Monday, 30 October 2017

THE CITY OF BRASS (The Daevabad Trilogy #1) - by S. A. Chakraborty

THE CITY OF BRASS - S. A. Chakraborty
Published: 2017 - Harper Voyager.
Genres: Young adult / romance / fantasy / historical
Pages: 528.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Fantasy violence, some gore, and trauma.
Format: eBook ARC.
Source: Thank you so much to the publisher for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.
Step into The City of Brass, the spellbinding debut from S. A. Chakraborty—an imaginative alchemy of The Golem and the Jinni, The Grace of Kings, and One Thousand and One Nights, in which the future of a magical Middle Eastern kingdom rests in the hands of a clever and defiant young con artist with miraculous healing gifts. Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles. But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass?a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound. In that city, behind gilded brass walls laced with enchantments, behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments are simmering. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, she learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences. After all, there is a reason they say be careful what you wish for . . .


People, I feel absolutely and honestly terrible about writing this review. Firstly, I didn't like the book. Secondly, everyone else seems to adore it - judging from the Goodreads reviews. And believe me when I say I was SO EXCITED to read it. I thought it looked perfect.
But unfortunately I'm in the minority with this negative review.


The writing is a huge disappointment. It's a mix of the styles of Amanda Hocking and Marissa Meyer - styles, not storytelling - and it's extremely 'childish' and lighthearted. That wasn't what I was expecting. The sentence structure isn't clever, the word choice isn't astounding, the writing is juvenile (not necessarily in a bad way, but it just isn't a style I personally go for) and even the characters feel younger than I imagine the author intended for them to be.
The dialogue is typical. It's fun and quirky, but never incredibly profound, witty, or entertaining. I was frequently bored by the conversations, and wish they'd been more original and creative.

I love the world building. The culture is so rich and effortless, and the amount of depth and detail is exquisite. This isn't an author saying "Oh, I want to make this Egyptian so I'll throw in an Egyptian word or two and research their food", no. Chakraborty goes all in. The result is a vast, deep, diverse, and refreshing world brightly coloured and sparkling with originality.


“The haughty daeva warrior and scheming human thief were not the most natural of pairings…”


The story and plot let me down. It feels too happy and 'fun', mostly due to the writing, and I just could not be convinced by that, considering the things that happen in the story. There are tragic incidents and ghastly deaths and fights, but the book still maintains that lighthearted tone. It just doesn't fit. Only at the end is there real horror and darkness, but I wish the seriousness of that horrific ending could have spread into the rest of the book as well; it would've been so much stronger. As it was, I struggled to work out whether this was supposed to be a fun book, or a heartbreaking, serious one. It leaves your emotions in a tight, frustrated mess.

The plot is too complex and messy. I respect the author so much for the depth she puts into every aspect, but on the other hand it's impossible to absorb all the details. The world has a huge history and most of the characters have such complex back stories, that it is absolutely overwhelming and confusing trying to take all this stuff in. Most of it went right over my head. There's too much information, too much depth, too much history explaining why this happened to this person and why this person hates this person, and at times I honestly just wanted to give up reading the book. I know that all this info gives depth and complexity to the world and characters, but couldn't the author have slimmed it down a bit? It's too much.
The story is also very boring. The whole middle of the book lags, and I found any scenes not involving Nahri and Dara extremely boring. The little action there is, is amazing, but such action scenes aren't common.
It's also immensely political. For someone who doesn't love politics, I struggled to get involved in all the political dynamics and power wrestling. It went straight over my head - although I did try my best to concentrate.

Nahri pressed her lips together; she hated when people asked after her heritage. Though she wasn’t what many would call beautiful—years of living on the streets had left her much thinner and far dirtier than men typically preferred—her bright eyes and sharp face usually spurred a second glance. And it was that second glance, the one that revealed a line of midnight hair and uncommonly black eyes—unnaturally black eyes, she’d heard it said—that provoked questions.


Overall, I love the characters. Nahri is a feisty, sly,  wonderfully capable and witty heroine who's just as arrogant as she is soft-hearted. I love her character, and I love how unique she is - she's definitely not your typical YA fantasy badass heroine.
I adore Nahri's slow-burning friendship with Ali. Ali himself is a complex, endearing hero, and I especially like how his character grew over the course of the story.
And the character development is superb. All of the characters are incredibly three-dimensional, flawed, and morally grey - which I LOVE - and they genuinely change, learn from their mistakes, and rise up into mature, much more competent people by the end of the story.

One disappointment regarding the characters: there's too many of them. The secondary cast is huge and slippery, and I struggled to grasp who everyone was when it came to Ali's family.

I love the romance. It's so swoony and sweet, and Dara and Nahri have fantastic chemistry. For those worrying about a love triangle - never fear. Ali and Nahri's friendship never turns to a romance, and it's clear to see that Nahri will only ever be love with Dara.



The City of Brass isn't my kind of book. The plot's boring, the history of the world is impossible to get a grip on, and I don't love the writing. 
But I like the characters. And the world building is rich, and the story astoundingly and refreshingly unique.
I feel like while this wasn't the book for me, it's definitely something many other readers will adore. 


Sunday, 29 October 2017

Weekly Round-Up: Preparing for NaNo (not...)


Prepping for NaNoWriMo. What a funny thought. Why would I do that when I can procrastinate instead? 
Seriously, though, I have done a bit of prep. And done more relaxing and watching Netflix... 
BUT! I feel confident. Hopefully I've done enough. 

And darn it, my mind's frazzled right now. I can't even remember how the week's been. I know I've had school to do - quite a lot - and I've also been working hard to get blog posts and social media stuff done before November. I want to get as much done now so when Nov comes, I can just write. 
Hopefully. 

Posts of the week: 
Book Review: INTO THE WATER



Finally finished The City of Brass! And hang it all, the review's gonna be hard. I am so conflicted. 



This book mail was a total surprise. I vaguely remember requesting it, but I never got a response so I just presumed I wasn't getting it. 
And then it shows up on my doorstep! Yay! 



It's been a million years since I went to the library, so I went and ended up getting these two honeys - which I've been meaning to read for ages. I might not be reviewing them on the blog, but they'll get mini reviews on GR. 




Elisa reviews Final Girls

Abby talks about Art and Passion

Amber Elise reviews Forest of a Thousand Lanterns

Alyssa shares her post for the Renegades blog tour

Olivia reviews Nevernight

Audrey shares a post for the blog launch of 'February Fairy'

Shelby shares some awesome blog resources


 


Nothing this week! 
Well, nothing I was particularly interested in ;) 



What are you currently reading? Are you also prepping for NaNo? How's your week been? 

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Introducing....my NaNoWriMo novel!


Ah coffee. Isn't this image beautiful? It makes me so happy. 


BUT! There is more to this post than simply staring at that coffee. Because today....... I'm super excited to be introducing you all to my 2017 NaNoWriMo novel! For those of you who don't know, NaNo is a challenge that runs every November where you have to write a novel in a month - amounting to 50,000 words. I participated last year and learnt a lot, so I'm very eager to take part again this year. YAY!! *tries to be enthusiastic*
And I'm also stressing because how is it almost November already? 


Title: Never (most definitely subject to change...) 

Genre: Fairy tale retelling / urban fantasy / horror / adventure / YA 

Synopsis: A story of the girl who would become Tinkerbell. She's pushed out of her old life to save her young brothers, and is forced to venture into the twisted horrors of Neverland to face not only her fears, but the nightmares of her past. And the ones of those around her. 

(I'm hyper aware of how much information I share publicly, so that's just the gist of the story. And yes, my heroine doesn't actually have a name yet. For now I'm just calling her by her nickname: Tink). 





(Images and quotes from Pinterest) 



NaNo plan: For the last two months, I've been handwriting the first draft of this book. So for NaNo I'll be typing a second draft onto my PC. I'm kinda nervous, since I'll constantly be looking down at my paper then up at the screen, and I'm especially nervous because looking at a screen too long already makes me nauseous; looking up and down is gonna make it worse. 
But I have to do this! I'm not going to allow myself to fail. (I'll also be praying a hang of a lot and drinking too much coffee). 


Progress updates: Once a week I'll be sharing an excerpt from the book on Twitter, Instagram, and as part of my Weekly Round-Up on the blog. 



Anyone else participating in NaNo this year?! What's your novel about? 

And does mine sound like something you'd enjoy reading? Any name suggestions for my girl?! 

Thursday, 26 October 2017

INTO THE WATER - by Paula Hawkins

INTO THE WATER - Paula Hawkins
Published: 2017 - by Transworld Publishers.
Pages: 353.
Genres: Adult / thriller / mystery  contemporary fiction /
Triggers/Content Advisory: Strong theme of rape including the actual incident, strong themes of abuse and suicide, and infrequent violence and bad language.
Format: Signed hardcover.
Source: Won from Readerswarehouse!
The author of the #1 New York Times bestseller and global phenomenon The Girl on the Train returns with Into the Water, her addictive new novel of psychological suspense. A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged. Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother’s sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she’d never return.


When I got the email telling me I'd won a copy of this darling baby I LITERALLY SQUEALED AND JUMPED AROUND THE HOUSE. It's my most anticipated book of the year, and after LOVING The Girl on the Train (which is probably my favourite novel of all time) I was INCREDIBLY ECSTATIC to read Hawkins' new work.
And despite a slow start, it just about lived up to my expectations.


I could get drunk on Hawkins' writing. Heck, I think I was for most of the book. It's intoxicating, breathtaking, lulls you under just to stab you on the way down. The sentence structure is impeccable, and the words are bare-bone, razor-sharp, and unflinchingly raw.
There is a lot of telling. This does get frustrating, but I don't think it's there for lack of talent or effort on Hawkins' part; the reportive - 'telling' - style does suit the atmosphere and the characters, and I honestly don't think you'd get the same effectiveness without it. This is Hawkins' style - and in the bigger picture I don't mind the telling so much.
The dialogue is entrancing. It's crisp, realistic, and with a bite of subtext in every exchange. The characters' voices are clear and distinguishable (in most cases; this is a big cast), and I just love the way Hawkins writes dialogue.

“Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath.”

“Yes, it is. It’s, like, when someone has an affair, why does the wife always hate the other woman? Why doesn’t she hate her husband? He’s the one who’s betrayed her, he’s the one who swore to love her and keep her and whatever forever and ever. Why isn’t he the one who gets shoved off a f****** cliff?”


The whole story is extremely atmospheric. The Drowning Pool, the town, are as much characters as the human cast, and from start to finish the story rocks back and forth on a fraying, ice-coated rope of dread, fear, and anticipation that would not be there without the town and its surroundings. The setting is phenomenally well imagined.
Another thing I love about Hawkins is her fascination with the human psyche. This story, like TGOTT, is incredibly perceptive, and the author's probing look at relationships - especially between men and women - is absolutely extraordinary. She raises thought-provoking questions, never judging, and unashamedly splits open uncomfortable but relatable topics.

The story is intelligent. The shocks keep coming, and despite a slow first quarter the story soon picks up the pace.  Although it is a pretty slow book, I personally was never bored.
You are constantly doubting yourself and what you think you know. And when all the twisted strands finally come together, the answers are intricate and breathtaking. The mystery - mysteries - is so clever. I adore how all the characters' secrets and stories weave together to create a ghastly, stunning, unpredictably clever plot.


"You thought what he did was okay?"...... "No, but I don't think I saw it for what it was. I thought rape was something a bad man did to you, a man who jumped out at you in an alleyway in the dead of night, a man who held a knife to your throat. I didn't think boys did it. Not school boys...not good-looking boys. I didn't think they did it to you in your own living room, I didn't think they talked to you about it afterwards, and asked you if you'd had a good time. I just thought I must have done something wrong, that I hadn't made it clear enough that I didn't want it."     
How heartbreaking - and sickeningly realistic - is this delusion? 


The cast of characters is way too big. They all have depth and personality, definitely, but if Hawkins had cut down on the number of characters - or at least the different point of views - she could've focused on the important few, and we would've been able to get a stronger idea of those people - instead of a glimpse spread thinly over too many.
But having said that, I didn't mind the big cast so much when I reached about the halfway mark. It gets easier to keep everyone in order, and in retrospect I have a good idea of everyone.
There are too many characters, but it doesn't ruin the book - not at all.

The characters are all so human and realistic. I love how deeply flawed, damaged, and tormented everyone is, and how extremely unreliable they all are, too. Erin Morgan is the only character I genuinely like, but I don't mind unlikeable characters in general - the lack of 'good guys' didn't bother me in this story. I love broken, very human people. And Hawkins excels at making them relatable, too.

The characters who truly stand out for me are Jules, Sean, Erin, and Lena. I love the depth of these particular people and how their arcs are so strongly written. I ache for everyone in this book - for all their hurts, their secrets, their mistakes - and I do wish there'd been more closure at the end of the book. It's not completely satisfying. I wanted Robbie to face justice, I wanted some other people to face justice......it's too open-ended. But thankfully not so much so that you feel cheated.



Into the Water is a mesmerising, insightful, hypnotically written story that sees Hawkins diving deep into human nature and relationships. With broken, unreliable characters, an atmospheric scene, and unforeseeable twists, it's as shocking and gut-wrenchingly realistic as you'd expect from the author of The Girl on the Train


Monday, 23 October 2017

5 Mini Film Reviews!


I've watched a lot of films recently, but instead of doing a separate review for each (I don't have the time and I'm #lazy) I thought I'd do a collection of mini reviews. Like, really mini.

Hope you enjoy reading :)

RED RIDING HOOD - 2011
Cast: Amanda Seyfried / Gary Oldman / Max Irons / Lukas Haas
Director: Catherine Hardwicke.
Content Rating/Advisory: PG 13 for violence, creature terror, and some sexuality.


Set in a medieval village that is haunted by a werewolf, a young girl falls for an orphaned woodcutter, much to her family's displeasure.








Dear aspiring filmmakers, aspiring directors, aspiring actors and actresses, aspiring writers, aspiring producers......
Let me present to you the movie that perfectly demonstrates what not to do when you make a movie.
Here are some tips on how this film could've been improved (like, if they ever do a remake BUT PLEASE SWEET MOTHER NO).


- Good looking male heroes are useful, but they need to be able to act. Brooding and showing your bare chest ain't acting, nor is switching out of character mid-scene.
- Write a good story - one with a plausible plot. Maybe even make the characters three dimensional? Some character depth goes a long way. Or maybe don't have the heroine - that's the lead character - be controlled by the males in her life.
- Write strong dialogue. Cheesiness, cliches, and talking when there shouldn't be talking (a.k.a pointless blabber) is annoying and pathetic. Even if you do have bad dialogue, at least get good actors so they can work on it.
- Don't make it so cheesy and stupid that your viewers burst out laughing during a tragic onscreen death (*cough, cough* I might have, uh, you know...). Kill the melodrama, kill the slow-motion, get good actors - you might make an audience member shed a tear.


This movie was a hundred times worse than Twilight. Even the talent of Seyfried couldn't save it. And believe me, you'll hate everything so much you'll be begging Wolfie to just get on with the killing.




GONE GIRL - 2014
Cast: Rosamund Pike / Ben Affleck / Neil Patrick Harris /
Director: David Fincher.
Content Rating/Advisory: R for strong language, strong violence and gore, and strong nudity and sexual content.  


With his wife's disappearance having become the focus of an intense media circus, a man sees the spotlight turned on him when it's suspected that he may not be innocent.









The book was good. I didn't love it, but I really liked it. And I thoroughly enjoyed the movie too. 


Excellent cinematography, powerful, witty dialogue, haunting and elegantly atmospheric, and superbly written, it''s a brilliant movie - sharp, terrifying, intense, but also sublime. And deliciously clever

The acting's brilliant too. Pike is darkly ethereal as Amy - horrifying one minute then breathtaking the next - and Affleck is equally perfect in the role of Nick. The secondary cast and characters are also strong. 

The only thing I wasn't sure about was the ending. It was realistically open-ended, but I still wanted more closure. I wanted Amy to face justice.



Incredibly thrilling and perceptive, this movie is excellent. Perhaps even better than the book, but I now need to do a reread...




     



Cast: Benedict CumberbatchMartin Freeman / Mark Gatiss / Amanda Abbington  
Director: Douglas Mackinnon. 
Content Rating/Advisory: PG 13 for threat, violence, and some disturbing content.



Sherlock and Watson travel back to Victorian England, solving the case of the Abomnable Bride.






I'm a huge Sherlock fan, but I was disappointed with this movie

On the positive side, it's stunningly shot, gorgeously atmospheric, and the humour is absolute gold. But I felt like the acting suffered - Cumberbatch, especially, was not on top form - and the plot was confusing. The time jumps were baffling, and it was hard to suspend disbelief. 




It's a good movie, but not an amazing one. It suffices as a solid, purely fun film, but at a closer glance it doesn't hold up to scrutiny. 




       

CONTAGION - 2011
Cast: Kate Winslet / Jude Law / Gwyneth Paltrow / Matt Damon / Laurence Fishburne 
Director: Steven Soderbergh.  
Content Rating/Advisory: PG 13 for some disturbing content and language.  

Healthcare professionals, government officials and everyday people find themselves in the midst of a worldwide epidemic as the CDC works to find a cure.







I watched this film for the cast. That was literally my only reason, but I was still expecting a good movie - generally good movies attract good casts.
Right? 


My likes: good cinematography, strong claustrophobic feel that suits the story, brilliant scenography, attention to set detail, and a cast that shone admist the weakness of the script

But the movie was still bad. It was so infuriatingly boring, slow, tedious, and despite good dialogue, the script bounced all over the place in a messy jumble - it was as if the writers couldn't decide where to head next.

The amazing A-list cast was wasted. Characters died off all over the place so you never got the chance to properly get to know them, and character arcs never came full-circle.


It's called an action thriller, but with a cast that don't get to fulfill their potential and a plot that wavers along, this film is, instead, disappointing and lifeless. 






THE LUCKY ONE - 2012
Cast: Zac Efron / Taylor Schilling / Blythe Danner 
Director: Scott Hicks. 
Content Rating/Advisory: PG 13 for some violence, and strong sexuality. 

A Marine travels to Louisiana after serving three tours in Iraq and searches for the unknown woman he believes was his good luck charm during the war.








I am not a big Nicholas Sparks fan. In fact, I'd hardly call myself a fan if it wasn't for my passionate adoration of The Notebook film. Out of all Sparks' movies, my favourites will always be the films of Safe Haven and The Notebook


This movie did not work for me. I guess it's good as what it is - an extremely Sparkified romance - but even then I found it hard to look past that. The sugar-coated, predictable story, the too-perfect characters, the all-white cast, the cliche dialogue, the contrived acting....it's all terrible. On the positive side, the film is beautifully shot. But that's as far as my likes go. 


If you're a die-hard Sparks fan, you might enjoy this film. But I'd recommend The Notebook or Safe Haven if you want a good story, a good film, as well as a good romance. 


      

Have you watched any of these films? What did you think of them? Chat with me! 

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Weekly Round-Up: Reading and switching to Disqus


It's been a good week. School was actually bearable, I managed to get reviews up on my blog, and I had calamari and chips two nights in a row. There's this amazing fish and chips place near us, and getting from them is always an incredible treat. Their chips and calamari is TO DIE FOR. 


Posts of the week: 
Book Review: WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI
Book Review: FINAL GIRLS

 

Yes, I'm still reading The City of Brass! It's not improving :( 
I've also started Into the Water, and although it didn't initially win me over, I'm loving it now. 



Melissa talks writing Backstory for your Characters 

Lauren reviews Spindle Fire




Aneta shares her blog tour post for The Midnight Dance

Kyra reviews Ink and Bone

Shane reviews Remember Me Always




The two got married in a private wedding ceremony on the island of Ibiza, and I'm so happy for them.  Let's hope it lasts - Hollywood doesn't need more heartbreak :( 

Jessica Chastain, Margot Robbie, Laura Dern, Reese Witherspoon, Tessa Thompson, Jennifer Lawrence and more were the leading ladies of ELLE 2017. They shared their stories of sexual assault in the film industry, passionately spoke up for women's rights, equality, and minorities, and demanded change.    

Check out Margot Robbie and Sebastian Stan who're both starring.   




Quick bit of news: I'm not going to be participating in the Waiting on Wednesday meme for a few months. As much as I love participating, Wednesday is the busiest day of the week for me and I often don't have time to check out everyone else's posts. So I'm taking a break.  



I'm finally switching to the Disqus commenting system. It's been a long time coming (like, a few months long) but I think I've made up my mind. The main reason I'm switching is because of the lack of interaction via the default blogger system; when I reply to comments, I'm not actually interacting with people because they don't get notifs for replies, and so it feels almost pointless. There's no conversation happening, which I don't like. Hopefully that'll change now :)  


What's new with you? What are you reading at the moment? Did you have a good week?