Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Blog Tour: Literary Facts with a QI Elf

I am very excited to bring to you today the last stop on the blog tour for 1,342 QI Facts To Leave You Flabbergasted! To celebrate the release of the book, Anne Miller, one of the QI Elves, has written us a list of some of her favourite literary facts, so take it away, Anne!

At QI we all have our favourite topics. One of my all-time favourite QI facts is that a baby puffin is called a puffling but I will have to wait until 2018’s Series P to lobby for a show entirely about those brilliant birds. However, I also love literary facts and in Series L, I had the chance to write a whole show about books in the form of the ‘Literature’ episode of QI.

In that episode we covered the fact that T.S. Eliot was one of the publishers to turn down George Orwell’s 1984. 1984 is also the book that people are most likely to lie about having read. There was also the fact that the phrase  ‘Elementary, my dear Watson’ did not come from the Sherlock Holmes canon but instead from P.G. Wodehouse’s 1915 novel Psmith, Journalist.

This year’s QI book 1,342 QI Facts To Leave You Flabbergasted contains our favourite facts discovered in the last year. Some of my favourite literary ones include:

  • Charles Dickens
 helped stop P. T. Barnum from moving Shakespeare’s house, brick by brick, to New York. 
  • Pope John Paul II drew his own comic books. 
  • The French for ‘airport novel’ is roman de gare, or ‘railway station 
  • Thomas Jefferson kept a flock of geese to supply quills for his pens. 
  • The Pencil Sharpener Museum in Logan, Ohio, has 3,400 pencil sharpeners. 
  • Harper Lee, 
author of To Kill a Mockingbird, was an airline booking agent. 
  • Woody Allen writes his film scripts on a typewriter he bought in the 1950s. 
  • On a QWERTY keyboard
 a typist’s fingers cover 20 miles a day; on a Dvorak keyboard 
it’s only one mile. 
  • Roald Dahl, Noël Coward, Greta Garbo, Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra, Harry Houdini and Christopher Lee all 
worked as spies. 
  • H. G. Wells was A. A. Milne’s maths teacher. 

Thank you for sharing this with us, Anne! If you're interested in finding out more about the QI Elves, you can follow them on Twitter here, and 1,342 QI Facts to Leave You Flabbergasted is out now!

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Name: A Darker Shade of Magic
Author: V.E. Schwab
Publisher: Titan Books
Date published: February 2015
Rating: 5/5

Kell is one of the last Travelers - rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.
Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London - but no one speaks of that now.
Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and Prince of Red London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they'll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her 'proper adventure'.
But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive - trickier than they hoped.
- From Goodreads.

When I finished reading A Darker Shade of Magic, I actually felt sad because it was over and I had really enjoyed reading it and had become so attached to the characters and the worlds. I just loved it all so much. The idea of the book is such a unique and inventive one that really captured your attention. It created so many intriguing possibilities, and it had such a fascinating past and background. The worlds were all well thought-out and it was obvious a lot of time and effort had gone into creating them.
Kell and Lila were amazing characters who I now love so, so much. They seemed so much like real, living people, they were well-rounded and developed, and they had flaws and made mistakes, but that only endeared them to you. They were so good, and strong, and, oh my gosh, I just want to hold them close to my heart and not let them get hurt.
There were so many little things in this book that I loved and that radiated with attention to detail. There was Kell's many-sided coat, which was completely and utterly brilliant, and which I now really want in my own life, as well as some other very stylish outfits, including Lila's fantastic masquerade ball costume, which was incredibly awesome. There was also the brilliant magical fights, the action of which was described  clearly and which were easy to follow, while at the same time remaining impressive and epic and everything you could want from a fantasy and adventure novel.
This was an excellent and marvellous story, and I am immensely excited for when I read the next one in the series, because from what I have read so far, it seems like it will be amazing!

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Name: The Raven Boys
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher: Scholastic Children's Books
Date published: 2012
Rating: 5/5

Even if Blue hadn't been told her true love would die if she kissed him, she would stay away from boys. Especially the ones from the local private school. Known as Raven Boys, they only mean trouble.
But this is the year that everything will change for Blue.
This is the year that she will be drawn into the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys. And the year Blue will discover that magic does exist.
This is the year she will fall in love.
- From Goodreads.

The Raven Boys had a slower pace than some of the other books I have read recently and I found I actually enjoyed it for that. It took its time and it was not episodic, with one big event after the other. It let you take the time to get to know the characters and was still interesting to read without having constant action. As it went on, especially towards the end, the story did pick up pace well, with added excitement and suspense which kept me eager to read and intrigued with the events of the story. The book was also structured well in that the mysteries of the story were very clever and the answers were hinted at in such a way that you did not realise the hint was a serious one until the answer was revealed.
The book had fascinating and complicated characters whose personalities were developed and revealed as the story went on, and continued to show their depth and potential to surprise throughout it. The language was used to provoke such feeling and empathy for the characters that you really came to connect to them and there was a fun sense of humour in the writing that added some brilliant lighthearted moments that explored the playful sides of the characters without ruining the mood of the darker moments.
There was also a really enjoyable exploration of magic and how it works in the world of the novel, how it affects each character and what it means to each of them. It was fascinating to read about Blue's family's relationship to magic and how they worked with it, and how that contrasted with the Raven Boys' relationship to magic and their almost desperate search for it.
Despite the fact that it is set in spring, it really does feel like a perfect book to curl up inside with on an autumn day, and I would definitely recommend reading it this season if you have not yet. I am very much looking forward to when I get the chance to read the other books in this series.

Add the book on Goodreads | Author's website

Friday, 23 September 2016

Review: Love Song by Sophia Bennett

Name: Love Song
Author: Sophia Bennett
Publisher: Chicken House
Date published: 2016
Rating: 5/5

A million girls would kill for the chance to meet The Point, but Nina's not one of them.
She's the new assistant to the lead singer's diva fiancée, and she knows it's going to suck. She quickly learns that being with the hottest band on the planet isn't as easy as it looks: behind the scenes, the boys are on the verge of splitting up. Tasked with keeping an eye on four gorgeous but spoiled rock stars, Nina's determined to stick it out - and not fall for any of them...
- From Goodreads.

Love Song drew me in right from the beginning and made me want to sit down and read the whole thing through in one sitting. It made me remember why I love contemporary fiction, as I have been reading a lot of fantasy lately, after which I could not find as much enjoyment in contemporary but this book reminded me what is so great about the genre.
I thought the passion for music that leapt from the pages was wonderful, I always really love books that convey a love for music because I adore it so much myself. Speaking of music, I just have to mention that I love the fact that Can't Help Falling in Love by Elvis was played at Orli's wedding because I just really, completely and utterly love that song. There was also a love for literature, poetry, art, and a great respect for creativity which I think helped emphasise the importance of being able to express yourself creatively, to show and understand your emotions, which is a thread throughout the book.
The characters were cute and funny and loveable (I mean the nice ones of course, not Sigrid, never Sigrid) and well-rounded, each with an important background, and they all really made the story fun and enjoyable. Even though Sigrid was incredibly dislikable, of course, she still felt like a real individual and not two-dimensional.
Overall, this was a sweet, enjoyable, and exciting read that I would recommend to anyone who likes funny and intriguing writing. Also there were Taylor Swift, Doctor Who and Harry Potter references, which is always fantastic.

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Friday, 16 September 2016

Review: How Not to Disappear by Clare Furniss

Name: How Not to Disappear
Author: Clare Furniss
Publisher: Simon Schuster
Date published: 2016
Rating: 4/5
Spoiler warning: Minor

Our memories are what makes us who we are. Some are real. Some are made up. But they are the stories that tell us who we are. Without them, we are nobody.
Hattie's summer isn't going as planned. Her two best friends have abandoned her: Reuben has run off to Europe to "find himself" and Kat is in Edinburgh with her new girlfriend. Meanwhile Hattie is stuck babysitting her twin siblings and dealing with endless drama around her mum's wedding. Oh, and she's also just discovered that she's pregnant  with Reuben's baby.
Then Gloria, Hattie's great-aunt who no one even knew existed, comes crashing into her life. Gloria's fiercely independent, rather too fond of a gin sling and is in the early stages of dementia. Together the two of them set out on a road trip of self-discovery - Gloria to finally confront the secrets of her past before they are erased from her memory forever and Hattie to face the hard choices that will determine her future.
- From Goodreads.

How Not to Disappear was an emotional story that did not shy away from some difficult elements, and addressed those elements without making you want to stop reading it. By addressing troubling issues it showed how important it is that we face problems in our society and stand up to its flaws, such as racism and rape culture. It showed how important progress is, in that it reminds you of how much worse things used to be, but also how we still have room to keep improving.
While doing this, there was at the same time still a sense of humour which helped the book feel optimistic in the face of the tough decisions and situations that the characters had to deal with. There was an important message of keeping hopeful in the face of despair and this was helped by the fact that the two narrators still managed to find moments of humour, and it felt more realistic that way too, as it showed how complicated and mixed up life can be, with many different ups and downs.
The novel also had a wonderful use of language to convey emotion, it was evocative and heartfelt, and witty too. The language was well used to emphasise the significance of feeling in the story, and the importance of the idea of being alive in the moment and letting yourself feel in the moment.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Review: The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

Name: The Rest of Us Just Live Here
Author: Patrick Ness
Publisher: Walker Books
Date published: 2016
Rating: 4/5
Spoiler warning: Major

What if you aren't the Chosen One? The one who's supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?
What if you're like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.
Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week's end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.
Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions.
- From Goodreads.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here consists of a unique, clever and witty idea for a book that felt really refreshing and interesting. It took tired-out clichés and twisted the angle and made them new and exciting again. It was playful and thoughtful at the same time.
I think I expected it to be more humourous and satirical than it was. The humour and satire was there, but I suppose I expected to be more at the forefront, given the premise of the novel was a satire of the whole "chosen one" idea and genre, and I did not expect there to be such a serious tone and a focus on serious subjects, but I think that was a good kind of surprise, as it dealt well with the serious subjects, especially mental illness.
In terms of characters, I do not think I liked Henna as much as I should have done. I do not know what it was, but I felt like maybe she was supposed to be quite likeable, but while I certainly did not hate or even dislike her, I did not really like her too much either. Maybe it was because I felt she messed around with Mikey's feelings quite a bit and was not very considerate of them. I know she was trying to figure out her own feelings, and nobody is perfect, but she could have handled it better and thought more of how her actions might affect him and his feelings as well as her own. Mikey obviously was not perfect himself, and his jealousy was a good reason for her to be annoyed at him, and jealousy is one of the most annoying character traits (do not get me started on how much I hate love triangles), but I felt like I could understand more about why he was unhappy with her than why she was with him, and I do not think that is just because it was from Mikey's perspective. I am glad they did not end up together at the end because it would have not felt quite right between them.
Overall, I think it was a really great book that I very much enjoyed reading (I would not have read it as quickly as I did, in only a couple of days, if I did not), but I think I went in with my expectations a little too high and it did not quite reach them.

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Thursday, 8 September 2016

Review: These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

Name: These Shallow Graves
Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Date published: 2015
Rating: 4/5

Josephine Montfort is from one of New York's oldest, most respected and wealthiest families. Like most well-off girls of the Gilded Age, her future looks set - after a finishing school education, she will be favourably married off to a handsome gentleman, after which she'll want for nothing. But Jo has other dreams and desires that make her long for a very different kind of future. She wants a more meaningful and exciting life: she wants to be an investigative journalist like her heroine Nelly Bly. But when Jo's father is found dead in his study after an alleged accident, her life becomes far more exciting than even Jo would wish. Unable to accept that her father could have been so careless, she begins to investigate his death with the help of a young reporter, Eddie Gallagher. It quickly becomes clear he was murdered, and in their race against time to discover the culprit and his motive, Jo and Eddie find themselves not only battling dark characters on the violent and gritty streets of New York, but also their growing feelings for each other.
- From Goodreads.

These Shallow Graves was an exciting story and a clever mystery with some humourous moments and a wonderful romance.
Donnelly used the plot, setting and characters well to show the struggle in women's search for equality, with Jo coming up against obstacles because of her gender and learning that she believes that these obstacles should not exist, as well as to show issues with class and how the upper and lower classes feel towards each other. It appeared to be a very well-researched book, as its setting in time and place seemed very real and as a reader I was very much immersed in the story because of the thought that had gone into the background.
I did guess a couple of the small parts of the mystery, but for the most part, Donnelly had written the mystery so well that I was unravelling the answers along with Jo, and there were a couple of plot twists at the end that I definitely did not see coming, and the reveals of which I thought were really well executed. It was an exciting story that always left me wanting to know more and kept me on my feet, with intriguing and surprising characters, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys both murder mysteries and young adult novels, because this was a brilliant combination of both.

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My copy of this book was received from Maximum Pop Books as a prize from a competition.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Review: Ctrl, Alt; Delete: How I Grew Up Online by Emma Gannon

Name: Ctrl, Alt; Delete: How I Grew Up Online
Author: Emma Gannon
Publisher: Ebury Press
Date published: 2016
Rating: 4/5

Emma Gannon was born  in 1989, the year the World Wide Web was conceived, so she's literally grown up alongside the Internet. There've been late night chat room experiments, sexting from a Nokia and dubious webcam exchanges. And let's not forget catfishing, MSN, digital friendships and #feminism. She was basically social networking before it was a thing - and she's even made a successful career from it.
- From Goodreads.

How I Grew Up Online is an interesting discussion of difficult issues that can affect young people, such as self-image and how society today makes us very aware of how we look, especially with the media, and is written from a female perspective that shows how girls and women can be both negatively and positively affected by the online world.
I liked the sense of humour that Emma tells her stories with, when the story was not too serious in nature she made light fun of it, which I found quite entertaining. The book as a whole was not incredibly gripping in that it did not have me unable to put it down, but it was still an enjoyable read that brought forward some interesting points about intriguing topics.
I think Emma made a good point about how we have a big problem with abuse on the internet and how that makes it difficult, when people are determined to make hateful comments at you rather than become involved in a conversation, to discuss important and controversial topics, some of which she also discusses in the book, such as feminism and the difficulty in learning to be a feminist when the internet makes it difficult to make mistakes. The book also makes a good point about how, while it is not the be-all and end-all, the internet is still important and can be used for good.

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My copy of this book was received from Maximum Pop Books as a prize from a giveaway.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Review: Cruel Heart Broken by Emma Haughton

Name: Cruel Heart Broken
Author: Emma Haughton
Publisher: Usborne
Date published: 2016
Rating: 4/5

Laurie is a good girl - so everyone thinks. But seven months ago she did something that she can't undo and it's tearing her apart. 
Charlie used to be her best friend. He's done something he regrets too... and now someone has died.
Two impulsive decisions. Two toxic secrets. Too many hearts broken.
- From Goodreads.

Cruel Heart Broken has the kind of drama, mystery and emotion that keeps you reading, that is addictive because it makes you always want to know and uncover everything that has happened and that is going to happen. 
The structure of the novel worked well, with the narrative focusing on the present, and then looking at the past, and then back to the present. It meant that suspense was built because information was released slowly, and it showed how important the past was in this story and how much it influenced the characters.
The book dealt well with some serious and difficult issues, and showed the effects that topics such as depression, suicide, pregnancy and abortion can have on individuals and society, and showed how the negative way in which these subjects are dealt with currently can be disastrous and affect people dangerously. I was glad that it ended, not exactly happily, but in a somewhat uplifting way, because that showed that there is a way to get through tough times, your problems can be solved and there is a chance for things to get better. It presents a good message of needing to be aware of yourself and your actions, as well as what is happening with the people around you.

My copy of this book was received from Maximum Pop Books as a prize from a giveaway.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Review: This Raging Light by Estelle Laure

Name: This Raging Light
Author: Estelle Laure
Publisher: Orchard Books
Date published: 2016
Rating: 4/5
Spoiler warning: Major

How is it that one day Digby was my best friend's cute twin brother, and then the next he stole air, gave jitters, twisted my insides up?
And with Mom gone, bills to pay and Wren to look after... Why does the best thing happen at the worst time?
- From Goodreads.

The language of This Raging Light was a combination of wonderful and beautiful descriptions and everyday, conversational and blunt narration. It was quite a unique style to use and it really showed how Lucille was a complex character in a confusing world. The plot was also compelling and pulled you in right from the beginning, I was never bored by it and was always wanting to know what would happen next and where the story would be going.
I loved the dynamic between Digby and Lucille, how they bounced off each other in conversation, and how they both cared so deeply for each other and about how they acted towards each other. I was not sure how I felt about the two of them kissing each other while Digby was still with Elaine, although I understood that it was done to show how they were pulled towards each other. I was just not quite happy about it, and while I really enjoyed reading the story, this one thing just niggled at me a little.
Finally, I have to mention that ending, or rather the suddenness of it. I did not see it coming. How did it just end there? It cannot just stop like that. I thought I had a lot more pages left! Seriously, I needed more of this book. There is no way I am not reading the next book because I am far too attached to these characters now to stop myself from following them and their stories as long as Laure keeps writing them.

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My copy of this book was received from Maximum Pop Books as a prize from a giveaway.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Review: Harry Potter and the Curse Child by Jack Thorne

Name: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Authors: Jack Thorne, with J.K. Rowling and John Tiffany
Publisher: Little Brown
Date published: 2016
Rating: 4.5/5
Spoiler warning: Moderate

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn't much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children. 
While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.
- From Goodreads.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child feels quite weird and bonkers to read, but then Harry Potter has always been that way and I am glad it has managed to keep its sense of humour and fun. Additionally, I think it felt a little strange to read because in the past when I have read Harry Potter it has mainly been from Harry's perspective, with insight into his mind. So, this being a play, meaning the structure is a little different to how it would be with a book, and with Harry not being as much at the centre of it as he used to be, makes it a little more distanced and leaves you with a different feeling, but that is not a bad thing, it is just different.
In terms of characters, first I have to say that Scorpius Malfoy was a surprise but definitely a good one as he was so brilliant. There was also, of course, the surprise of the trolley witch, which was actually quite fantastic. The part with Hagrid broke my heart, it was only the smallest moment but it was so emotional and true to Hagrid's character. I think it was the part of the play that got to me the most. I have to admit that I found the idea that Bellatrix and Voldemort had a daughter a little strange, but then I suppose you could not call either of them normal, and if J.K Rowling thought it was plausible then I should think it was, seeing as she came up with the characters in the first place.
I felt like the original characters were portrayed well and it was true to how they would be, except perhaps Harry's character felt a little off at times, although I suspect he was meant to be that way as he was supposed to be under a lot of stress in the story. I am glad Ginny was written the way she was, because she has always been a favourite of mine, and the play managed to show that while at times she may be quick to temper and say the wrong things, she makes up for it in her strength, understanding and intelligence. I also liked the moments between Ron and Hermione for the same reason, that I felt it was true to them and showed the strength in their relationship. As well as that, I am glad that Draco and Harry had a chance to come to some sort of understanding, because after everything that happened, especially in the last book, I always thought that they would.
Overall, while I would not say that it was absolutely perfect, I would say that I still very much enjoyed reading it, and now I want to watch it on stage even more than I did before, especially since I want to see how they staged all the magic and how all the sets work because it definitely sounds amazing!

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Saturday, 20 August 2016

Review: Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

Name: Passenger
Author: Alexandra Bracken
Publisher: Quercus Children's Books
Date published: 2016
Rating: 5/5

In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles but years from home. And she's inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she's never heard of. Until now.
Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods - a powerful family in the colonies - and the servitude he's known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes an insistent pull of the past that he can't escape and the family that won't let go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, Nicholas' passenger, can find. In order to protect her, he must ensure she brings it back to them - whether she wants to or not.
Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods' grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are playing, treacherous forces threaten to separate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home... forever.
- From Goodreads.

I love learning about history so I found it really interesting that Passenger took place in different eras, and it all seemed really well researched too, so the story, although it had its fantasy elements, still felt real. I would definitely recommend this for reading while on holiday, there was just so much passion for travelling and learning about different cultures and countries and the language was so wonderfully crafted that I felt like I was travelling along with Nicholas and Etta.
The language was also beautiful when describing the feelings between the two of them, it made my heart wrench with how bittersweet it was. I loved the relationship between Etta and Nicholas and the fact that they slowly became closer over time, and I think this was portrayed well because of how both of their perspectives were shown throughout the narrative. Both characters really worked their way into my heart and now I do not want to let them go.
The story was so exciting and the ending was so absorbing that I cannot believe I have to wait until next year to find out what happens in the next book! I thought this book ended at the right point of the story though because while it does leave you in suspense it also gives you enough information to have a vague idea of what might be happening next. This book has latched its way onto my heart in a way that had me caring about what happened with every character, so that I was even invested in the lives of the minor characters. I just cannot stop thinking about how much I love this story and how wonderful it is.

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My copy of this book was received from Maximum Pop Books as a prize from a giveaway.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Review: The Magicians' Guild by Trudi Canavan

Name: The Magicians' Guild
Author: Trudi Canavan
Publisher: Atom
Date published: 2005
Rating: 5/5

This year, like every other, the magicians of Imardin gather to purge the city of undesirables. Cloaked in the protection of their sorcery, they move with no fear of the vagrants and miscreants who despise them and their work - until one enraged girl, barely more than a child, hurls a stone at the hated invaders... and effortlessly penetrates their magical shield.
What the Magicians' Guild has long dreaded has finally come to pass. There is someone outside their ranks who possesses a raw power beyond imagining, an untrained mage who must be found and schooled before she destroys herself and her city with a force she cannot yet control.
- From Goodreads.

The Magicians' Guild was definitely an exciting adventure that had me gripped! Whenever I had to stop reading I really had to force myself to put it down. Towards the end it was so exciting I could feel my heart beating! I was so taken in by this book that I read it all - all 469 pages - in only two days.
I really liked the characters, especially Sonea, I thought she made a great main character. If anything, I wanted to know more about some of the characters, but since it is quite a long book already, and there are books that come after it, I felt that this book probably had the right amount of focus on the characters. It was just enough to keep you intrigued to know more.
I liked the third person perspective which focalised on different people at different times, and I especially liked it when it came to Rothen and Sonea, because it was interesting to see their different perspectives on their experiences with each other.
I love reading fantasy because I love learning about the new worlds that the writers create, and Trudi Canavan definitely created a fascinating world for her story that I was eager to learn about. One of my friends has said she might get the other two books in the series for me for my birthday or Christmas, and I am very much looking forward to reading them in the future to continue to follow the adventures that take place in Canavan's world!

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Thursday, 11 August 2016

Review: Gone by Michael Grant

Name: Gone
Author: Michael Grant
Publisher: Electric Monkey
Date published: 2015
Rating: 5/5
Spoiler warning: Minor

In the blink of an eye, everyone in Perdido Beach, California, over the age of fourteen disappears. Gone too are phones, television, and the internet. As the kids struggle to survive in this new world, the world itself continues to evolve. A sinister creature lurks in a mine in the desert; animals are mutating; and some of the kids are developing dangerous supernatural powers that grow stronger by the day. A battle between good and evil is imminent, and for some of the kids, time is running out. On their fifteenth birthday, they disappear like everyone else. 
- From Goodreads.

Gone is definitely not the type of book to read just before you go to bed! It was not scary in the sense that it was too scary for someone like me (who does not go anywhere near anything closely resembling a horror movie), but there were a lot of suspenseful and gruesome moments that were all executed very well. It was more gory than the kind of book that I usually read, but I still found that I could enjoy reading it and I did not feel that it was too over the top or unnecessary.
The characters were all well developed, none of them two-dimensional, even the background characters. Caine was not just the villain and Sam was not just the hero, they all had their complexities. Speaking of characters, I just have to mention that I loved how Albert ran the McDonald's, that was brilliant. There was a sense of humour amongst the more serious tone of this novel that I quite liked.
Once again, as with This Savage Song, I was scared to start reading this book because I was worried that I would not like it, especially since my friend Siril, who is the one that gave me this book, does like it. But, once again, I was pleasantly surprised! This was a thrilling, quite scary (I must admit), and gripping book, and I am excited to read the next one when I get the chance!

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Monday, 8 August 2016


A week ago on Sunday, I attended the Young Adult Literature Convention at the London Film and Comic Convention for the first time and I had the most brilliant time! I went with my friend Emma, who I know from university, and whose idea it was to go, and of course we had to go on the day that they were celebrating Harry Potter's birthday and the release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (which I have now read and will be posting a review of in the future)!

The first thing we did when we arrived was attend the New Voices in YA panel, which I thought was so interesting to listen to, with the authors (Natalie Flynn, Harriet Reuter Hapgood, Julia Gray, Claire Hennessy, Rhian Ivory, Pete Kalu, Martin Stewart and Chris Vick) talking about publishing their first young adult novels and giving some great writing advice.

After that, Emma and I wondered around looking at the stalls, got ourselves some freebies, and bought ourselves some books (more on that in a bit), and found this amazing cake of Harry's cupboard under the stairs! I didn't quite believe it was a cake at first, it was that impressive.

The next panel we attended was the Morally Complicated YA panel, with Melvin Burgess, Louise O'Neill, Manuela Salvi and Emerald Fennell. I thought it was a great discussion that covered some of the really significant issues that come up in YA, and showed that it was good that these topics are covered in YA because an open discussion of controversial topics helps young adults deal with them when they come across them in their own lives.

Once that panel was over, we had another little wander and found this brilliant book wall, which I was happy to see included Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, which I really enjoyed reading.

The final panel we went to was Maggie Stiefvater in Conversation, which I thought was brilliant, as Maggie was very funny and intelligent, and told some great stories! Emma and I went to her signing afterwards, and managed to get copies of The Raven Boys signed, which I have yet to read but am very excited to! It was lovely to meet Maggie, and she told us that, when she was deciding what name to change hers to before she chose Maggie, Emma was one of the contenders!

Then, of course, the Potter Party started, and there was an amazing costume contest, which the brilliant Gilderoy Lockhart won, and deservedly so. We were very surprised and excited to see Natalie Tenna (also known as Tonks!) present the prize for the contest!

We had a fun time playing some games in our houses, overseen by some brilliant authors as our heads of houses, which were Non Pratt and Lisa Williamson for Gryffindor, Alwyn Hamilton and Lucy Ivison for Hufflepuff (which is the best house, not that I'm biased or anything), Catherine Doyle and Samantha Shannon for Ravenclaw, and V.E. Schwab and Melinda Salisbury for Slytherin! Emma and I were very happy that Hufflepuff tied with Ravenclaw for the house cup.

So that was the end of our wonderful day at YALC! We had a fantastic day, and I was very happy with the purchases I made, How Not To Disappear by Clare Furniss, Love Song by Sophia Bennett (a signed edition), The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness (a signed edition), A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab, and The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (which, as I said, I got signed in person)!
The day was a wonderful experience, especially wonderful as the first time that we had gone to the convention, and I am definitely going to go again next year if I can!

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Review: This Savage Song by V.E. Schwab

Name: This Savage Song
Author: V.E. Schwab
Publisher: Titan Books
Date published: June 2016
Rating: 5/5

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city - a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent - but he's one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who's just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August's secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.
- From Goodreads.

This Savage Song has a very unique world with an intriguing plot and backstory. I have found that a lot of the distopians that I have read (and I suppose that you could call this book a distopian?) are sort of realistic, or more science-fiction (which is not a bad thing, because that is an interesting way to do it), but this story had more of a fantasy element, with the creatures and monsters, and it felt quite new and unique and I found it really exciting.
I also liked how information was revealed slowly over time, because obviously Kate and August knew about their own backstories, but they do not reveal everything they know at once, which I think helped with the suspense and stopped me from feeling like I was having a load of information just dumped on me and helped me to slowly come to understand what was happening.
I was scared to start reading This Savage Song because I was worried I would not like it, and I really wanted to, but then I did and I sped through it a lot more quickly than I thought I would, I was so absorbed in the story. There was so much imagination involved, so many interesting ideas, and I loved the descriptions and the way words were used in this book. Language was really used to its full effect. The plot was so clever and mystifying, and now I am very excited to read what happens in the next book!

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My copy of this book was received from Maximum Pop Books as a prize from a giveaway.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Review: The Princess Bride by William Goldman

Name: The Princess Bride
Author: William Goldman
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Date published: 1999
Rating: 5/5

Beautiful, flaxen-haired Buttercup has fallen for Westley, the farm boy, and when he departs to make his fortune, she vows never to love another. So when she hears that his ship has been captured by the Dread Pirate Roberts - who never leaves survivors - her heart is broken.
- From Goodreads.

The Princess Bride was funny, witty, satirical genius. I was first introduced to this story when my friend brought the movie with her to a sleepover at mine and we watched it and I thought it was absolutely brilliant. Then, I cannot remember how much time it was later, but I was in an independent bookshop with the same friend that I had watched the movie with, and I saw the book and I decided I had to buy it. I did and I am very glad I did because this book is now definitely one of my favourites and its characters  are definitely some of my favourite fictional characters (if they are, indeed, fictional...).
It was a story that I kept reading because I always wanted to read what came next but I also did not want to finish it just yet because I was enjoying reading it so much. I really like it when the narrator of a book has personality and interrupts the narrative and makes an impact, and this book does that fantastically. It flows easily because of its humour and conversational tone, which meant it did not drag, and instead of forcing myself to pick it up (which I admit I had to do for some of the books that I read for university this year) I had to force myself to put it down when I needed sleep.

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Monday, 4 July 2016

Rambles (#4): On Reading Anne Frank's Diary

I read Anne Frank's diary recently, and I wanted to write about it but I thought it would be, I suppose, disrespectful to write a review. After all, this isn't a fictional novel, this is Anne's very thoughts, ideas and beliefs, this is how she recorded her life. Consequently, I thought it would be better to simply write down all the thoughts I had about it, in one of my Rambles, which I feel would be a better way of honouring Anne, as it is similar to the way she wrote down her thoughts in her diary.
I found every page of her diary emotional, insightful and beautiful to read, but especially so in light of recent events. Anne lived in a time of horror and violence, violence which was directed towards her and those like her because of their religion. Now, in June alone, 49 people were killed and more were injured at a club in Orlando because of their sexuality, and British member of parliament Jo Cox died after being shot and stabbed in West Yorkshire because of her political beliefs. 52% of Britain then voted to leave the European Union, which feels like a move against peace and unity, and has pretty much driven the UK into chaos. And that's not even everything that seems to be wrong in the world at the moment. The present almost seems to be reminiscent of the time that Anne Frank was writing in, and one of the most upsetting things is that we don't seem, in this climate of hate and war, to learn from the past that the way forward is not through intolerance and violence.
However, reading Anne's diary showed me that despair is not the answer, and that perhaps, like her, I should keep hope in the face of all these horrible events happening. Anne may not have survived the war, but she lives on through the legacy that her diary left. I could never truly understand how it is to be in Anne's position, I know that I could never truly comprehend the pain of how she and her family were treated, but the wonderful words that she left behind show that she was far better than any of the intolerant people who lived then and who live now, and than any of the people who caused her death.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Review: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Name: Carry On
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: Macmillan's Children's Books
Date published: 2016
Rating: 4.5/5
Spoiler warning: Major

Simon Snow just wants to relax and savour his last year at the Watford School of Magicks, but no one will let him. His girlfriend broke up with him, his best friend is a pest, and his mentor keeps trying to hide him away in the mountains where maybe he'll be safe. Simon can't even enjoy the fact that his roommate and longtime nemesis is missing. because he can't stop worrying about the evil git. Plus there are ghosts. And vampires. And actual evil things trying to shut Simon down. When you're the most powerful magician the world has ever known, you never get to relax or savour anything.
- From Goodreads.

Carry On was very much a page-turner, even though it had a bit of world-building and explaining to do at first, that was still interesting and did not make the book dull or boring. There were also beautiful descriptions of magic and emotions, especially in regards to how Baz and Simon made each other feel; the part where Baz narrates as Simon shares his magic and they see the stars together is gorgeous.
In terms of problems, I do think the book had a few small ones. I felt like the structure of the plot could have used a bit of work, the story was good and interesting, but something about the pacing was not as good as it could have been. As well as that, I am not sure if it broke my heart or just really annoyed me that Simon never knew the whole truth about Lucy and the Mage, and that there were other questions left unanswered. I know sometimes ambiguity works well in stories, and it did for most of the book, but I am not sure I liked that there was still quite a few things that I did not know at the end.
I also was not sure if I was heartbroken about Ebb's death or just felt it was unnecessary, but then maybe if none of the characters that I liked (and I really liked Ebb) died then I probably would not feel like the threat was serious enough, and it did make me realise the lengths that the Mage would go to, to do what he thought was right, and how skewed his sense of what was right was.
Additionally, I had a complicated relationship with the character of Agatha; sometimes I really disliked her and could not understand her, while at other times I could sort of see why she felt how she did. Ultimately, I do not know if I disliked her because I was supposed to or because I felt she did not add much to the story.
I think Penny made up for that though because she was so awesome. She was a great friend to Simon, and although it took her some time to get used to the idea that Simon and Baz were sort of friends because of their truce, she did accept that and got on with it, and when she realised that their's was a romantic relationship, she did not react against it but understood it in a way that helped her to understand her friends in a way that she did not before.
The other things that I thought were positive about the book include that, considering it was written by an American author, it captured England quite well, and it did feel like the action was actually taking place here and that the characters were from here. As well as that, the sad and angrier parts if the book were balanced out well by the wittiness and funness (that is a word, right?) of it and, speaking of wittiness, Baz was brilliant. He was intelligent, and funny and full of emotion and bad in the best way.
Despite the few flaws that it did have, I think the good parts of Carry On far outweigh the not-as-good, and it was so enjoyable, and fun to read. I would definitely recommend giving it a read, especially if you liked Fangirl (which you can read my review of here). The love story was so wonderful and the magical world and system were so inventive and full of love for the significance of language and it was such a lovely book to read. I am so very glad Rainbow Rowell expanded on the world she started in Fangirl.

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Sunday, 12 June 2016

Review: Monsters and Fireflies by Malumi

Album title: Monsters and Fireflies
Artist: Malumi
Label: Malumi
Release date: 21st March 2016
Rating: 5/5

If I could write songs and create music, Monsters and Fireflies is fit to burst with the kind I would want to make (well, if I could, I would also create musicals, but that is a whole other topic). This album is beautiful, it is haunting, and it evokes feeling in a way that is impossible to deny.
It is quite an experimental album, but not so much that the emotions behind the songs get hidden in the experimentation, which can happen, but definitely does not happen in this case. Each song is unique and seems to be so much of its own sound that I cannot imagine anyone saying that any of them sound the same, and yet they all work in harmony so that, overall, you have a cohesive album. There are deliciously dark songs on the album, such as Dark Queen, in which you can hear fire-fueled but calculated anger, and then there are also songs, such as Stars Fly, with atmospheres of sparkling romance and calming love. But the essence and style of Malumi that runs through every song stops them from working against each other, and instead shows the range of emotions the duo can evoke.
Monsters and Fireflies shows what Malumi are capable of, which is something truly amazing.

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UNBOXING | FairyLoot: A Different Kind of Magic - June 2020

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