Friday, 30 October 2015

FRIDAY PLAYLIST: Halloween edition

Happy Halloween everyone! This is my Christmas. This is my day. I love Halloween more than I think I love anything in the world. So what better way to celebrate than with ten top-notch spooky songs?!

10) 'It's Almost Halloween' by Panic! At The Disco
I'm still not quite sure what is happening in this video. It's definitely scary though!

9) 'Forever Halloween' by The Maine
Who wouldn't want it to be Halloween forever?!

8) 'Time Warp'
It's just a jump to the left, AND THEN A STEP TO THE RI-I-I-I-I-IGHT!

7) 'Spooky Scary Skeletons'
Lauren, are you happy now?! 

6) 'We're Going To Hell... So Bring The Sunblock' by The Blackout
The reanimated dead are always scary, but they're also good to have a Halloween boogie with.

5) 'I Put A Spell On You'
I still need to watch 'Hocus Pocus'.

4) 'Twisted Nerve' by Bernard Herrmann
Come on, this song is one of the creepiest things to feature in American Horror Story, and they've included a lot of freaky stuff.

3) 'Thriller' by Michael Jackson
The video to this song still gives me the heebiejeebies. 

2) 'Monster Mash'
Cheesy as heck, but I love it. 

1) 'This Is Halloween' by Panic! At The Disco
I mean, I could have chosen the original version, but I thought it would be appropriate to start and end the playlist with the same band. 

Happy Halloween everyone - have a great night of spooking!

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

TOP FIVE WEDNESDAY: Top five Halloween recommendations

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

5) 'The White Devil' by Justin Evans
I remember being so utterly freaked out by 'The White Devil' when I read it, but that was three years ago now, so it might not be as brilliant as I remember it being. The novel is set in Harrow, a school for privileged boys in London, and it's extremely stereotypical British goings on because the main character is America - it does send shivers up your spine, though.

4) 'After Obsession' by Carrie Jones
This is another book that I read so long ago that I can hardly remember it, but I do know that this one freaked me out. After reading the Need series, which included lots of romance and pixies, a story including a possession and a haunted house was much spookier than I'd expected. I live in a house, so any books set in houses are just too close to home (ahaha, geddit? Too close to 'home'!).

3) 'Warm Bodies' by Isaac Marion
Because sometimes I really want to read a cute and almost contemporary horror novel. 'Warm Bodies' is everything you could possibly want in a zombie romance and more.

2) 'Working Stiff' by Rachel Caine
I highly recommend the entire Revivalist series. A girl gets a new job as a mortuary assistant, discovers that her boss is reviving the dead, gets killed and then gets revived for herself. Sheer brilliance, and there are some absolutely horrifying moments in the books later in the series. If you have a weak stomach, avoid.

1) 'Trigger Warning' by Neil Gaiman

I've been planning on reading 'Trigger Warning' over the Halloween week for a month or so now, and I finally picked it up yesterday. I couldn't be more impressed, so I'm definitely recommending this one.

Have you got any Halloween recommendations? Comment them below and I'll check them out - I love Halloween books!

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Ten horror books I'm too scared to read

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

A lot of the time, the books on my TBR are there because I'm too lazy to read them, or I just don't have enough time. 
That is not the case with these choices.
These are all horror books that have premises and covers that spook me out so much that I can't bring myself to pick them up. I don't get scared easily, but these books do the trick. The contents might not be that scary, but I'm too much of a scaredy cat to get far enough to try them.

10) 'It' by Stephen King
I'm not even scared of clowns, but the look on the face of this one? Eurgh. It's also a massive book, which is another reason it's scary.

9) 'Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children' by Ransom Riggs
Creepy children are the creepiest. 

8) 'Red Dragon' by Thomas Harris
This book has nothing to do with dragons. Absolutely nothing. Nope. 

7) 'The Mailman' by Bentley Little
 The most terrifying horror novels are the ones that you can relate to, and who can't relate to receiving mail?!

6) 'Dante's Inferno' by Danta Alighieri
"The Divine Comedy"? Yeah, cause eternal damnation is hi-larious!

5) 'Jaws' by Peter Benchley
Yeah, cause being eaten alive looks like a walk in the freaking park!

4) 'Let The Right One In' by John Ajvide Lindqvist
And I'm not even scared of vampires. Not one tiny, little bit. Honest...

3) 'Bird Box' by Josh Malerman
I keep picking up 'Bird Box' in the library and then putting it straight back: I just can't handle it.

2) 'NOS 4R2' by Joe Hill
I could really have picked any of Joe Hill's novels, because they all look terrifying! The creepy car, the blood splattered headlights... Jeez.

1) 'The Shining' by Stephen King
I tried not to pick two Stephen King novels for this list, but 'The Shining' needed to be mentioned. This book is so scary, Joey Tribbiani needed to hide it in his freezer. That's too scary for me. 

I hope you enjoyed this Top Ten Tuesday. If you've read any of the books I was too scared to try, please let me know if you recommend them!

Monday, 26 October 2015

'Siege and Storm' (The Grisha #2) by Leigh Bardugo

*This review will contain spoilers!*

'My life would be allegiance instead of love, fealty instead of friendship. I would weigh each decision, consider every action, trust no one. It would be life observed from a distance.'

First things first: if you haven't read my review of 'Shadow and Bone', go and read that - I'm not going to recap any of the plot of the first novel or the nuances of the world, I'm just going to dive straight in!
Second things second: if you're turned off by the Grisha trilogy because of the quotes on the front of the novels, don't be. This series is not "The Hunger Games meets Potter meets Twilight meets Lord of the Rings meets Game of Thrones; basically epic magical fantasy but completely for grown-ups.' This series will appeal to the teenage market and the adult market, so it's not completely for grown-ups, and referencing every popular fantasy and YA series ever written? Yes, it has aspects of all of them, but which books don't? The Grisha trilogy is very much an entity all of its own. 

At the end of 'Shadow and Bone' our protagonist, Alina, and her boyfriend, Mal, had just gone on the run from the Darkling, the evil overlord of the Grisha universe. Alina had an amplifier fixed around her neck that allowed the Darkling to call her power forward, giving him full control of the light and the darkness. Understandably, Alina wasn't happy about this occurrence, and when he destroyed the entire of Novokribirsk, the country to the West of the Fold, Alina was distraught - so many people wiped out because of her power.
When we left Alina and Mal, they were on a boat travelling over the True Sea to parts of the world that we'd never explored, and I was excited to see them continuing on their journey together. Unfortunately, it's only the very start of the novel that's based over the True Sea - the Darkling tracks Alina and Mal down very quickly. 'Siege and Storm' wastes no time getting started, and there's no illusion of escape or happiness: it's pretty obvious that Alina is still in a dire situation, and escaping will not be as easy as she thought. The Darkling has developed new powers: he can now summon creatures called the nichevo'ya or 'nothing'. Summoning them depletes his strength quite rapidly, so he cannot do it for too long and they can't stray too far away from him, but they're extremely strong and have unhealable bites. This means he's gone from being a bit of a dick to being downright terrifying. 'Siege and Storm' is a much scarier book than 'Shadow and Bone'. The nichevo'ya bite infects Alina and, while she's passed out and struggling to survive, the Darkling takes her on board the Volkvolny, a boat run by privateer Sturmhond. Sturmhond will do anything for money, so he's helping the Darkling for the bounty he'll be able to get - no matter how much Alina begs him, there's no way he's going to help her.
The Darkling is on the search for Rusalye, the mythical water dragon who is the second of Morozova's amplifiers. No one really believes Rusalye exists, but then again no one believed in the existence of Morozova's stag, so it's no surprise when super tracker Mal jumps into action and takes them right to the creature. They're just caught Rusalye, when suddenly Sturmhond turns against the Darkling - his back-up boat attacks the Volkvolny, and Alina, Mal, Sturmhond and two of his crew members, Tolya and Tamar, only just manage to survive the destruction.
It turns out that Sturmhond has been working against the Darkling for a long time, because he has another client who would be grateful for Alina's sun summoning powers: himself. It turns out that Sturmhond is actually the prince of Ravka, Nikolai, who has been absent from court and the palace for years and years on end. He's disguised himself as a privateer, thinking he could do much better things for Ravka from the seas, but with the appearance of Alina he knows that she can help him save the country. Their alliance will unit the people and the Grisha to complete equality, thwarting the Darkling's attempt to take the world completely for the Grisha.
My only problem with 'Siege and Storm' is that it feels like there's an awful lot of nothing happening. Everything that I've recapped above (and that is a heck of a lot going on, you have to admit!) happens within the first one hundred pages of the four hundred page novel. There's some exciting goings on at the end of the novel, when the Darkling attacks the Little Palace where Alina is staying, and there's lots of death and destruction, but until that point it's a lot of travelling and court scheming.
I did really enjoy the novel, despite the amount of faffing about. Nikolai being Sturmhond was one of the most shocking reveals I'd ever experienced (normally I'm fabulous at knowing exactly what is going on, but that one was a real surprise), but after proposing to Alina and kissing her to impress their followers, he became a little bit obsolete.
It's ridiculous, because I loved Sturmhond. Sturmhond was sassy and unforgivably sarcastic, and he was such an intriguing character. I liked Nikolai's reasoning behind becoming Sturmhond, and his back story was interesting, but because of his focus on potentially taking the throne he ended up having a bit of a one-track mind.
But it did feel like they were making a mountain out of a molehill. Alina and Nikolai travelling through all of the little villages on the way back to the Palace was a montage that I really didn't need to experience, and the 'will they/won't they' love triangle (well, square, if you include her Darkling delusions) was a bit contrived, so it detracted from their interactions for me. I loved the snappy and quick retorts that sparked between Alina and Sturmhond, but as soon as she knew he was the attractive prince she just seemed to lose her confidence with him. The constant complaining and arguing between her and Mal was also groan-worthy: they'd just gotten their act together at the end of the first novel, but now Mal's drinking all the time, joining a fight club and kissing other Grisha... All in all, being a bit of a douchebag. I really, really don't like his character, and I don't know why but it became even more obvious throughout this second installment. I don't know what Alina sees in him.
I love the inclusion of the Shu Grisha twins, Tolya and Tamar. Tamar is a brilliantly strong and independent female character, and Tolya is one of those understated, silent but deadly males who obviously has a back story, so I'm hoping that will come out in the next novel. Their relationship with Alina is a bit strained, because her relationship with everyone is strained at this point, and it'll be intriguing to see how they win her trust back and the changing dynamics between them.
I was a bit disappointed by lack of Darkling, because he's a powerfully written villain that genuinely gives me the heebie-jeebies, and I'd been looking forward to more close calls and difficult situations. Maybe that's just because I hate Mal and wouldn't mind seeing him lose some bodily organs, but I'm finding myself craving the fight scenes in this series. It's definitely because Alina is so much more of a badass when she's in difficult situations, and she does scare the bejesus out of me at points - she seems like such a sweetie, then she'll be pulling nichevo'ya out of the Darkling with no pause for thought. She's one of the only protagonists that doesn't rush into (many) stupid incidents or get majorly pig-headed: she's calculating and considerate of all the potential outcomes to the situations she encounters, even if she does make some spur of the moment decisions. She's also the perfect amount of self-sacrificing - she genuinely believes saving the world is worth her death, and she isn't trying to shove the responsibility onto anyone else.
The whole concept of the Darkling and Alina being two halves of a whole (the light and the dark, the good and the bad) is well explored, and I do love the way he manipulates her emotions by telling her he's the only one who'll ever understand her: it's realistic, because I do think you would think that way. The scenes between them are written in an absolutely electric manner, and some of their interactions did send shivers up my spine: I'm looking forward to more happening between them in the third book.
I don't have my hopes too high for the final novel in the series, but I do have some ideas of what I want to happen so I've got my fingers crossed. It's obviously going to involve the firebird, the third of Morozova's amplifiers, and it'll be interesting to see them return to the village where she was born - exploring more of this world is never going to bore me. I'm a bit nervous about what's going to happen, but I feel so invested in this series, attached to the characters and absorbed in Leigh Bardugo's writing that I know I'm going to be reading it this week. Look out for the review of it coming soon!

Friday, 23 October 2015

FRIDAY PLAYLIST: Broken up bands edition

It's been a whole year since I went to see Kids In Glass Houses on their farewell tour, so it only feels right to use this week to commemorate all of the bands that shouldn't have broken up. Tissues at the ready!

10) My Chemical Romance
One of the most shocking splits of all time, no one was expecting this news. 

9) Elliot Minor
It's crazy that Elliot Minor officially went on hiatus five years ago (and, by the way, hiatuses totally count as splits because they're extended breaks), and despite the fact that they played a few one of reunion shows last year, it doesn't really feel like they're back. 

8) The Academy Is...
The Academy Is... have announced a couple of reunion shows, supporting the tenth anniversary of their debut album, but is this a fully blown reunion? I somehow don't think so. 

7) Framing Hanley
Framing Hanley announced their break up earlier this year, and unfortunately they couldn't play any UK farewell shows. They were underrated, and definitely deserved more recognition than they received.

6) Madina Lake
It's been two years since Madina Lake played their farewell tour, which blows my mind - it only feels like a few months ago that they announced it! This one was rather expected, as they'd always planned to write a trilogy of albums, which wrapped up with the release of 'World War III'. 

5) Save Your Breath
After supporting Kids In Glass Houses on their farewell tour, Save Your Breath decided to call it a day as well. 

4) Funeral For A Friend
I wasn't surprised when Funeral For A Friend announced their farewell tour - I'd been convinced that the end was near after seeing them at Oxford - but I was still disappointed. I've got tickets to their final two London shows, so I'm looking forward to April to give them the send off they deserve.

3) Blitz Kids
I think Blitz Kids break up is definitely the biggest loss for the UK rock scene. Their debut album, 'The Good Youth', was the stand-out debut of 2014, and the follow up would have been spectacular. I still don't understand this split.

2) Kids In Glass Houses
If I could change one of the break ups on this list, it would be this one. RIP, KIGH. </3 

1) The Blackout
The Blackout are on the same level as Kids In Glass Houses, for me. They were both my favourite bands, and I lost them both within a year, which bloody well sucked! Two huge losses for the Welsh rock scene, which is looking rather forlorn now. 

I'm gonna go and have a little cry, but I hope you liked this playlist...

Thursday, 22 October 2015

'The End of Everything' by Megan Abbott

*This review will contain spoilers!*

'It's happening, that's what I think, but even as the words come to me, I don't know what they mean. In some tucked-off way, it seems like whatever is happening had already been happening, for so long, a falling feeling inside, something nameless, a perilous feelings, and I don't know what to do with it.'

I've been looking at reading Megan Abbott's novels since the release of 'The Fever', but I decided to start with 'The End of Everything' because the synopsis grabbed me. It's rather ambiguous, as it has a contemporary feel but deals with the harrowing topic of child abduction, which was a mix that I hadn't read before. 
Lizzie and Evie are best friends, and have been for as long as either of them can remember. They tell each other everything: secrets about boys, gossip about Evie's older sister, Dusty... They're inseparable. Until one day in May, when Evie goes missing on her way home from school. Lizzie had a feeling that something was wrong, because a maroon car was circling in front of the school while she was waiting to get a lift home, but she shrugged it off until she heard the news the next day. 
It turns out that the car belongs to a Mr. Shaw, an insurance broker who works with Evie's family. He's local, and he's well known in the community, so it spreads like shock waves when he's the one suspected of abducting Evie. But there's much more behind the kidnapping, such as the fact that Mr. Shaw has been watching Evie through her bedroom window regularly for months, and Evie has been completely aware of what he's been doing. Lizzie gets it into her head that Mr. Shaw is in love with Evie, and has been for a while, and Evie is accepting of this fact because she "never had boys buzzing, swarming", so this is the first male attention she has ever received. 
If you're looking to read something psychological, this is definitely one for you. It's completely and utterly Freudian. Evie's father gives her sister more attention that her, so Evie is jealous of their relationship (going so far as to accuse Dusty of being in love with him) and runs off with the first older man who shows affection towards her. Lizzie, while her best friend has disappeared and is potentially dead, spends all of her time with Mr Verver, struggling with her feelings and certain that he feels something back for her - combine that with the fact that Lizzie has an estranged father, and the layers get even deeper. These characters couldn't have bigger Electra complexes if they tried.
It's described as a coming-of-age story, and it definitely succeeds with that. Evie and Lizzie are both thirteen, and are equally boy obsessed and beginning to fantasize about sex. Because of the young age of the protagonist, it does make things seem a little off - I understand that it's meant to be portraying feminine urges and explorations as natural and realistic, but it does seem inappropriate to have girls this young in these situations. It makes the abduction of Evie even more shocking, but when she is returned and confides in Lizzie that all of the sexual relations between her and Mr. Shaw were completely consensual... There's something wrong. It could be hinting towards Stockholm Syndrome, but I don't get that feeling, so it just gives me the heebie jeebies. 
Despite the controversial subject matter, I did enjoy Megan Abbott's writing style. The simplicity of Lizzie's voice made it a very fast read, and I got through this much quicker than I'd expected, even though I didn't exactly enjoy her as a protagonist - the fact that it's coming-of-age means that the characters don't really know themselves, so there was a lot of confusion and internal debating, and it didn't feel realistic to me. Lizzie was very certain that Mr. Shaw and Evie love each other, which adds a kind of purity to their relationship, when that really shouldn't be the case - I don't know anyone who would blindly accept that at the age of thirteen. As well as this, there was a lot of repetition based on flutters in stomachs and hot feelings, which made sense due to the nature of the novel but still got old fast. I couldn't really click with Lizzie's voice, so I felt a bit disconnected throughout. 
I actually didn't enjoy 'The End of Everything' as much as I'd expected to. Maybe it's the British thing, with our prim and proper attitudes and our inability to be open about intimate topics. I just couldn't shake the icky feeling throughout the entire novel. It was definitely thought-provoking, and I haven't read a novel so tightly focused on Freud's concepts in a while which was a plus, but I didn't love it. 

'Landline' by Rainbow Rowell

*This review will contain spoilers!*

'Pretty soon she'd have been with Neal longer than she'd been without him. She'd know herself as his wife better than she'd ever known herself as anyone else. It felt like too much. Not too much to have, just too much to contemplate. Commitments like boulders that were too heavy to carry.'

Georgie McCool is living the dream. She's a sitcom writer, and her best friend and writing partner Seth has just told her that their own original TV show, 'Passing Time', has been picked up by a TV network. The catch? That they need to write the scripts for four episodes by December 27th, and it's already December 17th.
Georgie was meant to be going to Omaha with her husband, Neal, and their two children. When she tells him she wants to stay in Los Angeles, he argues with her - it's Christmas, the kids need their mother, the plane is already booked - but when she insists on staying he goes without her. Since they got married they've hardly spent any time apart, especially not on bad terms, so Georgie is at a loose end. Visiting her mother, she decides to try to phone Neal to fix their argument, but when she plugs in her old yellow rotary phone she's startled to get hold of Neal... back in 1998, in the week after their very first argument, the week when Neal decided he wanted to propose to her.
Georgie isn't sure what the universe is asking her to do. Is she supposed to save her marriage, or make it so that it never happened in the first place? What will happen to their children, Alice and Noomi, if they never got married? And why the hell is her telephone suddenly magical?
It's such a simple concept, but it's so beautifully executed that I can't fault this novel. Rainbow Rowell has such a skill for writing contemporaries, and I think this is the best book of hers that I've read so far. The timeline makes it a very fast read, because it all happens in the space of a week, and while there isn't much action that goes on the character development is on point. I think part of the reason for this is because we live Georgie and Neal's entire relationship through flashbacks, seeing their first meeting, their engagement, their wedding and the birth of their children in the space of a few hundred pages. It makes it impossible not to love the characters, because you do feel as though you've been with them their entire lives - it's funny, but it's true. It makes the marriage seem much more realistic, as well. We don't just join them when they take a break and try to work out what went wrong, we actually get to see their entire history play out in front of our eyes: the ups and downs, the arguments and the reunions. 
Rainbow's writing is very unique; I don't think I've read another writer like her. There are entire pages that are just dialogue, with no description, but because of how lifelike the characters are, and how well they interact with each other, it flies past and sucks you into their conversation - at points it feels like watching TV instead of reading, because you can see everything happening so vividly and you can imagine the characters reactions. The ensemble cast are all necessary, and there isn't a character that doesn't have their uses: Georgie's best friend, Seth, and work colleague, Scotty, add the comic relief to what does become an emotionally fraught novel at times, while Georgie's family remind us that no matter how good your life is, you should never neglect the people who raised you.
'Landline' asks so many beautiful questions as well. If you could use a telephone to contact the past, what would you do? Would you attempt to mess with the fabric of time by warning them about any of the catastrophic world events that had occurred, or would you just try to relive your younger days and make the most out of simple, small interactions? If you did mess with the timeline too badly, if Georgie's phone calls with Neal had resulted in him not proposing, what would happen to your kids? It definitely makes you think twice about the kind of big ideas you might get when discussing the possibility of contacting the past.
Georgie's reaction to the phone was probably my favourite thing. She doesn't take it easily - she freaks the hell out, nearly has a nervous breakdown and is terrified of the developments going on in her life. She tries the phone multiple times, thinking that it's definitely all a figment of her imagination, and she's not one of those characters who goes into a crazy situation without a care in the world. Georgie is so easy to relate to, and she's certainly one of my favourite characters of all time, because she's so natural.
I thought the paradoxical nature of the phone itself was very intriguing, even if it didn't surprise me. With Georgie ruminating on the fact that Neal has only ignored her once before - during the week that she's talking to him - and knowing that she never really knew why he proposed... I wasn't surprised at all when it turned out that the phone calls had already happened for Neal, and they were the reason for him fixing their relationship. It brings a whole new meaning to the term "meant to be", if your future self and your partner's past self are fixing your relationship then and now. It did make it interesting that that was how it happened, though. Because their marriage broke down, Georgie managed to save their relationship in the past, and due to saving their relationship in the past she decided to try harder in the future - it was inspirational, despite the fact that it was quite a simple connection across times.
I thought the idea of soulmates as a concept throughout the novel was very well used: because of the universe, in the shape of a bright yellow phone, interfering in Georgie and Neal's arguments, it makes you feel as though there was some kind of higher power at work to make things right with them. Georgie remembers a time when Neal called her and Seth soulmates, and when she actually thought that it might be true - she was in love with Seth for many years during college, before she met Neal - but when Seth admits that he might have feelings for her she realises that she can't feel that way about him. This is yet another facet that makes the novel much more realistic - instead of the romance movie, "I'm so glad we finally found each other, never let me go!" moment, Georgie kept a level-head, knew that she loved her husband and her family and knew what the right thing was in the situation she found herself in. This book could have had a love triangle, but Rainbow knew it wasn't necessary, and it definitely wouldn't have made sense if there was one.
The week this book is set in is the week over Christmas, so if you haven't read 'Landline' yet, make sure you get around to it this winter!

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

TOP FIVE WEDNESDAY: Top five authors I discovered this year

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

5) Sarah Benwell
'The Last Leaves Falling' is still one of my favourite reads this year, so I'm glad that I discovered Sarah Benwell's beautiful writing. I can't wait for her to release her second novel, because I'm sure it will be just as beautiful

4) Lisa Williamson
'The Art Of Being Normal' is another of the best debut novels this year. I was lucky enough to meet Lisa, and she was really lovely - hearing that she's already working on her second novel is very exciting. 

3) Erica Crouch
It doesn't feel like I only discovered Erica Crouch's writing this year, because I've read her entire Ignite series and one of her short stories. I love her voice and her writing style, so I'm constantly on the look out for more of her releases. 

2) Nova Ren Suma
I read 'The Walls Around Us' just before it released, and I thought it was brilliant. I was certain it was a debut novel, because I thought I would have heard of Nova Ren Suma before if it wasn't - it turns out she already had a whole bunch of books released. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of them. 

1) Melissa Grey
Another debut novel, I needed to include Melissa Grey on this list because 'The Girl At Midnight' is one of the best books I've read this year. I know I keep saying that, but it's true - I've discovered some amazing debut authors. 

I'm really happy with the awesome authors that I've discovered this year, and I'm even more excited to read their new releases in the future! Which authors have you discovered in 2015?

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Ten bookish wishes

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

I'm walking home from a long day at work, and I'm not really paying attention to where I'm stepping. I've had difficult customers, I've been rushed off of my feet and I can't wait to get home, put my feet up and drink a hot chocolate. I'm thinking about what book I'm going to read next, when I trip - my foot caught on something, and because I have the balance of a toddler I've gone flying to the ground. I push myself up, look behind me, and there's a lamp on the ground.
A lamp? A random lamp on the pavement, tripping me over? Of course, that's just my luck. I pick it up and rub it to clean off some of the dirt...

And poof, out pops the bookish genie!
"Why, hello there Alyce! Would you like me to grant you ten bookish wishes?" 
I'm confused, because I've never really believed in genies, but I'm so up for this - who doesn't want to have their bookish wishes granted? And ten of them - that's an amazing amount! So I take a deep breath, and I make my wishes...

10) I wish for more precise book to movie adaptations
*glares at The Mortal Instruments* I know this is technically a movie wish, but I'm sure the bookish genie will have some sway in the other areas of entertainment. I just don't want any more adaptations to be ruined due to a lack of precision (I'm looking at you, Valentine, with your hair as black as night).

9) I wish for a better ending to 'Allegiant'
*shakes fist at Veronica Roth* There was so much wasted potential in this novel, and I think the bookish genie could fix that up. 

8) I wish for less trilogies
Come on. Divergent, The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, The Fifth Wave, Red Rising, Blood Red Road, Legend... Need I say more? I'd prefer one huge book than three short books, because at least with the one huge book you can read it all in one go. I just have issues with extended gaps between series books being released, because it makes it impossible for me to stay on top of what is going on. 

7) I wish for no ridiculously long series
For the same reason as the last wish, but also because no one cares once a book series has surpassed nine or ten books. Sometimes four or five can be necessary (even if I'd prefer it not to be three) but any more than that? House of Night, the Sookie Stackhouse series, the Morganville Vampires... Has anyone actually read all of them? (Also, why have I only just realised that the only ridiculously extended series feature vampires? I should have wished away vampires). 

6) I wish for no needless rewrites
We had 50 Shades of Grey, and we did not need a fifty-first. And who wants to read about the adventures of Edythe and Beau?

5) I wish for less pre-release hype
There are so many examples where I've been put off of a book due to the hype that has surrounded the months before it has gone on sale. It's probably my fault, for reading all of the hype, but it makes me physically unable to start the book when it comes out. 

4) I wish for Stephenie Meyer to finish The Host series
I would wish for 'Midnight Sun', but I feel like it might already be on the way. Alas, the continuations of The Host series have never been announced and are scarcely mentioned. I loved 'The Host', but knowing there is meant to be a follow-up... Bring it on. 

3) I wish for a sequel to 'Entangled' by Cat Clarke
Cat Clarke is the queen of YA contemporary stand alone novels. I'm normally fine with that title, but with 'Entangled' I need to know what happens!

2) I wish to be able to read faster
I read more than the average person, because I put more hours of my day into it - alas, I'm not such a fast reader. I can be sometimes, but if there's too many distractions I'm lucky to get a page read in five minutes!

1) I wish for more wishes!
No one said you couldn't, right?

Do you think I wished for the right things? What would you wish for if you found a bookish genie? Comment below!

Monday, 19 October 2015

Warped UK 2015 - 18/10/15

I'd been peeing myself with excitement about this festival for quite a while now. I hadn't seen the majority of the line-up live before, and because I've seen so many bands at this point that's always a rare thing. I love seeing new bands live, so I made sure to catch as many people for the first time as I physically could. 
That being said, out of the entire line-up of 33 bands (not including Allusondrugs, who pulled out the morning of the show)... I missed four. FOUR. That means I saw 29 bands live yesterday, in some way, shape or form. I'm sad to say that Boy Jumps Ship - yes, the Boy Jumps Ship who made it on my Warped UK playlist - were actually one of the four bands I missed... I was on my way down the stairs to their stage when their set finished, which was a huge shame. I spoke to one of the guys after the set, though, and with their debut album release date set for March I'm expecting to be seeing them fairly soon in the new year, tour dates permitting.
As you can imagine, not all of the bands I saw are going to get reviews (I saw Creeper from outside the Kevin Says stage, as it was at capacity, and only saw about twenty seconds of Fearless Vampire Killers while walking through their room), but this is going to be a big one, so hold on to your helmets!

First up were The Word Alive, who had the early time of 2:30pm. Seeing as the doors didn't open until about 2:35, and then the main stage wasn't open once the crowd was let in, this actually ended up becoming a 2:50 start. I was nervous that the band were going to get their set cut short - I used to be a huge The Word Alive fan, and I was really pumped to see them in a live environment - but thankfully they still got their full 30 minute stage time.
I'm ashamed to admit that I actually didn't recognise quite a few of the songs that they played. 'Life Cycles' was one of my favourite albums, back in the day, so I loved hearing 'Entirety' and 'Life Cycles', but I didn't know the rest of the set. I did really enjoy 'Lighthouse', and it's convinced me that I need to pick up the new album, 'Real', and try to listen to more from this band again. Their new material is in a completely different direction from their earlier songs, and I actually think I might prefer them!
At the end of the set, vocalist Telle Smith announced that the band would be returning next year, so I'm keeping my eye out for those tour dates.

Play The Victim
Life Cycles

I only saw the first three Ghost Town songs, and I really don't understand the appeal. I've missed them three times in the last two years, so I thought I'd make sure to hear some of their set and I kinda wish that I hadn't bothered. Vocalist Kevin "Ghost" McCullough has quite a nasal vocal tone, so it just felt as though I was watching an electronic version of The 1975. I wasn't impressed. However, the crowd reaction that they were getting was brilliant, especially during 'Spark', so maybe I'm just missing something.

Quick shout out to Rob Lynch, who I've finally seen performing with his full live band! I saw him back in March playing a solo acoustic, then missed his full band set at Slam Dunk, so it was great to hear the songs that I recognised from the previous set with such a different arrangement. The set was very fun-filled, despite the lyrical depth, and I wish I'd managed to see more than just a couple of songs.

I managed to arrive at Forever Came Calling's set at the right time, because I arrived there just after they'd started 'Ides'. I can't put into words how phenomenal their performance was, because it was just one of those sets I don't think I can fault. Vocalist Joe Candelaria has such a distinctive voice and it flourishes in a live environment, making for a high energy set and a fantastic atmosphere.
I loved hearing their new songs for the first time in this environment, too. Their second album, 'What Matters Most...' was released a year ago this week, but because of how brilliant 'Contender' is I was nervous about listening to the follow-up, so I've avoided it like the plague. That's changing with this set though, because songs like 'Transient (I Don't Miss)', 'August Is Home' and 'Indebted' aren't songs that you can just hear once. Lyrically they're beautiful, but musically they're pushing the boundaries of the pop punk scene, and Forever Came Calling are definitely standing out from the crowd with this release. I was surprised that they didn't have a bigger crowd, because they deserved a lot more people. I do think that overlapping with Man Overboard was the reason behind this, but the people who chose Forever Came Calling will not have been disappointed.
I didn't get to see the entirety of their set, because they overlapped with Metro Station, but due to the delay on main stage I managed to get to see a heck of a lot more than I'd expected, with the part of the set that I saw listed down below. I know for a fact that I'm seeing them again as soon as I possibly can - I always liked Forever Came Calling, but I think I fell in love with them at this show. I've also finally managed to get hold of 'What Matters Most...' - I can't wait to finally listen to it!

Transient (I Don't Miss)
The Office
August Is Home
Mapping With A Sense of Direction

Then, it was time for the big one - Metro Station. I've been waiting to see these guys live since 2009, when their debut self-titled album released over here. I've been waiting for six years, through their only UK tour supporting Trace Cyrus's oh so famous sister, through the departure of all of the members, through the Mason Musso solo EPs and through the unexpected reunion, and the day I'd been waiting for had finally arrived.
It didn't start off so well. 'Control' was plagued by sound issues, with Trace's microphone hardly working and Mason's microphone going towards the end of the song, and I did consider for a moment fleeing the room - I didn't want to have one of my all time favourite bands (I know, but they've been with me for a while, okay?!) ruined for me by a terrible live performance.
But I stuck it out, and the sound issues actually fixed after that first song, leaving the rest of their half an hour set to be pure pop fun. The crowd reaction was brilliant, and while the band might not have the most rock style or be the most perfect live, no one in that room could deny that they were having a ball. Through new songs 'She Likes Girl' and 'Love and War', and older songs 'Seventeen Forever' and the flawless 'Shake It', it was just something light-hearted to unwind and enjoy.
You could tell the band were also enjoying themselves. Metro Station sometimes get negative comments for being aloof and disinterested, but with Trace taking the time to thank the UK for "showing us this love, you guys are the fucking best. I wish people in America were so appreciative of music as you guys are" it was quite a poignant moment.
The last time the band toured in the UK, they played the O2 Arena. When you think of it like that, Alexandra Palace is almost a small show for this band. They know how to perform for larger crowds, and the ease with which they do it is impressive - you'd think they wouldn't look so relaxed, what with having just released their second album and with not coming to this country in over half a decade, but Metro Station are a band that know what they're doing. Trace announced that "Metro Station's back, and we're gonna fucking stay this time" and said that they would be coming back to the UK quite soon, and I am definitely looking forward to that day. 13 year old me might have loved Metro Station blindly and without question, but 19 year old me is still quite impressed.

She Likes Girls
Seventeen Forever
Love and War
Getting Over You
Shake It

Taking a quick moment to pause, to say that I just love the friendships that show during Warped. Every band that I saw was calling out to another band, and telling people who they should go and see later, and I think that level of support is brilliant. Some of the smaller bands that might not have received a large crowd probably had quite a bit of traffic pushed their way through shout outs, and it's heart-warming to see how inclusive the day was. Metro Station shouting out Never Shout Never was certainly a surprise, and Forever Came Calling asking people if they saw Man Overboard, while Man Overboard were still on stage in the next room, was humorous - it added something really special to what was already an awesome day.

Now, on to the inimitable Bryce Avary, also known as The Rocket Summer. Bryce is another artist that I've been listening to for years (I can't remember how many, but probably around seven years) and I just hadn't managed to see live. I missed the beginning of his set, because I got held up in the merch village meeting Forever Came Calling (another fabulous thing at Warped, that the bands just casually chill out at their merch tables!) but as soon as I got back I was instantly blown away.
Bryce has a beautiful voice. It's not questionable, he does. He's also a multi-instrumentalist, so he just casually plays all of the instruments on his songs, and writes them all himself, too. It's only in a live environment that he concedes to having other people helping him, because no one can sing, play guitar, play keyboard and play the drums at the same time.
The thing is, even when Bryce has other people on stage with him, it's impossible to take your eyes off of him. His stage presence is immutable. His brand of music can see quite inclusive at times, but when he makes the effort to unwind his microphone from his keyboard and walk around stage to get the crowd involved, you can see how much thought goes into every move. I wouldn't call it calculated, but I would say that Bryce knows what his audience wants, and he knows how to give it to them.
Because I used to listen to Bryce so much, back in the old days, I actually don't know any of his new material. It's awful, because I bought his fifth album, 'Life Will Write The Words', the day it was released - it's just that whenever I think about listening to The Rocket Summer, I always pick 'Calendar Days' and 'Do You Feel', because they're two brilliant albums. This meant it was actually the first time ever that I'd heard 'Save' and 'Revival', and while I didn't find them as instantly captivating as 'So Much Love', they were both beautiful. In fact, the entirety of the six songs that I heard were beautiful - particularly the closer of 'Walls' and 'Come Alive', who blended together but managed to stand on their own, and were arresting in their intensity. Seeing Bryce with his loop pedal, so completely absorbed in the music that he was making... He's completely dedicated, and he deserves more recognition for his talent.

So Much Love
Of Men and Angels
Come Alive

I will admit, after The Rocket Summer I was planning on taking a little bit of time out, because Metro Station were meeting fans and I couldn't pass up the opportunity. While waiting in the queue, beautiful acoustic music starting playing in the Rock Sound tent... It was Forever Came Calling, meaning that instead of just seeing them once that day I managed to see them twice!
Because the queue for the meet and greet was over the other side of the room, I could only vaguely hear the set, but I managed to distinguish 'Front Porch Sunrise', 'If Bukowski Could See Me Now' and 'Spanish Mother's (I Just Miss)'... Or at least, I think I did. I could hardly hear the lyrics, so I was going off of the music, and pop punk sounds very different (and much more beautiful) acoustic. Don't quote me on the set (and know that I did miss a song at the end, because of the whole "meeting Metro Station" thing), but I need to say a huge thank you to Rock Sound for getting this organised, because it sounded delightful... from a distance... with a lot of people talking.

I only managed to sit through the first song and a half of Beautiful Bodies before I decided my time was better spent going to purchase food. I loved the recording of 'Capture and Release', and I've had it stuck in my head all week - it's a brilliantly written song, and the recorded version is great. Alas, vocalist Alicia Solombrino just doesn't seem to be able to perform live. Her voice sounded shrill and like she hadn't properly warmed it up, and it made the set very uncomfortable to listen to. It might have been the acoustics of the room: for a band playing one of their very first UK shows to play such a large room, they wouldn't be used to the set up or the amount that they needed to put into the performance, but I'm just not too sure. I'm seeing them supporting The Maine and Mayday Parade in February, so we'll see if they sound any better there.

Another band I really disliked the sound of was Attila. I'd never listened to them before, but with vocalist Fronz sounding as though he was performing extended barking throughout the majority of the one song I heard, I don't think I'm ever going to listen to them again. They drew one of the biggest crowds of the day, which really surprised me - I do question the music tastes of the people who attended this thing...

However, I did enjoy John Coffey, who I'd kind of expected to be nonchalant about. When we walked in to their room, there were around five people at the barrier and a large gathering to the left hand side of the stage, which was a little confusing... Until we realised that there were band members in the crowd, encouraging the audience to mosh around them while they played. Because the Kevin Says stage was so intimate, it worked brilliantly - it was energetic and unexpected, and definitely put them on my highlights of the weekend. We did only see the very end of their set, so I'm not sure how the rest of it played out, but it's put them on my radar.

I saw quite a large section of Memphis May Fire, but already I can't remember what 'No Ordinary Love', 'Stay The Course' or 'The Sinner' sounded like. I don't actively listen to Memphis May Fire, but I saw their entire set at Warped UK back in 2013 - I'd just expected to be able to recognise some of the songs that they played. The ones I did hear have already slipped my mind, and I don't feel inclined to listen to them again... I'm not sure why, but they're a band I find it very hard to gel with. However, musically they were on point (I can remember appreciating the guitars, even if I can't remember what they sounded like) and I hope I might be able to get into them some day.

The last of the five bands that I was super excited about, Never Shout Never also massively impressed me. I didn't know what to expect, as I'm an early Never Shout Never fan - I love all of the pre-'What Is Love?' EPs, and 'What Is Love?' itself, but I haven't listened to anything past that. I know they've had five albums out since, and I know that makes me a dreadful person, but I just haven't liked any of the newer material.
However, I think that's changing with 'Black Cat'. The album released a few months ago, and the first thing that caught my attention was definitely the psychedelic artwork... It's the most unique album artwork I think I've ever seen. Then 'Hey! We Ok!' was released, and the love affair began once more - it was fun, it was refreshing, and it was everything I liked about their early material.
Never Shout Never (or, as vocalist Christofer Drew introduced them, "we are Never Shout Whatever from Timbucktu, and we are absolutely thrilled to play for you") feel more melancholy live, because it's all a bit of an introspective jam session. 'Trouble' is a majorly happy song, but with the full band backing they slowed it down a little bit, added in some more reggae beats, and I didn't think I'd like that but I loved it. It was just so chilled out and smooth, and I've never appreciated that in a live band before - I get very bored very easily (attention span of a moth!) but for some reason that just didn't happen during Never Shout Never's half an hour.
I will admit, I did sneak away during 'Black Cat', into the next room to see a tiny bit of Moose Blood, but instead of staying for the second half of Moose Blood's set like I'd intended, I went straight back in to Never Shout Never. It might be because I'd never seen them before, it might be because I'd been so excited during the lead up, but it just felt like something special was going on. They didn't have a huge crowd, but the people who were there were really enjoying it, and I was very impressed.
The stand out moment was definitely their cover of The Doors' 'Break On Through (To The Other Side)'. Christofer introduced the song by admitted that "we ain't the most rockin' band on the bill", but they proved that they could be if they wanted to. Christofer's voice is much more powerful than I'd imagined - he has clarity and precision during all of the Never Shout Never songs, but the cover added an extra element and proved that he can sing in multiple styles if he so wishes. It makes me excited for what the band could do in the future, because they really could branch out into heavier music and perform it successfully (I mean, Panic! At The Disco are quite a bit heavier, and Never Shout Never's Ian Crawford used to be their touring guitarist, so musically they could toughen up a bit too). There's just so much potential.
I'm definitely going to check out 'Time Travel', 'Indigo' and the rest of 'Black Cat', because I feel like I've been missing out on a lot not following this band more closely over the years.

Piggy Bank
Silver Ecstasy
Happy New Year
Break On Through (To The Other Side) (The Doors cover)
Black Cat
Time Travel

I need to give a shout out to Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes, too. I only managed to see half of 'Fangs' and closer 'I Hate You', but I've heard from a friend that he was mocking the Young Guns fans waiting at the stage next door, taunting them and trying to get them to join in with his singalong, which is a beautiful use of a combined space. If you know people are in the room that don't want to see you, keep addressing them and they can't help but listen to your songs. Finishing 'I Hate You' with a split singalong, switching between the people in front of Frank's side of the stage and the people on the other side, it was inspiring that the entire room did seem to be singing along - it was probably one of the best vocal reactions all day.

In a twist that even surprised me, I ended up seeing all of Young Guns set. It's not that I don't like Young Guns, it's just that I've seen them three times in the last year and I don't really like 'Ones and Zeroes' as an album, so I didn't think I'd get sucked in.
The thing with Young Guns is: their material is bloody catchy. Yeah, half of the time you can't really understand what vocalist Gustav Wood is actually saying, so you just need to make the right sorts of noises, but the "woah-oh-ohs" and the "woa-ohs"... There's plenty of room to just have fun.
It was a homecoming like never before for the band, with Gus sharing "I live ten minutes away, and I grew up twenty minutes away, so this is the definition of a hometown show for me", and it was a successful one. The majority of the songs were from the new album, but the thing about 'Ones and Zeroes' is that it's extremely over-produced - you can palpably hear the studio - so the songs are pure and untainted live, making them much more successful. 'Daylight', instead of being overly echoing and, quite frankly, irritating, was instead beautiful and impressive: it has a sound that lends it to a large room, and if Young Guns start headlining arenas at any point in their career, this is going to be a song that will go down a storm. The same can be said for 'Gravity', another song that seems overdone on the record but is an epic arena-worthy song.
I loved the fact that 'Daughter of the Sea' and 'Winter Kiss' made it into the set, because it's always good for bands to recognise their older material, but I was surprised they decided to only include one song from 'Bones' (and that only being the title track of the album). I know the band are promoting their new album, but when you consider the fact that they're in the middle of their second humongous headline tour this year... You'd think that they might have pushed the album as much as they needed to, and they might have put more special moments into this set.
Gus announced to the crowd that they band are going to be taking some time off next year, but they should be back in summer 2016 with a new tour and a new single, because they're going to be working hard on what will become their fourth album. Young Guns have so much unfulfilled potential, I just hope they take a risk with their new material because they might be able to push themselves to much higher heights than they've currently reached. Hopefully the next album will be more raw, because this band are so talented they don't need all the studio editing and production - it really detracts attention from their skills.

Rising Up
Daughter of the Sea
Winter Kiss
Speaking In Tongues
I Want Out

After Young Guns, I was so pumped to finally see the UK debut of Asking Alexandria with their new vocalist, Denis Shaforostov. I appreciated the old Asking Alexandria, but I didn't love them - I just couldn't get into their music, and I really disliked Danny Worsnop's antics... It was all a bit too overtly misogynist for me to get on board with.
Alas, nothing has really changed. When I walked in, clean vocalist and guitarist Ben Bruce was thanking the crowd for accepting Denis into their family, then went on to make some crude jokes about blowjobs - with the crowd all screaming along like it was the funniest thing in the world, I just couldn't get over how juvenile it all seemed. Asking Alexandria are much more talented as musicians than All Time Low, but they're just as childish in their stage banter. When the next song was introduced with "this song's about sex" to many more screams from the crowd, I almost couldn't take it any longer, but I decided to wait and see what Denis was like as a replacement.
The answer is: not too great. Sorry, but it's true. Denis is pretty, yes, and he makes for a great frontman because attractive people sell music - it's not an over-exaggeration, it's not a lie, it's completely true. In fact, I probably wouldn't have been excited about seeing the band at all if Denis hadn't been who he was - shallow, but true. Now... Now, that isn't even enough to appeal to me. His screaming isn't fab, his voice doesn't really complement Ben's, and while he can work a crowd he seems too self-conscious to be able to perform to this many people at this early stage. Asking Alexandria were already established when Denis came in to the band, but I think he needs a lot more experience before he's at the level he needs to achieve.
This is another case of a replacement singer not surpassing the original, and that's a damn shame.

We all know how excited I was about Metro Station, so who will believe me when I say that my favourite band of the day was Heck? I didn't think it would happen, but they owned the entire Warped experience. 
I'm going to be honest: I nearly skipped Heck. I saw them as Baby Godzilla back in March, and because we were focused on seeing bands that we hadn't seen before we'd almost written them off. If Asking Alexandria had impressed me more, I wouldn't have wandered down there - and I would have missed out on the most frenetic, jaw-dropping, confusing and crazy twenty minutes of my whole goddamn life. 
When you walk in to a room, there's an amp in the middle of the crowd, a guitarist on top of the amp and a vocalist running madly around in circles... It's impossible not to be a little impressed. 
When the moshing starts, circling the amp with some people jumping on top of it, again, it's quite impressive, but it's nothing completely out there, nothing completely different. 
But when the vocalist starts vaulting the barrier two or three times in each song, singing in the crowd, singing on top of the crowd, letting the crowd sing for him, and then the guitarist decides to casually stand on the barrier while playing, and then someone decides that the drummer definitely needs to be in the crowd, so the entire drum kit gets reassembled in the middle of the floor... That's the sign of the best show I think I've ever been to.
I can't tell you what songs they played, because I was so gobsmacked by what was unfolding in front of me that I could hardly even hear the music. You don't watch a Heck show, you get absorbed by a Heck show. A Heck show swallows you whole, spits you back out and makes it impossible for you to look at live performances in the same way. A Heck show is unmissable, indescribable, unbeatable. 
If you missed Heck, you're an idiot. I don't care who you missed them for, you should have been there. I'm almost glad that their crowd wasn't larger, because one of the reasons we almost skipped them was because we were certain it was going to be at capacity: if the room had been at capacity, there would have been no spontaneous drum relocation, and no mid-crowd jam session, so I'm selfishly pleased that they didn't have the crowd I'd expected. But I mean, come on people - if you're supporting UK live independent music and you're not seeing Heck, you're doing something wrong. Heck won Warped, hands down. 
I'm probably never going to listen to Heck in my spare time, because they aren't a band that you can have on in the background at home while you do the cleaning or take a shower. But they are a band that you can trust to put on a brilliant live show, so I'm going to see them as many times as I can - now I just need them to announce a damn headline tour!

The final act of the night were Black Veil Brides, who I'm surprised to say actually impressed me. I only know a couple of their songs ('Rebel Love Song', 'Perfect Weapon' and 'Fallen Angels', to be precise) so I wasn't too pumped for this set, but they performed extremely well. There was lots of fire, of course, lots of screaming, of course, but there was also lots of well-performed technical guitar, and some pretty sweet drumming in there too.
I find it hard to like Black Veil Brides because of Andy Biersack's vocal tone - it's nothing against him, it's just that my ears don't really like the timbre or the quality of his voice. It doesn't really sound the same live, though, which is odd - his voice sounded more natural, and I found myself really enjoying it. 
The most poignant moment was definitely just before 'Fallen Angels', when Andy dedicated the song to their friend and guitar technician Chris Holley, who passed away earlier in the year. Chris's mother made Andy a necklace from Chris's ashes, so that Andy could take Chris around the world with him - he mentioned the fact that Chris was there on stage with them tonight, and it was a very touching tribute to a fallen comrade. Chris also worked with Asking Alexandria, so it was a beautiful tribute to someone who would have been front and center of the Warped proceedings. 
Now, I'm not saying I'm going to join the BVB Army, or that I've spontaneously fallen in love with Black Veil Brides music, but they put on a really good show and I think they deserved to headline - even if they had received a lot of hate for it, I think they're at the stage now where this is going to be the kind of show they perform regularly, and that won't be a bad thing. 

Faithless (*)
Heart of Fire (*)
Wretched and Divine
Knives and Pens
Shadows Die
Last Rites
Rebel Love Song
Perfect Weapon
Fallen Angels
In The End

(*) I found these two songs thanks to the setlist posted by BVBFansWorld on Twitter, so thank you for posting!

If you were at Warped UK, and you saw any of the bands I reviewed, please help! If the setlist has a hyphen in it (apart from Black Veil Brides, which denotes the break between the main body of the set and the encore), that means I missed that song (or songs) or just couldn't work out what it was that was played. If you were there and you know which songs I'm missing, please let me know: thank you!

The entire list of bands we saw at Warped UK is as follows:

Twin Wild
The Word Alive
Ghost Town
Rob Lynch
Man Overboard
Forever Came Calling
Metro Station
Fearless Vampire Killers
The Rocket Summer
Forever Came Calling (acoustic)
August Burns Red
Beautiful Bodies
Chunk! No Captain Chunk
John Coffey
Memphis May Fire
In Hearts Wake
Never Shout Never
Moose Blood
Reel Big Fish
Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes
Young Guns
Asking Alexandria
Black Veil Brides

I hope you enjoyed my Warped UK review - fingers crossed there will be another date next year!

Friday, 16 October 2015

'Lips Touch: Three Times' by Laini Taylor

*This review will contain spoilers!*

'Lips Touch: Three Times' is a collection of three short stories, with a kiss as the focal point of each of them. Written by Laini Taylor and featuring beautiful illustrations from Jim Di Bartolo, this short story collection is definitely something different. I've written a short review for each story down below, with a personal rating for each.

'Goblin Fruit' - 2/5
'Kizzy wanted it all so bad her soul leaned half out of her body hungering after it, and that was what drove the goblins wild, her soul hanging out there like an untucked shirt.'
Starting off with 'Goblin Fruit', we hear the story of Kizzy - a girl who wants. Goblins thrive off of desperation, so they follow Kizzy as she wishes for a better family, a prettier face and a loving boyfriend, and to make her feelings even stronger one of the goblins takes on the form of a human boy called Jack. When Jack starts at Kizzy's school she automatically has strong feelings for him - he's the kind of guy she's always fantasized about having. Kizzy knows about goblins, because her aunt had an encounter with one when she was younger - after getting addicted to goblin fruit, she nearly traded her soul away for another taste - and Kizzy's been told the story by her family a hundred times. Even though she knows there is something off about Jack, and is pretty certain that he's a goblin, she wants so badly that she can't stop herself when he leans in for a kiss with fruit juice all over his mouth. 
I liked the concept behind this one, but it all felt a bit rushed and I think it could have been written a lot better. It was only fifty pages, including all of the illustrations at the beginning, so I didn't felt that attached to the characters or the story. In all honesty, Kizzy was an irritating and aggravating human, so I actually felt that it was good karma when she got her comeuppance. I liked the way that the ending of the story was left open: instead of stating explicitly that Kizzy died due to her rendezvous with the goblin, the illustration hinted towards that end but it was left slightly open, which I thought was much more interesting - a completely wrapped up story that short would have been disappointing. 

'Spicy Little Curses Such As These' - 4/5
Where 'Goblin Fruit' was too short, 'Spicy Little Curses' was the perfect length. Coming in at just over seventy pages, it was the perfect length to make you care about the characters and to give a great resolution to Anamique's tale. 
When we start 'Spicy Little Curses', we are witnessing a meeting between Vasudev and Estella - a demon and the human ambassador who barters with him for human souls. It's the day of Anamique's christening, and there has been a earthquake nearby that has killed twenty two people. Estella tries to campaign to save them, but Vasudev is feeling generous - he tells Estella that she can have all twenty two souls and won't need to present other souls to replace them with, as long as she places a curse on Anamique. The curse? That whoever hears her voice will drop dead.
Estella agrees, begrudgingly - she doesn't want to inflict the curse, but one child for twenty two children seems like a fair deal. She places her own spell upon Anamique, ensuring that she will not utter a word until she understands the seriousness of the curse she's received. When we join a teenage Anamique all those years later, she still hasn't spoken a word - most of the people believe her curse is a lie, but she believes in it.
Of course, this all changes when she meets a boy. James is convinced that the curse is fake, so he tries to persuade her to speak, but he quickly changes his mind when he meets Estella and she shows him the reality of magic. Anamique had decided to speak for the first time when James proposed, but when he interrupts her answer she rebels against the curse and sings - and her song causes the death of over sixty people who were attending her eighteenth birthday party.
Because so many years have passed, Estella is nearing death. Anamique manages to strike up a deal with Yama (the equivalent of Satan) and he agrees that Anamique can become ambassador to Hell, and in exchange for her services and Estella's soul she can revive the party guests who she murdered with her song. 
I like Laini Taylor's writing style, but I think it works a lot better when it's more fleshed out. The first short story was so short that it was almost jarring! I just think Anamique's story was so easy to relate to and empathise with, so I really did feel invested in her story and wanted to how it was all going to work out. The characters were realistic - I mean, who believes in a curse with no evidence in front of them?! - and I was rooting for them to get a happy ending, despite the crazily fast insta-love (James finds Anamique's diary on a train, and automatically feels as though he's in love with her, just by reading her words on the page). I know you can be infatuated with someone almost instantly, but the love just wasn't believable because of how quickly it moved and how it happened. But then again, this is a short story collection revolving around kisses, so I should have anticipated insta-love - that was probably my bad! The only thing (other than the insta-love) that really didn't sit well with me was Anamique's reaction to killing every person she'd ever known - she went straight to James. With all of her siblings and her parents dead, she went to the body of the man she'd know for mere weeks. 
I did feel really happy that everything worked out so well in the end: after the ending of the first short story, I did worry that they were all going to end up being warning against the danger of first love. 

'Hatchling' - 4/5
The week before Esmé's fourteenth birthday, she is woken by the sound of wolves howling on the streets of London, and after looking in a mirror she discovers that one of her eyes has turned icy blue. She goes into her mother's room to ask her what is happening, but Mab starts screaming hysterically and spitting words of a mysterious language in Esmé's face. She's terrified, and her fear doesn't subside when Mab tells her to grab her belongings because they are leaving London. Fleeing to France, they're about to board a ferry to take them to the far reaches of Africa when they hear the wolves howling again. The wolves are Druj, and they're hunting for Esmé. A mysterious man is waiting for them in one of the ferry cabins, and he magically creates a portal in the floor - they find themselves back in London, but the man hardly waits a moment before he grabs Esmé and teleports her away to Tajbel, the beautiful kingdom of the Druj.
This short story dives straight in with hardly any explanation. The Druj are mystical beings similar to fae, though their name means demon - they don't eat, they don't grow older, they don't breed. They live forever, and have been around since time began, even if their memories are hazy (covered by the mist, as it's referred to), but their immortality comes at the expense of their souls. However, they can shape shift into any creature, they can float across distances in whichever form they choose to take, and their essences can slip into humans allowing them to wear people like costumes. It really is a rollercoaster ride for the first section of the short story, because so much is going on with no context, but because the pace is set so well and the adrenaline is pumping you can't help but be sucked in with the characters plight.
Over the course of the story we discover that Esmé's mother, Mab, was one the izha to the Queen of the Druj. Being an izha means being the Queen's pet: the Druj cannot have their own children, so the Queen has an izha that she treats as her own child, and when the girl hits puberty she forcibly breeds them so that she can have a brand new pet. Mab was regularly worn by the Queen, put through this ordeal regularly from her tenth birthday, and the psychological damage she has received throughout her life is devastating. Of course, when Esmé wakes up with one of her eyes blue, the same colour as Druj eyes, Mab doesn't know what to do and finds herself scared of her own daughter.
The mysterious man who has been watching Esmé, Mihai, actually helped Mab escape from the Druj when she was pregnant. With no explanation, he teleported her to civilisation and introduced her to his friend Yazad. Until Esmé's eye changed colour, Mab had thought that they were safe, but really the events were just biding their time.
You see, Mihai had discovered the secret to the Druj - if a Druj wears a pregnant woman, they can hibernate in the growing child, only surfacing when the baby hits puberty. When the time comes, the Druj and the human soul separate, leaving the Druj to return to their body. Both are equally affected, though: the Druj starts to develop human feelings and regains a semblance of a soul, while the human is bestowed with an extended life span. Because Mihai performed this with Yazad, Yazad is over five hundred years old, and shows no signs of stopping. Since Yazad, Mihai has performed this with twelve other souls, allowing him to remember much more of the past of the Druj, including the fact that they all used to be human. Only by intertwining with thirteen souls can the Druj repair the souls that they once had, that were destroyed when they chose immortality.
Mihai remembers loving the Queen, so he convinces her to slip into the pregnant Mab, where she is trapped inside Esmé until her eye changes colour. It's been fourteen years since Tajbel has had a ruler, and the kingdom has fallen in to disrepair. The description of the castle is breath-taking in its intensity: the palace is all naturally formed, with spires and bridges of rock raised above deep chasms, and the chasms are infested with rotting beasts who hunger for the people living just above them.
'Hatchling' was, by far, the best story (more of a 4.5, to 'Spicy Little Curses' 3.5 - alas, the need for half star ratings on Goodreads is strong in this one) - the thought that went into the back story, and the ingenuity of the plot kept my attention held and made me want to read more from this world. The story is uncomfortable to read at times - a young child being kept in a cage and suffering abuse at the hands of her surrogate family, the disgusting rape of the two innocent children, Esmé being kidnapped by a strange man at just thirteen years old - and I was quite shocked by some of the imagery featured, but I can't deny that sometimes the best books deal with the hardest topics, and Laini Taylor wrote them in a way that was touching and emotive.
However, I disliked the fact that the Queen was only cold hearted and vicious because of her inability to bear her own children - it detracted from her character and it made her seem weak rather than the strong ruler she'd been portrayed to be. I understand that childbearing is a focal point of many women's lives, but it just didn't feel right in this story. On the other hand, I liked the fact that the reason for the Druj's soullessness was due to their greed and desperation to be immortal - it poses a good question about humanity and where our priorities really lie, because I'm sure a lot of people would swap their soul for an infinite life without a second thought. All you really need to do is to live the life that you've been given to the fullest potential.
The ending was, similarly to 'Spicy Little Curses', a happy one - I was pleased with the fact that the story followed through for a chapter, it didn't just wrap up the central plot and finish abruptly. However, with the ending that we received I still want to know what happens next, as the story is the most interesting and the characters the most well-formed.

Overall, I did enjoyed the 'Lips Touch' collection, but I didn't think it was amazing. The average rating of the three short stories was 3.3, so I'm rounding it down to a 3 star review. I'd been expecting more, because I really enjoyed Laini Taylor's short story in the 'My True Love Gave To Me' anthology, but something about this just didn't click for me. I'm still looking forward to reading the 'Daughter of Smoke and Bone' series, but I'm not as excited as I had been before - hopefully I'll enjoy them more because they're longer books and the world and the characters will be more developed.

FRIDAY PLAYLIST: Warped UK edition

Somehow, the time has flown by so quickly that it's nearly the end of October - that means it's time to get excited for Warped UK, which is happening this Sunday! Out of the fifty bands on the line up, there is only one that I don't like, so I'm going to have a very busy day running around trying to see as many people as possible. These are the ten I'm most looking forward to seeing, so buckle up:

10) Black Veil Brides
I don't really like Black Veil Brides, but because they're one of the two co-headliners I'm definitely going to make the effort to go along for a couple of songs in their set. I'm not sure what I'll think, but I'll try anything once!

9) John Coffey
I like John Coffey's sound, so I'm interested to see them in that respect, but I also want to see if their vocalist, David Achter, does anything as awesome as he did at Pinkpop festival this summer.

8) Beautiful Bodies
I am very partial to a female vocalist, so I need to catch Beautiful Bodies. I'm already seeing them in February, supporting The Maine and Mayday Parade, so if the set clashes are too deadly I probably will skip them - hopefully the stage time gods will be on my side. 

7) Boy Jumps Ship
I keep missing Boy Jumps Ship, which is a shame because they're a brilliant example of UK pop punk. Their material is really catchy, and I feel like I could really get into this band. 

6) The Word Alive
The Word Alive are one of those bands that I've nearly seen multiple times, but the plans have always fallen through. I'm definitely going to catch some of their set at Warped, even if I can't see the whole thing.

5) Asking Alexandria
I've never loved Asking Alexandria. However, I think their new vocalist Denis Shaforostov is much more vocally talented than their previous vocalist, so I'm interested to hear how their old songs play out with a new singer. 

4) Never Shout Never
'What Is Love?' by Never Shout Never was one of my favourite albums of all time when it was released. Because their direction has changed so much over the years (the addition of more band members, Christofer Drew Ingle's voice breaking) I almost hoping that they don't play earlier songs - new release 'Hey! We Ok' is pretty catchy though.

3) The Rocket Summer
The Rocket Summer (stage name for Bryce Avery) is one of those artists that I always seem to forget about. I listened to a lot of his earlier stuff, then forgot to listen to any of the newer releases - I'm looking forward to hearing some new material, but I'm still hoping 'So Much Love' gets played. 

2) Forever Came Calling
I'm a bit too excited for Forever Came Calling, because they tweeted me and said that 'Ides' is definitely going to be making it on to the setlist. It's one of my favourite songs of all time, and I know I'm going to see their entire set. 

1) Metro Station
When it was announced that Metro Station were finally returning to the UK, I will admit that I did nearly cry. I'm so excited to see them live, even if the majority of their material is super cheesy pop punk. Who doesn't want to dance to 'Shake It' live?!