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]