, because even though half the things she was doing were kind of reckless (though very well planned), you could understand why she was doing it all. She was very perceptive, and she could tell what other people thought of her, and how they tried to manipulate her. She hated being underestimated just because she was a girl. She didn't like that she was expected to always be smiling and sweet and sensitive. She wanted to a force to be reckoned with, and she also wanted to be acknowledged as such. Yet even though she wanted that, even though she knew her relationship with Matthew was just a series of power plays, with Matthew always thinking he was winning, she still wanted to be with him. She loved him - or thought she did - and I suppose she figured that maybe if she kept doing what she was doing, he could change, and see her for who she really was. She definitely had the mind of a strategist; she could always work out the best move to take when she was trying to manipulate someone herself. You had to respect her for that. She achieved a lot in a short period of time, and regardless of what motivated her and whether it was a good idea or not, not many people could have done what she did.

I never liked Matthew or Alpha, but I don't think I was supposed to. Alpha especially, he was too concerned with being top dog, with having the most power, and he treated everyone but a few select people like they were below him and hardly worth his time. Matthew was not as obvious with his power plays - he was a little more subtle - but it was still there. He had to have the last word. He had to be right about certain things. He twisted conversations so that it always came back to him letting Frankie do something instead of her asserting her right to whatever she wanted. He expected her to be something she didn't want to be. Frankie recognised this behaviour was not right. She tried to do something about it. But a lot of people wouldn't realise that Matthew was behaving in a controlling manner. And being part of the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds meant he was exclusionary. Alpha too. It was another part of their hypocrisy. Constantly being dishonest to Frankie about being a member and going to meetings, in Matthew's eyes, was him being loyal to the group. But Frankie keeping something from him in much the same manner - that was just downright lying. When Alpha did something sneaky and against the rules, he was brilliant. But when Frankie did it, she was psychotic. Like she said in the book, it was a double standard. I could understand what drove Frankie (though I also understood why her family were worried about her in the end).

Plot-wise, I loved all the pranks and the way Frankie was masterminding everything. I especially liked the emails between her and Alpha. I didn't plan to read this book in one sitting, but, well...I did. The narration style was kind of addictive and I needed to know how things were going to end. There were only a few things thing I didn't like. One was the essay extracts. I found them kind of boring and a bit unnecessary. Maybe they also reminded me of all the essays I need to write over the holidays...but still. I also thought Frankie herself was a bit contradictory. She was so obsessed with what other people thought that she was rarely every actually being herself. She would sometimes do things she didn't actually like just to impress others, or prove them wrong. It didn't really match her whole "see me for me" thing. I also think she was sometimes a little bit judgemental about other girls, and that she was too concerned with the boys. She had to do what they did and prove that she could do it too, but why? To earn their respect? Why did she want it so badly? Was it really just about being acknowledged? It seemed like only these boys' approval would do and that she felt she needed it to be worth something - and that just didn't sit well with me. But I don't know, I could be wrong. Anyway, apart from that, I really enjoyed the book, and the general message it sent out.

Overall, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Bank was an engaging and thought-provoking read, and I recommend it if you're looking for a contemporary that's a bit different. 

Friday, 19 December 2014

Top Five Favourite Books and Top Five Least Favourite Books Read in 2014

So since it's almost the end of 2014 (I can't believe how quickly this year has gone), I thought I'd do a post of my favourite and least favourite books. They'll be books I read in 2014, regardless of release date - please let me know your favourite/worst books of 2014 too!

I'm also thinking of what types of posts I'll be doing in 2015 (because let's face it, once I graduate, I'm going to be unemployed for a whiiile, so I'll probably have a lot of free time on my hands - this is of course assuming I don't fail and have to retake the year). I will of course be continuing with reviews and other bookish posts, but I was thinking of maybe doing some more personal ones as well. I did a few this year and no-one seemed to hate them too much. Does anyone like this idea? I'm interested in TV/film and some aspects of beauty so that's probably the kind of stuff I'd talk about, as well as general complaining because I just do that so well.

Anyway, getting back to the books, here are my lists!

Top Five Favourite Books Read in 2014 (in no particular order):

1) Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard - I was lucky enough to receive a copy of this book from NetGalley and oh my God, guys. This book was amazing. My review isn't on the blog yet, but I've given it five stars. Which is something I rarely ever do. A book has got to be really, REALLY good for me to give it five stars. So trust me when I say that you need to pick this book up when you can, because honestly, it was brilliant. The characters, the plot...I can't even tell you. Just trust me on this. Also, don't you just love the cover?

2) The Perilous Sea by Sherry Thomas - I loooved this book. Loved it. Such a great sequel to The Burning Sky (which I also loved). The characters were my favourite part. Titus and Iolanthe are probably two of my favourite characters of all time. The chemistry between these two - ugh! Please just read this series.

3) The Princess in the Opal Mask by Jenny Lundquist - here's another book with a very pretty cover! But that's not even the best part. Who doesn't love a story where twins switch identities? It's especially interesting when one of them is a princess who has lived her life behind her mask, and the other is just a regular girl who has no idea who she really is.. This was such a fun read, and the sequel is on my Christmas wishlist. Definitely recommended if you like dual POVs and fairytale-esque stories with a little bit (but not too much) of romance thrown into the mix.

4) The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski - okay it might be a bit early to mention this one, but this book blew me away. I was not expecting it to be so good for some reason. No idea why, but it definitely surpassed my expectations. If you liked the first book, you will definitely love this one. I absolutely cannot wait for book three, I just have to know what happens next. Sometimes I wish I could time travel to the future so I could get my hands on all the sequels...

5) Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas - Celaena! Rowan! This book! My favourite of the series so far, hands down. Sarah J. Maas somehow managed to convert me to Team Rowan after a long run with Chaol (er sorry about that, Chaol. We had a good time, but it's over). And Celaena's character development was just fantastic. She's changed a lot since book one and I like her character a lot more. Don't know how I'm going to cope with waiting for book four.

Notable mentions that didn't quite make the list: Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride, Half a King by Joe Abercrombie, Cracked by Eliza Crewe, Half Bad by Sally Green, The Turn of the Story by Sarah Rees Brennan and Cress by Marissa Meyer.

Top Five Least Favourite Books Read in 2014 (in no particular order)

1) The Witch of Salt and Storm by Kendall Kulper - this book had so much potential, but no. The characters were ridiculous. Nothing made sense. Everyone made terrible decisions. It was just painful to read. I seem to be in the minority though so who knows. Perhaps I am just missing something that everyone else has understood.

2) After Eden by Helen Douglas - I just couldn't get past all the inaccuracies. And the poor writing. And the lack of character development. One of the characters was just a name on a page. He literally had NO personality. Maybe things get better in the sequel, but I don't think I could bring myself to read it.

3) Split Second by Sophie McKenzie - oh dear, this book was awful. The characters were so stupid I can't even tell you. It was honestly laughable. And the world building was "oh the government did this and now baaad things are happening, and eviiil people are about". There was basically no further explanation. I am surprised I even managed to finish this book, to be honest. However, I again seem to be in the minority. This book has a pretty high rating on Goodreads so maybe it's just me!

4) The Dark World by Cara Lynn Shultz - this wasn't terrible, but it was pretty cliche and I had issues with some of the characters, especially the male lead whose name escapes me. I just didn't like some of the things he said. The plot was also pretty weak and I didn't really understand how anything worked. It's a shame, because the synopsis sounded pretty good.

5) City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare - this might surprise some people, which is fair enough. This book is mainly on this list because it was a massive disappointment. It wasn't necessarily bad, but it just left me wishing that the Mortal Instruments series ended at book three. Honestly, I could have done without this second trilogy. I didn't enjoy it as much, and the way things It just wasn't what I expected, or wanted. Will still be reading the next trilogy though (The Dark Artifices) and the next Magisterium book, because I liked the first one.

And that is that! What were you favourite/least favourite books of the year? Do you agree with anything on my lists? I'm off to watch more of White Collar now (oh Netflix, you are my downfall), but I shall hopefully have more posts (including reviews) soon!

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Some thoughts (aka I'm procrastinating)

So I'm supposed to be writing my dissertation at the moment but I thought going online to complain about it would be less soul-destroying than, you know, actually writing it. One of the things that gets me is that my university is one of the only ones in the country that makes a dissertation in law compulsory. Most other unis (for a law degree) just have whatever optional regular modules for final year including an optional dissertation, but noooo, my stupid university not only makes us do four full modules (or you can mix and match with some half modules - I'm just doing four full modules though), but we have a compulsory dissertation on top of that! It's not fair. I'd even understand if we did the dissertation alongside three other full modules, but forcing us to do an extra one is just ridiculous. I have so much work to do right now I honestly feel like I'll never get it done. And I've heard rumours that they might be reducing the five (full) module system to a four module one next year, which just shows that even the faculty think it's too much. I don't even go to a good university, it's pretty average, especially for law, so I have no idea why they're even doing this. It's not like having a dissertation from here is going to make any difference whatsoever when I apply for jobs. And I'm not going to lie, but law is dull. Incredibly dull. The mere thought of writing 10,000 words about something law-related makes me want to bash my head against the wall.

In other news, there's been that whole thing about Zoella. To be honest, I am not surprised that her book was ghostwritten[1]. A lot of celebrity books are. I watch her videos sometimes, and she practically never mentioned her writing process in any of her vlogs. It definitely didn't seem like she was spending any time sitting down and writing a book. Plus, it was released so quickly after she announced it, and she claimed that it was still in the writing process in that announcement video so...yeah. I'm not that fussed about the issue, but I do think she and her publishers should have been more honest about it rather than trying to hush it up, especially since her whole image is about trying to be genuine and honest with her fans. I think that's where the main problem lies for most people, the lack of openess. Plus, I find it kind of amusing/weird that she's said she's so proud one of her biggest dreams has come true or something like that (on the back of the book and in one of her videos somewhere) - I mean, it hasn't really, has it. I would be hesitant to say I was proud if I were in her position. And her statement saying "of course I was going to have help...everyone needs help when they try something new"[2] - well that's not true, is it? Most debut authors don't have someone else write their first book for them and then magically develop great writing skills themselves by the time book two comes around. I'm not against ghostwriting (though I think there are definitely better ways for ghostwriters to be credited and compensated, especially when so many copies of the book are sold) but I think people should be open about it, and I don't think Zoe has reacted very well to the whole situation. Being vague and then hiding from the internet[3] is never the best way to address an issue.

I think the response to this news, though, has been way too extreme. Some people have been way too harsh and saying terrible things and harassing her which is just horrible (it's not like she's committed a crime, she's just released a book and used her brand to do it - everyone in these types of industries does that), whereas other people, mostly her diehard fans (and this is what I don't like about youtube - the fact that some fans worship these people to such an extent, it's just unhealthy), have been saying ridiculous things like (to paraphrase because I can't be bothered to find the tweets) "they're just jealous because they're not intelligent enough to come up with an idea like yours" and "don't listen to the lying haters!" and "they don't know you, Zoe". I mean, really? This level of idolisation is one of the reasons I don't attend youtube events. I really hate it. These people are just PEOPLE. They are not gods. They are not magical beings who know everything and can do anything. And no fan KNOWS a youtuber, you just see what they let you see when they edit their videos! Watching someone on a screen does not equate to knowing them as a person. This is clearly evident by all the recent abuse scandals that have happened with youtubers. So these comments really bother me. But it's not all negative, I guess. One of the good things to come out of all of it is that at least people are reading. Zoe has definitely done well for herself in amassing such a large audience, and ghostwritten or not, at least a lot of her fanbase are excited about picking up her book to read. I don't know if that will spread into excitement about other books, but it's a good start. Also, I don't dislike Zoe and I'm not trying to be harsh or anything. Her videos are often quite good and she seems like a nice enough person, who has genuinely tried to do good things/help people, especially in trying to make people more aware of issues like anxiety. I just thought it would be interesting to discuss the matter.

I also find it hilarious that I just wrote over 900 words no problem in fifteen minutes, yet I can't even write the first 100 words of my dissertation in an entire day.

So those are my thoughts. Feel free to offer yours. If you don't have other things to be doing. I have other things to be doing. I have procrastinated the day away. And I can't work on my dissertation on Thursday because I am in classes all day and won't get home until almost 10pm. So I basically have Tuesday (maybe, there's some confusion as to whether I have a practice exam or not), Wednesday and Friday to write the entire first chapter of my dissertation and hand it in. I don't foresee this going well. Especially since I'm thinking of changing my topic a bit. So I have no idea what to write. Please just take me away to Hogwarts. But you know, a Hogwarts that has wi-fi.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Review: Captive by Aimee Carter

Captive (The Blackcoat Rebellion #2) by Aimee Carter
Publisher: Mira Ink
Released: December 1st 2014
My Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

The truth can set her free

For the past two months, Kitty Doe's life has been a lie. Forced to impersonate Lila Hart, the Prime Minister's niece, in a hostile meritocracy on the verge of revolution, Kitty sees her frustration grow as her trust in her fake fiancé cracks, her real boyfriend is forbidden and the Blackcoat rebels she is secretly supporting keep her in the dark more than ever.

But in the midst of discovering that her role in the Hart family may not be as coincidental as she thought, she's accused of treason and is forced to face her greatest fear: Elsewhere. A prison where no one can escape.

As one shocking revelation leads to the next, Kitty learns the hard way that she can trust no one, not even the people she thought were on her side. With her back against the wall, Kitty wants to believe she'll do whatever it takes to support the rebellion she believes in—but is she prepared to pay the ultimate price?
(from Goodreads)

I was disappointed by Captive. I liked Pawn, but I think this sequel went down a bit of a predictable route, and the characters just weren't as enjoyable to read about.

First of all, and I just need to get this out, I didn't like Benjy. I really, really didn't like him. Every single thing he said and did annoyed me. I don't know if I was just being irrational, but I couldn't stand his character, and yet he was in this book so much, and was all Kitty ever talked about. To me, he was just bland. He had no personality, apart from being incredibly sappy, and all he ever did was go along with Kitty's ideas because they apparently loved each other sooo much that death didn't even phase them as long as they were together. The ONE time I wanted another love interest to come into the picture, and instead I was stuck with this guy. More than that, everything Kitty did was supposed to be so that she and Benjy could have a life together and so that she could protect him, but I just didn't ever get what was driving her. We were told that they'd been together for a long time and were friends their whole life before that, but I didn't understand why. They rarely talked about much in the book, and we didn't get to see the connection behind their relationship. It felt forced, like the author got sick of the bad boy trope (fair enough) and so went in the opposite direction like "look here, look here, he's a really great guy the main character has known forever, isn't he just the sweetest?" and felt that was enough, without even bothering with the background behind this supposedly sweet and loving relationship. Honestly, the scenes without Benjy were my favourite parts, especially when Kitty was in Elsewhere. Plus, I guessed the twist concerning Benjy's character. It was so obvious (and disappointing, though that may just be me). I knew right from when the first "big" thing happened what was really going on, and so the reveal of the truth wasn't the slightest bit surprising at all.

Kitty, while fairly intelligent in the first book, seemed to have lost all common sense in this one. She made some of the stupidest decisions ever, I mean, seriously. She just couldn't keep quiet and refrain from talking back. She had JUST seen someone get killed for some minor thing, and yet she thought it'd be a good idea to insult the guards, who she knew were ruthless. Did she REALLY think they would listen, just because it was her speaking? It was a little arrogant, as well as idiotic really. And she got someone killed because of that (which she seemed to get over very quickly). And STILL, even after that, she didn't listen. She then revealed some very important information about the rebellion to some person she barely knew, risking the whole operation in the process, and again, getting more people killed! What would it take for this girl to learn her lesson? Did she really think that it wouldn't get her into trouble? Why even risk it? She needed to stay quiet and plot in secret, not go around pissing people off when she was supposed to stay inconspicuous. To add to all of that, Kitty got annoyed at people for judging others by their rank, yet she judged them too! I think she said something like "I'm not just a stupid III" - like she was one of the IIIs who was actually valuable to society, and the rest were all worthless. It just seemed kind of off to me. Wasn't the whole point that the system was terrible and flawed, and needed to be changed? So why make such a comment? She could have just said "I'm not incapable of doing such and such" but instead she brought rank into it. Maybe it was supposed to show how ingrained the importance of ranks was in everyone in this society, but it just seemed a little hypocritical to me.

Plot-wise, most of it was pretty predictable, especially the stuff about Benjy, Knox (saw that one right from the start) and Hannah, but I did actually like the scenes where Kitty was in Elsewhere (though I was kind of surprised they would go through the effort of making her Lila, only to have her end up there. It didn't make much sense). She got to learn about a part of society that was completely unknown to her previously, and it was interesting to see how things operated there. Her arguments with Knox got a bit old, but by the end I was curious to see what they all planned for the future.

Overall, this wasn't a great sequel, and while I have been a bit critical, it could have been worse. Even though I didn't like Benjy, it was nice that the book wasn't solely romance based and luckily I didn't have to put up with too much sappiness. The ending was interesting enough that I might read the next book, but I really do hope that Kitty regains some of her common sense.

[PS I hate the new UK covers for this series. I'm sorry, but they are awful]

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Review: Catalyst by S.J. Kincaid

Catalyst (Insignia #3) by S.J. Kincaid
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Released: November 6th 2014
My Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

Tom Raines and his friends return to the Pentagonal Spire for a new year, eager to continue their training for the elite Intrasolar Forces. But they soon discover troubling changes. Strict new regulations, suspicious agents in positions of power, and the revelation that the Spire is under military control. The trainees are now cadets. What begins as an irritating adjustment soon reveals a dangerous shift in reality. Those in control are aligned with corporate sponsors who have ruthless agendas. And when the military academy begins welcoming new cadets with suspicious neural processors, they reveal the first step in a plan with horrifying worldwide ramifications. Tom is desperate to stop it, even if that means keeping secrets from his closest allies, and it seems he is not alone: the other Ghost in the Machine also begins fighting against the Corporations, but with methods even Tom finds shocking. And when the enemy comes for Tom, how much can he endure in the battle to save himself? (from Goodreads)

Note: mild spoilers for Catalyst and the entire series.

I really enjoyed Catalyst. It's probably my favourite book in the series. The previous books, while not exactly light-hearted, kind of gave me the sense that everyone would make it out of the danger somehow. Catalyst, however, was a lot darker, and I didn't expect that. Some of what happened really shocked me, and I ended up liking the book a lot more for it.

Tom went through a lot in Catalyst. I have always liked Tom - his great sense of humour, his recklessness and disregard for rules, his loyalty to his friends. He was a bit of an idiot at times but it was in an endearing sort of way and you couldn't help but root for him. He had such a hard life and all he wanted was a chance to prove that he wasn't worthless. We got to find out more about his past in this book too, which was definitely interesting, especially in regard to Tom's relationship with his dad, which had always been a bit rocky. But nothing that Tom had suffered in his past in any of the previous books was as bad as what he suffered in this book, even in book two when he got severe frostbite and lost all of his fingers. This was much worse. I don't want to give away too many spoilers, but Tom was imprisoned for part of this book, and tortured - in an unconventional way. And for me, it was the worst kind of imprisonment/torture. It wasn't gory or violent. It was worse. It was just so horrible. The isolation, the lies - it was almost scary to read about, yet in a morbid way it was fascinating because it showed Tom in a situation that we had never seen him in before, or ever expected to see him in. I honestly didn't know if he would make it through this time. It showed great strength of character that he managed to do what he did in the end, and I think it would be impossible not to respect him for that, despite what Tom himself thought about the situation.

Tom's friends were all back in this book, and honestly, I loved them all. Vik was his partner in crime, always up for a joke or prank, always having Tom's back. I really liked how their friendship was subtly explored, especially towards the end. Tom didn't have to explain things to Vik for him to understand, and Vik didn't need to ask questions to know how Tom was feeling. And even though he and Wyatt knew there was something different about Tom from the start, they never pushed him to tell. Wyatt - she was one of my favourite characters (besides Tom). I have to admit I sort of wanted her and Tom to end up together (not that I didn't like Yuri or Yaolan!) but I knew there was probably no chance (damn that one part that gave me false hope!). But even though I didn't get my way, I was perfectly happy with how things ended, because Wyatt was finally happy. She had been so unsure of herself throughout the last two books (and seriously, how dense was Tom for not noticing this, he literally needed someone to spell it out for him), but she finally knew what she wanted and I really liked how her character developed. She was able to feel confident about her relationship with Yuri (who was delighted, and that's what I liked about Yuri, he was a good and loyal guy who really cared about his friends). She was instrumental in a lot of things that happened and she and Yaolan probably saved Tom more times than he could even remember. Yaolan - she was definitely an interesting character. Her connection with Tom and her same ability to interface was explored more in this book, but I do wish we had maybe got to know a little bit more about her personally. She was awesome though and managed to do so many amazing things single-handedly (even saving the world).

Blackburn - now there's another thing I didn't expect. I really grew to like him in this book. I never thought much of him before but I don't know. Something happened. I got why he hated Vengerov so much - the man was just ruthless and needed to be stopped. And he seemed to care more, especially about Tom. One of my favourite scenes in the whole book involved Tom and Blackburn, and despite all the awful things the man had done, I couldn't help but like him. I wish we could have seen more of him, but I can't complain.

Plot-wise - this book was so action packed. It never stopped, there honestly wasn't a boring second. I finished it at like, 6 o'clock in the morning, no lie. Luckily it was the weekend! And so much happened that I didn't expect! The ending was brilliant and while some things didn't feel entirely believable, I was impressed for the most part. Most of the science-y bits didn't seem completely ridiculous or far-fetched, which unfortunately happens in a lot of books, and most things were wrapped up (though I did have a few questions, such as [spoiler, highlight to read] did Tom get his original memories back? [end of spoiler]). The best part, though, was the change you could see in the Tom through his actions in this book. He had come so far since book one and it was evident in the way he did things. It was also interesting to see some old faces return in this book and how they played a part in everything that happened.

Overall, I really liked Catalyst and I highly recommend this series for those who haven't started it yet. Great last book, and I'm sad to see Tom go. Looking forward to whatever SJ Kincaid writes next.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Review: Clariel by Garth Nix

Clariel (Old Kingdom #4/0.5) by Garth Nix
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Released: October 2nd 2014
My Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

Sixteen-year-old Clariel is not adjusting well to her new life in the city of Belisaere, the capital of the Old Kingdom. She misses roaming freely within the forests of Estwael, and she feels trapped within the stone city walls. And in Belisaere she is forced to follow the plans, plots and demands of everyone, from her parents to her maid, to the sinister Guildmaster Kilip. Clariel can see her freedom slipping away. It seems too that the city itself is descending into chaos, as the ancient rules binding Abhorsen, King and Clayr appear to be disintegrating.

With the discovery of a dangerous Free Magic creature loose in the city, Clariel is given the chance both to prove her worth and make her escape. But events spin rapidly out of control. Clariel finds herself more trapped than ever, until help comes from an unlikely source. But the help comes at a terrible cost. Clariel must question the motivations and secret hearts of everyone around her - and it is herself she must question most of all.
(from Goodreads)

I was so excited for Clariel. I absolutely loved the Old Kingdom series, so hearing that Garth Nix was writing a prequel about Chlorr of the Mask brought out my inner fangirl. To finally be able to read this book after waiting for it for so long...I was practically jumping for joy when it arrived. And I really enjoyed it! Perhaps not as much as the original trilogy, but I don't think anything could live up to that in my mind.

Clariel was a very different character to Sabriel or Lirael, and I really liked that. She was very sure of what she wanted, and hated being told what to do or that she would change her mind about it all in the future. All she wanted was to be left alone and live in the forest where she could fend for herself and avoid the kind of life her parents were forcing her into. She didn't want children or any type of relationship (and I LOVED this because it's so unusual to get a character in YA who isn't interested in romance in the slightest and who doesn't want to have children) and even though we were opposites in some ways (I hate the outdoors. I am very much an indoors person), I really liked reading from Clariel's point of view - getting into her head and seeing the world through her eyes. It was so interesting, especially the way she was tempted by Free Magic. You could see the way she was falling for it; even though she knew in her mind that Free Magic was supposed to be bad, she didn't understand why, and was curious as to why it worked better for her than Charter Magic. I just...ah. I was so happy to read this book. I also really liked the fact that Clariel wasn't the nicest person - she was anti-social and generally preferred being alone, and she was also brutally honest and often offended people without meaning to. She wasn't really close with her parents either and it was interesting to see how her opinions changed slightly throughout the book, especially when she learnt about the origins of her Fury (Fury being a consuming anger that sometimes took Clariel over and gave her extra strength but loss of control - which was another thing I enjoyed learning about).

Other characters I liked were Bel, Lirael's cousin (second cousin? I forget how it works) and Denima, and of course, Mogget, because I had missed him so much! Bel was funny and a bit awkward, and while he was a bit too persistent in pursuing Clariel for my liking, he did help her and risk a lot for her, and I am curious to find out what happened to him (I hope he married Denima, she was so nice and obviously cared about him a lot). Mogget was Mogget. I expected nothing less from him. He was as crafty as ever and I was just so excited that we finally got an explanation for how he knew Chlorr/Clariel. I also really like learning more about Free Magic creatures in general and how they interacted with humans and what the rules were for binding them and things like that.

Plot-wise, the funniest thing about this book was that if Clariel had just been allowed to do what she wanted to do right from the start, she would never had ended up in the situation she was in the end, and she probably would never have become Chlorr of the Mask. But of course, that wouldn't be an interesting story, so instead we got to see lots of cool action, and plots to try and overthrow the king, and Free Magic and so many other amazing things, including several twists I did not expect. I so missed this writing style - Garth Nix sure knows how to make his stories engaging - and I loved almost every part of this book! I did feel like some scenes were a little too descriptive and maybe dragged on a bit, but apart from that, there was barely a boring moment. I don't know what else to say without being very spoilery, but I do have to speak about the ending. The ending was kind of the beginning, really. It was the end of Clariel's story, but the beginning of Chlorr's, and it just stopped there. We never got to find out what happened next, what Chlorr did with her life, or how she eventually died. And while I would love to know, I think that was a brilliant way to end the book, because you can just imagine the kind of things that must have happened for Chlorr to eventually end up the way she was in the first trilogy. And the contrast to how different that kind of life must have been to what Clariel's first seventeen years were like was huge.

Overall, I really enjoyed Clariel and I am so happy this prequel exists. If you liked the Old Kingdom trilogy, you have to read this book. And if you've not read the Old Kingdom trilogy, you are seriously missing out. Even more excitingly (if that makes any sense), Garth Nix is writing another book that picks up on Lirael and Nick's story, and I am SO SO SO excited. No idea when it will be released, but I can't wait.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Review: After Eden by Helen Douglas

After Eden (After Eden #1) by Helen Douglas
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Released: November 7th 2013
My Rating: 1.5 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

Eden Anfield loves puzzles, so when mysterious new boy Ryan Westland shows up at her school she's hooked. On the face of it, he's a typical American teenager. So why doesn't he recognise pizza? And how come he hasn't heard of Hitler? What puzzles Eden the most, however, is the interest he's taking in her.

As Eden starts to fall in love with Ryan, she begins to unravel his secret. Her breakthrough comes one rainy afternoon when she stumbles across a book in Ryan's bedroom - a biography of her best friend - written over fifty years in the future. Confronting Ryan, she discovers that he is there with one unbelievably important purpose ... and she might just have destroyed his only chance of success.
(from Goodreads)

NOTE: I wrote this review at 2am after a very bad day.

I don't know if it's because I was reading this book on a train that was both delayed and diverted, therefore making me suffer an extra hour of travelling, but this book annoyed me. So much. It claimed not to be pretentious, and yet the main character (who only approved of wine parties that involved political debate to change the world) kept banging on about Shakespeare with like, some year seven level interpretation of Romeo & Juliet that had me cracking up because she clearly thought this was some genius original idea she was having when literally it's like the first thing anyone is ever taught when they study that text. The whole fate vs we make our own destiny thing was SO cliche, it was actually painful. But of course despite having this wealth of knowledge on Shakespeare and even though she was supposedly smart (who doesn't know that other planets exist outside our solar system? REALLY?) she couldn't associate herself with the nerds either because that would just be so uncool. For eff's sake. And she was such a hypocrite. She made fun/didn't "approve" of this stereotypical mean girl character wearing short skirts/tight clothes to "impress guys", but as soon as there was a "worthy" guy in the picture for Eden, she had no problem changing her entire dress style to wear skirts and dressy tops herself, clearly in an attempt to impress Ryan/Orion/Jimmy No Personality, so just what was her issue in the first place? So it's okay when she does it, and when her skirt is just that tad bit longer? My GOD. Aren't we over this already? I am so sick of this "I'm not like other girls" mentality. OTHER GIRLS ARE NOT THE ENEMY. And not only that, but she was so goddamn stupid. Ryan, Duke of Boredonia clearly told her not to tell anyone that she knew his secret because it would have dire consequences, but then she just couldn't resist rubbing it in his sister/whatever's face that she knew and that Ryan told her, and then everything turned to shit because of that. You had ONE JOB, Eden. Ugh. And I'm not even including various other incidents, such as getting into some random stranger's car, not seeing the obvious etc. etc.

Ryan, or Empty Shell, as I like to call him, was completely devoid of personality. All he did was try to flirt information out of people. There was nothing beyond that, except his ridiculous lack of knowledge of the 21st century. I'm sorry but you really expect me to believe that hundreds of years in the future, they'll still be teaching Shakespeare (luckily for Eden), but not about Hitler? REALLY? We still learn about Henry the freaking VIII, I'm pretty sure they wouldn't take Hitler out of the curriculum. And even if they did, how could they allow someone, so woefully ignorant of 21st century history, to then go to a freaking school in which they KNOW HE WILL BE STUDYING 21ST CENTURY HISTORY?! Were they trying to fail this mission on purpose, or is everyone in the future just THAT stupid? Ryan was stupidly leaving clues all over the place like a trail of bloody breadcrumbs. It's like he wanted her to find out! Don't even get me started on the romance, because it was just the worst kind of insta-love and I seriously can't believe Ryan Boring McBoreason was willing to give up his entire life in the future, his whole family, everything he'd ever known, for some girl he barely knew in the 21st century. The boy was seventeen, and he and Eden had like, zero chemistry. This was not going to be an everlasting love. He basically just ruined his whole life.

Plot-wise, hahahaha. There were so many unexplained time paradoxes. Like, you usually have a few issues with time travel in books, but this was ridiculous. Nothing was explained at all about how time travel worked, or what the effects of changing events in time would be. And apparently people from the future caused the dinosaurs to be wiped out, and the bubonic plague? How does that even work?! If people went back in time and accidentally caused the death of dinousaurs, what caused them to be wiped out in the first place, before they went back in time? Because obviously they did not exist in the future of the people who chose to go back in time. And if they changed the past, could they even return to their own future? It would be so wholly changed. Their memories wouldn't match the events that happened. Were there multiple timelines? Was there some sort of Steins;Gate world line theory going on, or some kind of multiverse thing happening? I don't pretend to be a science expert but give me SOMETHING to work with, damn it, that's more than just "oh the flu killed the dinosaurs, hahaha, and we also caused the Black Death, whoopsie". And this whole finding the planet thing by accident - SURELY someone other than a random sixteen year old boy would have found this planet? And the whole trying to stop Connor from discovering it - what the hell was their plan?! He discovered it at the ball, so you know, maybe a good idea would be for him NOT TO GO TO THE BALL THEN? Not drag him there and relive events almost exactly as they previously occurred! It would have been so easy to prevent him from discovering it, I really don't know why they found it to be so troublesome. And Cassie - Cassie was there so that they wouldn't kill Connor to stop the discovery because she was his great-granddaughter and the death of Connor would have meant she would no longer exist (again, another issue with the timelines - this suggests just one which creates huge problems with the previous things I pointed out). But didn't she realise that Connor simply not finding the planet may have led to her never existing as well? He might not have gone to the same university because of it, he might never have done the things or met the people he would have had he discovered the damn planet - she couldn't guarantee he'd have children with the same woman - why would anyone risk this?! And the planet, Eden -__-, itself - Ryan the Unriveting said it was mainly uninhabitable and not an alternative for living on Earth - why the hell was he born there then?! There was never an explanation for that, it was just a plot device to make him some time-travelling super alien.

Also, I don't even get why Travis was so intent on killing Eden in the end. And present Connor got over Eden sooo easily whereas future Connor who got rejected in the past (?) pined for her his whole life and named a planet after her despite the fact that events for him didn't really change too much. But whatever.

My personal favourite line that really shows the writing style: "High above the school campus, two buzzards were circling anticlockwise, like the hands of a backwards turning clock."

I have probably missed out various other things that annoyed me, but oh well. I didn't like this book. Don't read it unless you enjoy headaches. Also, Southern is the worst rail service ever.

EDIT: I just found out this book has a sequel. Don't know what could possibly be worth adding to this story. I'm almost tempted to read it just to see if it's as bad, but unfortunately I've got a dissertation to write and not as much time to waste these days.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Review: Dread Eagle by Alex Woolf

Dread Eagle (Iron Sky #1) by Alex Woolf
Publisher: Scribo
Released: 25th September 2014
My Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

The year is 1845. France and Britain continue their long and bloody war for global supremacy. This breath-taking adventure introduces an alternative 19th century of fantastical, coal powered robots, aerial steam carriages, floating cities, giant mechanical birds and a new kind of secret agent.

France has a secret weapon – a titanic airship cloaked in an invisible Aetheric Shield. At the forefront of Britain’s defence are the Sky Sisters, a crack team of intrepid aviatrixes led by plucky 18-year-old Lady Arabella West. Sent to investigate reports of a giant mechanical eagle that breathes fire and is capable of snatching an airship in its talons, Arabella finds herself in a situation where she will need all her courage and ingenuity to survive against the enemy.
(from press release)

The first thing I have to say about this book is that it is lovely just to hold in your hands. Pictures don't do it justice. It has glossy fold out pages with really cool diagrams of the machines mentioned in the book and notes about how they work, and it's a clothbound hardback underneath the cover with gold lettering, and honestly, it's just really pretty. You have to see it for yourself.

In regards to the book itself, it was a really fun read! Not what I expected but I liked the characters and the way the story played out. Arabella was the main character, and while I think she could have been developed a little more, she was a great character to follow. She was a spy, following in the footsteps of her father, and was trying to gather information that could help the British forces defeat the French. But there was more to everything than there first seemed. I was really intrigued by the mystery behind Arabella's father. He was apparently a celebrated hero and a brilliant spy - or at least, that's what Arabella had always been told. However, a certain person implied that maybe that wasn't the case at all and I am definitely curious as to what is true and what isn't, and what really happened all those years ago. I hope to find out more in the next book.

Ben Forrester was the mysterious American who seemed to only work for money and had no loyalty to any particular country. I liked the way he and Arabella first met - he made quite an entrance - and I also liked the way they bickered. But even though they didn't get along at first, Ben and Arabella ended up helping each other out even though they weren't quite sure why they did. Arabella didn't respect the way Ben made everything about money, but she was drawn to him all the same. She did try to be professional about the situation though, which I liked, and while I didn't quite know why Ben tried so hard to help out Arabella, I did like his sense of humour, and the way he got on with Miles, who was a very clever and logical, though somewhat odd, automaton. I wasn't too surprised by the secret Ben was hiding, but I did like the way the book ended and I am excited to see what he plans to do next!

Plot-wise, I enjoyed the direction the story took, and the way a lot of the book took place in the sky. I liked reading about the cool machines and technology that existed in this world - Miles was of course my favourite because his logical, negative nature made me laugh. There were quite a few interesting twists, though I did guess a few; some things seemed a bit convenient at times. I'm not sure where things will go in future books but I hope we get to find out more about the other girls in Arabella's team and the things they specialise in, as well as more about Arabella herself, and about Ben.

Overall, Iron Sky: Dread Eagle was a good start to a new steampunk series and I will be continuing it. Recommended to steampunk fans or people starting out in the genre.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Review: The Copper Promise by Jen Williams

The Copper Promise (The Copper Promise #1) by Jen Williams
Publisher: Headline
Released: August 28th 2014
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

There are some far-fetched rumours about the caverns beneath the Citadel…

Some say the mages left their most dangerous secrets hidden there; others, that great riches are hidden there; even that gods have been imprisoned in its darkest depths.

For Lord Frith, the caverns hold the key to his vengeance. Against all the odds, he has survived torture and lived to see his home and his family taken from him … and now someone is going to pay. For Wydrin of Crosshaven and her faithful companion, Sir Sebastian Caverson, a quest to the Citadel looks like just another job. There’s the promise of gold and adventure. Who knows, they might even have a decent tale or two once they’re done.

But sometimes there is truth in rumour.

Soon this reckless trio will be the last line of defence against a hungry, restless terror that wants to tear the world apart. And they’re not even getting paid.
(from Goodreads)

I really enjoyed The Copper Promise. There were a lot of things going on and several storylines to follow, but I think everything connected together well and I loved the characters and how they developed over the course of the book. Definitely looking forward to the sequel.

There were a lot of characters so I'll only talk about the main few. Frith, I think, was the character who developed the most. At the start he was only concerned with power and revenge and didn't care much about anything else. He was a bit snappy and harsh (though it was completely understandable) and was basically just using Sebastian and Wydrin so he could get the mages' power. However, after spending time together and after saving the others as well as being saved from many terrible fates, the trio grew closer and Frith actually started to care about them, especially Wydrin. He risked his own life to help them out and he generally became more considerate, and less selfish and impulsive. I liked watching his character grow, and I especially enjoyed his training with Jolnir, though I think the secret surrounding Jolnir was kind of obvious from the start and Frith really should have figured it out (though I guess he was preoccupied).

Wydrin was a funny, slightly reckless character that you couldn't help but like, and she made me laugh a fair few times. I think she was my favourite character and I liked the way she handled difficult situations and didn't give up easily. She managed to get out of a lot of tight spots in her life (using a variety of creative methods), so you had to respect her for that. I also liked her friendship with Seb and how she was a loyal friend who was just trying to look out for him, even when he was being difficult and kept hiding things from her. She was worried about him a lot but didn't really know what to do to help, so mostly just used her sense of humour to try and make him laugh. Seb often made comments about her taste in men while obviously hinting about Frith and I must admit I did like reading about Frith from Wydrin's point of view because it was obvious she was interested but that didn't stop her from making sarcastic comments about Frith or pointing out holes in his plans. And for all her talk about not getting paid and having to risk her life for this dangerous mission, she never abandoned her task.

Sebastian was the most mysterious character. The reason he was kicked out of the Knights wasn't hard to guess but his attachment to them still after the terrible way they treated him, and also the way he always felt the need to help people no matter how fruitless it may be, showed he was a very courageous and honourable sort of person (though often too trusting; he and the rest of the group really should not have trusted Gallo in the beginning, it was so obvious something fishy was going on). So the weird link he had to brood army who were awakened by his blood and now slaughtering people everywhere was very interesting, and the way he was willing to do something he knew was wrong and stupid in order to try and save other people made it difficult to guess what he was going to do next. The link to the brood army wasn't shown as much in the second half of the book until the end but after the way things turned out I am wondering what Seb plans to do about it all in the next book.

Plotwise, there were a lot of separate stories going but I liked reading about them all. Frith's revenge and Wydrin and her brother and the mages and trying to find a way to defeat Y'Ruen and Frith's training and Seb and the brood army - I liked it all! Certain parts did feel a bit slower than others and I preferred the scenes where everyone was together to the chapters where they were apart. I did however really like the plan that was put together to try and defeat Y'Ruen and it felt like something that could actually feasibly work but could also fail as well instead of some random crap pulled out of thin air that you just knew would fix everything instantly. I would have liked to find out more about the gods though and where they came from, because the backstory we did get was very interesting. I also wanted to know more about the brood army, because Seb wasn't really their "father", his blood was just used to awaken them and yet it had a great and unexpected influence. [Spoiler, highlight to read] I liked reading about members of the brood army starting to develop individuals wills and taking on their own names but I did wonder why they kept on murdering people if they didn't want to and had to wait to be told to stop by Seb instead of stopping themselves, when they clearly could have since they had their own free will. Even if they didn't want to risk their mother's wrath for no reason, they did so anyway after Seb told them to stop so it was a bit weird [end of spoiler].

Overall, The Copper Promise was a really enjoyable fantasy novel and I look forward to continuing the series. Definitely recommend to fantasy fans.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Review: The Memory Keepers by Natasha Ngan

The Memory Keepers by Natasha Ngan
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Released: September 4th 2014
My Rating: 2 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

"No one can take your memories from you... can they?"

Seven is a thief with a difference - he steals downloadable memories from banks and memoriums to sell onto London's black market, trading secrets and hidden pasts for a chance at a future of his own. He makes sure he keeps some special stuff back to 'surf' himself though - it's the only real form of entertainment he can afford. But one night, as Seven is breaking into a private memorium in a wealthy part of London, he is caught in the act by one of its residents; Alba, the teenage daughter of London's most famous criminal prosecutor. Instead of giving him away, Alba promises to keep Seven's secret - as long as he allows her to go memory-surfing herself. In doing so, they discover a hidden memory about Seven's past, revealing a shocking secret about Seven's childhood, the government and a mysterious experiment known as The Memory Keepers...

Now Seven and Alba will have to race against time to unlock the maze of The Memory Keepers - but can they keep themselves out of harm's way before the London Guard - and Alba's father - catches up with them?
(from Goodreads)

I unfortunately did not enjoy The Memory Keepers. It was the type of book I felt like I'd already read a hundred times and I didn't enjoy the writing style.

There was dual POV from the two main characters, Seven and Alba. I have to say, I wasn't a fan of either of these characters. First of all, they trusted each other way, way too easily. I have no idea why Alba didn't start screaming when she found a stranger, obviously there to steal something, in her house, ESPECIALLY since in this world, theft was a crime punishable by death (worse than rape apparently, because that wasn't on the death sentence list. Sorry, but I just thought that was really messed up. Alba was like "oh, only the WORST crimes are punishable by death" - yeah because stealing is really on par with, you know, rape and murder). Second of all, insta-love, yet again. And it was the annoying kind of insta-love too where apparently three of four meetings where the conversations do not involve getting to know each other at all results in undying love -_-.

Seven was just bland in my opinion and he thought he was so funny when really, he wasn't. At all. He had the sense of humour of a nine year old, and that's being generous. I also really didn't like the way that he suggested he enjoyed having power over Alba. It was creepy. I get that he was happy he was in charge instead of the rich people for a change, but it was weird when he talked about it in relation to her as an individual. Plus he kept going on about how he was risking everything - like, seriously. He didn't have to come back! He didn't have to keep that stupid promise, he could have just left and saved himself the trouble. Was keeping a promise with a random stranger really worth risking his life, or was it just because he thought Alba was pretty and he was a complete idiot. Alba...just what. She was literally a stereotype of that "I'm super rich but I just want to SEE THE WORLD" character and we were supposed to like her because she cared about the poorer areas and wanted things to change to help the people of South - except, no she didn't really because she only started kind of giving a toss when she met Seven and had never properly disagreed with her father before that. Plus she was absurdly grateful to Seven for like, no reason, and I didn't get their whole relationship at all. The only character I actually liked was Dolly, and she was hardly in it.

Plot-wise, the whole memories business thing was just lost on me. I didn't understand at all why memory machines existed, why surfing other people's memories became such a popular thing that society became based on it, or why anyone would ever want to do it enough to hand over so much money. It made no sense. Plus, how did it work? How were memories recorded, and why? Alba's mother's memory that was revealed at the end - why did that memory even exist outside of her mind?! Did she report the incident to the police and create the memory recording as evidence? It didn't seem like it - so how on earth did that memory ever come into existence for others to view? Were ALL memories just recorded somewhere? If so, that is entirely implausible. Why did no-one seem to mind that their private memories were just available for the world to see? And the whole thing at the end made no sense either - suddenly Seven was able to perform a certain act with NO experience whatsoever. Sheer willpower, apparently, enabled him to do this really complicated thing that he'd never been trained to do. How incredibly lucky for him. [spoiler, highlight to read] And the whole alteration of memories issue wasn't even a real issue. I mean, if one memory skid/recording thing whatever was altered, couldn't they just obtain a true memory from a person involved in the incident? Unless everyone was dead, wouldn't that work? And wouldn't there be more than one recording of the same memory anyway? The skid-thieves has no issues copying memories - was there like one original memory that if altered, altered all the copies? I DON'T UNDERSTAND HOW THE DAMN THINGS WORKED.[end of spoiler] Also, everything was resolved so easily at the end. It was a cop-out.

I also had a real issue with the writing. It felt a bit juvenile to me with loads of needless words and weird metaphors/descriptions, and there was cliché after cliché. So many clichés, I can't even explain. I felt like almost every description was a line I'd heard a thousand times before. I honestly got so fed up. I ended up skimming towards the end just to avoid the language (the amount of times the word "effing" was used as well, oh my God. I hate swear word substitutes when they are used so often. Just swear or keep the substitutes to a minimum!).

Overall, The Memory Keepers was not for me. I think I've just read too many similar books. Maybe if this isn't a genre you usually read, you might enjoy this, otherwise I can't recommend it.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Waiting on Wednesday #63

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

The Mime Order (The Bone Season #2) by Samantha Shannon
Released: January 27th 2015
Find it on Goodreads

Paige Mahoney has escaped the brutal penal colony of Sheol I, but her problems have only just begun: many of the fugitives are still missing and she is the most wanted person in London.

As Scion turns its all-seeing eye on Paige, the mime-lords and mime-queens of the city’s gangs are invited to a rare meeting of the Unnatural Assembly. Jaxon Hall and his Seven Seals prepare to take center stage, but there are bitter fault lines running through the clairvoyant community and dark secrets around every corner.

Then the Rephaim begin crawling out from the shadows. But where is Warden? Paige must keep moving, from Seven Dials to Grub Street to the secret catacombs of Camden, until the fate of the underworld can be decided. Will Paige know who to trust? The hunt for the dreamwalker is on. (from Goodreads)

Looking forward to The Mime Order! I liked The Bone Season and I'm interested to see what happens next after the way things ended. The description doesn't reveal much but I am wondering what happened to Warden. And what Paige will do to avoid being captured.

What are you waiting on this week?

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Review: The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

The Iron Trial (Magisterium #1) by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
Publisher: Doubleday Children's
Released: September 11th 2014
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

Think you know magic?

Think again.

The Magisterium awaits . . .

Most people would do anything to get into the Magisterium and pass the Iron Trial.

Not Callum Hunt.

Call has been told his whole life that he should never trust a magician. And so he tries his best to do his worst – but fails at failing.

Now he must enter the Magisterium.

It's a place that's both sensational and sinister. And Call realizes it has dark ties to his past and a twisty path to his future.

The Iron Trial is just the beginning. Call’s biggest test is still to come . . .

From the imaginations of bestselling authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare comes a heart-stopping plunge into the magical unknown.
 (from Goodreads)

The Iron Trial was a really enjoyable book, and I can see it becoming very popular with a lot of younger readers.

Callum was a likeable protagonist and not what I was expecting. I really liked that initially, he didn't want to go to the Magisterium. He was afraid of magic after growing up with his father who drilled it into him that magic was dangerous and the Magisterium only wanted to use people and risk their lives. I was very intrigued as to why Callum's dad was so afraid of the Magisterium (the prologue definitely got me wondering why Callum's mother left that message) and I enjoyed the way things were revealed to us throughout. Callum was a bit impetuous and sometimes acted on some bad ideas, but he was only twelve so I can't really blame him for that.

Tamara and Aaron were initially not really sure what to think of Callum. Tamara was very clever and a bit hostile towards him at the start, and Aaron tried to be kind but didn't really understand why Callum acted the way he did. They eventually became friends and each had their own backstories and hardships, which enabled them to bond and become closer. I have to admit, while I did like all the characters, and especially the reveal about Aaron which I didn't expect, I did feel that their friendship was maybe a little rushed? I don't know, I just wanted more interaction between them all. This book has been compared a lot to Harry Potter, and I guess there were similarities, but I didn't feel the same level of closeness and understanding that I did with the Harry Potter trio (I know that's a hard thing to achieve, so it wasn't a huge problem). In this book it was just more "and then they were friends" and I didn't really feel why they suddenly trusted each other so much. That being said I did really enjoy the time they spent together when they were learning and doing magic-y things.

Plot-wise - I don't know how to explain without spoilers, but I really liked the main storyline. I'm so looking forward to seeing how Callum is going to deal with what he's learnt, especially concerning Aaron, in the future books. It actually sort of reminded me more of the Simon Snow series in Fangirl than Harry Potter - though Simon Snow was inspired by HP so there is that. The most HP part was that the Enemy (the villain) had the main goal of trying to "conquer death" which was very Voldemort-esque. But then I'm sure lots of stories have similar themes. The mini-prophecy towards the beginning of the book came into play by the end and it was clever how it connected. And I absolutely adored Havoc, the Chaos-ridden wolf cub who was just so cute. I definitely want to find out more about the elements and how they work, and also more about Warren, because he was a curious character indeed. There were a few things that I thought were a bit unbelievable and unnecessary - the whole eating lichen and mushrooms and having it taste like normal food was odd. Why didn't they have access to normal food? And I'm sorry, but the texture of lichen and mushrooms is never going to be like a hamburger, even if it does taste like one. I also found the test to get into the Magisterium a bit unrealistic. I mean, if the parents didn't know their kids were applying for a magic school, wouldn't they find the whole method of testing odd? They just let their kids leave for this place as soon as they passed the test! They just got on a bus and left that same day. And they all seemed to come from the same place - though maybe other tests were happening simultaneously around the country? Hopefully we'll find out more in the next book, which I am really looking forward to.

Overall, The Iron Trial was a great start to a new series, and will definitely appeal to fans of magical stories.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Review: The Hit by Allen Zadoff

The Hit (The Unknown Assassin #1) by Allen Zadoff
Publisher: Orchard Books
Released: September 4th 2014 (first published May 23rd 2013 as Boy Nobody)
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

Boy Nobody is the perennial new kid in school, the one few notice and nobody thinks much about. He shows up in a new high school, in a new town, under a new name, makes few friends and doesn't stay long. Just long enough for someone in his new friend's family to die -- of "natural causes." Mission accomplished, Boy Nobody disappears, and moves on to the next target.

When his own parents died of not-so-natural causes at the age of eleven, Boy Nobody found himself under the control of The Program, a shadowy government organization that uses brainwashed kids as counter-espionage operatives. But somewhere, deep inside Boy Nobody, is somebody: the boy he once was, the boy who wants normal things (like a real home, his parents back), a boy who wants out. And he just might want those things badly enough to sabotage The Program's next mission.
(from Goodreads)

The Hit was very different to anything I've read before and I will very likely be reading the next book in the series.

I really enjoyed seeing from the point of view of our nameless assassin (who I will refer to Benjamin from now on as that was his fake name for the majority of the book). He was a curious character and I found myself empathising with him, despite the fact that he killed people for a living. He had such a messed up life, I'm not even surprised he turned into an emotionless killing machine. He basically got people to trust him and then ruined their lives. He was trained to think nothing of it, but you could tell (especially later on in the book) that it affected him more than he liked to admit. While I did like Benjamin as a character, I can't say I liked him in the sense that I'd want to be his friend in real life, but he was definitely interesting to read about, and I'm looking forward to seeing what he does next, since he can't just go back to the way things were after what happened at the end of this book.

I wasn't really a massive fan of Sam's character, but then I'm not sure she was supposed to be particularly likeable (I swear she and Benjamin both had massive egos). She challenged Benjamin and made him question what he had been doing over the past few years, and while I think the "romance" was just weird and a bit unbelievable (they had known each other FOUR days) I actually like the way things ended because it wasn't the "I met a girl and she changed me!" sappy love story I expected. I was actually surprised by what happened, but think it was fitting.

Howard was...definitely a strange guy. Again, I didn't really like him, but I'm interested to see what role he will play in the future. Benjamin never had an outside source of help before, so I'm curious to see how he will make use of Howard's tech skills, and whether they'll actually become friends (or whether it will end in unpleasantness).

Plot-wise, I was always a bit suspicious of the Program and I never really understood why Benjamin's parents were killed, but I was intrigued right from page one. There were some good twists and I liked seeing Benjamin's thought processes and all the things that went through his mind when he was on a mission. I definitely still have a few questions about Benjamin's family and about Mike, but not knowing created suspense instead of making me frustrated, and I'm looking forward to finding out the truth in the next book. One thing that did make me laugh was the way private school was portrayed. All the kids were way overly enthusiastic about going to classes and every lesson was some weird intellectual debate that everyone was excited to take part in. I can only speak for myself here, but that's not what it's like. I spent half my time doodling, zoning out or copying from a textbook and nobody was ever THAT enthusiastic about classes or debates.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by The Hit and definitely recommend it to people who enjoy action/thriller type books.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Back to School/Uni Essentials

I, like many people, will shortly be leaving the comfort of my nice warm house to return to shoddy student housing (where the living standards are so subpar that having working lights is a luxury). To everyone who managed to get rare nice housing, I am insanely jealous, don't speak to me. In order to cheer myself up and avoid thinking about living with people I don't want to live with, I have decided to make a list (as an avid list-maker, this alone already makes me happy) of the back to school/uni essentials I will (probably, if I get round to buying them) be taking with me to university.

List of Back to School/Uni "Essentials" (using the word "essentials" lightly):

1) Bag - you obviously need a bag. I mean, if you're going for that American teen movie look where people for some reason carry around all their folders and textbooks in their arms instead of conveniently putting them away in a bag, then sure, but if you want to avoid injuring yourself and/or dropping everything on the floor constantly, I recommend a proper bag. I am very fond of backpacks - so fond, in fact, that I bought two. Here they are below; feel free to judge, I'm sure I have terrible taste.

2) A sense of humour - yeah, this really is essential. Classes can be very, very dull. People can be very, very annoying. You won't get by without some humour in your life. You might get lucky and have a lecturer who tells jokes - my Equity & Trusts professor was actually quite funny and I'm pretty sure he's the only reason I ever paid attention in those lectures.

3) Stationery - more pens then you will ever need, more highlighters than can ever be used, a pencil case, a calculator if you're a clever clogs who does mathsy type things, a ton of notepads because I'm too lazy to lug my laptop around so I handwrite all my notes (which isn't great for me as I have THE worst handwriting, I'm not even joking, every teacher I've ever had has voiced concerns), those little sticky-tab things and a bunch of other stuff that looks really pretty in the shop and you promise yourself you will put to good use but actually just ends up lying on your desk unopened. Like I plan to buy these fineliner pens below but I know I'll probably just use them once and then only ever pick them up again if I feel like doing some colouring...

4) Motivation - you'll need this if you want to do well, but this is unfortunately something I severely lack. To be fair, my degree is horrendously boring. I'm supposed to be coming up with an idea for my dissertation right now and I've got nothing. Nooo idea what to do it on. How bad do you think it would be if I wrote a ten thousand word essay on how much the law sucks?

5) Nail varnish - I like to paint my nails as a way of procrastinating. You can never have too many nail varnishes, and at the moment I'm really liking Barry M's Gelly Hi-Shine range because they don't chip as much as normal ones. Like really, they don't chip for DAYS. As I mentioned, I'm super lazy and I never bother with base coats or top coats, and these nail varnishes still last for days without chipping and even when the do chip you can still get away with it for quite a while longer. I like most of the colours but they've recently released some more autumnal shades I'm looking forward to trying out (I don't know why they needed the picture of this woman doing some strange, supposedly alluring look to advertise nail varnish, but whatever).

6) Tolerance - unfortunately, there are a lot of ridiculous people in the world that you're just going to have to put up with. An absurd amount of these people turn up at school/uni and yes, you may want to shout at them for their ridiculousness and yes, you may just end up doing so at those few extra-ridiculous people, but for the most part, you're just going to have to sit tight and wait for them to leave.

7) Hair bands and bobby pins - if you have medium-length or longer hair, you'll need these. I have long hair and I don't remember how I used to get through a day without plaiting my hair or putting it back in some way, especially when it's windy. Even if you don't usually tie your hair up, it's worth carrying some of these on you anyway just in case, because you never know what's going to happen.

8) A printer that works - so let me tell you a little story. First year, day before coursework is due in. My very expensive printer that was perfectly fine up until THIS DAY decides to break. I am panicking. I try to fix it. I fix it temporarily. It breaks again. I lament my life. I call many people to see who will let me use their printer. Someone luckily agrees. Hand in coursework in the nick of time. Fast forward to year two. I don't have my own printer, I use a flatmate's expensive printer and contribute to ink and paper. The actual day my coursework is due in. Flatmate prints her work. I think all will be well. Just as I go to print mine - the printer BREAKS. Flatmate abandons me. I try other flatmate's printer. She is out of ink. I panic. I call people. No-one answers. I go the library as a last resort. Cannot get past stupid library card-swipe barriers (this is why it was a last resort). After about eight attempts and severely agitating everyone behind me, I finally get into the library. Every computer on all FIVE floors is full. I leave. I panic some more. I call people again. A friend luckily answers and says I can use her printer. I rush over. End up handing in my coursework fifteen minutes before the deadline. After these two very stressful experiences, I refuse to ever have printer issues again. Since two expensive printers ended up breaking after less than six month of use, I ended up buying the cheapest, crappiest printer I could find, and honestly, it's the best printer I've ever had.

9) Lip balm - I have so many lip balms. I need lip balm. If I go a day without it, my lips crack. It's a curse. I even carry one in my pencil case so I can reapply whenever. I like Nivea the most, but the Vaseline stick ones are pretty good too.

10) Books - books are of course an essential. I pretty much always carry around a book (or my Kindle) in my bag, for in between lectures or if I have some time to kill while on campus. Just avoid laughing out loud, because people WILL look at you. I have had people give me some very odd looks while I was sitting in my university's campus cafe/restaurant place. Though I always get strange looks anyway because you have to climb a mountain of stairs to get to this place and usually by the time I reach a seat I'm so out of breath you'd think I'd just run a marathon. I am not good with stairs. One time, my friend made me go up all 193 steps at Covent Garden and by the time I reached the top, I was practically dead and ready to kill her too.

Aaaand that's all I could think of. I'm sure there's more (especially if you're off to uni, don't forget cutlery and toiletries and stuff like that), but I didn't really want to do more than ten. Hopefully this list has been semi-useful and good luck to everyone going back to school/uni!