Monday, 22 October 2018

THE GRISHA TRILOGY - by Leigh Bardugo

( A huge thank you to Pan Macmillan SA for sending me these beautiful books in exchange for an honest review )

I first read this trilogy last year and really enjoyed it. When Pan Macmillan were kind enough to send me these new editions, I jumped at the chance to re-read them. Since I've already done separate reviews for each book, however, this post is an overall "review" of the whole series, in a different review format. Hope you like reading it :)

Bardugo is one of my favourite authors. The amazing thing about these new editions, apart from the gorgeous covers, is also the awesome bonus content inside. There are interviews with Leigh about her writing process and this specific story and characters, a sneak peek of Six of Crows, and lots more. Please read this trilogy! And get these editions! They're incredible.

This post does not contain spoilers.

I love Leigh Bardugo's writing. But her style in this book is quite different from what you might have read in her other books, notably the Six of Crows duology. The pov is first person past tense, from Alina's perspective, and there's a lot of telling instead of showing. For the first book, especially, Bardugo seems to struggle to get inside Alina's head. The perspective is rather removed.

The writing certainly improves as the series continues, and the dialogue is always flawless; witty, funny, emotional, banter on point, it's all wonderful. But the telling instead of showing is frustrating.

The story is never boring, but there isn't a lot of action. In all three books the action comes mainly at the midpoint and then at the climax, and rest of the story is mainly dialogue and character interactions. I'm not complaining - just pointing it out. And because Bardugo is Bardugo, there's also a few lovely twists along the way that you can look forward to :)

The one big issue I have with the series' plot overall, is that Alina doesn't necessarily drive it. Most of the time it isn't actually her choices and actions that bring about the incidents and move the story forward. Sometimes they're just random, or other characters get involved. I wish Alina was "more to blame" for everything that happens.

But despite the issues, every book is still immensely fun and entertaining.

I love the characters. I think they're the highlight of the series. With Bardugo, there really are no small characters; everrone is so vivid, compelling, and fully-realised. You're never left wondering "who's this again?" because with clever details, dialogue, and action, Bardugo shows you exactly who is who. They’re also very memorable.

Alina is a terrific heroine. She's the definition of an underdog. Her grumpiness, pessimism, awkwardness, and general insignificance is refreshing, and I relate to her personality a lot.
While in Book 1 she starts out as the unwilling "Chosen One", she reluctantly rises to the responsibility in Book 2 and undergoes strong character growth and development. Book 2 also finds her grappling with the pull of darkness and writhing under the Darkling's influence. In Book 3, she finally comes into herself.

The rest of the cast is amazing, too. So are their friendships. Book 2 introduces the lead ensemble, and from then on we see a lot more of the colourful group: Tolya, Tamar, Genya, David, Nadia, and of course Mal and Nikolai.
Ah. Nikolai. I'm sure you've heard of the privateer who's probably every bookworm's book boyfriend since the day he arrived on the page. Well, he's fantastic. Dashing, hilarious, smart, and the hero of the upcoming King of Scars.

I admit, there are no two characters I'm shipping wildly in this trilogy. In the first book, it's a slight love triangle - Mal, Alina, and the Darkling - but since the Darkling's relationship with Alina is kinda abusive, it's really her and Mal who are the focus. They're friends, although Alina's always had a crush on him, and their relationship slowly develops into something more as he comes to acknowledge his own growing feelings for her.
In Book 2, Nikolai enters the romantic scene, the Darkling's feelings for Alina intensify, and Mal and Alina go through a hang of a lot of relationship drama and angst. But Bardugo handles it well. Mal's a jerk at times, but Alina's hiding stuff from him. Nikolai wants Alina because of political diplomacy, but the Darkling wants her because of their shared darkness. It's a messy, but it's all well written.
In Book 3, Mal and Alina are cautiously growing back together, Alina is breaking free of the Darkling's clutches, and Alina and Nikolai's relationship is growing stronger despite some horrific turns of events. I'm not going to spoil the end, so I'll leave it at that. But it's all so good ;)

What I love most about the romance in this series is how Bardugo handles all the guys wanting Alina. It would be easy for her to fall into that trap of "all the male characters are falling over themselves for the perfect girl no one can help but fall in love with", but she doesn't. Because everyone is so flawed, and because Alina is so unpretentious, the romances feel human and down to earth (well, as down to earth as fantasy can be). It's not a matter of the Mary Sue everyone falls head over heels in love with. Thank goodness!

Bardugo is a master at creating worlds. The one in this trilogy is Ravka, inspired by 1800s Russia, and it's dark, bleak, and deliciously atmospheric. With every book we get to see more of the world (Bardugo takes us to courts, towns, oceans, mountains, underground communities, and even misty graveyards) and every scene is lavish, rich, and seething with character. Haunting, Gothic, dangerous, and chilling - it's startlingly unique and vividly breathed to life.

In Book 2, we also get to see a lot more of the politics and social structures in the culture.

Have you read this trilogy? What did you think of it? Are you a fan of Leigh Bardugo?

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Weekly What's Up - The One With Writer's Block

This week, I had writer's block. Thankfully it only lasted till Thursday, but that still meant that my Robin Hood retelling hit some major snags and is definitely not gonna be ready for NaNo. So I've turned back to my Peter Pan retelling. It actually works out well because I wrote the first draft of it for NaNo last year, and so this year it'll be the second draft. 

As annoyed and frustrated as I am about my Robin Hood story, I'm excited to go back to Peter Pan. Sometime in the future I will definitely go back to Robin Hood, but for now it's being pushed back.  

Posts of the Week

Currently Reading

Not loving Spinning Silver, just started Lying To You, and re-reading Ruin and Rising.

For Review

I received a beautiful hardcover of this book, which is the sequel to the magical Nevermoor. Can't wait to read it!

How was your week? What are you reading and watching? 

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

OCEAN'S EIGHT - 2018 action comedy thriller film

Director: Gary Ross.
Cast: Sandra Bullock / Cate Blanchett / Mindy Kaling / Anne Hathaway / Sarah Paulson / Richard Armitage / Rihanna / Helena Bonham Carter / Awkwafina / James Corden.
Score: Daniel Pemberton.
Cinematography: Eigil Bryld.
Content Advisory: PG13 for drugs, mild language, and some suggestive content.
Source: Rented.

Debbie Ocean gathers an all-female crew to attempt an impossible heist at New York City's yearly Met Gala.

I have been ecstatic about this film since the day it was announced. Even when the critics didn't like it, I floated on a cloud of rose-tinted expectation. It just sounded too perfect to fail.

The cinematography is brilliant, atmospheric, and very appropriate to the story and setting it explores. The soundtrack is punchy, and the costumes are absolutely divine. I love how each outfit is so thoughtfully chosen for the character wearing it - considering that the script doesn't give much in terms of character depth and development, the costumes are very much needed. They're colourful, elegant, and speak volumes about the characters' personalities. Each piece is entirely on point.

The script is far from perfect. The writing isn't witty, particularly clever, or humorous, and as for the plot, there's very little tension or thrills. It lacks brilliance and intelligence. I also think that the "con within a con" aspect, which is to be expected from any good heist movie (and works beautifully in Ocean's Eleven), falls flat because it's sloppily implemented and rushed. I was never totally sold on the "big twist", simply because of the way it was executed.

There's also no real threat, or at least there's not enough urgency. It's too casual. Obviously, the worst case scenario is that the characters go to prison, and yet that is never truly felt by anyone, except maybe with the exception of Debbie. The difference with her is that we're given her back story and we can feel sympathy for her because we know where she's coming from. With the rest of the characters, we don't actually see what they have to lose. Thus, the fact that they could be caught doesn't seem like a big deal.

The acting is excellent. Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett are effortlessly slick and smooth, Cate Blanchett is easily my favourite of the cast, and that restaurant scene between Debbie and Lou towards the start of the film is superb; when Blanchett asks "Why do you need to do this?" and Bullock answers 'because it's what I'm good at", I got goosebumps. The script is weak, but it's their delivery of the lines that makes the scene so powerful.

Unfortunately, though, the characters aren't well written. No one is three-dimensional, no one has any real depth, and the characters are pigeon-holed into their roles in the heist.  There's the hacker, the fence, the jeweller, etc etc, and even the hints of backstory and personality we get to see aren't substantial. It's a huge waste; the actresses clearly have the range - now give them something with which to work.

Not even stunning visuals and wonderful female leads can pull off Ocean's Eight. It's a con without thrills, smarts, and urgency, which makes it nothing more than a casual action flick.

Monday, 15 October 2018


Published: February 2018 - Raven Books.
Genres: Mystery / thriller / historical / magical realism
Pages: 512.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Gory descriptions / violence / mild sexual innuendoes.
Format: eARC.
Source: Netgalley.
How do you stop a murder that’s already happened? At a gala party thrown by her parents, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed--again. She's been murdered hundreds of times, and each day, Aiden Bishop is too late to save her. Doomed to repeat the same day over and over, Aiden's only escape is to solve Evelyn Hardcastle's murder and conquer the shadows of an enemy he struggles to even comprehend--but nothing and no one are quite what they seem.

At first I wasn't in love with Turton's writing because the sentence structure felt long-winded and awkward. But as the story continues, it definitely smooths out. Before long I was utterly enamoured with the prose - the vivid details, the excellent dialogue. To give you an example: "The evening meal is lit by candlelabra and beneath their flickering glow lies a graveyard of chicken bones, fish spines, lobster shells and pork fat. The curtains remain undrawn despite the darkness beyond, granting a view toward the forest being whipped by the storm."
It's all incredibly immersive and tangible.

Speaking of which, the story is also so atmospheric. It's Gothic, very dinner-party Agatha-Christie-esque. I wouldn't recommend reading the book in short sessions with many intervals between, because to really get into the story, you need to give yourself time to be immersed.  Then you can truly appreciate the lush, haunting setting, and the beguiling sense of foreboding dripping from each scene. It'll totally absorb you if you give it a chance.

The plot is brilliant. There are a ton of twists, many layers to the story, and the author is a genius. However, it is confusing.  You really have to concentrate and you can't afford to switch off - even  for a second. I tried my best, but by the end I was still a bit bewildered by the actual mystery. It's a lot to take it and a lot to retain from start to finish. 

 What does a child who has everything want?" 
More, like everyone else. 

❝ Every man is in a cage of his own making."

 What kind of mind makes theatre of murder?

The cast is big, but everyone is vivid, colourful, and extremely compelling. They're all hiding something, and they're all anti-heroes and anti-heroines wearing metaphorical masks. It's sublime.

Initially, I was concerned that the protagonist changing persons every few chapters wouldn't work, but the author handles it so well by fleshing out each personality and making their point of views distinct. In the hands of someone else, it could have been a train wreck. But Turton handles it thoughtfully and carefully.

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a mesmerising Agatha Christie-type mystery.  It might take you a while to get into it, but if you stick with it for long periods of time, you'll soon be drawn into the spellbinding world of these illusive characters. 

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Weekly What's Up - The One With All The Productivity

As usual, I'm writing this post on Friday, and right now I am so so happy that the week's over! I'm exhausted - writing has sapped my energy and staying up past midnight every night hasn't helped either. But at the same time, I feel like I've accomplished a fair bit this week. I have done so much outlining and work on my WIP (which includes a heck ton of re-outlining and fixing stuff as well) and I've even gotten back into bookstagram photo-taking. Hopefully that lasts! Ha.

Because of all the writing, I've hardly read anything and I've barely watched Netflix. It actually feels good :)

Posts of the Week

Currently Reading

I'm buddy-reading Spinning Silver with Di, but otherwise I've hardly touched a book this week.

Around the Blogosphere

How was your week? What are you reading and watching? 

Friday, 12 October 2018

FLOORED - a novel by 7 YA authors

FLOORED - Holly Bourne, Sara Barnard, Tanya Byrne, Non Pratt, Melinda Salisbury, Lisa Williamson, and Eleanor Wood.
Published: July 2018 - Macmillan's Children's Books.
Genres: Young adult / contemporary / drama.
Pages: 320.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Bad language / sexual innuendoes / some explicit sexual content.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Pan Macmillan SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.
When they got in the lift, they were strangers (though didn't that guy used to be on TV?): Sasha, who is desperately trying to deliver a parcel; Hugo, who knows he's the best-looking guy in the lift and is eyeing up Velvet, who knows what that look means when you hear her name and it doesn't match the way she looks, or the way she talks; Dawson, who was on TV, but isn't as good-looking as he was a few years ago and is desperately hoping no one recognizes him; Kaitlyn, who's losing her sight but won't admit it, and who used to have a poster of Dawson on her bedroom wall, and Joe, who shouldn't be here at all, but who wants to be here the most.

And one more person, who will bring them together again on the same day every year.

I love the concept. But the book is strange, and in a way that's neither bad nor good.

So I don't know which author wrote which chapter or which character, but I admit the writing comes across very similar in each character's voice/chapter. I think it easily could've been from one author.  In terms of quality, the style also isn't bad - just pretty average. Basically, the writing isn't unique. It doesn't leave much of an impression.

The premise is fantastic, but the story is only sporadically entertaining. Occasionally interesting, but also bland and frequently boring. The theme (what I imagine is the theme?: that family isn't who you're born with, it's who you choose to spend time with, etc etc) often comes across very forced and cheesy. And maybe that's because we don't get to see much development of relationships, only the "end result", so to speak? We see the characters once a year, and their journey in that past year is summarised, rather than shown. We see their whatsapp chats, their heart emojis and support for each other, but maybe because we don't see the continual, steady growth of those relationships, they feel superficial? I don't know. It's hard to explain ;)

BUT. The story does improve as you keep reading. The ending is also sublime; it couldn't be more perfect. So I guess that does kind of redeem what's come before.

“Maybe disappointment does lie in the gulf between what you would do for someone and what they will do for you, but she knows then, in that moment, as she's looking out of the rain-speckled window at the black, black sky, that she needs to stop focusing on what she's willing to do for other people and start focusing on what she's willing to do for herself.”

"We've all changed loads, you know. Everything's changed loads. Maybe I do have a hero complex. Maybe that's my job, in our crew: the hero. And Velvet's our conscience. Sash is our heart. Joe is our rock. You're our bruiser. And Hugo is...Hugo is Hugo." 

There are too many points of view. It also doesn't help that the chapters are short, hardly giving you time to get in a character's head. The characters' voices aren't distinct, either (although maybe with the exception of Hugo) and no one's personality is clear and vivid from their first POV chapter, which is obviously the critical time.  By the end, I did have a clearer idea of who everyone was (I even liked one character: Sasha) and I definitely warmed up to them, but they still aren't memorable or strong. Their personalities don't leap off the page.

Floored is somewhere between average and great.  It's not unpleasant to read, but it isn't amazing, either. I think it would have been so much stronger if the characters had been more individualistic from the start.   

Wednesday, 10 October 2018


Today I wanted to write a post about mental health - specifically mental illness - because it's International Mental Health Day. It's been a hard post to write, and I've deleted and altered and rewritten a number of times. I've also been back and forth about whether I should actually post it.

In the end, here it is.

Mental illness is still considered by many to be a stigmatic subject (although definitely not as much as it used to be). Personally, I often feel silly and embarrassed talking about my anxiety, because it shows a vulnerability with which I'm extremely uncomfortable. Worse, some people just assume you're overreacting, and worse still, some are unable to comprehend how difficult some things might be for you because they've never ever felt the same way. You might feel stupid, like there's something wrong with you, and you begin to wonder if maybe it is all inside your head, that maybe you are being silly and overreacting. Too often, I feel like that. And so let me tell anyone who's listening: YOU ARE NOT SILLY AND YOU ARE NOT OVERREACTING. You are brave. You are strong.

It's unsettling to share your experiences, especially on the Internet, because you're surrounded by judgement. Yet, I think it's important we do. We need to show that mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of.  The more people talk about it, the more we can help each other. That's why I think it's so important that people are given the opportunities and support to be vulnerable, to share their stories, that there's mental health rep in books and films, and that people are believed and supported and valued through their personal struggles.
It's also easy to think that you shouldn't share your story because your anxiety or your mental illness might seem so insignificant compared to someone else's; to the detailed testimony you read online from a blogger or see on Instagram or Twitter. But honestly, I believe that kind of thinking is toxic. It's not a competition. No story is too small. It takes a lot to share your story, and I believe it's important that people realise we are not doing this for attention. You, your experiences, have value. Whether you share them or not is entirely up to you, but it is not something you should ever feel guilty or embarrassed about.

Talking about my anxiety and depression is difficult. It's extremely personal. I have an anxiety disorder and suffer from moderate depression. I over think every little thing and stress to the point of feeling physically sick; my limbs sometimes jerk involuntarily if I'm anxious; and I burst into tears and hyperventilate and get panic attacks when I'm extremely anxious. I worry about the future, I worry about failing at everything I ever do, I worry about writing and blogging and eating and relationships, I worry about my identity and my capabilities, or lack thereof.  There's nothing romantic or idealistic about it. It's scary, it's overwhelming, and often I lack the motivation to climb out of the pit I'm in. It's a twisting, writhing mess inside of me. It's suffocating. I hate feeling helpless, and I hate that feeling of inevitability. I often feel stupid. I hate myself for stressing, for feeling so low, for having a panic attack about something that appears so simple and so easy for other people. I'd give anything to turn it off.

I know that things could be so much worse for me. Of course they could! I am so, so grateful that I'm not facing what some other people are facing. But I think it's important that these experiences are shared, regardless of apparent severity. Because that's what this is about. It's about throwing off the stigma of mental illness.

The wonderful thing about having a Lord Jesus is knowing He's in control. However dark it is inside your head, however overwhelming life and relationships and the world may be, He is there. That doesn't mean I don't worry, that everything is immediately alright, but it does mean I have hope and that I can - with His help - hand my worries over to Him. It is not easy, but it's not impossible. And it makes such a difference when I do. That encourages me.

Below are some particular Bible verses I find comforting. I hope you do too.

Psalm 46:1-3 
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.”

Matthew 11:28-30 
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Psalm 34:17-20 
"The righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. "

Isaiah 41:10
"Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." 

Getting professional help and taking medication is nothing to be ashamed of. I hope mental illness continues to be talked about, so that people are supported and understood through what they're dealing with. 

Sending love and hugs <3

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Weekly What's Up - The One Where I Work On My WIPs

It's been a weird week! I finally mustered up the courage to ask my local dvd store about getting a job there, but unfortunately they said there aren't any vacancies as of yet. It was disappointing, but honestly I'm just glad I asked. I was so anxious beforehand. 

I also started watching a new TV series (Heartland) - it's got 11 seasons though, so I was just hopping around random episodes because I do not wanna watch all 11 seasons, especially since it isn't actually a good show. The writing is terrible, as is the acting, but it's also relaxing and fun, which is why I stuck with it. Now, however, I'm back to Gilmore Girls :) Yay!

I've been doing a lot of writing prep this week. No actual writing the story, but a ton of outlining and character arc work etc etc. I ran a Twitter poll asking for help deciding which WIP I should focus on (since I'm notorious for trying to write multiple stories and characters at once and it never ends well), and thanks to the poll, I'm now only working on one: my female-centric Robin Hood retelling. More info about that closer to NaNo!

Posts of the Week

Currently Reading

I made very little reading progress this week. Netflix and my writing have consumed my focus.


Thanks Pan Macmillan! 

So how was your first week in October?! And what are you busy reading and watching? 

Friday, 5 October 2018

THE FALLEN - by David Baldacci

THE FALLEN (Amos Decker #4) - David Baldacci
Published: April 2018 - Pan Macmillan.
Genres: Adult / thriller / contemporary.
Pages: 432.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Violence.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Thank you so much to Pan Macmillan SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.
Amos Decker and his journalist friend Alex Jamison are visiting the home of Alex's sister in Barronville, a small town in western Pennsylvania that has been hit hard economically. When Decker is out on the rear deck of the house talking with Alex's niece, a precocious eight-year-old, he notices flickering lights and then a spark of flame in the window of the house across the way. When he goes to investigate he finds two dead bodies inside and it's not clear how either man died.

But this is only the tip of the iceberg. There's something going on in Barronville that might be the canary in the coal mine for the rest of the country. Faced with a stonewalling local police force, and roadblocks put up by unseen forces, Decker and Jamison must pull out all the stops to solve the case.
And even Decker's infallible memory may not be enough to save them.

Just as a small disclaimer, I haven't read the previous books in this series. Actually, this is my first Baldacci novel altogether. So I'm sure that some aspects would appear stronger?? if I'd read the previous books.

The writing is distinctive and incisive, with an undercurrent of dry sarcasm. The descriptions - if any - are extremely sparse, and I actually love how lacking in exposition the style is. The tone is strong without excessive details and explanations. It's easy to read.

The dialogue, however, is slightly disappointing. It's often superficial, and the melodramatic one-liners at the end of chapters that serve as cliff-hangers, are a little eye-roll worthy. But I do love that characters' personalities still come through, despite the brisk and informative style.

 I'm wondering who's going to die next.  

The plot is exciting and fast. There's not a lot of action, but it's tight and keeps moving, enthralling you from start to finish. The only negative is that the mystery aspect is rather overladen.

I love the protagonist, Amos Decker. He's startlingly original with quirks and a staunch personality, and although I don't like how he always has the right answer for everything, I still find him likeable. He's not egotistical, which makes the difference.

Amos is great. But everyone else is lazily written and not fleshed out. Zoe is the only character (apart from Decker) whom I actually liked.
I also really really wanted Alex Jamison, as Decker's partner, to be a bigger part of the case. As it is, she simply asks the questions and Decker always has the answers. She contributes nothing, except being related and emotionally tied to two other characters involved in the case. I wish she'd had more to do with it. I wish her character was actually necessary.

 The Fallen is a quick, enthralling, and deftly written thriller with a unique protagonist. Perhaps if more time had been spent on the characters, it could be a superb novel.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

5 Classic Novels You Need To Read

Classics aren't for everyone. Personally, I love them. There was even a time when I would only read classics. Thank goodness I eventually branched out.

Below are some of my favourite classic novels and ones I highly, highly recommend. Even if you're not a big classics fan, maybe give them a go! You could be pleasantly surprised.

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell /

This book. Guys. This book. I'd recommend it especially if you're not a big classics fan, because honestly, it doesn't read much like a classic. It's fast-paced, utterly compelling, and will leave you smiling with a warm and fuzzy feeling inside of you. The goings-on in this little English town will hook you from start to finish. It's amazing. The TV series is also excellent, if you wanna give that a watch.

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy /

Don't let the sheer volume of this book intimidate you! It's an epic for a reason. It's so incredibly profound, and the characters are rich and enticing. Some parts are boring (the many many descriptions of the war are - *yawn* - too much) but the characters' interactions and relationships are where this novel truly shines. 

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde /

I cried a lot reading this story. It's gorgeously, sinisterly romantic, and Wilde's writing is excellent. The tragedy will break your heart - it's so bittersweet and creepy and horribly hopeless - but wow; what an incredible, impactful tale.

The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole /

This book is Gothic romance at its very best! The atmosphere will consume you, the characters will bewitch you, and the setting will lure and trap you. I love how fast the story moves and how twisted the relationships are. It's also a short book, so you can probably finish it in a day.

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen /

I used to hate Austen's novels, but this book turned me around. I'd adored the Kate Winslet movie version (IT'S ONE OF THE BEST AUSTEN ADAPTIONS EVER, SO GO WATCH IT) and that's why I decided to give the book a chance.
I ended up loving it. The story and characters are so rich and their relationships are irresistible. Everyone sings the praises of Pride and Prejudice, but for me, Sense and Sensibility is the best Austen work.

Have you read any of these classics? What did you think of them? 

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Monthly Wrap-Up: September - October

We're almost into October and I can't believe it's nearing the end of the year. More specifically, it's getting closer to NaNoWriMo. That's been on my mind a lot recently. Now that's actually October, I'm going to have to start outlining my NaNo novel so it'll be ready for November. Eeek! Who else is going to be participating?!

In other news, I'm still watching Gilmore Girls (although not loving it as much anymore - the love interests are irritating me ;) and I'm looking forward to B99 season 5 dropping on Netflix, which should be anytime now. It's not like I'm counting the hours or obsessively checking Twitter for news or obsessively checking Netflix every few minutes and obsessively googling for dates and information every single hour.... *coughs*

Blog Posts from this month

My Favourite TV show ships
Romanticised Abuse: Sierra Burgess Is A Loser
YA novels Netflix needs to adapt asap
The WIP Diaries: I answer questions from you!
Blog Tour & Blitz: CORRUPTION

Reviews from this month

DARE YOU TO LIE - Amber Lynn Natusch.
DAMSEL - Elana K. Arnold.
NEVER FADE - Alexandra Bracken.
IN THE AFTER LIGHT - Alexandra Bracken.
HIM - Clare Empson.

A QUIET PLACE - 2018 film
THE BEGUILED - 2017 film

My favourite book this month was Damsel. My favourite film was A Quiet Place.

Happy October! Was your month a good one? What are your plans for October? Are you planning for NaNo?

Friday, 28 September 2018

2 Mini Book Reviews: HIM and DEATH IS NOT ENOUGH

HIM - Clare Empson.
Published: August 2018 - Orion.
Genres: Romance / contemporary / suspense / thriller
Pages: 352.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Sex scenes / bad language / theme of rape / substance abuse
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Jonathan Ball SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

It all started with ... HIM.

Catherine has become mute. She has witnessed something so disturbing that she simply can't speak - not to her husband, her children, or her friends. The doctors say the only way forward is to look into her past. Catherine needs to start with Him. Lucian. Catherine met the love of her life at university and was drawn into his elite circle of privileged, hedonistic friends. But one night it all falls apart and she leaves him, shattering his life forever. Still, fifteen years later, Lucian haunts every one of Catherine's quiet moments, and when they are unexpectedly reunited, their love reignites with explosive force. But they can't move on from what happened all those years ago. In fact, uncovering the truth will cause their lives to implode once again. This time, with disastrous consequences.

I was in love with Empson’s writing just from reading the synopsis on the back of the book. The style echoes that of the book, and it’s a style I love: sophisticated language, crisp short sentences, and intimate first person present tense. The only tiny thing I’m not loving is the dialogue; it’s a bit on-the-nose.

The story is slow. It doesn’t even feel like a thriller. It’s extremely character driven and relationship driven. It’s about the relationship between Lucien and Catherine, about the relationships in Lucien’s group of friends, how everyone is sleeping with everyone else and how they’re all hiding secrets and getting drunk over failed marriages and screwed relationships, and it’s all very Gatsby in that sense. The characters are vivid and tantalising – and so are their relationships. It’s sad, because they’re all so rich and spoilt and their lives are wrecks amidst drugs and drinking and sex, but it’s also extremely fascinating and entertaining.
It may not be a thriller, but it keeps you reading. It’s about love and loss and relationships. It’s about pain and heartbreak and abuse and power dynamics and perceptions of people. And personally, I love that. I just drank it up. If you’re a character-driven reader, you’ll enjoy it too.

SPOILER WARNING: DON’T READ ANY FURTHER IF YOU DON’T WANT TO BE SPOILED (although honestly I found this spoiler aspect predictable so it might also not be a big deal to you, just FYI):

The big thing that happens to Catherine, the thing that’s tied to the other other big thing that she witnesses and makes her go into shock, is the rape she suffers. For me, there’s just something off about the way the author writes that incident into the story. It’s too much of a plot device. It’s a catalyst for what happens between Lucien and Jack, and honestly, it’s kinda overshadowed by Lucien’s response to the incident and how he deals with it in Catherine’s behalf. Even that is kinda unsettling, because when he confronts Jack, the focus is more on “hey you did that to my girlfriend and that’s the reason we’re apart”, more than it was about Catherine’s pain and how she’s dealing with it.
Overall, I just feel like the author veered off track a bit when it came to the rape. Lucien and Catherine’s love story almost alleviates the gravity of the incident, and that doesn’t sit right with me.

DEATH IS NOT ENOUGH (Baltimore Series #6) - Karen Rose
Published: May 2018 - Headline.
Genres: Romance / suspense / action thriller / contemporary
Pages: 608.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Explicit sex scenes / violence / strong and triggering mentions/descriptions of incidents of rape.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Jonathan Ball SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Gwyn Weaver is as resilient as anyone could be. Having survived an attempted murder, she has rebuilt her life and reclaimed her dignity and strength. She's always known about her feelings for defence attorney Thomas Thorne, but as her friend and a colleague there could be no chance of anything more... or could there? Thorne has known violence and pain all his life. He's overcome the hardships that have been thrown at him thanks to his own steel, and the love of his loyal friends. Now he's thinking it might finally be time to let his guard down, and allow himself to let in the woman he's always admired from afar. Then Thorne's whole world is torn apart — he is found unconscious in his own bed, the lifeless body of a stranger lying next to him, her blood on his hands. Knowing Thorne could never have committed such a terrible crime, Gwyn and his friends rally round to clear his name. But this is just the beginning — the beginning of a brutal campaign to destroy Thorne, and everything he holds dear...

You know when you read a book and think, yeah this has issues but it's also got positive aspects, and then you get to a part in the book where you're like, okay I can't take this anymore the negative outweighs the bad and suddenly, in your mind, there are no positive aspects anymore because the negative aspects are just too big?
I don't know if that made any sense to you. But that's my situation with this book.

I always make an effort to keep my reviews balanced, so let's get the teeny, tiny positive aspects out of the way: The writing is not terrible, the story is fast-paced and action-packed, and the dialogue isn't bad. There. Done. Now let's get the less than serious negative aspects out of the way: the story is cheesy, filled with James Bond-esque cliches (the villain all but does that classic evil laugh, and he's basically your typical cliche mob boss who has all the cheesy catch-phrases and dramatic threats and we've seen him in almost every terrible action thriller), and the characters are stereotypical, boring, and oh so perfect. Yawn. 

Now for the rant. Thorn and Gwyn's relationship is revolting and problematic. First of all, Thorne is your stereotypical alpha-male whom every woman fawns over and every man looks up to. He's ridiculously idealised, and his treatment of Gwyn is unhealthy. He treats her like his property, and, wait for it, he pays hundreds of dollars to the guys she's asked out so that they won't go out with her because, prepare to swoon (#not) he wants her for himself. WHAT THE FREAKING HECK?? When Gwyn hears about this, she's justifiably angry, but as soon as she hears that Thorne only did it because he likes her and doesn't believe she's ready to date again (he implicitly calls her "unbalanced", because of the trauma she suffered years ago), all is forgiven. I AM JUST SO SICK SICK SICK OF THIS RUBBISH BEING CALLED ROMANCE BECAUSE IT'S SO FREAKING NOT: IT'S TOXIC, IT'S POSSESSIVE, AND IT'S INEXCUSABLE. Who the heck does Thorne think he is making those kinds of choices for her?? Who the HECK does he thinks he is deciding she's not ready to date yet??!! It's messed up!!

But it gets worse. To provide some background: almost every woman in this story has either been raped, abused, or killed, and basically all of those incidents happened to further a man's story. That's just trashy - and sexist - writing. There's also the fact that Gwyn's and multiple other women's rapes are used as plot devices. To take it a step further, Gwyn's trauma is basically only in the story to supposedly show that she's "a strong woman", and to provide emotional angst in her relationship with Thorne. It's all about them, how he wants to protect her and "fix her", and it's all extremely messed up. To repeat: RAPE IS NOT A PLOT DEVICE. You don't, as this author does, throw it in left right and centre to make your female characters "appealingly broken" and now "strong". It is so, so, so, SO wrong.

This book romanticises rape.

There's more where that came from. Roundabout page 349 comes one of the most shocking scenes I have ever read - one that literally made my jaw drop. I'm still not over it; it was triggering and extremely uncomfortable. It's traumatising, for all the wrong reasons. 
I've also been back and forth about quoting passages from the awful scene in question, but I just can't bring myself to do it. It's too shocking and insensitive and embarrassing. If you really don't believe me and want proof, then I'll message you the passages privately. But they're not going up here. 
The best I can do is relay the scene to you. 

This is what happens in the scene: Gwyn is telling Thorne about the rape she suffered four years earlier. Stemming from terribly written characters and problematic inclusion of such an incident in the first place, it's already in a bad place, but the author takes it a gigantic leap further by romanticising the whole incident. Throughout the scene, we as the reader are forced to watch Thorne's reaction and to see him get all angry/protective of Gwyn. But hey: there's a line between a guy getting protective of his girlfriend who's been attacked and an author who's including the incident just so that the guy can get protective of his girlfriend. Karen Rose crosses that line. It's infuriating, because it's not about Thorne and it's certainly not about how swoony his protectiveness of Gwyn is. That just negates the seriousness of the assault. It's wrong.

The author also uses ridiculous language and phrases to get romantic drama out of the incident. While it makes me sick typing "drama", unfortunately that's how it's written. The author is clearly not aware of the gravity of what she's writing about, and that's most obvious when the dialogue starts; it is extremely romanticised and blithe, to the point where I literally could not believe what I was reading. It's so clueless and insensitive. It's a mess.

This was a hard review to write and I hope I've managed to make some sense.