Monday, 29 June 2015

WRAP-UP: Can books really fix everything?

Over the last four weeks, I've read more self-help books than I've ever read before in my life. This is the final installment - and the wrap-up - to my investigation. How do I feel reaching the end of this personal challenge?

It's such a relief for this to finally be over! The books I've read have ranged from the god-awful to the mildly helpful, but have definitely leaned towards the former. 
So what self-help books did I read in this final week? Well, I'm embarrassed to say that I actually only managed to read one of them - namely '7 Secrets To Confidence' by Steve Miller. Surprisingly, this is the best of the self-help books that I've read; Steve's voice is very humorous, making the best of terrible situations and honestly recalling multiple times in his life that have been trying and difficult. Any self-help book that can talk about bullies as "little dicks" is friendly and approachable enough for me to actually try and take some of the advice on board.
Don't get me wrong, it's not a perfect self-help book. Each of the secrets are demonstrated in real-life situations, which definitely makes them feel trustworthy. However, they're recalled by the author rather than testimonials from his customers vouching for the secrets, so at points it definitely feels as though it could be crafted or over-exaggerated. 
As well as this, there are lots of scripts for relaxation exercises that just didn't see to have any affect on me - this could be because I didn't read the scripts out loud, or didn't have a friend read them to me, but they just seemed a bit too cliched to be genuine. They didn't really take away from my enjoyment of the book, just meant that I skipped a few of them later on as I felt I'd already read them before - they were all based off of the same formatting. 
However, I'm definitely feeling more positive about self-help books than I was at the beginning of this month long challenge. None of the ones I've read so far have been life-changing or mind-blowing, but I've been interested in the psychology behind them and I've definitely picked up a few hints and tips that I will attempt to utilize in the future. 
I definitely wouldn't say that self-help books have fixed everything for me. In fact, I'd say that self-help books made me feel worse more than they made me feel better! But because I'm still interested in the genre, I'm going to keep reading them (only posting the reviews on my Goodreads from now on though!) and hopefully I'll find the self-help book for me. In the mean time, I'm going to continue having fun with my friends and going on long relaxing walks - socialising and exercising seem to fix things a lot better than words can. 
I hope you've enjoyed my investigation into self-help books! If there are any you recommend feel welcome to comment them down below and I'll try to get around to reading them. Thank you for following me on this personal journey, even if my viewpoint didn't move as much as I'd been anticipating it would.  

Thursday, 25 June 2015

COVER REVEAL: 'Come Sit By Me' by Thomas Hoobler

Another day, another blog tour - this time in association with Booktrope publishing, who I need to thank massively for inviting me to participate in this cover reveal. If you're ready, scroll on down...

The boy who shot seven people in the school library is dead. But did his secrets die with him?
Something terrible happened at Hamilton High last year, and those who survived don't want to relive the past. But Paul has just arrived, and gets the same locker that the shooter used. He wants to know what really happened...and you know what curiosity did to the cat. 
It's such an ominous cover and synopsis combo, reminiscent of 'We Need To Talk About Kevin', or the first (and definitely best) season of 'American Horror Story'. I find school shootings very intriguing - the psychology behind them and the psychological effects that follow on for the survivors - so I'm sure this is definitely going to be the kind of book I will fly through, even though I will find it emotionally harrowing.
'Come Sit By Me' is released in July, so keep an eye out for this one.

TOP TEN LIST: Allison J. Kennedy (+ 'The Choice' review!)

*Warning: this book contains rape triggers*
How do you heal from your past when you're still trapped within it?
I lost myself the night of the party. Just like that, my innocence and my sanity were torn away. 
I would like to say that time heals all wounds, but it doesn't. And I would like to say that falling in love is what rescued me, but it wasn't. Nobody told me what to expect in the coming days and weeks and months after conceiving a rapist's child. Years later, my wounds are still just as fresh as the night they were made. It would be so easy to disappear and allow the memories to consume me. 
But that's the choice, isn't it? To live instead. 
I was a little bit apprehensive going into 'The Choice', because rape is such a sensitive issue. Sometimes authors just don't deal with it properly, and it comes off as cheap and unemotional - just a gimmick to sell more copies of their novel - but I'm happy to say that the topic is not used like that at all in this novel.
We follow May, from the night before the party where she gets raped to a place four years down the line from the incident. The rape occurs at the very start of the novel, just two or three chapters in, so we don't get to know her character at all beforehand; our perspective of her is only shaped after the life-changing event that turns her world upside down. This does mean that some of the scenes where she's reminiscing over the loss of her old self and the change of her personality aren't as effective as they could have been if her back story had been developed a bit more before. On the other hand, the emotion following the rape is so raw and realistic - the imagery is heart-breakingly powerful - that you can't help but empathise for her character, even if you didn't know her before.
Despite the fact that the book focused on such dark and serious subject matter, I really did find myself enjoying Allison J. Kennedy's writing style. The beginning of the novel really wasn't my cup of tea, because the speed of the plot development just made it all seem a bit rushed, but once May's character was developed properly I definitely started appreciating her voice and her mature thought processes throughout the entire ordeal. The inclusion of Alex, her love interest, didn't hurt either - he was such a sweetheart that you really did know that she could trust him, and it wasn't written in a shallow way which was impressive. But what I really liked about Allison's writing is that she managed to write poetry (in the form of one of May's school assignments) and lyrics (as Alex is a musician, and demonstrated his talent to May) without either of them coming across as corny or badly written. Allison has a talent with imagery and pace that made these two pieces of writing stand out from the rest of the novel, and I'm very interested to see if she writes any more poetry in the future, because that's definitely something I would read.
I don't want to give away anything about the rest of the book, because I want you to follow the twists and the turns for yourself as they develop - just know that despite the subject matter this is rather an enjoyable read, which is something I didn't envision myself saying. May's character is brilliant - level-headed and admirable - and she definitely stands out from the crowd of YA protagonists who freak out and over-react about less serious issues that they have going on.
This definitely wasn't my favourite read of this year, but it was much better than I thought it would be. If you think it would trigger you in any way I'd definitely avoid staying away from it - it's not worth hurting yourself any more - but if you've been in this situation and are looking for hope that there's a light at the end of the tunnel, this book could do that for you.
If you're interested in reading 'The Choice' you can purchase it on Amazon US or Amazon UK.

To celebrate the release of 'The Choice', I'm pleased to welcome Allison to my blog to talk about her favourite books. I'll pass you over to her now...

Thank you for having me! As an author and a lover of books, it's almost impossible for me to choose only ten to add to my favorites list. But I would say these are the ones that I either revisit often, or that impacted me at the time I read them.
  1. 'Jane Eyre' by Charlotte Bronte
  2. 'Pride and Prejudice' by Jane Austen
  3. 'Little Women' by Louisa May Alcott
  4. 'The Horse Whisperer' by Nicholas Evans
  5. 'Hero of Lesser Causes' by Julie Johnston
  6. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
  7. The Shiver trilogy by Maggie Stiefvater
  8. 'Redeeming Love' by Francine Rivers
  9. The Mark of the Lion series by Francine Rivers
  10. 'If I Stay' by Gayle Forman

I definitely agree with most of Allison's choices - my best friend and I have both re-read the Shiver series more than I can count, and Maggie even told my friend that her books looked like they'd been run over! I'm embarrassed to say that I haven't actually heard of a few of the books that Allison picked, but I'm definitely going to check them out.
I'd like to say a huge thanks to Patchwork Press, for inviting me on to this blog tour - they're such an excellent publisher and I've never felt disappointed with one of their releases, so I'm so proud to keep working in conjunction with them. 

Monday, 22 June 2015

INVESTIGATION: Can books really fix everything? END OF WEEK THREE.

I'm sorry about this update being a little bit late - life is getting super busy at the moment, so I haven't had a chance to make this post! Hopefully things will start calming down again soon and I'll be able to write the conclusion to this investigation on time next week.
I managed to read a couple of self-help books this week, even if I haven't managed to find time to write about them.

First off, I read 'Loving Yourself, Loving Another' by Julia Cole, and I really didn't get along with this one. It talks a lot about couple esteem, and how one person having a downer of a day can really put a dampener on their partners mood, and that just made me feel sad - everyone is going to have at least one bad day in a while, so why put even more stress on yourself by linking your bad day to someone else's happiness?
Similarly, I didn't get on with the questionnaires section of this book. While attempting to establish which area of self-esteem that the reader may need assistance in (either emotiona, physical or mental) you had to go through a series of questionnaires, the recommended completion times of which were thirty to forty minutes. I didn't fill out the questionnaires, but I had a good hard think about each of the options, and I just found that they didn't really access any deeper levels. The questions would be paired (e.g. 'I regard myself as an introvert' followed by 'I regard myself as an extrovert') but because the rating system was from strongly agree to strongly disagree it meant that the answer to the second question was the exact opposite of the first, which was completely pointless. Furthermore, there was no column for not applicable, which - when referring to how you believe your disabilities impacted you in your day to day life - could have come in handy, as the questions did not apply to me in the slightest.
The theory behind the book is good: teach you about general self-esteem, then the specific areas of individual self-esteem, then couple-esteem. But despite the fact that the theory was good, the execution was dreary, boring, and, quite frankly, predictable.

Secondly, I picked up 'Live More, Spend Less' by Sarah Flower.
"Wait," you ask. "A self-help book on money?"
Why yes, loyal reader, a self-help book on money! Going off of advice from a colleague last week, in which she told me that when she feels anxious she finds that reading money advice calms her down, I decided to take a punt and give it a shot. If I'm going to do this investigation, I might as well make it as wild and wacky as I possibly can!
The funny thing is, I completely agree with her. Whereas the other self-help books just seemed to contradict themselves with every piece of advice, trying to tear the reader in two as they attempted to embody such double standards, money books make a hell of a lot more sense. I'm not a big spender - I am quite good at saving and only buying things when I need to, but the level-headed advice offered within these pages can easily be extrapolated for use in the real world, which is a big change from the other books I've attempted over these last three weeks.
An example of this is the inclusion of a section on cheap and healthy recipes. By offering cheap recipes, it effectively caters to the money savers of the world, but by giving cheap and healthy options, this book could also help boost readers self-esteem - a change of diet is one of the easiest ways to change your mentality.
I highly recommend this book, and I'm definitely going to try to squeeze in some more money books over the next week, just to see if this trend continues.

Because this update is so late, and I've had no chance to read any self-help books over the last couple of days, the concluding post to this investigation is actually going to be posted on the 29th of June, so keep an eye out!

Saturday, 20 June 2015

All Ears Avow - The Vic Swindon, 19/06/15

As I'm sure you can gather by now, if there's a show in Swindon I will try my hardest to be there, and when the line-up is as brilliant as this one nothing is going to stop me attending. Apart from Double Experience, I'd seen all of the bands before, and I was pumped to see if they could all smash their sets once more.

First up were With Ghosts, who opened for Moose Blood when I saw them back in March. At that show I felt a little underwhelmed, because they had absolutely blown me away supporting Decade, but thankfully at this show they were back at the top of their game. Last time I saw them it was disappointing that there were some musical issues, but after hearing the band in the same venue again I'm thinking it was more likely to be technical problems rather than something for which they were at fault.
I'm still impressed by how memorable their songs are - I could remember lyrics despite the fact that I'd only heard the songs once, and that was the same tonight. Opening songs 'On My Own' and 'Just A Ghost' are both brilliantly written, catchy, memorable and reminiscent of Verses or Only Rivals, both UK pop-punk bands who are rapidly rising through the ranks. 'Bury Me' has a backing vocal from bassist Josh Rankin, and his vocal complemented that of Nathan Gregory beautifully, and I really enjoyed seeing another aspect to their set.
With Ghosts aren't smashing down any boundaries, and would comfortably appeal to fans of Kids In Glass Houses or You Me At Six, but this isn't a bad thing - what they do, they do well. The band seemed much more comfortable on stage this time around, taking the time to talk to the crowd and joking around a little bit, and that's great to see; they're very good and they should start believing in themselves more. Still waiting on that EP, though...

On My Own
Just A Ghost
Growing Up
Bury Me
Sorry, I'm Not Sorry

I only saw Elasea a couple of weeks ago, as support for Funeral For A Friend, but they were the standout moment at that show and so were the main reason I decided to go along to this one. I was actually really happy about the fact that they played the same setlist, because it really demonstrated how memorable the songs were - similarly to With Ghosts, I was singing along to the whole first half of their set, and was amazed that I could remember them so well.
I definitely think I enjoyed Elasea more in a smaller venue; the outro to 'Time Is Against Us' sent shivers down my spine, and was much more memorable in a room where the whole crowd were enraptured by their performance. At the previous show, the crowd had seemed fairly nonchalant, but it was great to see a lot of people getting really into their performance, because they definitely deserve it.
Part of the charm of Elasea is that they sound similar to other bands, but it isn't blatantly in your face; they're a force unto themselves. I found myself thinking that the guitar line in 'Shallow Waters' was similar to 'History' by Funeral For A Friend, and I found it ironic that I didn't hear that when I saw them together, but I could still hear the essence of Lower Than Atlantis or Mallory Knox woven throughout.
Even though I enjoyed this smaller show it definitely doesn't mean that I think they're going to stay in small venues. I'm going to advise you to keep a close eye on this band, because they have so much promise, and I can't wait to see them again in the future. With the (inadvertent) announcement that there's a music video for 'Lost In The Dark' coming soon, I'm highly anticipating it - the song is sure to be a big one, and I can imagine it filling arenas because of how beautifully it's written. I hadn't heard of Elasea until the first time I saw them, but I'm not going to be forgetting them any time soon.

To Feel Alive
Time Is Against Us
Glory For The Sinner
Lost In The Dark
Glass Heart
Shallow Waters

Completely the opposite, main support band Double Experience were a group that I'd never heard of before, and this was explained when I found out that they're actually Canadian! Having landed in the UK on May 16th, they've been playing a handful of shows around the country during their time here, and I for one am very pleased that I stumbled across their frenetically energetic show.
From the moment they started, I couldn't help but compare them to Panic! At The Disco or Fall Out Boy; not musically, but vocally. Ian Nichols voice has that inimitable flair of theatricality that means you just get sucked completely into the music, and I was stunned and impressed by what I was hearing. 'Wolf In The Ewe', their opening song, was completely absorbing, and the entire crowd was eating out of the palms of Double Experience's hands - even though I could bet that not many of the audience had heard of them before tonight.
This didn't let up throughout, and with guitarist Brock Tinsley announcing that they'd come all the way from Canada to "erase all memories of Justin Bieber and Celine Dion", I can almost categorically confirm that they succeeded in doing exactly that throughout their thirty minute set.
Double Experience definitely felt like the most niche act of the evening - the other bands are all rock and pop-punk, but Double Experience are definitely succeeding with their own mission statement and are "bringing the 'roll' back into rock music", as well as having songs that had synths - it was just such a hugely unique mixture. I can't imagine these guys selling out massive venues, because they do seem as though they will have more success as an underground band, but when you have songs about pirates and Godzilla, and bring the fun level to a show, that's all you really need.

Setlist: (which I think is correct, but I might have a song or two wrong!)
Wolf In The Ewe
Who The Hell?
- (song about pirates)
Away With Words
Mojave, Mo' Problems

After such a brilliantly rounded and talented bill, All Ears Avow had a hell of a lot to live up to - and by god, they played the best I've ever seen them. I'd seen them before their Decade support slot and I didn't find them memorable at all, but something fundamental has changed because this is not a band you can pass over easily anymore - their songs grab you by the throat and do not let go.
As this was a launch party for their album, 'Get In The Game', the majority of their set was new material, and it was stunning to see how well received it was so quickly. Opening with 'I Must Be Dreaming...', the intro song to the album, was a great move - it's a bit of a quieter, understated song, and following it up with the powerfully performed 'I Can Help You To Bend' showed exactly what All Ears Avow are about.
'You're Not Yourself' was probably my favourite of the new songs performed - the strength in the song is palpable, and Claire Sutton screaming "I just don't care" felt so damn empowering. If it's possible, I think her live vocal has gotten even better since the last time I saw them, and it blew me away back then! The end of the song has a brilliant split vocal, with each member singing a different vocal line, and it was obvious how much each of them was enjoying the show. This band aren't going to get complacent; despite the fact that they've just released an album and that is a huge deal, you can still see that they're trying hard to put on a brilliant show and want to make the best possible night out for their crowd.
Some bizarre part of me still finds aspects of All Ears Avow that sound like Don Broco - last time I saw them it was during 'Better Now', but during this show they played a new song called 'Along The Way'. With a funk influenced introduction that got everyone dancing and the gradual development into the heavier sound, Don Broco are one of the only bands I know that can pull it off without it sounding cheesy, so I'm glad I've finally found another band with the talent for mixing the genres seamlessly.
The thing that really stood out for me about this show was how different the songs on 'Get In The Game' were from each other, but how cohesive they sounded as a collection. 'Walls' is an epic of a song, and when compared to 'Along The Way' or 'I Must Be Dreaming...' it's such a marked difference, but it feels like a natural progression of the bands sound which is a huge achievement - one that many well-established bands cannot successfully achieve. Even older songs 'Wings On Butterflies' and 'Home' still sounded at home (haha!) in their set, though they were notably softer than the newer material. That's definitely a testament to how talented All Ears Avow are; they're serious about their craft, and they aren't just throwing songs out here there and everywhere - you can tell that this album has had a lot of time and effort poured into it, and the band deserve a huge round of applause just for that. The album was recorded strictly DIY, over the course of a year and a half, and it's a huge accomplishment.
I am very proud of this band - they're giving Swindon a good name, and it's about time really! I've never before seen a band of this size perform an encore, but the second the music stopped the chant of "One more song!" started flooding the room, and it really is inspiring to see a crowd get so involved with a local band. If you're from around Swindon, I'd suggest you check out All Ears Avow's upcoming tour dates, as they're playing Wantage and Bristol over the next few days and this is not a show that you want to miss.

I Must Be Dreaming...
I Can Help You To Bend
You're Not Yourself
Wings On Butterflies
Along The Way
Waiting Games
Tongue Tied
Better Now

Thursday, 18 June 2015

TOP TEN LIST: Eliza Boyd (+ 'One Chance Night' spoiler free review!)

On the surface, Chelsea Greer has it all: A loving husband. A nice house. A good job. 
In reality, she works hard to maintain the illusion this is her life. She's also missing the most important life: 
One night could change her life. One night could give her the strength to rediscover what's important. In one night, she could find love when she most needs it and least expects it. 
All Chelsea has to do is follow her heart after One Chance Night.  

I actually read 'One Chance Night' last month, and posted my review, but with the blog tour coming around I thought I'd give you all another chance to catch it, in case you missed it first time around. This review excerpt is going to be slightly shorter and completely spoiler free, but you're more than welcome to read my spoilery review here!
'Change has never done me any favors--mostly because I've never tried it--so I don't know why I imagined that tonight would be any different.'
In this novel, we follow Chelsea Greer through her 'One Chance Night' - in which she takes a chance and heads to a bar with a work colleague and her roommate, two women she hardly knows, despite the fact that her husband would go crazy if he knew she had sneaked out of the house while he spent time with his friends. On this night out, she meets mystery man Brett, who recognises the fact that she isn't happy and takes it upon himself to help her with her problems and give her the confidence to make changes in her life - and decide whether to take a chance on the possibility of true love...
The premise of 'One Chance Night' was reminiscent of synopsis's I'd read about Gayle Forman's 'Just One Day' (which I admittedly haven't picked up yet!) but it meant that I was very interested in reading a novel set entirely in one evening, even if I did worry that it might get a little stale. Thankfully, it didn't! The first half of the novel was well developed and gave a brilliant setting of Chelsea's life, letting us see inside her relationship with Wesley, the husband she just doesn't love anymore. 
But, surprisingly, there is a little jump in time - between the One Chance Night and a period of time eight months later. I will admit that I did find this a bit hard to get my head around - I'd gotten perfectly into the mind frame for the story and then it jumped quite drastically, but it definitely kept the novel interesting and moved the story along.
Eliza Boyd crafts brilliant characters, and I loved her constant referencing of country songs (some that I knew, some that I didn't, but all that I've written down to listen to as a playlist!) because it is a really under-appreciated genre, and one that specialises in the storytelling aspect of lyric writing, making it perfect to add a deeper level to this kind of novel.
If you're interested in reading 'One Chance Night', it's available on Amazon UK and Amazon US! The second installment in the series, 'Two Pink Lines', will be out in just under a year, so keep an eye out for that too - I guarantee it's going to be great.
Because I was so interested in the country music aspect of the novel, when I got the chance to ask Eliza Boyd for a top ten list, there was no way I could resist asking her about her favourite country music songs! So get your cowboy boots on and get ready to dance, because Eliza is about to give your ears a treat!

1. Sam Hunt - Take Your Time 
From the moment I heard this song, I've been in love. His mix of spoken word and singing and his fresh, creative songwriting combine to make something incredible. Plus, he's pretty nice on the eyes :)

2. Blake Shelton - Boys 'round Here
He's pretty classic, but his new stuff is what got me interested. This song is so fun! He has some really romantic songs too. And his live show is really entertaining. 
3. Florida Georgia Line - Round Here
They have a great live show too, but I love the catchy tunes (even though I really didn't like 'Cruise' when I first heard it). But this one is probably my favorite, as it inspired the very first book I started to write. 
 4. Lady Antebellum - Downtown 
This song screams karaoke to me. And it's cute and it makes me dance. I haven't listened to too much of their other music, but I enjoy this song a lot. 
5. Dustin Lynch - Where It's At
I love to dance and sing to this in the car (like I do with all of these songs). It makes me happy! The whole song is cute and fun #yepyep
 6. Thomas Rhett - Get Me Some Of That
Yet another song I love to sing and dance to in the car! Makes me want to swing my hips and sling my hair like he says in the song. Haha!
7. Brett Eldredge - Don't Ya
Ooooh this song. It made the idea of 'One Chance Night' pop into my head, so I can't be mad at it. Haha! But I actually love it. I love his deep voice. Hehe. 
8. Kelsea Ballerini - Yeah Boy
Or 'Love Me Like You Mean It' or 'Dibs' or 'XO'. Seriously, I love this girl. Her songs are catchy, well written, and fun. She's incredible live, too. Her voice is on point and she kills it. Good stuff!
 9. Rascal Flatts - Mayberry
This song makes me feel like I'm in the South, sitting in a rocking chair on a porch with some really chill souls who might be strumming a guitar. Love it! :)
10. Sam Hunt - Speakers
Okay, I tried not to repeat, but I can't help it. His music is amazing, this song is so romantic in that ooey-gooey way. Mmmm. :) It's slow and sweet and I totally dig it. 

I want to say a massive thank you to Eliza Boyd, both for writing a brilliant novel and for giving me some fantastic country music recommendations - these songs are so summery, and I know for a fact they're going to be incorporated into many a mixtape over this coming summer.
I also want to say a huge thank you to Patchwork Press for giving me the opportunity to get involved in this book tour. As regular readers of my blog know, half of my reviews are for concerts that I've been to, so it was brilliant to finally have the two sides of my blog working in harmony for this music-orientated book tour! I hope you enjoyed this post and found some country music that you can enjoy - it'll take over your life before you know it.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

FANCAST: 'Infinite' by Erica Crouch (+ review!)

I am both excited and sad to say that today is the official release day for the final book in Erica Crouch's Ignite series! I'm excited, because it's really about time this book was released on the world - I can't wait to see what everyone else thinks about it, because I really enjoyed it. But I'm also really sad, because over the last six months while I've been reading the Ignite series, I've really fallen in love with Pen and Michael and Azael and their story, and I really didn't want it to end.
There are infinite ways to die, and the fates are calling for blood. After evading Azael since her betrayal, it's finally time for Pen to stop running and face her desperate brother. But she won't have to challenge him alone: the rebel army of New Genesis is ready to stand strong and fight to secure the future they believe in.
As Azael spirals deeper and deeper into darkness, and Pen grapples with her new leadership role, a familiar name rises to power whose decisions have the potential to rewrite everyone's future. Dangerous secrets, silent traitors, and unraveling fates means that time is running out. There's no telling who will survive the final battle. 
In this thrilling conclusion to the Ignite series, Pen and Azael return to finish what they started over a millennia ago.  
I don't even really know what to say about this final installment -

- but I'm going to give a little spoiler free review (for the final book, there might be spoilers from earlier in the series!) here, if I can get enough words together to express my thoughts.

'The world is so full of unnecessary people. It is my job to erase them. No one has to order me to do so; I know that it's what I'm meant to do. It's the only purpose my life has anymore.'

If you've read the previous books in the series, you'll know that at this point in time Pen and Michael are with New Genesis members in London, attempting to retrieve the piece of his soul that was separated from him when he was reincarnated. 'Infinite' picks up basically where 'Incite' finished - but instead of just getting Pen and Azael's perspectives in this third novel, we also get to see inside the mind of Lilith, which lends itself to some of the most dark and twisted writing that I've ever read.
The three perspectives mean that we get to see all of the events going on from the different angles, which is both a good and bad thing. In the big fighting scenes it's an absolute blessing - there's so much going on that it would get confusing at times without the other perspectives, or we would always feel as though we were missing something. However, it does make the pace of the novel slow down a lot through the other scenes - there are bits when nothing really seems to be happening, so there's just a lot of talking or internal ruminating on past situations, which was hard to get through but definitely expected with all of the loose ends needing to be tied up in this final installment.
I'm not going to give anything away, but just know that I did shed a few tears throughout this novel and I definitely wish the series didn't have to come to an end, but you won't be disappointed with what Erica Crouch decided to do with it. I had been quite apprehensive about this final book (I'm notorious for never finishing series because I get too nervous about their endings) but I've come out of it just wanting to go back in and read the series all over again. It progressed so well throughout the three books, developing and growing more with every installment, and I definitely rate this series very highly as a whole. This final installment wasn't as flawless as the second book, which was definitely my favourite volume, but it was still much better than most of the books I've ever read, and I love all the characters and the writing style utterly and completely. 
Thank you, Erica, for writing such a brilliant series, and please don't take too long before you come out with another book!

If you're still not sure if 'Infinite' is the book for you, I've included a small excerpt below, just to completely convince you...
Descending the stone stairs of the tower, I shove all thoughts of Jeremy aside. When I crash out into the courtyard, I see her. It's like running into a wall. It stops me dead in my tracks, seeing my sister for the first time since she betrayed me. 
She's dressed in dark, sturdy leather, and her skin is the color of the spidering ice beneath her. Her shoulders are back--the slump she'd held herself in over so many years ironed away by defiance. There's a new strength about her that I can't quite pin, and when Michael reaches out to touch her, a roaring begins in my ears. I'll cut his fingers off one by one. Then maybe I'll feed them to the birds.
The wind tosses Pen's hair across her face for a moment before I can see her more clearly. She's dark and deadly, her eyes bright and her weapons at the ready. All of her muscles are poised to strike at anything that comes near her, and I drink in the picture of my warrior sister. This is who I always wanted her to be: a fighter, forged from iron and bathed in blood. She could rule Hell by my side. If others saw this version of her, they'd understand.
But no one's seen this rendering of Pen. They saw the weak girl splashed with ink. The small demon who ducked her head and spoke to herself too often. They see a traitor, a coward, an angel-lover.
I want to kill her. I want to save her. 
I don't know which one will win out tonight. 
I know you're really pumped for 'Infinite' now, so I'm pleased to be able to give you the chance to win a copy!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Because Erica is doing a Q&A when the 'Infinite' blog tour finishes, you can leave your comments with your questions, that way you're killing two birds with one stone and entering the giveaway too!
If you just can't wait for the giveaway to be over, 'Infinite' is available on Amazon UK and Amazon US - so go, go, go!

Now, it's time for the real celebration to begin... To commemorate the release of 'Infinite', Erica has sent me her dream cast if the series was ever adapted into a movie! I agree with most of her choices, and had been picturing them myself while reading, so you'll have to let me know what you think about them down in the comments...

Kaya Scodelario as Penemuel

Dylan O'Brien as Azael

Hunter Parrish as Michael

Natalie Dormer as Lilith

Matthew Gray Gubler as Gus

Paige Hurd as Kala

Spencer Locke as Ana

Sam Claflin as Eligor

Kimiko Glenn as Zophiel

Harrison Knight as Zepar

Zendaya as Aym

Isabelle Fuhrman as Proserpine

Jake Abel as Raum

Xavier Samuel as Rimmon

Liam Aitken as Jeremy

Clara Lago as Eiael

And last, but definitely not least, Noah Lomax as Asher!

Isn't it such an amazing cast?! I would watch this movie instantly. Erica told me she can never decide on an actor for Lucifer, but I'm interested to hear who you guys would decide to cast as him? All throughout my reading I was imagining Mark Pellegrino, who played Lucifer in Supernatural, but I'm sure we've all been picturing different people!
And sadly, that's it for this blog post, and for the Ignite series. Another huge thank you to Erica, for letting me come along on this journey with her, and to Patchwork Press, an amazing publishing company who never put out a disappointing title. Just remember, if you have anything to say to Erica, or any questions to ask her, her Q&A is on June 30th and you can leave your questions in a comment down below!

Thursday, 11 June 2015

INVESTIGATION: Can books really fix everything? END OF WEEK TWO.

Last week, I hadn't finished any self-help books, so I decided to write a list of the features that I found in the self-help book that I was half way through. This week, I've actually finished a couple of self-help books, so how do I think the investigation is going at this point? Well, I can show you with one simple image...

I finished 'The Rules of Life', and by the end of the book I'd actually found that 18 of the rules helped me, which was a plus. However, the other 72 were pointless but not too annoying, so I still found that I enjoyed the book overall.
This was the complete opposite to 'Transforming Eight Deadly Emotions into Healthy Ones' by Dr Windy Dryden. I've written a full review over on Goodreads, and I'm not going to go into it too much here because I will just start ranting, because this is one of the most annoying books I've ever had the displeasure to encounter. I didn't even manage to get through the entire book, and one of the things I really pride myself on is that when I pick up a book I fight through and I finish it, no matter how bad it gets. The rule about the language being convoluted definitely applies to this book - you have to wade through lots of psychological babble to get to any of the slightly interesting pieces of advice or information, and they really are only slightly interesting, so I just felt like I was losing much more than I could ever hope to gain.
Two weeks into this investigation, and I'm definitely regretting starting it - it doesn't feel as though I've learnt anything, improved myself or changed any of my negatives. I'm going to persevere over the next two weeks, but I'm not expecting anything mind-blowing to happen at this stage of the game! I've had some advice from a colleague though, and I'll be trying that out over the next week, so watch this space to see how that little diversion goes...

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

GUEST POST: Cait Reynolds (+ review of 'Downcast')

To celebrate the release of 'Downcast' by Cait Reynolds, I'm delighted to welcome her to my blog for a guest post! Once you've read Cait's post (on a topic I'm rather passionate about myself!) you should stick around, because I'll be giving a bit more information about 'Downcast', and writing a spoiler free review to hopefully help you make up your minds on whether it's a book for you!
I'll pass you over to Cait...
The Curse of Too Many Notebooks

I am a sucker for office supplies.

New pens, notebooks, sticky note packs, markers, journals…all of that stuff gives me a sense of empowerment and control over my destiny. It helps me feel like I’m actually in control of the chaos that surrounds me.

The only problem is…I tend to get carried away with notebooks and journals. I want to start a new notebook for every project, but then I start too many projects and have too many notebooks going at once. It makes it tricky to say, “Oh, I don’t want to lug my laptop with me. I’ll just take a notebook and work on X along the way.”

Yeah, that’s great if you have one notebook. Not so great if you have five.

But…I can’t resist. Limited edition art Moleskine? I’m a sucker. Unique vintage label notebook?  I roll over and play dead. Cute little notebook to fit in my purse? BUY THEM ALL! Smash Journals on clearance at Marshall’s? Yeah. Stick a fork in me, I’m done.

It’s awful. I try to limit myself. In January, I made a stern resolution not to buy any more journals until I’ve used up the ones I have. That’s like trying to tell a PMS’ing woman not to eat chocolate. It’s hard. So hard.

The thing is, though, the gratification I get from finishing a notebook and being able to go back through it and capture all the delicious little bits and ideas is such a rewarding experience. I can’t give it up.

So, what’s a girl to do? Well, I have whittled myself down to three notebooks and a planner for the moment. It’s kind of killing me, but I feel like a better, stronger person for it. I’ve even assigned them all different roles.

One notebook is for my Olympus Falling series. This is where I keep track of all my ideas. It’s a plain brown paper cover Moleskine that I’ve doodled “Downcast,” “Thunderstruck,” and “Sunkissed” all over.

One notebook is a Smash Journal that I use for my obsessive list making. My brain revs like a racecar all the time, and I need a place to write and rewrite lists so I feel like I’m in control and don’t have to worry about forgetting something. It’s a sickness, but I’ve learned to accept it. In some ways, seeing an unchecked-off checklist motivates me almost as much as new office supplies.

The third notebook is where I keep everything else that comes into my brain. This is where I write down character names that don’t have novels, and novel ideas that don’t have characters. I write down phrases that pop into my head. I keep notes on my freelance work. I really hope I can finish this notebook soon, though, because it’s spiral bound, and I’m just not loving the feeling of it. It reminds me too much of school.

For an actual planner, I use the Passion Planner. It’s by far the best planner I’ve found for someone who is a writer. It helps me keep track of what I need to do for my personal life and for my professional life at the same time. This is where I winnow down those giant lists from my Smash Journal and become realistic about what I can actually do in a day or a week.

Still…still, there is a shelf of empty notebooks, staring at me. Beckoning to me with their empty pages and endless potential. That shelf sits in my peripheral vision as I work. It’s torture. It’s like saying I will eat only one potato chip – which has never yet happened in the entire history of mankind.

Some of my friends wonder why I don’t keep things electronically, using Evernote or some other organizational program. The answer is simple: I believe that writing should involve some writing.

In one of my former lives, I worked at an architecture and design school. Even in this age of fancy computer design and graphics, there was an endless drumbeat of reminding the students to keep an actual sketch journal. Why? Because there is a hand-to-mind connection that cannot be denied and is actually a valuable part of the creative process.

Now, I’m not saying I’m about to run off and use parchment and quills to write my next book. But, when working out ideas, there is a lot to be said for the actual time it takes to handwrite something as opposed to typing it out.

For myself, it forces me to think through my idea before I go to the effort of writing it down. Or, while I’m writing, the idea has time to mature and change. Typing happens so fast that there often isn’t that chance for an idea to refine itself before being committed to a page.

Writing in a notebook is a frustrating, engrossing, fascinating experience for me, and I value it tremendously as a part of my overall writing process. Besides, someday, I’d like to look back at a shelf of full notebooks, seeing a physical, tangible record of all the things I’ve thought and written.

But with my luck, there will be a shelf of fresh, empty notebooks right next to it, just waiting for me to jump in and start writing again. 
I don't think I can agree more! When I started doing fiction writing at the start of the year, I decided to purchase five notebooks, but I know that I'll fill them all up someday... So why not buy some to keep in reserve, for when I need them? Or what about all those writing emergencies? I've been trying to control my notepad buying, and I think Cait's advice will definitely help me with my obsessive purchasing.

About the book: 

What would you do when faced with an impossible truth? Written with heart and passion, Downcast by Cait Reynolds is ripe with twists you never saw coming and love that defies the odds in this intense new Paranormal Romance retelling of one of mythology's greatest love stories.
It's the start of Stephanie Starr's senior year of high school, but sadly, this is no life of the prom queen. Stuck at the bottom of the high school social totem pole, Stephanie is forced by her domineering mother to wear lumpy linen dresses and eat organic tofu for lunch in a world of mini-skirts and pizza. 
What Stephanie doesn't anticipate is gorgeous and cocky Haley Smith, who breaks social convention and pursues her with a determination that is both terrifying and flattering. Afraid that Haley is simply trying to set her up for massive humiliation, Stephanie does her best to push him away. But the more attention he pays to her, the more she runs, and the more everyone else begins to notice.
Instead of a loving family to support her as the mean girls make their play, Stephanie's mother begins to unravel mentally, her possessiveness of Stephanie spiraling to new and frightening extremes. Stephanie is forced to grow up, find herself, and learn the truth about her past in order to save her mother, her friends, and her town. When the truth is revealed, nothing can prepare her for the outrageous reality of her existence... and nothing can save her from her fate.
Except Haley.
A big thank you to Booktrope, for accepting my request to read and review 'Downcast' on NetGalley, and to NetGalley for the service that they provide!

I really enjoyed 'Downcast' - much more than I was expecting to, in fact. I had an idea about which mythological love story was going to be retold, and I was completely right, so I was worried that it was all going to be a bit too predictable as it is a very well-known story. However, this book wasn't predictable at all.
There were lots of surprising elements thrown in throughout, meaning that for many long sections of the novel I was finding myself rather on edge, because literally anything could have happened. Stephanie's mother's psychological deterioration was a central element to this; Stephanie was so on edge, and that paranoia and anxiety was extremely well written, meaning that you couldn't help but feel the same emotions snaking through your body while you read.
The romance is a little bit too insta-love for my tastes, but I know that appeals to a lot of people so this will definitely be a favourite among members of the 'Twilight' fandom - the story and the writing style are extremely different, but the love aspect of the plot is extremely similar. However, because it was based on a mythological romance and was going on the idea of fate sealing people's destinies together, it was almost necessary to be an insta-love, so I'm going to let it slide.
I don't want to give anything away, because I'm attempting to give a spoiler free review, but just know that despite the beginning being a bit of a slow burn and it taking quite a while to get into the main story, the actual retelling is creative and unique and will definitely entertain and intrigue you. This is the first installment in Cait Reynolds 'Olympus Falling' series, and I am definitely gonna keep an eye out for the following books.
If you're interested in purchasing 'Downcast', it's available on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

About the author:

Cait Reynolds lives in the Boston area with her husband and 4-legged fur child. She discovered her passion for writing early and has bugged her family and friends with it ever since. When she isn't cooking delicious meals, running around the city, rock climbing like a boss, or enjoying the rooftop deck that brings her closer to the stars, she writes. Reynolds is able to pull from real life experiences such as her kidney transplant, and her writing reflects her passion for life from having to face the darkest places and find the will to laugh.
If you want to find out more about Cait, you can visit her website or follow her on Twitter or Goodreads.

Last, but certainly not least, I'd like to say a hugely massive thank you to Kellie Sheridan at Booktrope for inviting me on this blog tour and connecting me with Cait!

COVER REVEAL! 'Midnight Burning' by Karissa Laurel

Another day, another cover reveal - this time for 'Midnight Burning', a new urban fantasy from Karissa Laurel! This cover reveal has been organised by Good Tales Book Tours, so a big thank you to them for letting me get involved.
Scroll on down to see the cover, you know you want to...

That is one heck of a book cover. I love the fact that you can see the mountains right behind the city; it makes me think there's going to be some journeying in this novel, and it's going to be cold and spooky and that's all you really need to make a brilliant urban fantasy setting. I think this, combined with the blurb, definitely means I'm going to have to pick it up at some point - and I really like the fact that it sounds as though it's going to be an adult urban fantasy, which is something I haven't read in a long time. 

About the book:
Solina Mundy lives a quiet life, running the family bakery in her small North Carolina hometown. But one night, she suffers a vivid nightmare in which a wolfish beast is devouring her twin brother, who lives in Alaska. The next morning, the police notify her that Mani is dead. Driven to learn the truth, Solina heads for the Land of the Midnight Sun. Once there, she begins to suspect Mani's friends know more about his death than they've let on. Skyla, an ex-Marine, is the only one willing to help her. 
As Solina and Skyla delve into the mystery surrounding Mani's death, Solina is stunned to learn that her own life is tied to Mani's friends, his death, and the fate of the entire world. If she can't learn to control her newfound gifts and keep her friends safe, a long-lost dominion over mortals will rise again, and everything she knows will fall into darkness.  
'Midnight Burning' publishes on July the 7th, so only a little under a month to go!

About the author: 

Karissa Laurel has always dabbled in writing, but she also wanted to be a chef when she grew up. So she did. After years of working nights, weekends, and holidays, she burnt out and said "Now what do I do?" She tried a bunch of other things, the most steady of those being a paralegal for state government, but nothing makes her as happy as writing. She has published several short stories and reads "slush" for a couple of short-story markets. 
Karissa lives in North Carolina with her kid, her husband, the occasional in-law, and a very hairy husky. She loves to read and has a sweet tooth for speculative fiction. Sometimes her husband convinces her to put down the books and take the motorcycles out for a spin. When it snows, you'll find her on the slopes. 
Karissa also paints and draws and harbors a grand delusion that she might finish a graphic novel someday. 

If you'd like to contact Karissa to tell her how beautiful her book cover is, you can tweet her @KarissaLaurel, or contact her on Facebook.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Endless Possibilities Read-a-thon Wrap-up!

endless jpg

Over these past few days, I've been taking part in the Endless Possibilities Read-a-Thon in conjunction with Good Tales Book Tours. I'd like to say another big thank you to Good Tales, for allowing me to take part in this read-a-thon, it was so much fun!
During the read-a-thon, I managed to complete two books: 'The Lover's Dictionary' by David Levithan and 'Panic' by Lauren Oliver. Not as many as I'd been hoping to read, but I was quite busy with work and going to a concert on Sunday night, so I couldn't apply myself to the reading as much as I wanted to. 

'The Lover's Dictionary' by David Levithan is quite a short book, as it's the story of a couple told through dictionary definitions; each 'chapter' is a word, and the plot on that page relates to the word. The thing I love about this novel is that we don't get any specifics about the couple - they could be young or old, black or white - and we don't get their names either, so it's easy to relate to the story no matter what background you come from. 
I either love or hate David Levithan's writing - he's extremely Marmite to me. 'Every Day' was one of my favourite books, but when I read 'Marly's Ghost' at the beginning of this year I was supremely disappointed. This meant I was quite nervous going into 'The Lover's Dictionary', as I'd been anticipating it quite highly due to the unique structuring of the story.
Thankfully, I was pretty impressed. When you get to the end it is a bit deflating, but because it's a snapshot of a life I was never going to get a resolution that I was completely happy with. The writing style was perfect though, quintessential Levithan, as he has such a talent for putting into words the little feelings that it's hard to verbalise. An example of that would be:
'I don't like it when you use my shampoo, because then your hair smells like me, not you.'
I really don't know why that quote touched me as much as it did, but I'm not ashamed to admit that it did make me shed a few tears - I was already feeling quite emotional from the rollercoaster ride that was their romance, and it really hit home because it was such an ordinary, day-to-day thing to comment upon.
This wasn't my favourite David Levithan book, but I can see myself coming back to this one over and over again in the future - it was a very quick read, taking me only a couple of hours, but I did really enjoy this one.


The second book I read during the read-a-thon was 'Panic' by Lauren Oliver. I actually started this one first, but there was so much going on and it was so adrenaline-filled that I needed to take a bit of a break, because I get really emotionally involved in novels like this and I was much too on edge.
Panic is a game played by the seniors of the high school in Carp - every summer you can choose to participate in the game for the chance to win a minimum prize of $50,000. Panic has been going for seven years, and there has been three deaths in the game in that time period, but when you're from a dead-end town the desperation takes over, and nothing will stop you from trying to get a better life for yourself.
This is a dual perspective novel, switching between Heather and Dodge. Heather lives in the Fresh Pines trailer park with her mother, step-father and sister, and at first she only joins Panic to find a reason to be alive - she's just found out her long-term boyfriend, Matt, is cheating on her, and she's feeling pretty down in the dumps. However, Dodge has a much better reason for playing Panic - revenge, pure and simple. In a game of Panic a few years ago, the brakes on his sisters car were tampered with, leaving her paralyzed from the waist down. Now, the saboteurs brother is in Dodge's game of Panic, and Dodge wants to take something from him. "A sister's legs for a brother's life.". 
Panic is addictive; both the game and the book. I thought this would take me a while to read, but with the rapidly passing days and the sudden arrival of new Panic tasks, I flew through this book. This is the second Lauren Oliver novel that I've read (the first being 'Before I Fall') and I still absolutely love her writing, her characterisation and her characters voices. They seem to come alive on the page, and I have a feeling Heather and Dodge will follow me for a long time from now.
There were still a couple of issues with it - something that is meant to be really subtle and surprising was really obvious to me from one of the second chapters, so all of the hints and clues placed throughout just kind of annoyed me. But other than that, this one was an absolute rollercoaster, and I could not predict how it was going to end.
If you haven't read a Lauren Oliver novel yet, you really need to get on with it - you will not regret it, I promise you.

That was all I managed to read during these three days, but I'm pretty proud of it - I'd wanted to read both books for so long but hadn't had any time, and they both ended up being ace. Got some other exciting book things coming on the blog later this week, so keep an eye out! 

Funeral For A Friend - Oxford O2 Academy 2, 06/06/15

This was my second time seeing Funeral For A Friend, the first being their slot on the Lock Up stage at Reading and Leeds 2013 - so as you can imagine, this was a massively different show to experience. With a tightly packed (yet a bit on the small side) crowd in attendance waiting patiently for their headline band, it was brilliant that the supports were complete 180's to each other, and it made for a very interesting line-up that will have definitely appealed to everyone in some shape or form.

Opening band Elasea were definitely the support band that I preferred. Starting off with 'To Feel Alive', I was impressed with the transition they performed between their first and second songs - it was seamless and had a professional feel that is lacking in many much more established bands. In fact, their entire set was so polished it felt for a moment as though this could be an Elasea headline show: the flashing lights perfectly synced to the music immersed me in the music completely, and I was surprised by how quickly their set flew past. 
The standout track for me was definitely torn between 'Lost In The Dark' and 'Glass Heart' - the former had beautiful lyrics that would be perfect screamed back by a huge crowd, while the latter was reminiscent of Lower Than Atlantis or Fort Hope, showing that there is definitely a fanbase out there waiting for this band. But while they were my favourites, the other songs all had their own distinct moments - the drum beat on 'Glory For The Sinner' is still stuck in my head, and 'Shallow Waters' (which they have a really awesome music video for) was also catchy and infectious, with more of a grunge twist on the rock sound and a super atmospheric breakdown in the middle.
I hadn't heard of Elasea before the show, but their style of music appealed to me and I've come away quite excited about where these guys can go in the future. They've only been around for a handful of years, and with the announcement at the show that they've been recording an EP, this will be their time - I'm certain of it. They're playing a show in Swindon, my home town, in a couple of weeks, and I'm going to try my hardest to get along to it - if you have a chance, go, you won't regret it. 

To Feel Alive
Time Is Against Us
Glory For The Sinner
Lost In The Dark
Glass Heart
Shallow Waters

However, second support band Korsakoffs were really not my cup of tea. Very very heavy, with lots of shouting, for most of their set I just felt as though I was being engulfed in an endless wave of noise. Some of the crowd definitely seemed to be enjoying it, with lots of cheering along at the end of all of their songs, but the set all seemed a bit one dimensional to me, and that one dimensional was not appealing. 
Don't get me wrong, they all seemed like lovely guys - their onstage banter was a bit lacking, but they all just seemed so utterly pleased to be there - and they played their instruments well, but this just wasn't something I was going to enjoy.
Their penultimate song was definitely the most different. Main vocalist/shouter Ben Woosnam went to backing vocals, and bassist Ben Royle took over lead vocals for a song, and Royle's voice definitely appealed to my music taste more. The song was rambling and lengthy, bringing to mind Metallica, but it was a welcome reprieve from the heaviness that had stayed center stage throughout. 

I was beyond excited about seeing my first Funeral For A Friend headline show, especially following the release of 'Chapter and Verse' last year, and I was not disappointed. Starting with 'Pencil Pusher' I was shocked by how much vibrancy the band were displaying - at Reading their set was quite pared back, completely in contrast with this explosive performance. Transitioning straight into 'High Castles', the energy only let up for a slight break for guitarist Gavin Burrough to have a personal discussion with a member of the crowd, but the band were soon back at it again. It's a testament to Gavin, and to the rest of the guys, that they carried the show on with such professionalism, and all of the crowd seemed sympathetic to the situation as well. 
The rest of the set didn't let up, with 'Streetcar' really kicking the crowd up a gear. I was quite surprised by how much better the reception was for the older songs - you could tell that the crowd was attentive and respectful through some of their newer tunes, but the older tracks were the only ones that got the crowd moving as much as I'd been expecting them to. Vocalist Matthew Davies-Kreye apologised for his voice sounding a bit rough, citing their "over-excited" final set at Camden Rocks last weekend, and stating he was "trying [his] darnedest to sound pretty", but even Matt's vocal problems couldn't detract from a brilliant performed and well-crafted set. There was a focus upon older material, which you could tell the crowd appreciated, but they also managed to fit in a selection of hits from their three most recent albums, and it was great to hear the different eras of their music complementing each other so casually. 
There were multiple touching moments throughout the set, with Matt dedicating 'Storytelling' to his sister, and sharing anecdotes about his niece and nephew, who have both been going to Funeral For A Friend shows since they were young. Matt's speech before 'Roses For The Dead' was also very heart-wrenching; with Matt sharing that it's "always been a song that brings back memories of people I've cared about that I've had to say goodbye to over the years" and said "it connects me to the people I love now and the people I've loved who are no longer with us". The resounding roar of agreement from the crowd was spine-tingling, and I've never felt more strongly that the sentiment of music being universal and uniting people is completely true. 
In all honesty, all of the early material that they played gave me the same feeling. The second half of the set was purely made up of older material, kick starting it with 'Recovery', my personal favourite Funeral song of all time. Despite the fact that the lyrics are bleak and depressing, the music is still something that you can dance to, which will always be a strange juxtaposition to me - but you could tell how cathartic this show was for many of the people in attendance. This was cemented at the end of 'History', in which the audience sang the entire final chorus completely unaccompanied, and ended up being louder than the band were through their entire set. A brief chant of "when I say 'scuba', you say 'Steve'" went up, and it made this show seem even stranger - for an emo rock band to have gang chant moments like that is just so weird but, bizarrely, it works.
If you've been to a lot of Funeral For A Friend shows, you might know that this is just the norm for their sets, but this was my first proper show and it really felt like something special. With fourteen years of experience comes a certain finesse and ease with the crowd, and even though Matt's vocal was strained and slightly inaudible at times, the smile on his face from doing what he loves made up for the less than perfect sound. If I'm lucky enough to see another Funeral For A Friend set, I'll be happy if it was even half as good as this one. 

Pencil Pusher
High Castles
The Distance
You've Got A Bad Case Of The Religions
Bend Your Arms To Look Like Wings
Front Row Seats To The End Of The World
Old Hymns
Roses For The Dead
Rookie Of The Year
Escape Artists Never Die (ft. Ben Woosnam of Korsakoffs)

Thursday, 4 June 2015

INVESTIGATION: Can books really fix everything? END OF WEEK ONE.

Last week, I announced that I was going to be spending the next four weeks investigating self-help books and their effectiveness. Surprisingly, a whole seven days have passed since that post (where has the time gone?!) so it's time for me to wrap up my first week!
Surprisingly, I didn't actually finish any self-help books this week. I believed it was going to be a super easy task and I would speed through loads of them, but these things actually take some thinking about to get through. The first book I decided to start was 'The Rules of Life' by Richard Templar, because I thought it was better to start off with a self-help book focusing on a wide range of topics, just to ease me in a bit more.
I can't do a full review yet, because I'm only just over halfway through, but I've noticed a few things about this self-help book, that I'm thinking can probably be applied to the others I will read over the next few weeks...
  1. The language is extremely convoluted, or should I say extremely, completely, utterly, one hundred percent definitely convoluted. Take the most simple statement you can imagine: 'Be nice'. It seems pretty easy to move straight on from that one, but the explanation behind the rule just keeps going and going and going!
  2. Everything is contradictory. Don't waste your life... but it's absolutely fine if you want to do nothing for half an hour a day to get some time for yourself! Not checking emails, not reading the newspaper, just sit in your garden and do absolutely nothing! Solid advice? It just seems as though they're attempting to max out on their profits by appealing to everyone - if you overtly agree with one piece of advice, your brain will push out the contradicting piece so that you will believe you agree with the principles that the author is setting up.
  3. If you've watched any children's movies, you probably already know the advice you'll be given. Ripping off sentiments such as 'Just keep swimming' from Dory in 'Finding Nemo' and 'Aim to be the very best at everything you do' sounding like a less exciting version of the Pokemon theme tune, I'd much rather have re-watched these classics if I'd realised their sentiments were going to be so closely replicated. 
  4. Some of this stuff is just completely illogical gobbledegook. An example of which is 'Failing is fine. Aiming for second best isn't.'. When I'm taking a test, I'd much rather get less than top marks than completely fail. When I'm running a marathon, I'd much rather get second place than fail. I think aiming for anywhere in the top five is an achievement really - failure isn't something you should concede to if you cannot be the very best (see, again with the Pokemon!). 
  5. A couple of these things actually make sense. I'm currently on Rule 55 of 'The Rules of Life', and only eight of them have actually been any use to me, but that's more than I'd been expecting!
So instead of being a wrap up of my first week, I've written some predictions of what I'm going to see in the other self-help books over the next few weeks. There has to be a formula to it somewhere (if there wasn't, how could it be such a successful genre?) and I'm guessing these are some of them. We'll see next week whether there are any more rules I can add to this list, but at the moment I'd definitely stand behind these theories in application to multiple self-help titles.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

'Unhinged' (Splintered #2) by A. G. Howard

*This review will contain spoilers!*

"If you won't stay and save Wonderland, I shall bring my own brand of chaos to the human realm."

If you haven't read my review for the first book in the Splintered series, 'Splintered', you should go and read that first! Because this is the second book in the series, I'm not going to be going too much into the establishment of the plot and characters, so if you want any back story you can get it there!
I didn't love the first book in the Splintered series as much as I'd been expecting to, because I had my hopes set insanely high for this series. However, I was certain that it was going to improve over the following two installments, so I couldn't wait to dive into the second book, and boy was I not disappointed.
'Unhinged' focuses much more on the human realm, starting straight off when Morpheus interferes with the human realm and partially drowns Alyssa, forcing her to use her netherling powers to free herself from the situation. He knows she cares about Wonderland, but because she won't admit it and worries much more about the people in her human life, Morpheus decides to take on a human glamour and start attending her school. Meanwhile Red is still causing problems in Wonderland, so Morpheus wants to persuade Alyssa to deal with her once and for all, despite the fact that all she really wants to do is get through prom next week and then move to London with her human boyfriend, Jeb.
The main thing that made me love this novel more than the first installment was definitely the fact that it was bringing Wonderland to us. Instead of trying to reimagine the famous Lewis Carroll scenes, it was brilliant to see the characters in our world, and how they affected the dynamics. Morpheus as a student was such an insane juxtaposition that it completely embodied the ethos of Wonderland, and the craziness just kept going from there. A. G. Howard has such a brilliant imagination, and seeing evil toys wandering in the school corridors and wraiths flooding into the school gym just kept me on the edge of my seat with every page.
However, even with everything that was going on it never seemed busy, which was another big positive. At a couple of points in the first novel I felt rather confused, because there was so much going on that I couldn't get my head around it, but that didn't happen with the action in this second installation. Yes, some of the secrets and lies were difficult to untangle - there was so much deception and confusion! - but because Alyssa didn't know what was going on either it didn't lock anyone out from the development of the plot.
While not much happened in the first half of the novel, it definitely wasn't boring; even though there didn't seem to be much going on, the characters were so compelling that even their developments and interactions were worth reading, and I would have been happy if this book had been longer. Finally getting to meet Alison, Alyssa's mum, properly was great - while at the start of the novel she seems like a terrible character, when her and Alyssa start bonding and opening up they are a badass team! It definitely feels as though we know all of these characters well. I'm finding myself caring about what happens to them and understanding the motivations behind their actions, which is something I can find hard to do! Similarly, love triangles really annoy me in ordinary situations, but the conflict that Alyssa is feeling with the decision between Morpheus and Jeb is completely understandable, and I actually feel sorry for her that she's stuck in the situation - first time for everything!
I am really anticipating the third installation. But I do have the terrible habit that when I'm really enjoying a book I read it really slowly, because I didn't want it to end, but the fact that I was waiting a couple of weeks between sittings of 'Unhinged' and I still didn't forget what was going on is a huge credit to how absorbing this world is. The dialogue is convincing, the characters are all three dimensional and completely unique, and the plot is unpredictable. If you're looking for a book that's going to keep you hooked, this is definitely the one.
I already have my copy of 'Ensnared', but knowing it's the final book in the trilogy makes me want to hold of on starting it - I just don't want this story to come to an end! But the ending of 'Unhinged' is a complete cliffhanger, and I need to know what happens, so I don't think my willpower will last for too long!
If you like retellings, read this book. If you like crazy, unconventional happenings in an everyday setting, read this book. If you like books, read this book! I can't think of anything that would make anyone dislike it, because it's so brilliant.