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Everything Alyce: November 2014

Saturday, 29 November 2014

'Burn For Burn' (Burn For Burn #1) by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian


*This review will contain spoilers!*

First up, before I say anything, I need to say a massive kudos to whoever designed this cover. One of my biggest pet peeves is having people on the cover of novels, especially when they don't match the descriptions of the characters leading to a massive conflict of differences in my head (because I automatically want to imagine the characters as they are on the book, but I also want to stay true to the descriptions - ARGH!) but the people on this cover perfectly match the descriptions of Kat, Mary and Lillia respectively (including the detailing of Mary wearing her daisy necklace), as well as it having a beautiful filter and a great font, so I was extremely happy with the design of the novel and I feel it is a brilliant success.
The novel tells us the stories of Lillia, Kat and Mary; three very different girls with a similar goal in mind - revenge, sweet and simple. Lillia is seeking revenge on one of her best friends after finding out that he was sneaking around with her younger sister, Kat is seeking revenge on her ex-best friend Rennie, a girl who has been spreading malicious rumours about her throughout the entirety of high school, and Mary is seeking revenge on Reeve, the boy who nearly made her kill herself after months of endless torturing over her weight.
One of the plus sides of this book is how quickly it moved. This is the first book in a trilogy, so because there were three girls looking to get revenge on three different people, I assumed that each book in the trilogy would be focussed upon a different girls act of revenge, however all three were tackled and practically resolved within the first novel. The lead up to the girls becoming friends and planning what to do to the people that wronged them was the only section that really dragged, but because it's setting up the story for three entire novels it needed to be established well enough to be able to carry it across, so I'm not holding that against it too much. Also, it was quite inventive, in that the acts of revenge weren't too obvious so it kept it interesting throughout the novel.
However, other than that it all seemed pretty obvious. Kat thought she saw Alex and Nadia getting together, but it seemed really obvious to me that because Alex was acting like he was in love with Lillia throughout the entirety of the beginning of the novel, he wouldn't do anything to hurt her, so it didn't surprise me when that got confirmed later on. Similarly, Lillia getting raped between the prologue and the main novel wasn't surprising, but I was extremely impressed with the way that Jenny and Siobhan dealt with writing such a sensitive and important scene in the novel. Their sensitivity with writing was further cemented throughout the scene of Mary recalling her suicide attempt, and I really appreciate the two of them for handling the topics so smoothly.
Sadly, however, there were a bunch of grammatical mistakes throughout the novel, so it wasn't as well written as I'd been hoping it would be, but with a climax that left adrenaline running through my veins after their revenge attempt on Reeve went wrong, I can't wait to pick up the next novel, 'Fire With Fire' over the next few weeks. Mary seemed like a very under used character in this opening novel, but with the supernatural elements that are starting to come into play - with the homecoming dance turning into a 'Carrie'-esque scene with all of the light bulbs exploding - I hope she's going to become a focal point throughout the next book, and that that's going to be explored much more thoroughly. When I picked up this novel I was expecting to just read another book filled with high school drama and teenage angst, but this book is actually really interesting, and the fact that all of the characters come from different backgrounds (the popular girl, the outcast and the new girl, respectively) means that it's interesting to see how their school experiences and interactions differ from each other, giving this book more layers than similar ones that I've read recently, so I would highly recommend this.

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Wednesday, 26 November 2014

'Invisibility' by Andrea Cremer and David Levithan



*This review will contain spoilers!*

I have been so excited about reading this book for such a long time - I haven't read an Andrea Cremer novel, but I own them all and they sound absolutely amazing, while David Levithan is one of my favourite authors just based off of the back of the couple of stories I've read. But now I'm sat here and I am just overwhelmed with the disappointment that I'm feeling.
'Invisibility' tells the story of Stephen, a boy who is invisible, and Elizabeth, the only person in the world who has ever been able to see him. We start off the novel on the day that Elizabeth and her family - comprised of a workaholic mother and Laurie, her gay little brother - first move into their apartment complex, and we continue on from there. Based off of previous David Levithan novels I've read, I was expecting it to focus more on the relationship and the romance side of the novel, but oh no, from here it went downhill very fast. Don't get me wrong, I was expecting there to be quite a lot of fantasy throughout (I mean jeez, the guy is invisible!) but the entire plot seemed to get quite convoluted quite quickly.
Let me start off by saying the first hundred to one hundred and fifty pages were quite good. Yes, the relationship between Stephen and Elizabeth progressed rather quickly, verging on insta-love, but that was slightly understandable from his point of view because she was the first person in the entire world who had ever given him any attention. He clarifies that she's not the only girl he's ever loved, but come on, if she's the first girl who has ever given him attention I think he'd find it pretty easy to fall in love with her. Elizabeth's response to the entire relationship situation really annoyed me; one minute she'd be stating that she couldn't trust anybody and that she liked to keep her distance from people, the next minute she was claiming to be in love with a boy she'd known for less than a week, but other than that I was enjoying their characters and I was enjoying Stephen's struggle with being invisible. The section when he discusses their lack of intimacy, questioning 'I know we would be careful [...] but if something went wrong would the curse be passed on?' gives us more of a scope on the true spectrum of problems you encounter when you're invisible, but in a book that otherwise seems to be rather open (disclosing what happens to Stephen's clothes and during his digestive process) this just seemed like an easy out from the explanation of what would happen if they did actually have sex. Despite all of the irritation I felt because of the insta-love, the reveal of his condition was well written and was definitely the moment that Laurie took centre stage as the best character for me, but it was from there that it all started going wrong.
The reveal of curses, cursecasters and spellcasters didn't come as that much of a shock, and it was a good way to explain how Stephen became afflicted with his condition, and the back story of his mother and his psychopathic grandfather was very interesting, but then the addition of spellseekers and the sudden reveal that Elizabeth was one, and had been able to see curses for months but just hadn't realised what the hell was going on, seemed a bit ridiculous to me. I ended up liking the relationship between Millie the spellseeker and her shield Saul much more than I liked the relationship between the main characters, so I was rather annoyed that the ending of the novel left that relationship completely impossible due to Saul's death. It was nice to get some of their back story, such as the information about Stephen's grandfather having attacked them in the past, but with them obviously highly affectionate with each other it would have been nice to have found out more about whether they had ever been in a relationship or if they had had partners who had died in the past and that was why they weren't so sure about being a couple.
Overall, the book was quite good, but it felt more like a first part than a standalone.Yes, we got quite a lot of resolution towards the end - the little wrapping up of loose ends telling us that Stephen and his father are working on their relationship and Elizabeth's mother has started spending more time at home were cute little additions - but overall the fact that we start the novel with an invisible boy who can only be seen by one girl and we end the novel with an invisible boy who can only be seen by one girl is extremely anti-climactic. I'm not sure I could sit through another book if Andrea and David did decide to make this a duology, but it would be good to at least have some idea of how the curse could be undone, because where we are leaving it it seems that it is impossible to undo and that is final. Throughout, the novel does deal with a lot of good dilemmas: the back story of Laurie being attacked for being gay is heart-wrenching, while Elizabeth's struggle over whether to tell the truth or protect the ones she loved was something that would emanate within all of us in some shape or form, but overall this just didn't really do a lot for me, which is a shame because I had very high hopes. 

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Sunday, 23 November 2014

Linkin Park - O2 Arena, 23/11/14


At first glance, Of Mice and Men might seem like a strange support choice for a band like Linkin Park - while they have similarities your mind jumps automatically to the differences, making it seem that it's obviously going to be an uncomfortable fit. Thankfully, completely the opposite was true at this show. Playing a set nearly completely comprised of songs off of their most recent release 'Restoring Force', the crowd easily got involved and seemed rather impressed by Of Mice and Men's performance. Starting off with 'Public Service Announcement' was punchy and showed the audience straight away what this band are exactly about, but choosing to slow it down in the middle with 'Another You' was the emotional moment that was necessary to really cement them in peoples minds. Screamer Austin Carlile was bounding around the stage for their entire nearly forty minute set, constantly walking out on to the runway that jutted into the crowd, while singer Aaron Pauley demonstrates a vocal that is a large reason that they stand out of the scene among other singer-screamer double acts going around at the moment. Personally, I was disappointed not to hear some of their older songs (such as 'Second and Sebring') but with the announcement that they're coming back to London to headline Brixton in April, hopefully they'll make a set that is comprised more of a mixture of albums than just the most recent one. 

Setlist: 
Public Service Announcement
Feels Like Forever
Bones Exposed
Would You Still Be There?
Another You
Identity Disorder
The Depths
You're Not Alone

Any band that can boast two headline shows in a row at the O2 Arena (this night, and the night following) obviously put on an amazing live show, and that's one thing that definitely cannot be faulted from Linkin Park. The double team of Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda get the energy up from the moment they burst out on stage, and they manage to keep it there consistently throughout the night, only mellowing out during the medley of 'Leave Out All The Rest', 'Shadow of the Day' and 'Iridescent' - the last of which featured a guest appearance by Aaron Pauley of Of Mice and Men - and later on towards the climax of the set during 'Waiting For The End'. However, even with the lulls, it just proves how well Linkin Park can craft a set - the rises and falls work perfectly with the crowd, calming them down and making them sing along to the emotional songs before bursting back into action on the next best-selling hit. If you can think of a big name Linkin Park song, they played it tonight: 'Given Up', 'One Step Closer', 'Papercut', 'Numb', 'Faint' (featuring Austin Carlile) and 'What I've Done' all being songs that could not be missing from this set because they are such vital songs from their back catalogue, but in reality this seems like a set that doesn't really need much changing - it doesn't feel like anything is missing, and it doesn't seem like anything really needs to be taken out (well, apart from the dubstep remix of 'Castle of Glass', but let's not go there). I haven't really listened to 'The Hunting Party', their newest release, so some of the newer songs went over my head and left me feeling a little bit flat, but watching all of the other fans around me going crazy and screaming every word, it left me with the feeling that I was watching something extremely special happening in this room. With all of the band having solos to show off their individual talents, it also shows how vital each and every member of this band is, and it's no surprise that Linkin Park headlined Download Festival just a few months ago and they are just getting bigger and bigger. Yes, there was a small technical hitch during 'Burn It Down', but sometimes things do just go wrong and it was to their credit that they continued on despite that, not letting anything get in the way of them putting on a brilliantly absorbing performance. If you haven't seen a Linkin Park live show, you're making a mistake - this is my second time seeing them, and they were just as amazing this time as they were four years ago, showing that their talent is not waning with the years - so I'd seriously suggest that next time they tour near you, you go or you will regret it. 

Setlist: 
Guilty All The Same
Given Up
With You 
One Step Closer
Papercut
Rebellion
Wastelands
Castle of Glass
Leave Out All The Rest/Shadow of the Day/Iridescent (featuring Aaron Pauley) 
Numb/Encore
Waiting For The End
The Final Masquerade
Lying From You
Somewhere I Belong
In The End 
Faint (featuring Austin Carlile)
-
Burn It Down 
Lost In The Echo
New Divide 
Until It's Gone
What I've Done 
Bleed It Out

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Saturday, 22 November 2014

Mallory Knox - Oxford O2 Academy, 21/11/14




I was beyond excited about going to this show: Fort Hope are one of the best new bands around on the scene, Moose Blood have a unique spark and that makes them supremely appealing, Frnkiero andthe Cellabration playing their first UK tour was obviously going to be amazing and Mallory Knox are one of my favourite bands in the British rock scene at the moment and I already know how good their live show is after catching them at Slam Dunk and Reading Festival earlier on in the year.

Fort Hope kicked off the show in style with new single 'Plans', the first song they've released following the departure of Ande D'Mello late last month, but the way it's performed makes you believe that it's been an integral part of their set for much longer. Jonathan Gaskin's vocal is breathtaking, showing a range to his voice that they've never really displayed in a live environment before, and with a new self-titled EP coming next year it's going to be interesting to see where they go musically in the future, but in the here and now they're pretty great.
My only complaint is that their set wasn't long enough, being only comprised of five songs, but the crowd reaction to the sing-along at the end of 'Control' showed that even though they had the shortest time on the stage, they probably caused one of the biggest impressions on the crowd. When I saw them before I praised them highly because of how atmospheric they are, which is still true tonight, and it was the perfect way to start a show of this caliber. They're also amazing guys, and despite all that they've been through since the old days in My Passion they're all still super lovely to their fans, so that's even more reason to go and see them. 

Setlist: 
Plans
The Rapture
Tears
Sick
Control


Second up were Moose Blood, and despite the fact that I only started listening to them a few days ago, I do think they've definitely got a raw talent that is going to send them far. In the last year they've been played on Radio 1 constantly, showing that the support behind them is definitely growing, and it's great to see people getting behind a band that aren't bordering on pop; Moose Blood are most definitely a rock band.
Starting off with 'Pups' got the energy in the crowd going, and it stayed that way throughout the entirety of their set. 'Swim Down' and 'Boston' seemed to get the best reaction from the crowd, but all of the songs were so well performed that it was very difficult to fault this set and I do think that musically they were the best support by far.
At points the songs seemed to blend into one another, but that's an issue that will become less prominent with the release of more albums in the future giving them more choice of what to include in a set.
Having met Moose Blood after the show I can say they are some of the most humble guys I've ever encountered - they were so thankful for everyone for coming and watching their set and for buying their album - so these are a band that you should definitely get behind. It's obvious that they didn't expect to get this successful this quickly, and they're just going to get bigger from here. 

Setlist: 
Pups
Swim Down
Bukowski
Stay Here
I Hope You're Miserable
Boston

Main support, Frnkiero andthe Cellabration, are the main reason that most of the crowd are filling this room, forcing their way to the front and buzzing with anticipation, and the blood-curdling scream that goes up the second the lights go down genuinely make you believe that this is the headlining band. I understand that many of the My Chemical Romance fans have come out to support Frank Iero's new project with an unquestioning loyalty (which I also touched upon in my review of Gerard Way's show in Oxford just a couple of weeks ago), but in all honesty this isn't the amazing support slot that I was expecting him to perform.
Starting off with 'This Song Is A Curse' from the film soundtrack for 'Frankenweenie', the punk atmosphere automatically fills the room, along with people dancing and singing along, but I just couldn't really see the appeal of it. Don't get me wrong, some of the songs ('All I Want Is Nothing' and 'Weighted' especially) are really well played, lyrically sound and catchy, but the live performance is so far removed from the recorded songs - partly because Frank has a ferocity to his vocal that is hard to catch on tape, partly because at some parts on 'Stomachaches', the debut album, it seems over-produced - that it just doesn't seem as polished as I'd expected it to be and it seemed like an introspective performance that didn't really connect with the crowd.
For a show that started early and which had extremely short sets for the first two support bands, this was the only area of the night that it seemed as though time was dragging, which was a massive shame. There wasn't much banter, just rushing through the set and getting the songs over and done with, but because of how respected Frank Iero is I don't think many people would have faulted the set anyway. Maybe my hopes were too high, but in my opinion Fort Hope and Moose Blood were much better supports, and this show wouldn't have been lacking if Frnkiero andthe Cellabration hadn't been here. 

Setlist: 
This Song Is A Curse
All I Want Is Nothing
Blood Infections
She's The Prettiest Girl At The Party
Smoke Rings
Joyriding
Tragician
Neverenders
Weighted

Sadly, a lot of the crowd flooded to the back as soon as Frnkiero andthe Cellabration went off stage, which was disappointing because Mallory Knox are always amazing live, throwing everything they have into their performance.
This was not an exception to that rule, and the songs from 'Asymmetry' fit perfectly into their live show, upping their performance through the roof. Kick-starting with 'QOD II', the first release from the newest album, was a stroke of genius that made the crowd explode into action which only grew during second song 'Shout At The Moon'.
Surprisingly, instead of being one of those bands that weighted the set towards the new songs, the mix of new and old was pulled off superbly, with every new song paired off with an older one. With it being five years since they played their first live show, you can tell that they have definitely used each show as a learning experience, harnessing the aspects that work best to put on a brilliantly crafted setlist that runs through all their best songs and all of their future hits. The mix of 'Resuscitate' and 'Oceans' might have disappointed some people because neither of them were played in full, but it's refreshing to hear a band touching upon their older, lesser known material, even if it is only for a section of each. Playing 'Death Rattle' at the end of the main set was explosive, and with Mikey Chapman splitting the crowd down the middle it caused one of the most energetic crowd responses I think I've ever seen at Oxford O2 Academy.
My personal highlight was the first song in the encore, 'She Took Him To The Lake'. A band that can both write a seven and a half minute song and have the balls to play it live are a band that will be very hard to match. Sam Douglas's backing vocals are hauntingly beautiful, while hearing Mikey's vocal go from intense and whispery to passionately throwing his entire soul into the song was heart breaking in one of the most positive ways. Finishing off with 'Lighthouse' the crowd went absolutely crazy - three mosh pits at least springing up instantaneously - and it proved just how far Mallory Knox have come since the release of 'Signals' just under two years ago. 

Setlist: 
QOD II
Shout At The Moon
Hello
Getaway
Wake Up
When Are We Waking Up? 
Resuscitate/Oceans
Beggars
1949
Dying To Survive
Ghost In The Mirror
-
Death Rattle
She Took Him To The Lake
Lighthouse

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Tuesday, 18 November 2014

'The Longest Ride' by Nicholas Sparks


*This review will contain spoilers!*

I don't know what pushed me to pick up this Nicholas Sparks book, but I was sure that I wasn't going to enjoy it in the slightest; if every book you publish has 'an epic love story' (or some variation of that) scrawled across the front cover, chances are not all of them are going to be 'epic'. Actually, even though I seriously enjoyed this book, I still wouldn't have described it as epic, but I guess it's certainly one way to sell your novel. This is the first Nicholas Sparks book I've ever read, and because I enjoyed it a lot my hopes are set pretty high for the rest of them - particularly 'The Notebook' which is meant to be the best love story of all time ever - but if you don't like love stories then I'm pretty sure you won't enjoy this, so you should probably turn away right now. 
'The Longest Ride' tells us two stories running parallel: the story of Ira Levinson, a 91 year old Jewish man who is trapped in his car after running off the road late one night, and Sophia Danko and Luke Collins, a girl and boy who meet after a rodeo, him one of the competing riders, her a student who didn't even want to attend the event because of her fear of running into her recent ex.
Knowing that it was two stories in one, I was expecting to greatly favour one over the other, but in reality my enjoyment of the two parts fluctuated equally - there were times when I just wanted to resume Ira's story, and equal times when I wanted to see what would happen next with Sophia and Luke's burgeoning romance - which meant none of the book felt unnecessary. Ira's entire story is based upon reflections and reminisces with his dead wife, Ruth, who he is imagining is in the car with him, so if anything I enjoyed his story a little bit more because it included a lot of information about the war and what life was like growing up in a time that I will never experience, which was enjoyable. Similarly, because him and Ruth were Jewish, I was unfamiliar with a few of the things referenced throughout the book (such as the 'ketubah' and the 'shiva') and it was also interesting to look up those events and find out more about a culture I hadn't realised I was so uneducated in. 
On the other hand, I preferred Sophia's character most, possibly because she was the only female whose story we followed directly, possibly because I just really liked her, however her relationship with Luke was mildly irritating. For a girl who was adamant she wasn't in the right space of mind for falling in love, their relationship moved quite quickly, but the romantic in me really enjoyed the fact that they were both so sure that the other one was who they were destined to be with. I think Sophia's constant questioning about where she was going with her life after graduation was one of the things that really made me like her - since I've left sixth form I'm plodding along not doing much at the moment - but she also has moments where she's funny and sarcastic in a way that doesn't come across as annoying or petulantly childish, which is a pleasant change compared to some of the novels I've been reading recently.
Don't get me wrong, I really liked Luke's character as well, but when he was initially introducing his life on the ranch and his daily activities it felt a bit too much like Nicholas had done his research and decided to cram it all into a paragraph to get it dealt with as quickly as possible, so I didn't really connect all that well with his character. By the end of the book I was liking the ranch scenes and the hard work that he did, even though at times it did start verging on feeling a bit repetitive, but his decision to give up bull riding due to his feelings for Sophia was a noble decision, so he redeemed himself in my eyes. 
The aspect that I think I enjoyed the most about this novel was definitely the art world that both stories shared. Ira and Ruth were art collectors, gathering one of the largest private collections in all of America, buying pieces from unknown artists who then became famous, while Sophia was training to work in the art world, desperately applying for internships at museums across the country. Art has always intrigued me, and because I was so interested in the artists that were being name dropped throughout this novel I actually even created a Pinterest board to help me picture the collection that the Levinson's were gradually accumulating. I was already familiar with some of the artists (who doesn't know about Warhol's soup cans?!) but a lot of the artists were unknown to me, so I'm grateful to this novel for teaching me about a new area of something that has always grabbed me. 
The ending of the novel seemed a bit too happily ever after to appeal to me quite as much as the rest of the book - with Luke obtaining Ira's entire art collection, proposing to Sophia and managing to save his family ranch from being repossessed - but I can imagine that most people think that's part of the charm with Nicholas Sparks books; no matter what bad things happen throughout the bulk of the novel, you can always guarantee a happy ending (or so I'd assume, this is only the first book of his I've read so I might be jumping to unfair conclusions). 
If you're interested in the art world or ranch life then I'm guessing you'll already want to pick up this book, but, even if you're not, reading this book might change that. Nicholas Sparks has a way (even if at points it might come off as cliched or soppy) of getting you interested in his characters lives and making you want to feel more involved in the novel, even if it's something as simple as creating a Pinterest board. 'The Longest Ride' is following many of it's predecessors ('The Notebook', 'The Last Song', 'Safe Haven' etc.) into getting a big screen adaptation due to be released next year, so if you don't want to read the book just wait until then and I'm sure you'll still get all you really need to get out of this story. 

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Saturday, 15 November 2014

twenty one pilots - Electric Brixton, 14/11/14


I have seen a lot of bands live. And I mean a lot. That is a comprehensive list of the bands I have seen and there are more than I'd even be willing to count. 
I've said it before and I'll say it again, hopefully many many times; twenty one pilots are the best live band I have ever seen, and last night's performance at Electric Brixton just further cemented that in my mind. 
Before I start my review, I just want to give an honourable mention to the venue for the evening, which was the best venue I've ever been to. I can't praise Electric Brixton well enough: the acoustics were amazing, the lighting was amazingly well set-up and the performance would not have been the same without those things going right, so it was good to see how well the venue accommodated to twenty one pilots stage antics and set-up.

Now, for the concert. First up, opening band Purple (hailing from Texas) are obviously destined for big things, and I'm extremely proud to be able to say that I've seen them. Their debut album '(409)' was released recently to critical acclaim, so I've been keeping an eye on these guys, but unfortunately I hadn't had time to listen to their music before the show, but by going into this performance with a completely blank mind I was even more impressed than I'd expected to be. I automatically went and bought their album as soon as they'd come off stage, because with a mix of music that references a range from Pulled Apart By Horses to No Doubt I'm sure there will be something that I will love, because their mix is sure to appeal to everyone. My favourite tracks from the set were 'Beach Buddy' and 'DMT'; complete contrasts with each other but so well written and catchy, and with male and female lead vocals swapping on nearly every song the set felt both cohesive and interesting in a very stand out and individualistic way.

Second band, Nothing But Thieves, had the home turf advantage by being the only English band on the bill, but sadly the crowd reaction was not as good as I'd thought they would receive. Their brand of rock is rather inclusive, so there wasn't much interaction with the crowd, but that didn't take away from what was a really good performance. The vocal that Conor Mason can perform astounds me - his soaring falsetto-esque vocals on 'Tripswitch' were breath-taking - and the lyrics are written very well, making Nothing But Thieves a band that I'm going to make sure to listen to much more. Some of their sound is quite reminiscent of Royal Blood, so if you're a fan of them definitely check these guys out, but don't write them off as copycats because they definitely put their own spin on the sound. Before the gig we got given a download card for their four track EP, so I'll give that a whirl and probably have a review of it up in the next week or so. I hadn't actually listened to any of their songs before last night, but watching Conor pour his heart and soul out in the last half of the set, showing how much passion he has - and they all have - for the music they perform, really made me respect and admire them.

Support choices are always going to be difficult with a band like twenty one pilots. Their music is so eclectic (often branded as 'schizophrenic pop') it's going to be hard to find a support that appeals to all of the crowd, so I wasn't too surprised by the muted reaction the first two bands received throughout the majority of their sets, but that changed as soon as the main event started. I cannot say a single bad word about their performance, and I don't think I'll ever be able to. 
If you haven't seen twenty one pilots live, you need to.
Vocalist Tyler Joseph is one of the most charismatic performers I've ever had the pleasure of seeing live - if Gerard Way is one hundred percent charisma, Tyler is one hundred and fifty percent - and the crowd followed his commands and screamed back his every word through the entire set, while drummer Josh Dun is beyond talented. Anyone that can drum on top of a crowd deserves infinite levels of respect, and to run from the drums to climb up the piano, back flip and return to finish playing 'Holding On To You' is a feat I could never imagine attempting to complete.
Their show was much more polished than the last time I saw them; with an intro track to welcome them to stage and to convince the audience to bring them back out for the encore, it added another element of the theatrical to a show that was already comprised of multiple costume changes and the highest amount of energy you could possibly imagine. With Josh drumming on the crowd during 'Semi-Automatic', Tyler standing on the crowd to perform nearly half a song and jumping off of the piano at multiple times throughout the set, and the climax of Tyler and Josh drumming together on top of the crowd, drums covered in water to cause an amazing explosion with every hit, there are so many moments from this show that are just unforgettable, and I'm so glad that I managed to witness this.
The crowd were superb, flooding forward as soon as the band exploded on the stage, showing the most interaction I think I've ever seen at a concert, and I genuinely think this band put on shows that are so inclusive that even if you go into it completely closed minded you will end up being unable to stop yourself from dancing throughout the evening.
This is a band that respect their fans and want to put on the best show possible for them; Tyler saying "Are we doing okay for you? I want you to know that we know that if you guys weren't here this show would suck, and you sold this place out!" proving exactly how grateful they are to be where they are, making sure that no one thinks they're taking their extreme rise to success for granted.
This is likely to be the last UK show twenty one pilots perform in support of 'Vessel', so the next time they grace our shores we should have new music which is a prospect that I can't wait for. During their cover of 'Summertime Sadness' by Lana Del Rey, mixed in with 'Fake You Out', the lyrics Tyler had written to commemorate the end of the show and the end of the tour were brilliantly clever but were also filled with reminiscing about all that they've succeeded with 'Vessel'.
To go from an unsigned band to being on a record label as big as Fueled By Ramen, supporting Fall Out Boy and Paramore on huge arena tours and performing on the MTV Movie Awards, all off of the back of an album that could easily have been dismissed as too eclectic to succeed - that's a success story. And if twenty one pilots next album is anywhere near as good as this one, they're going to be headlining much bigger shows than this next time they visit the United Kingdom. I, for one, can't wait for that day. 

Setlist: 
Guns For Hands
Migraine
Ode To Sleep
Screen
House of Gold
Fall Away
Addict With A Pen
Holding On To You
Semi-Automatic
The Run And Go
Fake You Out (with a cover of Summertime Sadness)
-
Car Radio
Truce
Trees

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Thursday, 13 November 2014

'The Dead Girls Detective Agency' (Dead Girls Detective Agency #1) by Suzy Cox


*This review will contain spoilers!*

This is the second murder mystery young adult novel I've read in the last week (following on from my review of 'Don't Look Back' by Jennifer L. Armentrout) and I'm happy to say that, out of the two, this one is much, much better one.
We start 'The Dead Girl's Detective Agency' with Charlotte Feldman, a girl who has just been murdered by being pushed under a train on the subway. She wakes up in the Hotel Atessa, a mid-way point for murdered teenagers to solve their murders before they can move on to the other side (whether that be Heaven, Hell or reincarnation we don't actually know). Charlotte meets the other residents of Hotel Atessa: Nancy, the nerdy one, Lorna, the ditzy blonde obsessed with clothes, and Tess, the moody one who seems to hate Charlotte for no discernible reason. Charlotte is told that she now has to solve her murder in order to receive her key for The Big Red Door - a, you guessed it, door that leads to the other side - and to receive eternal peace.
Understandably, Charlotte isn't too happy. She's sixteen and she's dead, something that's not going to go down too well with anybody, but on top of that her "committed" boyfriend, David, is making out with all of the cheerleaders in their school and there's a bad boy at Hotel Atessa, Edison, making her feel uncomfortable and useless even in her afterlife. 
I will admit that I wasn't sure I was going to enjoy this book, but I was pleasantly surprised. The ghosts have lots of powers that they can draw upon, such as apparition and transportation, but when Edison starts teaching Charlotte the ability to kick, jab and throw her words into people's mouths to cause them to speak them with no choice, that was the moment that I thought this book got truly interesting. The first hundred-ish pages are more about establishing the world that they're living in, letting us know the capabilities and limitations that these spirits face compared to other ghostly novels, but after that's properly established and the investigation begins Suzy Cox's writing really shines. 
The investigation itself is dealt with extremely interestingly; they don't add to the list of suspects until they've crossed the previous names off, meaning that the pool of suspects is small, and we don't get any clue to who the actual murderer could have been until nearing the last hundred pages of the novel. If anyone managed to work it out before the agency manages to I'd be extremely surprised, because it's very cleverly written in that the murderer isn't even a focal point until so close to the climax of the novel. 
Furthermore, the majority of the characters are great, and the ones that I didn't like were still written well (even though all of the cheerleaders seemed to blur into one perfectly manicured blob because they were all very similar). Charlotte is the right brand of pessimistic and sarcasm to make her seem pissed off at the world but not petulant and bratty, while Lorna might be an air-head but she shows that she's a caring person and she can pay attention when she really needs to. Nancy might obey the rules to the letter, but she's super endearing as well - even when she seems to be getting judgmental about Charlotte's decisions she's never pushy, just trying to make sure the best is done for everyone. Similarly, Charlotte's living friend Ali is really well written, making me wish we'd picked up on the story a few months before Charlotte had died, but I do think that the fact that we jump straight in on the action is one of the best moments of this novel; you dive in at the deep end, so you have to learn to adjust just as much as Charlotte does. Tess isn't the nicest, but by the end of the novel you're pushed to the point of almost empathising with her even though she does the most terrible thing in the world by stealing Charlotte's key and leaving her trapped at the Hotel Atessa for the rest of eternity, and Edison has a lot of potential to be worked upon later in the next novel. 
The back stories are really well developed (apart from Tess's, which left me feeling a little bit irritated at the end of the novel, as we don't know how she died or what had pushed her to such a feeling of despair that she needed to go to such terrible actions) and I'm glad that there is a second novel because I really want to know more about these characters - to see whether Lorna or Nancy ever decide to go on to the other side or if Edison and Charlotte sort out their relationship and decide to start dating all spooky style. I'd also like to see whether Charlotte ever went to visit her parents; I can understand why she didn't just after her death, but surely you would want to visit the people you cared about if you were hanging around invisibly for days upon days. 
Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. Yes, there are a few grammatical and spelling errors throughout the novel, but it's more towards the second half which means it didn't destroy my enjoyment of it too completely, and there are a few incidents that left me feeling confused (at the climax of the novel when Charlotte is so confused that Tess and Edison know each other, even though she'd discussed it with Lorna at a point earlier in the novel, or how they all magically know each other's surnames - I could understand the ghosts who had already been at the hotel knowing Charlotte's, because they received a letter announcing to them that she was coming, but how she knew all of their's without them being introduced was just assumed away, or in which time it was set; with Tess saying she'd been trapped there for six years and Edison saying he'd been running around back in 1991, even though they knew each other when they were alive, and Lorna wearing a 2006 dress and having been there for a few years, I don't know when it was set because there were just too many crossed wires) but other than that it was a really enjoyable read, with plenty of ghostly hi-jinks mixed in with the detective work. I can't wait to read the second book, 'Dead Girl's Walking' to see whether it's better without all of the establishment at the start of the novel, but overall this novel was pretty good even with the confusion that I felt towards the end.

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Monday, 10 November 2014

'Don't Look Back' by Jennifer L. Armentrout


*This review will contain spoilers!*

This is the first Jennifer L. Armentrout book I've read, but after hearing such amazing reviews for her Lux series, I was expecting way more than I got from this novel, so I am feeling beyond disappointed right now. It's a YA murder mystery, with the least important word in that sentence apparently being mystery, because I worked out who the murderer was (and predicted the motive correctly) in just over one hundred pages, which left me feeling deflated and irritated through just under three hundred more pages. 
'Don't Look Back' tells us the story of Samantha Franco, a girl who is found on the side of the road covered in blood and dirt after being missing for four days, unable to remember anything from her entire past. Her best friend, Cassie Winchester, went missing on the same day, so we pick up the story with the police still on the hunt for Cassie, looking for answers from Sam even though she can't remember anything from the night she disappeared. 
It annoys me that I got the murderer and the motive right, because up until the climax of the novel it was actually kind of impressing me. Yes, there were an awful lot of grammatical mistakes which kept annoying me, but sometimes those things get through, so I wasn't going to base my entire rating off of that issue. The character of Sam was really good - the popular girl who couldn't remember being popular, therefore redeeming herself by becoming a genuinely good person, was a nice premise in itself. The amount of times I found myself thinking that I absolutely hated who she was before the accident, and then she would comment that she "was seriously starting to believe [she] was the Antichrist" and "the more [she] heard about [herself] the more [she] wanted to slam [her] head into the coffee table", meant that she was really easy to relate to. I loved the character of Carson; the fact that Sam had wronged him so many times in her previous life, because he was poor, and he forgave her, and that through flashbacks we discovered that both of them had had extremely strong feelings for each other their entire lives, made me feel like the accident had been a blessing for all those around her. Their relationship was really lovely: her learning to deal with her feelings for him despite the fact that she was practically betrothed to "Del the Dick", him learning to trust her again after all of the shit she'd thrown at him in their past... It was just really lovely to see someone who was almost as confused as her, which was hard to match with her in the amnesiac position. 
Furthermore, the book was actually fairly exciting. Starting a novel with a girl wandering down the road with no idea who she is was an extremely exciting starting point, so my hopes were raised very high from the outset, but in the cold light of day it's really not that good of a book. In my opinion it was extremely obvious that Sam and Cassie shared a dad from the moment Sam went into her room and spotted their matching music boxes (made even more obvious if you have the alternate cover of the novel, in which the music box is the focal image), so the big reveal seemed extremely anti-climactic, while the constant flipping between who Sam suspected just dragged. With every person that she directly focussed upon as a suspect she was just eliminating another potential alleyway, because in my experience with murder mystery novels, if someone is questioned it normally means that they definitely didn't do it. 
Despite the fact that some scenes have their merits (Sam being chased through the woods by a mysterious figure and the prom sequence with the advancement of Sam and Carson's relationship and her beginning acceptance by members of her school being two of the stand out moments in my opinion) overall I just felt deflated, and I'm not sure if I'll actually be able to force myself to read any more of Jennifer's novels in the future, even though I had been really excited about the Lux novels. 

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Friday, 7 November 2014

'Fangirl' by Rainbow Rowell

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*This review will contain spoilers!*

This is the first novel by Rainbow Rowell that I've ever read, but I didn't really have high expectations. I don't read or write fan-fiction, so I thought the entire topic was going to go way over my head. I wasn't expecting to fall in love with this book or these characters as much as I did.
The book follows Cather Avery, one half of a set of twins who are both in the process of transferring to university. Cather, more commonly known as Cath, is filled with anxiety and trepidation at the prospect of moving into a strange place with a strange roommate, as her twin, Wren, has decided to move in with a different roommate in an attempt to get more independence. Cath's roommate, Reagan, is intimidating and Cath automatically assumes she hates her, while her roommates friend, Levi, is kind to Cath and makes a supreme effort to bring her out of her shell, constantly inviting her along to his house parties in an attempt to make her more sociable. 
I don't know why I loved this book, but I absolutely did. At the start of this year, I decided that I wasn't interested in going to university, because I didn't think it was for me, but this novel has actually made me start to want to change my mind. Despite the fact that Cath tries not to make friends, she manages to accumulate a little group, which I find absolutely inspiring; it just goes to show that you don't need to be the most outgoing or charismatic person to find people who like you. The lectures that are described in the book sound really interesting, and, despite what you might expect, the descriptions of different assignments that Cath needs to complete makes them sound extremely interesting, bordering on fun. Writing a fiction piece from the perspective of an unreliable narrator? I love the sound of that! That sounds beyond fun.
I think one of the main reasons I appreciate this novel is because of its portrayal of things that often worry young people. Cath's sister, Wren, going off on her own adventure and giving herself alcohol poisoning is something that I can imagine people with siblings experiencing quite often; seeing their sibling grow up too fast and make too many mistakes, but feeling unable to help them in case it estranges them. I found myself absolutely hating Wren at the start of the novel, but by the end she'd stolen my heart as much as Cath had; she really develops and grows into her own character instead of just blending in with all of the other drunken freshmen.
Similarly, the relationship between Cath and her writing partner, Nick, when he steals their mutually written piece and decides to give himself full credit. Oftentimes students can feel as though they contribute more to a piece than other members of their team, and I think this is a good demonstration of the fact that you might feel as though you've contributed more but you need to respect what everyone has brought to the table, because otherwise it could cause you problems in the future. 
One of the things I appreciated about this development was how it linked to Cath's English professors lecture about plagiarism in fan-fiction. I don't write fan-fiction, but I can appreciate the fact that it is a genuine form of literature; some of the fan-fiction I've heard about seems to be much more skilfully written than the stimulus material, so it is something that requires a passion for writing. However, while fan-fiction doesn't equate to stealing, I think that Nick's actions definitely do, so I'm glad that we get the reveal that he lost his assistantship, because it would have been wrong for the professor to punish Cath for writing something genuinely individual and not punish someone who had brushed off her contribution. 
Furthermore, I love the relationship between Levi and Cath, and their respective worries about the relationship. When Levi kisses someone else at a party and then equates it down to the fact that he "was back to thinking [she] didn't like [him]", I forgave him and found him absolutely adorable; he only hurt her because he was afraid of her hurting him, and I think it's refreshing to see a male in young adult literature who seems to be more invested in the burgeoning relationship than the female. His reassurances to her that he wouldn't pressure her and his early declaration of love made me feel so many emotions towards him, because he obviously cared for her so much. That was another reason I appreciated Rainbow Rowell's writing so completely; instead of throwing it in our faces from the beginning that Levi and Cath were going to fall in love and get together, it was obviously going to happen but when they eventually have their first kiss it's in a really unexpected segment and it makes us feel as confused and wary as Cath does. 
The only problem I had with this book was that it felt too open-ended. There was one scene with Laura, the twins estranged mother, and it felt very up in the air when she left and I was expecting us to get more resolution with Cath and Laura's relationship later on in the novel. In the same vein, we encounter Nick towards the end of the novel when he begs Cath to accept a co-author credit so that he can get their short story published in the university journal, but after she says no he just gives up the fight which seems very at odds with his character throughout the novel, when he seems more like he would fight for the things that mattered to him. At the end of the book there was a little Q and A with Rainbow Rowell, and she said she's "not quite done with these characters" so all of my fingers and toes are crossed for a sequel. There's plenty that could be covered: getting to see more of Jandro and Wren's relationship, getting to see more of Levi and Cath's relationship, getting to see if Reagan eventually settles down, finding out more about the twins mum and their fathers life without them... Ugh, I just care about these characters so much that I wish this book was double the length. If there ever is a sequel I will be the happiest person in the world, because I just did not want this book to end! It's nearly 500 pages long and I managed to read it in just over three days, which is the fastest I've read a book of this length for an extremely long time and that in itself shows exactly how addictive this novel is. I love this book, I love Rainbow Rowell, and I can't wait to read any of her other novels. 

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Gerard Way - Oxford O2 Academy, 06/11/14


I will admit, the main reason I was excited for this show was the support band, Darlia, and they did not disappoint. With their grunge revival sound, they weren't exactly the obvious choice for a support band for Gerard Way, but I'm glad they were chosen because they're actually very good live. I only caught the end of their set at Reading Festival, but you could tell by the crowd response and the buzz surrounding the tent for ages afterwards that they were definitely in the top acts of the weekend for many of the attendees. 
Despite the fact that all of the songs started blending into each other in the middle, they were all quite well performed so this wasn't a massive problem. If you have a formula that works, you might as well work it into as many different songs as you can, and no one seemed too disillusioned with what they were doing, even though many of the audience members were utterly unresponsive due to their anticipation for Gerard. I'm not quite sure that vocalist Nathan Day is quite used to crowds this big because his interaction with the crowd was lacking, but you can tell this band are going places because the crowd reaction for 'Dear Diary' demonstrated that they are capable of writing hits, they just might need to find their niche and carve it out a bit more.

Setlist: 
Napalm
Pandemonium
I've Never Been To Ohio
Candyman
Stars Are Aligned
Choke On Bones
Dear Diary 
Queen Of Hearts

Ten minutes before Gerard was due on stage, the chants of "Gerard Way!" were already filling the venue, and on the one hand I was extremely impressed with this reaction, because it's the best crowd I've ever seen at this venue, but on the other hand he probably only incited this reaction because of his previous work with My Chemical Romance. I understand that when a band breaks up and their members go solo, people will automatically and blindly support said solo projects because of the fact that they supported the previous band, but I couldn't help wondering if it was Electric Century or FrnkIero AndThe Cellebration performing a headline show, if it would even sell out, let alone cause this level of mass hysteria. One of the biggest reasons this annoys me is because Gerard Way's debut album, 'Hesitant Alien', is actually really good - the songs are well written, they stand out amongst all of the samey-samey stuff that's being released recently - but I don't think it would have gotten the attention or the mass support if he didn't already have such a huge fan base behind him. If an unknown artist made an album like this, I don't think it would put them on the map, but the songs deserve recognition for being amazing, not just for being Gerard's. 
Don't get me wrong, Gerard Way puts on an amazing live performance. When I saw his festival debut at Reading back in August I was beyond impressed at the direction he was going in with his music, and I was again blown away by his performance as a front man. However, it's just an obvious fact that he is too big for a venue like this one. I know he wanted to start off with smaller shows to test the waters with his new material, but I wish I'd experienced it in a live environment like Brixton instead of this one. The acoustics were overwhelming and overbearing, in a terrible way - it felt like an aural onslaught, but it wasn't a pleasant one to experience. This could have been due to the acoustics of the venue or the sound production, but the backing track ringing phone at the end of the first song, 'The Bureau', was louder than Gerard's vocals were the entire night, so it was automatically headache material. I know this can't exactly be tallied up to Gerard himself, but when you've been going to gigs for as long as I have it takes a hell of a lot of noise for it to be too much noise, but that's what I was feeling through sections of this concert. Between 'Millions' and 'Juarez' there were wailing guitars and overpowering static noises that was just a wall of sound, it couldn't even be described as music. 
Contrastingly, Gerard's vocals were more on point than I'd ever heard them before. During 'Juarez' he was throwing his entire soul into the performance, and through 'Television All The Time' into his cover of 'The Water Is Wide (O Waly, Waly)' he showcased his vocals superbly, demonstrating exactly how he came to be such a world renowned talent. 
Despite the fact that the overall effect of the gig left me coming away feeling disappointed, Gerard's showmanship has not declined in the last three years since I first saw him live. He had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand, preaching "If you're here tonight and you're transgender, I love you. I love you for being you", "[Women] you're going to be in charge and I love it, I can't fucking wait for it, I can't wait for women to be in charge" and "Just be really good to each other, which you will be because you're really good people. Never comment on somebody else's body again, that's easy, we can promise that!" proving again why he has often been labelled 'the voice of a generation'. Between this, getting someone up on stage to play tambourine for him during 'Get The Gang Together' and talking to a girl in the crowd who he recognised from Twitter, it just shows why Gerard is a superb human being, and even though his solo material isn't the same as My Chemical Romance, not in the slightest, it's not surprised that he hasn't lost any fans through the transition to the grungy BritPop he's displaying to all of us tonight. He's one of the nicest guys I've ever met, and even though I wasn't exactly in love with the whole performance, I still have the utmost respect for him as a person.

Setlist: 
The Bureau 
Action Cat
Zero Zero
Millions
Juarez
Drugstore Perfume
Television All The Time
The Water Is Wide (O Waly, Waly) (cover of James Cecil)
Brother
Get The Gang Together
How It's Going To Be
Maya The Psychic
No Shows
Snakedriver (cover of The Jesus and Mary Chain)
-
I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone (cover of Slater-Kinney)

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Tuesday, 4 November 2014

'Anna and the French Kiss' (Anna and the French Kiss #1) by Stephanie Perkins

*This review will contain spoilers!* 

I was worried about reading 'Anna and the French Kiss', because it's not the kind of book I would normally read, but I've been trying to get into different things recently. And holy cow was I impressed!
If you haven't heard of the 'Anna and the French Kiss' trilogy of companion novels (completed with 'Lola and the Boy Next Door' and 'Isla and the Happily Ever After') I don't know where you've been hiding, because everyone absolutely loves these novels. That was another reason I was worried about reading them; if all you hear is good reviews and the book is largely underwhelming it's a massive disappointment. 
'Anna...' tells the story of Anna Oliphant, an Atlantan teenager who is relocated to France for her senior year due to her fathers wishes. She's worried about making friends, but automatically snaps into place in the little clique of art people, and so begins a carefree and happy year. 
But of course, this is a teenage drama novel, so nothing is going to be carefree and happy. She makes a best friend in the form of Étienne St. Clair, spends the first half of the novel adamant that she's not in love with him because she has a crush on her ex-co worker Toph, who's all the way back in Atlanta, then realises Toph was a massive douchebag and she's been in love with Étienne the entire time.
I will admit, I think one of the only reasons I appreciate this novel as much as I do is because Anna wants to be a film critic, so we have an aspiration in common. That helped me bond with her, as the declaration "I just like... expressing my opinion. That possibility of turning someone on to something really great" is pretty much why I'm writing what I'm writing right now. Because other than that, Anna is pretty annoying. I know that a lot of people absolutely love her, but it's pretty obvious she's in love with Étienne and the lady doth protest too much making it absolutely clear cut. "Any girl face with daily attention from a gorgeous boy with a cute accent and perfect hair would be hard-pressed not to develop a big, sticking, painful, all-the-time, all-consuming crush. Not that that's what's happening to me." Oh yeah, girl? Who you trying to convince, us or yourself? 
Then again, I can't exactly detract from the novel due to the blatant obviousness of the crush, because it's the entire point of the novel - the climax of them getting together, finally realising they're meant to be. 
I did enjoy the novel, because it was something different to what I'd normally read, and it wasn't slap you in the face insta-love, it took some time for them both to realise and then announce their feelings, but it still leaves me with a sort of bitter taste in my mouth. Étienne admitting that on the first day of class he'd conspired to make them physics lab partners demonstrates either a knowledge that Anna and him were soul mates that even he couldn't explain, or just shows that the boy was willing to shove the existence of his girlfriend to the back of his mind as soon as a pretty stranger walked into the room. The scene where Anna gets drunk and starts screaming at him in the street, just for them to have what could be described as a civilised conversation the next day left me feeling confused - if I screamed at someone in the middle of the street when I was drunk and made an absolute scene in front of all of our friends I'd expect to be ignored for a good couple of weeks. This happens a few times - the switching between being at each others throats and being best friends - so it did frustrate me at times how bipolar their relationship seemed to be, but the scene after Anna lost her key when Anna tells us "even with all of the awkwardness and hostility, he still considers me his best friend" demonstrates exactly how strong their bond has become, so that makes it almost forgivable. I also hate Anna's attitude towards Étienne after they're discovered kissing and he runs after Meredith to console her, because she automatically becomes very abrasive towards him, not giving him any chance to explain. Similarly, she acts in the same way towards Toph, the crush who starts dating her best friend back home, not even talking to him after she finds out he's dating her best friend. I know that's mostly because of how hurt she is, but if you're friends with someone you put on a brave face and tell them  you're happy that they're happy - you don't ignore them both and make them feel like shit, that's just kind of childish. And then she hypocritically turns around and does exactly the same thing to Meredith, who has been in love with Étienne for years, which just made me want to slap her in the face. You can't get all high and mighty 'how dare my best friend fall in love with someone' and then do the exact same thing. I know that she acknowledges how terrible she's being later on in the novel, but it just seemed to take her too long to realise that she'd been an absolute cow. 
Despite these irritations, overall it was still a pretty fabulous read. The exploring of Paris has left me with a yearning to go there the likes I've never had before, the scenes between Anna and Étienne just being friends were fun and well written, and the rest of their friendship group was amazing. The inclusion of Isla's character as a background character was fun, as now that the last book has been released it's obvious that she's going to get reprised, and I think I'm going to enjoy her novel a hell of a lot. Some things were still left up in the air, such as whether Anna and Bridgette's friendship can ever be fully repaired following her relationship with Toph, so I hope we get to see Anna again in one of the later books and find out whether that managed to happen. I really enjoy Stephanie Perkins writing (despite her overusage of italicisation) and I'm hopefully going to be getting 'Lola...' and 'Isla...' for Christmas, so I'll be reading those as soon as I get them. This is one of the first books in a long time that has been nearly 400 pages and I've read in less than two days, so these are quick reads and are very fun and enjoyable.

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Sunday, 2 November 2014

'The 5th Wave' (The Fifth Wave #1) by Rick Yancey



*This review will contain spoilers!*

Forget about 'Divergent'. Forget about 'The Hunger Games'. Forget about all of the comparisons you might have heard since 'The 5th Wave' was released. This novel is absolutely astounding, ground-breaking, fabulously gripping... I don't even know what to say. When I have my expectations raised highly by reviews that I've read, it's a very rare occurrence that the result completely surpasses what I was anticipating, but this was a novel that I was so worried about being disappointed by but I was so extremely happy with. 
'The 5th Wave' tells the story of Cassie (short for Cassiopeia, not Cassandra) Sullivan, a girl who believes she could be the last human left alive. Seven billion people have already been wiped out following the appearance of an alien spaceship less that six months before. The 1st Wave was an electromagnetic pulse, disabling humans in a way never experienced before. All the lights go off, the cars stop, the planes crash out of the sky and they are helpless and isolated. Estimated death toll? One hundred thousand. The 2nd Wave: a tsunami caused by the dropping of a large metal pole from the upper atmosphere, estimated to have wiped out nearly half of the human population. The 3rd Wave: a plague titled 'The Red Death', carried by birds and with similar symptoms to ebola. Estimated death toll: just under 4 billion people. As you can guess by the title of 'The 5th Wave', we pick up the story during the 4th Wave, following it through to the establishment of the 5th Wave. 
Cassie is on a mission. Her father has been killed in front of her and her little brother has been taken by soldiers; taken to his death or taken as a prisoner, she doesn't know, but she made a promise to find him and it's a promise she's damn well determined to keep.
Throughout the novel, we follow various viewpoints. Ben Parish, Cassie's long-term unrequited love, living in the camp where Sammy has been taken, called Camp Haven, training as a soldier in a war he's determined to win with a squad who are constantly on tenterhooks in fear of going 'Dorothy'. The viewpoint of one of the aliens, called both Others and Silencers at various points throughout the novel, stalking Cassie but unwilling to kill her. Sammy himself, going through the entry procedure into the camp, giving us an insight into the workings of something that hopefully none of us will ever have to experience. 
This novel is something else. Normally, if I hear the description of a novel as being end of the world due to aliens, I expect that I'm going to get bored quickly. I've read two other novels about aliens that stand out in my mind: 'War of the Worlds' by H.G Wells and 'The Host' by Stephenie Meyer, and while in retrospect they're probably both in the top ten books that I've ever read, at the time I just found them both so utterly unfeasible it took me weeks verging on months to read them. This is not the case with 'The 5th Wave'. The characters are all so believably real that I genuinely felt pain at some of the things that they experienced (the death of Oompa and Ben ripping his sutures running around after being shot in the side both two particularly harrowing moments) and as the twists and turns were revealed one after another I felt both confused and betrayed along with them. For the majority of the novel we don't actually know who the bad guys are. Cassie gets rescued by a handsome stranger called Evan Walker and it's so conflicting to the reader and to Cassie while trying to decide whether we should trust him or whether we should shoot him in the head. All of the deception is mind-blowing; any notions you have at the start of the novel are sure to be ripped apart by the end of it, because there's no way you'll be able to guess what's going to happen at the end. 
Anyone who can make you empathise with the enemy is an amazing writer, so I have boundless amounts of respect and admiration for Rick Yancey's writing.  
I also adored the similarities between the characters narration. It didn't seem as though Rick Yancey had run out of inspiration, it seemed more like all of the thought patterns of the characters were similar because of the fact that at the end of the world it's survive or die, so instincts run rampant and are the only thing in the world keeping you sane. There were a few parallels between Cassie and Ben during the first two perspectives; the running/facing narrative that was so vital during Cassie's face-off with the Silencer was referenced during Ben's inner turmoil in hospital, while towards the conclusion of the novel Cassie's references to chess mirrored Ringer, one of the soldiers in Ben's squad. 
Despite how much I loved the novel (and if I wasn't reviewing it I wouldn't be bringing these up, but they are genuine issues with it) there were still some problems to me. Some of the numbers that Cassie's father conjures up out of nowhere seem unfeasible, an example of this being when he says that during the 1st Wave it's only likely that one hundred thousand people died. If all electricity completely stopped, I can imagine a lot more deaths occurring. Imagine this: all of the planes fall out of the sky. How many planes could be in the air at that specific time, whether being small local flights or long distance flights, carrying thousand upon thousands of people. All of the people on life support, all the world over, would automatically be switched off. I don't know if it would add up to more than one hundred thousand, I might just be imagining it as much bigger than it is, but with eight billion people on Earth all constantly moving and travelling or falling ill and dying it just seems that there would be more people in a position to be wiped out automatically due to a failing of electricity. 
Furthermore, I disagree with people comparing this novel to 'Divergent' or 'The Hunger Games' because most of those comparisons are only rooted in the fact that this is an apocalyptic dystopian-ish novel being made into a blockbuster movie with a female lead character. However, if people were comparing it to 'The Host' I would not be so surprised. Evan Walker being an Other who felt more like a human, wanting to fit in and live in harmony. The love story between the two species. Leading the characters to believe that the Others manifest as growths on the brain. The downloading of their consciousness into their hosts. The quote "you're a disease that will kill its host unless you're wiped out". 
However, even with these negatives I still think this is one of, if not the, best book I've read in 2014. Some of the quotes really open your mind up. "Maybe the last one to die will be killed by the last one alive." "The uncertain circumstances of your certain destruction." "Choosing between your kind and another species wasn't cruel. It was necessary." "I am a shark. [...] A shark who dreamed he was a man." "There's no real difference between us, the living and the dead; it's all just a matter of tense: past-dead and future-dead."
Yes, there are things wrong with this novel, but no novel is going to be absolutely perfect. But in my opinion, this is the closest I've been to finding the perfect book in a very very long time. The sequel, 'The Infinite Sea', was released just over a month ago, but I haven't had the chance to purchase it yet, but I can't wait. Leaving Cassie and Ben is one of the hardest things I've ever had to do: there are so many questions I want answered, so many things left up in the air, so many things that are going to bug my brain until I can read the sequel. If you haven't picked up the novel yet, what are you doing. Go and read it, right now. Right this very second. The movie featuring Chloe Grace Moretz isn't out for another couple of years, but it's going to be massive, mark my words. 

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Saturday, 1 November 2014

October Book Haul

After the massive book haul last month, I attempted to restrict myself from buying books in the month of October, but I still bought 37 new books, three of them being eBooks. However, I also won five books through Goodreads First Reads (if you haven't seen their competitions, you need to go and check them out), so I will include those first and foremost as I am very grateful to Goodreads for hosting the competitions and I'm still so happy that I won because I've never won any Goodreads competitions before and I won two in one day! Two have not currently arrived, so I will be including them in my November Book Haul.

Goodreads First Reads competition wins: 


The first Goodreads First Reads competition I won was 'The Rosie Effect' by Graeme Simsion, the second book in the Don Tillman series. I've already read and reviewed this book, so please go check out my review.
The second book I won from Goodreads First Reads was 'The Madness of Mr. Darcy' by Alexa Adams. It's based on characters from Jane Austen's 'Pride and Prejudice' and is meant to act as a kind of sequel. I haven't currently managed to get around to reading this book yet, but when I do I will be doing a review, so keep an eye out!
The third book I won from Goodreads First Reads was 'The Menhatten Project' by Victoria Flores and Leslie Wilson. This isn't the type of book I normally read, but the cover was nice and it was described as similar to 'Sex and the City' and 'Bridget Jones's Diary' which I've always been interested in but have never gotten around to, so I'll see what I think of this one. Also, Victoria wrote a nice little personalised message for me (pictured below) which was so sweet! I'll be reading this book pretty early on in November, so look out for my review!



eBooks:



The first eBook I bought this month was 'Throne of Glass' by Sarah J. Maas. Over the last month I've heard so much hype about the third book in the series, 'Heir of Fire', so when I saw this book on Amazon for only 51p I couldn't resist buying it. I don't know much about this story but I know that it tells the story of a girl who is trying to be an assassin, so I'm expecting this to be high fantasy and adrenaline-filled.


The second eBook I bought in October was 'The Selection' by Kiera Cass. I've wanted to read this book for such a long time and it was only a pound on Amazon, so I had to buy it. From what I can gather it tells the story of a group of girls who are competing to marry the prince, but our main protagonist is not interested in the story at all because she has a boyfriend. I don't know much else about it, but the cover is absolutely beautiful and I've been getting excited about this for a long time so I hope it lives up to my expectations.


The third and final eBook I bought in the month of October was 'You' by Caroline Kepnes. I've heard so many good things about this novel even though it was only released at the end of September, so when it was on a Kindle deal for £2.50 I couldn't resist purchasing it (even though this is the most I've ever spent on an eBook and the most that I probably ever will). From what I know about this book it tells us the story of a bookseller called Joe and his girlfriend, who both get like crazy obsessed with each other. It has aspects of stalking and seems like it'll be a really unusual and thrilling novel which is just the kind of thing I've been looking for recently. 

Books:



The first book I bought in the month of October was 'How To Love' by Katie Cotugno. I've heard so many good things about this book, which is based on a tale of first love gone wrong. The main character gets pregnant to her boyfriend, who then runs off and leaves them, before returning later (I believe a few years after she's had the child). Other than that I don't know much about the book, but the story sounds interesting and the cover is absolutely gorgeous, so I can't wait to read this one.



The second book I bought was 'Bones of the Lost' by Kathy Reichs. This book is #16 of the Temperance Brennan series, but I absolutely love the TV series 'Bones' and I already own all of her books (despite the fact that I have yet to read any) so I thought it was a good idea to buy the newest release, as it was half price in Morrisons.

Next up, The Book People were having a sale, so I purchased the two Vintage collects. As I said last month, I absolutely love the Vintage covers so I want to eventually own all of the editions and I had been looking at both of these collections for a few months, so when they went on sale I could not resist.


First of all I bought The Charles Dickens Vintage Collection, which was just under £14. The books included in the collection are: 'Martin Chuzzlewit', 'Great Expectations', 'A Tale Of Two Cities', 'The Old Curiosity Shop', 'David Copperfield', 'The Pickwick Papers', 'A Christmas Carol', 'Hard Times', 'Little Dorrit', 'The Mystery of Edward Drood', 'Our Mutual Friend', 'Nicholas Nickelby', 'Dombey and Son', 'Barnaby Rudge', 'Bleak House' and 'Oliver Twist'.


Second up I bought the James Bond Vintage Collection, which was only £10 so all together, for thirty books, it was an amazing bargain and I know I'm going to love all of them. The novels in the James Bond collection are: 'Casino Royale', 'Live and Let Die', 'Moon Raker', 'Diamonds Are Forever', 'From Russia With Love', 'Dr. No', 'Gold Finger', 'For Your Eyes Only', 'The Spy Who Loved Me', 'On Her Majesty's Service', 'You Only Live Twice', 'The Man With The Golden Gun', 'Octopussy and the Living Daylights' and 'Thunder Ball' and it came in this beautifully designed box (pictured below) so I'm so glad I purchased it. 



I told myself I wasn't going to buy any more books this month after the two collections, but when 'Ed Sheeran: A Visual Journey' was released and it was only half price in WH Smiths I couldn't resist getting it. Ed Sheeran is one of the best artists to come out of England in a very long time and no matter how much people say he's boring or too samey I think he is extremely talented and I am extremely interested to see what this autobiography is like. Also, the artwork throughout is absolutely gorgeous as it's done by Phillip Butah, who has done the artwork for Ed Sheeran's albums over the years.



The last book I bought in the month of October was 'Every Day' by David Levithan. I actually read this book earlier in the year and I thought it was one of the best books I've ever read; the character of A is extremely likeable and there isn't too much in this novel that gets on my nerves, which is surprising when it comes to this genre of fiction recently. If you haven't heard of 'Every Day', it tells the story of A, a being who wakes up in a different body every morning and who falls in love with Rhiannon, the girlfriend of one of his bodies early in the novel. The book plays out with A falling more and more in love with Rhiannon, putting his morals on the line and it makes you ask some very big questions about love and whether you can love someone if you never really know who they are. If you're a fan of John Green you've probably already heard of David Levithan, because he co-wrote 'Will Grayson, Will Grayson', but this book is an absolute masterpiece so you really need to go and pick it up right now. Also, the cover is an absolute work of art because the people are made up out of quotes from the book which is genius.

That's all for this month, I'll be reading and reviewing the rest of my library books throughout November (including two book club picks, namely 'Anna and the French Kiss' by Stephanie Perkins and 'Fangirl' by Rainbow Rowell) and hopefully moving on to some of my own books before the end of the month so keep an eye out. If you have read any of these books and recommend them please let me know, or if you want me to review a specific book I can do that! 

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