Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Books And Their Theme Songs - December 2017, January and February 2018

Welcome back to another Books And Their Theme Songs post. As you know, I love reading books with music, even the books I decided to DNF. But with me changing jobs recently and my sudden addiction to random podcasts (and no audiobooks! I WOULD KILL TO LISTEN TO A KICKASS AUDIOBOOK!), this post might be a tad shorter than I like. But ha, at least am discovering and trying new things out! 

So, enough of my jibber-jabber (we all know where this is going), let's get onto the music! 

THE LAST MRS PARRISH by Liv Constantine (DNF)
"Gained the World" by Morcheeba & "Snakes" by Deva Mahal

"Whatever You Want" by P!nk

SHADOW OF NIGHT by Deborah Harkness
"Feather Jesus" and "Ursa Minor" by Fassine

THE WITCH'S TEARS by Katharine and Elizabeth Corr
"Cold Hard Truth" by Nelly Furtado

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Book Review - The Witch's Tears

My plan was to read The Witch's Tears and the third/final book in the trilogy, The Witch's Blood, before March hit. But, sadly, I failed. Mainly because I overwhelmed myself with reading/audiobooks this past month and I have kinda hit a wall with reading fantasy. It's hard to read Witch's Tears when you are listening to Shadow of Night (review here) and Book of Life by Deborah Harkness while trying to find a work/home balance and other things have gone all in the air and unsettled me (I am like a cat. I like things a certain way and if anything messes that up...!). Because of all this, I have kinda hit a wall with reading fantasy so I need a mini-break from magic for a book or two (though I have shot myself in the foot a little due to timing - you'll find out on the 1st March)...

Getting back on track, The Witch's Tears. This is the second book in the Witch's Kiss trilogy and takes place several months after the events of Witch's Kiss. Merry is struggling. Struggling with being a teenage witch, struggling with all the textbooks and rules the coven are setting for her, struggling with her grief over Jack's death, and struggling over what to do with her older brother Leo. Leo is falling apart and every time Merry tries, it pushes him further and further away. She doesn't know what to do anymore...

Then two strangers arrive in town, both getting involved in Merry and Leo's lives. Then Leo and Merry's grandmother vanishes and the rules of the coven no longer seem important. Rules are made to be broken... right?

Like I said earlier, I have hit a wall with fantasy because I overloaded myself, but I must say I do like this series. I like that while this does feel dark, it reads quite light and fluffy. This is a series I would happily read on the beach. I like the characters (even when I wanted to shake them and shout "FOR THE LOVE OF -! USE YOUR WORDS AND OPEN YOUR EYES!") and whenever I read this for ten/fifteen minutes, it felt easy and fun, even when the book was dark.

Now, if you have read my review of Witch's Kiss last year (review here), you know I said that it had faults. While some of the faults were addressed, some are still there. It did still feel a bit skeletal at times and I saw things coming miles away (I do this all the time). Plus, there were one or two moments while reading, I kinda wish it was pushed a little further, give us a bit of grit and darkness. This book does touch on some dark magic and dark issues that could have been good place to go darker, but I get why the authors's decided not to do that.

Plus, the pacing might annoy you guys. It's a little slower than Witch's Kiss, if my memory serves me right. It's more pin-pricks of "Something wicked this way comes", but the last 100 or so pages, the book picks the pace and I fly through the book.

This trilogy does have faults and it's more preteen/clean teen compared to most YA I need, but I do enjoy reading this trilogy, and once I get out of my fantasy funk, I will be diving straight into Witch's Blood.

Monday, 26 February 2018

Reading Some Kindle Samplers

As you guys know, I love downloading eBook samplers onto my iPhone, and I do this for a number of reasons: because I want to see if I'm going to like it, to remind me to buy a book, because it had a pretty cover (yes, I am that vain).

So, one Sunday a week or so ago, after my cat woke me up at 6:15 in the morning (he's started doing this recently and I can't decide if this is a good thing or not), I decided to actually read some of my samplers and see how I felt about them. Some were entire chapters, some were a few pages, but I wanted to see if I liked the story, writing or tone and then decide if I would consider reading them in the future. And because my reading tastes are growing and I want to push myself, the choices of Kindle Samplers I read are here, there and everywhere so let's get started...

Friday, 23 February 2018

Popular Books I Haven't Read

You can blame Zoe from No Safer Place for this. I watched the above video and was nodding along to some of the title and went "Yep, I haven't read that book but I WANT TO" or "No interest to read whatsoever". After watching this, I was tweeting Zoe (@zcollins1994) and another book blogger, Liam (@notsotweets) and talking about how cool this idea was and I wanted to do this on the blog because every reader is different tastes and the book blogger shame (or something similar to these thoughts) and both Zoe and Liam went "Go for it!". 

So, here I am. I'm going to pick a handful of popular books that I haven't read for one reason or another (five, I think. Five seems like a good number!) so... let's get started! 

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Audiobook Review - Shadow of Night

If some of you can remember that far back into time, I listened to the the audiobook version of A Discovery of Witches back in the old days of when this blog was a baby book blog (2011. I checked). I liked it, but I didn't love it due to one reason or another (length and writing style. Plus Matthew and the amount of tea/wine he and Diana drunk - for some reason, this really bugged me!). Then, late last year, I decided to relisten to the audiobook and, while those problems were still there (though, not the tea and the wine problem. I saw past that the second time round), I think I enjoyed it more on second listen. And I decided that I would read/audiobook the rest of the trilogy.

And that didn't happen. I suck. Until Audible deleted a credit I had spare. I was given an extra credit for review by mistake and I hadn't used it. Actually, I think I forgot I had it till it went away. After chatting with Audible (who were super nice), they gave it back to me and I went "Ok, I have to use this. What do I really want? And I want something with length." And I remembered this trilogy and went "I have to buy them both!"

So, on 31st January, I bought Shadow of Night and Book of Life, and started Shadow of Night on the 1st February. And finished it on Thursday 15th February - so super fast for me with audiobooks!

After the events of A Discovery of Witches, where witches, daemons and vampires live hidden from humans and a fragile peace between the three species is being to break when Diana Bishop discovers a bewitched manuscript - Ashmole 782 - at the Bodlein Library which was thought lost for centuries. When a power struggle to reclaim the book between vampires, witches and daemons, Diana finds herself falling for vampire Matthew Clairmont, where interspecies relationships is forbidden.

Seeking safety, the two timewalk back to 1790 to find Ashmole 782 and to find witches who can teach Diana her magic. But with Matthew having to reclaim his old life of poet and spy for Queen Elizabeth I, the two might have to stay longer than they expected... And if they do, what damage will they cause in the present?

Ok, where do I begin with this? It's good. I enjoyed myself hugely while listening to this. It's not perfect - I do have problems with it but I enjoyed myself and am a little addicted to seeing where this series goes.

You can tell the the author is a historian because of the detail she puts in and how layered the characters (both major and minor) and the world around them is. And this works both for and against the story/series (more on that later). The story moves quite nicely and I got caught up in it and became a little addictive to it. Whenever I had a free moment, I would try and listen to the audiobook (and luckily, I can do that at work, hence why I sped through this quite quickly). It also gave insight into Matthew's history as he is a vampire who has lived over a good few centuries, which was interesting up-to-a-point (again, more on this later), which was an eye-opener for Diana.

Plus, I enjoyed listening to this due to the characters - I adore Gallowglass and I would love to read a book solely about him (he seems like a hot DILF - I mean, cool character - to read). Same goes with Phillipe - Matthew's father. He intrigues me and I would like to read more about him and Matthew's mother, Ysabeau. I do feel this book is more character driven compared to A Discovery of Witches, which while still character driven, did have a plot pushing the book forward.

There's something about this book and this series I hugely enjoy, but that's not the say that there wasn't problems. There were problems. And I have read and watched reviews on Goodreads, Amazon and YouTube and some I do agree with. The book is LONG. The audiobook I listened to is over 24 hours long and this is because of Deborah's writing. It's full of details, descriptions, side-characters and plots that aren't needed. If some of these were removed, the story would have been shorter and the reader wouldn't have lost anything. This problem existed in A Discovery of Witches and I sense will still be here in Book of Life and the newly announced Time's Convert (A companion novel following a side-character, Marcus - another character I really enjoyed reading in A Discovery of Witches). I get why she's writes these details, to immerse us in the world she's creating, but there are moments and chapters where it feels like the details are more important than the plot.

But my biggest issue within this is Mathew. Now, I admire that while I have got swept away with the romance between Diana and Matthew within Discovery of Witches and in this book, I have huge problems with Matthew. I get he is a problematic character - he reminds Diana over and over again that vampires are possessive over their lovers, there were several huge occasions I went "This feels borderline emotional/mental domestic abuse". Add into this that Matthew seems to be involve in every historical event of importance and Diana discovering that Matthew suffers from an vampire illness called Blood Rage (I understand what it is, but have no idea how to explain), there was a good amount of this audiobook where I disliked Matthew hugely.

I get the feeling that this series is going to get a very similar reaction to me reading/audiobook The Queen of the Tearling series by Erika Johansen. Yes, there are problems and things I don't like, but I enjoy reading/listening to this series and am having a blast sinking my teeth into a fantasy series that has meat on the bone.

Maybe this is a sign of my reading taste changing and me growing up (SURELY NOT?!), but I hope to have listened to the audiobook of the third and final book in the trilogy, The Book of Life, before Easter, and with Sky One turning the series into a TV drama event, we shall see where they go with the series...

Thursday, 15 February 2018

#re3 - Mortal Engines

I'm not whether to class this as a book review or a #re3. Because I have read this once before. But it has been over ten years and I can tell you when and where I read this (but I won't due to personal reasons and I don't want the first paragraph within this post to be black and heavy). 

So, why did I decide to reread this? I've been toying with rereading this but the past few months due to the series celebrating its 15th anniversary, and with the movie coming out later this year, it piped my interest. So when I saw it a few months back being 99p, I knew it was time. 

In the future, cities are no one set in one place. They move. They roam. They eat smaller cities. London used to be one of the cities that small cities fear, but it's been in hiding. Now, it's roaming again, and its mayor have sinister plans, and third-class apprentice Tom finds himself caught up in it when he sees an assassin try to kill London's Head Historian, Valentine. When he corners the assassin, he discovers an angry, scarred teenage girl who shouts "Ask him what he did to Hester Shaw!" before she jumps down a waste chute. Within minutes, Tom is falling down that same chute, pushed by Valentine... 

And London is racing across the Hunting Ground towards an unknown goal and something is hunting Shaw... 

So, how do I feel about this? Well... kinda the same as I did when I read it the first time round over ten years ago. I liked the idea but I struggled with the execution and the writing style. 

I'm not sure what else I can say about my feeling on it. I really liked this idea of cities being on wheels and moving, eating others. I haven't heard any other books do this or take it to the extreme that Philip Reeve did. And there were elements in here I hooked onto to - the character of Shrike I found fascinating and wanted to know more about him. 

But, there were tings that didn't work for me. There were times I didn't click with the writing. I don't know if it was the writing style or the tone of the book I didn't gel with, but I didn't connect to it in the way I would have liked. And because of this things happened that made me tilt my head and go "That feels odd". Some of the characters and their relationships felt odd at times - rushed in places. I know this was meant to be a standalone novel when it was first published and then it was turned into a four book series, but the relationships ad character developments in this felt off. 

It's a mixed bag for me. I know people who have read this and adore Mortal Engines and the books that follow in this series and its prequel trilogy. But not everyone is going to love the same book so I am at peace with my feelings towards this. Will I consider reading the second book in the series, Predator's Gold? Maybe... It really depends on my mood and on my TBR, which at the moment is all over the place due the events happening behind the scenes... So, we shall see... 

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Scholastic #BloggersBookFeast 2018

I should be watching Riverdale as I write this late last night. I promised Scholastic, several bloggers and authors that I will be watching one or two episodes as I write this.

But, I have so much to tell you guys and I know this is going to take some time (and I have been playing on my phone/YouTube for over several hours and stressing about being a grown-up so I need to focus and get this done).

Saturday just gone was my second blogger event of the year - and I had to make plans with my work so I can go (I work some Saturdays - hence why I was staring at my phone most of the day as even though I muted WhatsApp, I could sense the messages piling up and I don't know how to remove that little red circle that pops up on the corner of the app!). So, after driving to train station near my work (work was borrow my mode of transport till I can afford a car and because my regular train line is a replacement bus service for the next few weekends), I was whizzed to London one cold, wet Saturday. And after going "OOOH!" over Tower of London (it was right next to Fenchurch Street station - plus am audiobooking Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness!) and taking my time to get to event, I got to Scholastic and MY BLOGGER FAMILY WERE THERE!!!

Oh, blogger family, I missed seeing you. And for some of you, it's been too longer!

I should go and reference them, shouldn't I? But there was too many - but more on that and them a little later as I have plans with one or two of them and am planning to steal some of their instagram pics.

Anyway, once we were all in the conference room, the lovely ladies at Scholastic started the presentations of some of their titles that are coming out this year. And most/all of them caught our attention in one form or another and made us go "We need to buy this as soon as it comes out!". Now, I'm not going to reference them all (there is going to be a load of pics/blog posts/vlogs about this, me thinks) so I am going to talk to you guys about the titles that caught my attention and made me sit up a little straighter (even though my TBR is currently hating my guts and going "WHY AREN'T YOU READING ME YET?! DON'T YOU KNOW WHO I AM?!")

The first title is Shell by Paula Rawsthorne. Now, I have the proof for this since the end of last year and it came wrapped in bandages so I know it's going to be interesting. Lucy is diagnosed with terminal cancer. You don't survive that. Expect Lucy does. She wakes up one morning to find herself cancer-free. But there's a big catch. She's no longer in her own body. While she slept her brain and eyes were removed out of her body into someone else's, and now she is no longer Lucy. In this modern nod to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (published 200 years ago this year), Lucy begins to wonder how far you go for the people you love? And if there's a line you must never cross...

Second is State of Sorrow by Melinda Salisbury. This is the first book in her new duology and I have already got this on preorder (and Scholastic knows that nearly every blogger in the room wanted to read this) so this is going to be fun. Deliciously dark with complex fantasy world-building, we enter a kingdom which is still grieving for Sorrow's older brother who died days before she was born. She has the govern this kingdom and, when it gets too much, find comfort in the arms of the boy she's in love with. But when a stranger comes forward and claims he is her dead brother, Sorrow is taken aback. This boy wants to claim the throne, but is he really her brother or an imposter? And what is she going to do - stand aside or fight for the throne, even though it's the last thing she wants to do?

Another preorder book that was talked about here was Noah Could Never by Simon James Green. Sequel to Noah Can't Even, I was bouncing when this popped up on the screen and tried not to bully Simon since I finished reading Noah Can't Ever with tweets such as "There's going to be more kissing, right Simon?" or "If you hurt my babies, I swear to Lucifer!". (There is more kissing in the book, Simon said there was in the presentation and practically pointed me out by going "Him! Blame him!"). Taking place around two months after Noah Can't Even, Noah and Harry are dating (hooray!). But Noah is struggling to see what Harry sees in him. He's nothing compared to the sexy French exchange student, Pierre Victorie, who has his eye on Harry. Plus, the police are monitoring Noah, but he's not exactly sure why. Because of his dad and his secret half brother trying to steal his Gran's fake diamonds? Because of his PE teacher who's getting mysterious payouts? Or because drag queen Bambi Sugapops is hiding out at Noah's house while in the midst of a bare-knuckle, knock out drag feud? And when you throw in the mix Noah wondering if he's ready to take the next step in his and Harry's relationship, it's going to be a funny, cringey and warm story (it's better be!)

Your Turn to Die by Sue Wallman. Ok, I haven't read her last thriller (IT'S ON MY TBR!) but Sue is a wonderful author and I adore her, so I have to mention this. Plus, this book sounds AMAZING! A dark and twisty thriller, this follows the teens of three families who, every New Year, go on holiday together in an old countryside house. But the teens discover a terrible secret - a deathbed confession led the police to a body of a teenager who went missing 50 years ago. As the teens begin to dig up the past, strange accidents happen round the house. If they're not careful, this new year will simply be their last...

Speaking of thrillers, Night of the Party by Tracey Mathias is getting a lot of buzz as the "Brexit thriller of the year". Set in the near future when the UK leave the EU, we meet Ash who is grieving the lost of his sister. When he meets Zara, he falls her fast and hard. But Zara has secrets. Secrets she can never tell. Not only is she an "Illegal" - a person who wasn't born in the UK, meaning her and her family would be arrest and deported without question - but she knows the truth about how Ash's sister died. To tell would put her and her family in danger, but staying quiet could ruin everything between her and Ash. With an general election looming, it will either save them or bring disaster in its wake...

I have another thriller for you. Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl is a hard one to explain but it sounds so messed-up, I'm going to try. Five friends reunite a year after graduation, but during a night out, they narrowly avoid a collision with other car. When they get back to one of their houses, a mysterious man knocks on the day and tells the something that shatters their world. The friends must make a choice: one of them will live and others must die. And it must be unanimous. Then the mind games of Neverworld Wake begin...

Let's chat one more book as you all are probably screaming at me "WHY HAVEN'T YOU MENTIONED THE SURFACE BREAKS BY LOUISE O'NEILL?!". So, The Surface Breaks by Louise O'Neill is the feminist reimagining of The Little Mermaid. There's not much else I can say. I think most of us are intrigued over how Louise is going to write this and what she does... Will have to wait till May to find out...

And, of course, I could go on and mention the other jaw-droopingly yummy books I think you guys will love: The Light Jar by Lisa Thompson (a hopeful middle-grade touching on some dark issues), Tender by Eve Ainsworth (who I am ashamed to admit I have never read, but her books are topical and this is no exception, tackling the issue of young carers), Spark by Alice Broadway (sequel to Ink, which I haven't read yet! I only just got a copy of it today!), Twister by Juliette Forrest (mainly because of the cover. It's divine!), Sky Painted Gold by Laura Wood (imagine I Capture a Castle meets The Great Gatsby and you got it!), the sequel to Hayley Barker's Showstopper (I can't remember if the title was revealed or not but I haven't read Showstopper - you can blame me DNFing another fantasy book set in a circus for putting me off reading this. But I feel ready to hunt down a copy again) and A Storm of Ice and Stars by Lisa Lueddecke (prequel to A Shiver of Snow and Sky - again, another book I have but not read. Wow, I suck at this book blogger lark, don't i?!) And there is probably a ton more that I missed or I can't read my appalling handwriting to

But it didn't end there! Oh no! After that, we had Simon James Green, Laura Wood and Lisa Thompson read tiny extracts from their upcoming novels and we all went "OOOOH!" over them. The editors and designers chatted about their jobs and how the process of the job. And then, we had a panel with all the authors - Alice Broadway, Paula Rawsthorne, Traey Mathias, Eve Ainsworth, Sue Wallman, Simon James Green, Lisa Thompson and Laura Clarewood - all chatting about how they write, why they write and advice they give to aspiring authors. And, after that, a tiny quiz to put our YA book brains through our paces (and to highlight that I haven't read Malorie Blackman's Noughts and Crosses... but by the year of this year, I will damnit!)

And after that, it was time to leave (though I was dragged out. I was trying to make Simon James Green and Eve Ainsworth co-author a comedy horror together and trying to hide in the corner, going "Shhh. If they don't know I'm here, Scholastic will have to give me a job!"), and once was given a goodie bag (which I always feel odd about taking. I feel like I just turn up to steal books!) which contained a beautiful new edition of Philip Pullman's Northern Lights and a proof of Neverworld Wake (and I was kindly given a copy of Alice Broadway's Ink and Juliette Forrest's Twister as well).

And once we were kicked out of the building, a bunch of us bloggers decided to have lunch at a nearby Nandos (we're a classy lot. But, if you ever want us, bribe us with books and food, and we'll love you). If I can find photos on other bloggers's Instagram, I will embed in this post.

I can't explain the pout in that photo. I was trying to be funny and I look like a camp goldfish...

Now, before I go, I just want to thank everyone at Scholastic for the event. It was wonderful and I had such fun. Plus, it's always a lovely thrill/honour to be invited. Thank you - and I am sorry for the email you're going to get in the next few days... 

Friday, 9 February 2018

A Body Image Query

I don't own a full-length mirror or bathroom scales.

Yes, I know that's a weird way to start a blog post but bear with me. It will all make sense in the end.

A few years back, I wrote one of my fave blog post - mainly because it took so long to research and write up - which talked about sex educations in schools and wondering if it's a little outdate and should be updated to tackle consent, physical and mental health, asking whether TV programmes and soap opera should talk more openly about safe sex and STD, and on body image.

I am hugely proud of this post and have always gone "There's stuff in here I want to talk further on" but never really gave it much thought. Till November of last year. I was on holiday in the Lake District and, when I was on the hotel's wifi/4G, I checked my instagram for some stupid reason and saw three photos of people I follow being shirtless and doing gym progress in very quick succession.

And I felt... It's hard to explain, but I felt... off... 

Now, I am not saying "How dare these people post these images!". I have nothing against these pictures and yes, some pictures I have seen on here since then are hot, but I have moments when I look at myself and go "God, I wish I had more muscles in my arms, chest, stomach...". A little while later, I'm usually fine. I like my body. Ok, I didn't love it - I never love my body, but I accepted it and was enjoying eating delicious food and not thinking about my mental wobble over my body image.

A few hours/days later, I kept thinking about those images - no, let's rephrase that. I keep thinking about my reaction to those images, trying to figure out why I felt inadequate and uncomfortable in my own skin, wondering why this was a big deal and why wasn't I not letting this issue drop. I kept circling back to it. If I dislike the way I looked, why don't I do something about it? Well, I like my body and I don't want to. I like my body... I think.

See. It's the I Think that got to me. Where did that come from?

I've had this I like my body, I think feeling for a good few years. Years and years ago, I went to Alton Towers/Blackpool with a bunch of old college friends. The place we were staying in had a swimming pool and on the last day, we thought we would try it out. We changed and out of the four of us, I was the one with my arms crossed over my chest and stomach while the others didn't. And here's the thing: I was the skinniest one out of the four. So why did I react like this?

Now, I am not an expert in this. I'm not, but is it the world around this? Or is it all in my heads?

Sadly, I wonder if it's both. We're told from a very young age that if you don't look or behave a certain way, you are not pretty or handsome or good enough.

We see this in books, TV, magazines, films, fairy tales. And now, we have the internet and social media that give us a snapshot of the "perfect life". Which we all know can not be real... but we kinda want it to be?

This is a really weird and complex thing to talk about. Because every time I think I have a handle on it or understand it, something new always creeps up or I talk myself round in a circle.

In magazines, models are told to look a certain way and even when they do, they are photoshop. In TV shows and films, if the person looks hot, they are shirtless or wearing very little to remind us of this - how many times in Game of Thrones, Neighbours, Hollyoaks, or a Marvel movie (for example) have we see the "hot" actor shirtless? Am sure in nearly every Chris Hemsworth movie I own or watch, he either is shirtless or in a very tight top in the pouring rain at least once.

And on the internet (let's include social media in this as well), it's so easy to find pictures or video of good looking people. Porn is just a click away and most porn actors fit one of several looks to fit your fantasies. And the same with social media - I follow some people on social media who do fitness and I like following them. It was only in November (and then one every few weeks since then), when I liking their pictures that I go "Huh... am I follow you because I like you and your content, or am I following you because you're good-looking? Am I that shallow and vain?"

Maybe this is the wall I keep coming up again. This idea that we have become a vain society. I don't think we are vain, but are we, on some level, lusting after these ideals of what perfect is and, unless you have the time, money and will-power, we will never get it.

Also, you might have noticed I wrote and in my own head. Well, I kind of a pessimist. Am trying to get better at this, but I have doubts all the time. That I'm not good enough. Good enough son/brother/lover/uncle/friend/etc. And this pessimism creeps over into other things. That I'm not good looking enough, not smart enough, not book blogger enough. I always say at blogger events that I feel like I'm a fraud, waiting for someone to realise that I'm not meant to be there and will be exposed for the liar that I am.

Which made me wonder if this is how it works. A bit like a vicious circle. If we doubt ourselves, then do outside forces make us doubt ourselves and our worth more? Or does some outside force make itself known to us and then, because of this, we begin to doubt ourselves?

I know I have probably opened a huge can of worms and I can't answer them. But I wanted to get this off my chest and out of my system because, if I don't, it will just sit in my head and it will eat away at my brain (I started writing this at the end of December and keep editing it since then so you know it's one of those mental things that I won't stop thinking about). So... apologies for the rambling. And maybe now, I can look at this more and try to take this quote to heart (I love it and I agree with it, but me putting it into practice is a little harder...)

[Sorry for the bad language]

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Why I No Longer Will Do Reviews For Blog Tours

This has been a quiet rule I have had in the past. Never felt the need to do this, but I have got unstuck once of two recently and I wanted to write this and explain why.

People, when I do a blog tour, I normally ask that I don't do a review for the tour. Now, like I said before, I have been unstuck so I have had to write a review for the tour and (thankful!), I have enjoyed reading the book (either certain aspects or the whole thing) so writing the review for the tour has been a breeze. But, I just want to make it public so everyone knows and we're on the same page.

I don't like doing reviews for blogs tours, therefore I won't be doing them anymore.

I will happily do most things for blog tours - I love doing a blog tour! I love following them on blogs I adore and going "OOOOH!" over them. I get a strange thrill every time I get an email in connection to blog tour am involved in and I read/devour the post I'm meant to be posting for my stop long before I schedule/post them. I love being involved with blog tours where I can go "YOU GUYS! WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT THIS BOOK! IT'S SO GOOD!!!"

But reviews for blog tours... er... this is where I get a little uneasy over them...

Ok, I do have reasons. The main reason is pressure of what if. What if I agree to do a review for a blog tour, start reading the book and hate the book am reading? I can't write a review for a book I don't like for a blog tour (the main aim of which is to be positive and to sell the book). So, I'm stuck. Do I continue reading a book I dislike? Do I write a review in which I feel like I'm lying or blurring the line between my opinion and what I'm expected to say? Do I go back to the publisher and go "Actually... we need something else" and in most case, it's too late?

There are other reasons, but, mainly, I don't want that pressure. And reading should be fun and a pleasure. Same goes with blogging. I want to be passionate about books and I want to talk about books that I read and gone "Wow! Oh wow!".

So, no more reviews for blog tours. I know I'm going to shoot myself in the foot as some blog tours I have been connected with over the past few weeks via email have been "review only" and I flat-out said no. But I don't feel comfortable writing a review for a blog tour.

So, am making this public so I can't go back on myself. I love being involved in blog tours and I will continue to, but not a review blog tour.

Monday, 5 February 2018

DNFing The Last Mrs Parrish

I don't like DNFing books or ebooks. I feel like I'm betraying the story and the work the authors put in.

But sometimes, dear reader, things happen either within the book or in the real world that makes you go "I don't want to read this" and so, you put it down and walk away.

And that's, sadly, what I did with The Last Mrs Parrish late last year. Yes, I have held-off telling you guys about it for a while as I wondered if I should tell you guys or not.

Now, before I go any further, mini disclaimer (not sure why am putting this down as it's an unspoken rule on this blog): everyone is allowed to have different tastes. Just because I didn't like this, doesn't mean you won't. You might like this so don't let me "I stopped here and here's why" put you off this book if you want to read this.

Now, before we go forward, let me explain that, I liked the writing and the good chunk of the story. The way I described this to my Other Half was its "bats*** addictive". I mean, why the main character was doing what she was doing and the level of crazy she was putting into her master plan was really compelling. It read a bit like a crazy US drama like Scandal or How To Get Away With Murder. I gobbled it up.

So, I hear you ask, why did you DNF this if it was addictive reading? Well... all throughout the first part of the book, there were tiny breadcrumbs that the perfect marriage - the marriage the main character wanted for herself - wasn't so perfect. That all that glittered wasn't gold. I spotted them very quickly so when we got into the second part, told from the wife's point of view, I was aware and went "Ok, there's might be a physical/emotional abuse here, so be on your guard". And while I saw it, something else happened. An element of another trigger warning happened - a sexual assault - and I won't read that. I have things I will not read and rape is one of them. That is a no go for me.

As soon as I saw that, I went "I'm done. I enjoy the writing, but I don't like this. I'm done."

And what's worse, is that I was a good way into the book. 63%. But I feel that I couldn't enjoy this the way I wanted to now this element was add. I know it was going to be addressed as this book got compared to Gone Girl, The Girl On The Train and Big Little Lies. But this wasn't for me.

So, for my own self, I put it down and decided to read something completely opposite from it.

Now, here's the thing. I liked the writing, I like the crazy within the plot and I feel that some of you guys will like it. I mean, I had the authors on my blog a few weeks ago, that's how much I liked this writing. But I had to take a step back from it due to that and read something else.

Not sure if this puts me in the publisher's bad books but reading should be fun and if you want to read this, go forth and read this!

Thursday, 1 February 2018

#re3 - The Forgotten

I am blaming Better Words podcast for this.

So, I was listening to a random episode when the hosts, Michelle and Caitlin, were chatting about podcasts they listen to. One of them mentioned a recent discovery - The Babysitters Club Club - and how it was funny, thoughtful and cool to hear two guys reread and chat about the book series. Now, I have fallen out of love with my recent podcast obsessions (so much so, I had unsubscribed to several of my faves - Nightvale, No Such Thing As Fish, etc) and scared of going near news/comedy based shows (Brexitcast and Friday Night Comedy from BBC Radio 4), I thought I would give this a whirl. But I didn't. I never read Babysitters Club so wasn't sure if I would enjoy it. So, I wondered what books I read when I was younger. And the answer jumped into my head very quickly: didn't I go through a year-long phase of reading KA Applegate's Animorphs? And look, there's two Animorphs podcasts you can listen to - Thought-Speak and Morph Club.

So, after binging random episodes of Animorphs books I never read (my obsession lasted a year and I think I quit the series halfway though the David trilogy so around book 21/22), I thought What if. A dangerous question but what if this series was super awesome and stupid preteen me quit too soon? Shouldn't I go back and see if it holds up? So, probably against my better judgement, I bought a very battered second-hand copy of the first Animorphs book I ever read: The Forgotten (aka book 11 of the series).

Ok, before I go further, history lesson time! Animorphs was a sci-fi series, written between 1996 to 2001-ish) about five preteens (well, at the start of the series) seeing a spaceship crash and, after trying to save the alien's life, gaining the power to morph. This power comes with a huge problems as these five are the only ones that can stop a secret alien invasion of the Yeerks coming to take over the planet. The series was written under the pen-name KA Applegate (which was wife and husband duo, Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant) and then, around book 25, was ghostwritten (though Applegate gave highly detailed outlines for each book).

Apparently, Scholastic tried to reboot the series in 2011 with new covers and update some pop culture reference but, due to poor sales, they stopped this after republishing the eight book in the series, The Alien. Since then, this series has been out of print and can only get second hand.

And with that out of the way, The Forgotten. The eleventh book in the series (and told from Jake's POV), we follow the Animorphs who discover someone crashed a Yeerk spaceship. But the Animorphs decide to try and get he spaceship and show Earth that they are being invaded. But with Jake getting weird flashes of something, the Animorphs and some of the Yeerks (including the leader of the invasion, Visser Three) find themselves in another place, another time, and with little to no way of getting home...

I read this in two hours. It wasn't that taxing and it was nice to read something I could switch my brain off to. And I get why my preteen self enjoyed reading this. It was fast paced, and it was fun to read. We had kids and aliens transforming into animals and fighting back against aliens.

But, my 30-something year old self does go "You know, if this series was going to do a true reboot, then this book would be much longer than 170-odd pages, the type would be smaller and the plot would be much much darker".

I think there has been a definite change in stories and their tone from when this was first published (in the UK, 1998) and now (2018 - 20 years gap!). The books would have been longer, darker, gritter and maybe not so long a series run (Animorphs ran for 52 books and this doesn't include the spinoff books such as Megamorphs, the Chronicles and Choose Your Own Anternamorphs [which I didn't know existed till researching this!]).

Although this was a nice nostalgia read (I did buy another secondhand book from another KA Applegate series, Everworld - because, apparently, I have more money then sense), it shows how much I have grown and changed as a reader over the past *mumbles so no-one hears exact number* years.