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A-red-lipstick-wearing bibliophile extraordinaire. Word nerd & Joss Whedon fangirl; Literature lover & book reviewer. Lady Libertine; Tea collector; Potterhead.

Monday, 31 December 2012


Tomorrow is The Big Bad Booklist's First Birthday!

Not on this exact blog (it humbly began on Tumblr), but the concept was born almost exactly a year ago and I've got to admit I couldn't be happier about it. I never ever thought I'd still be doing this a year on and that I'd still be enjoying it as much as I do. I'm forever getting bored with things and I find I've never really updated my blogs as much as I say I'm going to.
A huge thank you and masses of love going out to all of you who take the time to read my reviews and for the continued support, it really means the world to me.

My first ever reading challenge went incredibly well, 11 books over my target! (I tried to take a picture of them all. but they just wouldn't fit. I gave up.) I'll be raising the bar to 65 books in the coming year. It's still a massive challenge and a huge commitment but I feel it can still be accomplished.

I've had a lot of literary based opportunities in 2012, from participating in World Book Night to being in a reading group for The Guardian First Book Award. As well as reaffirming my love for the written word I have recently been getting to know the world of spoken word, which has been a real treat for me. I'm hoping that I have even more fantastic literary based memories in 2013, I have a few ideas hiding safely under my wizard's hat but more on that later.

I've received a fair few books over the Christmas period (some will technically be re-reads), so I already have a lot of ammunition for this coming reading challenge. I honestly can't wait! I'm so excited! Although, I really have no idea where I'm going to start.

Happy New Year, you fabulous, amazing, wonderfully inspiring people! I'll see you in 2013.
And as always, happy reading!


Friday, 14 December 2012

Review: The Black Book of Secrets

I picked up this book up for about 80 pence from a charity table at a supermarket. It was a whimsical purchase on my part, I didn't even look at the blurb when I decided to buy it. As soon as I saw that Eoin Colfler was quoted on the cover, I suddenly couldn't wait to get home and read it. (I highly recommend Artemis Fowl, a YA Sci/Fi Fantasy about a boy villain. It's brilliant!)

Our story begins in a dank basement room in the City, a place so vile and dirty it doesn't even deserve a name.
Ludlow Fitch has discovered that he has just been betrayed by his parents, in order to escape he hops on to the back of a carriage and rides away to safety.
He finally ends up in a small town called Pagus Parvus where he meets the strange Joe Zabbidou, a man who calls himself a the secret pawnbroker.

Ludlow learns that the pawnbroker trades secrets, and not goods, for money and is hired to write down the confessions of all those who come to Joe in the dead of night.
It is here he learns of betrayals, murder, thieving, blackmailing and bodysnatching. Not knowing whether he can trust his new master, Ludlow becomes afraid that his own murky past may come back to haunt him.

What I love most about reading is the sheer pleasure I get from when a story really surprises me. Reading this was an absolute pleasure, not only was it an addictive read but it had such a wonderful flow to it, too.  It's not the best dark children's story I've read but nonetheless, it's very entertaining and Higgins has tried really hard to make an original storyline here and I think she's done really well in that respect.
It had the perfect balance of macabre and humour, although it was dark at times- most of the confessions were usually a folly and can be enjoyed by both adults and children alike. I would have probably liked to have seen more darkness in it though, but as a children's book I couldn't really ask for much more.

The only downside is the way that it ended, I was left reeling with millions of questions and because it is a one shot, those questions will never really be answered. The plus side to this is that it is indeed a series of books documenting the goings on in the City, although I'm doubtful that any of the characters will be connected in any other way. Regardless of that fact, it's certainly something I'll be reading more of in the near future.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Review: Who Could That Be At This Hour? (All The Wrong Questions, #1)


The first in a new 'All The Wrong Questions' Series, "Who Could That Be at This Hour?" follows the account of a young Lemony to a town called Stain'd-by-the-Sea which is surrounded by a waterless sea and a treeless forest.
We are treated to an adventure surrounding the reclaiming of a not-actually-stolen, priceless (as in, it is worth nothing) object.

Lemony, who is a 13 year old apprentice to the last-in-the-ranks spy S. Theodora Markson, must figure out the mystery of this nothing town while mysteriously trying to contact his ever mysterious, er, contact.
I don't think there is a simple way to explain, the only way I can sufficiently describe this book is to turn a noun into an adjective;
Snickety. A word which here means, to be a lot like Snicket.

I was both a little worried and ridiculously excited when I found out Snicket was releasing a four part series autobiography. I always am when it comes to an author I have such a deep love for, I was only a little worried when I discovered it is a sort of prequel to A Series of Unfortunate Events.
I say sort of because there are a few references to the Baudelaire stories; the continual appearance of things that look like question marks and of course, the organisation Lemony and Markson work for is conveniently unnamed. One can only assume it is the ever elusive VFD.

In a true Snicket fashion, there is mystery shrouded in confusion, wrapped in mystery and topped with a grim setting- and just for good measure, sprinkled with a generous helping of mystery. There are laugh out loud moments, the usual wonderful writing and wordplay; and a plot so topsy turvy it will probably give you a touch of motion sickness. Not to mention the plethora of bizarre and wonderful characters.
It really is, wonderfully, torturously; ridiculously... Snickety.
I absolutely cannot wait for the next in the series to arrive and if it's anything like ASOUE it can only get better from here. I'd ask when it's set to arrive, but I fear that might be the wrong question; so until then, I'll resist the urge to overturn a table and cry helplessly out of frustration.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

If you're not well versed in the world of Lemony Snicket, I suggest you become so. Immediately. There are very few authors out there who can entertain and infuriate you so well. You won't be disappointed,  I promise.  Luckily, (or should I say unluckily) 'The Bad Beginning', the first in A Series of Unfortunate Events is available online and absolutely free! You can find it here.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Review: The Diary of a Drug Fiend

There haven't been many books this year that give me writer's block when it comes to reviewing them. Aleister Crowley's The Diary of a Drug Fiend has pushed an Eiffel Tower sized boulder in front of my mind's eye, everything feels ill fitting- like I just can't do it justice.

The book follows the story of the newly appointed Lord, Peter Pendragon and the beautiful Louise Laleham. A whirlwind romance sees them travelling Europe, fuelled by nothing but love, cocaine, and heroin.
We follow the journey of drugs and adventure, as the world opens up around them, the couple find beauty and philosophy everywhere- one drug induced trip at a time. When their supply is quite suddenly (and inevitably) cut off, we witness their decent into madness and despair- it is only here they begin to discover the true nature of their drug addiction, and with this a whole new adventure into practical magick unfolds.

This is one of the most beautiful, heart wrenching, and dismal stories of love and hope, I have read in the longest time. Crowley is such a talent, he has a way with words that seem to figuratively cause my heart swell in a quiet adoration. I felt very connected to these characters; it was as though everything that was happening to them, was happening to me.
I rejoiced at their discoveries and perfectly understood the inexplicable spiritual ramblings of the intoxicated. Their battle scars glittered against my own skin, and at times their plight reduced me to into a pile of shuddering tears.
It might be because on some level, I relate to these star crossed lovers or it might be because when it comes to matters of the heart- I just like a bit of black despair thrown into the mix. I don't know, whatever it is, this book just has it. The kind of it that I usually adore. And adore it I did.

This wasn't the easiest read though, sometimes I found it quite difficult to chew through the despair and it took a while to get used to the writing style of Crowley, even the most basic sentence structure was extremely verbose.
Lord Pendragon, although wonderfully witty got a little irritating at times. It was a lovely break away when the story switched to Lou's point of view. I wasn't expecting it either, so it came as a nice surprise.

It's not exactly an informative outlook into the world of narcotics, you won't find fact here. If anything it's made more real by the simple fact that it is an almost autobiographical account of Crowley's own life. (The beginning of the novel states that the story is true but the names have changed.) The highs have indeed been romanticised and the come downs are dramatised, but that doesn't take away from what a wonderful read it truly is.
What I like most about it is the conversational tone the protagonist takes, it is as if you're sitting in an seedy drug den listening to the most interesting person on the planet recount his tales to you. I believe at one point, Lord Pendragon quite cuts himself off mid sentence and bluntly tells you to not disrupt his anecdote. It's just marvellous.

I can't say this book is for everyone, although I would recommend it to everyone. (All literature deserves a chance.)  Especially to those people who easily fall in love with beautifully crafted sentences. This novel is full of them.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Review: Point Blanc (Alex Rider, #2)

Alex Rider is back!
Well, sort of. Point Blanc picks up two weeks after Stormbreaker, Alex is back at school and going through the humdrum of teenage life one day at a time.
Spying has changed him irrevocably, (much to his dismay) and he finds himself with an unshakable desire to take the law into his own hands. After a disastrous attempt at vigilantism, Alex finds himself back at the mercy of the Secret Service with a brand new mission even more dangerous than the last.

With a storyline more hilarious than Stormbreaker, our young spy is sent to a boarding school for delinquents- a place which may, or may not harbour a deep, dark secret.
I can't tell you how much I enjoyed reading Point Blanc, and I feel the rest of the series can only follow suit. It's perfect for rainy afternoons, as it doesn't take very long to read at all. Alex is a very likable character and even though he's probably living the dream of every boy his age, you can't help but feel sorry for him a little bit. It all seems to be well out of his control.

Alex gets himself into some very precarious situations in this one- from riding horses in train tunnels to dodging bullets in the woods. It's not a spy story without the amazing gadgets either, think less tricked out handheld gaming devices and more exploding earrings and night vision goggles. Let's face it you can't be somewhere in the Alps without night vision goggles, the possibilities to use them must be endless.

What I really like about these books is the simple fact that they're entertaining as hell, and not as predictable as you'd think. Horowitz knows how to keep you on your toes, even if you are about 10 years older than the reading demographic. Sigh, what I wouldn't give to be ten years younger. And male.

I know I've said this before, but I just cannot wait to read the rest of this series.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Monday, 19 November 2012

Review: The Fault in our Stars

I loved Looking for Alaska (you can find that review here), it set the bar pretty high for me, so it was no surprise that I found myself feeling a little nervous when picking up his latest novel.
Honestly though, I needn't have been worried; John Green writes coming of age, young adult fiction like none other author I've read before. Just when I thought my heart couldn't take any more love for this man, this book is dropped into my lap.

The Fault in our Stars focuses on a sixteen year old cancer patient Hazel Grace. Diagnosed with clinical depression, (a common side effect of cancer), she is forced to attend weekly support group meetings with other people her age.
It is here she finds friendship, love and support from seventeen year old Augustus Waters, amputee and former basketball extraordinaire.

Now, I know reading a book about a group of teenage cancer patients doesn't seem like the most uplifting thing to read about, but you'd be surprised at the level of warmth and beauty that resonates from this book. Of course, it's tragic; these characters are pretty much going through life with one foot in the proverbial grave but they try to live their lives with a sense of purpose. Green writes the emotions these characters feel beautifully, he doesn't sugar coat the pain these characters feel and he leaves all the jagged edges of a disease like cancer very much alone. There's pain involved, and we are to expect it. I've never doubted his ability to put together a good story, I felt like crying and at times I didn't want to read it because I felt like my heart was going to explode. In a good way, you know- if there's such a thing.
It's definitely something I have and will recommend people to read, as a nerdfighter, as a fan of the author and the lover of beautiful words, I will recommend this to everyone. We all need a little John Green in our lives.

I didn't want this, but there is a however.

Although it's beautifully written, the characters seem very similar to me. They are dangerously close to the ones in Looking for Alaska, they have the same personality traits and speak with the same voice. I won't deny that all of Green's characters I've come across so far have an almost irritating pretentious thing going on, which I can forgive as the writing is fantastic. I like the fact that he writes up nerdy, witty, intelligent and well read teenagers, but I can't help but wonder the more John Green I read, the more these same stock characters will keep cropping up. I'm hoping it isn't the case but only time will tell. I have faith in the man to prove me wrong.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Review: Stormbreaker (Alex Rider, #1)

I've never been able to get into spy fiction or detective/mystery novels, it has nothing to do with my not liking them- I've just never paid them much attention before. When this was recommended to me, a silent mantra was going through my head, "I don't read spy books, I don't read spy books." I'm not really one to back away from a challenge though, and nothing can grab my attention like a book written for children.

After the untimely and suspicious death of his uncle Ian, fourteen year old Alex Rider is recruited into the world of espionage against his will. In exchange for a normal life, he agrees to complete the mission his late uncle had started- but first he has to go through an intense spy training programme.

I really loved reading Stormbreaker and I actually just want to pack up my life and become a boy spy. 
And it's just perfect for young people (not just boys, I don't think) and for anyone who loves reading children's stories. It's really easy to get through, I finished it in about 2 hours. If I'm honest, the plot is absolutely preposterous but that's half the fun of it, really. The language is really basic but doesn't hold back on the excitement, I was eager to get on with the book and found myself slightly disappointed when it ended. I can't wait to be in possession of the rest of the series! I'll try and review it in the best way I can!

Truly, this has really made me want to read more in this genre and maybe start some detective novels too. I'm not sure if I'm ready for the likes of Arthur Conan Doyle just yet I'm sure I will be given enough time.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Review: A Game of Thrones

It's been a long time since I indulged in some fantasy, I figured this was the perfect book to reimmerse myself in this wonderful genre. People have been raving about A Game of Thrones for a very long time now, mainly the HBO series but I tried (and failed) to avoid any televised works until I picked up the book. The series was a good as they said, with a slightly guilty conscience I began reading, hoping it would be even better.

I'm glad to say it didn't disappoint. At all. It was a brilliant read.
As far as the plot goes, it's pretty much a staple in the world of sword and sorcery fantasy. Mythical creatures, something supernatural, bouts of sex, bloodshed, and lots and lots of war.
Regardless of it being a not-so-original story arc, Martin excels in it. It was so well written and I was pretty much hooked within the first 50 pages. It sounds like a lot to get through initially but sizing it up against its entirety, a 800+ page epic, it's not very much at all.

It's a difficult one to talk about, there's far too much to say and not enough spoiler free information to say it. The story is centred around the Stark family of Winterfell, Lord Eddard Stark (Ned) has been offered the position as Hand of the King, which requires him to move from the cold north, to the warmer southern climes of King's Landing.
Martin has created a world where the seasons could potentially last lifetimes. Summer has lasted for decades and is now drawing to a close, and the other side of Winterfell's protective Wall isn't the only place where trouble is brewing. Across the seven kingdoms, admist all the lies, manipulation, violence, and betrayal, the quest for the Iron Throne of Winterfell is underway.

The novel is split between the points of view of several of the characters, which include whole House of Stark, a bastard child, a Dragon Heir and the Imp. As always, character jumping gets a little confusing at times but you quickly find your pace with it. I did find myself looking forward to certain character chapters than others, which made parts of the book drag a little. The characters themselves were very well written, I only truly warmed to a few of the characters but it was enough to keep me interested, I was mainly on the edge of my seat hoping that nothing bad will happen to them.

I made the somewhat catastrophic mistake of watching the series before reading the book. It's not something I usually do and I'll let this serve as a fair warning to not do it again. I really loved the first installment in A Song of Ice and Fire but I feel I would have done so even more if I had read it first. It's definitely something I would recommend if you don't want Sean Bean popping up in your head every time Ned's name appears.
Although, if you have watched the series already, I would still encourage you to read this. The televised series pretty much follows it word for word, the extra bits will just seem like extended scenes. The only downside to this book is the weight of it, it's a bit of an inconvenience if you carry it around everywhere like I did.
Trust me though, the pain is worth it.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Friday, 19 October 2012

Review: The Casual Vacancy

Reasons why I won't be comparing this to the Harry Potter series:

  1. It's a muggle story.  It's not about witchcraft or wizardry.
  2. No Hogwarts, Hogwarts. Hoggy, Warty, Hogwarts.
  3. The distinct lack of one beautiful Potion's Master.
  4. Its target audience isn't young wand wielding, Quidditch practising muggles. 
Reasons why you shouldn't to read this book.

  1. If  you're expecting a murder mystery, it isn't one.
  2. If you think it might secretly be about Gryffindor house. it's not. Don't let the colours of the dust jacket fool you. 
  3. If you're easily offended, disturbed or expect that Jo won't kill your heart with words of sadness and mercilessly throw you in a dark, bleak hole of blackness.
I unashamedly admit that ever since I heard this book was being published I've been a simmering pot of excitement. The Harry Potter series has been a predominant force in my life since the age of 8 and Rowling? Well, I've pretty much looked up to her as a hardworking role model for more than half of my life. With that in mind, I pushed down any expectations I had of The Casual Vacancy, while I have a blind faith in Rowling's writing skills this is about as far as way you can get from the Castle walls. True to form, she certainly doesn't hold back on the depressing factor, the novel has sadness, frustration and a whole lot of angst woven within the pages. I managed to read this fairly quickly and with ease regardless of its grim nature; I would definitely pick it up again.

Barry Fairbrother quite suddenly dies on the evening of his anniversary and the small town of Pagford finds its Parish council with a 'casual vacancy'. The death shakes the community down to its very foundations and behind the scenes, we find a town that is indeed 'at war with itself'. They are desperate to fill the the empty seat and will stop at nothing in order for that to happen in their favour. That's pretty much the plot line here, nothing more.

As the story unfolds, we are introduced to a plethora of unlikable characters as they all scheme, back-stab, bully, intimidate and double cross one another into gaining an upper hand. I've not read a book all year where I've wholeheartedly hated every single character.
I couldn't hand out the award for most hated character in a book this time, as there were simply too many to choose from. Do I go for the crack whore? The cheater? The rapist or the abuser?
Of course, there is also the selfish widow, the gossip queen, the overbearing mother and the rebel without a cause to choose from. (I finally decide to award it to everyone. You're welcome, Pagford.)
The only saving grace seems to be the late Barry Fairbrother himself, although I'm fairly certain if he wasn't surrounded by the halo effect and I did manage to get inside his head, I would hate him just as much as the rest.

This novel is not without faults, the character-jumping chapters got very confusing at times and at the beginning of the book I was simply overwhelmed with the sheer number of names that were thrown at me. I quite unashamedly admit that I had to map down the family trees in order to keep on top of it. It didn't really help, I struggled throughout. At times, I did feel there were profanities that were slipped in for no other reason than 'just because'. 
Tiny chapters of 3 or 4 pages send me round the twist, I have no sense of understanding for them and they serve no purpose for me. There was an abundance of them in this book and sometimes it was a little more than small irritant, I was longing for fleshed out chapters after a while. 
It's quite a shame really that modern culture was used so freely, while I respect the right of authors who wish to do this, I was expecting more from Rowling. It gives the book an instant shelf life and in 10 or 15 years the references will mean little, if anything at all. She's managed to keep her books timeless up until now, I just wish she'd carried on doing so. 

Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and as a first adult novel I think it was pretty great. I really do believe she successfully pulled of the transition from writing for children to writing for adults. There were times and passages that quite simply took my breath away. The writing style is magnificent and while unlikable, the characters at times, were wonderfully insightful. 
Obviously, a novel by Rowling isn't a novel by Rowling unless she successfully tears your heart out and feeds it to a meat grinder in the process. That was something  I welcomed with open arms, it truly felt like coming home and being hugged by your slightly sinister mother.

So, should you read this attempt at literature for adults? Absolutely. If you've enjoyed Rowling's writing style in the past, then it's a given you should pick this up immediately, she's only improved with time. If you're not familiar with her work, I'd still pick it up, it is a page turner if anything. Mainly though, I believe it deserves a fair chance, without Harry Potter looming over it like a great smoky Dark Mark in the sky. (Finite Incantatem your Morsmordre, you guys.) 

Rating: ★★★★☆

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Review: The Lifeboat

The year is 1914.
A mysterious explosion sinks the Empress Alexandra and Henry manages to secure his wife a last minute seat on (what turns out to be) an overcrowded lifeboat. Now lost at sea, the 39 survivors discover what it is to have a true willingness to survive.

Through a series of flashbacks, the story is told from the point of view of newlywed 22 year old Grace Winter, who is now off the boat and standing trial for murder.
Adrift somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, Grace recounts tales of the forming of alliances and rivalries, the crumbling of hierarchy, the shift between trust and suspicion; and not knowing whether you are going to live or die.
This has all the elements of a typical survival story: lies, deceit, moral ambiguity, some form of mystery and the questioning of faith and humanity. With some politics and possible ulterior motives thrown in for good measure.

I started reading this with a very cynical mindset, it's not the sort of thing would usually pick up, even on a recommendation. The only other lost-at-sea book I've read is The Life of Pi, which has since turned into one of my favourite books. This already put The Lifeboat in an impossible situation of filling a pair of gigantic shoes.

The novel isn't jam packed with action, in fact this is more of a thought provoking book if anything. (At times, I admit the book seemed to crawl a bit.) There isn't a disaster at every turn of a page and people don't start dropping like flies. It's not a white knuckle book, nor should I have expected it to be- there's about as much action as you can expect in a tiny lifeboat in the middle of a vast body of water. Where is lacks in this respect it makes up for in the introspection of the main character, the novel is pretty much fueled by it.

Grace however, isn't a likable character in any way; her obvious attraction to powerful people is unbecoming and it fuels her motives in every aspect of the book. She seems to get what she wants through a series of calculated plots and the manipulation of others, there doesn't seem to be any warmth to her at all.
Speaking honestly, I don't think I really took to any of them, none seemed to possess any redeeming qualities, so I their fate meant little to me. There were a lot of characters, some of them barely mentioned which led to some confusion on my part as I had no prior experiences or memories to attach the names to.

My inability to fall in love with at least one of the characters usually ruins the experience of a book for me, I don't do well with feeling cut off. It is beautifully written though, so I did enjoy it in spite of myself and it was entertaining enough for me to read it fairly quickly.
I really enjoy the writing style of the first time author and I think it's definitely worth reading The Lifeboat just to experience it. While I know I won't be rereading this book, she's already persuaded me to pick up her next book when the time comes.


Monday, 1 October 2012

Review: The Origins of Sex

Faramerz Dabhoiwala explores the shift in attitudes of all things sex from seventeenth century England and how the changes have ultimately affected the present day. Or in short, 'A History of the First Sexual Revolution'.

I'm positively terrified of non-fiction, injecting it with a dose of social history will have me cowering in a corner. It most likely has to do with my rubbish memory and my short attention span so I'll freely admit I wasn't excited about reading this book. Although I was willing to power through it in hopes of some interesting tales of debauchery.

And tales of debauchery there was. Dabhoiwala covers everything from Church law and state regulation to bawdy houses and good old fashioned Buggery. The book is divided into subtopics where the author is free to explore certain topics in more detail be it the change in attitudes to prostitution and the rise in sexual celebrity.

This book should definitely be aimed at an academic audience and not a curious reader, at times I felt as though I was reading a string of words and sentences without fathoming a single meaning from them, so at best I got a very vague idea of what I was being told. However, when I begin to understand what was being said I did start to find the information interesting.

I noticed throughout the book that there were a fair amount of quotes from Lord Byron and I'm not entirely sure what they were doing there. Lord Byron left the country in 1816 because of the sexual repression, never returning to England until his death in 1824. With this in mind, I feel that the quotes were an unnecessary and inaccurate addition and it made me wonder which other parts of the book have questionable historical merit. With my limited knowledge on the subject (save the free love movement) I have no other choice in believing it to be a true depiction of life at that time.

Overall, it did make for an interesting read although I do wish that a wider perspective was used. After all, you can't have a complete sexual revolution without the world following suit. I would have seen how the rest of the world dealt with the changes.
I'm offering up a word of caution to anyone who wants to pick up this book- it is fairly academic and very verbose. Full attention is required.


Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Review: Quiet

Susan Cain looks at the plight, sorry, power of the introverts in a seemingly extrovert world in her debut book Quiet.

I had no choice but to read this, I'm fairly certain if I was given one, I would have put it down and walked far, far away. It wasn't from a lack of interest but rather the sheer grating feeling I got from reading it.

It seemed to focus a lot on corporate America and how introverts can actually be an asset to the work force and even more valuable to their extroverted counterparts. It seemed less about equality and understanding at work and in society and more about how much more advantageous it is when you're an introvert. This is something that didn't sit right with me, perhaps it was too much for my British taste buds but I felt this could have worked a lot better if she had spoken about personal experiences and struggles rather than other people's anecdotes on success over their rivals.  It's almost as if she wants to counteract the 'Extrovert Ideal' with an introverted one.

The book was split into several sections all of which seemed to reiterate information over and over and over again. There was enough repetition to drive me to madness. The kind of madness that introverts suffer at the hands of an open-planned office.
The levels of stereotypes were astounding, I have come to the conclusion that extroverts are rash, love to party and don't really think all that too much and the introverts, well they're the serious thinkers, the creative types; level headed. It acts as much as a validation tool as it does as a self help guide: You're an introvert? Don't worry, you're a thinker, you're smart. J.K Rowling is an introvert, so was Steve Jobs, they were rich and powerful. You're going to be a-okay. 

There are parts that do get quite interesting, you know as much as informal science experiments can get. She seems to bollix it up by making out as if introverts are a league of extraordinary hipsters, with their bespeckled faces, poor fashion choices and curiously described facial hair.

My problem is I hate anything that tells me we live in a one-or-the-other society. Gay or straight, male or female, good or evil and yes, introvert or extrovert.
The current world population stands at approximately 7 billion. With such a staggering number to consider, I'm not sure why or how we allow ourselves to think so simply.

RATING: ★☆☆☆☆

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Being Inspired.

I suppose I'll be using this space (on occasion) to shamelessly share some of my own creative writing, it won't be very often so you won't be tortured for long. I blame all the talent I've come across recently at a local spoken word night, Word Up- something I shall be mentioning again at some point in the coming week.

I found a poem I wrote at the tender age of 17, when I was inhabiting the lands of inexperience. It was half done, so I've taken the liberty today to complete (and improve) it. So, here goes. Enjoy, I guess.


It took less than a minute for my whole life to turn round;
Shackled and bound.

Shackled and bound?
You want me to--
Tie you down?
Tie you up.

You want me to--
Take your wrists
To tie them up, to tie them like this?

I let myself be pulled into a blood drawn kiss.
Your love, it was kind of like a fist.

We made quick work of turning turning pain into pleasure.
As sharp as a needled syringe.

Needled syringe?
No, as a whip, a paddle, a cut.
A butterfly stitch.
As sharp as a broken glass tumbler--

I may have held the key to your restraints
but it was your spell I was under.

It was becoming obsessive,
harder and harder not to miss.
Your love?
Well, it was kind of like a fist.

The problem was we weren't our only addiction.
I called us junkies--
You called it 'a most pleasurable affliction'.

Even when we were high,
a length of silk would bind together our wrists
Our love;
It was kind of like a fist.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Review: Percy Jackson and the Olympians

can honestly say I don't remember the last time the protagonist in the story was my favourite character. I guess we can go with Harry but I was eight, by the time Prisoner of Azkaban was released- it was Severus Snape or it was nothing.
It's probably just because they just weren't Percy Jackson. At the age of twelve our ADHD New Yorker learns that he is the son of a Greek God (later finding out his father is Poseidon), his best friend is a goat and mythological monsters are trying to kill him. He takes refuge in the safe haven Camp Half-Blood where he trains to become an awesome monster-slaying demigod.
Percy also finds out that he's part of an ancient prophecy; a child of the Big Three (Zeus, Posiedon and hot-as-hell-Hades) will aid in the saving or destruction of Olympus upon their sixteenth birthday.
Occasionally during his time at Camp Half-Blood, Percy and his friends are sent out on potentially life ending quests (complete with a prophecy from a mummified Oracle). These quests involve a lot of monsters, pet hellhounds, trips to Hades, a giant underground labyrinth and Zeus' master bolt. Each book deals with new monsters and problems orchestrated by the same evil, I love the way it ties the plot together in the end- everything is arranged beautifully.

I heard many whisperings and murmurings about how much this series is like Harry Potter, I won’t lie about it there are loads of similarities in characters as well as circumstance. My sister and I played a ‘Which Harry Potter character is this?’ game during our reading of the series, it was a lot easier for me as I was juggling both at once.
Personally, I don’t think it there was enough of a similarity between them for it to be a major problem. Rick Riordan made a world in his own right, much in the same fashion that Rowling did. He deserves every praise in the world for his series.

And what a fantastic series it was.
It was fantastically written, and at times absolutely hilarious (whether it was intentional or not I don't know). More often than not I found myself laughing out loud at what I was reading, wherever I was. They were fairly easy to read too, each book only took a few days to read. I got a bit of stick from a book seller about wanting to read it, according to her it wasn't very challenging. Hey, we don't discriminate on this blog, I read whatever I feel like. What can I say? Riordan makes Greek mythology fun and really knows how to bring together the historical and the contemporary. Sometimes the language made my face cringe a little, but I was used to it by the end of the second book- I inwardly grimaced far less after that. Anyway, thinking about it really- the language of today’s youth is similar, so two thumbs up in that respect.

I've already mentioned how much I loved Percy, I'm not sure why out of all the protagonists I've been introduced to in literature HE is one of my favourites. I guess I find his naivety charming, or maybe the fact that outside of Camp Half-Blood he's completely unpopular. Maybe because some of the other characters didn’t have enough exposure for me to fall in love with them too. *coughHADEScough* I don't know, but I warmed to him quickly. The same goes for Percy's half-brother Tyson, his innocence was beautiful, I loved him from his introduction.
In the same respect I also found myself with an almost impossible to shake dislike for Annabeth. (I know I must be in a thimble sized pool here.) It wasn't anything she'd done or not done I just didn't quite grow to like her the way I did with Grover. Personally, if we're going for female favourites, I much preferred Clarisse. That girl had a lot of zeal, I found it hard not to like her; I loved the way she had an unreasonable and insistent dislike for Percy, even when she liked him, she hated him.
(The most Snape-like Character Award goes to Hades, I wish there was MORE of him.)
I could literally go on forever, this needs to be given a chance, away from it’s similarities to other novels and series. Almost definitely away from it’s Hollywood counterpart but I won’t even go into that right now. Seriously, pick up these books I’m fairly certain you won’t regret it. 

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Review: Looking for Alaska

Miles is a nerd; a scrawny, friendless nerd with a penchant for famous last words. The story begins with Miles waiting to leave Florida for Culver Creek Prep School in Alabama. When asked why he simply responds ‘I go to seek a Great Perhaps.’ (Incidentally, the famous last words of writer Fran├žois Rabelais.)
He finds it in friends, smoking, drinking and pranking, of which all orbit a single life force. Alaska. The bookworm, ever mysterious, slightly screwed up; Alaska, it’s no surprise that our young protagonist falls head over heels in love instantaneously. 
When tragedy strikes, Miles and his friends take an emotional and philosophical journey which helps them to answer Alaska’s frequently asked question, “How will we ever get out of this labyrinth of suffering?*”

The book is split in to two parts, ‘Before’ the tragedy and ‘After’- I loved it that way. The transition between experiencing a Great Perhaps and dealing with it’s sudden loss was amazingly done. The plot however, was predictable, I was sure of what was going to happen in the first 50 pages and I was almost I was right when it came to the mystery. The emotions that came from these wonderful characters, were raw, they were real and they were beautiful. 
The predictability made absolutely no difference to me, I loved this book. Loved it. It was incredibly written, some passages were so moving they literally took my breath away. (Usually this was accompanied by a clutch at the heart and the fighting back of tears.) I particularly enjoyed the final prank, while hilarious it was also heartwarming, a true homage to an incredible friendship. 
John Green has the ability in both his vlog and his writing to completely captivate his audience. (Well, he captivates me, anyway.) I find myself being able to take his words, hastily paint it over real life and marvel and the wider perspective, so it’s no surprise I felt the familiar pangs of reminiscence when reading Looking for Alaska. 
Quite suddenly, I was 17 years old again and at the beginning of my own adventures into experimentation and recreation.
I was me, he was him and we were about as messed up as each other. He was 24, a drug addict and I, much like Alaska was hell bent on self destruction. I was a lot like Miles, too; finding adventure in at-the-time dangerous activities but all the while, trying to find a comfort in the void of misery I inhabited.
He captured the loss perfectly, having been there myself round about that age, I felt most of the emotions the characters did. There was no resolution for them in that respect and I don’t think there ever really will be. 
Green evidentially didn’t forget to be awesome when he wrote this book and if his others are half as good as this one they can be nothing short of great. 

Rating: ★★★★★ 

*straight and fast.

Review: Insurgent

Much like the beginning of this book, I'm going to rush in exactly where I left off, on a train and exhausted; sleeping in the arms of man/boy Tobias. (Four, when we're mad at him.)
In terms of content and pace, I'm in the more unpopular pool of liking this book at lot more than Divergent. I'm in a mind to say that more happens but it's very much all filler and no killer again. The main crux of the action seemed to happen in the last few chapters and I'm not sure why some of the things that happened, happened- but more on that later.
On the bright side, the main body of the book was filled with a bit more action, amongst Triss' confusion a lot seemed to happen in terms of getting a deeper insight into the other factions. I was really happy about that, although I do enjoy reading about Dauntless and Abegnation- the other factions seem like the Ravenclaw/Hufflepuffs in Roth's world- it was nice to see the others get some of the limelight. Roth also goes into more detail about what a Divergent actually is and that was something I was struggling with.

One thing I was hoping for was a connection with the main characters, I started to forge thin threads to some of them and was hoping to cement a bond that would have me crying with them. Unfortunately these characters were nowhere to be seen.

Triss bless her heart, is clearly suffering from PTSD, you know- having watched both her parents die, shooting her brainwashed best friend in the head and having one of her worst nightmares come to life at the hands of a sexy Eric.
Triss is more of the Post-Heaven-Buffy than the Badass-Baby-Buffy I was told all about.  She's more confused and conflicted than ever, she doesn't seem to know what she's doing or who she's doing it with. Trusting her boyfriend's abusive father without a moment's hesitation being one of those things. To deal with the growing guilt, she takes to throwing herself into immensely stupid situations. All the while she's brooding over Tobias and if she's not fighting with him, she's shutting him up with her tongue.

The usually level headed and least-Dauntless of the lot Tobias seems to have channeled his inner Bruce Banner, he's a downright arse to Triss most of the time in this book. Even after finding out about Will, he's more upset at being lied to rather than being concerned that his girlfriend is pretty much crumbling before his eyes and not at all sympathetic to her reasons behind not being able to yield a gun. Of course that's when he's not putting blind faith into a mother that's been absent for most his life or hulking out and beating up his dad in public. 
Caleb and Peter, well they seem to have lost and gained a heart almost simultaneously. They're definitely my two favourite characters, if I had to choose. Their inevitable switcheroo wasn't all that surprising, you could see it a mile off. They still keep true to the foundations of their characters which is a good thing.
I want to take this time to say how much I love Uriah, because I do. I really love Uriah.

The character deaths still a big fat zero for me, I don't know why Roth makes the most random people die. Marlene's was fairly sad but I didn't connect to her on any level, her murder was horrific though, I was clenching my teeth for a bit afterwards. I won't even pretend to remember the name of the guy who died on the ladder. I moved on faster than Triss did.
The most annoying was Jeanine's death though, she was supposed to be the trilogy's Big Bad and she died far too easily and barely put up a fight. I hope she comes back as some kind of android and is worse than ever. That would be cool.

The book ended true to form in a frozen in time moment, that would certainly unfreeze at the exact moment it left off in book three. Again, the twist could be seen clearer than headlights on a dark night but it was satisfying having the big reveal. It indeed answered a lot of my questions, especially the history behind the factions.

Don't let all my ranting fool you, I really like this series. It's probably one of the more messed up trilogies I've read, all my reviews indicate me disliking it but I don't. It's ever so confusing; I really enjoy myself while I'm reading it, Roth writes wonderfully despite all the flaws I find. I'm greatly looking forward to the next installment. I know it's a bit of a wait though, so until then. Be brave, readers

RATING: ★★★☆☆. 

Review: Fifty Shades of Grey

I managed to procure this book from a friend (apparently, they're sold out everywhere) this week after I had an alarming amount of people ask me if I'd read it and my thoughts.
I know the hype around this book, as I'm sure everyone else does; a-once-Twilight-fan-fiction-re-worked-into-original-prose; fantastic sex. Most people/reviewers seem to be split right down the middle either passionately loving or hating it in equal measure. There was only one way to settle it in my mind. I had to read it.

Bella Swan Anastasia Steele is a 21-year-old university student on the brink of graduation, she's plain, clumsy, innocent, naive and completely unsure of herself. She has to interview the elusive Edward Cullen Christian Grey, the CEO of a multi-million dollar company on behalf of her sick friend, he instantly takes a shining to her and we get ourselves into the beginnings of a D/s (BDSM) relationship. 
The biggest issue I seem to have with this book is the negative portrayal of D/s relationships in general. Christian is portrayed as a monster, to be a Big D (Dominant not Dudley Dursely) doesn't necessarily mean you were a victim of trauma. (In the book he does have baggage naturally. I'm guessing the fanfic would have pointed towards Edward not having a soul.) Ana is perfectly 'normal' so enjoying her role as a submissive must mean she has issues of her own surely? Trying to change Grey's natural choices to a more acceptable (vanilla) one seems wrong to me. It's not a subculture for no reason, it's not for everyone.
D/s relationships are based on a mutual absolute trust and absolute choice. When done right I can't imagine there being wrongful abuse; Ana knew what she was getting into, though perhaps may not have fully understood her own choice and reactions. Similarly, Christian seems to impose his lifestyle on her without her express consent- it's an absurdity considering how well versed he seems to be in it.   It's so obviously abuse at some points, it was uncomfortable to read and not at all erotic.

Then there's how closely it resembles Twilight. Anyone who tells you otherwise is blind, or lying to themselves. We have Ana, the clumsy object of every male's desire but-she-doesn't-know-it; Christian, who is obsessed with keeping her safe, has a problem with what she drives and is fiercely overprotective and jealous; Jose the dark skinned, black haired friend who she has no interest in no matter what his feelings are.

Let's not forget how simply inconceivable it is. Ana, a near graduate student at college; doesn't own a laptop and doesn't have an email address. In fact, she uses her journalist friend's laptop when she requires it. What? Anyone who has been through higher education knows how far in life you get without a laptop. Walking on water is easier to achieve than a undergraduate degree without Microsoft Word.
Her character generally is a grating one, especially when it comes to voicing her limited opinions about sex. James has her nicknaming condoms 'foil packets' and gave her the insufferable habit of calling her vagina 'down there'. As a rule of thumb, if you're mature enough to do it, you're mature enough to say it. 
I have to hand it to the author though, she has certainly mastered the fine art of Meyer's repetition in her prose. I have all the 'murmurings', 'mutterings' and 'lips pursed into straight lines' I could ever hope for and some new ones to boot.
My two absolute favourites, Ana's own and frequently mentioned inner goddess who has an insatiable libido- incidentally one that ends up in one of her many shattering orgasms. Ana shatters so much I could only see it in the manner of Humpty Dumpty, although unlike him I don't think all the King's horses and all the King's men will be able to put this poor girl back together again.

As for the sex? Well, I've had better. As far as smut goes I've read fantastic sex scenes in stories with infinitely better plot lines. Where the sex is indeed secondary to the story and not the only thing worth reading. I would love to see some of these authors with original works in bookstores everywhere
I gave the book a one star review, it's not overly generous but it is- in my humble opinion; perfectly justified. This truthfully, was a bit of a car crash read; it was poorly edited, littered with grammatical and even spelling mistakes and it's written terribly but still I found myself powering through it in a single afternoon. I put its single star down to some of the unintentionally hilarious scenarios. "Oh shit. It's my mother."

I do however, implore the author to change the name to Fifty Ways To Sate Your Inner Goddess. It would make me so happy and definitely soften the blow of this book overthrowing the Potter series as the fastest selling paperback, ever.

RATING: ★☆☆☆☆

Review: Divergent

Review: Divergent
I'm trying this new thing were I try to take things slowly, reading books in one or two nights doesn't really allow me to remember things. Having said that, I didn't expect to swallow this book whole the way I did, it wasn't meant to happen anyway.
I really enjoyed this book, although probably not in the same capacity as I did when I first picked up The Hunger Games (my other Tumblr recommendation). Although it IS wonderfully written, (in an easy to read without getting too confused kind of way).

Beatrice Prior lives in a world where her society is split up into five factions, Abegnation, the selfless; Erudite, the intelligent; Amity, the peaceful; Candor, the honest and Dauntless, the Brave.
Every person, at the age of sixteen gets the opportunity to choose the faction they would like to be in by taking an aptitude test.
With her inconclusive results, Beatrice struggles with the choice of staying with her family or leaving to discover who she really is, all the while harbouring the secret that she is in fact, Divergent. When it comes to the choosing ceremony, she makes a decision that will ultimately change her life forever.

I would have liked to have known a little about how the factions came into being, I probably would have sacrificed a chunk of the horrendously long Dauntless initiation process in order to have it. I don't know about anyone else, but I do like to know why my future is oh so dystopian. Sooner, rather than later.
I found this lack of backstory in the beginning a bit of a deterrent more than anything. I felt like I had to just accept that they were there in their position and not question any of it, which naturally let me to question but why? every couple of chapters. As the animosity between the factions grew, my frustrations grew with it. At least I got to find out why being a Divergent is so dangerous, though.

Once the first stage of initiation was over and done with, the book really started picking up for me. I thoroughly enjoyed the next two stages, Roth’s imagination seems to have no bounds when it comes up with ways to scare her characters senseless.
The introduction of the Dauntless-born initiates offered up a respite from the ‘evil’ faction members, which I found I desperately needed and gave way to a nicer image of the faction and what Dauntless could be like without all the corruption.
And corruption there was, as we find out in the last 100 or so pages of the book. This is where the plot truly thickens, with a truly nasty surprise for Tris and the rest of the members.

Regardless of how much I enjoyed the latter part of the book, I still found there was a key ingredient missing and I’m not sure why that is. I wasn’t attatched to the characters the way I should have been, so the deaths meant very little to me. Even the romance in the story was lacking somewhat, I didn’t get the same twisting knot in my stomach when I truly feel sorry for the star crossed lovers. Four did make an impression on me, as did Tris- I’m hoping the second installment will truly make me care for them.
My real intrigue lies with black haired, Dauntless leader Eric. Although, where’s the surprise there?

Despite the few flaws, Roth still kept me interested enough to read the whole thing, cover to cover in a record time. I have hope for this series, I really do- I’m not ready to count it out when there’s a second installment just waiting for me and could completely turn it around.

Watch this space, I guess. 

RATING: ★★★☆☆ 

Review: Perfume

Review: Perfume 

For me, when it comes to literature, there are two things of which I am absolutely certain; a little magic goes a long, long way and I have a definite penchant for the brooding anti-hero of a story.

Patrick Suskind's gives me an abundance of both.
Here we have the life and times of murderer and master perfumer, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille. (Just Grenouille, for short.)
Grenouille has the best nose in the world, with the unparalleled ability to catalogue and remember every smell in existence, be it the individual smells of wood, objects and people.
However, by a cruel twist of fate, we discover that Grenouille does not possess an odour of his own. Unable to identify himself olfactorily (and therefore not at all) he ventures out to create the perfect human scent, even if he has to kill to get it.

Although a born villain, Grenouille is a lovable old rogue. You feel gut wrenchingly sorry for him, witnessing him growing up as he tries to 'see' and understand the world through his extraordinary sense of smell.
He is perfectly aware of who he is, an evil opportunistic vagabond and makes no excuses for it. He's a perfect abomination; his brutal honesty and his complete loathing of the world around him only makes you love him that much more.

You only have to look at Suskind's writing style to really capture the beauty of the story and it's definitely where the magic comes in. This author has a magnificent way with words, at times the wording was so romanticised, at one point I had to stop and take a second to remind myself that I was reading a description of sewage and fecal matter and not a rose. In a way, the imagery reminds me a lot of Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha. It's so beautifully romantic.

If that's not enough to sway you to read it, there is the most astoundingly, exceptionally messed up hanging scene I have ever read in my life. Ever. You need to trust me and read the book to see what I mean.

Absolutely brilliant!

RATING: ★★★★★ 

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Review: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

I've been mulling over this review for months. It's not that I didn't enjoy it, I'm just not quite sure how I feel about it... yet.
Here we have Harold Fry, a socially awkward, painfully ordinary man. Harold lives an ordinary retired life, with his ordinary wife. You get the feeling in the beginning, although he's not quite happy, he's perfectly content to be ordinary.

Until he receives a letter that is. A letter from a terminally ill Queenie, an old work colleague who disappeared; someone who Harold harboured a secret guilt for. Upon posting his reply to Queenie, Harold finds himself walking from one postbox, to the next, to the one after- until he comes to the conclusion that instead he's going to walk to Queenie. Walk across the country from Kensington to Berwick in naught but his yachting shoes. It's up to him, to keep her alive.

Harold is an old man and we come to discover a man who is riddled with regrets. Regrets regarding his wife, his son and the regret of letting an old friend walk out of his life. What we have here, is a modern day Everyman. During this pilgrimage Harold reflects on the choices he's made in an attempt to reconcile and move passed them. He chances upon meeting fascinating characters throughout his journey, each with their own regrets and problems. Harold seems to take these burdens upon himself, to help heal himself and those around him. There was a particularly moving story Harold hears in a tea shop from a white hair gentlemen who admits to partaking in acts of gay sex.
Needless to say, I adore Harold Fry; I'm not quite sure if I want to be just like him, or wish I had a friend that was. Harold has the uncanny knack of warming you from soul to toes, I'm not sure if it's his innocence, his naivety or his sheer will to cling on to hope or just a combination of all three. Whatever it is, I found myself rooting for him with ever cell of my being, I needed him to get to Queenie if not for his sanity then my own. 
What Rachel Joyce has given me, is a wonderfully simple story about faith, hope and love. It's a nice reminder that, regardless of how old we are, we are never too old to discover who we really are. The only drawback in the book is the mention of Facebook and Twitter, which in my opinion, gives it a rather short shelf life; I don't see myself picking up this book in ten or fifteen years time, so against the bigger picture it's nothing but a minor irritation. All in all though, Joyce has done exceedingly well in her first novel- I would definitely read more by her in the future. 

Rating: ★★★★☆

Review: Shadowmancer

I was about 14 when my then best friend first handed me a copy of this book. "Read it." That's all she had to say. And I did. I started anyway, I had a vague recollection about the sea and moonlight. I never got passed the description of the moon.
It was at a time in my life where my book love hit an all time low and I was in that awkward goth stage. It was Edgar Allen Poe or it was nothing. 
"Read it," she said.
We danced this same book tango for years and she gave up the day we parted ways at 16,she took the book with her. Years later it became symbolic, only known as the one that got away. When I started this book list, I knew it had to be on there.
Unfortunately, Shadowmancer has been honoured with my first ever poor review. There are so many reasons why this book falls short for me and of it's expectation to 'counteract the rise in atheist propaganda'.  
The story speaks of the loathsome Demurral, the antagonist of the story and the archetypal good-vicar-gone-bad. As a character, Demurral is mean, stealing money out of the collection plate kind of mean. You see, Demurral is fed up of serving God and so he decides to act on that lovely cliche; if he can't join Him he's just going to have to beat Him. He needs the Keruvim to properly control death, problem is- he only has half of it. Not to worry, he already knows it's twin can't stay away for too long.
As with all stories, there needs to be the good guys. Queue, Raphah and his band of merry agnostic men. Raphah is young holy man from Africa who possesses divine healing powers from God (Riathamus). Using this force of goodness he shows people the righteous path and the will to follow it. With the help of characters; the smuggler Jacob Crane; Thomas, the village utchin; and his tomboy sidekick Kate, Raphah sets out to thwart Demurral's plans. 
I'm not new to Christian stories being interwoven into fantasy and children's literature, C. S Lewis' series holds a very special place in my heart. I guess the difference is The Chronicles of Narnia was done well without being too preachy. Shadowmancer goes in the complete other direction, at times I wasn't sure if I was reading a fantasy novel or a sermon. For me the novel seemed to be about each character's journey to accepting God in their hearts.
The characters were little to be desired, they didn't seem fully developed to me at all. Save for maybe Jacob Crane, but his character was all but lost as soon as he accepted God as his saviour. There were other characters that seemed to disappear completely, seemingly off the edge of the earth and for no plausible reason at all.  I don't know if they're yet to appear in the sequels or if it's just down to the inconsistent plot. 
I don't think I'll be holding my breath to find out though. It's highly unlikely I'll be picking up any of the sequels any time soon. 

Rating: ☆☆☆☆

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Review: Hunger Games Trilogy

I read The Hunger Games with the film's release breathing hot air down my neck; It wasn't the primary reason I gave in but I wanted my own imagination to fill in the blanks before Hollywood did it for me.
I went in blind. I read no reviews, no summaries and I didn't even bother reading the blurb. I ignored the posters and adverts and pictures of the actors the best I could- I went purely what I was seeing on my dashboard everyday. (Most of the time, this led to avoidance via rapid finger scrolling). I put my faith in you all and I'm glad I did, for I was greatly rewarded.

Set in an oppressive dystopian future, we are introduced to Katniss Everdeen, a District 12 seventeen-year-old badass hunter. She lives in a world that is the product of 'the first rebellion', an uprising from long ago. No longer a free country, all twelve Districts are reminded of their passed convictions by an annual (and very public) 'Reaping Ceremony' for the Hunger Games; a battle to the death consisting of 24 children. (A boy and a girl from each District.)
Without giving anything away; Gore ensues
The Games were created for the means of entertainment for the rich Capitol (one could argue it could also have been a way to distract the people of Panem from the real issues) and to distill an already strong fear in the hearts of the people of the Districts. They were at the Capitol's mercy and they knew it.
The plot reminded me very much of what's going on in society today, in the age of reality television and very much in the time of economical/political strife- so I found myself empathising and even relating to parts of the book which made it an even better read. 
Needless to say I was sucked in instantly.
Panem, the Districts and Games became very real to me. I was there at the Reapings, trying to remember to breathe. I could smell the blood and the roses. I felt like I'd been punched in the stomach when I was reading the twist of the second Quarter Quell and I spent the majority of the books curled into the foetal position crying my eyes out; mourning the loss of so many wonderful people.
I've not become attached to so many characters in one series since Harry Potter, I would love to spend another 500 words giving them all a heartfelt mention but I'll resist. Although, never again will gold eyeliner and sugar cubes be just gold eyeliner and sugar cubes.
Aside from Protagonist Katniss, whose strength, courage and will to live I admired, the bulk of my love gravitated towards the beautiful Peeta Mellark.
It had everything to do with his heart, but not necessarily what he gave to Katniss. He was, in an almost pure form, everything that is good in the world. I often looked to him to be the small pulse of light in what seemed to be a never ending tunnel of darkness.

I loved the series- I really did. It was bloody, it was controversial, at times it was a little cheesy, sometimes a little too cheesy- I love all kinds of cheese so I was happy with that.
It successfully managed to blur the lines between good and evil though, absolutely everyone was tinted in an (un)healthy glow of grey. At times I made exasperated sighs, because I knew what was going to happen next... but something else happened instead. It had a funny way of keeping me on my toes like that.
Most of all, it was chock full of hope in seemingly hopeless situations- you're always rooting for the good guy, even when you're not sure entirely if the good guys are actually good anymore.
In the end, once you've painfully uncurled your fingers and you've waded through the olympic sized pools of syrupy blood, you manage to see the silver lining in it all.

You know, after you've flushed all the blood from you eyes with tears. 

Rating:  ★★★★★ (!) 

Review: Slaughterhouse-Five

At the age of 21, Billy Pilgrim was drafted into the Army where he was a front line soldier in Germany, 1944. It is here he becomes "unstuck in time," reliving and re-experiencing  certain moments of his life; the time he was prisoner of war in Dresden or when he was abducted and taken to live in Tralfamadore with a porn star named Montana Wildhack. Billy's personal calling in life is spreading the teachings of the Tralfamadorians (well, it seems to be that way anyway). 
I read this book on a whim, it's one of those cult classics you're a bit scared to pick up, just in case you don't like it very much. Or at all.
I've got to say I was pleasantly surprised, not that it was a brilliant read (and a brilliant read it was) but by how much I loved it. Towards the end of the book I started reading at a snail's pace, savouring every single word and quite frankly, not really wanting it to end.

I loved the protagonist Billy Pilgrim. I love him and I adore him.
He reminds me of a less cynical, grown up version of Holden Caulfield, (Salinger's Catcher in the Rye) he was so lovely and kind to every person he comes into contact with. Even when they weren't very nice to him, which is a regular occurrence in the book (I'm talking to you, Roland Weary!) It's the kind of love that makes every fiber of your being ache for their happiness, I really wanted everyone to believe him about Tralfamadore. 
Incidentally, I found the writing style of this book to be very similar to Catcher in the Rye, it's not the only reason I loved reading it but it did relax my nerves once I started to get into it.
I couldn't recommend this enough, it's beautifully written and an absolute joy to read. I hope I get the chance to read it again one day, because it's easily dropped into my favourite reads category!

Rating: ★★★★★

Review: The Invisible Man

If the internet generation has taught me one thing, it's that anonymity brings the best and worst out of people. When it comes to the worst, you can feel empowered and brave- after all, you can do and say whatever you please when no one can see you.
The Invisible Man follows the same social conduct, even though it was written in the turn of the 20th Century. Of course, there was no social media back then but man's search for power is a tale as old as time.
In the novel, we learn of the antagonist Griffin, a seemingly brilliant medical student who becomes fascinated with optics. Upon his research he discovers that invisibility can be achieved through the change of an object's refractive and reflected properties. (At least I think so, the science bit confused me some.) The physical body would remain the same but visually it can not be seen.
The story is based around Griffin's plight, the erosion of his moral compass and his susceptibility to murderous rage. 
I feel Wells made it as easy as possible to dislike Griffin and that was probably the point; I found it to be a distraction in the end as there were no other real characters to form a connection with.
Ignoring my dislike for the main character, it was written wonderfully and I found it to be an absolute joy to read. Often with sci-fi, the science bit can get a little daunting but this was written in a way that most, if not all of the audience can achieve a loose level of understanding. 
This is the first novel I've read by H. G. Wells, it's not my favourite book in the world, as far as science fiction goes but it hasn't put me off reading more by the author.
I don't know if I'd recommend this book to anyone, but if you like H. G. Wells and you like repulsive men doing equally repulsive things that mirror today's society... I'd say this is right up your street.  

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Review: The Fabulous Baker Brothers

I decided to buy this book after watching the Channel Four programme of the same name. (You can catch up here.) A cookery show offering two new faces to British television; a show with so much eye candy it quite frankly left me with a bit of a toothache.  
Each week, armed with flour and fire, brothers Tom and Henry Herbert, (a fifth generation baker and butcher respectively) give us 30 minutes of no-nonsense and theoretically idiot-proof recipes.
Well, that and a huge side helping of increasingly infectious innuendo and somewhat cheesy dialogue I never thought I would grow to love.
Quite simply put, this is one of the most beautifully written cookbooks I’ve read and a quite unconventional one compared to most. I was expecting to flick through a ream of recipes, but what I got was quite different:
Within two minutes of cracking it open, I was in my fluffiest robe and curled up on my sofa-leaving my sister to hold the fort in the kitchen. (Incidentally we were making a toad in the hole from this week's show.) I sat and read the whole thing, cover to cover.
I decided to read other reviews before writing my own, which is unusual for me and was surprised to see how many people didn’t take the book in as a whole. After all, this isn’t just a book of recipes.
The first two chapters, ‘An Introduction to Hobbs House’ and ‘The Baker’-swept me away to an unadulterated world of magic. It’s an inspiring story of a hard work ethic being passed down through the generations and it’s difficult not to hold them in a high respect because of it.
Occasionally, I read excerpts aloud to my sisters and the words just dripped from my mouth like honey. ‘Passionate’ just isn’t a strong enough word to describe these two, at times I felt I could literally taste the love they have for what they do and this is before I got to the recipes!
Of course, it was probably over romanticised in my head-as things usually are. 
Having an insatiable capacity to learn, the recipes themselves sent me in a frenzy of excitement*. They start off basic and increase in difficulty in the latter part of the book, it’s a good method to build up the confidence of novice bakers such as myself.
I have to admit, I’ve not tried out anything from this book yet-but only because I don’t know where to start; I just want to do it all at once. I know I’ll never fully master any of it-but trying to is going to be half of the fun; the other is feeding my wolf pack of a family. 
If there is a food heaven, I think I've just found it. 

Rating: ★★★★★

* A lot of people seemed to be disappointed that the recipes from the show weren’t included, but you can find all those here. Problem solved, really. Shame on you, low rating amazon users!