Friday, 19 January 2018

Top Moments in Film/TV that made me cry

I cry a lot in movies and TV shows. Whether it's a wedding or a funeral or a pet bunny getting run over by a car (kidding. That never happened. And I totally wouldn't cry over that. #sorrynotsorry. No offense to bunny-owners) the tears come fast. I get so invested that it takes very little to get me bawling.
Obviously, books have almost the same effect. But I do cry less easily in books. I definitely have sobbed over a few bookish deaths, etc (Finnick's death, anyone?) but it's less of a thing. 

This post is a list of some of the TV shows and movie moments that have - and occasionally still do - made me cry. And by cry, I don't mean a single tear slipping melodramatically down my cheek, I mean sobbed. This list is of The Moments. The "my life is ending why why why such tragedy my chest aches my lungs hurt I can't freakin' breathe" moments. 

And I could choose more moments, but you gotta stop somewhere right? 

Rose and Ten's separation // Doctor Who season 2 // 
My poor babies. This isn't actually a death, but to be fair they got separated for all eternity - although not quite cos they reunited later and Ten basically cut himself in half so Rose got the human half to supposedly live with forevermore and okay my argument's crumbling here BUT IT STILL COIUNTS BECAUSE THE MOMENT OF SEPARATION WAS TOUGH. I sobbed my guts out. They were going to be together, but then Rose got sucked into the parallel universe and it was bye byes. The situation then became even more heartbreaking when Ten "called" her and the "connection" cut off before he could say he loved her. LIKE JUST RIP OUT THE REST OF MY SOUL WHY DON'T YA
And if their goodbyes don't tear you up, then the shot of David Tennant standing alone in the Tardis with a single tear running down his cheek and his mouth open to say "I love you", definitely will.
If it still doesn't, then you're heartless. 

Kate's death // White Collar season 1 // 
I honestly did not know how to cope when this happened. I'm kinda over it now (lol that sounds so dumb) but during my obsession with the TV series I struggled for a while (#nolife). For those of you who don't know: When Neal got out of prison, Kate had supposedly been kidnapped - I say supposedly because until the very end it was never confirmed whether she was actually working with the bad guys or not (I hold to the assumption she wasn't because it makes her good and perfect and the perfect soulmate for Neal #biasedlogic, although in retrospect they had literally no chemistry so great shipping, Amy). So anyway, when Neal finally caught up with her, she agreed to escape with him and start a new life. But then the plane blew up. With her on it. Neal's reaction was beyond painful, and lasted a whole other series while he embarked on a quest for revenge (#convenientwriting). But the thing that hurts me so much about their story, is that we'll never know whether Kate was playing him the whole time or whether she was just a victim. The real tragedy is the unknown - and that she died before they could resolve things.
Poor Neal. My baby. 

Sybil's death // Downton Abbey season 3 // 
Oh my shattered heart. Sybil's death was the first major movie moment I remember sobbing at. It's a heartbreaking story: Tom and Sybil returned to Downton with her pregnant with their first child, but when the labour started there were huge complications. Her wealthy family consulted a pompous, high class doctor who'd been brought in for the occasion, and when the birth reached a "do this now or she dies" moment, he suggested one solution, the local village doctor another way. Sybil's husband, pressured by her family, went with the rich doctor's opinion, and to everyone's joy Sybil and her little girl survived the birth. The joy was short lived. During the night, the family were awakened by screaming, and gathered helplessly around Sybil's bedside as she tossed and writhed screaming "my head! My head!". It was a result of eclampsia. A result of the misguided doctor's judgement. She died, with her husband and family clutching at her. It was extremely traumatic, and made worse by the fact that Sybil was my favourite character on the series and she and Tom my favourite couple. It totally tore me up. (And don't ask why, but in later years I've rewatched her death three times. Sobbed every time.) 

Kili's death // The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies // This broke everything I had. Unlike basically the whole universe and devoted fandom, I actually loved Kili and Tauriel's romance, and was heartbroken with the way he died: stabbed right in front of her. It was torturous. (But I do think the writers should've had her kill that stupid Orc for revenge, not had Legolas do it. It would've been more satisfying.) (FYI: This image is of Tauriel. I couldn't find one of dead Kili.)

Gwen's death // The Amazing Spiderman 2 // 
This literally destroyed me. Out of this list, it takes the tissues. Not only were Emma Stone and Andrew an OTP in real life (they've since broken up but we're not talking about that because #nothealedyet) but their relationship as Spidey and Gwen was so well written and well developed. Their chemistry won everyone over. They were absolute magic together, and have since been cited as the only thing the Amazing Spiderman films had going for them.                      
Then Gwen dies. Yes, I knew it was coming and yes the writers tried to ease us into it by dropping huge hints throughout the film that she wouldn't make it, but it still hurt like heck. The way she dangles, then the spider thread snaps, then Spidey swoops down with another thread and implicitly kills her, is absolute dark perfection. It's perfection because it's a beautifully crafted scene and because the acting is so up there, but it's dark because it's as raw and real and gut-wrenching as it gets. Hearing her neck snap as she hit the ground was just another stab in the heart for me - and then I had to watch Spidey sobbing over her body WHICH TOOK EVERYTHING OUT OF ME, NOT GONNA KID. Gosh it hurt. Still hurts whenever I think about it (like looking at the above image THANKS AMY and my stomach's twisting now so there's that and I'm sad now).
And yet, I have a lot of respect for the writers because in my opinion they wrote a death scene that is cinematic mastery yet to be topped. It was so well-done.
But flip, it's never stopped crushing me. 

Amy and Rory's departure // Doctor Who season 7
This wasn't a death but it sure felt like one. Rory and Amy's relationship was something incredible, a love story definitely better than Twilight and one that, despite only being subplot in the show, always felt like more than that. 
Amy started off as the Eleventh Doctor's single companion, but they were soon joined by Amy's childhood friend, Rory. The two of them clearly had feelings for each other, but the complications, twisted feelings, and turmoil never stopped - even when they finally married. Still, their relationship was brilliant. Through everything, they never stopped loving each other, and their ups and downs frequently made me sob. 
But then came the ultimate heartbreak. 
Long story short, they were all taken to an alternate dimension on earth, and the only way to get home safely was for Rory to die - on the assumption that by doing so he'd break the dimension's power, create a paradox, and wouldn't actually die at all. It was a big risk to take. 
Then Amy climbed up beside him on the rooftop, saying that famous line: "Together or not at all." So amid my sobbing - which made for a rather blurry TV screen, I'll admit - Amy and Rory threw themselves off the building in each other's arms (by this time, Amy - as in me - was sobbing hardcore, and dramatic music and slow motion DID NOT HELP the vibes). 
Turns out they survived, and all the good guys returned to the real world. 
Except it didn't quite work out. One of the Weeping Angels - they're the bad guys - had been sucked back to the real world with them, and it took Rory in a whirling split second, sending him back to the alternate dimension where he'd live for the rest of his life and never be able to leave. 
But Amy wouldn't let him go that easily. Despite the Doctor pleading with her to come back into the Tardis, she wouldn't leave her husband. She let the Weeping Angel suck her back too so she could be with Rory forever. 
They never saw the Doctor again. They did send him a letter later on (how it got to him is complicated - not for this post), and told him how they were happy, but that still didn't make the incident any less heartbreaking. The moment Amy turned to follow her husband, something in Doctor Who died. That show really does know how to crush your heart in the most stunningly dark way possible. It's so beautifully tragic. 
Doctor Who has never been the same without Amy and Rory. 

Allan a dale dies // Robin Hood series 3
Oh my poor, poor Allan. This series was my bae during my Robin Hood obsession stage, and Allan A Dale was my favourite character. 
But then he died. Betrayed by his friends who wouldn't trust him, he was left alone at their camp in the forest while they went to attack Nottingham. Poor Allan was in the woods when he heard someone approaching, and seeing it was the Sheriff (the Sheriff wasn't at Nottingham at the time - long story) he started running to warn his friends. 
Unfortunately for Allan, the Sheriff had arrows. Allan took a few in the back before collapsing in the dirt and leaves of Sherwood forest. He died alone, with his friends believing he was a traitor. 
It was so unfair. My poor little cinnamon roll. 

Honourable mentions
- Laurel's death in Arrow
- Marian's death in Robin Hood
- The ending of Arrival
- Neal's death in Once Upon A Time

OK now I'm feeling very emotional. 

Hope you enjoyed this post! (Although maybe "enjoyed" isn't quite the right word...) 

Have you watched and sobbed at any of these deaths? What other film and TV moments have touched you and forced you to haul out the tissues? Let's chat :) 

P.S. In retrospect, this post sounds kinda sarcastic and light hearted. Which isn't particularly appropriate when you're discussing things that can literally suck your soul right out of your chest.

P.P.S. Yes I know these are all fictional BUT THEY STILL HURT. (And let's be honest, fiction makes us feel more than real life, no? #not) 

P.P.P.S. I might do a Part 2 of this post because I'm always crying. 

P.P.P.P.S. If you're still reading well done. I have absolutely nothing to say to except don't you have something better to do. (If you don't, yay I guess? If you do, #honoured). 

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

EVERLESS (Everless #1) - by Sara Holland

EVERLESS - Sara Holland
Published: 2018 by Hachette
Pages: 362
Genres: Young adult / fantasy
Triggers/Content Advisory: Mild, occasional fantasy violence
Format: ARC paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Pan Macmillan SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.
In the kingdom of Sempera, time is currency—extracted from blood, bound to iron, and consumed to add time to one’s own lifespan. The rich aristocracy, like the Gerlings, tax the poor to the hilt, extending their own lives by centuries. No one resents the Gerlings more than Jules Ember. A decade ago, she and her father were servants at Everless, the Gerlings’ palatial estate, until a fateful accident forced them to flee in the dead of night. When Jules discovers that her father is dying, she knows that she must return to Everless to earn more time for him before she loses him forever. But going back to Everless brings more danger—and temptation—than Jules could have ever imagined. Soon she’s caught in a tangle of violent secrets and finds her heart torn between two people she thought she’d never see again. Her decisions have the power to change her fate—and the fate of time itself.

A few days ago, I was in the mood for something to sweep me away. Something I could lose myself in for a few hours. Then Everless arrived.
It turned out to be just what I needed.

The writing is simple, but dreamlike. I love the intensity which courses under the words from start to finish, and that makes it an intoxicating, consuming, breathless read - as beautiful as it is moving. The emotion is understated, but it's deep. There's a sincerity to every character and every word that makes this book so powerful.

The plot is incredibly unique. There's not a lot of action, but the story never drags. There are so many secrets and mysteries lurking behind the scenes, and the anticipation/need for answers drives you from page to page. Towards the end, the twists blow you away.  They're excellent.
There's a real integrity to the plot and a real passion, and I feel like the author wasn't afraid to make her story unique and concentrate on what aren't the norms for a YA fantasy. Speaking of which, it is an extremely original story. Despite a rough first chapter - it begins with the all familiar scene of the heroine hunting in the forest - the story is unpredictable, unique, and intense. There's a lot of emotion in these pages, but it's never melodramatic. It's realistic and hauntingly relatable.

The world is so dangerous, so entrancing, and so different and vivid. It takes your breath away and you never know what to expect. It's also intelligent, with a rich history flavoured finely with mythology. I loved soaking it up - it's perfect escapism. You sink in, never wanting to look up, and it sweeps you along on a stunning journey.

Maybe I am a mystery— a secret— that needs unravelling...

The characters are beautiful. I love Jules, and I love how she's flawed, genuine, impulsive, and above all: kind and soft-hearted. She's not a push-over and she's definitelty capable, but she has a big heart. That and her impulsivity often puts her in danger or makes her trust the wrong people, but it makes her human - relatable. She's a wonderful heroine.
The secondary characters are also lovely. Everyone is vivid and genuinely lovable - even the villains' have a winning three-dimensional aspect to their personalities.

This book has so many incredible relationships. Jules' friendships - FEMALE FRIENDSHIPS TOO SO YAY YAY YAY - are strong, positive, and absolutely heart-warming. I love her interactions with everyone and how they all look out for each other. It's brilliant. As for the romance, there's barely any, and out of fear of giving spoilers, all I'll say is: I SHIP JULES AND LIAM SO HARD AND HELLO NEW OTP. So yes, there isn't much romance, but Jules' and Liam's friendship is spectacular. I WANT MORE OF THEM PLEASE.
Jules' relationship with her father is perfection. It's so realistic and beautiful, and I love his character as well. They truly have an amazing father-daughter bond.

Everless is a riveting whirlwind of alluring secrets, unique worldbuilding, and beguiling characters. It's beautiful, it's mesmerising, it's intoxicating, and you'll find yourself willing to  sell your soul just to escape into this world for a few more minutes. Even if it is on borrowed time...

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Romanticised Abuse: Bad Boys

Our goal is to raise awareness and draw attention to romanticised abuse in films, book, etc, in order to fight it
- Join us! Design your own header (or use mine)  and start posting - once a week, two times a week, whenever
- Share examples of romanticised abuse you've seen in books or films - doesn't even have to be a whole book or film; simple one scene is enough, if there's an instance of romanticised abuse in it
- Keep the post short. Just a few paragraphs.
- Please link to my blog as the original creator.

// Just a quick recap in case you're not sure what a bad boy stereotypically is. A "bad boy" in fiction is the guy who usually thinks of himself before anyone else, goes against rules and what is socially appropriate, and is typically mysterious, dangerous, and with a shady agenda and past. He's the opposite of the "angelic blonde goodie-goodie hero". He's the anti-hero. He borders dangerously close to the villain, except his behaviour is apparently acceptable because he's good-looking and makes the ultimate right choice in the nick of time - usually just at the end of the book. // 

Bad boys in YA literature are a huge thing. We love reading about brooding anti-heroes with tragic pasts, angsty protective sides, and of course the ultimate six-pack and sexy wardrobe. Guys like Damon Salvatore, Jacob Black, Chuck Bass, adore them.  
But what puts me off bad boys, is that too often they're physically and psychologically abusive - if not to the heroine then to someone else - and they are constantly disrespecting their girlfriend or love interest. Personally, I don't find myself swooning over someone who ignores the "no" with a "I'll do it anyway because I'm hot and trust me, you'll love it". It just isn't romantic. It isn't loving. The problem with bad boys is that they're usually violent, sexually menacing, and ignore the heroine's sexual boundaries. They don't take no for an answer. They can frequently touch or sexually harass the heroine, and yet it's thought of as " hot" and romantic because it's so heavily romanticised. 

But if these abusive relationships need to stop, that begs the question: 
if bad boys tend to romanticise abuse through their relationships, then should writers stop writing bad boys? 

That seems a little extreme, so below are some points that I think expand on possible solutions to this dilemma. 

1: Draw the line at sexual violence & assault / A boy can be bad without sexually assaulting the girl! Don't feel that in order to make your hero dark, dangerous, and an outcast of society you need to make him sexually violent, controlling, and sexist. Look at Nate from One of Us Is Lying; he's a criminal and the bad boy of the school. He's morally grey, and swoony because of it, but not once does he assault Bronwen, touch her without her consent, or try to control her. McManus writes a bad boy who doesn't abuse the heroine, and their kisses and interactions are still hot and sexy. More so because it's based on mutual consent. Consent is sexy, people! 
Another example would be Kaz from Bardugo's Six of Crows duology. Kaz is a morally grey character who does terrible things and fits the bad boy persona, but he never disrespects or assaults the female characters. He treats them like equals deserving of respect, and he's still protective of them. 
Thousands of readers love Kaz (myself included). Thousands also ship him with Inej (myself included). This proves that a bad boy and his romantic arc can be sexy, swoony, and shippable despite the fact the bad boy isn't sexually violent or abusive.   

2: Write good good guys / The reason so many readers favour bad boys - I think - is because the alternative is usually a boring, stereotypical, good male character who plays by the rules and doesn't have serious flaws. Come on. bad boys are interesting because they have flaws, right? 
The sooner writers start writing three-dimensional, flawed, good looking good guys, the sooner we'll learn to love them. Look at Mal from Bardugo's Shadow and Bone trilogy. Most readers call him boring, annoying, and bland, and favour Nikolai (the trilogy's "bad boy") instead. Compared to Nikolai, Mal isn't as well written, as three-dimensional, or as compelling. Bardugo uses these two stereotypes very mildly, but it's still a point: Nikolai's morally grey with a winning, witty personality, and so we love him, but Mal has very few interesting qualities so we don't. Yet what if Mal was as well written as Nikolai? As three dimensional and rounded? We'd probably appreciate their characters equally. And maybe, we'd even prefer rooting for and swooning over the so-called good guy, instead of the bad boy. 

(FYI: Yes, I do acknowledge that we're all different people with unique taste who inevitably favour one character more than another, simply because. It does depend largely on your personal preference). 

3: Call out the sexual perversity for what it is / If your bad boy is causing the heroine emotional distress or making her physically uncomfortable, treat that seriously! Let her get angry with him, call him out on it, and avoid him for most of the book (that's not much of a story, granted, so maybe just avoid including sexual harassment, etc, altogether - see Point 1). And then, if you still insist they need to be together, have the guy apologise sincerely and have him work for her forgiveness. She should be furious with him, and he should genuinely change before they can even get close to each other again. 

But again, I personally think you're playing on very thin ice if your bad boy assaults your heroine and then, despite apologies and forgiveness, they end up together. I just think that sexual assault isn't something you can easily come back from - if at all. Even murdering someone can be explained and is sometimes easier to forgive because there are other ways to interpret it (examples: it was self-defense, it was an accident, etc). 
Maybe it's just better to adhere to Point 1 above and stay clear of including any kind of sexual assault/harassment and/or abusive themes.  

Writers, write guys with flaws - disastrous flaws. But don't, I am begging you, feel like you have to make them controlling, violent, sexist, and an attempted rapist or sexual assaulter to make them sexy and darkly appealing. When women are assaulted daily, in or out of a relationship, romanticising these horrific behaviours in fiction is atrocious and toxic. A guy can be dark, brooding, and morally grey without backing the heroine up against a wall and caressing her body without her consent. That should not be something you glamorise. It should be something you call out and write solid consequences for if it has to feature in your story at all. 

Boys can be bad. Girls can be bad. We're all flawed people. But do not write an incident of sexual assault into your book and label it as anything other than sexual assault simply because you think it's the only way to make a dude flawed and irresistible. 

←Jacob and Bella in Twilight 

Monday, 15 January 2018

Cover Reveal: MERCURY RISES by Scarlett Kol

I AM SO EXCITED TO SHARE A COVER REVEAL WITH YOU TODAY. And not only is the cover absolutely incredible (scroll down to see) but the book is a ROBIN HOOD RETLLING WHICH IS LITERALLY MY DREAM. (I love Robin Hood). I hope I get to read this book at some stage. I really do. 

A girl looking for a way out. Being the daughter of New America’s leader, Mercury Masters has everything a girl could want. A glamorous life full of beautiful people, and the power to have anything she wants, except for one thing—to escape. Because Mercury’s perfect life comes with secrets to keep. Dangerous secrets that if made public would destroy her, her family, and her father’s reign. Then she meets Hawk. A boy looking to be a hero. Hawk, a handsome prep school dropout turned vigilante, has his own family secrets. Deadly secrets that have haunted him since he was fifteen. But instead of fighting the ghosts of his past, Hawk has assembled a group of misfit hackers and thieves to save the future from the corrupt government of New America and the mysterious virus that is killing off its citizens. But trying to do the right thing is tough when the person you really want to save is your enemy’s daughter. A love that could kill them both. Powerful forces keep them apart, but coming together could be the key to saving New America from destruction—even though it may cost both their lives //         A near-future YA biopunk retelling of Robin Hood.
Goodreads  /  Pre-order: AmazonKobo

Scarlett Kol grew up in Northern Manitoba reading books and writing stories about creatures that make you want to sleep with the lights on. As an adult, she's still a little afraid of the dark. Scarlett now lives just outside Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada with her husband and two boys, but if you need to find her she's likely freezing at the hockey rink.

Doesn't the story sound amazing and isn't the cover absolutely stunning?! 

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Weekly Round-Up: Reading and watching

I've been reading a lot this week. I also finished watching Godless on Netflix, and have been watching F.R.I.E.N.D.S and The 100 sporadically.  This is my last week of holiday, though, so I'm gonna make the most of it ;) 

Posts of the week: 
Book Review: THE SNOWMAN

Currently Reading

I'm still dragging my way through And I Darken, and I'm halfway through Renegades with Uma :)

For Review

AHHHH!! THIS WAS THE BEST BOOKMAIL WEEK. I got an amazing signed hardcover of The Language of Thorns, and a beautiful ARC of Everless - both from Pan Macmillan. 

I've already finished reading Everless ;) It was that good. 

Around the Blogosphere

Heather reviews A Study in Charlotte

Angela reviews Invictus

Erica's hosting an adorable Giveaway

Emily talks Goodreads goal

Michelle compares the Big Little Lies book and TV show

Kyra reviews Wintersong

Lauren reviews Beneath the Haunting Sea

Audrey shares ways to Grow as a Christian and as a writer

Entertainment News

IT'S ABOUT TIME. There's not much info at this stage because the development is still very early, but I do know that the movie's getting a female writer! Yay!  

The BAFTAS will be held on the 18th of February, and Joanna Lumley will be presenting. 

It was a Golden Globes like no other. Women came together in black, standing against sexual harassment and assault. There were some amazing speeches in line with this protest, with Oprah's  keeping people on their feet. 

Have a look at the upcoming Ophelia film, starring Daisy Ridley and Naomi Watts. 

Big Little Lies came out strong in the TV section with 4 wins, and The Shape of The Water won Best Picture.

Neeson says that the sexual assault allegations in Hollywood have started a witch-hunt. To a degree, I actually agree that he has a point. The article is worth reading.   

Five women have accused Franco of sexual assault and harassment, making him the latest male in Hollywood to come under fire for inappropriate behaviour. 

Coming Up...

This week, I'll be reviewing Everless and Wonder Woman: Warbringer. There'll also be another Romanticised Abuse post.

Week 2 of January is gone! Can you believe it?!

Did you have a good week? What are you reading or watching at the moment? 

Friday, 12 January 2018

THE SNOWMAN (Harry Hole #7) - by Jo Nesbo

Published: 2017 (Film Tie-in) - Vintage
Pages: 576.
Genres: Adult / thriller / contemporary / mystery
Triggers/Content Advisory: Strong, frequent sexual content and explicit sex scenes / frequent gory violence / infrequent bad language
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Penguin SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.
Soon the first snow will come A young boy wakes to find his mother missing. Outside, he sees her favourite scarf – wrapped around the neck of a snowman. And then he will appear again Detective Harry Hole soon discovers that an alarming number of wives and mothers have gone missing over the years. And when the snow is gone… When a second woman disappears, Harry’s worst suspicion is confirmed: a serial killer is operating on his home turf. …he will have taken someone else

While I did struggle - missing out elements of back stories and past cases, etc - starting with what is the seventh book in the Harry Hole series, I do think it can be read by itself, just at the expense of some character development.
I requested this thriller because I'm dying to watch the movie (Michael Fassbender. Say no more). I thought it'd be a good idea to read the book first.

The writing is excellent. Short, punchy sentences that get right to the point, and dialogue that crackles.  The setting is also very atmospheric, and every scene is vivid and three dimensional. I love that.

The plot is tight and complicated, and not only is the mystery clever, but it's easy to follow. Too often when I read thrillers their "cleverness" ends up losing me, but not in this book - it's definitely incredibly intelligent, but it carries you each step of the way; you feel like you're alongside the detectives and learning as they learn.

The story is gripping, as well - the pages fly by as you tear through.  It's also very creepy, dark, and scary. The characters are twisted, and the crimes graphic and sadistic. There's no light or real love in this book; it's grim, harsh, and as unforgiving as ice. When you finish reading, you'll appreciate the masterful story and writing, but you won't necessarily be dying for a re-read. It's a good thriller, but I don't love it. There's nothing extremely likeable about it.

“We're capable of understanding that someone has to drop an atomic bomb on a town of innocent civilians, but not that others have to cut up prostitutes who spread disease and moral depravity in the slums of London. Hence we call the former realism and the latter madness.”

The characters are all complicated, twisty people, either fighting their demons or still damaged from that fight. It's a pretty big cast, but I like that I was given just enough information to place everyone in the story and know the backbone of their characters. No one is exceptionally vivid, but they're all firmly on the page. It's bearable. 

Harry Hole is a decent character. I think that by starting the series with the seventh book I missed some pivotal moments in his past and his relationships, so perhaps that's why I felt him slightly lacking. Still, he's definitely the most vivid of the cast - which is appropriate. He clearly has a lot of depth and ghosts in his past, and the glimpses I got of those were compelling. He's a strong character. I just wanted to see more of that, which I'm sure I would've if I'd read the previous books.

But I don't love any of the characters. I've read books with unlikeable casts before and actually loved them, but in this story everyone's too hard and crude. Not to mention I don't typically enjoy reading from men's perspectives because I find their views of women unsettling and perverse. In this book, the scenes where men describe women are uncomfortable to read. At least for me. 

The Snowman is an enthralling thriller dripping with bloodlust and captivating dialogue. The mystery is clever, easy to keep up with, but I can't say I loved the book.  The lack of true goodness from the plot or the characters makes it harsh and bitter. 

Thursday, 11 January 2018

RULER OF THE NIGHT (#3 in the trilogy) - by David Morrell

RULER OF THE NIGHT - by David Morrell
Published: 2016 - by Mulholland Books
Genres: Adult / historical fiction / thriller / mystery /
Pages: 333.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Occasional scenes of brief, gory violence / substance abuse
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Jonathan Ball SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.
Thomas De Quincey is beginning to control his opium addiction when the excitement of his current case threatens to unravel his grip on reality once and for all. On their way home to the Lake District, the De Quinceys become unwitting witnesses to a truly historic murder: the first to take place on one of England's newly constructed railways. The railways changed everything in the Victorian era, transforming the English countryside, revolutionizing modern industry, and as the De Quinceys discover, providing the perfect escape. Giving chase in a cat-and-mouse game unlike any that have come before, the De Quinceys uncover a dangerous secret that reaches all levels of English society.

Even though I missed out on the first two books in this trilogy, I think I got enough from this novel to thoroughly appreciate it. It can be read on its own.
And if you're a fan of historical fiction thrillers, then this story is definitely for you.

The writing is rich and sophisticated. I love Morrell's style. The descriptions are so beautiful, the scenes masterfully crafted, and the level of detail is exquisite. It's not overdone and tedious, either - which can be hit or miss with detail. The whole story is also stunningly atmospheric, and I love the frequent dry humour from the characters. It lightens the otherwise somber tone.

The plot is very complicated. It's clever, but it is very layered and I'm still not sure how everything actually fits together. This could just be me, though. The mystery is very brisk and moves fast. But it's still good story, a good mystery, and the research of the time period is utterly meticulous.
There's not a lot of action in the book, but it's never boring. The writing's too enjoyable for that. However when there is action, it's exciting and gripping. I particularly love the scene when the group's in the water and struggling to keep alive. It's fantastic entertainment.

Memories are indeed like the stars, which disappear during the day but come back in the darkness...along with ghosts and nightmares.

The characters are charming. Emily is a capable young woman whose aim is to be a nurse, and she frequently helps out on the medical side of a case. Her father's the main genius, a quaint little man whom I found slightly irritating, but who's also dearly devoted to his daughter. And I love this father-daughter relationship - it's so beautifully written. To see Emily choose her father over her own happiness and her own romantic future is admirable. It's intensely moving to see how strong their bond is. 

The other characters are also compelling. The cast is big, but you soon get a grip on everyone's personalities and it becomes easier to follow everyone as the book progresses. I especially love Ryan and Becker - they're both intelligent, capable men, and despite both of them being in love with Emily, they have an epic bromance and are way beyond idiotic, testosterone-fueled fights over her. It's so healthy to see a strong man-on-man friendship. 

Ruler of the Night is a lush, atmospheric, classy mystery populated with strong characters, epic relationships, and of course a good dose of intrigue, action, and romance. I found the mystery rather confusing, but otherwise I thoroughly enjoyed the book. 

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

WINTERSONG (Wintersong #1) - by S. Jae-Jones

Published: 2017 - by Thomas Dunne Books
Genres: Young adult / fantasy / romance / retelling
Pages: 436.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Mature themes / two moderately graphic sex scenes /
Format: Paperback.
Source: Bought.
Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell. All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns. But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts. Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.

I buddy-read this beautiful book with my good friend Kyra from Blog of a Bookaholic. Please do check out her review HERE!
Despite my pessimistic expectations, this book took me by surprise.

The writing is spellbinding. It's a classic-esque style, reminiscent of a melody, and breathtakingly luscious and poetic. Like a dark lullaby, it seduces your heart and mind until you're utterly lost in the pages and when you finally look up, it's like you have to remember how to breathe again. It's all-consuming. It connects to your soul -  your deepest, most vulnerable desires and fears.

The plot is slow, but it's never boring. It does tend to meander a bit and come across rather aimless at times, but because I was so spellbound by the writing and characters this didn't bother me. It's twisty, chilling, gorgeously eerie, and manipulative in the best way. It's a lush masterpiece I never wanted to leave - I actually appreciated the slowness.
I also adore how intensely thought-provoking the story is; it's a psychological journey more than a physical one, and Jae-Jones explores the rawness and vulnerability of our human nature, and how others perceive us, how we perceive ourselves, and how that in itself becomes a war within ourselves. It's a story about lies, desires, fears, and being terrified of revealing our true selves to the world. It's about the fear of knowing who you really are, it's about your true self being used against you - and how unleashing who you are can break as well as heal you. And how it's worth everything.
Those themes truly resonated with me. 

The setting is stunning. Everything is so atmospheric and tangible, and my senses were literally writhing during certain scenes. It's deliciously overwhelming, and there're a lot of painstakingly perceptive details.

“Love is the bridge that spans the world above and below, and keeps the wheel of life turning.”

“Life,” he said softly, “is more than flesh. Your body is a candle, your soul the flame. The longer I burn the candle...” He did not finish. “A candle unused is nothing but wax and wick,” I said.“I would rather light the flame, knowing it will go out than sit forever in darkness.”

The characters are amazing. Liesl is such a unique, multifaceted, flawed heroine, and I felt her brokenness and sacrifices keenly.  I love how human she is, and I love how she grows throughout the story.
The Goblin King is excellent. At first I thought he'd just be another bad boy anti-hero, but his strong vulnerability and intense humanness soon sets him apart from other YA fantasy dark heroes. I love how he is with Liesl and how much he respects her. Which brings me to...
The romance is a thunderstorm. It's a glass shattering, a rose uncurling, a candle's shadow dancing on walls. It's hot, then cold, then gloriously tender. It's beautiful. Their friendship - their relationship - is so real and three-dimensional, and I could honestly feel their love. There's an incredible realness and genuineness to it. It literally stole my soul.

The secondary characters are good, but I don't particularly like any of them, either. I love Constanze, but she hardly features, and Josef and Kathe both really annoyed me. I did enjoy the sincerity of Liesl and Kathe's sisterly relationship, but that's it. Josef and Liesl's relationship, on the other hand, never moved me.

Wintersong is a haunting, mesmerising, feverishly romantic debut that courses with emotion and spills passion, love, loss and sacrifice. The prose is magical, the characters beautifully broken, and this slow and intensely psychological tale will forever be luring you back for a re-read. 

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Romanticised Abuse: Jacob and Bella in Twilight

Our goal is to raise awareness and draw attention to romanticised abuse in films, book, etc, in order to fight it
- Join us! Design your own header (or use mine)  and start posting - once a week, two times a week, whenever
- Share examples of romanticised abuse you've seen in books or films - doesn't even have to be a whole book or film; simple one scene is enough, if there's an instance of romanticised abuse in it
- Keep the post short. Just a few paragraphs.
- Please link to my blog as the original creator.

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer is deserving of an entire "Fight Against Romanticised Abuse" series by itself alone, and it is indeed a huge topic and reeking of problematic content we could explore. But today I just want to focus in on one scene - a scene I'd totally forgotten about until I re-read Eclipse in preparation for this blog series. This scene actually points to a bigger problem, but that's for a later post. For today, just this scene needs to be addressed.

Nowadays, we all criticise Bella and Edward's relationship, but how many of us pay attention to the way Jacob treats Bella? More specifically, how many of us noticed what is in fact sexual assault when we read through this particular scene?
Honestly, it just makes me want to vomit every time I read it. I actually cried when I was writing this post because I am so disgusted by the incident and how it's romanticised and portrayed as something other than assault.
The scene is utterly revolting.

Twilight: Eclipse by Stephanie Meyer - Chapter 15: Wager - Jacob kisses Bella

He still had my chin - his fingers holding too tight, till it hurt - and I saw the resolve form abruptly in his eyes.
"No -" I started to object, but it was too late.
His lips crushed mine, stopping my protest. He kissed me angrily, roughly, his other hand griping tight around the back of my neck, making escape impossible. I shoved against his chest with all my strength, but he didn't even seem to notice. His mouth was soft, despite the anger, his lips molding to mine in a warm, unfamiliar way.
I grabbed at his face, trying to push it away, failing again. He seemed to notice this time, though, and it aggravated him. His lips forced mine open, and I could feel his hot breath inside my mouth.
Acting on instinct, I let my hands drop to my side, and shut down. I opened my eyes and didn't fight, didn't feel...just waited for him to stop.
It worked. The anger seemed to evaporate, and he pulled back to look at me. He pressed his lips softly to mine again, once, twice......a third time. I pretended I was a statue and waited.
Finally he let go of my face and leaned away.
"Are you done now?" I asked in an expressionless voice.
"Yes," he sighed. He started to smile, closing his eyes.
Pages 293-294
"That was not kissing back, that was trying to get you the hell off me, you idiot."
He laughed a low,throaty laugh. "Touchy. Almost overly defensive, I would say."
Page 297
{Charlie:} "Why did she hit you?"
"Because I kissed her," Jacob said, unashamed.
"Good for you, kid," Charlie congratulated him.
Page 298

Point 1: Jacob's behaviour // Obviously, this is the problem here. He's arrogant, violent, patronising, and with a dangerous indifference to Bella's feelings. He knows he's stronger than her, he's too full of himself to believe she doesn't actually want him to kiss her (even though she fights him and tells him to stop) and he overpowers her. He has no regard for her feelings, and can't see beyond his own ego. Then comes the part where Bella tries to fight back and "He seemed to notice this time, though, and it aggravated him. His lips forced mine open."
THIS IS ASSAULT. The Jacob's attitude and actions are horrific. He touches Bella's body against her will and without her consent. Instead of stopping when it's clear she wants him too, he gets violent and ignores her. That's a man violently taking advantage of a woman who doesn't want him to do what he's doing. I don't know who he thinks he is nor do I care how long they've been friends or if Bella might actually have feelings for him (although in this scene she clearly isn't feeling anything other than anger and desperation), the scene is sexual assault. She says no, he doesn't listen. He physically hurts her and she wants nothing more than to break away and stop his actions. But she can't because he's stronger than her. Jacob just ignores her and goes ahead, gratifying his own desires. It's outrageous and frightening. It's sexual assault.

Point 2: Bella's reaction // Once we get past Bella actually fighting back and trying to stop him (it's utterly terrifying from her perspective) her reaction to Jacob's indifference is deeply disturbing.  Obviously, she's is in no way to blame for Jacob's disgusting actions in this scene, but her reaction is heartbreaking. It's doubly so when we see how she doesn't even see the assault for what it is. But more importantly, we as readers watch as she shuts down - distancing herself and her mind from the attack at hand, and becoming, as she says, "a statue". In her mind it's the only way to stop Jacob. The only way is to shut up, keep still, let him do what he wants to do, and basically just wait till it's over. And obviously, Jacob is to blame for this. How gut-wrenching, how horrifying it is to see Bella like this, to see her being forced to react like this to make him stop and being forced to " play along " in the hope that it'll be over faster. It's atrocious. It's textbook behaviour of a traumatised assault survivor.

Point 3: Charlie's reaction // I included a few sentences from the scene after the assault because I think it's important that we notice Bella's father's reaction to Jacob's behaviour, as well. It's also seriously disturbing.
The fact that Bella actually broke her hand punching (or trying to punch) the guy who kissed her, should give her father a huge clue about the seriousness of the guy's actions and how much they were unsought. Instead, Charlie (who's always been Team Jacob and is good friends with Jacob's dad) disregards Bella's feelings, her reaction, even the fact that she's dating another guy who's not the one who kissed her, and wastes no time supporting Jacob and underplaying the whole incident. He doesn't take it seriously because Jacob doesn't take it seriously, all the while Bella's in pain, angry, and making threats against Jacob for what he did. Her father simply disregards her side of the story - he doesn't even ask for it. He's too enamoured of Jacob and biased against Edward and Bella's relationship to be selfless enough to see beyond himself.
It makes me see Charlie in a whole different light, that's for sure.

Jacob Black assaults Bella - kissing and touching her clearly against her will - and the incident is brushed aside, romanticised for the benefit of some drama, angst, and Edward's "swoony" protective side (which you'll see if you read the scene where he finds out about the kiss).  Bella's feelings and her distress are ignored by the male characters in these scenes because apparently they know better when it comes to her feelings. 
It's absolutely despicable. It's inexcusable.