Sunday, 29 April 2018

Monthly Wrap-Up: April-May


I'm excited for May! It's a month of family birthdays (including mine!) and I'm hoping we'll get lots of rain, too. These last few days have been deliciously cold and wintery, and I just luuuuuv it. The cold is perfect.

I'm reading a lot, watching lots of F.R.I.E.N.D.S, and I have finally started editing my WIP so GO ME. I was feeling so intimidated by the whole editing process, but I want to make this story work and I want to be able to say I've written a finished novel. Unfortunately, that includes the whole editing process too. So here I am. Wish me luck!


Blog Posts from this month

The WIP Diaries: THE WOODS Saga
Blog Tour & Extract: SHE'S BAD NEWS
Romanticised Abuse: THE ORPHAN'S WISH
Blog Tour & Blitz: VISIONS
Marvel Universe Collaboration with Abby
The WIP Diaries: MORGANA
Romanticised Abuse: Jeb and Alyssa in SPLINTERED
5 Reasons To Read LETTERS TO THE LOST
Blog Tour & Excerpt: SONG OF BLOOD AND STONE


My favourite post to write this month was probably 5 reasons to read "Letters to the Lost".

Reviews from this month

Book Review: SONG OF BLOOD AND STONE
Book Review: GEEKERELLA
Book Review: BRIDE OF THE SEA
Film Review: THE GREATEST SHOWMAN
Book Review: SKY IN THE DEEP
Book Review: THE ORPHAN'S WISH
Book Review: A WRINKLE IN TIME
Film Review: MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS
Book Review: THE HAZEL WOOD
Film Review: BATTLE OF THE SEXES
Book Review: A GREAT RECKONING
Book Review: THE WHISPERING ROOM
Film Review: THOR RAGNAROK
Film Review: JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE
Book Review: THE BELLES



My favourite book this month was The Belles, and my favourite film was The Greatest Showman.

May TBR



None of the books in the image are for review; they're ones I either bought myself or won in a giveaway. But I'm getting some review copies soon, so I'm saving most of the month for those ;)





Happy May! Did you have a good month? What's on your TBR? 

Friday, 27 April 2018

THE BELLES (The Belles #1) - by Dhonielle Clayton

THE BELLES (The Belles #1) - Dhonielle Clayton
Published: February 2018 - Disney Hyperion.
Genres: Young adult / fantasy /
Pages: 440.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Occasional violence / one scene of sexual assault
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Jonathan Ball SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful. But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orléans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision. With the future of Orléans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.

The reviews for this novel have been so, so mixed. I was nervous to start reading it for myself. But the cover stole my breath away, and so I just had to see if the inside was as gorgeous.


The writing is beautiful. I mean that with my whole heart. Yes, some parts are purple prosy, but it actually works because it isn't just nonsense - the lavish language makes sense, the words aren't just thrown in out of the blue, and the book would not be the same without such colourful, tangible prose. It works perfectly for the story Clayton's telling. She works magic into her words, and the descriptions are particularly breathtaking.

The world of Orlèans is spectacular. The scenes are richly specific without being tedious, the sights and smells sweep you into their embrace, and you're lost in an escapist dream of glitz, dazzle, and the dark glamour of such a majestic world.  It may hide the deadliest of secrets, but on the outside it shines like a thousand coloured gems. You don't want to be there, but your mouth will water looking in. Clayton has created a literal wonderland.


“Dreams remind us of who we are and how we feel about the things around us.”

“Be the best without trying to be better than the others.”


The plot is slow, but it never drags. Even though there isn't always physical action, the characters and the alluring mysteries of the world keep you captivated, and not for one minute was I bored. The story gripped me, enticed me, shocked me, and it held me. It's utterly engrossing.
It's also terrifying. There are some truly horrific, downright wicked, parts to the story that made my heart shudder. The intensity of the darkness Clayton weaves into the outwardly immaculate world, makes a chilling statement about society's perception of women and appearance. She's a wickedly clever writer, and she hits hard. It's fascinating, but it's horrifying at the same time. It'll give you the chills.

The characters make up an extremely engaging cast, and even the villains are entrancing. You don't get to see a lot of layers in terms of backstory, etc, but everyone is still distinct, vivid, and compelling. Camille is a great heroine, and I just adore her relationships with her Belle sisters. They might be competing for the same thing, but there's a real sisterly bond between all of them, and if you love female friendships, you'll be overjoyed at all the strong girls-supporting-girls themes and subplots. They're so beautiful. I loved them.




The Belles is a devilishly delectable tale set in an opulent world where appearance is paramount. The writing is irresistible, the characters are captivating, and the plot is a dark beast smoldering with chilling intensity.   

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Blog Tour and Excerpt: SONG OF BLOOD & STONE - by L. Penelope



I'm so excited and honoured to be spotlighting this beautiful fantasy debut today! Check out the amazing excerpt below.
Hope you enjoy the post :)




"This debut, which won the Black Caucus of the American Library Association Self-Publishing Award, shines a bright light into epic fantasy. Battle-scarred lands and peoples, ancient powers at war, star-crossed loves and hints of racial and refugee themes gives this a solid place on library shelves." — Library Journal, STARRED review 

“Penelope parallels our own world, exploring a refugee crisis and race relations with emotion and nuance...Fresh, suspenseful, and perceptive, Penelope’s first in a new series will appeal to historical-fantasy readers, especially fans of N. K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.” — Booklist 

"Penelope delivers an engrossing story with delightful characters in this fantastic opening to a promising series." —Publishers Weekly, STARRED review 

“L. Penelope’s page-turning apocalyptic epic SONG OF BLOOD & STONE does what fantasy does best: provide epic plots, epic world-building and epic myth. A rewarding, carefully crafted read.” 
— The Root

Orphaned and alone, Jasminda lives in a land where cold whispers of invasion and war linger on the wind. Jasminda herself is an outcast in her homeland of Elsira, where her gift of Earthsong is feared. When ruthless soldiers seek refuge in her isolated cabin, they bring with them a captive--an injured spy who threatens to steal her heart. Jack's mission behind enemy lines to prove that the Mantle between Elsira and Lagamiri is about to fall nearly cost him his life, but he is saved by the healing Song of a mysterious young woman. Now he must do whatever it takes to save Elsira and it's people from the True Father and he needs Jasminda's Earthsong to do it. They escape their ruthless captors and together they embark on a perilous journey to save Elsira and to uncover the secrets of The Queen Who Sleeps. Thrust into a hostile society, Jasminda and Jack must rely on one another even as secrets jeopardize their bond. As an ancient evil gains power, Jasminda races to unlock a mystery that promises salvation. The fates of two nations hang in the balance as Jasminda and Jack must choose between love and duty to fulfill their destinies and end the war. 


                  Goodreads   /     Amazon      /     Barnes and Noble           







Leslye Penelope has been writing since she could hold a pen and loves getting lost in the worlds in her head. She is an award-winning author of new adult, fantasy, and paranormal romance. She lives in Maryland with her husband and their furry dependents: an eighty-pound lap dog and an aspiring feral cat. SONG








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CHAPTER TWO


Jackal and Monkey stood at the edge of a wide canyon. Monkey asked, If I leap and make it to the other side, was that my destiny or merely my good luck? Jackal replied, Our destiny can be taken in hand, molded, and shaped, while chance makes foolishness out of whatever attempts to control it. Does this make destiny the master of luck? — collected folktales 


Jack had found himself in a great many hopeless situations in his life, but this one was the grand champion—a twenty­-two­ year rec­ord for dire occurrences. He only hoped this wouldn’t be the last occurrence and sent up yet another prayer that he might live to see his twenty ­third year. 
The temperature had dropped precipitously. His spine was assaulted by the rocky ground on which he lay, but really that was the least of his discomforts. 

His vision had begun to swim about an hour ago, and so at first he thought the girl looming above him was a mirage. She peered down at his hiding spot behind a cluster of coarse shrubbery, her head cocked at an angle. Jack went to stand, years of breeding kick­ing in, his muscle memory offended at the idea of not standing in the presence of a lady, but apparently his muscles had forgotten the bullet currently lodged within them. And the girl was Lagrimari— not strictly a lady, but a woman nonetheless—and a beautiful one, he noticed as he squinted into the dying light. Wild, midnight curls floated carelessly around her head, and piercing dark eyes regarded him. Her dress was drab and tattered, but her smooth skin was a confectioner’s delight. His stomach growled. When was the last time he’d eaten? 
Her presence meant he was still on the Lagrimari side of the mountain range bordering the two lands and had yet to cross the other, more powerful barrier keeping him from his home of Elsira: the Mantle. 
The girl frowned down at him, taking in his bedraggled appear­ance. From his position lying on the ground, he tried his best to smooth his ripped uniform, the green fatigues of the Lagrimari army. Her confusion was apparent. Jack was obviously Elsiran; aside from his skin tone, the ginger hair and golden honey­ colored eyes were a dead giveaway. And yet he wore the uniform of his enemy.
 “Please don’t be scared,” he said in Lagrimari. Her brows rose toward her hairline as she scanned his supine and bloodied body. Well, that was rather a ridiculous thing to say. “I only meant that I mean you no harm. I . . .” He struggled with how to explain him­self. 
There were two possibilities. She could be a nationalist who would turn him in to the squad of soldiers currently combing the mountain for him, perhaps to gain favor with the government, or she could be like so many Lagrimari citizens, beaten down by the war with no real loyalty to their dictator or his thugs. If she was the former, he was already dead, so he took a chance with the truth. 
“You see, I was undercover, spying from within the Lagrimari army. But now there are men looking for me, they’re not far, but . . .” He paused to take a breath; the effort of speaking was draining. He suspected he had several cracked or broken ribs in addition to the gunshot wound. His vision swirled again, and the girl turned into two. Two beautiful girls. If these were his last moments before traveling to the World After, then at least he had something pleas­ant to look at. He blinked rapidly and took another strained breath. His mis­sion was not complete; he could not die yet. “Can you help me? Please. I’ve got to get back to Elsira.” 

She stole an anxious glance skyward before kneeling next to him. Her cool hand moved to his forehead. The simple touch was soothing, and a wave of tension rolled of him. 
“You must be delirious.” Her voice was rich, deeper than he’d expected. It eased the harsh consonants of the Lagrimari language, for the first time making it sound like something he could imagine being pleasant to listen to. 
She worked at the remaining buttons of his shirt, pulling the fabric apart to reveal his ruined chest. Her expression was appraising as she viewed the damage, then sat back on her haunches, pensive. 
“It probably looks worse than it is,” he said. 
“I doubt that.” 
Jack’s chuckle sounded deranged to his own ears, so it was no surprise that the girl looked at him askance. He winced—laughing was a bad idea at this point—and struggled for breath again. 
“The soldiers . . . they’re after me. I have to get back through the Mantle.” 
“Shh,” she said, peering closely at him. “Hush all that foolish­ness; you’re not in your right mind. Though I’ll admit, you speak Lagrimari surprisingly well. I’m not sure what happened to you, but you should save your strength.” She closed her eyes, and suddenly his whole body grew warmer, lighter. The odd sensation of Earthsong pulsated through him. He had only experienced it once before, and it hadn’t been quite like this. The touch of her magic stroked him intimately, like a brush of fingers across his skin. The soft vibration cascaded over his entire body, leaving him feeling weightless. He gasped, pulling in a breath, and it was very nearly an easy thing to accomplish. Tears pricked his eyes. 
“Sovereign bless you.” 
Her expression was grave as she dug around in her bag. “It’s just a patch. You must have ticked someone of real good. It’d take quite a while to fix you up properly, and the storm’s coming. You need to find shelter.” She retrieved a jar filled with a sweet­ smelling substance and began spreading it over his wounds. The Earthsong had turned down the volume of his pain, and the cream soothed him even more. 
“What is that?” 
“Just a balm. Helps with burns, cuts.” Her hand paused for a moment. “Never gunshot wounds, but it’s worth a try.” 
He laid his head back on the ground, closing his eyes to savor the ability to breathe deeply again. 
“A quick rest and I’ll be back on my way. Need to keep moving, though. Need to get back.” 
“Back through the Mantle?” Her tone vibrated with skepticism. “And away from the Lagrimari soldiers chasing you?” 
“Yes.” Her palm met his forehead again. She thought he was delusional. He wished he was. Wished the last few weeks had been nothing but the imaginings of an impaired mind. .



Do you like the look of this book? Have you read it yet?
Thanks for stopping by this post! 

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

5 Reasons To Read LETTERS TO THE LOST by Brigid Kemmerer


Today I'm sharing 5 reasons why you should read (and re-read and re-read and re-read) the amazing YA contemporary that is Letters to the Lost. I first read this book a year ago, and it completely blew me away. I gave it 5 stars without hesitation. It's one of the best books I've ever read, and I'm also so excited for More Than We Can Tell, Kemmerer's latest novel that follows the story of one of the secondary characters form LTTL.

Here's why you should read Letters to the Lost.




Goodreads    /    Amazon    /    Barnes and Noble

My Review

Writing

Kemmerer's writing is flawless. There's no purple prose, the scenes are so vivid, her sentences are razor-sharp and expertly structured, and there some gorgeous quotes as well. For example:

- "One day isn't your whole life. A day is just a day." 

- "We're all united by grief. And somehow divided by the same thing."

The profoundness just creeps up on you, ya know? And it packs a serious punch.

Plot Twists!

Trust me. This book will have you gaping in shock. It rises so far above the average contemporary and gives you the shocks and gasps of a thriller. Because you're so emotionally invested in the characters and their situations, these twists will strike HARD. Prepare yourself for that killer ending.

Friendships

We have excellent female friendship (Juliet and Rowan). We have an epic bromance (Declan and Rev). And although Declan and Juliet do fall in love, the emphasis is on their friendship - how they find solace and support in one another, and how they help each other heal. It's stunning. 

Juliet and Declan

Wow. Wow wow wow. Juliet and Declan are two of the most dynamic, flawed, relatable, realistic, and superbly drawn characters in YA. They're so three-dimensional and so well rounded, with hobbies and families and interests and regrets and fears and desires and dreams. You cry for them, you ache for them, you rejoice with them. They're an amazing hero and heroine.

THE FEELS

OH the feels. You'll cry, you'll laugh, your heart will be twisted up in knots by the end of the story. Kemmerer makes you feel everything, and it's so powerful and profound.

Prepare to have your heart broken. And prepare to have it healed. 




If you haven't read Letters to the Lost, get yourself a copy now. I'm not kidding. Have I convinced you you need it in your life? 

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Romanticised Abuse: Jeb and Alyssa in "Splintered"


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.




Today I'm drawing attention to the romanticised abuse in Splintered by A.G. Howard. It's a YA novel - the first in a trilogy - and a contemporary retelling of Alice in Wonderland. Check out the Goodreads synopsis HERE.  
Specifically, I'm going to focusing on one character from the book (Jeb) and his relationship with the heroine (Alyssa).   

Context: Jeb and Alyssa are childhood friends, but although it's clear they both have feelings for each other, Jeb is dating someone else. When Alyssa is sucked into the alternate world of Wonderland, Jeb comes with her. 
Jeb's father was abusive, and so Jeb also has that stereotypical bad boy complex where he's so tortured you're meant to forgive his over-protectiveness because he 'cares so much'. 


The following passages are examples of Jeb's relentlessly romanticised abusive behaviour. I have tried to include as much context as I can without making this post too long, but I have included page numbers so you can find them for yourself in the book if you have a copy.  I don't want you to think I'm showing Jeb's behaviour out of context - so please feel free to check the references for yourself.  


(Pages 12-13 - Alyssa has had a minor skateboard accident and is hurt. Jeb carries her) 
'"Jeb, I want to walk.".......
Jeb cradles me tighter, which makes it hard not to notice how close we are: my hands locked around his neck, his chest rubbing against my ribs....those biceps pressed to my shoulder blades and knee.

I give up fighting as he steps off the cement onto the wood planked floor.'
This makes me sick. It's the kind of thing we can see in Twilight, with Edward and Bella. Like Edward, Jeb treats Alyssa like she's a helpless little kid. Sure, she's injured, but she's told him to put her down and he just clutches her tighter. And I hate the "I give up fighting" phrase; Alyssa just gives up trying to resist, and he assumes she will because he's stronger than her. It's revolting.  


(Pages 13-14 - following on from the previous passage, Jeb and Alyssa are now outside in the car park and discussing her accident)
Jeb: '"I told you to replace your gear. Your strap's been unraveling for weeks.".....
"Actually," I say, "I should be grateful you and dad allow me to come here at all. Seeing as it's so dark, and all sorts of scary, bad things could happen to my helpless little self."
"This has nothing to do with your dad. Other than the fact that he owns a sporting goods store, which means you have no excuse for not maintaining your gear. Boarding can be dangerous."'
She's hurt herself, her knee's bleeding, and he's lecturing her on how it was totally her fault. He's letting her know she's to blame, and it's patronising and bullying.  


(Page 15 - Jeb and Alyssa are discussing her desire to move to London. Jeb doesn't want her to go.)
Jeb: '"I'm trying to be your friend. You're not ready to move so far from your dad...you'll have no one to look out for you."
"You'll be there."
"But I can't be with you every second."
"I don't need someone with me every second. I'm not a kid."
"Never said you were a kid. But you don't always make the best decisions. Case in point {referring to her skateboard accident}".....
"So I'm not allowed to make a few mistakes?"
"Not mistakes that can hurt you."'
Jeb's acting like every decision she makes has to go past him first. He's horrifically controlling; he has decided she's not allowed to go to London. I can understand her dad not wanting her to go, but Jeb's a friend - he has no right to tell her what she can and can't do.  And reminding her of her accident and how it's her fault? Buzz off, dude. 
Jeb's putting her down and making her feel stupid. That's not loving.  


(Page 83 - Jeb has come over to Alyssa's house after hearing that she's been interacting with a dodgy guy in the neighborhood, called Hitch) 
'"Al...I want you to put a stop to this Hitch thing. Whatever's going on, it's not worth..." He pauses. "Losing an important part of you."
Unbelievable. He thinks I'm such a prude he won't even say the word.
"You mean my virginity?"
"You deserve better than some one-night thing. Yo're the kind of girl who should have a commitment from a  guy who actually cares. Okay?"'
(Alyssa is then distracted by the appearance of a magical moth, and they don't continue the conversation). 
OH. MY. WORD. It's her body, you moron! How dare you - how dare you have the audacity to tell her that she shouldn't lose her virginity to this guy?! Who the heck do you think you are?! 


(Page 103 - Alyssa and Jeb have just arrived in Wonderland, and Alyssa wants to follow the white rabbit that has suddenly appeared)
'Jeb...grabs me before I can follow the creature into the hallway.
"Jeb! He's getting away!" I thrash like a wild animal.
"No." Jeb crosses my arms over my chest, then lifts me against one of the curtains on the wall so my feet dangle, pinning me there like a butterfly to a corkboard. "We're not going anywhere."'
Again, like the first example I showed you, he's treating her like a object and taking advantage of the fact he's stronger than her. 


(Page 155 - In Wonderland, Jeb and Alyssa meet Morpheus, the 'villain')
'Jeb straddles Morpheus and cinches his fingers around his neck. "I told you not to touch her {Alyssa}."'
(He then punches Morpheus) 
Jeb has anger issues. He once '"threatened to turn Brett {his sister's boyfriend} into a smashed pumpkin if I {his sister} don't get home by midnight?"' (Page 55)
It also seems like the author's chosen the fact that his father was abusive as an excuse for Jeb's behaviour. Sure, he had a terrible childhood, but if Jeb has anger issues he needs help. His fury is not excusable. He's unstable. 


(Page 185 - In Wonderland, Jeb and Alyssa talk about Morpheus)
Jeb: '"Did he touch you?"'.......
Jeb: '"He had you in his room?" A dark cloud crosses Jeb's face. "Do you swear he didn't try anything?"
Dude, she's not even your girlfriend (or a family member). And she's not your possession. Give her a little credit, and trust her. She doesn't belong to you, and what she does with her body is none of your business.  


(Page 189-190 - Jeb and Alyssa discuss Morpheus) 
'"Stop humanising the guy, Al!" Jeb slams his palm against the mirror wall'.....

Jeb: '"We're not going to argue about this, Al. That's what he wants. I won't let him do it."
Alyssa: "Do what?"
"Come between us."'
First point: There's that anger again. It's frightening.
Second: Jeb admits that the reason he's so against Morpheus is because he feels personally threatened. He thinks he already has a claim on Alyssa, and he doesn't want Morpheus messing that up.  


(Page 194 - Alyssa, Jeb, and Morpheus are all talking, and Morpheus is trying to convince Alyssa to help Wonderland)
'Jeb drags me behind him. "She's not having this conversation with you."'
.......
'"Change of plans," he {Jeb} says. "Al's not going to help you play out this little game....You're sending us back {home}. Now."' 
Jeb's not even letting Alyssa speak for herself! He's treating her like a 3 year-old! 


(Page 202 - Morpheus and Alyssa and Jeb are talking, and Morpheus touches Alyssa's temple with his thumb)
'Jeb catches Morpheus's wrist midair. "No touching," Jeb snarls.' 
'No touching?' She's not a doll, you piece of garbage. She's a human being. Don't you dare say 'No touching' as if she's an inanimate object you want to keep perched on your bedroom shelf.


(Page 208 - Alyssa participates in a feast that Morpheus hosts, and Jeb watches from the side. This scene, like the rest of the book, is from Alyssa's pov)
'There's heat behind me, too, from Jeb's gaze......He warned Morpheus not to touch me.'
'He warned Morpheus not to touch me' - yeah. like you're a part of his art collection or something. It's just gross.  


(Page 239 - Alyssa and Jeb talk and reveal their feelings for each other)
Jeb: '"I dated Tae {Taelor - his girlfriend}.....to try not think of you {Alyssa}. Hoping that it might get you out of my system..."'
EW!! How is Jeb not the villain of this story?! He admits he dated another girl to try forget about Alyssa! How sick is that? Poor Taelor.




Splintered romanticises extremely unhealthy behaviour in favour of creating a supposedly swoony love interest.  In reality, the main male character treats the heroine like dirt. Jeb is a disgusting character and his relationship with Alyssa is toxic.  

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Weekly What's Up - back to school...


This week I started up with school again, and it's going alright. I also got to see a blogging friend - Ruby - on Saturday, and we had a great time at a bookshop together. 

I've also been doing quite a bit of clothes shopping this week. It's really unusual for me, because clothes are so expensive and I struggle to allow myself to spend money on them, and I've never been particularly into fashion or shopping, etc, etc. But recently I've just felt like I want to "define my style", if that make sense. I want to be more conscious about the colours and styles I wear. 
So I had a wonderful time clothes shopping ;) 

P.S. I also made a Pinterest board for my clothes style. Check it out :)   


Posts of the Week

I did a collab with Abby and we answered a bunch of Marvel related questions in preparation for the upcoming Infinity War :)

I shared some info about one of my WIPs: a spin on the King Arthur legend.

I reviewed The Hazel Wood, a book I neither loved nor disliked.

I reviewed the film Battle of The Sexes. It's an incredible movie - go watch it.

I posted two mini reviews for A Great Reckoning and The Whispering Room. Both books bored me so much.

I did two mini film reviews for Thor Ragnarok and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.

Currently Reading

I'm still unsure what to think of these books so far...





For Review

Got this from Netgalley! It looks really good.



Around the Blogosphere

Aimee shares some amazing resources if you're wanting to revamp your blog design!

Suzanne reviews Sky in the Deep

Erica some ideas for Author Events

Amber Elise reviews Ash Princess




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

Saturday, 21 April 2018

2 Mini Film Reviews: THOR RAGNAROK and JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE

THOR RAGNAROK - 2017
Director: Taika Waititi
Cast: Chris Hemsworth / Tom Hiddleston / Cate Blanchett / Anthony Hopkins / Tessa Thompson / Idris Elba
Score: Mark Mothersbaugh
Cinematography: Javier Aguirresarobe.
Triggers/Content Advisory: PG 13 for sci-fi and fantasy violence and action, and brief suggestive material.
Source: Rented.


Thor is imprisoned on the planet Sakaar, and must race against time to return to Asgard and stop Ragnarök, the destruction of his world, which is at the hands of the powerful and ruthless villain Hela.


Even though I knew it would be a light, fun film with little substance or emotional depth, I was still extremely disappointed.

Chris Hemsworth cannot do comedy, and the others struggled too - with the exception of Mark Ruffalo and Tom Hiddleston, who lit up the screen considerably every time they were present. If only we could've seen more of them.
Otherwise, the dialogue is shoddy, awkward, and cheesy. Even Cate Blanchett struggled to pull off those one-liners.
The plot is fast-paced, the action is good, and the soundtrack is awesome, but it isn't a great movie. I didn't even think it was very entertaining or fun, and for that I blame the generally cheap humour and terrible dialogue.

          



JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE - 2017
Director: Jake Kasdan.
Cast: Dwayne Johnson / Jack Black / Karen Gillan / Kevin Hart
Score: Henry Jackson.
Cinematography: Gyula Pados.
Triggers/Content Advisory: PG 13 for adventure action, suggestive content, and some language.
Source: Rented.


Four teenagers are sucked into a magical video game, and the only way they can escape is to work together to finish the game.





I never saw the original Robin Williams Jumanji, but because I love Karen Gillan and because this one looked like so much fun, I decided to watch it.

Yes, it is predictable, but the story is still so fun. It's entertaining, exciting, and although the cheesy themes are ones we've seen so many times before, there's still a truth to them that never gets old. The frequent action is also awesome, and the CGI is solid. The plot is kinda episodic, but because it's meant to be a videogame, it works.
I laughed a lot. The humour is terrific. Jack Black is an absolute hoot, and he gets all the best lines. I loved how he took on Bethany's character. He owned it ;)

The characters are all enhanced stereotypes, but they're meant to be. Their performances are charming and amusing, and I liked all of them. I don't think the Rock is a good actor, but hey, he's ok in the role he's been given.

   
  
   





Hope you liked these reviews! 
Have you watched these movies? What do you think of them? 

Friday, 20 April 2018

2 Mini Book Reviews: A GREAT RECKONING and THE WHISPERING ROOM

A GREAT RECKONING (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #12) - Louise Penny
Published: August 2016 - Sphere
Pages: 498.
Genres: Adult / thriller / contemporary
Triggers/Content Advisory: Mature themes / bad language
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Jonathan Ball SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

When an intricate old map is found stuffed into the walls of the bistro in Three Pines, it at first seems no more than a curiosity. But the closer the villagers look, the stranger it becomes. Given to Armand Gamache as a gift the first day of his new job, the map eventually leads him to shattering secrets. To an old friend and older adversary. It leads the former Chief of Homicide for the Sûreté du Québec to places even he is afraid to go. But must. And there he finds four young cadets in the Sûreté academy, and a dead professor. And, with the body, a copy of the old, odd map. Everywhere Gamache turns, he sees Amelia Choquet, one of the cadets. Tattooed and pierced. Guarded and angry. Amelia is more likely to be found on the other side of a police line-up. And yet she is in the academy. A protégée of the murdered professor. The focus of the investigation soon turns to Gamache himself and his mysterious relationship with Amelia, and his possible involvement in the crime. The frantic search for answers takes the investigators back to Three Pines and a stained glass window with its own horrific secrets. For both Amelia Choquet and Armand Gamache, the time has come for a great reckoning.


This book has a lot of positives:
1: It is so atmospheric. I love the snowy setting and the chilling tone.
2: Dialogue is realistic and sharp.
3: The writing is punchy and eloquent, with short sentences.
4: There's good, dynamic tension between all the characters.
5: The mysteries are clever, and they're seamlessly revealed.
6: I love the relationship between Armand and his wife, Reine-Marie.

But there are negatives, too:
1: The cast is so, so, so big. I couldn't keep track of everyone. It's a waste of some genuinely compelling personalities.
2: There's diversity. Nathaniel (and Jacques, I think?) are gay, and Huifen is Chinese.
3: The story is sooooooooooooooooooo slow. I was so, utterly, completely, bored. It kinda undid all the good elements of the story for me.

          



THE WHISPERING ROOM (Jane Hawk #2) - Dean Koontz
Published: December 2017 - HarperCollins.
Pages: 528.
Genres: Adult / thriller / contemporary
Triggers/Content Advisory: Violence / bad language
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Jonathan Ball SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Mild-mannered, beloved schoolteacherCora Gundersun takes her own life, and many others', in a shocking act ofcarnage. When the disturbing contents of her secret journal are discovered, itseems certain that she must have been insane. But Jane Hawk knows better. In the wake of her husband's inexplicable suicide - and the equallymysterious deaths of scores of other unlikely individuals - Jane picks up thetrail of a secret cabal of powerful players using a terrifying technologicalbreakthrough to gain power for their own monstrous ends. But these people neverbanked on a highly trained FBI agent willing to go rogue - and become thenation's most wanted fugitive - in order to derail their plans. Driven by love for her lost husband and by fear for the five-year-oldson she has sent into hiding, Jane Hawk has become an unstoppable predator.Those she is hunting will have nowhere to run when her shadow falls acrossthem.


I tried with this book. I really, really tried. And if it hadn't been against my unspoken rule that I will never DNF a book, I would've definitely DNF-ed.

The writing is over-descriptive. It is so heavy, there are so many ridiculous details, and it's not concise at all. Honestly, I don't want to know every teeny tiny minuscule detail - especially when it's supposed to be a thriller. I mean come on. The author over-describes every. single. thing, and I was literally itching to throw the book across the room.

The dialogue is melodramatic. It's like the author's trying to make it smooth and slick and cool, but instead he's just trying too hard. It's cheesy.
(Just FYI: There's very little dialogue at all. So get used to large chunks of boring text over-describing the atoms in the room. (That's is a teeny little exaggeration there, just btw).  


The book is extremely boring. I didn't care for any of the thinly drawn characters or their problems, and the writing killed everything. There's little action, little dialogue, and too many unnecessary words.
           





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

Thursday, 19 April 2018

BATTLE OF THE SEXES (film) is sublime entertainment

BATTLE OF THE SEXES - 2017
Directors: Jonathan Dayton / Valerie Faris
Cast: Emma Stone / Steve Carell / Alan Cumming / Andrea Riseborough
Score: Nicholas Britell.
Cinematography: Linus Sandgren.
Content Advisory: PG13 for a sex scene, sexual content, and partial nudity.
Source: Rented.

The true story of the 1973 tennis match between World number one Billie Jean King and ex-champ and serial hustler Bobby Riggs.




This is the most I've ever been interested in tennis. I didn't expect to love this film as much as I ended up doing.


The music is beautiful, the cinematography is breathtaking (Sandgren did La La Land - you can tell immediately) and the sets are radiant. The use of colour is amazing, the dialogue is rich, and every scene is saturated with an amber tone that dates the story in the 70's. It's atmospheric, and it sweeps you into the time period. I absolutely loved drinking in the scenes and the stunning sets. They're incredible.



What a story. I laughed, I had tears in my eyes, I was furious, I was triumphant. I could almost feel the weight King was carrying when she walked out onto that court with everything to prove, and I am so empowered by her victory and her fierce determination. She fought for women in a man's world, and when she played Riggs she was fighting for women everywhere. It's both heartbreaking and inspiring to watch.
The plot is fast-paced, entertaining, and utterly engrossing. I was glued to the screen. Towards the end the story becomes extremely hard-hitting - with aching emotion - and my heart was pounding for King. She won against Riggs, but her story is bittersweet. Seeing her break down in the locker rooms after the match made me realise just how much pressure she must have been under. It made me admire her even more.

The cast is excellent. Everyone is on their A-game. Steve Carell is brilliant as always, but it's Emma Stone who is especially captivating. She's so immersed in the character, and her subtle facial expressions are particularly riveting. Sarah Silverman as Gladys is also a standout.




Battle of the Sexes is a game of pain and beauty, of fear and bravery, of love and triumph. The cast is wonderful, the production is lavish, and the script is excellent. It's a fanatically entertaining and moving film.

      

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

THE HAZEL WOOD - by Melissa Albert

THE HAZEL WOOD - Melissa Albert.
Published:  February 2018 - Penguin
Genres: Young adult / fantasy /
Pages: 359.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Violence / infrequent bad language / mild horror 
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Penguin Random House SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice's life on the road, always a step ahead of the strange bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice's grandmother, the reclusive author of a book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate - the Hazel Wood - Alice learns how bad her luck can really get. Her mother is stolen away - by a figure who claims to come from the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother's stories are set. Alice's only lead is the message her mother left behind: STAY AWAY FROM THE HAZEL WOOD. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother's tales began . . .


This book has been getting such mixed reviews. But as a lover of dark fairy tales, I expected to enjoy it, if not love it.


The writing is extremely specific and colourful. At first I liked that, because it felt rich and vivid, but soon it became frustrating. The prose is too purple, there are too many nonsensical metaphors and smilies, and it's all just excessively flowery. For example, take this sentence: "My mouth tasted like dead coffee." Honestly, that doesn't make sense. If you loved Caravel by Stephanie Garber, I think you'll love Albert's writing, but otherwise you'll find it bizarre - like I did.
But the dialogue is good. I really liked it, and I think the characters' voices come through clearly.

The plot is very slow. It's creepy, wildly imaginative, and because I love fairy tales, I thoroughly enjoyed all the twisted stories and magical happenings. Sure, it doesn't make complete sense, but it's not supposed to; it's otherworldly and fairytale-like.
For me, the ending is the best part of the book. I think Albert wraps everything up incredibly well, and the grand twist is intelligent, satisfying, and deeply thought-out. It works so well, and it ties everything up wonderfully.


“Life never turns out how you imagine it will when you’re young. Everything is smaller than you think, or too big. It all smells a little funny and fits like somebody else’s shirt.”


The characters are well-drawn and eccentric. I can't say I was mad about anyone, but I liked them and I thought Alice was a quirky, interesting heroine to get behind. I particularly loved her relationship with Ella. Ella is a fantastic character.
The romance isn't anything amazing. I personally never felt the chemistry between Finch and Alice, and was more invested in Alice's relationship with her mother. Finch just seemed like a hero who had to be there, not because he was particularly needed.




The Hazel Wood is abstract, creative, and packed with interesting characters. It's an enjoyable, slow story, but the flowery writing ruined it for me.  


Tuesday, 17 April 2018

The WIP Diaries: MORGANA series


This is another post in my WIP Diaries blog series. You can check out my previous posts here:

MONSTROUS: a short story
What I'm currently writing...
THE WOODS Saga



Title: Haven't decided on one yet (honestly, it's the last thing on my mind ;). But the series will be a 4 book series.

Genre: New Adult / horror / Gothic / epic fantasy

Status: Brainstorming.




This series is very, very much in the "brainstorming only" stage. I haven't given much thought to anything other than the heroine and the fantasy world, but I'm excited at the prospect of a dark, mature retelling of the King Arthur legend. Morgana is a fascinating character - I desperately want to explore her origin story and relationships with other characters like Merlin and Lancelot.

It'll definitely be more New Adult than Young Adult, and I want the tone to be quite dark and serious. The characters are all morally grey, and there are a lot of villains, too. It's going to be a very twisted take on King Arthur's legend ;)




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

Monday, 16 April 2018

Marvel Collaboration Part 1 // with Abby from Ups & Downs


To celebrate our obsession with the MCU universe and the event of the upcoming MCU film, Avengers: Infinity War, myself and the wonderful Abigail Lennah from Ups & Downs are collaborating for a Marvel discussion post! Thank you, Abby, for suggesting this idea. It's been so much fun.

My answers to some Marvel related questions are below. Do check out Abby's answers HERE :)


Why do you think the MCU continues to be more popular than DC?

I think it comes back to characters. Sure, I think Marvel’s actors are typically stronger, their plots better written, but their characters are where they really shine. They work with backstory so well, something DC has never quite grasped, and they pay acute attention to character motivation, relationships, and personality. They milk their characters’ origin stories for all they’re worth and they focus on their development. DC tends to skimp on that; they don’t go deep.

What is one of your favourite arcs? (Character, group of characters, etc) 

I gotta say Tony Stark/Iron Man. I’ve always been #TeamIronMan, but I think his character has undergone some amazing development over the course of his films and the Avengers saga. He’s the perfect example of a “morally grey character”, and I think that’s what makes him so compelling.

He’s selfish and arrogant, but he’s also loyal, damaged, and brilliant. His relationships with the other characters have really matured him and given him obligations he usually wouldn’t give two hoots about. Tony’s really learned to let people in, and he’s proved himself to be a hero.

I also love his dynamic with Tom Holland’s Spiderman, which we admittedly haven’t seen much of, but I love what I have seen. He’s become like a father figure to Spidey - it’s really beautiful to see.

Do you have any expectations/spectulations/worries about the upcoming Infinity War film? 

I think everyone is scared that a lot of characters are gonna die! I certainly am. I’m sure either Iron Man or Cap will be killed off, but I’m more worried for Tony - I’ve always preferred him as a character and I’d hate to lose him. That would be really sad. But I do know that whoever Marvel kills will go out with a good farewell. I know Marvel will write the death well, and I know it will be for the greater good of the saga. It’s just nerve-wracking, though!

I’m also kinda nervous about Marvel handling such a big cast. They are dealing with a huge group of well-loved characters, and I just hope they do all of them justice.

Which character is the most like you? 

Oh heck, that is not easy ;) Haha.

Umm… I think I’m probably a cross between Pepper Potts and Spiderman, which sounds really weird, but it’s true. And I don’t know if Pepper even counts, since she’s not an official main character?
Anyway.
I’m very much like Pepper. I’ve got her uptightness, her bossiness, her organisation skills, I’m also prone to hysterical panic when I’m stressed or angry, and I’m also fiercely loyal and trusting.

But I’ve got some of Spidey’s loyalty and geekiness, as well; not to mention I’m awkward and usually in the background, too ;)

Speaking of arcs— take one character (preferably someone who hasn’t had much screen time yet as others and are relatively new, like Scarlet Witch, Doctor Strange, Ant Man, etc.) and discuss how you could potentially see them contributing.

I'm definitely eager to see more of Doctor Strange, and I think I'll be eager to see more of Scarlet Witch, too. Not sure what they could contribute, exactly, but I love their characters and there's a lot of potential for personal growth there. I'd love to see them interacting with the rest of the team more, too.

With Spiderman’s character, specifically, which actor’s portrayal - since they’ve been 3 - is your favourite, and why?

Andrew Garfield is my favourite Spidey. I know most fans didn’t like him because they thought he was too ‘hip’ and cool for Peter Parker, but I think it worked. I think he embodied both Peter Parker and Spiderman very well, and I loved his chemistry with Emma Stone’s Gwen. That’s always been the highlight of The Amazing Spiderman movies for me ;)

I definitely didn’t like Tobey Maguire. I just hated his take on the character. But I love Tom Holland, and I think he’s perfect in the role.

Which Marvel character do you think has grown and developed the most since his/her introduction in terms of arc?

I gotta say Tony again. A few answers back I explained why :)

What’s one thing you think writers can learn from Marvel?

Let your characters lead. Again and again, Marvel has written conflict that stems first and foremost from its characters, and they’ve stayed true to those characters’ personalities as they attempt to deal with the conflict. Civil War brought this to head. That’s why I love the movie so much. It showed the characters taking sides, choosing sides that they believed in, and it ran with those choices.

As a writer watching Marvel movies, I’ve learnt that characters are your most powerful weapon, and wielded right, you have explosive, story worthy conflict.

Is there a secondary MCU character you think deserves their own solo movie, and why? What would you like to see in that movie (from the character’s past, perhaps? etc)?

Black Widow!! And a Black Widow origin movie is actually happening, so obviously I’ve been heard ;)

But yeah, I think a Black Widow movie that focuses on her traumatic past and her relationship with Hawkeye in Budapest is long overdue. She’s such a compelling character and she has such a shady, heartbreaking backstory. I think it’ll make for an amazing origin film.

Is there a character dynamic/relationship you particularly enjoy watching on screen?

I love Thor and Loki’s relationship, I love Tony and Pepper’s romance, I love Cap and Black Widow together, and I love Black Widow and Hawkeye’s friendship. The chemistry between those guys is so amazing, and the development of all those relationships is excellent.




We hope you enjoyed this collab post! Are you also a Marvel fanatic? What are your thoughts on the upcoming Infinity War


And stay tuned! Abby and I will also be doing a Part 2 after Infinity War's release...