Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Valentines Ninja Book Swap!

Hey again all!

So I've posted about this before, but three times a year I take part in the Ninja Book Swap, organised by wonderful people. Essentially, you are assigned a partner, someone is assigned you and you send each other a brilliant book (or even two) and a little gift each! It is a truly rewarding thing to do and it is so much fun, alongside being a super way to get to know other book nerds. (Full details at

So I got my package (had to route to the sorting office but I got it *Zelda achievement music*).

I was foiled by sticky tape, because I'm sort of an adult but sort of not.

I pulled everything out of the packet to see what we got here.
And then I was distracted by bubble wrap.

Like a lot. (Seriously, I love bubble wrap).
Eventually I did open everything.
Cards are first for me, mainly because I love discovering whose kindness and generosity I am lucky enough to experience, and it was such a pretty one from the lovely @AnahitaMody (check her out on twitter!)

The packages themselves were stunningly wrapped.

But even prettier unwrapped *.*
I have been dying to get a hold of Running Girl since I was doing work experience at Random House, and How To Build a Girl has been a wishlist fave since it came out. so I am ludicrously excited to get to read them both. When the blog is back in April, Running Girl is first!

I was also lucky enough to get more unicorn related craft stuff (yes, I do have multiple unicorn related craft stuff), and also some seriously yummy stuff.

I have been so so lucky this time. I hope that all of you will go check out so you can join in next time :)

Friday, 27 February 2015

A Quick Update

Hello all! 

Or, all who are maybe still there?

Anyhow, I thought I would fill you guys in a little as to what will be occurring in the upcoming season. 

I will be returning to book blogging, as this was always intended as a spring and summer blog to fit with my university time table, however I will be finishing university this year at the end of March (if you think that sounds impressive, you should see how panicked I am). This means I will then be able to not only blog through the summer, but, dependent of course of my possible employment, I will be able to blog for a lot longer this time around!

I am ridiculously excited about this and I just can't wait to get stuck in to reading for fun once more.

See you all very soon!

Friday, 5 September 2014

'Sing No Evil', Read No Evil, Write No Evil

Firstly, I should begin with a huge apology to you all that I missed last week. I recently moved house and I have a lot going on, so this blog will, unfortunately, from now on become a bi-monthly post, as opposed to a weekly one. If it were up to me, I would continue on as I do now, however unfortunately my university work does come before all else.
                This week is a rather odd review, as I read this particular book partly because I was lucky enough that Abrams & Chronicle gave me a copy, but partly because all my other books are in assorted boxes and suitcases, and so this is my explanation for the saturation of graphic novels on the blog at the moment. ‘Sing No Evil’ instantly appealed to me because a) it involves a man and his fight for his Avant-garde metal band (which sounds a lot like quite a few people I know), but also because b) their drummer is a bear, and I always think that the Dairy Milk advert missed a trick by putting the gorilla not a grizzly to the Phil Collins soundtrack. This book explores one man’s fight for his music, with some demonic tunes, possessed arch rivals and a love triangle thrown in. There are even some enchanting obscure references added to the mix (I particularly like the Opeth cameo), and this is really a book that fills a gap in the market in that sense, whilst still not alienating a regular audience. Maybe the reader will not get the allusion to Kiss, but they will certainly sympathise with Aksel when his vocals are describing in non too flattering terms, versus the new voice of an angel his band mate/love interest Lily finds in a guy she discovers in a takeaway restaurant.
                I will admit that this book has a few problems with story linearity, and there were quite a few points when I questioned, in my standard eloquent manner, what happened to thing with the thing and the other thing. This is also played into the ending a little, which didn’t feel as conclusive as I would have liked it to, and seemed more like a fizzle than a bang. More than anything, the narrative structure was suffering from a syndrome of confusion in terms of pace, either racing forward and entirely showing not telling (with still not quite enough showing), or using such state-the-obvious dialogue you’d have to be blind, deaf and not paying attention in order to not understand. However, the character’s erratic nature and then lazy periods come across really well through this pacing, even if it’s a little uncomfortable to read, and the way music, fast and slow, is depicted is pure brilliance in comic format.

                Sing No Evil can live up to its title in terms of book brilliance, as it stands looking a little like Scott Pilgrim with a little less pop culture and a little more demons. With brilliant art, and mixture of funny, moving and terrifying moments, Sing No Evil is for those who really, REALLY like their music. And I mean really, really like it. 

Friday, 22 August 2014

Time To Flesh Out The 'City Of Bones'

I thought my days of reviewing books with shirtless men on the cover was over but hey, c'est la vie, as the song goes. The Mortal Instruments series seems to have become a synonym for fantasy, and, after all, it had a movie so it must be pretty well liked and therefore relatively excellent (then again so did Twilight, but let's not get off on the wrong foot here). I was lucky enough it get a copy of City Of Bones by Cassandra Clare to read, thanks to Walker Books, and I've had a pretty mixed reaction to it.

To begin with, I should say, I had biased opinions left, right and centre about this book before even reading it, so I entered it with dazed preconceptions and an odd sense of foreboding, but I was pleasantly surprised. The world created, whilst not altogether original, had its own personal quirks and twists, including vampires on motorcycles, magic tattoos and the witch that lives downstairs. Most importantly, it never took itself too seriously in these quirks. This worked through Simon as a non-magic relief from the constant glowering shadow of the Shadowhunter world. Oddly, I found Simon a hell load more endearing than the ShadowHunter teens (Jace particularly, but Alec at points), and there were moments where he broke from his comic persona to have quite moving character development. The plot itself was a rollacoaster and surprisingly sustaining for a book of this size, with more twists and turns than I even bothered counting after a while, although this did fall down towards the end of the story where every plot twist became less and less unexpected. This was not because the plot was easily guessed, but because you can only gasp for so long before you run out of air, but, as I said, the plot held its own in a novel where it could easily have overstayed its welcome.

However, I noticed that, whilst being more-ish as chocolate digestives in terms of wanting to know what happens in the next volume of this saga, there are an awful lot of problems with it that nearly stop me from doing so. Firstly, why is it seemingly impossible to have a fantasy heroine who everyone is not in love with? Not only does everyone seem to overwhelming adore Clary (paternally or romantically), but she brushes up against Mary Sue territory about it. I find this particularly frustrating as a) the love triangle plot has been done until death and burial, and it is beginning to decompose at this juncture, but also b) because the book would have worked out better had there only been one romance subplot running around. I even believe I can say this without spoiler, because men's feelings for Clary in the novel are immediately and painfully obvious from the moment they're introduced, and are then cemented my Clary's constant doubt in her own appearance and talent. I do tend to rant a little about this, but it's wearing, particularly when the novel itself is actually pretty gripping, with very few feelings of sluggishness in terms of pace.

So I have a lot of mixed feelings about this novel, mainly in a feeling of "it's good, but is it enough to justify Clary" kind of way. The best way I can think of to sum up City Of Bones is that it's a little like if Apple had brought out a tablet for the first time, and whilst bring brilliantly fast and well designed, it was also painted with bright tiger stripes on either side. It's playing to a niche market, but being honest, if it works and plays Netflix, you'll probably buy it anyway. 

Friday, 15 August 2014

The Shocking Truth Is That 'We Were Liars'

I have heard a lot about E. Lockhart's 'We Were Liars' without really hearing anything at all, and, from reading it, I now understand why. It is a book that is almost impossible to review without spoiling, a book so impossible to navigate through with a linear description because of its mystery. But I've got nothing else for you guys this week, so I thought I'd give it a whirl.

In most books, there is a core theme that holds all the bits together whether it be romance, adventure quest, what have you. In 'We Were Liars', I am torn as to whether this device is fear or suspense. I certainly became afraid whilst reading the novel, and I was holding my breath, tapping my tablet with rocket speed to get to the next page at points, as the suspense was so strong, but I remain on the fence as to which of these two dominates the other. Before anyone says it, though similar, these two do not have the same effect, and, whilst reading it before Great British Bake Off did kill my cookie-induced calm, I am a great appreciator of the uses of both fear and suspense in this novel. Despite the fact that a private island has become a hell of a lot less attractive now, Lockhart really sells the creepy sense of fear in the novel, married perfectly to its underlying terrifying tone.

I did have a few small practical concerns with this book, I’ll admit, and I’ll insert a quick disclaimer here, whilst I normally attempt to be a spoiler free as possible, there will be hints of plot (only hints, but still) in this section of the review. Right, now that’s said, I will begin by noting that it seemed incredibly odd to me that they were seemingly able to stop children, who could not even restrain themselves from calling their cousin a drug addict in one section of the novel (I warned about spoilers!), from spilling the whole truth about everything that happens to Cady. The secrecy that surrounds her life is maintained by every character, even small children, who also, oddly again, seem undamaged by the slow but extremely noticeable deterioration to their family structure. This was another minor practical issue I had. The ‘littles’ as they are referred to, seem untouched by all the tragedy that’s around them to a larger extent, whilst everyone else is falling apart. And, again I’m trying not to spoil totally, it is not as if the tragedy would not affect them directly: it most certainly would. However, there could be two good explanations for this in that firstly, Cady is definitely an unreliable narrator for multiple reasons, and secondly, the littles are not a focus, so even if they were falling apart, it’s not that noticeable to Cady who only notices the liars, so I may have to let my quibbles slide.

Ignoring the minor nit-picks I had with the practicality issues, I believe I have navigated myself to a spoiler-free conclusion about 'We Were Liars' and that is, for a novel as brief as it is, it truly has a hard-hitting and powerful presence. With its slow-growing sense of dread and it's frank and frightening honesty, this novel really brings a beautifully broken life into view.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Excitement Is But 'Seconds' Away

I may have gone a little overboard on the whole graphic novel adoration in recompense for my neglect, but this was not an opportunity to not review (if that makes sense). Thanks to the lovely folks as Abrams & Chronicle, I was able to get my desperate hands on a copy of ‘Seconds’ by Bryan Lee O’Malley. Even now, as I stare at its glowing, red cover on my desk, remembering what it was like to read it makes me, to put it eloquently, squiggly inside with happiness.
                The first thing I must say about this book is simply this: it’s beautiful. Not pretty, not quirky, beautiful. I would say it once again if it were not a word of diminishing returns (also my need to maintain the counter-culture, looks-aren’t-as-important-as-personality demeanour I’m developing on this blog). The colour, the setting, the style, all of it is just wonderful to read. I am a blank canvas (pun intended) in terms of art and illustration, but I can tell when it builds beautifully with a narrative and this is done so wonderfully in  ‘Seconds’. All aspects of this book’s aesthetic marry perfectly its comedy with its tragic side, which, though it may be a balancing act, works so well in this rather frank novel.
                One of the best aspects of this book as a whole is using Katie as the protagonist. She is certainly no Mary Sue, and this only the beginning of what makes her endearing. Similar to O’Malley’s other notorious hero Scott Pilgrim, Katie is unashamed by taking the easy way out, she can be cowardly at times and she is often pretty damn selfish. She has, what I have come to call, ‘Holden Caulfield Syndrome’, but oddly enough she wears it better than most, and comes across in a way that is more flawed human than obnoxious pain. She’s surrounded by other characters who call her out on her mistakes rather than happily ignoring them, which seriously helps, particularly because, personally, I think ‘Seconds’ wouldn’t work if they did. Without spoilers, screw-ups are a major plot point in the novel, and if everyone just went “Oh well, because you are the protagonist, we’ll pretend this didn’t happen and adore you unconditionally and unconvincingly anyway”, it would be more than a little confusing.
                It’s hard to critique this one without sounding like I’m being picky, but I do have to say it was a smidge confusing at points. Maybe I’m a simpleton, but I struggle with Stephen-Moffat-style timelines, and in a graphic novel, whilst being easier in this sense than straight text , it doesn’t erase the confusion entirely. The ending was also a little neat for me, but that’s more a matter of personal preference than it is an actual criticism. I think I’ve said before, despite being a lover of happy endings, I always struggle with believing come characters deserve them. Katie however, did actually develop, a feat accomplished by O’Malley that should not be sniffed at, considering that some authors can’t manage that in a whole series, and so at least there is a strong undertone that she’d worked hard to achieve her neat ending.
                ‘Seconds’ has been long-awaited by fans of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s work (including myself!), and I’m happy to say they won’t be disappointed. Packed with the typical fourth-wall-breaking comedy and unsettlingly poignant tragedy that can be expected, O’Malley delivers this hilarious and yet moving novel with style. 

Friday, 1 August 2014

Beware And Prepare For The Great 'El Deafo'!

I have been a little slack in terms of reviewing graphic novels on this blog. True, I did manage one, however I really don’t think that is giving a nearly good enough image of my longstanding love for them. Although I am a superhero comic reader, my personal favourite style of graphic novel are human stories (doesn’t matter if their contemporary, historical, political, etc) and ‘El Deafo’ by Cece Bell certainly fitted that category for me.
               Based on a true story, this adorable novel centres on Cece and her life as a child growing up with hearing impairment, and how it affects her – in every respect. Oddly enough for me, what I liked best about this portrayal was the appearance conscious nature of Cece, as it made her seem so wonderfully human and relatable. She wasn’t desperately worthy or dysfunctional or pitiful, she was a child facing a lot of difficulties, and struggling the ubiquitous struggle: acceptance from others around her. Another strong element of this book is its comedy, often visual (yes pun intended), and how it makes light of things that, without the illustrations, would likely make readers uncomfortable, as they’d be viewing it from an adult lens, or at the least an objective one. However, because all we see is through Cece, and through her funny view of the world, the reader feels happy to laugh with her at others, rather than feel trapped in a bubble unable to help her.
               On the other hand, this doesn’t kill the poignancy of the book in any way, and Cece’s struggle seem just as honest and daunting to us as if we were living it ourselves. Cece's life could seen as not dramatic enough for some of even a little too easy in places (the boy she happens to fancy lives in her road and seems to be the only one that isn't bothered by the wires), but I think that's the media-installed stereotype expectations of polarised tragedy or success talking. Cece's life is real and appears so to us, in a way that only an unreliable narrator can convey. This reminds to make special mention to the author, Cece Bel,l that she has managed something that so many autobiographies fail to. Whilst all self depictions doubtlessly include the words "I know I wasn't perfect but", there is something about the illustrated format that demonstrates and explains this better than words can. The reader doesn't feel like they should be siding against the Cece in these moments; it is in fact the opposite. You feel a greater sense of empathy with Cece than you would if she was entirely flawed or entirely perfect. It is this very relatable nature that makes the book so addictive.
           I could go on for years regarding the art style for this novel. I could talk a long while about its important accepting attitude. However, I will settle for simply saying this - it did not make me cry and this is it's greatest strength. It is surprisingly easy to evoke tears in a reader, but for something a little deeper and more realistic and yet equally as resonant? That's something to be celebrated.