Saturday, 31 March 2018

ANNIHILATION (Southern Reach #1) - by Jeff VanderMeer

ANNIHILATION - by Jeff VanderMeer
Published: February 2018 (Movie Tie-In)
Pages: 208.
Genres: Science fiction / adult / horror / thriller
Triggers/Content Advisory: Scenes of horror
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Jonathan Ball SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; the second expedition ended in mass suicide, the third expedition in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another. The members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within weeks, all had died of cancer. In Annihilation, the first volume of Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy, we join the twelfth expedition. The group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain, record all observations of their surroundings and of one anotioner, and, above all, avoid being contaminated by Area X itself. They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers--they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding--but it's the surprises that came across the border with them and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another that change everything.

Ever since I saw the buzz about the 2018 film (starring Natalie Portman), I was eager to read the original book. Now that I've read it, I feel strongly that it's the kind of book that some people will love, and some won't. It's written for readers who love sci-fi horror. But while that reader isn't me, I still appreciated what I read.


VanderMeer writes beautifully. The vocabulary is rich, the imagery is stunning, the dialogue is only there when absolutely necessary to the story, and the pace is slow and steady but entrancing at the same time. It's not an adrenaline-fueled ride - it's a quiet, but deathly scary journey.  It's more psychologically unsettling than it is blood-pumping. The plot is clever, but also terrifying, and your scalp will prickle and your skin will crawl with cold anticipation. It's very much a tangible horror. 

The story is also heartbreaking. There's a lot of pain in the characters - particularly in the protagonist - and my heart ached for the heroine as we got to see flashbacks of her life with her husband. It's not just a story of horror and terrors, it's a story with heart, and it hits hard. 

There's a lot of depth, too. The author is incredibly perceptive when it comes to the human condition, and he digs deep with the pain that haunts the protagonist and the other characters. He makes you think, and he won't let you forget.  The story leaves an impression.


When you see beauty in desolation, it changes something inside you. Desolation tries to colonize you.

There are certain kinds of death that one should not be expected to relive, certain kinds of connections so deep that when they are broken you feel the snap of the link inside you.


You don't really get a lot of time to connect to the characters other than the heroine, since they either disappear or die off quite quickly. But from what I did see I enjoyed: I like how they "descend into madness" and are gradually affected by the supernatural forces around them.  It's unnerving, but it's heartbreaking. I also love how the characters' relationships escalate so quickly because of where they are and what they're faced with.

If you read this book, don't expect to find the answer to Area X or how it exists, etc. That's not what the book's about; you're never told how the place exists, it's just there and you have to accept it. The story is more about the heroine and how she's come to be there, and why she volunteered. It's about her and her husband and her life and the tragedy in her past.  It follows her journey. It tells her story. And that works so well.






Annihilation is a strongly written tale that digs deep into vividly imagined terrors and unsettling sci-fi catastrophe. It is intelligent, perceptive, and harrowing, and follows its female lead acutely as she struggles to find peace within the pain that haunts her. 
    

Thursday, 29 March 2018

CITY OF BONES (The Mortal Instruments #1) - by Cassandra Clare

CITY OF BONES - Cassandra Clare
Published: 2017 - Margaret K. McElderry Books (10th anniversary edition)
Pages: 512.
Genres: Urban fantasy / young adult / paranormal
Triggers/Content Advisory: Fantasy violence.
Format: Hardcover 10th anniversary edition.
Source: Thank you so much to Pan Macmillan SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

The tenth anniversary of Cassandra Clare’s phenomenal City of Bones demands a luxe new edition. The pride of any fan’s collection, City of Bones now has new cover art, gilded edges, over thirty interior illustrations, and six new full-page color portraits of everyone’s favorite characters! This beautifully crafted collector’s item also includes four bonus stories that have previously only appeared in limited distribution, and—best of all—a new piece written by Cassandra Clare. A perfect gift for the Shadowhunter fan in your life. This is the book where Clary Fray first discovered the Shadowhunters, a secret cadre of warriors dedicated to driving demons out of our world and back to their own. The book where she first met Jace Wayland, the best Shadowhunter of his generation. The book that started it all.


Yes I finally read a Cassandra Clare novel. Finally! And if you're gonna get this book (which you should) get a 10th anniversary edition BECAUSE IT'S JUST SO BEAUTIFUL.


The writing reminds me so much of J.K. Rowling's style. It's a little heavy, and at first I was on the fence about it, but then then the story gets going and the writing isn't an issue anymore.The dialogue is witty and engrossing, the subtext is ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT, and the humour is perfection. I laughed and smiled so many times. It's amazing.

The story keeps you turning the pages. It's so fast-paced and exciting, and the mysteries all tie together incredibly. I love how hints are dropped and then come to a climax later on, and how even the smallest details tie together. It's so clever. And although I admit I'm not actually a big fan of the premise, the book totally suceeded in winning me over.

The best thing about this book - for me, at least - is how easy it is to be sucked into its world. It tangles you up in its racing excitement and beautiful imagination, and you're swept away on a rollercoaster of adventure. It's escapist perfection. You can get lost in a world and simply have fun. It's endlessly, endlessly, entertaining.



“Have you fallen in love with the wrong person yet?' 
Jace said, "Unfortunately, Lady of the Haven, my one true love remains myself." ...
"At least," she said, "you don't have to worry about rejection, Jace Wayland." 
"Not necessarily. I turn myself down occasionally, just to keep it interesting.”


There are a lot of similarities to Harry Potter. A lot. But hey, it's still a great story. It may be very similar to Rowling's series, but I feel like Clare will make it more her own as the saga progresses.

The characters are a maelstrom of strong personalities. They're all so compelling and colourful, with my personal favourites being Jace, Isabelle, and Simon.
But I love everyone. I love their interactions, their relationships, and how dynamic their inner demons and desires are. All the romance subplots are also extremely entertaining, and I so enjoyed watching the characters fall for the wrong person, be blind to the romantic attention someone else was giving them, and basically just tie themselves up in knots. It made my heart break for every poor character, but it's so well done.




City of Bones is Harry Potter-like magic bursting with colourful characters and fantastic adventures. It's outrageous, it's heartbreaking, it's thrilling. 
PLEASE READ IT. 

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

THE WREN HUNT - by Mary Watson

THE WREN HUNT - by Mary Watson
Published: 2018 - Bloomsbury USA Childrens 
Genres: Young adult / romance / thriller / mythology / fantasy
Pages: 432.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Violence
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Jonathan Ball SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Every Christmas, Wren is chased through the woods near her isolated village by her family's enemies—the Judges—and there’s nothing that she can do to stop it. Once her people, the Augurs, controlled a powerful magic. But now that power lies with the Judges, who are set on destroying her kind for good. In a desperate bid to save her family, Wren takes a dangerous undercover assignment—as an intern to an influential Judge named Cassa Harkness. Cassa has spent her life researching a transformative spell, which could bring the war between the factions to its absolute end. Caught in a web of deceit, Wren must decide whether or not to gamble on the spell and seal the Augurs’ fate.


Wow. Wow. Wow. In all my life I have never read a book like this one. To say it's left an impression on me is an understatement. I just can't stop thinking about it.
Please, please read it.


The writing is exceptional. It's literal magic - raw talent running with dark imagination. Watson is an incredible writer, and I can't get enough of her stunning, tangible prose that bubbles and snakes with atmosphere, passion, intelligence, and pure skill. It's beautiful in the way twisty, elusive secrets are beautiful.

The story is so creepy. It is also extremely unique, and the atmosphere is deliciously dark. It's immersive and vivid, with the atmosphere a character itself. It's breathtaking.
The plot is clever and constantly compelling. The twists are chilling, the pacing perfect. It sucks you in and grips you in cold hands. I love how twisty the story is and how seamlessly those twists are revealed. It's absolutely genius.

But the world is confusing. The magic system and its terminology are everywhere, but I was honestly lost for most of it. It's just so unique and bizarre, and you're left guessing and imagining the answers for yourself because it's never directly explained. However, this aspect didn't actually both me all that much. Because I was loving the story, the writing, and the characters so much, I kinda didn't mind that the world was bizarre and bewildering. It was something for which I could just "suspend disbelief". It's evasive, but it works.


There would be consequences, I knew that. There were always consequences, usually teeny tiny consequences that you hardly noticed. But the small things added up over time, until eventually they formed one big thing that could crush you beneath its weight.

We were always told: when something repeats, it gains significance. This is how a pattern is formed. And it felt like something was forming around me. Like I was being woven into something and couldn't work my way out.


The characters are extraordinary. I love Wren's female friendships with Aisling and Sibeal, and her dynamics with Smith (her grandfather) and Maeve (who acts in her mother's place). I also adore the romance and how it's such a tantalising slow-burn; Tarc and Wren's relationship is magnificent, and the development is excellent. It's gorgeous.

The characters are all so fascinating and layered. They're elusive, three-dimensional, and unpredictable. Their arcs are fascinating, their agendas shocking. Wren's a wonderful heroine, but she's made by a strong secondary cast. They're all so incredible.




The Wren Hunt is a captivating debut that will suck you into a dark, dangerous world and leave you breathless. With fascinating characters, spellbinding writing, and an irresistibly twisty and unique plot, this book will haunt you in the best way.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Romanticised Abuse: Sexual Assault in "Daughter of the Pirate King"


Our goal is to raise awareness and draw attention to romanticised abuse in films, books, etc, in order to fight it
- Join us! Start posting whenever you want.
- Share examples of romanticised abuse you've seen in books or films - doesn't even have to be a whole book or film; simply one scene is enough, if there's an instance of romanticised abuse in it.
- Please link to my blog as the original creator.
- This is not only about romanticised abusive relationships. It is about romanticised sexual assault, rape, and harassment, as well.
- Please consider the following statement a trigger warning: this blog series explores and draws attention to themes of abuse in fiction. I will discuss sexual assault, abusive relationships, and rape. I will infrequently explore those topics in depth as the fictional example requires it. Please read on with care. These subjects could be triggering.




Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller is a Young Adult pirate fantasy novel that I've been dying to read ever since it was published last year. I finally got a copy a few weeks ago, but my excitement evaporated almost the instant I started reading. It was disappointing in many ways; not least of which was its attitude towards two separate scenes of sexual assault.


The two scenes are too long to simply copy and paste into this post. So I'm summarising to give you the context:
- Scene 1 - Alosa and her captives dock at a coastal port and the crew goes into a tavern. Alosa then steps outside, into the darkened street, and is accosted by a drunk member of the crew. He sexually assaults her, and tries to rape her, before she manages to kill him. After she's killed him, Alosa looks up to find Riden, the ship's second mate and book's love interest, watching her. He admits he saw the entire incident.
- Scene 2 - Alosa is taken to the Captain's - his name is Drazen - room on board the ship where it's made very clear that his intentions are less than honourable. It's obvious knowledge - to the crew, to Riden, to Alosa - that Drazen plans to have sex with her. He plans to rape her. Before Alosa goes into his room, Riden begs her not to kill Drazen because whatever he might do to her, he's still his brother.



My problems with both these scenes combined: 

1: The scenes - especially the first one - are light-hearted. They are written lightly, and from Alosa's perspective they are of little consequence because she's capable enough to defend herself. Look, the book is a light-hearted book. It's not serious in the slightest. It's supposed to be a fun romp through the seas in the company of a fiesty, firey-tongued female pirate. But if the rest of the book is so light and fun, then when you write in a scene of sexual assault it's immediately out of place. Or at least, it should be. I think Levenseller makes a grievous mistake in including these two scenes of attempted rape because the scenes are not trested like serious, horrifying incidents because 1) They're basically plot points and 2) The writing style is flippant. They need to be handled seriously, but they aren't. I think that's inexcusable. 

2: Riden is supposed to be the swoony love interest. But his behaviour in both these scenes when a woman is first sexually assaulted and then almost raped, is anything but swoony or admirable. Think of the first incident. Alosa is being pawed and assaulted by a drunken member of the ship's crew, and Riden stands there and watches it and does absolutely nothing. He does nothing because he knows Alosa can handle herself. He stands there and watches and does not do a single thing to stop it. 

EXCUSE ME?! Am I even reading this right?! 
Yes, yes I am. 

And then when Alosa sees Riden there, there's this exchange:  
Alosa: "How much did you see?" 
Riden: "All of it." ...... 
Riden: "I was in the middle of something back there when I heard a struggle going on outside. {He then tells she needs to go back to the ship, and he's willing to fight her to make her obey}. You've put me in quite the mood." 
OKAY EW GROSS. He saw her get assaulted, saw her kill the guy, and flirts with "{SHE} PUT HIM IN QUITE THE MOOD"?!
He adds further on in the scene: "I let you kill Sheck {the guy who attacked Alosa}. Because I couldn't do it myself." 

THERE IS SO MUCH WRONG WITH THIS SCENE THAT MY INARDS ARE SPEWING OUT OF MY MOUTH. How the heck is this guy someone you would want to be the hero of a story? How the heck is his behaviour just glossed over?! 

Then just when you think it couldn't get worse, we get to the second scene and Riden proves once again that he's more than worthy to be fish food. 
{As Alosa heads to Drazen's room} 
Riden: "But please, only use it {the knife} if you have to. He's still my brother. Don't kill him...Get free and get out of there if you can. That's the best I can do. The map for my brother and freedom for you. Please. Again I'll ask you, don't kill him." 

Yeah Riden, your brother is going to attempt to rape the woman you claim to love BUT YOU DON'T WANT HER TO KILL HIM. Oh no

Then Alosa replies: "What happens if Drazen overpowers me?" 
 Riden: "Oh please....you are skilled, Alosa. No man could get the better of you..." 

Yes Riden, because that's how we respond. 

OH MY GOSH. This guy needs to be thrown to the sharks and even that would be too kind. I have no words for how absolutely despicable he is. 

Then when Alosa comes out of Drazen's room later... '"Did you kill him?" is the first thing he {Riden} asks me.'

ALOSA KILL HIM FOR GOODNESS FREAKING'S SAKE



I am appalled by Riden and I am horrified at the way Levenseller writes these scenes of sexual assault. They are nothing more than plot points, a means to an end, and Riden is supposed to be the swoony love interest. And there is everything wrong with that. 



← CRAZY HOUSE by James Patterson

Monday, 26 March 2018

2 Mini Book Reviews: OVER RAGING TIDES & THREATS OF SKY AND SEA

OVER RAGING TIDES (Lady Pirates #1) - Jennifer Ellision
Published: March 2018
Pages: N.A.
Genres: Pirates / fantasy / young adult
Triggers/Content Advisory: N.A.
Format: eBook.
Source: Netgalley.

The pirate crew of the Lady Luck lives by many rules, but chief among them is this: they do not allow men on board. That’s a rule that quartermaster Grace Porter is willing to break when a shipwrecked young nobleman offers her information of an omniscient map, stolen from his warship by an enemy vessel. Until now, the map was only the stuff of legend… but with its help, Grace may finally be able to hunt down the Mordgris, the sea monsters who stole her mother away from her. Unfortunately, some members of her crew have other plans... To find the map and face the Mordgris, Grace will have to confront her past, put the Luck between warring nations, and uncover treachery aboard the ship. And ultimately, her revenge and the destruction of the Mordgris will come at a hefty price: the betrayal of her crew. Grace promised them they wouldn’t regret this. She just isn’t sure that she won’t.


This is a brilliant example of a good pirate book. Forget Daughter of the Pirate King (I had issues with that one) - read this instead.


The writing is great. The descriptions are a bit too colourful, but otherwise the atmosphere is rich, the dialogue witty, entertaining, and realistic, and the humour delightfully quirky. I love it. The whole "pirate-ness" is also so natural and realistic; the slang and "pirate talk" is there without being overdone, and the author doesn't lay it on too thick. It's immersive, and well researched.

The plot is fantastic. There's action, but there's also intrigue and wonderful character interactions. I thoroughly enjoyed getting swept away in this story.

The characters are all very cute and compelling. I absolutely love the idea of a female pirate crew, and everywhere you turn there are epic, dynamic women who are capable and human. It's so awesome to see. The feminism isn't forced, either. I also love the brotherly relationship between Leo and John, and the romance between Grace and Leo is so sweet. Their chemistry is terrific, and their banter is gold.
The only negative about the characters is their lack of depth. They're vivid, but they don't bounce off the page.

          
      
     

THREATS OF SKY AND SEA (Elementals #1) - Jennifer Ellision
Published: 2014 - Createspace
Pages: 360
Genres: Young adult / fantasy / romance
Triggers/Content Advisory: N.A
Format: eBook.
Source: Netgalley.

Sixteen year-old Breena Perdit has spent her life as a barmaid, innocent to her father’s past and happily free from the Elemental gifts that would condemn her to a life in the Egrian King’s army. Until the day that three Elemental soldiers recognize her father as a traitor to the throne and Bree’s father is thrown in jail—along with the secrets from his last mission as the King’s assassin. Secrets that could help the King win a war. Secrets he refuses to share. Desperate to escape before the King’s capricious whims prove her and her father’s downfall, Bree bargains with him: information for their lives. It’s a good trade. And she has faith she’ll get them both out of the King’s grasp with time. But that was before the discovery that she’s the weapon the King’s been waiting for in his war. Now, time is running out. To save her father’s life and understand her own, Bree must unravel the knot of her father’s past before the King takes his life– and uses her to bring a nation to its knees.


The writing is good, even though the dialogue isn't amazing. But the atmosphere is so strong, and the world is so interesting. It's a bit limited and I would've liked to know more, but I suppose the other books in the series will expand upon that.

I love how the author combines secrets, romance, magic, and a generous splash of historical-like royalty systems. The plot is so fast-paced, so exciting, and there are some amazing twists at the end. I was so entertained.

The characters are lovable. Aleta and Bree's friendship is terrific, Bree's relationship with her father is beautiful, and I adore the squad: Bree (the brave, passionate heroine), Caden (the noble, kind hearted Prince), Tregle (the servant boy who is oh such a cinnamon roll) and Aleta (the fierce girl whose hard exteriour hides inner pain). I can't wait to see how their friendships develop over the course of the series.







Hope you liked these reviews! Have you read or heard of these books? What do you think of them? 

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Weekly What's Up - I'm on hooolliiddaaayy


I'm on holiday! Only for a little while, but still. I am so happy. I'm dying to spend time working hardcore on my writing and getting to sleep in a lot ;) I'm so looking forward to it. 


Posts of the Week

I reviewed Fawkes by Nadine Brandes, and found it so disappointing

I shared what I'm currently writing in my second WIP Diaries post.

I did two mini book reviews for Scarborough Fair and Don't Trust Me.

I give you 5 reasons to read the amazing KEEPER by Kim Chance.

I shared some incredible writing resources for all writers to check out!

I reviewed Blade Runner 2049. The film left me with mixed feelings.


Currently Reading

I'm still reading and enjoying The Wren Hunt, I'm so bored with Rather Me, and I've just started An Enchantment of Ravens (which is free on Rivetedlit.com till April 1st! So go read it!)








For Review

I got these two eBooks on Netgalley... (I've already finished reading them ;)









Around the Blogosphere

Lauren reviews Orphan Monster Spy

Genni shares 3 mini movie reviews

Ronnie reviews a theater performance of Hamlet starring Benedict Cumberbatch

Eileen reviews Let Me Lie

Heather reviews Children of Blood and Bone





How has your week been? What are you reading and watching? 

Saturday, 24 March 2018

BLADE RUNNER 2049 (film) is visually stunning, but boring

BLADE RUNNER 2049 - 2017
Director: Denis Villeneuve.
Cast: Ryan Gosling / Harrison Ford / Jared Leto / Robin Wright
Score: Hans Zimmer / Benjamin Wallfisch
Cinematography: Roger Deakins
Content Advisory: R for very grisly images, language, sexuality, and nudity.
Source: Rented.

A young blade runner's discovery of a long-buried secret leads him to track down former blade runner Rick Deckard, who's been missing for thirty years.





I didn't watch the first Blade Runner movie, but after all the Oscar nominations and buzz this film earned, I had to see it.


The best thing - by far - about this movie, is its production. The visuals are breathtaking. The cinematography is pure art. The scenography is impeccable. The sound editing is excellent. All in all, this film is a feast for the eyes, and a work of art to behold. It's gorgeous.

But the writing isn't so hot. The dialogue is good, yes, and the frequent absence of dialogue is effective, but the plot drags. I was confused, and I was so completely and utterly bored out of my mind. The action is too stop-start, and the scenes fluctuate in intensity which allows you no time to actually connect to the characters' arcs. The scenes just need to get focused. The plot's progression needs to be neater, and those scenes need some purpose. Some direction.




The acting is mediocre. Ryan Gosling's solid, but he's extremely wooden. Harrison Ford is sorely underused, and only turns up right near the end of the film. Jared Leto spends about fifteen minutes on screen, and Robin Wright is wasted. The cast deserves better.

After it's release, this movie received severe backlash from audiences who accused Denis Villeneuve of cruelly exploiting the female characters in the film and keeping to the original film's rampant sexism. And yes, without a doubt, the women in this movie are treated disgustingly; they're constantly objectified and brutalised, from crudely nude hologrammed women in the streets, female robots (called Jois) who are sold to men as their own personal playthings and who dress and act according to the male's needs, and there's even a scene where Jared Leto's character literally rips into the stomach of a woman as she trembles, naked and vulnerable, in front of him. It's horrific to say the least.
However, is the sexism there to prove a point? Is it there to show a glimpse of a terrifying future that might one day be a reality if we continue to dehumanize and devalue women? I've read articles on both sides of the argument, and I'm honestly not sure what to think. On one hand - on surface level -  Villeneuve is being extremely sexist, but on the other, he could be sending an uncomfortable message - a warning. The misogynistic society he's portraying could be there to show precisely how wrong it is. He even commented on the whole controversy HERE.
What do you think?




Blade Runner 2049 is a visual masterpiece. But the script is monotonous, the characters dull, and the real acting talents underused. It's a boring film, offering a glimpse of a potential future we've seen too many times before.


Friday, 23 March 2018

Writing Resources You Can't Afford To Miss!


Today I'm sharing a number of indispensable writing resources for all writers out there! I did do a post similar to this one when I first started blogging, but it's now seriously outdated, so I thought an updated version would be more appropriate and relevant :)

Enjoy!



Caitlin @ Quills and Coffee - Caitlin is an amazing friend and writer, and her website is packed with invaluable tips on writing, querying, and more. She's always so willing to share what she knows, and she is such an inspiration.
Twitter / Facebook


Lara - I only recently discovered Lara but wow am I glad I did. Apart from having an absolutely gorgeous website, her free templates and worksheets covering all aspects of writing are so useful, and she's always so willing to encourage, inspire, and motivate aspiring authors.
Twitter / Instagram


K.M. Weiland @ Helping Writers Become Authors - K. M is the queen of writing info. Her website delves into all kinds of writing topics, and I found her articles about plotting especially helpful. If it wasn't for her, my writing these days probably wouldn't even have a three Act structure. That thought scares me!
Facebook / Twitter / Instagram


Now Novel - Bridget's articles are short, sweet, and so useful - especially when you're just laying the ground work for your book. She covers all aspects of writing a story, and the info is so applicable.
Facebook / Twitter


The Write Life - This website has so much information on all aspects of writing, and signing up to their email list is definitely worthwhile.
Facebook / Twitter


Well Storied - Kristen Kieffer's website is incredible. She has so much info on writing a book, and covers every single aspect deeply and insightfully. You can't afford to miss her posts.
Twitter / Facebook / Instagram


Kim Chance - Kim is an amazing personality in the writing world. Her website and YouTube channel cover extremely relatable topics on all aspects of writing, and she's also unflinchingly honest and ready to share her own personal experience when it comes to writing and publishing. Her debut novel, Keeper, was published in January, and I definitely recommend that you check out that book as well. It's amazing.
Twitter / Facebook / Instagram / YouTube





I hope you found this post informative and helpful! Definitely go check out all these amazing people and sources. I can't recommend them highly enough. 

Thursday, 22 March 2018

5 Reasons To Read KEEPER by Kim Chance


Morning all! Today I'm gushing about a debut YA urban fantasy novel that came out in January and deserves all the love in the world. Not only is it a wonderful book, but the author is a amazing woman who inspires me so much.

SO. Without further ado, here are five reasons why you should read Keeper...



KEEPER by Kim Chance

/

Goodreads   /     Amazon    /    Barnes and Noble


My Review 


1: Urban Fantasy at its best

You know how there are some urban fantasies that give you everything you want in an urban fantasy? Swoony romance, humour, lots of adrenaline pumping action, and an atmospheric setting? A world you can just lose yourself in? A magical story that simple sweeps you away? 
This book has all of that. You'll race through it, but you never want it to end. You'll get all warm and fuzzy inside, then the next minute you'll be aching for the characters and their pain. You'll lose yourself in an incredible new world. 

It's escapism at its best and its urban fantasy a hundred times above the average. 

2: Swoony Romance!

AHHH WE HAVE A SHIP Y'ALL. Ty and Lainey are #goals. He's hot and mysterious but he respects her and treats her as an equal. She's capable and independent, but she accepts his help and views him as a partner as well as the guy she loves.

Plus, there are plenty of swoony kisses ;) And they both have turns to rescue each other.

IT'S SO FREAKING CUTE AND SEXY AND HEALTHY.

3: Female Friendship

Lainey and Maggie are an amazing duo. They stick by each other and they root for each other. Maggie's always there to encourage and support Lainey when she's overwhelmed by what she's going through, and Maggie's an integral part of the plot - something the "best friend" usually isn't, unfortunately.

AND THEY LITERALLY SAVE EACH OTHER. I got goosebumps and squealed out loud during this one scene where they're attacked and Maggie takes on Lainey's attacker. IT'S JUST SO PERFECT TO SEE GIRLS SUPPORTING AND FIGHTING FOR GIRLS. And I'm a huge sucker for girls rescuing girls ;)

4: Family and Friendships

There's romance and female friendship, but there are also a strong theme of family. Lainey has a beautiful relationship with her awesome uncle, Gareth, and also with Serena, a fantastically eccentric fortune-teller.
Lainey's parents aren't around, so Gareth is in lieu of them.  I just love Lainey's relationship with him and Serena.

5: Atmosphere and Setting

Think Beautiful Creatures: witches, real Southern American vibes....It's just so cool. The story is atmospheric, and there's so much creepy Gothic awesomeness in Lainey's small town. Josephine's story (which runs parallel to Lainey's) is a huge part of that. It utterly draws you in.




Have you read Keeper by Kim Chance? What did you think of it?

If you haven't read it, I can't recommend it highly enough!

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

2 Mini Reviews: SCARBOROUGH FAIR and DON'T TRUST ME

SCARBOROUGH FAIR - Margarita Morris
Published: March 2016 - Margarita Morris
Pages: N.A.
Genres: Young adult / romance / historical fiction / thriller
Triggers/Content Advisory: Mild violence / one scene of self-harm /
Format: eBook.
Source: Netgalley.

1899: Seeking sanctuary in the seaside resort of Scarborough, Alice discovers she is not safe from her fiancĂ©’s jealous clutches. She jumps at the chance to run away with a man she truly loves, but when a plot to help Alice escape goes dreadfully wrong, she finds herself in terrible danger. 2016: Forced to spend the summer in Scarborough with her mother and grandmother, Rose doesn’t think her holiday is going to be much fun. Especially when she’s almost killed by a Ferrari driver on the first day. Things start to look up when she meets Dan and he asks her to go to the fair with him. But Dan’s father is mixed up with a criminal gang and Rose and Dan find themselves drawn into a life and death situation. For both Alice and Rose, the fun of Scarborough Fair soon turns into the nightmare of a Victorian lunatic asylum. They must both escape if they are going to survive.


Likes:
- Writing / The writing is lovely. The dialogue is rich, the scenes are colourful, and the author gets inside each character's head brilliantly.
- Atmosphere / The atmosphere is amazing. You really feel as though you're by the beach, or at the fair, and the setting comes alive with a beautiful tangibility. It's that homely, magical, small town English vibe.  
- Plot / The plot is fast-paced, entertaining, exciting, and action packed. It's so much fun and deliciously light-hearted and innocent. There's danger, but it's never terrifying, and there's always light overshadowing the dark. It's a wonderful story.
- Characters / The characters are very sweet and easy to love. No one's particularly three-dimensional, but they're still compelling. They fit the story perfectly. And I also love the strong themes of friendship.

Dislikes:
- Romances / There are a lot of romantic ships in this book, and all of them are extremely insta-lovey. There's also the fact that the girls are way too quick to trust the guys when they barely even know them; for example, Rose and Dan meet after his dad almost runs her over with his car, and when Dan insists on following some shady guys at the fair and later following them into an abandoned asylum, Rose has no trouble going with him. She trusts him with her life despite the fact they've just met! It's unrealistic, not to mention dangerous.
- Too many characters / There are way too many characters. By the end I knew who everyone was, but it still took a while to get them straight in my head. I also don't like how mixed up the points of view are; sometimes only a small paragraph break in the middle of a chapter is the indication of a point of view changing, and it can be disorienting. It would've been better if the author had changed points of view by chapter instead of paragraph.  


        
         



DON'T TRUST ME - Jessica Lynch
Published: December 2017.
Pages: 322.
Genres: Thriller / mystery / Adult
Triggers/Content Advisory: NA.
Format: eBook.
Source: Netgalley.

Welcome to Hamlet. Population: 192. You can't find it on any map, GPS or directions site. A small village tucked between a mountain and a valley, Hamlet is the sort of place where everyone knows everyone -- and their business, too. There's no television. No phones. Only one way in and, for the locals, barely any way out. The sheriff is the law, the only doctor moonlights as the coroner, and outsiders rarely come to town. Murders are even rarer. A treacherous storm, a flat tire and a touch of serendipity causes Tessa Sullivan and her husband Jack to stumble upon the narrow strait that leads into Hamlet. It was supposed to be a one night stop until the rain let up and Jack could figure out how to fix the tire -- until Tess lands herself in the local jail cell overnight and Jack is found dead in their hotel room the next morning. There's no doubt it was murder, but with his gentle wife having an airtight alibi, the sheriff has to wonder: who had any cause to kill the outsider? And was he only the first victim? Dr. De Angelis doesn’t think so. Neither does Deputy Walsh. With Tess looking more and more like the killer’s next target, both men take the time to comfort and protect the young widow. But only one of them is sincere. The other just wants her to himself now that her husband is out of the way. Alone and afraid, who can she trust?


This is a hard book to review and I barely know where to start. It kinda threw me all over the place. But here goes.

The writing isn't bad, but I do think it needs at least one more round of editing. Towards the start of the bool, especially, the sentences are awkwardly constructured and the word order jumbled. Take these two for example: 'Except for the radio, he preferred silence when he drove if they were going somewhere new.' - 'Was he so miserable to her that finding a hotel to stay the night in brought the life back to her?'

The story is okay. The mystery aspect is clever, but I feel like the romances are the plot rather than the mystery. The romances are easily the main focus, and considering that I don't ship anyone and that I don't like any of the characters, it doesn't work well for me.

The characters are dull. Tessa is the beautiful, innocent damsel everyone falls in love with, and she has no depth. The secondary characters are boring, too.
But the guys are the worst. Mason and Lucas are alpha males and ridiculously overprotective. Thankfully, Tessa has the sense to think, "This wasn’t a contest, and she wasn’t a prize", but that doesn't make me warm to them any more. They're still jerks. And Mason assaults Tessa, so there's that. (Although, thank goodness, that isn't glossed over and Tessa is actually outraged by it).

There's also the ending. It's a shocker, which is good, but it's too open-ended. I don't like it.

This is a decent thrillet novel, but the characters and writing disappointed me.


         





Hope you liked these reviews! Have you read or heard of these books? What do you think of them? 

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

The WIP Diaries - What I'm currently writing...


(I'm experimenting with image headers, so there might be a different one every week ;)


This is another post in my new blog series, where I share my writing updates, plans, and works in progress! Today I'm sharing some info about my current WIP.


Title: I'm going with Jackie for now, but that will definitely not be the final title.

Genre: Young adult / historical fiction / fantasy / action adventure

Status: Writing the first draft.





I'm only on Act 2 of this novel, and progress is slow. There are good days and bad days, obviously, but all in all I'm enjoying the story. I love my heroine, and I love my secondary characters even more. The themes of friendship and family are strong, the characters' secrets are destructive, and I'm so enjoying writing the action scenes.
Check out my Pinterest board above to see how I envision the characters and their story!

To give you a quick taste of the plot: My heroine and her three friends undertake a treacherous journey across unpredictable terrain to find the riches one of them seeks. But with relationships breaking and external forces threatening the group, their inner demons threaten to override even the fiercest of bonds. They have a lot to learn about each other. And a lot to discover about themselves.

Just FYI: It's a gender-swapped retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk ;)



Are you writing anything at the moment? What's your WIP about? 

Monday, 19 March 2018

FAWKES - by Nadine Brandes

FAWKES - Nadine Brandes
Published: July 2018 - Thomas Nelson
Genres: Young adult / fantasy / historical / romance
Pages: 352.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Nothing.
Format: eARC.
Source: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Thomas Fawkes is turning to stone, and the only cure to the Stone Plague is to join his father’s plot to assassinate the king of England. Silent wars leave the most carnage. The wars that are never declared, but are carried out in dark alleys with masks and hidden knives. Wars where color power alters the natural rhythm of 17th century London. And when the king calls for peace, no one listens until he finally calls for death. But what if death finds him first? Keepers think the Igniters caused the plague. Igniters think the Keepers did it. But all Thomas knows is that the Stone Plague infecting his eye is spreading. And if he doesn’t do something soon, he’ll be a lifeless statue. So when his Keeper father, Guy Fawkes, invites him to join the Gunpowder Plot—claiming it will put an end to the plague—Thomas is in. The plan: use 36 barrels of gunpowder to blow up the Igniter King. The problem: Doing so will destroy the family of the girl Thomas loves. But backing out of the plot will send his father and the other plotters to the gallows. To save one, Thomas will lose the other. No matter Thomas’s choice, one thing is clear: once the decision is made and the color masks have been put on, there’s no turning back.


A retelling of the Guy Fawkes story?! Yes please! I was so psyched to read this book. I've also been following the author on Instagram for a while, and she's lovely. I wanted to like the book because I like her.


But I don't think much of the writing. It's bland and rather amateurish, and could definitely use a few more rounds of editing polish. The dialogue, too, is weak; predictable, peppered with cliches, and too much on-the-nose. The descriptions are also disappointing. The language is never quite suitable, and they're too bizarre to actually work. Examples: "I put on a burst of speed, broke from the crowd, and bowled into the two guards." - "It rose upon its hill like an unslain dragon." 
See what I mean? They're slightly... Off. It's like she's using the wrong words to describe what she's describing. And perhaps that's one of the reasons why the setting doesn't ever come alive.  

The plot is very weak. It's kinda predictable, and the start of the story is way too rushed. The whole colour magic system takes a while to get a grip on, but that aspect is good. It's very unusual. I also love how not black and white the politics of the plot are and how there's good and bad on either side of the rebellion; it's not all cut and dry. That's realistic.
But my main issue with the plot is how loose it is. The scenes don't tie together properly, and most of them don't seem to tie to the overarching purpose of the story. Incidents happen, but they're random. Thomas, as the protagonist, should be moving the plot in one direction, but he never does. He stumbles along on other people's decisions and choices and knocks into events that are completely coincidental. It is so frustrating.

How many of us acted and spoke out and fought for beliefs that we held because our environment told us to?

The characters are walking cliches and they aren't three-dimensional. Thomas' voice as narrator is childish, and he literally has no personality. Other characters like his father or Henry or any other members of the secondary cast are stereotypes and completely flat. They have no personality. Emma, who's the heroine, is the only person I actually like, but even then all the girl power coming from her feels preachy and forced.




Fawkes is a cliche, untidily plotted story with stereotypical, flat characters and boring writing. Its politics are intriguing, but overall the book is a disappointment.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Weekly What's Up - reading, writing, watching


Not much to report this week. I've been reading a lot and I'm on series 8 of F.R.I.E.N.D.S, so that's been great. And I've been posting every day on my blog, which is actually working really well for me. I'm loving it. 


Posts of the Week


I reviewed A Perfect Marriage, a book I highly recommend. It's excellent.

I shared horrific examples of romanticised female abuse in Crazy House by James Patterson.

I reviewed Crystal Kingdom, Girls Can Vlog, and Goth Girl in a three mini review post. Goth Girl is a beautiful Middle Grade novel which I definitely recommend to anyone who has small kids :)

I reviewed The Perfect Girlfriend, a taut, chilling thriller which is written from the perspective of a terrific anti-heroine.

I reviewed Fireblood, the second book in Elly Blake's Frostblood trilogy, and didn't love it :(

I reviewed My Cousin Rachel, the film based on the book by Daphne du Maurier. It fell flat for me.

I reviewed Daughter of the Pirate King on Goodreads. It was such a disappointment.


Currently Reading

I'm having mixed feelings about Sky in the Deep, but I'm enjoying The Wren Hunt, and I've just started Don't Trust Me.




For Review

I got these two paperbacks for review...








And got these eBooks on Netgalley.....








And some giveaway prizes finally arrived from Book Depository, as well!








Around the Blogosphere

Di reviews Fireblood

Alyssa shares her Favourite Jane Austen inspired books

Heather reviews Little Fires Everywhere

Christy reviews To Kill A Kingdom

Ronnie shares some Quotes to brighten your day

Angela talks about her  Biggest Blogging Fears and how she plans to overcome them

Genni interviews the authors of Our Dark Stars





How has your week been? What are you reading and watching? 

Saturday, 17 March 2018

MY COUSIN RACHEL (film) is passionless and tedious

MY COUSIN RACHEL - 2017
Director: Roger Michell.
Cast: Rachel Weisz / Sam Clafin / Iain Glen / Holliday Grainger
Score: Rael Jones.
Cinematography: Mike Eley.
Content Advisory: PG 13 for some sexuality and brief strong language
Source: Rented.

A young Englishman plots revenge against his late cousin's mysterious, beautiful wife, believing her responsible for his death. But his feelings become complicated as he finds himself falling under the beguiling spell of her charms.



Because I've been desperate to read the Daphne du Maurier book for ages, naturally I was excited to see the movie, too. I'm also a huge fan of Rachel Weisz. I had high hopes for the film.


Visually, it's stunning. The cinematography is excellent, the scenes well crafted, and the setting and landscapes magnificent. The direction is also very good, and the scenes are atmospheric.

But the script is poorly written. The film starts off extremely rushed, and we're flung into the story without nuanced development. The scenes are also discontinuous, and I personally think they could've been either rearranged or replaced with alternative sequences and the plot would've been tighter - better - for it. As it is, they feel like missed opportunities. It doesn't help that the pacing is odd, too.
I was so bored. The story is just dull. Because the scenes aren't taken to their full potential and the writing isn't brilliant, the whole story drags and every scene is slow. I wasn't gripped - I wasn't entertained. It's disappointing.

The story doesn't leave an impact. I was never certain what the theme was, or who I was supposed to be rooting for, or what I should have been thinking. It's not powerful enough; it dragged me along and showed me characters and incidents but I was never sure how I should react. I couldn't appreciate the content.



Sam Clafin's performance is good, but overwrought. He doesn't make an impression. Rachel Weisz, on the other hand, is intoxicating. She's ethereal, terrifying, seductive, and captivating. Her acting is spellbinding. She carries what she can of the boring story and almost makes the film worth watching.

But Weisz and Clafin have no chemistry. There's zero spark between them. I think this definitely contributes to the overall impression of their relationship, and took a lot away from its soul. I also don't like how little is seen of the progression of their characters' relationship; Rachel arrives, Philip sees her, and he's utterly charmed by her. There's no solid development to their romance. I wish we could've seen him slowly falling under her spell, but the story misses that.




My Cousin Rachel is beautifully filmed and led by a mesmerising Weisz, but otherwise it's insufferably boring and poorly plotted. It's a missed opportunity.