Monday, 26 September 2016

Last Week's Shenanigans (19th September - 25th September)...

I have had such a busy week guys, and I'm pretty sad that it's over because while I did still go to work, it's the most relaxed I've felt for a while! On Monday, my day off, I had another evening playing Tabletop games with our friends and Mat and I hosted this time! We chose 'Tales Of The Arabian Nights', a stunning game that is both artistically interesting and so much fun if you enjoy role playing and story telling! It's a long one though, so we didn't quite get to finish it, but we know the set up for next time! Of course I then had four days of work to look forward to, but they didn't turn out to be so bad. 

The weekend was the real highlight for me, because on Saturday it was my Dad's birthday! I had in fact booked the time off so that I could go down to visit, from Saturday to Monday. So early Saturday morning I set off on my way and met my Dad at the station. We had a lovely catch-up, especially when my Mum and Sister returned from their hairdressing appointment, and my Dad really liked the Drone I bought him as a present though learning to control it is definitely going to be a challenge! In the evening, we went out for a lovely meal together at my favourite hometown Indian restaurant. The food was delicious though it was quite busy!

On Sunday, I had one of my best friends round to visit for the day, and it was so much fun! Obviously we spent a lot of time catching up as we haven't seen each other in ages, and then of course we moved onto the Computer games which is probably our favourite thing to do together. This visit's choice was Monstrum, which is scary as heck and a really good buy for such a small price during the Steam sale. I rely on Rosie, my friend, to play these games with me because I'm too much of a scaredy-cat to do it alone!

I Read...

I Received...

- 'The Bear & The Nightingale' by Katherine Arden: Approved by Netgalley (20/09/16)
- 'Small Great Things' by Jodi Picoult: Approved by Netgalley (23/09/16)
- 'The Ice Dragon' by George R.R. Martin: Present from Rosie (25/09/16)


Top Ten Tuesday: Current Favourite Songs

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Book Review: Dark Tide; Jennifer Donnelly.

It's kind of surprising that I've kept up with Donnelly's series based around Mermaids, mostly because I don't find that particular mythical creature all that interesting and water is not exactly my favourite book setting thanks to my phobia of it. However, something about the series has kept drawing me back, despite the fairly mediocre scores I gave the first two books. This third book was definitely the book I'd been waiting for to sell it to me as a series worth investing in! I'm also entering into the Monthly Motif challenge with this one!
SOURCE: Bought
TYPE: Paperback

TITLE: Dark Tide
AUTHOR: Jennifer Donnelly
SERIES: Waterfire Saga (#3)
PUBLISHER: Hodder Children's Books
PAGES: 432
GENRE: Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance, Adventure

RATING: 4/5 Stars

Once a lost and confused princess, Serafina is now a confident leader of the Black Fin Resistance (BFR). While she works on sabotaging her enemy and enlisting allies for battle, her friends face challenges of their own. 

Ling is in the hold of Rafe Mfeme's giant trawler, on her way to a prison camp. Becca meets up with Astrid and learns why the Ondalinian mermaid is always so angry: she is hiding a shameful secret. Ava can't return home, because death riders await her arrival. And it is getting more and more difficult for Mahdi, Serafina's betrothed, to keep up the ruse that he is in love with Lucia Volerno. If Lucia's parents become suspicious, his life--and all of Sera's hopes--will be extinguished.

What I Liked:
  • I finally got round to reading the third book of this series and I'm really glad about it because it's my favourite of the series so far! While the first couple of books were definitely aimed at a younger audience, this third book took on a slightly darker and more mature tone. This is a very promising direction for me. Much less of the cheesy mermaid language/puns and more of an interesting plot and serious tone to get into! I feel so much more invested than I did before, and I can't wait to see what happens in the future of this series!
  • Donnelly did a lot more work with her characters this book and I loved it. I'll forgive her for the fact that Neela barely even got a line because Book Two gave her so much attention. When there are six main characters it can be hard to give them all the attention they need. The fact that Donnelly gave chapters to Astrid (my new favourite character), Becca, Sera (who is definitely the leading mermaid in this series but I'm okay with that because she's getting to be pretty badass), Ling, and most surprisingly Lucia! The last one was a really good addition because it moved Lucia from being her parent's spoilt little pawn into a darker villain than I ever imagined her to be. I love it when author's give their villain's depth and Donnelly did a great job here!
  • The world-building in this book, when reflected upon properly, is actually pretty darn cool. Firstly, there is so much diversity in Donnelly's mermaid world, and I love that different mermaids have their own cultures dependant on where in the sea they were born, which is so reflective of life. Also, I love the creatures they encounter, and especially that they are partly rooted in Mythology that we know! They add a whole new level of exciting to the book and manage to feel very fresh and new at the same time!
What I Disliked:
  • Don't get me wrong, I didn't hate the idea of new romances in this book. After all, why should Sera get all the fun? I just feel that they were a little rushed, particularly in Becca's case! I wanted to see a whole lot more in the way of development than I did. In Astrid's case, it was handled better and I see a lot of potential for them providing that Donnelly allows them to grow as individuals first. I just wish more care had been out into the love sub-plots of this book!
Overall Conclusion:
I hadn't realised how much I needed this book in the series until I read it. While I enjoyed books one and two, they didn't grab me in the same way and I feel that if book three hadn't have been so good, I might have given up. However, this provided me with the excitement, danger and character development that I needed to fall for this series all over again. I'll definitely be getting hold of Sea Spell ASAP, which is apparently the last book so I'm expecting the finale to truly blow me away!

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Top Ten Tuesday (Audio Freebie): My picks for 'Current Favourite Songs'.

This is one of my favourite topics because not only do I adore books, but I love music too! As soon as I saw that the topic could be anything audio related I knew I'd talk about some of my favourite current songs. I can't wait to share them all with you!

1) 'Castle' by Halsey.

Specifically, the version that's found on 'The Huntsman: Winter's War' soundtrack. While this might not be the greatest film around, I adore the huge amount of imagination that went into everything in it: the costumes are amazing, the visuals stunning and the plot was pretty good too. Above all, I loved the music and this particular song that plays during the credits really caught my attention.

2) 'Raise The Dead' by RAIGN.

Ever since I heard this song on 'The Originals', a programme that my flat mate thoroughly enjoys, I knew I had to add it to my list of favourites. Recently I've found it stuck in my head a lot and can't stop listening to it over and over again. RAIGN, otherwise known as Rachel Rabin, has a gorgeous voice and I'm desperate to get into more of her music.

3) 'Loudest Alarm' by Scars on 45.

I adore this song. I actually discovered it by accident while browsing through Youtube recommendations and it's probably my favourite that I've discovered this way. There are a few different versions but I've got a soft spot for the Demo version!

4) 'Sacrifice' by Zella Day.

I'm a pretty big fan of Zella Day, and the song that started it all was 'Sacrifice' on the 'Insurgent' film's soundtrack. Movies are where I find a large dose of my favourite tracks so it's no surprise that this made it. Such an epic song!

5) 'Fly' by Ludovico Einaudi.

I don't just like songs with great lyrics and singers, I'm a huge fan of instrumentals too! Piano pieces are probably my favourite, especially as I've always wanted to learn to play myself. Ludovico Einaudi is a fairly recent discovery of mine, and I fell in love with 'Fly' while listening to 'The Intouchables' soundtrack.

6) 'Shatter Me' by Lindsey Stirling feat. Lzzy Hale.

Following along the instruments trend, I've really found myself listening to a lot of Lindsey Stirling's stuff recently. She's a talented violinist (and dancer), and though this particular song features vocals from the wonderful Lzzy Hale, I love that Lindsey's violin takes centre stage!

7) 'Wish That You Were Here' by Florence & The Machine.

Who else is excited for this film? Because as soon as I heard it was coming out, I was so hyped! I had a few issues with the book but I genuinely think the movie looks like it will be really spectacular! This early song release to accompany the film is also very impressive, and by my favourite band. I love it!

8) 'Through Glass' by Stone Sour.

I used to listen to this song so much when I was a little younger and I've recently repeatedly found it stuck in my head which I've relished very much. Corey Taylor is well known for being the lead singer of Slipknot, but I prefer his voice in the songs he sang with Stone Sour.

9) 'The Sound Of Silence' by Nouela.

This is an absolutely stunning cover of Simon & Garfunkel's original, haunting melody. I've noticed this song making a resurgence as of late (Disturbed have also sung a cracking cover recently) but this understated, soulful rendition brings me to tears nearly every time.

10) 'The Hanging Tree' by Jennifer Lawrence & James Newton Howard.

Everyone who knows me knows I really love Movie scores and compositions, and I honestly think that some of the most emotional music can come from the background of a person's favourite film. This is a famous song thanks to Jennifer Lawrence's voice over the top, but some of the best parts are Howard's compositions. It really brings something extra to that particular scene.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Last Week's Shenanigans (12th September - 18th September)...

This week has been a little bizarre for me in terms of working, because due to a number of reasons all of my shifts had to be swapped around. This meant I had Thursday, Friday and Sunday off! Unfortunately, working and my days off were pretty much all that happened, as I chose not to do a whole lot with my time off. I was very tired thanks to my the way that my shifts worked out before my time off, so relaxing was definitely what I needed. And it gave me a chance to read more too!

I Read...

I Received...

- 'The Lies Of Locke Lamora' by Scott Lynch: Bought On Amazon (18/09/16)
- '13 Minutes' by Sarah Pinborough: Bought On Amazon (18/09/16)
- 'The House Of Shattered Wings' by Aliette De Bobard: Bought On Amazon (18/09/16)
- The Falconer by Elizabeth May: Bought On Amazon (18/09/16)


Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Books From The Contemporary Genre

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Book Review: The Star-Touched Queen; Roshani Chokshi.

I've been looking forward to reading this book for a long time now, so I'm glad that I got a chance to this month, especially as getting hold of it was so hectic! Luckily, it was worth the wait and far exceeded all of my very high expectations! Also, I'm entering this into the Monthly Motif challenge!

SOURCE: Won (from Great Imagination's 'Story Sprite Challenge' Giveaway)
TYPE: Hardcover

TITLE: The Star-Touched Queen
AUTHOR: Roshani Chokshi
SERIES: The Star-Touched Queen (#1)
PUBLISHER: St. Martin's Griffin
PAGES: 342
GENRE: Fantasy, Young Adult, Retelling, Romance

RATING: 5/5 Stars

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…

But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.

What I Liked:
  • Chokshi's writing was Yes, I know that metaphorical, flowery writing is not normally something I enjoy, but this was just beautiful. A literary feast for my eyes and imagination, that fired up at basically every word written on the page. Chokshi is a very visual writer and her descriptions of the Night Bazaar, gardens of crystal, scorching deserts and even the characters that Maya encounters were all so beautiful to read.
  • The Mythology behind this book is absolutely stunning, and so rich! I've always been fond of Myths and their retellings, it was part of the reason that I was so excited for this book! There are some real connections to Indian folk tales and Hindu stories fund within these pages and I greatly appreciated the fact that I learnt a lot while reading too. This was definitely very well-researched and Chokshi drew from a lot of sources in order to come up with this corker of a book!
  • The plot and characters were great! I won't pretend that they were the most developed, especially the characters. But there was no denying that each had it's own charm and I did like them all! Maya was a clever heroine, prone to mistakes but quick-thinking to get herself out of a tough situation. Amar was wildly romantic, and their relationship filled with chemistry which made me root for them a lot! Most of all, Kamala the flesh-eating demon horse was flipping hilarious and my favourite! I kind of now want her to be real and my friend, even if it did mean the constant threat of being eaten.
What I Disliked:
  • The only thing that bothered me about this read was that there were a couple of plot devices that didn't seem to lead anywhere or serve a purpose. For example, the Tutor that Maya meets at the beginning of the book. Most of the time this wasn't a problem however and compared to how amazing the book was, it was nothing!
Overall Conclusion:
This was a fantastic read and a big contender for my favourite of the entire year, which is good because it was probably the book I was most excited to read in 2016! Fantastic visual imagery, gorgeous world-building, beautiful writing and an intriguing plot/characters. I loved the Fantasy and Mythology built in and this was a good retelling of some famous Hindu stories, as well as some that I hadn't heard of! Amazing!

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: My picks for 'Favourite Books From The Contemporary Genre'.

I'm not normally a huge fan of picking favourites, especially in a particular genre.  I find it so hard! I know that in the past I've covered Fantasy and Historical Fiction, two of my favourite genres, as well as looking at Fairy Tale retellings! I thought I'd look at a genre that I don't enjoy as much because when it comes to Contemporary, it has to be really good in order to catch my attention!

1) 'Seven Ways We Lie' by Riley Redgate.

This is a book that I thoroughly enjoyed and I honestly feel strongly about teens and young adult readers reading it. It has an intriguing plot, and while seven POVs might sound like a lot, Redgate handles them all no problem. My favourite thing about the book however was the fact that it's characters were diverse: sexually and ethnically, with the inclusion of strong female characters to put the cherry on the cake. It really reminded me of my own sixth form experiences which was refreshing to read, be cause I normally find books with a school setting difficult to relate to.

2)  'The Rosie Project' by Graeme Simsion.

There's no doubt about it, if you're looking for a funny read then this could be the book for you. I first heard about this book when my Mum purchased it and begged me to read it. She knew that these kinds of books are not usually my kind of thing but I'm glad I gave it a go because I read it while on holiday, and it turned out to be the perfect beach read! I liked it's sequel 'The Rosie Effect' too, though didn't find it nearly as charming as the first in the series.

3) 'The Shock Of The Fall' by Nathan Filer.

I heard great things about this book and fell for it's cover so I was really pleased when the content proved to be as good as it's appearance. I was a big fan of the unreliable narration style provided by Matt, a deeply eye-opening and interesting character to read about. Watching his mental illness get progressively worse was heart-breaking too, but best of all I enjoyed the fact that Filer really knew his stuff in terms of how 'the system' works. A well-researched, thought-provoking novel by a talented writer.

4) 'The Fault In Our Stars' by John Green.

This book was a hit not too long ago, and as soon as I read it I understood why. It made me bawl like a baby, shattered my soul and broke my heart all in one, but at times it was extremely witty, insightful and well-written. It was one of my sister's many great recommendations and despite my huge phobia of books that will make me cry, I managed to push past it in order to read it! Well worth the tears I think! Also, having been to Amsterdam now, it was so fun to see some of the places that Hazel and Gus will have gone to.

5) 'All The Bright Places' by Jennifer Niven.

Along a similar line, this was also a very sad book, but for an entirely different reason. Not long after reading 'The Fault In Our Stars', Goodreads and Amazon continually tried to recommend it to me, and I eventually caved and bought myself a copy. It took a lot of prompting from my two lovely flat mates before I got round to reading t however, and I thoroughly enjoyed it! Finch was a great character, who provided a really unique outlook into mental illness. I can't wait to read more by this wonderful author!

6) 'Beautiful Broken Things' by Sara Barnard.

I adored this read. For so many reasons. When I went to YALC I actually watched Sara Barnard talking on a panel and doing so reaffirmed my love for it! Finally a book about friendship! If you're after romance, try almost every other YA Contemporary out there, because this is one of the few that doesn't even hold a scrap of it! Instead it focuses on issues of toxic friendships, domestic violence and mental health, all things that I think more books need to focus on in the future.

7) 'If You Find Me' by Emily Murdoch.

This book is a little different to my other contemporary reads, especially in terms of setting and character situations. That's because it's actually a book about neglected children and family, and how young people would cope when the lives they have grown adjusted to are completely turned upside down. I really enjoyed the story for a number of reasons, but most of all because the plot felt so different from the usual kind of thing I read in YA Contemporary.

8) 'The Girl On The Train' by Paula Hawkins.

I couldn't resist choosing this one, a recent read of mine. Why? Because very few thrillers impress me that much and this one really did. I bought it on a whim, as a large number of people in the Book Blogosphere were really into it! I too felt instantly sucked in as soon as I began page one. The mystery and plot are full of twists and turns which I loved, but most of all the characters in it are really good quality. It's a story abut survival, overcoming obstacles and what it means to be strong and 'right'. 

9) 'The Perks Of Being A Wallflower' by Stephen Chbosky.

It has actually been a really long time since I read this book, but I still remember vividly how much I enjoyed it. Having watched the film beforehand, it did take me a little while to get into the story in the same way. However, once I had done so I was hooked. The thing that really makes this book great is it's characters: Charlie is adorable, Sam so intensely vibrant, and Patrick (my favourite of them all) absolutely hilarious yet noticeably vulnerable. 

10) 'Good Kings, Bad Kings' by Susan Nussbaum.

Last but certainly not least, I will never stop raving about this book. I won it from the Goodreads 'First Reads' giveaways and wasn't completely convinced that it would be my cup of tea. How wrong was I?! This book was everything I wanted it to be; filled with distinct, unique and diverse voices. I loved that Nussbaum really got into the heads of all of her characters and did a great job at showing just how awfully corrupt homes for the mentally ill can be in the USA.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Last Week's Shenanigans (5th September - 11th September)...

Unlike last week's post, this is going to be relatively short because not an awful lot happened last week. In fact, I mostly worked! On Monday, George came and visited again, which was a lot of fun and we all went to another Board Game night meet up (I'm really starting to enjoy these a lot) so that turned out to be a lovely day off. Mat and I have also now purchased one for ourselves called Tales Of Arabian Nights which Mat and I played with George and Tash before Board Game night to test it out! It was so much fun and I highly recommend it!

As I said, the rest of the week I worked except Saturday, as due to a number of staff holidays and Eid al-Adha, my rota got a little shifted around. So I had that day off! I chose to relax for most of it, though I had a few chores to do and in the middle of the afternoon I made a quick trip to Stratford and met Mat for his lunch. All in all, while a pretty work-filled week, it's not been too bad. And I am really pleased with my reading progress so far this month!

I Read...

I Received...

- 'Dark Tide' by Jennifer Donnelly: Bought On Amazon (10/09/16)
- 'The Lie Tree' by Frances Hardinge: Bought On Amazon (10/09/16)
- 'One' by Sarah Crossan: Bought On Amazon (10/09/16)
- 'Silence Is Goldfish' by Annabel Pitcher: Approved by Netgalley (10/09/16)


Top Ten Tuesday: TV Shows I'm Currently Watching/Really Want To Get Into