Thursday 31 December 2015

My 2016 Challenge Sign-Up Post!

Okay, so I'm getting this done early because there are so many good challenges running next year and I've got pretty excited about them all. Once again, they aren't just about having fun. but about helping me to organise my reading schedule more efficiently. Top priorities next year will include finishing all the great series that I have started, getting through more Netgalley/Edelweiss reads, and finding a balance between reading new releases and getting through my older TBR list. Click the pictures to sign up yourself!

My first challenge is a challenge I entered last year, the 2016 'Netgalley & Edelweiss Reading Challenge'.

One of my focuses, as I said before, is reading more of my Netgalley/Edelweiss reads. This challenge, hosted by Falling For YA helped me out massively to achieve that and as soon as I saw it running again this year I knew I had to enter! I am so excited to read more ARCs and make my way through the fairly large pile of Galleys I have sitting and waiting for me. I highly recommend it!

I am aiming for Silver - 25 Books, which is about what I achieved last year.

Challenge number two, another one I entered last year! The 2016 'Prequel/Sequel Challenge'!

Finishing the huge number of series that I've started is a really big priority this year too. Especially as I plan on starting so many more. I don't want to get overwhelmed by the huge number that I have to get through so this challenge hosted by Novel Heartbeat and Writer Grrl Reads will help me to see them through until the end! I loved the point scoring system they had going on last year too!

Seeing as I managed Amateur level last year, I am aiming for 51 - 75 Points (Advanced).

Third on the list is the 2016 'Backlist Books Challenge'.

Last year I was a little too late to enter a proper TBR challenge, but it is important to be making a lot of headway through older books rather than just reading brand new ones. Hosted by Pretty Deadly Reviews (which incidentally also hosts the Bookish Bingo challenges I love), and there's a lot of scope here as the book must have been published a year or more before the day you read it. I can't wait to get through some of the huge crates of books sitting under my bed (that's literal by the way).

There are no levels for this challenge!

Next up is on the opposite end of the scale: the 2016 'New Release Challenge'.

Hosted by (Un)Conventional Book Reviews this is actually a challenge that I haven't really considered before. Normally I spend quite a lot of time catching up and don't read a huge amount of new releases. That's all about to change because this challenge I'm hoping will get me reading more things that actually come out this year!

I am aiming for 16-30 Books (New Release Pro).

The 2016 'Retelling Challenge' is one I am really looking forward to!

This is, as stated at the host website The Daily Prophecy, a stress-free challenge! I really wanted to enter one that I knew I could do well at, and I thought this would be ideal because I love retellings more than anything else! They are my favourite books to read and I normally get through one or two a month at least! It's nice to enter a challenge that I know I won't have to put a whole lot of work into, but is still exciting.

I am aiming for 21 - 25 Books (Kuma Lisa).

I didn't want to do many categorised challenges this year: I have enough on my plate with Bookish Bingo and the Story Sprites cards! But I really enjoy the 'Monthly Motif' and 'Key Words' Challenges immensely and I really didn't want to let those go.

You may have noticed that the motifs are looking completely different, both from last year and each other! That's because the two challenges are being hosted by two completely separate Blogs this year!  The 'Monthly Motif' Challenge will be hosted by GirlXOXO and the 'Key Words' Challenge by My Soul Called Life.

And that rounds off my challenge sign-up post this month! I'm incredibly excited for all of these challenges and can't wait to get started!

December Wrap-Up.

December did not turn out to be the amazing reading month I had hoped for. I managed only 4 of the 7 planned reads that I had for this month but I'm not hugely disappointed as I normally would be. It's important, I think, not to pressure myself into reading too much and I promise to get better at time management so that I can do everything I want to do properly next year. For now though, here's how I did!

  1. 'Stealing Phoenix'; Joss Stirling. This book actually turned out to be a bit of a disappointment for me, especially considering the fact that I loved 'Finding Sky' so much. The plot progression I liked a lot and Yves was an adorable Romantic lead! Phoenix, the main character I didn't like so much I'm afraid, some parts of the plot felt unnecessary. I wasn't entirely convinced by the villains of the story either though I felt they had a lot of potential. With a bit of padding it could have been a lot better. 2/5 Stars.
  2. 'Red Glove'; Holly Black. The second in the series and I really liked it a lot. Holly Black's wonderful imagination bowled me over again, the twists and turns really kept me mesmerised by the stories and I think that the characters felt much more developed than in 'White Cat'. There were a couple of Black's infamous 'blink and you miss it' moments and I really found the ending disappointing. Still, there was too much goodness in this story to ignore. 4/5 Stars.
  3. 'A Feast For Crows'; George R.R. Martin. I always find myself impressed by this series and this book was no exception. Martin might be a little slow when it comes to writing books, but I don't mind the wait so much if it means the quality of his writing is of this standard every time. He does such a cracking job! I liked hearing from some of the lesser characters in this one, it gave the entire plot a much wider perspective and gave a lot of insight into what was going on in other parts of Martin's world. 4.5/5 Stars.
  4. 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest'; Ken Kesey. I finished this book just in the nick of time, and I'm so glad that I did! It proved to be a worthwhile read! I loved Kesey's characterisation and the book's hero and villain against each other. His imagery was superb also, though at times the Narrator became a bit unreliable due to frequent hallucinations and nightmares. I didn't like the misogynistic and racist undertones either and that lowered my overall rating in the end. 3/5 Stars.
This month I have read four physical books:

- Stealing Phoenix
- Red Glove
- A Feast For Crows
- One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

This month I have read zero Netgalley/Edelweiss reads:

I'm kind of disappointed, but I've been really good up until now so it's fine, right?

For the Prequel/Sequel challenge I gained another 6 points, bringing the year's total to 46 points. Maybe not as high as I had hoped but it shows great progress in my series reading and I aim to continue making progress like this!

- Stealing Phoenix (+2)
- Red Glove (+2)
- A Feast For Crows (+2)

I read two more entries for the Book To Movies Challenge and that makes a year's total of ten:

- A Feast For Crows
- One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

And now my first Bookish Bingo post for this card and my Story Sprites Wrap-Up!

Multi-POV: A Feast For Crows; George R.R. Martin.
Fantasy: Stealing Phoenix; Joss Stirling.
A Friend's Fave: Red Glove; Holly Black.
White Cover: One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest; Ken Kesey.

Middle Grade Fantasy Lover: Stealing Phoenix; Joss Stirling.
A Character Death: More Than This; Patrick Ness.
Male MC: Horns; Joe Hill.
POC MC: A Thousand Nights; E.K. Johnston.
Witches Or Wizards: Bitter Greens; Kate Forsyth.
A Classic Novel: One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest; Ken Kesey.
Photograph On The Cover: Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children; Ransom Riggs.
A Book With A Mountain: The Historian; Elizabeth Kostova.
A Halloween Read: Mary Hades; Sarah Dalton.
Set In The Southern USA: Vengeance Road; Erin Bowman.
Character Centred Novel: The Sin Eater's Daughter; Melinda Salisbury.
Set At A Boarding School: Red Glove; Holly Black.
Book With A Fictional Language: A Feast For Crows; George R.R. Martin.
Supernatural Race In Modern Times: The Other Lamb; Katie Young.
A Character Who Is a Musician: The Butterfly & The Violin; Kristy Cambron.

Book Review: One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest; Ken Kesey.

I think we can safely say that I read this book in the nick of time, but I'm glad that I made space in my schedule to just sit down and see it through to the end. I'm going to try to get better at that in the New Year! I'll be entering this read into the 'Key Words Challenge'.

SOURCE: Bought
TYPE: Paperback

TITLE: One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
AUTHOR: Ken Kesey
PUBLISHER: Penguin Classics
PAGES: 281
GENRE: Adult, Classic, Contemporary

RATING: 3/5 Stars

Tyrannical Nurse Ratched rules her ward in an Oregon State mental hospital with a strict and unbending routine, unopposed by her patients, who remain cowed by mind-numbing medication and the threat of electric shock therapy. But her regime is disrupted by the arrival of McMurphy – the swaggering, fun-loving trickster with a devilish grin who resolves to oppose her rules on behalf of his fellow inmates. His struggle is seen through the eyes of Chief Bromden, a seemingly mute half-Indian patient who understands McMurphy's heroic attempt to do battle with the powers that keep them imprisoned.

What I Liked:

  • The characterisation in this book was key to making the story right, and my goodness did Kesey nail it. I particularly loved McMurphy and Nurse Ratched. Despite being a petty criminal and con man, McMurphy quickly became on the list of characters I love with his wise-cracking, quick-thinking personality. Ratched, a supposed kind and charitable pillar of the community also made it to the top of the list of scariest and most evil villains of my book reading life. Watching the two attempt to outsmart each other was very entertaining and made for some really good plot points.
  • Kesey also wrote pretty well and got the world-building pretty much spot on. Seeing the play and film prior to reading probably helped a little but I was blown away by how well I seemed to be able to see the entire mental ward and envisage all of it's patients. There were so many moments in this book where I felt like I was reading a true masterpiece and everything came together so well.
What I Disliked:
  • Despite the fact that I did like Chief Bromden's perspective a lot, I find it hard to sort through some of the bizarre hallucinations and dreams that he had, and skimmed over his old memories because I wanted to get back to the main story. Symbolically they were probably very important but it was at these points where I no longer felt like I was enjoying the book quite so much. Bromden also didn't have a whole lot to say or do (something that I feel happened with a lot of the lesser characters).
  • The overall message of the book is deeply rooted in it's time. It's misogynistic, anti-establishment and racist and there were moments that I felt a little uncomfortable reading it. At moments, the book goes too deeply into trying to convey it's message and the plot didn't do enough to convince me that this was everything I had hoped it would be despite these heavy themes. I prefer the film and play because they do not incorporate this tone nearly as much.
Overall Conclusion:
This book proved to be a mixed bag for me and I had to carefully think about my rating. On the one hand Kesey wrote well and characterised perfectly, with a really good dose of world-building for good measure. There were some shocking twists to keep interest, and the ending will blow anyone who reads this away and probably leave them speechless. On the other side of the coin however, this book conveys a message that I'm not overly comfortable with and sometimes got a little confusing as Bromden was prone to a lot of hallucinations and strange thoughts. It's clear to see why this became a classic, but it's definitely not quite as universal in it's themes as I had hoped.

Tuesday 29 December 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: My picks for 'Most Anticipated Releases For The First Half Of 2016'.

I am anticipating so many releases this year that I'm really glad that the topic is narrowed down to the first half of the year. Some of them will probably be repeats from the Top Ten 2016 Debuts post I wrote a few weeks back.

1) 'Stars Above'; Marissa Meyer.

Expected Publication: February 2nd 2016

Okay so I know I haven't got round to reading 'Winter' yet but this series has such a good track record and I'm reading it next month, no matter what! Therefore, I'm going to talk about how excited I am for the 'Stars Above Collection' that includes nine stories from 'The Lunar Chronicles' Universe! The cover is beautiful and it's probably my most anticipated read for next year. Enough said.

2) 'The Winner's Kiss'; Marie Rutkoski.

Expected Publication: March 29th 2016

So this is one of the few series I'm actually managing to get through and enjoy, so I'm pretty excited about the release of the last one in the series. I need to find out what happens to Kestrel and Arin and it had better be a happy ending because they have gone through far too much for it not to be! Despite a mediocre start with 'The Winner's Curse', Rutkoski impressed me a lot with 'The Winner's Crime'. I have pretty high hopes for the last in the series!

3) 'Truthwitch'; Susan Dennard.

Expected Publication: January 5th 2016

I have seen this book everywhere. Seriously. Dennard seems to have amassed quite the Twitter following and I have seen such impressive ARC reviews for this book that I need it in my life ASAP. I've been waiting to read another really enthralling Fantasy series and I think this could be one that will really engage me. Fingers crossed it lives up to the hype!

4) 'The Dark Days Club'; Alison Goodman.

Expected Publication: January 26th 2016

I received a proof of this from a box of goodies that I won via Maximum Pop! It was not a book that I had previously considered but having read the synopsis, I'm actually really excited about it! I haven't read a book involving demons for a long while, and I like that it's mixed up with an alternate version of history. Those kind of reads have garnered good reviews from me in the past, so I have high hopes!

5) 'This Raging Light'; Estelle Laure.

Expected Publication: January 14th 2016

I wrote on this one already in the aforementioned post but I'll mention again that I do own a proof of this one too, and I'm so excited. Contemporary fiction is one of those genres that I really have to be in the mood for before I read it, but I don't see it being hard to persuade myself to read this one because it looks so good! I think this could end up being a book that really causes a stir this year and I want to be a part of that!

6) 'A Study In Charlotte'; Brittany Cavallaro.

Expected Publication: March 1st 2016

I'm always craving a good retelling but recently I don't just want to read Fairy Tales. This one appeals to me because it's a Sherlock Holmes retelling, though with a bit of a difference! The cover looks great and as soon as I saw it, I knew I wanted to read this book. I am crossing all of my fingers and toes with this one, because I want so badly to enjoy it!

7) 'Beautiful Broken Things'; Sara Barnard.

Expected Publication: February 11th 2016

Here is another one of my most anticipated reads this year and I'm super excited because thanks to Netgalley, I have a copy ready to read! So many reviews for this one are already out and having read them I think it's safe to say that this book could be up there in my top ten favourite reads at the end of the year. That is, providing I enjoy it as much as everyone else seems to be!

8) 'Rebel Of The Sands'; Alwyn Hamilton.

Expected Publication: March 8th 2016

Two of my favourite 2015 reads were set in the desert: one a YA Western and the other a retelling of the framing story from One Thousand & One Nights. This one looks to be an amalgamation of both! Magic, shoot-em-ups, desert wastelands and mythical creatures. A fantastical YA western could possibly be a dream come true for me and I can't wait to get my claws into this book!

9) 'Blackhearts'; Nicole Castroman.

Expected Publication: February 9th 2016

The last few choices all appeared on my last list about 2016 debuts, I know. But these are really exciting books for me! This is another retelling that is not along the Fairytale line, but instead the legendary Blackbeard's origin story. I've always liked stories about pirates and although there might not be more landlubbers than deckswabbers, I look forward to seeing how this story will turn out.

10) 'The Forbidden Wish'; Jessica Khoury.

Expected Publication: February 23rd 2016

Some of you may remember my last Aladdin retelling and how little I enjoyed it. It's made me so desperate to find one that I actually enjoy and this could be the book to do it. I have much higher hopes for this one because ARC reviews recommend the sample chapters highly and remarked that it is much more like the re-imagining I am after, and less like a fanfiction-like copy of the Disney film. Hooray!

Christmas Haul!

I almost totally forgot about doing this post, but I received a ton of great things for Christmas this year so I really want to share them with you. Of course my Christmas has been so hectic that I can't really be blamed for the lack of post, I've been so busy! Especially on Christmas day which Mat and I divided between our two families. The pictures aren't overly clear, and because Mat came back a day later than me to London there are a couple of presents missing from the photos. Still, I love this haul!

So let's start with my family. My parents bought me a ton of books to read and I figured that will be the present you guys would want to hear about most! I asked for both non-fiction and fiction, as I really want to start reading more factual books and not just stories. They bought me Marina Warner's 'From The Beast To The Blonde: On Fairy Tales & Their Tellers' because I love learning about Fairy Tales, and Joseph Campbell's 'The Hero With A Thousand Faces' which in essence psychologically analyses the structure of Myths, in particular a hero's journey. They also bought me Maggie Stiefvater's 'The Scorpio Races', Laura Whitcomb's 'Under The Light', and Ruin & Rising by Leigh Bardugo (I accidentally asked for the third book, not the second but I'll have no choice but to get a copy of Book Two now! Finally, a £50 Amazon Voucher was very much appreciated from them and I have no doubt that will be spent on Kindle Books for me to read!

My lovely sister also bought me a few great presents for which I am eternally grateful. Shall we start with the huge bar of Dairy Milk? I think so! Everyone knows I love chocolate and the larger it comes, the better! She also bought me some gorgeous smelling Cherry Blossom Perfume which I loved! Cherry Blossoms are actually my favourite flowers, they're so beautiful and smell divine. Big Hero 6 was next on my list from her and it's a film that I have wanted to watch ever since it came out. I can't wait! My last present from her came when we went out to town together yesterday. She bought me a Colouring Book! I'm particularly excited about this present because I've been wanting to try this out for a while! My Mum also gave me a ton of colouring pencils to take home so I'm all set for some major de-stressing!

From my Grandparents I received a £25 New Look Gift Card which I have no doubt will come in useful, especially when I need to update my wardrobe a bit. My Auntie Pam bought me a lovely storage box shaped like...a book! I could not be more pleased with it and I know I'm in desperate need of more storage containers. She also got Mat and I some tasty Gingerbread Men! My Auntie Jennie bought me some more make-up: an eye-shadow palette, bag and lip crayon! Auntie Karen got me a light-up pen and some sweet-smelling candles. The whole family received a yummy box of chocolates from my cousin Phil.

From Mat's family I received a huge bundle of presents: DVDs (the live-action Cinderella and Into The Woods to name a couple), a lovely mug to add to my collection (I now have four) and drink even more tea from, slippers, a tiger patterned onesiechocolates and some more perfume! While I was there, I also won a Baylis & Harding Moisturiser from a Christmas cracker which I was pretty pleased with! I also forgot to tell you guys about the Secret Santa gifts I received from my flat-mate Tash! She bought me my very first Tote Bag, themed around Disney's The Jungle Book and a Bourbon shaped tree decoration (my adoration for the biscuit is famed). Meg also bought me some cute little chocolates.

I went to meet up with a couple of my old school friends also yesterday and received some wonderful presents from them. Catherine bought me yet more chocolate (I'm sensing a theme...) and Isobel chose another book for me (Robert Ryan's 'A Study In Murder') and some Magic Stars Hot Chocolate. Last but certainly not least, what did Mat get me? The answer: a hoodie and two tee shirts from my favourite tee shirt company 'Tee Turtle', an absolutely stunning 'Alice In Wonderland' themed Kindle Case, a huge box of Hotel Chocolat goodies (including chocolate tea!) and tickets to go and see Wonder.Land, a musical I've seen raved about at the National Theatre. All in all, a fantastic Christmas round-up which I am massively grateful to everyone for. 

I hope everyone else had a great Christmas too!

Monday 28 December 2015

Last Week's Shenanigans (21st December - 27th December)...

This week has obviously been a busy week for me because I went home to Ashford for Christmas! Before that though, let me talk a little about Monday when I went to Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park with Mat. I went last year and really enjoyed it, but this year felt so magical because we went a lot closer to Christmas. It was raining which threatened to make the experience less enjoyable, but we persevered and enjoyed looking at all the Christmas Market stalls, sat in a couple of bars during the worst of the weather (warmth and delicious drinks are a plus for me) and at the end of all the sightseeing and food trying we went to watch the Cirque Beserk which was fantastic!

I worked on Tuesday (my last shift before Christmas) then on Wednesday I made my way back home! I was a little gutted to find that I had so much to carry, especially as no one was around to pick me up from the station to take me home but once I was back at my parent's house, I had a lovely time! We played games on the evening of the 23rd, and I spent Christmas Eve with my sister watching 'Home Alone' and sorting out the Christmas Presents in preparation. Mat came down and joined us that evening and we played even more games before heading to bed very late.

Christmas morning was obviously filled with a lot of present opening, and I will go into much more detail when I get round to writing out my Christmas Haul post. I received some cracking presents though and I'm extremely lucky to have such caring friends and family who know me so well! Mat and I were picked up around midday to head to his family's house, where we enjoyed a gorgeous Christmas dinner and opened even more presents! We then proceeded to watch lots of Christmas TV & films and play a few games and ended Christmas festivities in a really nice way.

Boxing day, Mat and I caught up on some missed sleep before heading out to town in the afternoon to peruse the Boxing Day sales. I went into Waterstones but did not have a whole lot of time to actually buy anything (sadly). In fact Mat and I didn't buy anything, despite having a few things in mind that we wanted to get! Still, it was a lovely afternoon out of the house! The rest of Boxing Day was filled up with more games and fun and was a great last day at Mat's house before heading back to my parent's alone on the 27th. I'm so glad that I booked off all the time that I did because it meant I got to spend a lot more time with my family: something that's really important to me at Christmas time!

I'll finish by saying that I really hope everyone else had a great Christmas too!

I Read:

I Received:

'Remix' by Non Pratt: Prize in the Walkers Books UK Box via Maximum Pop (22nd Dec)
'The Sky Is Everywhere' by Jandy Nelson: Prize in the Walkers Books UK Box via Maximum Pop (22nd Dec)
- 'The Dark Days Club' by Alison Goodman: Prize in the Walkers Books UK Box via Maximum Pop (22nd Dec)
- 'City Of Bones' by Cassandra Clare: Prize in the Walkers Books UK Box via Maximum Pop (22nd Dec)
- 'From The Beast To The Blonde: On Fairy Tales & Their Tellers' by Marina Warner: Non-fiction Christmas Present from Parents (25th Dec)
- 'The Hero With A Thousand Faces' by Joseph Campbell: Non-fiction Christmas Present from Parents (25th Dec)
- 'The Scorpio Races' by Maggie Stiefvater: Christmas present from Parents (25th Dec)
- 'Under The Light' by Laura Whitcomb: Christmas present from Parents (25th Dec)
- 'Ruin & Rising' by Leigh Bardugo: Christmas present from Parents (25th Dec)


Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Leaving Under The Tree This Year

I Posted:

Anti POC Hermione? Riddikulus!

Sunday 27 December 2015

Anti POC Hermione? Riddikulus!

So I went for a punny title, but at the end of the day this is going to be a serious blog post. Because it's on a subject close to my heart. I have been wanting to write this post for a while now but have had a lot on my plate so have only just got round to it! For those that don't know, the cast for the upcoming sequel play 'Harry Potter & The Cursed Child' for the grown-up Harry, Ron and Hermione was announced about a week ago! Here's a picture of the brand new trio:

From left to right: Jamie Parker (Harry), Noma Dumezweni (Hermione) and Paul Thornley (Ron).

As soon as the casting was revealed I felt elated. As I said, this was a subject close to my heart but not just because of my adoration for Harry Potter. Some of you may not know this, but I studied Performing Arts for three years at University and wanted very badly to be an Actress before I began to love writing. The real lack of racial diversity found in Plays/Musicals/Films etc. troubles me just as much as the lack of it in books does.  Viola Davis this year was the first black actress to win an 'Outstanding Actress' Emmy award and as she said in her acceptance speech:
"The only thing that separates women of colour from anyone else is opportunity."
In truth, there are very little in the way of POC parts, certainly in comparison to those written for white people. It seems a shame that in 2015, skin colour can still be such a deciding factor. So for me, such a decision was a victory in so many ways.

While most people shared my enthusiasm as I took to Twitter to celebrate, I found that not all did. In fact, I even found horror among some of my supposed fellow Harry Potter fans. I found comments along the lines of "Hermione is supposed to be white, like in the films." and "Casting a black Hermione is obviously political correctness gone mad." that made me feel so ill I had to take a breather and stop myself from getting into a few huge arguments, especially as most of them started with "I'm not being racist but...". 

Let's start with the books. As the source Harry Potter material, surely all it would take is a simple descriptor of Hermione's skin colour to clear up whether Rowling intended Hermione to be a POC or not. The only descriptors found throughout the series refer to Hermione's 'bushy brown hair' and 'rather large front teeth' and 'brown eyes'. The only quote that even slightly indicates her skin tone is found in 'The Prisoner Of Azkaban' where she is described  as being 'very brown' after her holiday abroad. Of course this still leaves no clarification as it could refer to her natural skin colour being brown or a tan after being out in the sun. 

Simply put: Rowling has not ever said that Hermione is white. By assuming that a lack of quote proving she is of an ethnic minority must mean she is white, you are being incredibly disrespectful. In truth, Rowling has chosen to leave it to interpretation. The films of course chose to cast Emma Watson and that is fine too. As the play is not a follow-on from the films, there is no need to cast someone who looks like an older Emma Watson. It is also important to remember that Emma Watson had bushy hair only in the very early films and certainly didn't have prominent teeth. She was of course a phenomenal actress and played the role brilliantly, which is all that should be important as far as I'm concerned. 

In terms of Dumezweni's acting career, I would say that it is impressive to say the least. She has appeared in a multitude of TV programmes, Theatre productions and Radio shows making her credentials very admirable (minor roles in Doctor Who, Midsomer Murders and Eastenders will make her a recognisable face to many). I found myself even more impressed with her Theatre reviews, especially as she received such fantastic ones when she stepped into the lead role in Linda just a few days before Press Night. People, as someone who has been on stage before, that is difficult. If that's not enough to convince you then this should be: she beat Benedict Cumberbatch and nabbed herself an Olivier Award. All of these things considered there should be no concerns about her acting skills.

At the end of the day, Hermione is a fictional, interpretable character. People should be making more of a fuss about the fact that Paul Thornley is certainly not ginger-haired like Ron is supposed to be, and Jamie Parker does not have Harry's (and Lily's) green eyes that the book describes (neither did Daniel Radcliffe by the way). But no one is because that would be ridiculous, just as this notion that Dumezweni's skin colour has ruined the Harry Potter franchise is. Rowling's magical books were always about embracing diversity and turning the underdogs into heroes. I am beyond excited to see these three in action and look forward to more casting announcements in the future!

Book Review: 'A Feast For Crows'; George R.R. Martin.

Wowee, I've been so busy over Christmas and had so little time to read! Due to this I've only just finished this colossal book, but I did really enjoy it! I don't even mind that it took me so long, socialising at Christmas has to come first I'm afraid! I'm also entering this into the 'Monthly Motif' Challenge.

TYPE: Paperback

TITLE: A Feast For Crows
AUTHOR: George R.R. Martin
SERIES: A Song Of Ice & Fire (#4)
PUBLISHER: Harper Voyager
PAGES: 778
GENRE: Adult, High Fantasy, Epic Fantasy

RATING: 4.5/5 Stars

The war in the Seven Kingdoms has burned itself out, but in its bitter aftermath new conflicts spark to life. The Martells of Dorne and the Starks of Winterfell see vengeance for their dead. Euron Crow's Eye, as black a pirate as ever raised a sail, returns from the smoking ruins of Valyria to claim the Iron Isles.

From the icy north, where Others threaten the Wall, apprentice Maester Samwell Tarly brings a mysterious babe in arms to the Citadel. As plots, intrigue and battle threaten to engulf Westeros, victory will go to the men and women possessed of the coldest steel and the coldest hearts.

What I Liked:

  • Martin's ability to hold a story together will never fail to impress me. From the very first book I have repeatedly praised the ingenious way in which he incorporates so many characters and story-lines into one plot, and it just works. Somehow I remember who everyone is, somehow he's drilled into me their respective pasts, feelings, relationships and motives for their actions.
  • I loved hearing from a few newer voices! MCs like Jon Snow, Danaerys Targaryen and Tyrion Lannister remained unheard from apart from brief mentions and some of the quieter voices from the series stepped forward to take the limelight: Samwell Tarly, Brienne of Tarth, Houses Greyjoy and Martell etc. It was a lot of fun to hear from those previously unheard from and get a few fresh perspectives along the way.
  • Martin's writing style remains consistently superb and exciting. It is a whole new level of maturity that can be difficult to achieve in Fantasy, and I thoroughly enjoyed it! I'm always blown away by Martin's fantastic world-building and this book was no less profound in the way that it described newer locations to me. Perhaps watching the show helps, but I can see a lot of the places in my mind's eye thanks to such wonderful imagery.
What I Disliked:
  • I can't say that I really disliked anything about this book, though in terms of action and plot twists, it was not nearly as arresting as the last that I read: 'A Storm Of Swords: Blood & Gold'. I know that so much happened in that installment that it makes sense for more build-up but that is the reason that I deducted half a star. A few more twists and turns would not have gone amiss, though the few that there were did produce a few audible reactions from me!
Overall Conclusion:
I don't think that I can really praise this series enough. It's been one of the most consistent that I've read and enjoyed, and I've never given any of the books a bad score. It is rather long and for those who are easily bored or distracted, it may be difficult to get through. This particular installment was a good read in terms of fresh perspectives and a whole host of new characters to read from, but lacked in plot twists compared to the previous book that I read. Still, I really did enjoy it a lot and despite it being a slow read, it was certainly worthwhile.

Tuesday 22 December 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: My picks for 'Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Leaving Under The Tree This Year'.

I could probably think of so many more than ten for this category, but it will be pretty easy for me to do this one because I actually have a book Christmas list that I sent my family. Fingers crossed!

1) 'A Court Of Thorns & Roses'; Sarah J. Maas.

I've been wanting this book ever since I heard about it coming out. It sounds so up my streak. A fairy filled version of Beauty & The Beast? Perfect! I love Fairy Tale retellings! I've read 'Valiant' by Holly Black and it's along a similar theme: I really enjoyed it. I have high hopes for this book!

2) 'The Rest Of Us Just Live Here'; Patrick Ness.

I've heard so many good things about this book! I've only read one of Ness' books in the past, and that was also a gift because I begged for it. This one has a Zombie Apocalypse theme and I really do like a splash of horror, so it looks like my kind of book! I can't wait to get hold of this book at some point, hopefully on Christmas day!

3) 'The Scorpio Races'; Maggie Stiefvater.

This author constantly evades me and I have no idea why. She has so many great looking books out and I even have one sitting on my bookshelf. Why haven't I read it yet? No idea. My thinking is that if I start with a stand alone I might be able to bring myself to start one of her series.

4) 'The Buried Giant'; Kazuo Ishoguro.

This book looks absolutely great. It contains fantastical elements but asks deep questions and I like that in a book. I'e heard it sparked a little bit of controversy, something to do with misquotes, but it hasn't put me off in the slightest. I want this book!

5) 'The Singer's Gun'; Emily St. John Mandel.

I think this pretty much goes without saying, because everyone knows I'm dying to read another book by this author. Though all of Mandel's books have received high ratings, this one is the next highest rated on Goodreads so I'm looking forward to giving it a go. To be honest, I would love to read any books by Mandel.

6) 'Golden Son'; Pierce Brown.

Oh my goodness I feel so bad about not having read this book. The third will be out soon! I really enjoyed 'Red Rising', so I really want to get hold of 'Golden Son' and find out what happens next. I have high hopes for this phenomenal sci-fi, particularly as I don't read an awful lot of that genre.

7) 'Hidden Huntress'; Danielle L. Jensen.

If I'm behind on the choice above, I'm definitely behind here. Some of you may remember me adoring 'Stolen Songbird' but for some reason I never read the next installment of the series, which I sorely regret. I need to read it, because I want so badly to become reinvested in the characters and story.

8) 'Cruel Beauty'; Rosamund Hodge.

Ugh, so many books that I haven't read yet. I love Fairy Tale retellings and hope to read so many more of them this year coming. This is pretty much a must, especially as it mixes with Greek Mythology. It's highly reviewed too, so I know I won't be wasting my time getting into this author's stories.

9) 'The Wrath & The Dawn'; Renee Ahdieh.

After reading 'A Thousand Nights' and the reviews telling me that these two stories are based on the same story but are so different I knew I had to read it. It's a well loved 2015 release and received some pretty great reviews. I'm excited about revisiting that same tale but seeing it in a different way.

10) 'Illuminae'; Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff.

Another 2015 release that I missed this year (there have been a lot) but I'm excited nevertheless. A lot of people loved it and recommended it to me so I know I should really have already read it. If this turned up under the tree I would be over the moon!