Thursday, 29 December 2016

Review: The Shadow of What Was Lost by James Islington

The Shadow of What Was Lost (The Licanius Trilogy #1) by James Islington
Publisher: Orbit UK
Released: November 10th 2016
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

It has been twenty years since the god-like Augurs were overthrown and killed. Now, those who once served them - the Gifted - are spared only because they have accepted the rebellion's Four Tenets, vastly limiting their own powers.

As a young Gifted, Davian suffers the consequences of a war lost before he was even born. He and others like him are despised. But when Davian discovers he wields the forbidden powers of the Augurs, he sets in motion a chain of events that will change everything.

To the west, a young man whose fate is intertwined with Davian's wakes up in the forest, covered in blood and with no memory of who he is . . .

And in the far north, an ancient enemy long thought defeated, begins to stir.
(from Goodreads)

I was really pleasantly surprised by this book! Great start to a new fantasy series, and I’m really looking forward to book two.

The story centred around Davian, a Gifted boy of sixteen about to take his Trials. It also followed several other characters, including Davian's best friend, Wirr. I really liked Davian. It was easy to empathise with him, and you could see how his character began to change as the book went on. He was gradually losing the innocence and naivety he started off with, and began to question things more than he had before. I also loved his friendship with Wirr; this wasn’t a case of two characters thrown together with the title of “best friends”, I could actually believe they had known each other for years and were loyal to one another. Davian never pried too much into Wirr’s life, even though he knew he was hiding things, and Wirr was determined to keep Davian’s Augur abilities a secret, because he knew the terrible things that could happen if word ever got out. Wirr was generally a great character, always trying to do what was right and struggling with his responsibilities. I enjoyed reading both of these characters' POVs, and though I guessed the secret about Wirr fairly early on, I still liked following his narrative.

I also really liked reading from Asha’s perspective; she was another friend of Davian’s from school (though he liked her as more than a friend) and was separated from him in the first few chapters. Her story took a very different turn from Wirr’s and Davian’s, but she played a major role in what happened, and I liked seeing how she dealt with all the new information she was learning, and especially how she managed to integrate into the lives of the new people she met and become such an important figure in the book. You could tell people like Erran and Michal and Kol really began to appreciate her. I did feel like for the first part of the book when she thought both Davian and Wirr were dead, she didn’t seem to really care much that Wirr had died…but I don’t think this was a fault with just her character. Every time people died (and a lot of people died), it seemed like all the characters got over the deaths very quickly, unless it was someone they were very, very close to. A lot of casual brushing aside of murders, and I think it would have been nice just to see some more mourning, from all of the characters!

Caeden was the final perspective we mainly followed in this book, and honestly, I found his the most boring, until the revelations at end. His flashbacks in particular, were, in my opinion, a bit too long and were quite difficult to get through. I did also guess his secret (well, mostly) and I was just waiting for him to realise what was going on, and it was a little frustrating. I generally found him to be a bit dull. There were a lot of things about his character that I did enjoy, however, and I liked that as the book went on, we got to find out how certain things were connected. It will hopefully be interesting to find out more about him and his past in the next book. I am also very curious as to where his character will go in the next book, because after the ending, I’m not sure what he’ll decide to do.

Plot-wise, so many interesting things happened, and we met so many characters that are sure to play big roles later on in the series. I especially liked seeing the glimpses into the future, and I am so curious as to what happened to Davian in his later years and how he managed to do the things we see happen in the book. Characters like Malshash also intrigued me; I have a few theories about him, but I’m not sure. I would like to know Taeris's motivations as well, he was one character who was left fairly mysterious throughout the book (in a different way from Caeden, however, because he was actually familiar to Davian and some of the others). I think the writing was generally good but not brilliant; it started a bit shaky at the very beginning, but did improve as the book went on. And while a few parts were a bit predictable at times, I am still left wondering about a lot of things (in a good way, seriously, I have a lot of questions) and I’m very much looking forward to finding some answers in the next book.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Shadow of What Was Lost, and recommend it to anyone looking for a new fantasy read.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Books I Got for Christmas

So I had a great Christmas, but 2016 continues to be a shit year of terrible events, so I'm not feeling as festive as I was. My plan is to keep stuffing my face with chocolate and to start reading something, so I thought I'd show you all the books I got for Christmas this year.

A strange mix this year, but I'm happy with it! I picked most of them, but my mum got me the physics book, the gluten free recipe book (I'm trying to switch to a mostly gluten free diet for health reasons after a recent diagnosis) and, because she has a weird sense of humour, "Five Go Gluten Free". (You can also randomly see some of my other presents because I laid them all out on my bed like a child, but whatever.)

Links to Goodreads:

I also bought myself a few Kindle books from the Amazon sale. I was particularly excited to see the original Mistborn trilogy books at 99p, I've been meaning to read those for ages! (All images lead to Goodreads.)

And those are my books this year. Will probably read Gemina or Gilded Cage first. What books did you get for Christmas? Or if you don't celebrate Christmas, which books have you picked up recently?

Friday, 23 December 2016

Random Purchases

After the stresses of Christmas shopping, I decided I deserved a few treats for myself. Then I decided against that because I was broke. Then I redecided that I could at least buy a few cheap things and not feel too bad about it. And thus, I bargain hunted my way around to find the below items. One of them is actually part of a Christmas present for a friend. The rest is for me...

The first thing I bought myself is probably the most me thing I have ever found:

It's the Perpetual Disappointments Diary. I ordered it from The Book Depository, which is why I received an awesome free bookmark as well (so pretty!). It is unfortunately now out of stock at TBD, but I have linked to Waterstones instead. I think it's genius. The front pages are unhappy faces:

And each page of the diary section has a demotivational phrase:

I love it so much.

The next thing I bought is a necklace for my friend. It's from Etsy (link to seller's shop here) - it originally came in silver (which I personally preferred), but I know my friend loves gold, so I requested a gold version and the seller very kindly agreed to make it for me (thank you very much!). I think the end result is very pretty (ignore the terrible tree imaging, believe it or not, it was the only place I could get decent lighting).

So this next thing I bought because it was so cheap. £3 from Tesco (I think it was on offer). £3! And yes, okay, it may be intended for a child, but I like Star Wars and I like tidy bathrooms, so I couldn't resist. Leave me alone.

I mean, look at it! There's a C-3PO flannel, for God's sake! And the shower gel may look and smell like glue, but still! £3! Is this not a bargain if you ever saw one?! It's not online anymore, but you may still be able to find it in store.

Moving on to the purchase I was least impressed with (though I don't know why I expected high quality from some Tesco lip balms - they are cruelty free though!). These lip balms are just a bit crap really. Barely smell of anything, glue stuck to the packaging, and generally kind of rubbish. They're again not available online anymore but I wouldn't recommend them anyway:

And last, and most hilarious...another flannel (link here). This is a Frozen one. I promise you I am an adult. Even though the words "colour change flannel" appeal to me way more than they should do, I am an adult. Anyway, the magic words that are supposedly invisible and meant to appear once the flannel gets wet aren't really invisible at all, but whatever. How much can I judge a Frozen flannel? It does the job.

And those are my very random purchases! Still can't get over the fact that the bathroom tidy was £3. I do love a good bargain. Have you spotted any recently? Let me know!

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Waiting on Wednesday #77

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

Long May She Reign by Rhiannon Thomas
February 21st 2017
Find it on Goodreads
Freya was never meant be queen. Twenty third in line to the throne, she never dreamed of a life in the palace, and would much rather research in her laboratory than participate in the intrigues of court. However, when an extravagant banquet turns deadly and the king and those closest to him are poisoned, Freya suddenly finds herself on the throne.

Freya may have escaped the massacre, but she is far from safe. The nobles don’t respect her, her councillors want to control her, and with the mystery of who killed the king still unsolved, Freya knows that a single mistake could cost her the kingdom – and her life.

Freya is determined to survive, and that means uncovering the murderers herself. Until then, she can’t trust anyone. Not her advisors. Not the king’s dashing and enigmatic illegitimate son. Not even her own father, who always wanted the best for her, but also wanted more power for himself.

As Freya’s enemies close in and her loyalties are tested, she must decide if she is ready to rule and, if so, how far she is willing to go to keep the crown. (from Goodreads)
You know some books just have really appealing titles? This is one of them. I am always drawn to books about monarchies/rulers fighting over succession. This book stands out for me because it's unusual to see someone who was twenty third in line have any claim to the throne at all! Very intrigued to see what happens to Freya. I'm curious as to how things are going to wrap up in this book as well, considering it's a standalone (no cliffhangers, yay!). And I'm always looking for new fantasy reads, so to sum up, I am very excited about Long May She Reign, and I'm really glad February isn't too far away.

What are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Review: The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

The Girl from Everywhere (The Girl from Everywhere #1) by Heidi Heilig
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Released: March 3rd 2016
My Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads
Sixteen-year-old Nix Song is a time-traveller. She, her father and their crew of time refugees travel the world aboard The Temptation, a glorious pirate ship stuffed with treasures both typical and mythical. Old maps allow Nix and her father to navigate not just to distant lands, but distant times - although a map will only take you somewhere once. And Nix's father is only interested in one time, and one place: Honolulu 1868. A time before Nix was born, and her mother was alive. Something that puts Nix's existence rather dangerously in question...

Nix has grown used to her father's obsession, but only because she's convinced it can't work. But then a map falls into her father's lap that changes everything. And when Nix refuses to help, her father threatens to maroon Kashmir, her only friend (and perhaps, only love) in a time where Nix will never be able to find him. And if Nix has learned one thing, it's that losing the person you love is a torment that no one can withstand. Nix must work out what she wants, who she is, and where she really belongs before time runs out on her forever.
(from Goodreads)

--> *very mild spoilers*

I had mixed feelings about The Girl from Everywhere. While there were some really enjoyable aspects, I was let down by pacing and other frustrating parts of the book.

I think my main problem with this book is that I found it a little boring. Nix was the main character, and I liked her a lot, but I did also struggle to connect to her with her a bit (I think because I pretty much questioned every one of her decisions – like at the end, why would she not tell people about the thing?!). It was interesting to read about her relationship with Slate, but at the same time, it frustrated me so much because he was a terrible father in general and the fact that he would not teach her to Navigate – ugh! Obviously, the ending was him trying to make up for his past mistakes, but eh. Is it bad that I’m still reluctant to forgive him? I also found it really hard to believe that after everything he’d done and his years of obsession, he would end up making that decision. It seemed out of character. But maybe I’m just heartless and have no faith in humanity…

Kashmir was a great character, and I only wish we could have seen more of him (and I wish we had some more Nix and Kashmir moments!). He was often a voice of reason, which I appreciated, and was one of the most likeable characters. I actually wanted to find out more about him…the same could not be said for Blake. Blake was the second love interest (yes, there’s a love triangle, I’m sorry) and he was just odd. He seemed to like Nix way too much way too quickly and I couldn’t tell if it was because of the time period, or because he was just weird and slightly creepy. Either way, I wasn’t a fan of Blake, really.

The time travel parts of this book were the bits I enjoyed most, as well as learning about maps and how everything worked. I was interested in finding out more about Joss, and Nix’s mother, too, and I wanted to know why the rules of time travel worked the way they did (perhaps more to be explored in the next book?). I did find the pacing of the book to be very slow at times, however, which I think contributed to me feeling it was a bit boring. There were also a few things which I would have liked explained more so I could have a better understanding of the world the characters were living in. At times, it was slightly confusing, so I think expanding on a few concepts would have helped.

Overall, this was generally an enjoyable book, but I didn’t love it. I will probably pick up the sequel, though, because I’m invested enough to want to know where the story is going.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Top Five Books I'm Looking Forward to in 2017

Another year almost over. Where has the time gone? I can't believe it's almost 2017. A lot has happened this year (beside from the obvious terrible stuff). I started my first job! And then after 11 months, I quit my first job with plans to do another degree, because obviously, I'm crazy (haha, I'm terrified. I'm signing up for it soon, fingers crossed everything goes okay. Why am I doing this to myself? Who knows). I also managed to reach my Goodreads goal again! I'm so happy with that, because I really thought I might not make it while working full time. I read a lot of great books in 2016 and have loads I'm looking forward to in 2017. Here's a list of the five I most want to read - enjoy! (A lot of them don't have proper covers yet, so I've just included placeholders.)

Top Five Books I'm Looking Forward to in 2017 (in no particular order):

1) By Your Side by Kasie West - I love Kasie West. She writes the cutest contemps, and I am particularly excited about this one because - wait for it - it's set in a library. Two characters get locked in a library over the weekend. Does this not sound amazing to you? I want to read it now! Luckily, it's out end of Jan, so not too much longer to wait. I think it will be the perfect wintery read and I'm really looking forward to jumping into another Kasie West novel! I do have to admit I wasn't the biggest fan of her last book, but, I'm hoping By Your Side will make up for it (because it really does sound amazing). I've been waiting to read it for so long, so hopefully the wait will have been worth it!

2) A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas - if you've read A Court of Mist and Fury, I don't need to explain this to you, because oh my God, the ending. THE ENDING! I am trying not to go into spoilers here, but just how is that going to work? How will they communicate? What is going to happen with the King? And you know all that other...stuff? I am slightly concerned that we are now getting like a bazillion books in this series instead of just three - I'm not a huge fan of shifting character focus in the middle of a series and dragging out things that don't need to be expanded upon - but I'll go with it until it starts to get rubbish (which I'm hoping it won't, as I'm still enjoying Throne of Glass!). Really looking forward to seeing how things play out for Feyre and Rhysand (I'm really hoping for a happy ending. Can we just have a happy ending. Please?)

3) The Empty Grave by Jonathan Stroud - book five in the Lockwood & Co. series. There's no cover for this book. There's no description. But oh, I am with this series until the end. I love the characters so much. And with every book, we learn new information about Visitors, or people we thought we knew, and it's all so intriguing. I am so excited for The Empty Grave. No clue what it will be about, but knowing Jonathan Stroud, it will be excellent. The Skull is one of my favourite characters (probably of all time), so I am very much looking forward to seeing if we will ever find out more about it. And here's to hoping we FINALLY see Lucy and Lockwood together (or any progress - I'll take anything at this point. I'll take a hug!).

4) The Ship of the Dead by Rick Riordan - a Rick Riordan book will probably always end up on this list. This time, I'm excited for Magnus Chase book three. So much happened in the last book, I honestly can't predict how book three is going to turn out (though I truly hope Otis plays a major part, because he's the best. Who doesn't like a constantly resurrecting talking goat?). Also...Percy? Yes? I mean, not that Magnus and the characters of this series aren't great, but I have a soft spot for Percy. We all have a soft spot for Percy. I'm just so excited for a Magnus, Sam, Alex, Annabeth, Percy team up. It probably won't happen. But it might. And it would be amazing.

5) Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare - yes, yes, another Shadowhunters book. What can I say? I really enjoyed Lady Midnight. It was really interesting following a new set of characters, and the way so many different worlds intertwined. I loved that we got to see all our old favourite characters (Tessa and Jem!), and yet got to really know the new ones too. I really loved Emma, and basically the whole Blackthorn family. And while the story was a bit weak in areas (Emma could totally just tell Julian about the parabatai thing), I am very intrigued to see what happens in the next book, because I just know something unexpected is going to occur and shock us all. There are so many unanswered questions, and at this point, anything could happen.

Notable mentions that didn't quite make it: if there were ANY information at all about the third book in the Trouble series by Stephanie Tromly, it would have made the list, but unfortunately, there isn't even a title, The Phobia of Renegade X by Chelsea M. Campbell, King's Cage by Victoria Aveyard, Untitled Throne of Glass #6 by Sarah J, Maas, The Silver Mask by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare, The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon (this was on last year's notable mentions too, but the release date got pushed back!), Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh (this was so close to being on the list, it's apparently inspired by Mulan?!), Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton and The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan.

And there you have it! Which books are you looking forward to in 2017? Any from my list? 

Sunday, 18 December 2016

My 2016 Favourites

2016 has been a pretty crappy year for a lot of people, and to tell the truth, I'm kind of looking forward to it ending (while simultaneously being terrified of what 2017 will bring). As it's the end of the year, I have decided to focus on the little things that have made 2016 somewhat bearable. Below are all my favourites of 2016; there's some bookish stuff, some beauty/skin stuff and some film/TV/music and food things that I couldn't include in a photo which I have just shoved on at the end. Enjoy!

No, my photos have not gotten any better, and yes, I am still blaming my terrible phone camera, even though I know that's only half the problem...


1) Magnus Chase and the Hammer of Thor (Magnus Chase #2) by Rick Riordan - I loved this book! I mean, I love anything Rick Riordan, so this should come as no surprise, but this book in particular, wow. It was hilarious (I loved Magnus's sense of humour), it was insightful, it was a great follow up to the first book and the ending. The ENDING. Rick is king of cliffhangers. And Otis is my favourite character. Just saying.

2) The Creeping Shadow (Lockwood & Co #4) by Jonathan Stroud - are these books getting creepier? I think they are. Plus, this book was very interesting because it started off with Lucy on her own, doing freelance work. And...dare I say it? Progress? Between Lucy and Lockwood? It's been four books and we're at the stage where they held hands ONCE. And this is progress. The Skull is pretty much the only one who has a clue right now.

3) Trouble Makes a Comeback (Trouble #2) by Stephanie Tromly - not pictured because I also have this on Kindle and couldn't show two things at I already did a whole review on it (see here). It was so good though that it has to be mentioned in my favourites. You've got to love Zoe and Digby.

4) Sword of Gryffindor Necklace - so my friend bought this for me for Christmas last year, but I have worn it so much this year that I have to include it. She got it from a Christmas market in Cambridge but I'm pretty sure the one I've linked to on Etsy is exactly the same, if you're interested. It's so pretty! You can see it clearer in the image below. I just wear it with everything (and I'm not even a Gryffindor).

5) Harry Potter Card Wallet - so my lovely work colleagues bought this (and a bunch of other Harry Potter goodies) for me as a leaving gift on my last day. I love it! My old Oyster card holder was dying, so it's nice to have a nice new one with a Harry Potter theme.


6) Bioré Charcoal Cleanser - so I have really problem skin in the sense that most of my face is very dry, but my forehead is oily, and is where I get the most spots (literally, constantly, all the time, it drives me mad). This cleanser really helps control my oil levels, as well as prevent those horrible painful spots from appearing on my forehead all the time. Unfortunately I don't think a product exists that will prevent any spots from appearing ever, but this cleanser does the best I could expect a product to do (you can see from how empty it is in the pic below that I use it all the time).

7) Superdrug Tea Tree Spot Stick - if you want another skincare product that actually works, and is cheap, this is for you. This stick has worked wonders for my forehead spots. It honestly gets rid of them in about two days (three if it's the horrible ones). And while it doesn't really prevent them from reappearing, I'm really impressed with just how quickly it does help control blemishes. Highly recommended!

8) Garnier Pure Active 3-in-1 Wash, Scrub, Mask - I really like this because you can use it three ways. I mostly use it as a scrub, but when I have a lot of blemishes, I use it as a mask, and find that it has a really nice cooling and soothing effect. It smells terrible, but it's worth putting up with for the actual effect of the product.

9) Nyx Soft Matte Lip Cream - I know I'm late to the party with these, but honestly, these are some of the best lip products I've ever owned, and they're such great value. They're matte but not drying, soft and creamy in texture, really pigmented, long-lasting and they smell amazing! The two colours I have pictures below, from left to right, are Amsterdam and Cannes.

10) Nuxe Rêve de Miel Ultra Nourishing Lip Balm - another lip product and the saviour of my terrible dry, broken, cracked lips. I have the driest lips ever. They are so dry. I have tried every lip treatment I can think of. I have spent ridiculous amounts of money trying to treat them. The only thing that has ever done anything is this lip balm. It has a really weird thick, waxy consistency, but I put it on before bed, and when I wake up, my lips are actually soft. They aren't cracked. Or if they have been cracked, they're on the mend. It's the only thing I've ever found that remotely works for me, and while it's on the pricey side, I'm happy to keep repurchasing.

11) Benefit Boi-ing Concealer - I have the darkest circles under my eyes. Nothing covers them. This concealer is supposedly an "industrial" strength concealer, and while it doesn't cover my circles completely (nothing short of Dulux will), I have to admit, it's probably the best concealer I've used so far. Definitely reduces the darkness. I also have this in the lightest shade, and it's a pretty good match for my skin, and I usually struggle to find a match because I'm so pale. It's not perfect, and I struggle to justify the price...but of all the concealers out there, I think this is doing the best job for me.

12) L'Oréal Paris Volume Million Lashes Feline Mascara - I have round eyes, and sparse eyelashes, so I am always looking for a mascara that is both volumising and able to push my eyelashes out an angle on the side so that my eyes don't look so round. This mascara does both of those things, and to top it off, has a shiny finish and smells really great (I have a habit of sniffing it...don't judge me). 

13) The Library of Fragrance, Cherry Blossom - I love The Library of Fragrance! I love the packaging, the unique smells, the price point - everything. The cherry blossom scent is one of my favourites. It's very wearable, and can easily be your every day fragrance, and it's also not so floral that it'll make your head spin. The only downfall of this range is that the scent doesn't last very long - but at £15, who can complain, really?


14) ASOS Magical Loafers - so I'm not just saying this because I used to work at ASOS, but I love these shoes SO MUCH. Mostly because they actually fit me. I have the oddest shaped feet - wide at the front, very narrow at the back. Most flat shoes slip off at the back because my heels are so narrow, but I can't buy narrow shoes because then they won't fit the front of my feet. What is a girl to do? Well, these shoes are perfect because they somehow adapt to the shape of my feet. I think it's because the fabric is so flexible - but I can wear them without my feet slipping out! They truly are magical. I love them so much I bought them in the oxblood colour too. They're faux suede with metal detailing - and loafers never really go out of style.


15) Stranger Things - if you haven't watched Stranger Things, you're either living under a rock, or avoiding it on purpose, in which case, you should watch it anyway, even if you think it's overhyped, because how else will you ever, truly know? (It's so good, I promise you.) It has a sort of Goonies vibe, but then is also really creepy and jumpy, and is excellent. The cast is excellent, the story is excellent, the ending is excellent, it's just excellent. And there's going to be a season 2! What are your theories? [spoilers, highlight to view]What will happen to Will? Where is Eleven (she's totally alive, I know it)? Will there be justice for Barb? Will Nancy get with Jonathan?[end of spoilers]. Also, if you've seen Stranger Things, and you're a fan of Parks & Recreation, please watch this!

16) Hamilton soundtrack - not going to say anything. You've heard enough from me about how much I love Hamilton.

17) Spiderman Homecoming trailer - asdfghjk. I'm so excited for this. You don't understand. You don't understand! I know it's not out for so long, but the trailer is so good! Peter Parker in school! Tom Holland seems like he'll be a fantastic Peter Parker, and after so many bad Spiderman movies, I have hope that we're finally, finally going to get one that does it justice.


19) Pulsin' Almond and Raisin Raw Chocolate Brownies - I couldn't include these in a photo...because I ate them all. Just imagine a squishy bar of chocolatey almondy raisiny goodness, but made from raw ingredients so it's actually not bad for you. Are you hungry yet? I am.

And those are my favourites of the year! What are your favourites of 2016? Do we share any of the same?

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Three Things I Am Looking Forward to Watching

First of all, let me start by saying The 100 season 4 (omg have you seen the trailer?!) would be on this list, if I had any idea when it would be airing in the UK. As I don't, I've gone with the three things below instead.

1) Sherlock, season 4 - I can't not have Sherlock on this list. I know we get it like, once every three years, and it's only for three episodes, and it's gone kind of downhill since it started...but it's still Sherlock, and I'm excited! What can I say. Plus the TRAILER. What is going on? What is happening with Mycroft? Why does Sherlock hand John a gun? Who is he saying "I love you" to?! SO MANY QUESTIONS. Episode 1, "The Six Thatchers" will air January 1st 2017 at 8:30pm on BBC1 (9pm ET on PBS Masterpiece for the US).

2) The Last Dragonslayer - okay, so I will just admit it, I have not read the book series. I know! I don't even know why (I swear I have book three lying around somewhere...). But I'm really excited to watch the TV adaptation; judging from the trailer, I'm hoping it will be really good! Plus, dragons. And dragonslayers. How can you not be interested? Episode 1 will be airing on Sky 1 on December 25th 2016 at 5:45pm. View official trailer here.

3) Firebringer, a Starkid musical - if you are a Harry Potter fan, you may have heard of Starkid. They are the genius group that brought you A Very Potter Musical. They've also made a bunch of other (brilliant) musicals, and the new one (which was performed in the summer) is coming to YouTube on January 1st 2017! Finally! I cannot tell you how long I have been waiting to watch this musical. I love pretty much everything Starkid make (the songs are always so catchy), so I'm very excited for Firebringer, which is about the first human to discover fire.

Notable mentions: Brooklyn Nine-Nine, season 4, episode 1 coming to E4 Thursday 5th January 2017, 9pm (I know this has probably been showing in the US for ages, but unfortunately, we're quite behind here in the UK) and A Series of Unfortunate Events, all episodes releasing on Netflix January 13th (I am dubious about this. It sounds great in theory, but I'm worried about the character portrayals...we'll see).

And there we have it! What do you think of my list? Are there any shows/films/musicals you're looking forward watching?

(If you're curious as to why Hamilton is not on here...don't worry. When that finally comes to the UK, there'll be a whole separate post on it.)

Friday, 16 December 2016

Review: Beyond the Red by Ava Jae

Beyond the Red (Beyond the Red #1) by Ava Jae
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Released: March 1st 2016
My Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads
Alien queen Kora has a problem as vast as the endless crimson deserts. She’s the first female ruler of her territory in generations, but her people are rioting and call for her violent younger twin brother to take the throne. Despite assassination attempts, a mounting uprising of nomadic human rebels, and pressure to find a mate to help her rule, she’s determined to protect her people from her brother’s would-be tyrannical rule.

Eros is a rebel soldier hated by aliens and human alike for being a half-blood. But that doesn’t stop him from defending his people—at least until Kora’s soldiers raze his camp and take him captive. He is given an ultimatum: be an enslaved bodyguard to Kora, or be executed for his true identity—a secret kept even from him.

When Kora and Eros are framed for the attempted assassination of her betrothed, they flee. Their only chance of survival is to turn themselves in to the high court, where revealing Eros’s secret could mean a swift public execution. But when they uncover a violent plot to end the human insurgency, they must find a way to work together to prevent genocide. (from Goodreads)

What a book. In the words of Carly Rae Jepsen, I really really really really really really liked it.

First of all, I loved the main characters. And I actually liked both POVs equally, which is so rare for me. Kora was the Queen (Alvira) of Safara and while she wasn’t pompous or arrogant or overly demanding, you could see the queenliness in her. I loved her confidence, her boldness, and the way she wanted to the best for her people - even though they hated her. I loved that despite the fact she didn’t really want to rule, she wouldn’t let her brother Dima take the throne because she knew his violence and his arrogance would lead to disaster. It was so easy to feel for her, and even though she tried to portray this fearless persona, when it came to her brother, she found it really difficult to stand up to him, despite the fact she was queen - which I could understand, because after all, he was her brother (though really hoping we see Kora learn to get past this in the next book, because ugh, Dima. Or hopefully he’ll magically have a change of heart and realise his sister is not actually his enemy). And the way her feelings were expressed throughout was great, props to the author for that. You could understand her pain, her guilt, her attraction to Eros, her sadness at the lost relationship with her brother, her sense of humour - honestly, she was just a great character, and I really enjoyed reading about her.

Eros was equally as interesting. He was half human, half Sepharon, and as a result, didn’t fit into either society. Half-bloods were completely rejected and usually killed at birth, and no-one knew why Eros was allowed to live so long. After his family was killed (his poor brother, Day. I got attached to that guy after only a few pages and then bam, he was dead) he was taken prisoner by Sepharons and made a slave. He would have been killed if not for Kora, who ended up making him his bodyguard. At the start, Eros had no idea what was going on. He didn’t really get why Kora was keeping him alive, he blamed her for the death of his family and all he wanted to do was leave and return to the few people he had left. I really enjoyed how his perceptions changed over time, and how he became closer to Kora. Sometimes his inner thoughts were hilarious as well (though he definitely said “some kinduv” too much), and I just really loved watching these two characters start to understand one another. I liked the romance as well. It was so obvious Kora and Eros were attracted to each other, but it wasn’t too insta-lovey (well a little, but I liked it, so what can I say!) or sappy or anything like that. It felt realistic and the kind of romance where you could really root for each character.

Plot-wise, things weren’t overly complicated, which I appreciated, because often sci-fi storylines can get a bit all over the place. The world-building was solid and there was a lot I didn’t see coming. There were a few sad parts mixed in there which made me remember just how serious the situations were for these characters. And the writing was fab in my opinion. I felt everything the author wanted me to feel, I hated some characters (ugh Dima and those soldiers) and I loved some (Eros and Kora obviously, but I really liked Serek too, [minor spoiler, highlight to read]the poor guy[end of spoiler]) and I was curious about things and generally the whole book was addictive and I finished it at 5am, so there. Honestly, I wish I had read it slower, because I’m really sad it’s over now. I’m so glad we’re getting a sequel, because originally this book was going to be standalone (imagine the horror! I would have died from all the unanswered questions…).

Overall, this book was very enjoyable, and if you like sci-fi, I recommend it. Even if you don’t like sci-fi, still give it a go because it just might change your mind.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

The Honest Guide: Gifts for People You Don't Know Very Well (or Forgot Existed)

You're at work. You spot someone coming towards you...what was her name again? Sally? Sarah? You helped her out once on that project, but haven't spoken since. What's this? She's carrying something? Oh God, not a gift. You haven't bought her anything! You don't even remember her name!

"Hi Liz," she says merrily. "Happy Christmas! I got you a gift, but it's only something small. I hope you like it." Sally/Sarah hands over the expertly wrapped present. Please be rubbish, please, you tear open the paper and find a perfectly thoughtful gift you very much appreciate. You well up. Sally/Sarah thinks you are touched by the gift. Really, you are lamenting how terrible a person you are for not knowing Sally/Sarah's name, or getting her a gift in return.

"!" you cry, avoiding mentioning any names. "Thank you so much! I have something for you too, I'll bring it in tomorrow." What? No you don't. Why did you say that?! It's too late to backtrack, Sally/Sarah looks so happy as she walks away. Now the covert investigations begin. First, what is Sally/Sarah's actual name? You inspect the gift in your hand - is there a name tag? YES! Oh...her name is Jessamine. Jessamine? She really doesn't look like a Jessamine.

Next, remember any scrap of information about Jessamine. Anything. Did she have a polar bear figurine on her desk that one time you were there? Can you assume she likes cute things? You'll have to go with it, it's all you remember. Next stop: the shops.

Does any of this sound familiar to you? Do you have people you don't know very well that you need to buy gifts for (for whatever reason, no judgement here). Well then, worry not, because this is the guide for you! Find the perfect* gift for all those acquaintances, work colleagues you talked to once, and your cousin's sister's boyfriend's brother.

*loosely defined.

Category 1, The Jessamine: £1 - £10, (click descriptions to be taken to the seller's page):

She did indeed have a polar bear on her desk. Polar bears and snowmen are similar, right? These are cute. These are definitely cute.

You saw her reading that book one time. It was long.

Well...everyone drinks tea in the office.

She was wearing heavy knitwear when you saw her, even though it was mild outside - maybe she gets cold easily!

Everyone needs a diary right? Right?

You remember overhearing Jessamine say this phrase to someone. Once. Which is of course enough.

Category 2, The "My Relative/Loved One Will Moan If I Don't By This Person a Gift", £11 - £25:

You don't know much about the person you're buying for, other than every time you see them, they have immaculately painted nails. It's sort of annoying, actually.
Well they must like baking, because you've sure as hell heard, "Oh, have you tasted my lemon drizzle?" enough times

For the person who always gifts you with fancy chocolate - fancy chocolate.

What are the actual chances that this won't go down well? 

Their house is a fire hazard of open flames - what's another one to add to the mix?

For that person who is always correcting you - yes you know how to pronounce "escargatoire", thank you very much! Or at least, you know now.

Category 3, The "Dear God How Did I Forget to Buy This Person a Gift", £26 to infinity and beyond:

In my opinion, the only last minute gift you can buy that could possible make up for such a blunder on your part is a hamper. A really nice hamper.

There are cheaper hampers out there...but you really need to save face.

And there you have it. I hope you enjoyed this gift guide, and maybe even found it useful in finding presents for your own Jessamines out there. I plan to make The Honest Guide a regular feature, so look out for some more honest tips to come.

Happy shopping!