Monthly Wrap-Up: Goodbye February, hello March...

February was a pretty good month for me. I read a lot of books, and I've also been reading the Bible and doing some creative writing every single day. Yay! I'm so pleased about that :) I'm actually planning to do a writing post soon where I'll share my latest book ideas and snippets...  

I didn't watch a lot this month, but March will definitely be a heavy movie month.  Our dvd store has just gotten in The MeddlerThe Magnificent Seven, and The Girl on the Train, so I'll be picking those up soon. Also, my dad bought me Season 1 of Arrow and Season 1 of The Musketeers, so I'm BEYOND HYPED to watch them! I've already seen a lot of Arrow on YouTube, but I never finished series 1, so I'm looking forward to that. And The Musketeers looks so beautifully romantic and action-packed and some of the actors are seriously good-looking, so YAY YAY YAY!! <3 

Posts of the month (excluding reviews and weekly round-ups): 
Waiting on Wednesday #18
Dear Writer, Be a Reader - Guest post by Caitlin Lambert
Tears on Tuesday #1
Waiting on Wednesday #19
The Blog Squad - Part 1
Valentine's Week : Romantic Films To Watch
TTT & Valentine's Week: My Favourite Fictional Couples
Waiting on Wednesday #20
Valentine's Week: What I Love To See In Romance
The Blog Squad - Part 2
Valentine's Week: My Favourite Romantic Songs
Interview with author Tiffany McDaniel
Waiting on Wednesday #21

My Reviews: 

Missing Books - Brian Harris

The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern

The Year I Met You - Cecelia Ahern

Time Between Us - Tamara Ireland Stone

The Echoes of Love - Hannah Fielding 

Torn - Cat Clarke

My favourite book of the month was probably Time Between Us, and my least favourite was The Echoes of Love.    

My Reviews: 

Not many movies this month! It feels so weird. 
But my favourite was probably The Light Between Oceans.  

Click on the photos to follow their links :) 

Very ambitious, I know, but I hope to get through all of them! 

I have also decided to commit to something else this month: taking better photos and developing a theme. I don't have a bookstagram, but I want the photos for my blog to be as if I was bookstagraming them. 
I'm going book prop shopping soon, and I'm going to buy some beautiful props that I want to use to create a set theme for all my photos. A brand, as such. 
So expect some new kinds of photos on my blog and Twitter!  

How was your February? What did you read or watch? Chat with me! <3 

Weekly Round-Up: No reading or watching, what has happened to my life??!!

I didn't read or watch anything this week. (Let's observe a moment of silence.) It is very tragic, but I'll start reading again on the 1st of March. Which isn't too far away.  
But I did do something exciting this week: last night I went to see Twelfth Night performed at our local Open Air Theater, and it was an amazing experience! I love Shakespeare, and this was the first time I'd seen one of his plays performed live. It was wonderful.     

In other news, IT'S THE OSCARS TODAY!! I'm rooting for Emma Stone to win Best Actress (although I'm partial to Natalie Portman, too) and I'm hoping for Andrew Garfield for Best Actor (yes, that was a Stonefield-fueled decision...). I'm sure La La Land will pick up many of the awards, too.  
It should be a very exciting night!  I haven't watched any of the nominated performances or films yet, but I'm gonna rent them as soon as they come into our dvd store. It always takes a while... *sighs* 

Posts of the week: 

Book Review: The Year I Met You

Book Review: Time Between Us

Movie Review: The Great Wall

Book Review: The Echoes of Love

 Some review copies also arrived from authors! So excited to start these :)

(The first book is an ARC). 

How's your week been? Please tell me you read or watched at least SOMETHING?!

THE ECHOES OF LOVE - by Hannah Fielding

The Echoes of Love - Hannah Fielding
Year Published: 2013 - by London Wall Publishing.
Genres: Romance / Adult / Historical fiction.
Pages: 360.
Source: Thank you to the author for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Set against the breathtaking beauty of Italy, The Echoes of Love is a passionate, heart-breaking romance to ignite the senses and rekindle your belief in the power of love. Seduction, passion and secrets... Venetia Aston-Montagu has escaped to Venice to work in her godmother's architectural practice, putting a lost love behind her. For the past ten years she has built a fortress around her heart, only to find the walls tumbling down one night of the carnival when she is rescued from masked assailants by an enigmatic stranger, Paolo Barone. Drawn to the powerfully seductive Paolo, despite warnings of his Don Juan reputation and rumours that he keeps a mistress, Venetia can't help being caught up in the smouldering passion that ignites between them. When she finds herself assigned to a project at his magnificent home deep in the Tuscan countryside, Venetia not only faces a beautiful young rival but also a sinister count and dark forces in the shadows, determined to come between them. Can Venetia trust that love will triumph, even over her own demons? Or will Paolo's carefully guarded, devastating secret tear them apart forever?

I love the cover. Isn't it just gorgeous? The colour scheme, the ravishing tone it sets, the characters it hints at, are deliciously enticing.  
But unfortunately I didn't love the story as much.

At first I liked the description. There were some lovely uses of language, and initially it did succeed at sweeping me away into Venetia's world. I loved some of the descriptive words Fielding used, and her detail was absolutely exquisite.   
But the more I read, the more I couldn't bear it. It was overly flowery, purple prose, and the descriptions would go on for pages on end. The detail was incredible, but it was too much. In addition, it wasn't actually that vivid.  I struggled to see through the flowery language to the scenes themselves, and it desperately needed to be simplified; it would have made for stronger scenes if the language had been more concise and simplified.
It was clear, however, that the author knew what she was talking about when it came to Venetian customs and lifestyle. Unfortunately, the prose cluttered that knowledge in overly flowery language that ultimately weakened each scene.

The dialogue wasn't great. It did nothing to show the individual characters or their personalities, and there was no subtext whatsoever. It also frequently felt unrealistic.

At first I quite liked Venetia. She seemed strong while still being vulnerable, but as the story progressed, she started acting silly and stereotypical.  She was constantly hot and cold with Paolo, and her whole "cold, closed heart" attitude was nowhere near as strong as it could have been. For all her anger and distrust, she was very eager to be with Paolo and further their relationship.  As for being stereotypical, she had no real faults and literally every man she knew was falling in love with her because she was so beautiful. I had no patience for that.

Paolo was not my kind of hero. He was the alpha male, the tall, dark and handsome brooder with a dark past, and he was a playboy. Again, that stereotype is something I can't stand. I have no patience for that kind of hero, and I was definitely not swooning over him.

I have to talk about the romance because this is a romance novel.  Unfortunately, I didn't like that either.
The romance was based on constant lusting and desire and so called chemistry. Outside of those, the relationship was flat. Paolo and Venetia were constantly lusting after each other's bodies and making out, and they acted like "sex-crazed teenagers". It was silly and boring, and I wanted a relationship; instead, lust and desire took centre stage while relationship languished in the wings. And Paolo was a playboy! It was frequently mentioned that he'd slept with a lot of women, and yet Venetia didn't seem to mind that at all....  

The plot was threadbare, and most of the scenes seemed like fillers. The description also slowed things down a lot. Paolo's secret I'd guessed a long time before the climax, but I'd tried to ignore it because it seemed so silly. When everything was revealed, it confirmed my suspicions and was silly and far-fetched. I also felt like it was minimised in the hurry to get the novel to its end.
(A quick pet peeve: I thought the exclamation marks were overused and frequently out of place.)  

There was one other thing I had an issue with: this infuriatingly sexist last paragraph of the book.
(I'll let you see the problem for yourself).

'They were a man and woman in love. Hand in hand they would follow their silvery path and climb the steps to the moon; Paolo would cherish and protect her for as long as he lived, and Venetia would make a home for him, bear his children, and compensate for the years of misery he had been through.'

If you like alpha males and swooning damsels, exotic locations and passionate love-making, then The Echoes of Love is for you. 
But I found the writing too purple, the characters too stereotypical and frustrating, and the romance too "appearance based". 

Please Note: The sexual scenes were basically erotica. As a result, I skimmed most of them. 

The Blog Squad: A Blogger Collaboration - Part 3

We are a group of three book bloggers situated on different continents but brought together by our love for books and a penchant for talking about them. We’ve joined our forces to create a collaborative series of posts about book blogging and we hope you’ll enjoy the discussions.


What is more important? A high number of followers OR a smaller number but more interactive followers?

Book Blogging is actually a huge responsibility all in itself - you’re putting your opinion out there for the public to see. Not only that, it’s your opinion on something that someone has spent a lot of time creating. If you’ve accepted ARCs or review copies from publishers and authors you have a responsibility to get a review out there. There’s post scheduling, there’s cross posting reviews, there’s actually writing a review worthy of someone’s time to read! It’s a lot to think about! Yet none of that would be possible or worthwhile without the readers, the followers, the commenters. 

 As a blogger you want to say that your numbers (followers) don’t mean anything but … THEY DO!!!! Followers matter, pageviews matter, number of comments matter! Not only do all of these things help our credibility as bloggers and they help us get the books we request from publisher: It’s sustenance for our book blogging addiction hobby passion. 

 When I first started my blog I didn’t realise just how much time and effort would go into it and without the people that I interact with, it wouldn’t be worth it. I love the conversations that I have and the friendships that have sprung up. So while the numbers do matter, for me it’s the interaction that counts the most.

That’s a really hard question! (Thanks…...Di?!) I love blogging interaction. I find that interacting with other people on the blogosphere is literally the best thing about having a blog, and, to be honest, I would feel so sad and disheartened if no one ever commented on my blog or replied to my comments on their blogs. Interaction is a huge part of blogging - obviously - and I would seriously miss it if it never happened. 

 So if I had 200 people following my blog and none of them ever - or at least very rarely - commented on my posts? Yes, I would miss it. Heck, I would miss it. I would probably want to stop blogging. Of course, having a lot of followers helps with getting review copies and ARCs, but I honestly think that I would lose all motivation for blogging if I never interacted with other bloggers. Actually, I know I would. 
 So. Interaction with fewer followers is better than having a ton of followers who never interact. That’s what I think. 

 And so THANK YOU to everyone who comments on my blog :) I wouldn’t want to blog without you <3 

Oookaay...Tricky question. 

 I love interaction. There are two main reasons why I started my blog are (A) I NEED to gush about books and share my super intelligent thoughts with everyone (B) I NEED to converse and interact with my bookish friends. 

 I don’t just want to tell you why I loved a book; I also want you to tell me why you did/did not love the same book. Everytime I see a new comment on one of my posts, I jump for joy (Thank you amazing people who comment on my blog. Here are some kisses!) I think I wouldn’t enjoy writing about the stuff I love if there’s no one to read it! 

 So yes, I’ll go with smaller number but more interactive followers (BUT) I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care about the number of followers I have. Everytime I see that my blog has a new follower, I jump for joy too! But when it comes down to either this or that, I’d go with “small number, more interaction” any day.

Do you expect a comment back on your blog when you go comment on someone else’s blog?

A lot of bloggers don’t do this, but a lot of bloggers do and there’s some pretty huge bloggers out there that always seem to make the effort. Alyssa @ The Eater of Books and Cait @ Paper Fury come to mind… 

 Commenting back is actually a pretty hot topic and while I love getting a comment back it’s not something that you can actually rightfully EXPECT. Blogging is time consuming and not everyone has the time to get around to your blog. 

 Personally I always make the effort to comment back and I am on the Bloggers Commenting Back list because I feel that it’s important to not only spread the commenting love, but to participate in the community. The only way to build a relationship with people is to comment on their stuff and have them come back and comment on yours. You get to know people and establish a rappor that can turn into a real friendship. It all goes back to the reward of interaction. If I visit your blog and comment and never hear back from you…. Well then I may not keep coming back - that’s just the natural course of things I think?

Not at all. Of course I love it when it happens, but I don’t expect it. I absolutely love comments and I love getting them, but whether they come from a “Bloggers Commenting Back” policy or simply because the blogger saw my post and wanted to comment, doesn’t matter to me. I’m certainly not going to hold anyone to anything or expect them to be as active with commenting as some bloggers might be.

That’s actually hard to explain. I LOVE getting a comment back but I don’t EXPECT it. (Does that even make sense?) I blog hop all the time. I make it a point to visit the blogs of all the people who comment on my blog and leave some love :) But I do understand it’s not possible for everyone! They probably have a lot of people commenting on their blog to blog hop everywhere or maybe they’re busy... So I don’t EXPECT anyone to comment back! I understand it’s different for everyone.

Do you think bloggers should always reply to comments on their blog? 

If I’ve taken the time to comment on your blog then I think that it’s only polite for you to take the time to respond - even if it’s only a ‘thank-you’! Some comments, especially on older posts can slip through the cracks (I’m guilty of this myself!) and I understand that not everyone has the time to put into responding to comments, but again, if I don’t get the interaction from a blogger then there’s nothing pulling me back to that blog over and over… 

 I do know that some people prefer to spend their time visiting other blogs and commenting back over there which is a totally different beast - that’s the same as replying and you’re establishing your interaction in a different manner. 

 I don’t know - answering these questions seems to be solidifying something in my brain - bloggers should be doing all of the engaging and interacting! Maybe the long and the short of it is that yes, I do expect you to visit me or at the very least respond to me and recognise that I’m commenting on your blog. Is that bad of me? Who knows… But what I do know is that if you make the effort and engage me in a conversation I’m going to meet you halfway…

I personally think it’s part of your commitment as a blogger to engage with your readers, and thus reply to every comment you receive on your posts. Of course, this is really hard if you have tons of comments from your “millions” of followers, and due to school and work and studying and LIFE, not replying to comments is naturally understandable. It takes a lot of time. 

 That said, I do *swallows and cowers* think bloggers should reply to the comments they get on their posts. And I have HUGE respect for the big bloggers like Alyssa @ The Eater of Books and Cait @ Paper Fury who reply to every comment they receive, despite getting like a hundred per post. I mean, that’s crazy! It’s just amazing.

Like I said, I LOVE interaction. I think it’s good to reply to the comments on one’s blog ‘cause it’s only then that the ‘interact and converse’ part happens. But again like I also said, I understand replying to all the comments on your blog- especially if you’re a huge blogger with a large following- is really hard! A huge shoutout to Cait @ Paper Fury for being THE most amazing person when it comes to replying to comments. She gets like hundreds of comments on every post and yet replies to them all! So yes, again while I don’t EXPECT a reply, I’d LOVE one :)

Hope to see you over at their collab posts too!: 

 We hope you’ve enjoyed Part 3 in our series of discussion posts! Please talk to us and let us know YOUR answers below. What do you think of our responses? If you have any specific questions you’d like us to address in the future, please let us know in the comments section below. Stay tuned for next week’s questions!

THE GREAT WALL (film) was fun to watch, but definitely not a great movie

The Great Wall - 2016
Director: Yimou Zhang.
Cast: Matt Damon / Willem Dafoe / Tian Jing
Content Rating: PG 13 for sequences of fantasy action violence.
Source: Cinema.

European mercenaries searching for black powder become embroiled in the defense of the Great Wall of China against a horde of monstrous creatures.

Note: I watched this in 3D in the cinema. It.Was.Terrifying. Cool, but terrifying. Mostly cool. But still terrifying. 

I love action adventure films. I'll watch anything with action, and I'll enjoy it (most of the time).
And while I did like this movie, it wasn't that good.

The cinematography was excellent and the visuals were mind-blowing; incredible CGI, and on a massive scale. It reminded me of the scale of Lord of the Rings.
In addition, the action was terrific, exciting, and breathlessly intense. The cinematography showed this to its best advantage, and maybe it's just me, but there's something about Matt Damon with a bow and arrows....something....
(And that something is hot). 

The snaps of humour were brilliant; superbly on point and frequently hilarious. The humour almost didn't fit with the rest of the film, but it scrapped by. And it was delightfully fun, although sometimes too "roll-your-eyes" worthy.
The cast was solid. Nothing outstanding, but they were decent; Damon can be very wooden, and unfortunately in this film I thought he was.  That was really disappointing, but thankfully he did come alive a bit in the action sequences.

Now for the negatives:
The dialogue was awful. Painfully, sickeningly, terrible.The kind that makes you want to shake the characters (or the writers) and groan for all eternity. The humour did make some lines worth-while, but that was the exception.
The characters were flat, and the movie ended with their "arcs" half-finished. I say "arcs" because they were pathetically and clumsily written, and despite their potential, the characters tumbled into abandoned territory.
I must admit, though, I really liked the heroine, Commander Lin (played by Jing Tian). Yes, she was also flat, but she was a capable fighter and a strong woman, and I loved to see her fight alongside the boys and work in a leader position.
The plot was very weak. The story was threadbare, predictable, and entirely unoriginal. It had the cliches of "kill baddy and all the little baddies die too", "save the town, to save the world, from complete disaster", "one shot will do it so let's fail constantly until we're surrounded and there's one chance left", and so on. It was a boring plot, but the action was exciting.

One more thing: most of the non-action scenes felt forced, as if the writers were trying to make the story deeper than it was or "make something out of nothing", so to speak. It didn't work, and those scenes felt unnecessary and basically just "fillers" for the thin plot.

The Great Wall was an exciting action adventure film, but definitely no more than that. Its predictable plot, flat characters, and terrible dialogue drastically let it down.  

Waiting on Wednesday #21: INTO THE WATER - by Paula Hawkins

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme originally hosted by Breaking the Spine and now taken over by Wishful Endings that highlights upcoming book releases we're excited to read. On my blog, I include movies as well.

 Into the Water - by Paula Hawkins

Release Date: May 2nd 2017.

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.

I ABSOLUTELY LOVED THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN. So it makes perfect sense that I'll adore this book as well. The premise is amazing, Hawkins's writing is beyond amazing, and I NEED THIS.

Anyone else excited for Into the Water? 

Interview: Magical Words from author Tiffany McDaniel

I am so excited to have author Tiffany McDaniel on the blog today, and I hope you'll enjoy the interview! 
Thank you, Tiffany, for visiting and sharing :)  

Here's the Goodreads link to Tiffany's award-winning novel: 

1: What are some of your all-time favourite books?
Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury, We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, and Above the River: The Collected Poems of James Wright.

2: What are your favourite types of scenes to write? Which are the hardest to write?

My favourite scenes to write are usually the introduction scenes because like the reader I’m meeting the characters for the first time. The hardest scenes to write are probably the scenes of death or scenes that you hope the reader will have an emotional response to.

3: What usually comes to you first: a character, or a story/plot idea?

I always start writing a new novel with two things: the title and the first line. These two things lead the entire rest of the story for me. My goal with the title and the first line is that the essence of the story can be summed up in them.

4: Do you listen to music before and/or while you write? If so, are there any songs you think particularly fit for The Summer that Melted Everything?
While I do have a suggested playlist for books clubs for the novel, I don’t listen to music with lyrics while I’m writing because for me the lyrics compete with the words in my heads. So if/when I listen to music while writing it’s instrumental. Nothing upbeat, but really music that would make you want to paint the walls black.

5: Is there any one line or scene from The Summer that Melted Everything that you’re particularly proud of or love?

I’d say the first line: “The heat came with the devil.” It was the first line I wrote and it’s really the start of everything.

6: If there’s one thing you want readers to take away from The Summer that Melted Everything, what is it?

With my writing I don’t only aim to entertain. I also hope to create stories that engage readers in a larger conversation. One of the things I hope readers take away from The Summer that Melted Everything is that we should all remember to love each other a little more.

7: Any advice for aspiring authors?

I wrote my first novel when I was eighteen. I wouldn’t get a publishing contract until I was twenty-nine for The Summer that Melted Everything, which is my first published novel but my fifth or sixth novel written. It was an eleven year journey to publication full of rejection and perseverance. To any author still struggling on the journey to publication, I say never give up. If I had given up once on that eleven year journey, I wouldn’t be where I am today, with a book on the shelf.

8: Are you working on another book at the moment? Any other book ideas you hope to pursue in the future?

I have eight completed novels, including a poetry collection I’m currently compiling. I hope The Summer that Melted Everything does well enough in sales I get to publish again. I do have a notebook of ideas I still have to write. I always try to keep the creative wheel spinning because once it stops, you go nowhere.

An Ohio native, Tiffany McDaniel’s writing is inspired by the rolling hills and buckeye woods of the land she knows. She is also a poet, playwright, screenwriter, and artist. She is the winner of the Not-the-Booker Prize for her debut novel, The Summer that Melted Everything, which was a Goodreads Choice Award double nominee.

Weekly Round-Up: Reading and Watching

It's been a really good week for me :) I'm on top of school, of blogging (with the help of my diary, I've planned every day into the second week of March. Is it a bit too much?!) and I also read a lot of books this week.
This coming week there'll be a post up every day, with a lot of reviews. And I've decided not to start any new books until March because of the busy schedule.
This week I'll be reviewing The Year I Met You, Time Between Us, The Echoes of Love, and a film I saw yesterday: The Great Wall (2016).

Valentine's Week Posts:

Romantic Films To Watch 
My Favourite Fictional Couples
Waiting on Wednesday: Table 19
What I Love To See In Romance
The Blog Squad - Part 2
My Favourite Romantic Songs 

This was an especially exciting week because I received these two beauties from their publishers!! I requested them a few weeks ago, and was so shocked when they arrived on my doorstep! I CANNOT WAIT TO START THEM <3

I also received Milijun from its author:   

And I bought Ocean's 13

I better go and make lunch for my family (the usual Sunday macaroni and cheese ;).  And thanks to staying up till 3 last night watching series 5 of Once Upon A Time, I'm yawning now too.

Well, it was worth it.......I have serious CaptainSwan feels (is there no limit to how far those two will go for each other?!) and my heart aches with the beauty of their love. *gazes wistfully into distance*   

How's your week been? What have you been reading or watching?