Wednesday, 30 September 2015

'The Girl's Guide To The Apocalypse' by Daphne Lamb

First things first, I need to thank Booktrope for inviting me to participate in this blog tour! I'd also like to thank them for allowing me to access a copy of this book through NetGalley, and to thank NetGalley for the service that they provide. 

*This review will contain spoilers!*

I've never been disappointed in a Booktrope release, so it saddens me to say that I really, really disliked 'The Girl's Guide To The Apocalypse'. I was very excited about this one after participating in the cover reveal way back in July, but I ended up not enjoying it at all. 
I'm afraid I just really didn't like Daphne Lamb's writing style. Writing comedy is difficult, because there's a very thin line between great comedy writing and average regular narrative. At points, this book was humourous (by this I mean I enjoyed one or two of the one-liners) but for the majority of the novel it just fell short. It was attempting to be a parody, twisting aspects of multiple apocalyptic stories into one to create a smorgasbord of end of the world drama, but it just felt ill thought out and badly prepared.
Because there was so much focus on shoving as many events into the novel as humanely possibly, it meant that the characters were hardly described at all and had no personalities. If you ask me what Verdell Sonobe looks like, I can tell you she's wearing a Batman t-shirt and a UCLA sweatshirt (because, apparently, clothing associates you with gang leaders at the end of the world) but I couldn't give you a hair colour or a definitive description... Apart from the fact that everyone seems to be calling her fat. Given the fact that the other characters surrounding her are constantly complaining about their carb intakes, I'm assuming she's just a regular sized girl surrounded by irregular sized women - it just makes Verdell even more nondescript, apart from her unusual name. 
I mean, yes, Verdell had a personality, if only because we're in her head and are constantly receiving her bitterly complaint-filled internal monologue. That's more than I can say for the other characters, who were flat and one-dimensional, but Verdell's personality was so gratingly irritating that I sincerely wished that she would hurry up and succumb to her inevitable end. I know that the point of this book was that the survivor is lazy and unenthused by the whole "survival" thing, but I just assumed it was a selling point - disastrous, regular person survives apocalypse, so you can too! - and she would end up becoming a better character... Really, she didn't change at all throughout. 
The ensemble of various other characters are just as bad, if not worse. Somehow they keep splitting up and getting pushed back together again, which is logistically impossible in a situation like this, but even if I suspend my disbelief in this aspect I still can't believe how idiotic the characters were. This was because the humour wasn't coming across well - some of the idiotic comments were supposed to be hilarious, but they were just eye-rollingly cringey. It might have been okay if I'd actually liked some of the characters, but because there were so many popping in and out it was impossible to feel a connection with any of them. 
Verdell constantly thinking about how to break up with her boyfriend, her boss constantly telling her to do work-related things for him, her self-obsessed supervisor constantly getting her name wrong... These could have been hilarious, if they'd been executed in a good way. Alas, none of it worked. 
This is the first book that I've read in a completely neutral state. I had feelings of boredom and exasperation at times, sure, but that was with the writing rather than with the characters. It's quite badly constructed and it plods along - Verdell will jump from doing one thing to another thing to another thing, and the amount of dialogue included means that there's hardly any description to set a convincing end of the world scene. We get some generic mentions of crumbling cityscapes, but there's nothing specific to evoke emotion and really invest you in the characters. Yes, I read the entire book, but I didn't feel happy or sad or angry or shocked throughout... It seemed like too many things were included just to evoke a shock from the audience (such as the multiple appearances from cannibals, the multiple deaths of named characters and the multiple random gunshots ripping through the various camps where our protagonist stays) but because there was too much trying to get a reaction, it completely desensitised me to any reaction. 
I will concede to this, however - Daphne Lamb is brilliant at social commentary. Having a survivor scouring a dating app looking for fellow survivors might seem ludicrous, but it's one of the easiest ways to find people near you that you could potentially shelter with... It terrifies me to think that during an apocalypse this could genuinely become a thing, but it's scarily accurate. 
I'm not saying you won't like this book, because you might - I think it just takes a more childish sense of humour, or a more easily entertained mind. Someone else might find this the funniest book of all time, it just wasn't to my taste. The idea was great, but I think I'm going to have to look elsewhere for my sardonic apocalypse tales. 

TOP FIVE WEDNESDAY: Top five banned books I've read

(Top Five Wednesday was created by GingerReadsLainey. Find out more at the Goodreads group!)

This week is Banned Books week, so to celebrate this week Top Five Wednesday is based all around those bad, bad books. I've never purposefully read a book that was banned, but I seem to have accidentally read quite a few, so it was difficult to cut this down to just five!

5) 'The Great Gatsby' by F. Scott Fitzgerald
'The Great Gatsby' was banned because of the language and the sexual references used in the novel. Reading it now, in the 21st Century, it feels extremely tame - a brilliant example of how censorship has changed over the last ninety years.

4) 'Frankenstein' by Mary Shelley
It's no big surprise that 'Frankenstein' got banned. It was written back in 1818, so the fact that a woman managed to write a novel of this standard AND get it published was revolutionary enough, but the fact that it's one of the earliest examples of science fiction also led to challenges. It was officially banned in South Africa, for being objectionable and obscene.

3) '1984' by George Orwell
In the first of two George Orwell novels that I've chosen, '1984' was banned by Stalin, because he believed the satire was based on his leadership regime. Even if it wasn't true, me thinks the lady doth protest too much - he definitely proved that his leadership was overly controlling of the people. 

2) 'Animal Farm' by George Orwell
As soon as banned books are mentioned, my mind instantly jumps to one of my favourite classics of all time: 'Animal Farm'. This novel was also banned due to criticism of the Russian government regime, but more recently it was banned in the United Arab Emirates because of the depiction of talking pigs. 

1) 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' by Lewis Carroll
This is probably the most random book I've seen banned. I mean, come on, what could be wrong with this one?! Well, apparently China just don't like the portrayal of anthropomorphized animals and they worried about the fact that 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' might lead people to hold humans and animals in the same regard. Looking at the dapper Dodo pictured above, I can't see why anyone wouldn't want to respect and love animals as much as humans!

I hope you enjoyed my Top Five Wednesday - post the banned books you love down below, so we can keep rebelling together!

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Ten books to read if you like... Supernatural

(Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and The Bookish!)

Welcome to another Top Ten Tuesday! I was trying to decide on books to read if you liked a specific author, or a specific series... But I just couldn't think of any that would work. So I thought - hm, TV! This Top Ten Tuesday will help you find books to read if you enjoy Supernatural, the spooky, ghost-hunting, paranormal extravaganza.

10) 'You're Never Weird On The Internet (Almost)' by Felicia Day
I don't know why, but I have a feeling Felicia Day's memoir would appeal to our trusty heroes...

9) 'Shiver' by Maggie Stiefvater
A child gets attacked by a wolf in the woods - that can't be a one off incident. Yes, 'Shiver' and the following two books are a little bit too romance-y, but I can imagine Sam and Dean bursting in and making everything much more awkward. 

8) 'Working Stiff' by Rachel Caine
A medication gets created that stops the dead from dying - the ensemble cast of characters have a bloody tricky time getting everything sorted out, so I think they'd need to contact the Winchesters to make everything a little bit easier. 

7) 'The Darkest Part Of The Forest' by Holly Black
Strangely attractive horned man is asleep in a glass coffin, and has been undisturbed for years. Perfect for an episode of Supernatural in which the boys go sight-seeing and accidentally disturb a magical entity.

6) 'The Girl At Midnight' by Melissa Grey
The secret underground societies of the Drakharin and Avicen - dragon and bird people respectively - would definitely draw the attention of the Supernatural squad. 

5) 'Burn For Burn' by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian
Ghostly happenings on a mysterious island - the spirit is rather malevolent... Yeah, Sam and Dean would be called in for this one. 

4) 'The Walls Around Us' by Nova Ren Suma
'The Walls Around Us' includes a haunted prison, and the suspicious deaths of multiple teenage girls at a high school ballet performance. If that doesn't shout Supernatural at you, I don't know what will. 

3) 'Ignite' by Erica Crouch
Fallen angels? Check. Humanity in mortal peril? Check. Sam and Dean would be right in the middle of this one.

2) 'The Archived' by Victoria Schwab
'The Archived' is based on the idea that when people die, they are kept in a library and their histories can be revisited. They manage to keep the situation under control quite well, but sometimes the Histories get violent and attempt to escape. If it got really, really bad, I can imagine the brothers would definitely investigate this one. 

1) 'Silverwood' by Betsy Streeter
When I read 'Silverwood', I couldn't get it out of my head that the main character was in a very similar situation to Sam and Dean - her father is absent, and then terrifying things start taking over her life and she ends up monster hunting. Perfect for a Supernatural fan. 

Monday, 28 September 2015

'Hour of Mischief' by Aimee Hyndman

First things first, I need to say a huge thanks to Curiosity Quills - they sent me an e-copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review, so here it is!

Welcome to my stop on the 'Hour of Mischief' blog tour! I hadn't read a high fantasy novel in a very long time, and a high fantasy with steampunk overtones? That's something I was unable to miss. The aesthetic of steampunk is one of my very favourite things, but I've never read a novel about it before - I was very interested to see how it would play out. Haven't heard of 'Hour of Mischief'? Here's the blurb:
Born in a whorehouse in the slums of Fortuna and burdened with a prosthetic arm, seventeen-year-old Janet Redstone doesn't think she owes the Clockwork Gods anything--which is why she makes a living stealing from their temples. But when she lands her team in prison, making a pact with the God of Mischief, Itazura, is the only way to right her wrongs and free her friends. 
Janet doesn't trust Itazura as far as she can punch him, but with her soul in his hands, she has no choice but to do what he says. The clockwork gods and the bad-tempered elder gods of the ancient past are locked in a game of cat and mouse and the human realms are caught in the middle. If Janet can't somehow convince the gods to step in and save the world, humanity is in an abyss of trouble. 
Using her unconventional wits, an impressive tolerance to alcohol, and a strong right hook, Janet has to convince the gods that humanity is worth saving. Unfortunately, it's a lot more difficult to stop an apocalypse when you're slowly being driven crazy by the Lord of Mischief, especially when he starts growing on you.
'Hour of Mischief' is definitely one of the more mind-blowing books I've ever read. There's an extreme amount to take in at the beginning, so I'm going to try to break it down a little bit for you...
In the world of Memoria, there are four hands on the clock face: the hours, the minutes, the seconds and the seasons. There are four human realms: Fortuna, the realm where we spend most of our time, Tiyata, the desert realm, Cambiare, the empty realm, and Kabila... Which we don't really find out anything about. There is the Clockmaster, the Mother and Father, and four elder gods, as well as countless minor gods, none of which we get too much backstory for. And then there are the twelve Clockwork Gods, listed below:

Itazura: the God of Mischief
Laelatia: the Goddess of Merriment
Kalite: the Goddess of Water
Kova: the Goddess of War
Axira: the Goddess of Death
Meroquio: the God of Love
Amontillado: the God of Abundance
Cheveyo: the God of Animals
Artifex: the God of Craftsmen
Celine: the Goddess of Night
Aelius: the Goddess of Day
Viden and Kaval: the twin Gods of Wisdom

Getting to terms with the geography and mythology of the world was the one thing that really hampered my enjoyment of the first half of the novel, because it felt like new gods were being introduced every couple of minutes - there are only fleeting references to Aelius, Celine and Cheveyo, but because the context of what god they are is important, the mentions didn't make sense until later in the novel. It would have been interesting to have a 'Who's who' introduction page at the beginning of the book, so that it was easier to immediately grasp.

Other than feeling the confusion - which, to be honest, I feel in any high fantasy book I read! - I really enjoyed this novel. We get introduced to Janet and her group of three friends - Sid, Parker and Sylvia - the night before they perform a high difficulty heist, stealing a precious object from Amontillado's temple of worship. Sylvia gets caught in the act, and the rest of the team surrender despite the fact that she wants them to run and get away. The guards decide to take Janet away for questioning because she's the leader of the group - they want to get an idea of how many temples the group have stolen from in the past.
This is where the plot really starts to speed ahead. Itazura sneaks Janet out from the questioning room, and after convincing her to help him they make a blood pact. He promises to free her team members as soon as she can persuade some of his fellow Clockwork Gods to spread the word on the apocalypse - Itazura's realm of mischief cannot function without human troublemakers, so he's opposed to keeping the apocalypse a secret, but the gods will not listen to his pleas.
I can't go too much into the rest of the plot without giving spoilers, but just know that Janet's main quest is to convince the Clockwork Gods that humans are worthwhile to save. She's in a lot of danger because of her alliance with Itazura, but because of the guilt and loyalty she feels towards her friends she perseveres on with the task at hand.
All of these things mean that I really like Janet. She is a very badass heroine, and she doesn't put up with shit from anybody. There are a couple of moments where Itazura wants her to completely disregard her morals and beliefs to help him properly, but she stands her ground - she has very firm boundaries, and no amount of pressure will make her change her mind which makes her brilliantly strong-willed.
Other than Janet, there are only really two characters that we interact with, and those are Itazura and the Goddess of Merriment, Laelatia. I liked how the gods and goddesses were written, because it was believable that they were higher entities - they were human enough to be realistic, but the language and characteristics they inhibited made them feel ethereal and otherworldy. It's difficult to write a character that's supposed to be a higher entity, because they should always feel untouchable - if they're too human, they won't be benevolent or transcendent, so the plot will be weak. That was not the case here.
I really did enjoy the plot. I always enjoy quest novels, so having one this well-crafted was a treat. There was a very specific goal in mind, and steps to take to get to it - it wasn't a simple conclusion, and it did make you worry that it wouldn't be completed in time. Having the reward of her friends being released from their imprisonment was a great inclusion too: you could feel that there was a real reason for her to be saving humankind, rather than just the goodness of her own heart and a bit of spare time.
The only thing I didn't really like about the book was the fact that it was the first one in a series, and I didn't know that before picking it up. This might have been my fault - maybe I didn't research it properly - but it meant that instead of a clean and tidy resolution there were so many loose ends left all over the place. Throughout the whole novel, Itazura kept saying to Janet "later", and promised to regale her with all of his half told tales later - it just means we have to wait a little bit longer to get the information. As someone who enjoys instant gratification and has hardly an iota of patience, this wasn't the best news for me.
Other than that one negative, I highly recommend 'Hour of Mischief' - especially if you're looking to start a new series! The back story is well planned out, so the world and the characters are very believable, and having a small cast rather than a large ensemble means you really get to know the key characters. There are fabulous action sequences and some great fight scenes, and it's extremely fast-paced. I finished the book within a day, which is something I struggle to do with high fantasy and was a brilliant surprise! So if you're looking for something a bit different, you should pick up this novel.

If you're interested in reading 'Hour of Mischief', you can find it on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

About the author:

Aimee Hyndman has been writing ever since her toddler fingers could grasp a pencil. A lover of all things speculative fiction, she spent many a night penning the beginnings of novels that would never see the light of day. Now attending college in Iowa, double majoring in Creative Writing and English, she has clearly never lost her love of the craft. Her area of specialty is fantasy of all sorts but she dabbles in many genres--whatever she feels compelled to write at the moment. The plot bunnies are never ending but, luckily, so are the words!
When not writing and avoiding her school work, Aimee enjoys reading, singing, and acting at her school's theater department. She is also a lover of anime and all things Disney.

If you'd like to find out more about Aimee, you can visit her website, or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Once again, I need to thank Curiosity Quills for allowing me to get involved in this blog tour, and for sending me a copy of the book. I just can't wait for the next installment!

Sunday, 27 September 2015

'Ashes To Ashes' (Burn For Burn #3) by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian

*This review will contain spoilers!* 

'I remember what it felt like to fall in love for the first time. You think you'll never love like that again. But you do. Life is long if you let it be.' 

After talking about the series I needed to complete a couple of weeks ago, I decided that it was about time I finished the Burn For Burn trilogy by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian. I finished the second novel way back in March and I loved it much more than the first installment, so I've been extremely excited about this final book.
If you've already read the first two books in the series, read ahead - if you haven't, go and read them! 'Cause I'm going to do a little series recap before I review the third novel. So go, you non-series reader - shoo!
Right, recap time:

We follow the lives of three narrators - Lillia Cho, Mary Zane and Kat DeBrassio. All three characters want to get revenge for wrongs that have been enacted against them, which is why they team up: they decide to help each other in a brutal revenge pact. Lillia wants to get revenge against Rennie, her best friend, after she left her in a dangerous situation that resulted in her getting raped. Mary wants to get revenge on Reeve, the boy who bullied her to the brink of suicide when they were younger. Kat wants to see both of them brought down, as they've bullied her throughout her whole high school experience - but Rennie used to be her best friend, so that betrayal cuts a little deeper.
To start with, things are quite innocent. They decide to throw the vote for homecoming queen, stopping Rennie from achieving one of her biggest dreams, and they decide to drug Reeve so he will lose his football scholarship. However, when a freak fire breaks out at the homecoming dance, Reeve's leg gets shattered and it's unsure whether he'll ever be able to play football again.
Lillia feels terribly guilty - Reeve has been one of her closest friends, so destroying his dream doesn't sit well with her. Mary still doesn't feel as though she's gotten her revenge, so they force Lillia to care for Reeve and make him fall in love with her, all so that they can break his heart in the cruelest fashion. The only problem is that Lillia starts to have real feelings for Reeve, which leaves her torn between the pact with her friends and her first chance at love. Rennie isn't happy about any of this, because Reeve is the boy she's always been in love with - she leaves her New Year's party in a devastated mood, and ends up crashing her car and dying. Well... It's not strictly Rennie's fault that she dies - it's actually Mary's fault. She's distressed because she's just found out that she actually did die in her suicide attempt - she's just stuck on Jar Island for what seems like eternity. Because of her vengeful spirit aura, she's the one that causes Rennie to plunge to her death.

So this is where we start with the third book. Rennie's been dead for a few weeks, and all of the characters are pretty shaken up about it. Lillia and Reeve are trying not to be together, but are struggling with a battle against their feelings. Kat is focusing on college and getting off of Jar Island, trying not to worry too much about either of her friends - she knows that Lillia and Reeve will hurt Mary, but she thinks Mary might have moved back to the mainland as she stops attending school. In reality, Mary is biding her time, waiting for the perfect opportunity to exact her perfect revenge: she died because of Reeve, so she decides the only way he can repay her is to die. She knows she won't be able to do it herself, so she picks the perfect symmetry - Reeve needs to kill himself to properly repent his sins.
I feel very conflicted on how I feel about this book. It felt slow, because there wasn't much going on, but because the chapters flick from character to character and are often only five or six pages each, it meant that the pace of the novel was very fast and I managed to read this one much faster than I'd anticipated. Despite the speediness, looking back not very much happened - just a lot of leading up to the eventual conclusion.
I still absolutely love Kat and Lillia's characters. Kat is just a natural badass - she's been bullied and beaten down her entire life, but now she's managing to make amends with friends from the past and move forward in her life in a mature way. Lillia is also great: yes, she's betraying one of her friends to get into a relationship, but I think it's good that she knows the strength of her own feelings and is brave enough to follow them. I felt neutral towards Mary for the first two novels, and that didn't change in this installment - she might be the paranormal character, but other than that she doesn't get that many chapters in this novel.
The question surrounding the morality of revenge is a very interesting one, and I do think that these books will make you think about what you would do if you were in the situation. Mary is incapable of murder, but wants to convince Reeve to kill himself - where is the line and why is she able to cross it? If someone made you kill yourself, would their death really be the only way to give yourself peace? It's all very psychological. In the end, it turns out that Mary really needed to forgive to be able to move on from Jar Island, and that's also very interesting: even if it's the only way to move on from purgatory, could you really let your lifelong bully feel your forgiveness? It's just very tricky.
This was the weakest installment of the three novels, as not much really went on. I still love Siobhan Vivian and Jenny Han's collaborative writing - I think it's very special and it's easy to fall into, which is something I don't find too often - but I didn't think it was the mind-blowing conclusion I'd been hoping for. The epilogue really did ruin things for me: instead of leaving the novel on a high note, the conclusion allows you to know what happens to the characters in the years following the events in 'Ashes To Ashes', but it means that there's no mystery surrounding the end of the novel. I was very disappointed, and really wished I hadn't read those three pages - it felt rushed and unprofessional to compress the entire future of the protagonists into just a few chapters. I know it was to give a full sense of closure, but it would have been stronger without it.
I still recommend this series, because I really did enjoy it, but I kind of wish I hadn't waited as long to finish it... I was expected a dramatic, earth-shattering installment, but that didn't happen.

Friday, 25 September 2015

'Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda' by Becky Albertalli - SPOILER FREE REVIEW

"Don't you think everyone should have to come out? Why is straight the default? Everyone should have to declare one way or another, and it should be this big awkward thing whether you're straight, gay, bi, or whatever."

I've been looking forward to 'Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda' since seeing it mentioned on Epic Reads for the first time either early this year or late last year. It's the story of a sixteen year old boy who is trying to work out how to come out to his friends and family - he's not scared of how they're going to take it, but he's not exactly excited about all of the awkwardness. Only one person in the entire world knows that Simon is gay and that is Blue, his anonymous online friend who is also gay and unable to come out. 
At least, Blue is the only one who knows, until Simon leaves his email logged in at school and he gets found out by joker of the class Martin Addison. Martin likes Abby, the new girl, who Simon is friends with - he tells Simon that if he doesn't help him start a relationship with Abby, he'll tell the entire school about Simon's sexuality. 
Simon doesn't appreciate the fact that he's being blackmailed, but because Martin also knows about Blue he decides to go along with the blackmail plot to protect him as well. The problem is that Abby doesn't like Martin; she actually has feelings for Simon's best friend, Nick, who also likes her. So, as you can imagine, Simon has a struggle on his hands. 
I really, really, really enjoyed 'Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda'. In fact, I'd say I was completely goddamn in love with the thing, until the last fifty or so pages. I'm not going to give any spoilers, but let's just say that the end of the book isn't really necessary - it's just tying up all of the loose ends, some of which really don't need to be tied. 
The reason I really, really, really enjoyed this book is because it was just so easy to relate to. In fact, I'm pretty sure I am Simon. There are scenes that could be pulled directly from my life, and I did find it extremely eerie at times how much of a mirror image it seemed to be. This is probably because Becky Albertalli has a real skill at writing a realistic young adult: plenty of swearing, some underage drinking, definite confusion about the self, but an aching need to just be. Simon debates the fact about whether he really needs to come out, because he knows himself and he just knows that he is gay, but he understands that people really need to be told about it - I've been debating the exact same thing with myself over the last few weeks. 
As well as the actions and emotions of the characters being realistic, the characters themselves are realistic. Simon's group of close friends includes a larger girl, a black girl and a couple of Jewish people, making for what seems like a diverse group of people - it just feels like a real group of friends. These characters aren't defined by the things that make them different, they just are different! I think you get that so often in real life, but it doesn't always transfer to the page. The interactions between them all are well thought out and are understandable: these characters have definitely personalities, and they don't really do anything that's out of the ordinary or over the top. 
With every other chapter, we get emails between Simon and Blue, showing their relationship playing out. Blue is an extremely witty character with a great heart, and I found myself laughing out loud at multiple points during their interactions - the chemistry between the characters is captured brilliantly. I love the medium of email being used in fiction, but oftentimes I find that it's really hard to tell the difference between the characters: not the case in this novel because their individual voices and attitudes were so distinctive, their dialects and sentence structures really showing their personalities perfectly. 
This book is humourous without being a parody, and emotional without being a tearjerker. It's only Becky Albertalli's debut novel, but I think she's pulled off something really special - the writing is a dream, and the plot and characters are brilliantly constructed. The end does let the book down - maybe that's my negative attitude prevailing - but other that that it's definitely one of the best books I've read this year. It's also one of the best LGBT books I've ever read: obviously, the plot focuses on Simon's sexuality, but it also shows him dealing with his family and his friends, perfectly demonstrating the fact that gay people aren't other - they're exactly the same as the wider majority, with exactly the same fears and concerns. 

'The whole coming out thing doesn't really scare me. I don't think it scares me. It's just a giant holy box of awkwardness, and I won't pretend I'm looking forward to it. But it probably wouldn't be the end of the world.' 

FRIDAY PLAYLIST: Autumn edition

Happy Friday! I don't know about you, but I've had a lovely, lovely week - despite the terrible weather we've been having. American readers, I'm not sure if it's as bad for you, but here in England it's been pouring down with rain all week and has been very cold.
I always find that autumn is the time of year when I feel very sentimental and I'll start reminiscing on the year that's gone by - it might be because of the cold weather or the leaves dying on the trees, but it's a very sad time for me.

10) 'Fallen Leaves' by Billy Talent
Pretty self-explanatory.

9) 'Always Summer' by Yellowcard
"It's always summer in my heart and in my soul."

8) 'Almost Lover' by A Fine Frenzy
This song is so melancholy - perfect for nights towards the end of the year. 

7) 'Hurricane' by 30 Seconds To Mars
I know hurricanes happen all year, but they're destructive and cold - pretty much the epitome of autumn.

6) 'You're So Last Summer' by Taking Back Sunday
Even if last summer is three weeks ago. 

5) 'The Last Time' by Taylor Swift (ft. Gary Lightbody)
Yes, I had to include Taylor Swift. So many of her songs are autumnal - this is probably my favourite. 

4) 'August Is Over' by We The Kings
Another self-explanatory choice. 

3) 'Truce' by twenty one pilots
I can't listen to 'Truce' unless it's night time and it's cold, because I listened to it so much when walking home late. It's the quintessential autumn song for me. 

2) 'Fireworks' by You Me At Six
As well as being utterly heart-breaking, 'Fireworks' works because Bonfire Night falls towards the beginning of November, which is very rapidly approaching. 

1) 'Divorce and the American South' by Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties
Probably the most depressing song that I've ever heard - whenever I listen to it I always imagine Aaron on the phone to his ex-wife in the middle of the night, because when better to make a desperate phone call?

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

TOP FIVE WEDNESDAY: Top five title fonts on covers

(Top Five Wednesday was created by GingerReadsLainey. Find out more at the Goodreads group!)

I love fonts. I love title fonts on covers. So it was tricky for me to shorten this down to just five books, and I'm seriously considering doing a more in-depth blog in a few months time to showcase all of my favourites. I've picked five awesome books though, which I'll be showing off below...

5) 'Earthfall' by Mark Walden
Using Big Ben as the A? Genius.

4) 'Nowhere' by Jon Robinson
Creepy people + creepy glowing blue letters = super creepy.

3) 'The Art of Being Normal' by Lisa Williamson
Cursive writing is my weakness.

2) The Maze Runner series by James Dashner
Actually, font with a scene from the book is my weakness.

1) 'How To Love' by Katie Cotugno

Handwritten fonts are always the most beautiful, and I just think this entire cover is my favourite.

I hope you enjoyed this Top Five Wednesday - post any title fonts that you think are especially beautiful down in the comments!

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Ten books I need to read in autumn

(Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and The Bookish!)

This week, Top Ten Tuesday is the ten books you have on your autumn TBR. I could pick just generic books that I need to read - there's enough of them! - but I'm going to try to pick some spooky reads for Halloween, and some books that are really to just curl up under a blanket with on a cold day.

10) 'Ashes to Ashes' by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian
This is kind of cheating, because I actually started 'Ashes to Ashes' this morning - the ash is reminiscent of bonfire night, so it links in that way, but it's also the perfect blend of contemporary and paranormal. 

9) 'Hello, Goodbye, and Everything In Between' by Jennifer E. Smith
I received Jennifer E. Smith's latest novel from her publisher last month, so I need to get round to it for review anyway. When I read 'The Geography of You and Me' it was very close to Christmas, so I do think her novels are perfect for those early nights. 

8) 'Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda' by Becky Albertalli
'Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda' has been on my TBR for a while, but I'm bumping it right up in autumn - it seems like a book I'm going to adore. 

7) 'Autumn' by David Moody
I've recently been recommended David Moody's Autumn series by a colleague. I'm pretty sure I read the first book a few years back, but never got around to progressing through the rest of the series, meaning this will be great to re-read. I mean, it ticks all the boxes. Autumnal? Check! Creepy synopsis? Check! Zombies? Check check check! With 'Fear The Walking Dead' and 'The Walking Dead' both being on TV this autumn, I can never get a big enough zombie fix. 

6) 'Shadow and Bone' by Leigh Bardugo
I promised myself I wasn't going to include any series starters, but I couldn't help myself. I mean, the atmospheric, grey, creepy cover is enough reason to pick this book up, but with "shadow" and "bone" both mentioned in the title - perfect for Halloween. 

5) 'Lips Touch: Three Times' by Laini Taylor
I've been meaning to read this selection of three short stories for a very long time, so I'm excited to finally get around to it. From what I can gather, 'Lips Touch' has nothing to do with the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, which means I won't be getting spoilers from the series by picking up this book, but I will still get to enjoy Laini's writing. 

4) 'Landline' by Rainbow Rowell
Rainbow's writing is very feel good, meaning when it's dreary outside it's the perfect thing to brighten up your day. 

3) 'A Game of Thrones' by George R. R. Martin
The likelihood of me getting around to this one is pretty low, but what better time of year to read it! "Winter is coming" - get it, guys?!

2) 'The Coldest Girl In Coldtown' by Holly Black
I love Holly Black's writing (well, all that I've read so far) and this standalone novel looks delightfully spooky. I feel the cold, so whenever the temperature starts to drop I feel like the coldest girl in Coldtown, so this will work well for me. 

1) 'Trigger Warning' by Neil Gaiman
I was recommended this collection of short stories by a friend, and she made it sound like the damn creepiest thing ever. I love terrifying stories and I love short stories - this sounds like the perfect combination for me. Combine that with the creepy trees on the front cover... Perfect for Halloween. I'm probably just going to read a lot of Neil Gaiman in the next few months, but 'Trigger Warning' especially. 

Friday, 18 September 2015

FRIDAY PLAYLIST: Scottish edition

It's been a year since Scotland voted against independence from the United Kingdom, and I thought what better way to celebrate our continued connection than by doing a playlist of brilliant Scottish artists?

10) Amy MacDonald
'This Is The Life' is one of the most beautiful songs ever. I really do need to listen to more of Amy's music, because this is the only song she's made that I know. 

9) The Xcerts
One of the only bands with a name beginning with X (other than The XX!) The Xcerts really do stand out. 

8) Yashin
With a new album in the pipeline, I'm sure we'll be hearing much more from Yashin very soon.

7) Paolo Nutini
I challenge you to listen to this song and not have a smile on your face by the end of it. 

6) Franz Ferdinand
Franz Ferdinand were one of the first ever bands that I saw live, so they have a very special place in my heart. 

5) Snow Patrol
One of the best bands of all time, Snow Patrol are brilliant musically and lyrically. It definitely helps that their vocalist, Gary Lightbody, sang on 'The Last Time' with Taylor Swift, but Gary is actually Irish - that could be a playlist for the future!

4) Prides
Definitely the danciest band on this list!

3) The Fratellis
I love The Fratellis. Unbeatable. 

2) Biffy Clyro
Probably one of the most famous Scottish bands of all time, and definitely one of the most successful.

1) Twin Atlantic
The only reason Twin Atlantic take my top spot is because of how beautiful Sam McTrusty's accent is in his vocal. Often, you can't tell where a band come from based off of their singer's voice - that's not the case here.

I hope you enjoyed my Friday playlist! Do you know any Scottish band that I missed? 

Thursday, 17 September 2015

GUEST POST: E. Latimer (+ review of 'Frost')

Hello everyone, and welcome to my stop on the 'Frost' blog tour. It's been over two months since I participated in the cover reveal for 'Frost' - oh how time flies! - so I'm more than excited to be hosting Erin Latimer (yep, that's what the 'E' stands for!) on my blog today. 

First things first, here's the synopsis of 'Frost', to jog your memories - then I'm going to write a little spoiler free review about it to tickle your taste buds...
Megan Walker's touch has turned to ice. She can't stop the frost, and the consequences of her first kiss are horrifying.
When her new powers attract attention, Megan finds herself caught up in an ancient war between Norse giants. One side fuelled by a mad queen's obsession and an ancient prophecy about Ragnarok, the other by an age-old grudge. Both sides believe Megan to be something she's not. Both sides will stop at nothing to have her. 
Fire or frost. It's an impossible decision, but she'll have to act soon, because the storm is coming. 
The beginning of 'Frost' was extremely gripping, because it all played out very quickly - we see Megan's first kiss in the first chapter, then next thing she's upped and moved to Canada to escape from her past. Once attending her new school, she meets a group of girls who are convinced they're related and that they're all part of some government conspiracy against them. Megan knows she's being followed, so is extremely on edge - this is made worse when two men kidnap her in the middle of the night, one of them being her new English teacher. However, an attractive looking man frees her and tells her to go on the run with him, leaving her family behind and living out of hotel rooms - of course, she doesn't bat an eyelid and thinks this sounds like a brilliant idea.
You're probably thinking "hm, that seems like a lot of spoilers, do I really need to read this book now?". Well, yes. Because all of that happens just in the first quarter of the novel. The real events start unwinding after all of this, when Megan realises that she needs to be more careful about who she trusts and strikes out on her own into a world of hostile, unknown forces.
As you've probably guessed by the synopsis, 'Frost' is based on Norse mythology - the battle between frost and fire giants, Ragnarok. So I've decided to not give any information away about how Megan discovers the truth behind the jotun, and where she ends up... But a heck of a lot goes on, and it will be much more effective for you to discover it first hand while reading it for yourself.
What I mean by this is: 'Frost' is extremely high octane. Like, non-stop. At least for the first half it is, and the last section is very fast-paced too... It's just the middle that lets it down.
And this is why I really don't think I should have liked 'Frost' as much as I did. The pacing seems to be all off - there's a lot going on at once, then nothing for what feels like hundreds of pages, then a lot will happen again, followed by another lull. It wouldn't have been so bad if I'd felt more interested in the general goings on of the characters, but I found it very hard to connect with any of them (apart from Megan, who I really appreciated - her attempts to stay true to herself and maintain her identity are very thought-provoking - and Loki, who wasn't in as much of the novel as I'd hoped) so it just plodded along. I'm not saying this in a terrible way - it's not like the book was 600 pages long! - it just meant that I did find my attention drifting multiple times during this story, so I didn't like it as much as I should have.
Really, I think 'Frost' has turned into a guilty pleasure for me. I was so hooked by the beginning that I could forgive the slow middle: I can't normally overlook things like that! And I think that's what's good about Erin's writing - it makes you want to find out what happens to the characters. There were multiple points in the plot where I couldn't see what was going to occur next, or how they could get out of the awful situations, yet Erin is brilliant at writing her character's out of tight places in a way that is realistic and believable.
The other thing that really made it a guilty pleasure was the amount of cliches it managed to pull off. We have the chosen one, that's obvious, but we also have the makings of a love triangle, the boy who you've only just met buying perfectly fitting clothes, the friend you've known less than a week leaving her life to help you, the sun shining in the window and glinting off of your perfect weapon, and - my personal favourite - visions coming to the protagonist in their dreams. All of the little cliches that happened made me groan, but because I was enjoying the story so much it didn't really annoy me - it just made it seem a little bit cheesy, and more like it was playing on the stereotypical YA themes. However, there's a lot in this book that is completely against normal happenings in YA, so I appreciated the contrast in these inclusions.
Of course, when I finished 'Frost' it left off at such a cliffhanger that I knew there was going to be a sequel, and it turns out that E. Latimer has been working on it on Wattpad! I'm going to have to check it out as soon as possible, because there's a huge cliffhanger in this book - it's made it impossible for me not to continue on with the story in the future.
If you start 'Frost' and aren't completely sure about it, persevere - the development of the characters means it just gets better and better throughout. To get hold of 'Frost', visit Amazon UK or Amazon US.

I know what you're really here for, so I'm going to pass you over to Erin now - she's going to share a day in her life!
8:00am: Ugh. Alarm is going off. Why did I think I was getting up at this ungodly hour? Something about being a productive member of society? Screw that. 
9:00am: Slightly less repulsive hour. Will lie in bed and think about getting up for a while. Maybe look at facebook. For just one minute. 
10:00am: Oh crap. Somehow found way onto youtube and time-sucking vortex of cat videos. Must force self out of bed and make smoothie. Yay, health food!
10:01am: Smoothie is gross. Throw out smoothie and heat up frozen waffles. 
10:30am: Think about cleaning the house or exercising. Do ten half-hearted jumping jacks and then watch Taylor Swift's new music video and get sucked into comments below. Never read Youtube comments!
11:00am: Decide that people suck and the world is a refuse-filled wasteland of human garbage. Retreat to writing cave. 
11:01am: Determined to throw off yoke of procrastination. Going to write ALL THE WORDS!
11:02am: That's a meme, isn't it? What meme is that?
12:00pm: Found meme. Have somehow progressed to Star Wars...and cats. And Star Wars cat memes. Have concluded that the internet is a never ending, vicious cycle of cats. 
12:30pm: Got one hundred words down. Success!
1:00pm: Fifty are terrible. Delete them all.
2:00pm: Snack time! Will eat healthy apple. Am so healthy!
2:01pm: Still hungry. Will add healthy cupcake. Chocolate is healthy, right?
2:15pm: On fifth cup of tea and out of milk! Unacceptable! Consider riding subway alone to go get milk. Have small panic attack at mere thought and return to writer cave. 
2:30pm: Oh, email! Got feedback from beta reader. Beta reader is so awesome! Will get started on feedback right away and make manuscript even better.
3:00pm: Am terrible writer. Should have got degree English degree and became teacher. Stare at computer and brood for half hour. 
3:01pm: Maybe beta reader is the terrible one? Can't trust internet strangers. Her bio does say "loves cats". She's the worst. Probably type of person who emails entire lists with "funny cat memes". Yuck.
3:30pm: Still brooding. Now listening to dramatic music to go with mood. Husband says I'm moping. Am not!
4:00pm: Patiently explain difference between brooding and moping to husband. Only true artists brood. Am true artist. 
4:30pm: I can do this! End up talking self out of funk and writing another five hundred words. Maybe I don't suck?
5:00pm: Totally in flow of things! Could write forever, or at least get another five hundred words down on the page!
5:01pm: But first, Buffy reruns on Netflix. 
I can certainly relate to Erin's morning - even while writing this blog post I've been hopping over to Youtube in the background, I just can't help myself! If this is the kind of day you get when you're a writer, though, I think it sounds like quite a good life - despite all of the brooding.

Erin Latimer is a young adult fantasy writer who was born and raised in Victoria, BC and recently moved to Vancouver. She writes books, makes silly vlogs about writing and reads excessively. 

Her book, 'Frost', was released by Patchwork Press on August 25th, 2015. 'Frost' is a YA fantasy based on Norse mythology, about a teen who accidentally freezes the first boy she kisses and discovers her family tree is weirder than she ever expected. 

For more E. Latimer, you can find her website here. You can also check her out on Twitter and Facebook!
I'd once again like to thank Erin for visiting my blog, and to congratulate her on writing an awesome novel. I'd also like to thank Patchwork Press for allowing me to get involved in this blog tour, and for inviting me to read 'Frost' through NetGalley. Awesome stuff! 

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

TOP FIVE WEDNESDAY: Top five books on mental illness

(Top Five Wednesday was created by GingerReadsLainey. Find out more at the Goodreads group!)

I've read a lot of novels focusing on mental illness, and I've read some amazing ones - it's been hard to cut it down to only including five books.

5) 'Looking For Alaska' by John Green
I really wanted to put 'Looking For Alaska' higher up this list, but there's actually a lot of debate over whether it features mental illness or not - I'll won't give spoilers, but one of the characters exhibits behaviours that I think show depression, but it's rather controversial.  

4) 'Stolen' by Lucy Christopher
In 'Stolen', Gemma gets kidnapped from Bangkok airport and taken to the Australian outback. She starts to empathise with her kidnapper, making this one of the only - if not the only? - YA novel that deals with Stockholm Syndrome. At the end of this book I was so infuriated with myself: because we hear the story through Gemma's voice, we get just as conflicted as her, so it really does feel as though you start to exhibit the symptoms - Lucy Christopher is a very clever author.  

3) 'Entangled' by Cat Clarke
Cat Clarke's debut novel is probably my favourite debut of all time. 'Entangled' is Grace's story - after she tries to kill herself, she wakes up in a completely white room with nothing but paper and pens, and she tells her story. It's a poignant look at the struggle of depression - when I read it I finished it in one sitting, then cried for about two hours afterwards. It's certainly an emotional one. 

2) 'Wintergirls' by Laurie Halse Anderson
Laurie Halse Anderson's beautiful novel, 'Wintergirls', focuses on a teenager suffering with anorexia nervosa. This is a topic extremely close to my heart, and I think that Laurie wrote it so beautifully, in a way that didn't promote the illness or attack sufferers - it was handled very delicately, and it's a must read. 

1) 'It's Kind of a Funny Story' by Ned Vizzini
'It's Kind of a Funny Story' is definitely my favourite novel featuring a mental illness - focusing on depression. Craig, the protagonist, nearly jumps off of the Brooklyn Bridge, but he realises he doesn't really want to die so gets help and willingly goes into a mental hospital. 

I hope you enjoyed my Top Five Wednesday! Please post your links below - I'm always interested to discover new novels about mental illnesses, so I'll check them all out.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Ten series I need to hurry up and start

(Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and The Bookish!)

This week, Top Ten Tuesday is a freebie - we get to choose the topic. After last week being the series I haven't yet finished, I thought I'd carry on with the theme: these are the ten series that I haven't even started yet, but really need to.

10) The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater
Now this one is cheating a little bit, because I actually read the first fifty pages of 'The Raven Boys' - I just couldn't get into it for some reason. We're three books in at this point, with the fourth novel coming out in the new year... I'll catch up eventually, honest. 

9) The Delirium trilogy by Lauren Oliver
I adore Lauren Oliver's writing, but I still haven't had a chance to start 'Delirium'!

8) The Wither trilogy by Lauren DeStefano
I love the concept of 'Wither' - a virus has taken the human life span down to the late twenties, so to keep the human populace up forced marriages occur constantly. It sounds like a very interesting premise, but I also think it's going to be a story I really need to be in the mood for to pay attention to. 

7) The Matched trilogy by Ally Condie
Pretty - so, so, so pretty! I managed to buy these books in charity shops last year, but I've also read some bad reviews about these and I'm a bit more apprehensive now... 

6) The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
The final book in the series, 'Winter', isn't released until the end of the year - I'd ideally like to get these all read before 2015 finishes. 

5) The Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor
Again: beautiful, beautiful books. I own the first one, so hopefully I'll kick myself up the bum and start them soon... 

4) The Maze Runner trilogy by James Dashner
I have two sets of these novels, yet I still haven't read them. What is wrong with me? 

3) The Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas
I keep getting recommended these books, and now - following the release of fourth novel, 'Queen of Shadows' - I'm determined to get around to them. I loved 'A Court of Thorns and Roses', so I think I'm going to adore these books. 

2) The Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo
I've currently gotten this trilogy out of the library, so I should be able to start these sooner rather than later! They look so beautiful, and I've heard such brilliant things about them - I just cannot wait. 

1) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I meant to start reading these before the first film came out... Alas, I still haven't gotten around to it. I feel like such a fraud to the book blogging world! 

I hope you enjoyed my Top Ten Tuesday. Show me what you decided to do with your freebie week in the comments!