Friday, 31 March 2017

March wrap-up

March has been a big month for me.
I've finally finished working my notice period so I'm now officially unemployed, which means April is going to feature a lot more reading and blogging than I've been able to do for two years! It's bittersweet, but it's going to be fun to focus more on the blog for the next few months until I go to UNIVERSITY!
(Oh, yeah, I got in! Did I forget to tell you?!)

Bookish wrap-up:

With everything going on, I'm ecstatic to share that I managed to finish 22 books this month. I had no idea I'd read that many - I'm so shocked! Within that total I read 5 non-fiction titles and 4 graphic novels: it's been a very mixed bag this month.

The best books I read this month?:
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I don't normally talk about non-fiction that much, but both 'Girl Up' by Laura Bates and 'Happy' by Fearne Cotton (not pictured - I can't find an image that does justice to the beautiful cover!) received 5 stars from me. 
'Molly Moon Stops the World' was the only novel I gave 5 stars to this month... I've read a lot of average books, but this fun yet tense psychological adventure (for children, no less!) had me on the edge of my seat.

The worst books I read in March?:
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Both of these books were 1 star reads that were so dreadful I was moaning and groaning the entire time I was reading both of them. Luckily they were short, but I still feel as though I want those precious hours of reading time back!
I also read four 2 star books this month... It's been a pretty bad month for finding books I actually enjoyed!

Musical wrap-up:

Quite a few exciting albums were released this month, but there's no question about it: my album of the month is 'Wired' by Mallory Knox. 
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Go and listen to 'California'. It's such a marked departure from their first two albums, and shows the band developing in a way that I'd never thought possible. I can't wait to hear it live next week.

Choosing a song of the month is also very easy. I haven't been listening to much new music because I've been so busy reading, but the second I heard 'black butterflies & deja vu' by The Maine I was covered in goosebumps and almost in tears. 

Best song they've ever released, by far. I'm so excited for the new album to drop next week. 

I think my concert of the month is going to surprise you: I have to award it to Sum 41 who triumphantly headlined O2 Academy Brixton at the start of the month. Getting to see the pop-punk legends on stage, performing a seemingly endless career-spanning set was an experience I'll never forget.
I'm seeing All Time Low, SWMRS and Waterparks again tonight, and if Waterparks are sounding healthier than they did on the first night of the tour the show might beat Sum 41 to the top... But I'm not convinced that is going to happen.

I hope you enjoyed this March wrap-up! What have you been up to this month?

Thursday, 30 March 2017

TRAVEL THURSDAY: Pros and Cons of Hostel Bunks

Do you know what time it is? Yep, it's time for our New Zealand travel expert to lend us some more life advice:
PROS AND CONS: Hostel bunks
It's not for everyone, but I myself love a good barracks-style hostel. Whenever I check into a hostel there are always four questions I find myself asking; 1) "Are the showers properly functioning?", 2) "Can the WiFi handle Spotify at the very least?", 3) "Am I going to get penetrated (by knife or by cock) in my sleep?" and, perhaps more pertinent to this particular entry in my blogging resume, 4) "Should my final resting place be on the top bunk or the bottom bunk?".
Some nights you might not have to process a choice as only one bunk will be available. However, there might be a time where you find yourself with both top and bottom spare. 
Oh! What a conundrum!  
Well ponder not, my conforming progenies. I have devised a list of pros and cons so that you can proceed to conclude your decision. 
  • You have an uncensored view of the entire hostel room, leading to more social situations and less confusion upon waking up from an unintended nap.
  • Nothing will fall on you (other than the ceiling, and should that start to fall you were doomed to start with). 
  • It feels cooler. Like surfer dude at a radical festival cool.
  • It's less cramped; perfect for claustrophobics. 
  • You will be asking for favours a lot; mostly "Hey can you pass me my charger/laptop/alcoholic beverage?"
  • If you need a night-time wee it is incredibly difficult to ninja down the stairs without waking someone. 
  • If the occupants below you are "in the mood" you just have to lay there and wait for it to be over, or awkward turtle down the stairs and out the room.
  • If you are "in the mood" there are very few places to be unseen. You're basically a pornographic film recorded in front of a live studio audience.
  • If someone comes in late from a party or whatever and they turn on the light, there's no hiding from that horrific alarm clock.
  • Plugs are almost always within reach, thus your electronics are available with very little effort.
  • A well-placed towel makes for good privacy during the baby-making procedure, or while you're mastering the Han Solo technique.
  • Less hassle if you need to rise in the middle of the night. No one likes the squeaky ladder bandit.
  • If it's hot and humid (hi, Cairns) you will be in the spot where the fan can reach you immediately. 
  • You will ALWAYS hit your head in the mornings. Every. Damn. Time. 
  • Gravity is not on your side should the top occupant lose his grip on something. I hope you enjoy getting a face full of sock, cause I didn't. 
  • You will feel a bit lonely or left out if the person above you is heavily involved in the hostel conversation. 
  • You can't literally jump off the bed in the morning like a total badarse, and that upsets and annoys me.
I hope that's helped. I personally have a Pro and Con that are common regardless on whether you're a top or a bottom. 
The con? I'm from an earthquake-prone country. Just last November we had a magnitude 7.8 (read: HOLY SHIT HOLY SHIT WE'RE GOING TO DIE) that decimated the roads, the infrastructure and all the wine at the supermarket. If someone moves in their sleep, the resulting shockwave through the bunk beds will have me waking up and reaching immediately for my emergency survival kit. 
The pro? Simply put, I'm travelling. I love this life. 

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

TOP FIVE WEDNESDAY: Top five future classics

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

It takes something special for a book to become a classic. A classic needs to be popular, so it doesn't fade into obscurity; it needs to have universal appeal, so many people read and relate to it; and it needs to show an aspect of the humanity that will still be relevant in hundreds of years.
I think these five books do that, and should definitely go down in history.

5) 'Asking For It' by Louise O'Neill
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If I'd read 'Only Ever Yours' I probably would have chosen that, but I still haven't been able to bring myself to read it after 'Asking For It' emotionally destroyed me. 
This is a brilliant exploration of the nature of consent and slut-shaming which, sadly, I think will still be debated in the future. It's a controversial topic and one that people are always going to come to blows over and that's why this book is always going to be relevant. 

4) 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' by Douglas Adams
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I've had people telling me I must read the Hitchhiker's Guide series since I was thirteen, so I already thought of them as classics. I'm sure you can imagine how surprised I was when I realised that the first book was only released in the 70s!

3) 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone' by J.K. Rowling
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This is another book that already feels like it is a classic, but as it's only been out twenty years it hasn't stood the test of time just yet. I'm pretty certain that children are going to be reading Harry Potter as a rite of passage for hundreds of years, but it'll be interesting to see how it appeals to future generations. 

2) 'Am I Normal Yet?' by Holly Bourne

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I want this book to become required reading for teens. It should be on the curriculum, teaching young people that there is no 'normal' to aspire towards because everyone's definition is completely different. 
It also introduces teens to feminism, which is something I think everyone should be taught to believe in from a very young age.

1) 'The Lie Tree' by Frances Hardinge 
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'The Lie Tree' has universal appeal. It's a book that's adored by children and adults alike, and if that's not the primary aspect that makes a classic then I don't know what is.  
Reading this book for the first time gives you nostalgia. It feels like a book you read as a child and loved, the book you keep returning to like a comfort blanket until the spine breaks and the front cover falls off. It's a magical feeling that sends shivers down your spine and makes you hands shake with excitement. 
'The Lie Tree' isn't just a future classic: it already a classic. It's been a classic since the day it was published. 

I hope you enjoyed this Top Five Wednesday! If you had to define what makes a classic, how would you do it?

Monday, 27 March 2017

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Ten authors I'm dying to meet

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

I haven't met many authors, but there are a lot that I want to meet. I'm eagerly waiting for YALC to announce which authors they've invited to take part in their convention this year, because I'm hoping some of these ten will be on the bill. I couldn't get the time off work to go last year, which is when most of them were in attendance: otherwise I would have met them already!

10) Katherine Webber
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'Wing Jones' feels like one of my best friends. I can't stop thinking about her, and I want to reread that book more than I want cake or chocolate (and I love cake and chocolate!) but I won't let myself because I have so many other books that I NEED to read.
I want to meet Katherine so I can try and get her to share some information about her next book: I can't wait, and I need it in my hands right now.

9) Sally Green
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'Half Bad' is amazing. There are no other words for it. I've never read anything like it, but I've also never read anything written in the same way - the style is utterly unique, the characters are all brilliant, and every page is gripping so it's impossible to put the book down. I haven't been able to read the rest of the series yet in case I end up being disappointed, but wowee, the first installment gets better every time I read it.

8) Jessica Spotswood
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The world needs more people like Jessica Spotswood. She's outspoken on Twitter, always putting the world to rights in the most adorable and completely unannoying way, and all of the books of hers that I've read have left me feeling warm and fuzzy inside. I still need to finish the Cahill Witch Chronicles, but I'm scared in case the last book disappoints me because I loved the other two so much!

7) Maggie Harcourt
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Maggie is the queen of writing slow burn romances, and I want to meet her and shake her (gently) while (politely) demanding that she writes a sequel to 'Unconventional' which is nothing but Lexi and Aiden being adorable, infuriating each other and making out a lot.

6) Alwyn Hamilton
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I adored 'Rebel of the Sands', and though I haven't read 'Traitor to the Throne' yet (COME ON, IT'S OVER 500 PAGES!) I think she's a wonderful writer, and her characters are so well crafted.

5) Holly Bourne
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Holly made feminism cool for teenagers, and I'd love to meet her and get her opinion on EVERYTHING. I want Holly Bourne to be my mum, my cool aunt and my big sister, all at the same time.

4) Cat Clarke
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'Entangled' and 'Torn' revived my love of reading when I thought it was dead and buried, so this blog probably wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Cat. I haven't read all of her books - I couldn't bring myself to finish 'Undone' because the beginning killed me - but I still want to express my gratitude.

3) Becky Albertalli
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'Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda' really helped me through a confusing period of my life, so I'd like to be able to thank Becky personally for writing such a beautiful novel. I definitely need to read 'The Upside of Unrequited' soon - I know I'm going to love it just as much as her debut.

2) Sara Barnard
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Sara has quickly become one of my favourite authors: she's released two books so far - 'Beautiful Broken Things' and 'A Quiet Kind of Thunder' - and I've loved both of them. I've had a few conversations with her on Twitter, so she feels like a friend... Hopefully that means I won't make a fool out of myself when I do meet her!

1) Angie Thomas
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'The Hate U Give' was one of the most anticipated debuts of 2017, and after release it proved itself a hit by topping the New York Times bestseller list for three weeks in a row (and counting!). Not many debut novels get that kind of reaction, and I'd love to be able to meet the mind behind it (after I read the book, which isn't out in the UK for another two weeks).
If you're also excited about reading 'The Hate U Give', you can pre-order a copy here.

I hope you enjoyed this Top Ten Tuesday! If you could meet any author in the world - living or dead - who would you choose, and why?

Sunday, 26 March 2017

WTF Did I Miss This Week? #25 (w/c 20/03/17)

The publishing world:

Don't have enough books? Good, here's some more new releases:
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A couple of beautiful cover reveals:
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Image may contain: 1 person, standing and textImage result for that inevitable victorian thing

In other news:

The music world:

I finally found some more new releases:
Image result for northlane mesmerImage result for james blunt album 2017Image result for creeper eternity in your arms

Are you ready for some more new music?:

Dead! have had 'Enough, Enough, Enough':

All Time Low unleashed the title track of 'Last Young Renegade' on the world:

As well as releasing 'Mesmer', Northlane have a brand new song called 'Citizen':

There were also new releases from Emarosa, Falling in Reverse, HalfNoise (ft. Hayley Williams), Palisades, Danny Worsnop and As Lions, while twenty one pilots released the third of their Sleepers tour diaries.

Some big tour announcements:
  • With Confidence and Set It Off have announced a co-headline tour in May, before their appearances at Slam Dunk festival.   
  • You Me At Six are headlining dates in America during May
  • As It Is are touring Europe with Roam throughout June.  
  • Taking Back Sunday will be touring the US during July and August. Support comes from Every Time I Die, with Modern Chemistry and All Get Out appearing at select dates.
  • Young Guns are playing six small shows across the UK in September
In other news:
  • I didn't think it was possible, but this week heralds even more festival announcements, with additions to: Camden Rocks, Lollapalooza, Warped Tour, 2000 Trees, Fort Fest and FYF Festival.
  • We The Kings now have their own podcast
  • Jimmy Eat World are releasing a tour EP entitled 'Are You Listening?', which seems to feature a collaboration with Hayley Williams of Paramore. 
  • The list of releases for Record Store Day 2017 has been unveiled
  • Sony Music launched Weekday Records, who announced that Jule Vera are their first signing. The band celebrated this news with the release of their new single, 'Lifeline'...
  • ...while Sworn In have been signed by Fearless Records.
  • Beartooth announced that they're releasing a deluxe edition of 'Aggressive'.  
  • Blessthefall were robbed on tour (again).
  • Knuckle Puck's vocalist, Joe Taylor, took a tumble at So What? festival.
  • Moose Blood revealed that drummer Glenn Harvey is "not currently a member" following sexual harassment allegations. I'm sure this story will develop further in the coming weeks. 
  • Tigers Jaw announced that their new album, 'spin', will be released on May 19th.
  • Cassels will be releasing their "pre-album", 'Foreword', on April 7th. 
  • London Grammar have finally announced their second album, 'Truth is a Beautiful Thing'. It's being released on June 9th. 
  • Gorillaz celebrated the announcement of long awaited album 'Humanz' by performing the entire thing in full. It's being released April 28th.
  • Wrapping up the album announcements, Papa Roach have just announced their ninth (!) album will be called 'Crooked Teeth', and will be unleashed on the world on May 19th. Lots of new music to look forward to! 
I hope you enjoyed this installment of WTF Did I Miss This Week?. Catch you next week (if I don't run away with Geoff Wigington on Friday. A girl can dream, right?!). 

Friday, 24 March 2017

BOOK TAG: You're Not Good Enough

This is my best ever book tag, because I've never been asked to do one before! I feel like my blog has finally made it. I am famous. I am the best blogger EVER.
The lovely A Daily Cloud tagged me: check out her post, because it's absolutely hilarious (and very hard to beat).

In this tag, you pick 30 characters names and put them in a bowl, pick out two and random and decide which fits the situation/question better, and who is just Not Good Enough!

1. You only have one more spot on your Spelling B team, who would you pick to complete the team?
Pudge from 'Looking For Alaska' vs. Meira from 'Snow Like Ashes'

Pudge wins this round. 'Looking For Alaska' begins when Pudge moves to high school, while Meira is so busy learning to fight and being part of a revolution that spelling has to be the last thing on her mind.

2. Both characters want to kill you. Which character would you kill first so you have a better chance of surviving?
Kelsea from 'The Queen of the Tearling' vs. Maddy from 'Everything, Everything'

I'd kill Kelsea, even though the Queen's Guard would then take me out. I just feel like it would be too horrible to kill Maddy - her life's hard enough without getting murdered! 

3. You're on the bachelor/bachelorette. You're down to these last two characters, which would you give the rose to?
Mr. Darcy from 'Pride and Prejudice' vs. The Darkling from the Grisha trilogy

How am I supposed to decide?! Mr. Darcy is so charming, but also has a bit of a bad boy streak, while the Darkling is an utter bad boy with a hidden soft side... Purely for the magical element, I'm choosing the Darkling

4. You've been chosen for the Hunger Games. Who would most likely volunteer in your place?
Elizabeth Bennet from 'Pride & Prejudice' vs. Alaska from 'Looking For Alaska'

I feel as though Alaska might be self-absorbed, but she's also rebellious and wouldn't mind risking her life. Elizabeth is far more sensible and wouldn't get herself involved. 

5. You're stranded on an island. Which character would you sacrifice to engage in cannibalism?
Morpheus from 'Splintered' vs. Wing from 'Wing Jones'

I don't want to, but I'm going to have to sacrifice Wing. Morpheus would taste like moth, so he'd be no good to cannibalise! 

6. You're the next DC/Marvel superhero (with your own TV show of course), who would be your sidekick?
Darrow from 'Red Rising' vs. Steffi from 'A Quiet Kind of Thunder'

I have to choose Steffi. I would LOVE Darrow to be my sidekick, but he's a leader: he needs his own sidekick, and I wouldn't want to be relegated to the background in my own show! Because of Steffi's selective mutism she's quiet, so she wouldn't be stealing the limelight, but she's quick, intelligent and funny and would make me a much stronger hero by helping me. 

7. You're a manager of an avocado admiring company. Who would you fire for lack of communication skills?
Aria from 'Pretty Little Liars' vs. David from 'The Art of Being Normal'

Aria. That girl is way too used to keeping secrets. 

8. You've just finished a book in which your favourite character dies. Which character is most likely to comfort you?
Damon from 'The Vampire Diaries' vs. Rhys from 'A Quiet Kind of Thunder'

Rhys! Damon's probably the one that killed my favourite character, whereas Rhys would give me a cuddle and make me feel much better about the harrowing events. 

9. Ugh, it's high school. Who would most likely be part of the popular clique?
Toria from 'All of the Above' vs. Ezra from 'Pretty Little Liars'

I feel as though these two could be in the popular crowd in high school, but because of Ezra's bookish nature Toria would be a brilliant and bubbly queen bee. 

10. The day has arrived; you're finally a year older! Who would have the nerve to forget your birthday?
Kestrel from 'The Winner's Curse' vs. Mikey from 'The Rest of Us Just Live Here'

They both have so much going on that I feel I'd  forgive either of them for forgetting my birthday... But Kestrel is more likely to (she's not very considerate towards others at the start of the series!). 

11. You've just found an upcoming Booktube star. Who would it most likely be? 
Clary from The Mortal Instruments vs. Charlie from 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower'

Charlie. Clary would be a Youtube artist, but Charlie is the perfect mix of outspoken and shy to appeal to a wide range of viewers, and he's literally always reading. He'd give such good recommendations!

12. Sleepover time! Unfortunately, you can only invite one person. Who would you invite?
Jace from The Mortal Instruments vs. June from 'Paper Butterflies'

Jace is hunky as heck, so I wouldn't mind having a sleepover with him (winky face...) but I think I'm going to invite June instead. She doesn't have many friends at school but she's so lovely and more people should see that - I'd love to make her feel valued, and we'd have a really fun sleepover. 

13. Bam, you're pregnant. Who is the father/mother?
Holden from 'The Catcher in the Rye' vs. Lara Jean from 'To All the Boys I've Loved Before'

Holden. He's the kind of moody and introspective guy that I'm really attracted to (even if he does really annoy me!) so I could definitely see myself falling for him if he had the time for me. Lara Jean is far too sensible to have unprotected sex! I'm not sure if a kid would go down well with Holden's parents, though, especially just after he's been kicked out of school... 

14. You've just written a super important text. Who would 'see' it but not reply? 
Ivy from 'Wild Swans' vs. Henry from 'Our Chemical Hearts'

Henry. He'd be too busy moping around and pining for Grace to waste even a second of brain time on me. He'd receive a message, see it wasn't for Grace and throw his phone back down on his bed. 

15. You've just woken up and it's time for breakfast. Your mom has been replaced by... who?
Cassie from 'The 5th Wave' vs. Patch from 'Hush, Hush' 

This sounds like the kind of move that Patch would pull, so I'll have to go for him. I also think Cassie is far too childish to be a parent - I'd end up mothering her!

I hope you enjoyed this book tag! I had so much fun writing this post - it makes me want to do lots more tags in the future.

The five people I'm tagging are:
Barb from Booker T's Farm
Tasya from The Literary Huntress
Mariela from Just Us Book Blog
Jo from Book Lovers Blog
and you! (Is that cheating? That's probably cheating...). But if you thought this tag was fun, you should just go ahead and do it. No one's stopping you!

Thursday, 23 March 2017

'Panther' by David Owen

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*This review will contain spoilers!*
'The whole thing didn't make any sense to him. Depression. She didn't have anything to be depressed about. It was her making everyone else's life miserable.' 

'The cookie broke apart in his mouth like smashed concrete.' 
We join Derrick during a binge-eating session as he eats cookies out of the dustbin. He doesn't care about the taste, he just cares about eating as much junk food as he can to fill the void inside of him.

A few months ago, Derrick's sister Charlotte attempted suicide.
Since the incident, Derrick has begun binge-eating.
'Eating was the only thing in his life that he could control. No one held any power over it but himself.'
He's also lost his best friend Tamoor, who abandoned him after he confided in him about Charlotte's depression. Tamoor is now hanging out with the meatheads at school who bully Derrick for his weight, making him feel completely alone in the world.
All he has is the panther, and his dream of wooing his childhood friend, Hadley.
'In all the confusion of the last few months there was only one things that Derrick had stayed sure of: Hadley was his only chance to be happy. If he could break free of this darkness and be with her, things would be ok again.'
The same night there were reports of a wild panther in the allotments that their home backs on to, and Derrick has linked the two events in his mind. He's absolutely convinced that if he can catch the panther Charlotte's depression will be cured, and everything will go back to normal.
Little does Derrick know, depression is the Beast that no one can control...

I loved the fact that David Owen chose to write about a male suffering with an eating disorder, because it's not acknowledged enough in literature or in society as a whole, but it was the only aspect of the book that I appreciated.
It's impossible to empathise with Derrick because he's a hateful character. If that wasn't obvious by the self-absorbed quote I featured at the top of the review, here's another one for you:
'She was so selfish! All he wanted to do was save them and she still treated him like he was useless.
"I'm the only one trying to do anything about it! [...] No one bothers to notice how much it's ruined my life! It's destroyed everything!"'
Hypocrite. He has the audacity to think of his sister as selfish, then makes everything about him. I've never met a character with such a disgusting 'me, me, me' attitude. This kid deserves a punch in the face.
He's also extremely perverted for no apparent reason. I don't know what David was trying to achieve by introducing that aspect of his personality! It doesn't further the plot, it just makes for vastly uncomfortable reading. The book starts with a video of Derrick masturbating in the school toilets being circulated, then later in the story he's hugging Hadley and thinks 'about how he was so much stronger than her. How easy it was to capture her inside his hideous fat arms' and to make matters even worse, he lets himself into her house using a spare key they have for emergencies and he goes and rolls around in her bed, sniffs her underwear and then - because that wasn't creepy enough - he wears them on his head.
I have no words for how disgusting, disturbing and depraved this guy is. We're supposed to feel sorry for him because his sister is struggling with depression and it's effecting his entire family, and he's suffering with an eating disorder and no one seems to have noticed because they're all worried about Charlotte, but it's impossible when I found his actions so distressing to read.
I genuinely don't understand how this book has such good reviews. If it wasn't bad enough that the main character is a creep, it's also extremely slow, repetitive and overly stuffed with figurative language. The panther stands for depression - an obvious metaphor - but the book is laced with ineffective similes and metaphor that seem rather pointless.
The only saving grace is that Charlotte's depression is written in a very authentic and heart-wrenching manner. That's the only reason this book managed to scrape a second star from me. As someone who suffers from depression, I could see parts of myself reflected in Charlotte's character: I just wish the book had been more focused on her than on Derrick. I know the point of it was to show how depression impacts upon the family unit, but that might have worked better if Derrick had been more of an average Joe.

I'm disappointed. I've been looking forward to reading 'Panther' for MONTHS, because David Owen is such a lovely guy and I was certain his book was going to become one of my favourites.
I'm still looking forward to 'The Fallen Children', but I'm not going to hype it up in my head as much as I did to this book.


It's that time of the week again! I'm handing you over to AJ once more, so he can tell you one of his travel stories...
Travel Stories: A Coke of Luck
"This is no good, it's an absolute tip," I told myself, staring at the Mr. Everest of Coca-Cola bottles tossed lackadaisically onto the ground. Grabbing a bin liner, I made it my mission for the day to see the fabled floor again, and it was during this ambush that I noticed that the labels on the bottles all had a special code. 
Coca-Cola were doing their normal "enter this code on our website and you might win a thing" nonsense, where every code was worth points and you could allocate those points into several different prizes. So, ever the procrastinator, I entered all the codes I found, not expecting to win so much as an appraisal. I used to believe those competitions big companies did were a ruse, to trick the desperate and the needy into buying their product in the hopes of maybe winning a trip to Florida or a new car. 
That was until I woke up two days later and had a new text message, which started with simply "Congratulations!". 
I read the full text about seven or eight times, still disbelieving. "You've won an all expenses paid trip to Auckland to watch 'Christmas in the Park', for you and three friends."
You have to understand: this stuff doesn't happen to me. In fact, the opposite happens. Earlier in the week I opened my wallet and half my coins fell out and into a nearby gutter. I acquired some friends, rang up to give our personal details and right up until the airport I was convinced I was being pranked. 
It was while on the plane that I realised this could potentially be legit, and all my fears were put to rest when we were greeted with a man in a suit with "ANTHONY" written on a board. Jacob's task was to drive us to our accommodations; a five star hotel with its own kitchen suite, two bedrooms and two bathrooms. Pretty fly for this white guy! We had two days to explore, so we made a quick movement into the city centre.  
Auckland is bland by nature; the buildings don't have any rustic charm, there's not an awful lot of colour, and there's a few dodgy parts. We stumbled upon a mall complex, and being curious teens at the time, we went full "fuck it" and went exploring. 
First floor was fine, being your standard food court type of deal, but as we progressed further up the building, the dodgier it got. Thai "massage" rooms adjourned the second floor, the third and fourth floors wee barren, and on the top floor was a missing wall, a bathroom with discarded needles and fecal matter smeared on the ceiling, and a run down game arcade with only one occupant, a big burly Maori with face tattoos and a Mongrel Mob gang patch on the back of his leather jacket. We christened that floor the "Stab Attic" and made haste down the stairs (as the elevator was out of commission, shockingly). 
After catching up with an old school friend and doing a little bit of shopping, we made our way to the park in which this Christmas event was happening. We got to meet local celebrity John Campbell, and we were treated to a full televised concert. Sadly, like the televised version, the festival was ultimately skippable. For me, popular Christmas songs are very much like being in the same room as Ramsay Bolton: they make me feel like I'm being tortured. 
Thankfully the show kicked itself up a notch towards the end when headlining local act Broods came on for two songs. The Nelson-born two-piece's melodic tones and soft demeanor gave us a bit of sunshine among the wet weather and bleak moods.
The weather threatened to dampen our day trip, so we bought some alcohol and made our way back to the hotel for drinking games and storytelling. It was around this time that I found out an old friend from Australia was in town, so we gave her a bell and in moments she was at our hotel - the booze quickly vanished soon after. While I'm sure there were stories to tell from this night, I cannot remember most of them, and the consequential hangover (in addition to the muggy weather) made the following day one of desperate coffees, half-asleep shopping splurges, and walking the wrong way all too many times. Come 4pm we met up with Jacob again, who escorted us back to the airport to face my arch-enemy: flight delays!
To this day I consider this stroke of luck to be where life started taking an upwards turn. While the trip was marred by bad weather and a bit of fear, the comradery I shared with my friends is something I'll always remember and be thankful for, and being treated like a celebrity inflated my ego ten-fold! 

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

TOP FIVE WEDNESDAY: Top five angsty romances

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

I'm not a huge fan of angsty romances anymore. 
Once upon a time, they were my lifeblood. I couldn't get enough of them, and any book that even slightly hinted towards a relationship filled with brooding and difficulty sent my heart racing.
I've had a bloody hard time choosing pairings for this topic, and I've had to delve way way back into pre-blog reading to scrabble together five. 

5) Patch and Nora Grey - 'Hush, Hush' by Becca Fitzpatrick
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I was so in love with Patch when I read this book, and I couldn't stop dreaming about what it would be like to have a bad boy who loved me as much as he loved Nora. Their relationship was intense, but that's what made it true love.
Now, because I read this back in 2008, I can't remember much about it... Other than my intense feelings towards the damaged fallen angel love interest. After having a quick scroll through the Goodreads reviews, methinks I might have been a little too innocent and optimistic when I picked this one up...

4) Anna Oliphant and Etienne St. Clair - 'Anna and the French Kiss' by Stephanie Perkins

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Etienne has a girlfriend, which causes most of the angst in this relationship. Anna wants him, but she can't, because he has a girlfriend. Etienne's girlfriend is horrible, so he doesn't see anything wrong with flirting with Anna at every possible opportunity... But still doesn't break up with his girlfriend.
There are all kinds of communication issues in this relationship, which just ramps the angst up to a higher level than you would have ever thought possible...

3) Jace (Wayland? Morgenstern? Herondale?) and Clary Fray - The Mortal Instruments

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Literally can't remember what Jace's surname ended up being (#sorrynotsorry).
What's more angsty than falling in love with your sister, and then realising SHE'S NOT YOUR SISTER?! 
I should probably finish this series one day, but meh, ain't happening for the foreseeable future...
2) Damon Salvatore and Elena Gilbert - The Vampire Diaries

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I can't remember really caring about Damon or Elena (or any of the other characters...) when I read the books, but the TV show adaptation made me ship this pairing harder than I've ever shipped any other. Damon's all moody because he wants Elena and she's in love with his brother, but when he eventually opens up and shows her his soft side, he finally gets his girl.
This should be a lesson to any boy who acts like an idiot to impress the girl he wants: stop. Just be yourself, she'll love you so much more.

1) Tate Langdon and Violet Harmon - American Horror Story: Murder House
Image result for tate langdon violet harmon
There's no physical way for this relationship to get angstier. Tate is a ghost, Violet is alive (at least at the start of their relationship) and he rapes her mother, becoming the father of her half-brother.
Yeah, this coupling is pretty WTF, but at the time - before all of the reflection on quite how weird it was - I adored them. 

Wow, angsty relationships are irritating. Is it any wonder I haven't been able to reread any of these books (or watch any of the shows again) for fear of discovering I actually hate them now?!

I hope you enjoyed this Top Five Wednesday! Do you like angsty relationships, or do you want your romance to be free of brooding?

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

'The Monstrous Child' (Mortal Gods #3) by Francesca Simon

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*This review will contain spoilers!*
'I really hate children. They're cruel, and they mock. I hate grown-ups too, of course. Actually, don't get me started. I hate everyone.'

'You'd think after my brother the snake was born they'd have stopped at one. But no.' 
Rapidly introducing Jormungand and Fenrir, Hel's voice is instantly snarky and bitter - the perfect tone for a girl who is born half dead.

'Corpse baby. Carrion tot. The third monster.'
When Hel is born, she's half dead.
Her bottom half, specifically.
Her legs are rotted flesh, putrid and decayed despite the fact that she's less than a minute old. Her mother is distraught: having already given birth to a snake and a wolf she'd hoped it was going to be third time lucky. Loki, her father, thinks they should just finish her off.
Hel doesn't have the easiest family situation.
When the Fates predict that Jormungand is going to kill Thor and Fenrir is going to kill Odin, the monstrous children are kidnapped and taken to Asgard. Jormungand is thrown into the Midgard sea. Fenrir is bound by magical means to a rock.
Hel? She gets thrown to Niflheim, commanded to become the Queen of the Underworld, host to all dead spirits.
Doesn't that just sound like fun and games.
That's not the worst part, though. When Hel was in Asgard, she met a god. She finally felt love.
All she wants is to be reunited with her beloved Baldr. But not even Hel can leave the Underworld, and gods don't die...

After finishing this book, I found out that it's the third book in a series, which baffles me. Widely advertised as Francesca Simon's 'first foray into teen', why did she decide to switch target market? If you're writing a middle grade series, commit to it being middle grade. Don't suddenly try and branch out.
That being said, this read like a middle grade book. Yes, Hel is a teenager, but her attitude is far more childish than most teenage narrators. I can understand why she whines and complains - she is half dead, abandoned by her family who detested her, and despised by most of the living - but it's more draining than anything I can remember reading before.
I really like Norse mythology, but hardly any backstory is given. This is probably due to it being the third installment, but with that fact being so under-acknowledged I can imagine a lot of people have been caught out in the same way.
I haven't read anything focusing on the Norse gods for quite a while. I'm much more accustomed to the Marvel counterparts of Thor, Loki and Odin, and it took a lot of effort to readjust. I might have found things easier if Francesca wasn't name-dropping seemingly irrelevant gods and goddesses on every page.
It's obvious that Francesca is primarily a children's author. I've commented on my apprehension towards author's who write across multiple genres before, and this just justified my fears. Yes, some of the descriptions of Hel's rotting body are gruesome, and I don't think Loki's sexual adventures could be as openly discussed in a middle grade novel, but everything screams that this isn't teen. The instalove Hel feels towards Baldr is enough to turn off the majority of teen readers. Everyone I know is tired of attraction starting that fast, but it's made worse when you find out Baldr is married. Hel acts like a child in the middle of a temper tantrum to control him and try and make him hers, and it made me uncomfortable and irritated in equal measure.
Then there's the fact that Hel feels much better when she's given lip gloss. WHAT?! Seriously? She's been wallowing for years - possibly hundreds upon thousands of them - and a human gives her lip gloss and suddenly joy returns to her world. GROAN.
To make matters even worse, the actions starts right before the book ends. There's finally the opportunity for some plot, rather than repetitive and irritating teenage rambling, but then the book ends. I genuinely felt like crying when I got to the last page: out of sheer frustration, not from any kind of emotion.

I only read this book because it's on the YA Book Prize shortlist, and I innately knew I wasn't going to enjoy it.
Thankfully it's a quick read. It's just under 300 pages, but it's filled with illustrated letters at the start of each chapter. Those take up a lot of room, meaning a lot of the pages have hardly any text on them, and if I'd been enjoying this more I would have flown through it in one sitting. As it is it only took me two attempts to get it finished, but there was a lot of eye-rolling and groaning throughout. 
I'm always going to wonder if I'd have felt differently towards this installment if I had actually read the first two books in the series first, but I have no inclination to pick them up now.