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Everything Alyce: January 2016

Saturday, 30 January 2016

'Be Careful What You Witch For' by Thomas Hoobler

*This review will contain spoilers!* 

First things first, I need to say a huge thank you to Booktrope, for allowing me to view this title on NetGalley, and to NetGalley for the service that they provide.

I was actually really excited to read 'Be Careful What You Witch For', because I read Thomas Hoobler's 'Come Sit By Me' last year and really enjoyed it. 'Come Sit By Me' was a contemporary based on a school shooting, so I thought I'd like this magical novel even more.
However, I ended up hating it. Olivia is the stuck-up daughter of two movie stars, and when they go overseas to film a movie she ends up going to New York to stay with her Aunt Tilda (Aunt Tilda, who is an awful lot like Aunt Hilda from 'Sabrina the Teenage Witch'...).
First things first, Olivia's a racist. She lands in New York, takes one look at the taxi driver and observers 'he was wearing a turban and some kind of long striped shirt and baggy pants that made Olivia think of terrorists' - great way to really reinforce some degrading stereotypes. She then encounters another taxi driver, René, and comments 'he had an accent that Olivia thought sounded French, though of course he couldn't be French' because - you probably guessed it - René is black. And it's completely unbelievable to have a black Frenchman, isn't it?
Secondly, Olivia's a homophobe. She makes a friend called Paul, and when she finds out he likes men she's understandably shocked. When she discovers the power of spell-casting and Wicca, she contemplates whether she can change Paul into a 'real boy' and then there's 'a daydream she was having - trying to decide whether she would dump Alex if Paul turned into a real boy'.
This sickens me. I was already utterly bored by the book, but this little section is what really pushed me over into the I DESPISE THIS BOOK WITH ALL OF MY GODDAMNED BEING. Being gay does not make you less of a real person. You shouldn't fantasize about what it would be like to date your gay friend if you turned him straight. Yes, Olivia doesn't end up going through with it (only because Paul completely dismisses it and tells her she should like him for who he is - she doesn't even decide by herself that it's wrong!) but the fact that it was included... It's just disgraceful. This is the 21st Century, and attitudes have changed enough that this kind of thing shouldn't make it into books that get published - it's discriminatory, dismissive and, quite frankly, homophobic. If she had gone through with it, it would have been as bad as using exposure therapy in mental asylums.
Even dismissing that irritant, this book was bad.
Olivia moves to New York, where she's surrounded by mysterious things happening. She's fourteen, but she's never heard of reincarnation, or levitation, or pretty standard witchy things that most girls of fourteen would have at least encountered in books or on TV by that point of their lives. This means it's extremely unrealistic (I'd go so far as to say you could tell it was written by a male, but there are a lot of male authors who can write female characters well... It just feels as though the author didn't particularly put in a lot of research for this book).
More things that make it unrealistic? Well, other than the fact that it seems as though Olivia's never encountered a gay man before - come on, her parents are Hollywood movie stars, she really should be a bit more open-minded about things! - she also gets very upset when the girl at school she hates doesn't invite her to her party (okay, this wouldn't happen - it's so unbelievable, because no one expects to be invited to the party of their sworn nemesis) and she's extremely rude to most of her classmates as soon as she joins the school, not giving them a chance to show her their personalities but just being instantly judgmental of their looks (for example, her school guide is Muffin, and the first thing she says to her is "You could get contacts, you know". No one is that horrible on their first day at a new school).
There's a lot of generic teen worries about school and friends and boys, but there's not a lot of magic until the last half of the book. Aunt Tilda tries to keep things on the down low, but her next door neighbour Eva delights in teaching Olivia how to cast spells. This would have been better if there had been more interactions between them (and less of a focus on the kinds of teas that Eva was serving) but the magic is so scattered throughout the first half of the book that it's not cohesive in the slightest.
The relationship between Olivia and Alex was bordering on abusive: she places a spell on him to make him fall in love with her, then proceeds to spend his money and order him to do things that he's uncomfortable with throughout the entirety of the novel. She insists that she's not thinking of him as a familiar, then three pages later tells herself 'He's my familiar' to somehow make her attitude towards him completely acceptable.
They still end up together at the end of the novel, even after she takes the spell off of him, which I assume is supposed to show us that he was truly in love with her and the magic didn't cause that much of a change in him. However, when you consider the fact that Olivia states "I don't really love him, but it was nice to think somebody loved me", it makes you feel very sorry for Alex - she's using him, so if he genuinely does have feelings for her it's even worse.
I just thought his portrayal was very stereotypical (hottest guy in school with no brain cells) and the fact that Olivia thought throughout that she 'wanted to dump him entirely, but he was too useful'... No.
The ending is rushed, with Olivia thinking it's a super smart idea to summon seven demons to roam the school "until all within it are deceased" - it really hits home what a self-obsessed and immature child she really is. It also doesn't make much sense: she summons the demons, but for some reason all of the people in the school get turned into animals? What sense does that make? There's no explanation for why there was this side effect, so it just left me with a huge question mark hanging over my head. The story is left open to allow a potential second book: all I can say is PLEASE GOD NO.
I'm not even judging this book so harshly because I don't like the characters (well, I don't, but sometimes I hate all of the characters and still really love the book e.g. 'The Great Gatsby') it's just that I don't think it was written well. The characters were very weak and the interactions between them were so simple and stereotypical that I felt as though I'd read this book many times before. There wasn't even really a plot line, because the focus switched from high school drama to magical disaster extremely quickly, and then was wrapped up in record time... It just didn't really give you a chance to get into the story. There was nothing new or unique to add to the witch mythology, so I just wish it had been left alone.
I could go on but, quite frankly, I don't want to. If you like witches, you might like this book - all of the other reviews I've seen are raving about how good it is - but if you hate racism and homophobia I would shy away from this one. 

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Thursday, 28 January 2016

'Drew' (Changers #1) by Allison Glock-Cooper and T. Cooper

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*This review will contain spoilers!* 

The Changer life is a unique life: every year, on the first day of the new high school year, the Changer wakes up in their next 'V' - a form that they live in for the next 365 days. On the first day of their first V, the Changer gets an implant inserted into the back of their neck, and using that implant they Chronicle, mentally writing diary entries about each day of their life. At the end of the four years, after inhabiting four different bodies, the Changer chooses their Mono - the singular form that they will occupy for the rest of their lives. 
Of course, Ethan doesn't know this, so when he wakes up on his first day of high school as a super attractive blonde girl called Drew, he's understandably freaked. His - sorry, her - parents are excited, her Static (human, non-Changer) mother is over the moon to finally have a daughter, and her Changer father is happy to finally be able to share his true nature with his child. But Ethan/Drew is annoyed to have had such a huge secret kept from her, and it takes a long time for her to come to terms with the news about her life. 
'Drew' is split into three seasons: Fall, Winter and Spring, with the chapters being told through the Chronicling diaries (for example: Change 1 - Day 265). At the start the days are near consecutive, showing how much is happening in Drew's life that she's still attempting to come to terms with, but as time goes on the Chronicles become fewer and farther in between as less of note occurs on a daily basis.
I have to congratulate the authors for creating such a strong voiced character. Within the first few pages you know exactly who Ethan is, and when he changes into Drew his response definitely makes him a stand out character. Sometimes I find adults writing teenagers to be a bit cringey, and it is at times (the appearance of 'jaysus' and 'gawd' being particularly NOPE moments) but other than a few incidents towards the start of the story, the rest of it is brilliantly crafted. 
There's a lot of different themes tackled in this novel: gender identity, gender perception, bullying, xenophobia and sexuality, to name but a few. Because Drew has been Ethan for the entire start of her life, she finds it strange when she's suddenly attracted to Chase, because he's a male (and a Changer, which is totally against the rules, but no matter!). However, she's also attracted to her best friend, Audrey: it seems natural because she's liked girls her entire life, but now that her gender has changed it causes her even more internal struggling. 
We also have the problem of the Changers vs. the Abiders - people who believe that humans should only ever occupy one form, as God intended, and whose only objective is 'the eradication of the Changer race'. When Drew discovers Audrey's brother Jason is an Abider, she starts to worry about Audrey being brainwashed into becoming one of them - as Audrey departs for Abider summer camp at the end of this first novel, I'm hoping that will be tackled in Drew's next incarnation. 
By the end of the book, Drew has already learnt a lot of lessons: not to judge people based on their sexuality or their gender; not to dismiss the difficulties that women have just because of their gender; not to take for granted who anyone is, because everyone changes - even if not to the same extremes as her. 
While the book teaches some good lessons, I feel as though you could definitely tell it was the set-up to a larger series. The internal monologue of "oh, I'm a Changer, this is weird, I hate this, I hate everyone... well except from Audrey" got a bit grating at times, but I think that's something that would improve as the series went on and the Changing became secondary to the plot. 
The second book in the series, 'Oryon', sees Drew become an African American, which I'm hoping will bring a lot of opportunity to tackle racism and the perception of black youth by the general public - there's a lot of potential for plot in this second installment, both in character choice and in the ongoing fight between the Abiders, the Changers and the RaChas (Radical Changers, a group who want Changers to become public knowledge) so there's no doubt in my mind that I'm definitely going to pick it up when it releases in March. 'Drew' was a solid start to what could be an extraordinary series, so I'd certainly recommend it if you're looking for something a bit different. 

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Wednesday, 27 January 2016

TOP FIVE WEDNESDAY: Top five disappointing eye candy

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

We've all been there: judge a book by its cover and end up severely disappointed.
I'm there more often than I'd care to admit, because - I'm not going to lie - I read most of the books I read because of their covers, not in spite of them!
So these are the five books that have disappointed me most, and have the most beautiful covers in the history of ever.

5) The Beautiful Dead series by Eden Maguire
Okay, this might be cheating because there are four books (and I also really don't like the cover of the fourth book, 'Phoenix') but this entire series has beautiful covers but is a massive pile of suck. I don't know why I read all four, because once you've read the first one it's just a regurgitated plot: there's a ghost whose death needs to be avenged so they can pass on to the other side. Nothing revolutionary here. 

4) 'Marly's Ghost' by David Levithan
A word-for-word retelling of 'A Christmas Carol', but with all of the Christmas references changed to Valentine's references, and Tiny Tim becoming a gay couple. There isn't much creativity in a word-for-word retelling of a book, but the cover is so stunningly beautiful. 

3) 'Only We Know' by Simon Packham
This would probably come in my top ten covers of all time - it's so gorgeous, and the butterfly and the caterpillar signify the change in the characters and the metamorphosis they go through, so it's very metaphorical (plus a very pretty shade of green) - but it's also one of the most disappointing (and aggravating) books I've ever read.

2) 'The Fault In Our Stars' by John Green
It's so pretty, but it's so BAD. 

1) 'Severed Heads, Broken Hearts'/'The Beginning of Everything' by Robyn Schneider
For a book to have a spectacularly gorgeous cover both in the UK and the US, you think it's going to be revolutionary. Alas, I despised this novel. I really wish I'd been blogging back when I read it, because I remember having so many reasons that I hated it - I've actually bought it and am going to reread, just to see if it's as annoying the second time around. 

I hope you enjoyed this Top Five Wednesday! What covers do you love that have super disappointing content?

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Tuesday, 26 January 2016

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Ten books I feel pressured to read (and probably never will)

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

After seeing this article on The Guardian earlier this week, classics have really been playing on my mind. I'm a book blogger and I work in a library, so oftentimes people assume I've read literally everything (spoiler alert: I haven't YET) so they'll ask me what I thought about a book, and when I say I haven't read it - awkward silence complete with tumbleweeds.
Never ending tumbleweeds...

So anyway, because this is the freebie week on Top Ten Tuesday, I thought it was the perfect time for me to talk about the ten books I feel constantly pressured to read - not necessarily classics, but definitely well-known books - and why I'm probably never going to read them, so you should STOP ASKING! 

10) 'The Luminaries' by Eleanor Catton
I bought 'The Luminaries' and I was so excited about it - I can't even remember why now! - but it's just so long. Beautiful, though, and with a wonderful concept. It also seems to be one of the only Man Booker winners that really retained its popularity. 

9) 'Lord of the Flies' by William Golding
A group of young children get stranded on an island, start worshipping a rock and end up beating someone to death with it. Or, at least, that's what I can gather happens based on the things I've heard. I don't think the book can be as exciting as I'm imagining, so I'm leaving 'Lord of the Flies' alone so that I can't be disappointed. 

8) 'Crime and Punishment' by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
If I want to read about 'Crime and Punishment', I can read any of the recent crime books or legal thrillers being published. They normally have really snappy, attention-grabbing titles, too: I mean the name of this one must give away the entire plot, if there's a crime and then a punishment. 

7) '50 Shades of Grey' by E. L. James
First of all erotica = not my thing. Second of all, little old ladies recommending it to you = shudder, shudder, I think I want to die right now. 

6) 'Pride and Prejudice' by Jane Austen
"You must have read 'Pride and Prejudice', of course... Oh, you haven't? So, you uneducated peasant, what Austen have you read? Three quarters of 'Emma'? My dear, that doesn't really count." 
Yes, me, I understand that three quarters of 'Emma' doesn't really count as reading an Austen novel, but I couldn't claw my way any further into it. You're talking to the girl who groans with boredom just through the adverts of 'Downton Abbey' - you really think I can deal with this shit in book form?! 

5) 'Gone Girl' by Gillian Flynn
I was really interested in 'Gone Girl' before all of the furore surrounding it a couple of years ago. Since then I couldn't really give a damn. I know, blasphemous, right?! But it just seems to be that it's a book about relationship drama that's veiled as a thriller - doesn't sound so thrilling to me. 

4) 'To Kill A Mockingbird' by Harper Lee
Everyone says that you need to read 'To Kill A Mockingbird' in your life, but it has never appealed to me. I can't say why: I've picked it up a few times and read the first few pages, but then I start to yawn and promptly fall in to a very deep sleep. Not that I'm blaming the book for that, though... 

3) 'Wolf Hall' by Hilary Mantel
Well, any Mantel book, really. Just because you're a Man Booker Prize-winning author, doesn't mean I have time to read a book that's the size equivalent of three bricks stuck together. 

2) 'The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy' by Douglas Adams
Don't get me wrong, this book looks like it will be a lot of fun, and it's only really short - I could read it in a day! I just don't have the inclination to. I'm not sure why: I like space, I really do. I just don't think I like space enough. 

1) 'Interview With A Vampire' by Anne Rice
"Alyce, you like vampire books, have you read this one? No? But you've seen the movie right? No? Why not! It has vampires, see! VAMPIRES!"
I would have read 'Interview With A Vampire' about six years ago, if I was going to. I bought it, I was all prepared to read it, but something stopped me. Now I struggle with vampire books (well, for the most part) and this is one that I just can't see myself getting around to. 
The same can be applied to the Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood series of books by Charlaine Harris, and the Argeneau Vampire series by Lynsay Sands. 

Phew! That felt like a never ending list, filled to the brim with never ending tumbleweeds.
If any of you still feel like talking to me after seeing all of those books that I haven't read, why don't you comment down below with some of the books you're never going to read? I promise I won't judge you! (Okay, maybe just a little).
Also, if you've read any of these books, would you recommend them and why? You just might change my mind and make me reconsider one of these little guys.

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Monday, 25 January 2016

'All of the Above' by Juno (formally James) Dawson

*This review will contain spoilers!*
'Now, I appreciate you might be thinking that this is all a bit issues galore and mega emo. Well, sorry, but that was what happened. It would be neater, wouldn't it, if this was a story about self-harm or sexuality or eating disorder or drunk mums or ridiculously hot bass players, but it's a story about all of them. Yeah, it's a mess. And it's about to get messier if you'll bear with me. That's the way it is sometimes - nothing's ever neat and tidy.' 
I've read a lot of books this year already (more specifically a lot of young adult contemporaries) and none of them have gripped me as much as 'All of the Above'. This was the first novel by Juno Dawson that I'd ever read and I was not disappointed in the slightest; I'd heard amazing things about her writing, but I hadn't had the time to read one before now.
'All of the Above' is the most realistically written young adult book I've ever read. Toria moves to a new school and is quickly accepted by the AltKidz - Daisy: the anorexic, Beasley: the closet gay kid, Freya: the bookworm, Alice and Alex: the kooky couple, and Polly: pink-haired badass leader of the gang. Compared to the rest of the group Toria feels positively normal, with her Indian alcoholic mother and her father who uprooted the family for a new teaching job, and she's surprised that she settles in so quickly. 
Soon enough Toria's falling in love. She meets Nico, bassist for Judas Cradle, who goes to the other sixth form across town. He used to date Polly and Toria worries about causing tension within the group, but when Polly gives her blessing it's not long before Toria and Nico take their relationship to the next level. But when Toria starts getting feelings for Polly, she has no idea what it means...
I don't know if it's just because I'm quirky as fuck - sorry, but it's true - but I really related to most of the stuff going on. Some YA books just feel as though they're trying to emulate teen life a bit too mechanically, sending text speak messages that none of the young folk can understand, but that's not a problem here. The voices are realistic, very easy to relate to, and the issues that they struggle with are beautifully handled. It might seem like overkill, having so many people struggling with so many different things but - as someone who has literally just come out of the school system can tell you - the problems are all so prevalent in youth today that I'd challenge any teenager who said they didn't know someone who was fighting one of these issues.
It just seems to me like Juno gets it. The quirkiness is believable - being displayed in their clothes and their outlandish plans to save the local crazy golf course - and none of it feels staged or cringey (unlike a couple of other books I can think of *cough* 'The Fault In Our Stars' with those damn metaphors *cough*) so I could totally get on board with it. It genuinely felt as though it could have been Toria's memoir, because her voice was the only one you could hear - it was almost as though there was no one translating her and she was talking directly to you.
This is one of the only books I've ever read in a single sitting. Normally I get fidgety and can't focus, but 'All Of The Above' kept me gripped, and my only complaint is that it had to end. I feel as though there are certain books that come along at exactly the right time in your life, and they resonate so deeply within you that it's as though they were written specifically for you: this is one of those books for me. I was in a similar situation to Toria a couple of months ago (really liking a girl but completely adamant that I AM NOT A LESBIAN NOPE NO WAY JOSE) and it was amazing to realise that I wasn't the only one who'd had those thoughts and feelings. Instead of feeling as though I was a complete and utter weirdo, Juno helped me see that it wasn't entirely crazy of me to be confused about my feelings, and hopefully I'll be a bit less hard on myself in the future.
You guys, I can't express how strongly I recommend this book. I could go on for hours about how brilliant and inspired this novel was, I could quote endless passages that really made me stop and think for a bit (especially the one on Instalove)... But I'm going to let you discover this one for yourself. Just trust me, go and pick it up, and make sure you put aside an entire day to read it in - you won't want to leave this one halfway through. 

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Saturday, 23 January 2016

'See How They Run' (Embassy Row #2) by Ally Carter

*This review will contain spoilers!* 

First things first, I need to say a huge thank you to Orchard Books, for accepting my request to view this title on NetGalley, and to NetGalley for the service that they provide.
'He was the first boy I ever kissed. And in the deepest, darkest part of me I have to wonder if that's what killed him.'
If you haven't read the first book in the Embassy Row series, 'All Fall Down', what have you been doing for the last year?! GO AND READ IT. If you need more convincing, you can see my spoiler free review of that first novel here. This review will contain spoilers for the first and second books in the series.

At the end of 'All Fall Down', Grace's life had been turned on its head. She'd been trying to find the Scarred Man, her mother's murderer, and in her search to find him discovered the truth: she shot her mother, in a terrible misunderstanding three years before.
After nearly being killed by the prime minister of Adria, Grace is on another a mission. Her grandfather's chief-of-staff, Ms Chancellor, shot the prime minister to save her life, and when Ms Chancellor isn't instantly arrested Grace is very suspicious. Ms Chancellor lets Grace in on a secret: there's a secret Society that has been running Adria since the country was founded, run exclusively by women, and they pull the strings behind every government decision. Because Grace is the granddaughter of the US ambassador she's now a part of the Society, being entrusted with their deepest secrets and the secret history of Adria.
Alexei's gone back to Russia, and Grace isn't allowed to confide in Noah, Megan or Rosie: other than Noah's twin, Lila, no one else knows about the Society, and due to the secretive nature it needs to stay that way. Jamie, Grace's brother, returns from his military service to help look after her, bringing his friend Spence with him, and Spence is the only person Grace feels she can trust because he's the only person who doesn't know the girl she used to be. She goes to a party with him and kisses him - her very first kiss - and then Alexei appears out of nowhere and decides to defend her honour by brawling with him on the beach.
So Alexei is the main suspect when Spence turns up dead the next day.
Whereas the first book definitely incorporated more espionage, with constant spying and sneaking, 'See How They Run' is much more of a murder mystery. Spence's death is instantly blamed on Alexei, but Grace knows for a fact that he couldn't have killed anyone, so she spends the entirety of the novel trying to find his mother and attempting to uncover the government conspiracy that's allowing Alexei to be framed. I really appreciated this departure from the first novel, because it felt so different but the world and the characters were still very vibrant and immersive: it was different, but the development made a lot of sense.
Another development that worked brilliantly was the shift in Grace's character. She's still very strong and independent, but because of the revelation about her mother she's finally showing more of her vulnerability, which makes her a lot more human. She's still struggling with panic attacks and PTSD, made worse with the constant flashbacks of her mother before her death, but the flashbacks aren't irritating - they make sense in the plot, and they're so beautifully intertwined that the transition from the current developments into the past is absolutely seamless.
The only real complaint I have with this book is the fact that there are no chapter breaks. I still don't know if that's only a problem with edition I received, but it does make it a bit difficult when the scene completely changes in the space of a sentence, but the characters stay the same and you need to take a moment to readjust. I'll have to have a look at the finished copy to know if this is a continuing problem, but it's something that takes a while to get your head around.
I mean, yes, there were a couple of other things that I didn't enjoy. The almost love triangle between Grace, Spence and Alexei was needless, but I'm glad it was nipped in the bud so quickly - if it had been an ongoing plot it definitely wouldn't have appealed to me. I did appreciate the relationship between Grace and Alexei, though - it looked as though it was going to happen in the first novel, but it didn't, which means the feelings between them were well crafted and were already believable and authentic: it was a natural next step for them to take. I did wish there'd been more scenes of Grace interacting with Noah, Megan and Rosie, because their friendship in the first book was very immersive and they were hardly ever separated, but I can see why that was put on the back burner during this book. However, getting more interactions between Grace and Jamie was something I really loved - the tension between them is palpable and the dialogue between them is so brilliantly written that pages fly by in moments, so I'm glad we saw more of their relationship.
I still adore Ally Carter's writing style. It's been so easy to fall in love with Grace again and to really care about the continuation of her story. The attention to detail regarding the founding of Adria and the history behind the country made the story feel much more realistic - it's always difficult when a story is set on Earth but in a fabricated country, so getting more information definitely brought the place to light.
When I found out there was going to be a third Embassy Row novel I was very excited. This novel ends on such a cliffhanger: Jamie gets stabbed and his life is in the balance, and while he's being treated Grace finds out she's the long lost princess of Adria. It'll be interesting to see how this plays out in the next installment, because the government conspiracy and the 'big bad' behind Spence's death still hasn't officially been revealed, but it's definitely holding my attention.
If you haven't read an Ally Carter novel yet, what are you doing with your life?! I'd sincerely suggest you hurry up and catch up with this series before the third installment is released, because you're missing something very special and fun. 

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Friday, 22 January 2016

'This Raging Light' by Estelle Laure

*This review will contain spoilers!*

First things first, I need to say a huge thank you to Orchard Books for accepting my request to view this title on NetGalley, and to NetGalley for the service that they provide. 
"What kind of person doesn't come back?"
"I don't know. What kind of person leaves in the first place?"
'This Raging Light' starts two weeks after Lucille and Wren's mother walks out on them. She claimed she was going for a vacation to find herself and would be back in a fortnight, but on that fourteenth night Lucille knows that they're on their own now. Her dad had a mental breakdown a couple of months earlier, and his refusal to meet with their mother pushed her over the end - it's now Lucille and Wren against the world.
Lucille knows she's need to be careful regarding who finds out about their situation. Wren's only nine, and she's seventeen: until her eighteenth birthday there's a very real risk of social services coming along and taking Wren away from her. Lucille does all she can to keep her family together: she gets a job and enlists her best friend, Eden, and Eden's twin, Digby, to help her look after Wren.
The problem? Lucille has been in love with Digby for years, and spending so much time with him sends her emotions into overdrive. Digby has been with his girlfriend, Elaine, for as long as anyone can remember, so Lucille knows nothing can happen between them, but it doesn't stop her hoping. Eden doesn't want anything to happen between them, because she knows Digby will end up getting hurt: she cuts Lucille out of her life, and when they finally meet up to discuss the tension between them, tragic events occur and Eden ends up fighting for her life.
I'm very conflicted over how I felt about this novel. I really loved Lucille's character for being unafraid to fight for her family and for not letting people push her around - she would do anything for Wren, and she proves that time and time again. I also love Eden's character, who's an unapologetic feminist and strives for her goals even when she's told they're unattainable.
It's just Digby that causes me problems. Everyone says what a good guy he is, but if he's so nice and caring, why is he cheating on his long-term girlfriend who he's been discussing marriage with? If someone's being a shitty character I like it if the other characters can accept it: there's just too much denial in this novel.
The relationship between Lucille and Digby isn't even that convincing, either. She's liked him for years, basically obsessing with him, but we don't see any of the early development of her feelings because they occur before the book starts: it means that even if it isn't insta-love, it's extremely cringey (especially when she thinks "if he ever kissed me or something, I would die of implosion". Shudder.
It wasn't too surprising when Lucille and Digby ended up together - she needed to have something happy in her life! - but I was impressed that the novel ended with both of her parents still absent. Her father had been in touch but hadn't returned to the family home, while her mother was still completely AWOL. Whereas I'd been anticipating the neat, easy resolution wrapping up all the loose ends, it felt a lot more realistic without the convenient happily ever after.
My only real complaint is that I don't really understand what the subplot of Eden's accident actually had to contribute to the plot. It was very rushed: Eden and Lucille fix their friendship, but Eden slips on black ice, hitting her head and sliding into the rushing river beneath them. Lucille jumps in and saves her, and Eden remains in a coma until the conclusion of the book, which ends with her reopening her eyes.
Yes, Eden's accident seemed to make Lucille think twice about what she was doing with Digby, but that was happening anyway because Eden had warned her to back off from him. It made her plan a neater future for her and Wren, but she'd kind of been doing that anyway. I guess Digby might not have broken things off with Elaine if Lucille hadn't saved his sister's life, but that just proves how shallow he is and makes me think maybe she would have been better off if he had stayed in the relationship. If you've read 'This Raging Light' and can see any metaphorical significance, or any serious plot developments, that hinge upon Eden's accident, please let me know! It's really bugging me, but because I was reading the book quickly I don't know if I just missed something or if it didn't register.
I definitely could have enjoyed this novel more without the relationship element, because the descriptions of Wren and Lucille's struggles on their own are very emotional. It's impossible not to empathise with them, and when you consider how many children are out there struggling by themselves... It really made me feel grateful for what I have.
If you're looking to read an emotional contemporary, I'd suggest this one: just avoid it if you're offended by cheating, or if you like neat endings!

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Thursday, 21 January 2016

'Alienated' (Alienated #1) by Melissa Landers

*This review will contain spoilers!* 
"This alliance is madness."
"Which is exactly why we need to go." 
In 'Alienated', it's been two years since the aliens of the planet L'eihr made contact with Earth, and steps are finally being taken to forge an alliance between the two planets. This alliance takes the form of a school exchange trip: Cara Sweeney, valedictorian of her high school, has been paired with a high achieving L'eihr, who will live at her home and attend school with her for a year. After that year, she will go to L'eihr to undergo a year in their education system. The humans will get to know the exchange students and after they learn more about L'eihr they will hopefully trust the planet enough to form a mutually beneficial alliance.
Only three exchanges happen: America, where Cara lives, China and France. This is one of the only issues I had with the entire story - if you're trying to forge an alliance between planets, I think it needs to occur on a larger scale, with more than three students being involved. Maybe if there'd been ten or twenty it would have made more sense: it just seemed far too niche to me.
Moving on from that one slight complaint, I actually really loved the plot and the science behind the world that Melissa Landers crafted. Cara gets paired up with Aelyx, much to the chagrin of her boyfriend Eric. Eric is a member of HALO - Humans Against L'eihr Occupation - a terrorist organisation who are determined to make the alliance fail, ranging from using persuasive techniques to a terrifying level of force. Cara is disgusted by Eric's bigotry so ends their relationship, but her best friend Tori is also unable to trust Aelyx, leaving Cara completely alone.
Meanwhile, Aelyx and the other two exchange students, Syrine and Eron, also don't want the alliance to succeed. Humans have destroyed Earth, so they don't want people moving to L'eihr and ruining their beautiful and well-preserved planet. In an attempt to stop the alliance being successful, the students plant something called sh'alear: a parasitic tree that stops the growth of all crops near it. By sabotaging the environment, Aelyx hopes that the humans will link the destruction to the arrival of the L'eihr and will send them home to their planet.
However, neither Cara nor Aelyx anticipates the relationship that happens between them. When Cara starts falling for Aelyx she starts caring a lot less about the opinions of people around her, and when Aelyx realises what he's feeling towards Cara he tries to stop the sh'alear plan.
I'm happy to report that their relationship is brilliantly developed: there's no insta-love here! Cara is automatically attracted to Aelyx, but she doesn't fall madly in love with him within a week of knowing him: it takes a lot of deep conversations and time, which is something I appreciated. The same can be said for his feelings for her - Aelyx has despised humans his entire life, so when she breaks down his barriers he's conflicted and doesn't have a clue what he's feeling. It made his character a lot easier to relate to, because he's quite arrogant and aloof - he's very certain that the L'eihr are better than humans and he's not afraid to voice humanity's failings - so it's nice to see him experiencing emotion.
The themes in this book are very easy to extrapolate and apply to other situations, as the xenophobic and racist attitudes towards the L'eihr are terrifyingly realistic. Every day in the news there will be another terrorist group attacking someone somewhere, and that's just with all of us being humans: if aliens did happen to come to Earth, I think that physical violence and murder wouldn't be too surprising in the slightest. It really does make you open your eyes and look at the state of humanity and how we interact with each other, but it also makes you think deeply about how we treat the planet. This book might be a YA novel, but it deals with a lot of subjects that need to be talked about more with younger people: if we can get all teenagers to start tackling global warming and racism from a young age, in ten years there could be a huge shift in attitudes and procedures.
The other thing that I really loved about this novel was Melissa Landers writing of Cara's parents. It sounds ridiculous, but a lot of YA novels completely disregard the parents: they don't give them back stories or strong relationships, they don't get names and they don't get personalities. It's completely the opposite in this book, because Bill and Eileen are brilliant characters in their own rights, and I really enjoyed their interactions and the relationship between them and Cara. Eileen definitely stole my heart the most, particularly when her book club kicked her out because of her connection with Aelyx: "They keep pushing to read that unedited fan-fiction book with all the spanking!". Melissa's writing is very funny, and there were multiple points where I laughed out loud - that doesn't happen often, so I really enjoyed that aspect of the book.
The second novel is set up beautifully: at the end of the book, Aelyx is remaining on Earth to help with the alliance while Cara is on her way to L'eihr to begin her exchange year. There's a lot of potential for where the series can go, and I'm looking forward to reading the second installment and getting more of Cara and Aelyx as individuals: I really like both of their characters, but the majority of their interactions were with each other, so it'll be good to find out if they're as strong on their own.
I was very, very close to rating this book a 5 star, but the illogical choice of only having three exchange students really did bug me throughout. That's the only thing that I didn't like about the book though, so if you like alien novels I'd definitely recommend this one! This one will especially appeal to fans of the show 'Star-Crossed', which only ran for one season: it's fairly similar to the plot of that TV show (even down to the aliens having a secret plant which cures cancer) so it's definitely worth a read if you enjoyed the series!

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Wednesday, 20 January 2016

TOP FIVE WEDNESDAY: Top five buzz words

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

Normally, the things that make me decide  to pick up a book and read it are either the cover or the blurb. I might already like the author, or have heard amazing things about the novel in question.
But there are times when I'm still quite undecided, then a word on the front cover will smack me in the face and make me NEED. NEED BOOK WITH EVERYTHING I HAVE.
These are five of those words that cause me to have a serious case of the frantic grabby hands.

5) 'Dark'
What does dark mean?! Morbid and depressing, evil and terrifying, or seductively sexy? I've seen 'dark' on crime novels, high fantasy novels, vampire romance novels... It can mean anything, but it's normally something I enjoy. 

4) 'Laugh-out-loud'/'Hilarious'
I enjoy a funny read. Sometimes the books that are supposed to be funny really, really aren't - it doesn't stop me trying, though!

3) 'The book that inspired the hit movie...'
Okay, this is a phrase, so a little bit cheating!
If a book has been made into a movie, it means that it's already experienced a level of success tat the majority of books just can't reach. Yes, sometimes the movies are awful ('Beautiful Creatures', you haunt me) but I normally enjoy at least some aspect of either the original or the adaptation. 

2) 'Zombie'
This buzz word is so buzzy, even zombies are trying to get their hands on the books.
I just can't resist zombie novels. I finished 'Autumn' by David Moody a couple of days ago, and the only reason I picked it up was because it said 'The hit zombie novel' in big letters on the front cover - without that the blurb was a little ambiguous, so I wasn't sure whether I wanted to try it out. 

1) 'Heartbreaking'/'Heart-wrenching'
I am a glutton for punishment, so if I think that a book is going to tear my heart out and stomp all over it... That likely means that I'm going to read it and love it. 

I hope you enjoyed this Top Five Wednesday! Which buzz words make you instantly have to read a book?

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Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Mystery Jets - Sound Knowledge, Marlborough, 18/01/16

Seeing the Mystery Jets has always been a goal of mine, because I've been listening to them since way back in 2008: the announcement that they were playing a small set in Marlborough, a mere fifteen minutes away from my house, meant there was no possible reason that I was going to miss their show.
Because of how excited I'd been, I didn't feel annoyed at all when issues with the sound system caused a 45 minute delay, but with a large amount of the crowd leaving the building you could tell not everyone felt the same way. If this set hadn't been in Marlborough there definitely would have been booing, but the audience was far too polite and calmly waited through a soundcheck that seemed to last for about an hour.
When the band eventually did start they were highly apologetic, despite the fact that the issues hadn't been their fault and were completely out of their control. Introducing the band, they announced "we're so happy to be here to see so many happy, half angry, people...", quipping "you'll be asking for a refund. I would be, Jesus," (hilarious when you consider that this show was free entry).
First song 'Telomere' did not get off to a smooth start, with the vocal being almost inaudible above the other instruments. Despite the issues the guitar work was very intriguing, and with their retro, chilled-out vibe it was impossible not to relax into their set and enjoy their music.
Their set focused upon the songs from their newest release, 'Curve of the Earth', which came out on Friday. Playing the aforementioned 'Telomere', as well as 'Bubblegum' and 'The End Up', it was really great to get a taste of the album in such an intimate environment. 'Bubblegum' is the danciest of the three: keyboard-heavy with a trippy sound that transports you back to a time long past. 'The End Up' was very slowed down, almost lullaby-esque in its gentle, soothing sound - playing it right after 'Someone Purer', the most upbeat song they performed, really showed off the full range of their songs. I've purchased the album and am planning on listening to it in full (and potentially reviewing it) at some point over the next few days - hopefully the rest of the songs will be as good as these three.
The band finished with a cover of David Bowie's 'Five Years', and after quizzing the audience on which five Bowie songs hit number one in the UK, the band performed a brilliant tribute to a legendary man. I hadn't heard the original song before, but I really enjoyed their cover - even if there was a lot of screeching feedback throughout that made it quite uncomfortable to listen to.
While there might have been sound issues and delays galore, I'm still really glad that I went along to this show, because Mystery Jets are very good live. Hopefully I'll be able to see more of them in the future, because after this taste I'm sure it would be very fun to see a longer set. 

Setlist:
Telomere
Bubblegum
Young Love
Someone Purer
The End Up
Five Years cover

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TOP TEN TUESDAY: Ten most recent TBR additions

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

If you've ever visited my blog before (if not, welcome!) you'll know that I buy an awful lot of books. As well as buying a lot of books, I'm constantly discovering more books that I want to read - they all get added on to my monstrous TBR pile.
These ten books are the last ten that I discovered and decided I absolutely most read. They're in chronological order from oldest to newest.

10) 'No One Needs To Know' by Amanda Grace
After reading 'The Truth About You and Me' a couple of weeks ago, I fell in love with Amanda Grace's writing style and promptly added all of her novels to my TBR. The one I'm most excited about is 'No One Needs To Know': the protagonist's brother gets a girlfriend, but she quickly falls in love with her. 

9) 'The True Meaning of Smekday' by Adam Rex
As you can tell by that little bubble in the top right corner, 'The True Meaning of Smekday' is the book that inspired 'Home'! I loved the film, which I watched over Christmas, so of course I'm planning to read the book. 

8) 'In Real Life' by Jessica Love
In real life doesn't publish until March (probably one of the reasons I can't find a high quality picture of the cover anywhere online...) but this contemporary tale about an online relationship sounds very adorable. 

7) 'Seven Black Diamonds' by Melissa Marr
I'm going to be honest, I haven't read any of Melissa Marr's books. But the cover of this one is so beautiful, and I've always been meaning to read her books... Maybe I'll start with this one, when it publishes in a few month's time.  

6) 'The Devil's Only Friend' by Dan Wells
Any book that has an anatomical heart on the front cover automatically gets my vote. I discovered 'The Devil's Only Friend' while perusing blogs that participated in last week's Top Ten Tuesday: I recognised Dan's name (he's the author of a YA dystopian trilogy) and I didn't realise he also wrote crime books, so that's another good reason for me to check it out. 

5) 'The Supernatural Enhancements' by Edgar Cantero
I also discovered 'The Supernatural Enhancements' through last week's Top Ten Tuesday: it's another book that looks like it will be right up my street. 

4) 'Wild Swans' by Jessica Spotswood
I love Jessica Spotswood's writing, so any book of hers is going to get added straight to my TBR. I've requested 'Wild Swans' on NetGalley, so I have all my fingers crossed that I'll get accepted for this one. 

3) 'Not If I See You First' by Eric Lindstrom
My request for 'Not If I See You First' was accepted on NetGalley last week, so I'm very much looking forward to diving into this book that follows a blind protagonist. I've read short stories based on blind characters, but never a full novel - I'm hoping I'll enjoy it, because I've heard some brilliant things.

2) 'Finding A Voice' by Kim Hood
This is a case of me having judged a book by its cover for a long time. I've seen 'Finding A Voice' around the library where I work, but I've never bothered looking at the blurb because the cover really bothered me. However, when I joined in with #SundayYA and it was a discussion regarding disabilities, 'Finding A Voice' was recommended to me and I'm now very excited about picking it up. 

1) 'I Never Promised You A Rose Garden' by Joanne Greenberg
Another book I discovered through #SundayYA, 'I Never Promised You A Rose Garden' tells the story of a teenage girl who suffers with schizophrenia. 

I hope you enjoyed this Top Ten Tuesday! What books have you discovered recently? 

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Monday, 18 January 2016

'Autumn' (Autumn #1) by David Moody


*This review will contain spoilers!*
"Do you think it was a virus that did this to them?" Carl asked. "Emma seems to think so. Or do you think it was-"
"Don't know and I don't care."
"What do you mean, you don't care?"
"What difference does it make? What happened has happened. It's the old cliché, isn't it? If you get knocked down by a car, does it matter what colour it is? [...] It doesn't matter what caused any of this. What's done is done and I can't see the point in wasting time coming up with bullshit theories and explanations when none of it will make the slightest bit of difference. The only thing that any of us have any influence and control over now is what we do tomorrow." 
When the opening sentence of a novel is 'Billions died in less than twenty-four hours', you know you're going to be in for a rough ride. 'Autumn', the first book in David Moody's extremely popular series, kicks off with a bang and pulls no punches throughout its entirety. 
A mysterious virus infects the earth, killing millions within seconds. There's no explanation for it: everyone just dies. Michael's teaching a class when a girl starts struggling for breath, but within a minute the entire class is dead. Emma goes out to buy groceries, but while she's perusing the aisles the rest of the shoppers all keel over. Carl's driving home after an early morning job, shocked when he sees a car unflinchingly drive straight into a tree: when he continues driving and discovers every road filled with bodies, he knows he'll find the worse when he gets home to his partner Sarah and Gemma, their little girl. 
Very quickly their lives converge, because businessman Stuart decides to set a large bonfire and play loud music from his car in the attempt to gather survivors, desperate not to be the last human left alive. A group of over twenty people meet at the community centre, where they lock themselves in and ignore the bodies covering the world outside. 
Tensions quickly rise, because Michael decides it'll be best if they move on to a more secure location. Carl and Emma agree with him, but Stuart and the rest of the survivors refuse to leave their safe haven. Their fear of going outside increases exponentially when, a few days after everyone dropped dead, a third of the bodies rise and start stumbling aimlessly around. 
As you can imagine: this is a zombie book. But it's not your regular zombie book, filled with uninhibited biting and chewing. This book is a slow burner, taking its time to build up the horror and to really develop the tension. You see, for the first few days the zombies do nothing but aimlessly wander. After a while, they start to react to noises and lights, following their senses and surrounding areas where there's more sound. It's not too long before they start becoming more hostile, openly lunging and grabbing at survivors. This meant that I was extremely impressed. 
I love zombie literature and films, but this was one of the first times I'd experienced the zombies taking so long to become aggressive. The explanation they give for it makes sense - that it's taking a while for their senses to return, and they're just following instinct when they get up and start moving around - and while there's no reason for the disease or for the population that survived, I'm hoping that'll come in the following installments. 
The different twist on the genre definitely held my attention, and there's no question in my mind that I'm going to be reading the rest of this series (and pretty soon, if I can clear a time in my exceedingly busy schedule). Having such different characters working together made for interesting relationships between them, and while there's potential for a relationship occurring between Michael and Emma, I sincerely hope that it won't - the need to survive should definitely be where they focus their attentions. I'm not surprised that the gang went and found a farm out in the countryside (it seems to be the first thing on everyone's mind in a zombie apocalypse - 'The Walking Dead', anyone?) but I'm glad that they've moved on from the area at the end of the novel, leaving their future and their plans up in the air and with many possible options. With the second novel in the series being called 'Autumn: The City', I'm pretty sure I can imagine where they're going to go - I'm still looking forward to it, though. 
If you want something different from a zombie novel, this is definitely a good one for you. It's also good if you don't like overt violence or gore because - at least in this first installment - there's nothing too gruesome to contend with (I mean, there haven't even been any on the page zombie bites yet, so that has to count for something!). 

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Sunday, 17 January 2016

'One' by Sarah Crossan

*This review will contain spoilers!* 
'When conjoined twins are separated, / it's deemed a success so / long as one of them lives. / For a while. / And that, / to me, / is the saddest thing / I know about how / people see us.' 
'One' tells the story of conjoined twins Grace and Tippi, written completely in the format of free verse.
After Grace suffers with the flu she develops cardiomyopathy and the weakened condition of her heart places strain on Tippi. Grace needs a heart transplant but isn't eligible due to being conjoined - the only option for the twins is to undergo a separation, or they will both die.
Being written in free verse, this book is over 400 pages but is an extremely fast read - I read it over a few sittings, but it probably only took me an hour in total. However, the speediness of the read does not detract from the emotional resonance: this book is going to stay with me for a very long time.
Before Grace and Tippi are diagnosed, they start going to high school for the first time in their lives. They're both understandably unsure about the move - they've been home schooled up to this point, and don't know how other students will respond to their condition - but when they join the school they quickly make friends with Yasmeen and Jon. Yasmeen suffers from HIV, having been infected by her mother while she was breastfeeding, so she understands exactly what it's like to have your death constantly hanging over your head. Jon quickly becomes Grace's focal point, as he treats her like an individual rather than part of a pair - it doesn't take long at all for her feelings for him to become more than friendly.
The plot of this novel definitely focuses upon their condition, but there are other things going on in their lives, which is something I appreciated. Too often, disabled characters are entirely defined by their condition, but with family issues and first loves, Grace and Tippi also live lives. I wasn't too sure about the romance between Grace and Jon (they seem to have a connection, but he sends love notes to Yasmeen just a few days before he starts kissing her, so I'm not sure what his agenda was...) but I was glad that there was some romance! I hate it when characters with differences are treated as though they're fundamentally unlovable, so it was nice to see that directly contradicted.
I'd never read a book about conjoined twins before (in fact my only previous encounter with conjoined twins in popular media was in 'American Horror Story: Freak Show', so you can imagine how those characters were represented...) and I appreciated Sarah ensuring they were completely individual people. Tippi is outgoing, strong-minded and addicted to caffeine: Grace is introverted, constantly worrying and always reading. The contrast between them made the connection between them even deeper, and I think it was a much more effective way of writing the characters - there's no way that you can get them confused, and it's just not possible to think of them as one person. I am not a conjoined twin, so I'll never know if the book was authentic, but I really enjoyed the attention to detail that went into every aspect of the construction of the characters.
The eventual decision to go through with the separation seemed very well researched: you can tell Sarah put a lot of love into this book. It's impossible not to feel empathetic towards the characters, and I constantly asked myself what I would do: if I'd been connected to someone my whole life, and one (or both) of us was likely to die, how would I cope? The fact that I had no answer for that made me feel even more emotional about Grace and Tippi's situation.
It was obvious that there wasn't going to be a happy ending for both characters, and I'm glad Sarah was realistic: it would have been unfeasible if both twins had survived after all of the warnings of low success rates. That didn't mean it broke my heart any less, though!
I really enjoyed this story being told in the free verse style, because it allowed uninhibited access to Grace's deepest thoughts and fears, while still including enough description to feel fully-rounded. Sometimes verse can be too minimalist, so it's very hard to feel connected to the setting, but Sarah's writing doesn't have this problem. Even though I read the book quickly I still took it all in - another thing that I've struggled with while reading free verse in the past.
This is the first book of Sarah's that I've read, and I'm certainly interested in trying out more. I've heard a lot of good things about her writing in the past, but now I've experienced it for myself I'm definitely more likely to try some of her previous novels.
If you're looking for something a bit different, I'd highly suggest this one: both for the format and for the subject matter.

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Saturday, 16 January 2016

'Curio' (Curio #1) by Evangeline Denmark

*This review will contain spoilers!* 

First things first, I need to thank Blink publishing, for accepting my request to view this title on NetGalley, and to NetGalley for the service that they provide. 

Grey Haward lives in Mercury City, Colorado, where contact with the opposite sex is completely forbidden, there's an extremely strict curfew and all of the citizens are completely dependent upon a daily potion. If they don't take their potion ration, they will die very quickly. 
Grey's granddad, Olan, works in the Haward Mercantile, repairing objects for the Chemists who oversee the potion dispersal. After Grey leaves the Mercantile late one night and nearly gets attacked by a vicious coywolf, her best friend (and next door neighbour) Whit rescues her, getting himself arrested for indecent contact in the process. Grey tries to take Whit's punishment, but he gets taken away and punished with the Stripe, having many deep cuts inflicted all over his back. 
After trying to defend Whit, Grey wakes up with swirling blue marks covering the entirety of her torso. She's quite sure they're bruises, but because they don't ache she just tries to forget about them. Whit returns home in agony due to his injuries, so to help him heal Grey decides to give him her potion ration. It turns out that her grandfather and father are two of the only people left in Mercury City who aren't potion dependent, and Grey has also inherited this trait.
Ration dealing is illegal in Mercury City, so when one of the Chemists discovers that Grey gave Whit her potion, he attempts to arrest her. In the process, Olan gets turned to stone, Grey's father gets arrested, and when she arrives at the Mercantile her granddad's assistant, Haimon, shoves her in a curio cabinet.
But it's not what you're thinking: Haimon doesn't just stuff her in a tiny glass case. Using blood from Grey's hand, he unlocks a keyhole and actually transports her inside the curio, where she finds herself living amongst lifelike porcelain and clockwork people. Haimon sets her a mission: "Find him and bring him back", but Grey has no idea who she's looking for or how she's meant to escape from Curio, so she finds herself living in luxury at the mansion of the ruler of Curio, Lord Blueboy, who takes a special interest in her and her mysterious arrival... 
As you can probably tell based on that brief description, this is two stories in one. There's the story of Grey in Curio, and the story of Whit out in Mercury City. The two stories are told through three perspectives: the perspective of Blaise gets added into the novel later on (if you hadn't guessed, Blaise is the "he" that Grey gets tasked with finding). 
There's an awful lot of jumping about in this book, and because of the fact that the world was very lightly constructed (ergo, there was literally no world building and I spent half of the book with my head in my hands going "Whaaaaat?!") it was easy to get disoriented and lose track of the story. The threads of the plot were intricately woven, but with no back story at the start (the history behind Curio, the Chemists and the Defenders - the people with the blue swirly marks - is explained over halfway through the novel) it's very confusing very quickly.
It also made it extremely difficult to feel any connection with the characters. You would just settle in to a viewpoint and the next page you'd be whizzing off to a completely different character. This was definitely a problem with Whit's chapters, as they were the only ones set in Mercury City and were few and far in between - they were also consistently left on major cliffhangers, which I'd forgotten by the time his viewpoint was picked up again.
The other thing that made it hard to connect with the characters was the over-abundance of insta-love. Blaise and Grey are destined to be together, because their Defender marks pull them to each other - super cliched. Similarly, Whit has feelings for Grey, but when he meets refugee Marina he automatically wants to protect her and make out with her passionately. There is some development between the characters before anything happens, but the instant "ah, I think we're probably meant to be together!" is very eye roll-worthy. 
The concept behind the novel (well, the concept behind Curio as a world) was an extremely fascinating one. The porcies need to have water to keep them animated, while the tocks need to have their keys wound regularly to keep their clockwork going, or they will also become inanimate once more. Having intricate little trinkets such as those becoming sentient was something I'd never imagined, and it was a very unique selling point for this novel. 
As I'm sure you've guessed, 'Curio' is a steampunk novel. I read quite a few books with steampunk sensibilities last year, but none of them featured the attention to detail that Evangeline Denmark brought to the table. All of her contraptions came to life, but particularly Blaise's steam-powered wings; they were described realistically, really bringing the invention to life on the page.
A lot of this book seemed unnecessary, but the sense descriptions that were featured throughout were very evocative and brilliantly written. While a lot of the scents included were machine orientated (rust, oil, etc.) Evangeline managed to write the descriptions very differently every time, and it added something special to the world: you really felt as though you could be there.
There were large parts of this novel that felt completely unnecessary. In my opinion it was about 100 pages too long, and when you combine that with the fact that the ending was horrendously rushed... It does make me think that a lot more editing could have gone into this book before it was ready for publication. There's attention to detail and then there's unnecessary waffling, and 'Curio' included a lot of the latter. 
I definitely don't think it's necessary to have a sequel, but it seems like that's where this is going. Throughout the first chapter there are hints that Grey's brother is alive, and in the epilogue that is confirmed. However, in the epilogue we also get resolution for nearly all of the other potential plot points in a second novel (Whit's two friends both get arrested: freed in the epilogue. Grey's father, also in jail: freed in the epilogue)... I don't think there's enough story left here. There's a lot more that could be done in the world of Curio, but with the trials and tribulations that both Grey and Blaise underwent in there, I can't see them willingly returning any time soon - and also, if you've infused magic into a cabinet just to keep a hostage alive, surely you'd return the cabinet to being completely normal when the hostage escaped? Just saying... 
I do have to applaud Evangeline for her inclusion of disabled characters, and the fact that she makes them so ordinary and completely capable. Oftentimes in novels if the protagonist goes through a physical change they might struggle to adapt and start becoming a damsel in distress, but after Grey goes through a transformation she takes it in her stride and doesn't let it slow her down or hinder her - I think this is a great representation and was a great thing to feature. 
If you like slow burning reads, and enjoy steampunk novels, you'll probably like this one. Just set quite a lot of time aside for it, because it is very chunky... 
If you'd prefer to explore the world of 'Curio' before committing to buying it, you can download the prequel novella on Kindle completely free (at the moment). If I'd known this was an option before I'd started 'Curio', I likely would have read it first and known this wasn't the book for me - hopefully it'll save you from making a similar mistake. 

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Friday, 15 January 2016

FRIDAY PLAYLIST: Bands who should play Slam Dunk

In case you haven't heard, the second announcement for this year's Slam Dunk festival is on Wednesday. I've been wondering which bands should be announced, and I think I've narrowed it down to ten that I'm really hoping for... Fingers crossed that at least one of these bands will be added to the line up.

10) Brand New
There were rumours that Brand New were going to play Slam Dunk a couple of years ago, and with exciting things happening in their camp at the moment, this might be more likely than ever before. 
If they played Slam Dunk, their set would need to include: 'The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot'. 

9) Creeper
Creeper were definitely one of the breakout bands of last year, and with new material being released and a headline tour on the horizon, a festival appearance could catapult them that little bit further.
If they played Slam Dunk, their set would need to include: 'We Had A Pact'.

8) Tonight Alive
Tonight Alive last played the festival three years ago, so I think it's about time they returned. 
If they played Slam Dunk, their set would need to include: 'The Other Side'. 

7) Dead!
Another UK band who had a huge 2015, Dead! would be the perfect fit at a festival that really supports homegrown talent.
If they played Slam Dunk, their set would need to include: 'Phantom'.

6) Decade
Decade recently finished recording their second album, and what better way to formally launch it to the world? 
If they played Slam Dunk, their set would need to include: 'Daisy May'. But because they haven't formally released that, I'd also be happy if they played 'British Weather'. 

5) Breathe Carolina
Breathe Carolina have gone markedly more dance than they were back in their early days, but I think that could be a good thing. A festival always needs a band who will get the crowd moving and taking themselves less seriously! If not Breathe Carolina, I'd be happy with 3OH!3. 
If they played Slam Dunk, their set would need to include: 'Blackout'. 

4) Don Broco
I want Don Broco to play for purely selfish reasons: if I see them live this year, I'll have seen them ten times. They'll be my first band in double figures, and that's an achievement I want to gain.
If they played Slam Dunk, their set would need to include: 'Thug Workout'.

3) A Static Lullaby
A Static Lullaby reunited at some point last week - literally days ago - so I think it would be brilliant for their debut UK reunion show to be a festival appearance.
If they played Slam Dunk, their set would need to include: 'The Shooting Star That Destroyed Us All'.

2) The Early November
I might be cheating on this inclusion, because on Wednesday The Early November announced on their Twitter that they had an announcement in a week's time... Hopefully, that announcement will coincide with the line-up additions. 
If they played Slam Dunk, their set would need to include: 'Ever So Sweet'. 

1) Hawthorne Heights
Hawthorne Heights have announced a huge American tour playing their album 'If Only You Were Lonely' in full, but there aren't any UK dates just yet. I can't imagine them playing the entire album at Slam Dunk, but even an appearance would be a great way to commemorate the anniversary.
If they played Slam Dunk, their set would need to include: 'Saying Sorry'. 

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