Saturday, 8 April 2017

Bookish and Not So Bookish Thoughts

Bookish and Not So Bookish Thoughts is a weekly blogging event hosted by Bookishly Boisterous. It allows book bloggers (and non-book bloggers) to write about pretty much anything, bookish or otherwise (i.e. share exciting plans for the weekend, rants on things they've encountered during the week, etc).

1. Hello again, everyone! This post has been lying in my draft box for ages and I'm finally finishing it off today - as I got back from an 11 hour flight from the U.S. just this morning and I'm desperately trying to fight off the jet lag and stay awake! So, yes, the most notable thing that I have to share is that I've been on holiday! It was my second trip to the U.S. (you can read about my first visit in my last Bookish and Not So Bookish post!), I was there for just over a week, and I was visiting my good friend Samara who lives in Seattle. I would certainly never have predicted that my second trip to the States would be less than six months after my first; in fact the only reason I was able to go on this trip was because of a tax rebate from the government as it turns out that I was paying too much tax between the years 2014-16! Anyway, Samara and I had a lot of fun late-night conversations and she also took me to see Pike Place Market, the MoPop Museum, the University of Washington campus, Gas Works Park (which features quite prominently in 10 Things I Hate About You), the Columbia Center Observation Deck, Bainbridge Island, and the Seattle Art Museum. I also went on a short side-trip over to Victoria in British Columbia so I got to see a little bit of Canada on this trip as well! In Victoria I went to their Chinatown and Fisherman's Wharf districts and I also had my first Tim Horton's and did some shopping at Munro's Books (where I bought copies of Garth Nix's Sabriel and Hannah Kent's Burial Rites). Yeah... I'd say that it's been a pretty great week! :D

2. Oh and as I didn't manage to spend all of my spending money during my trip I think I'm going to be putting it to good use by going clothes shopping at some point in the next week :D

3. I turned 29 in January (I'm having a very hard time accepting that I'm almost 30!) and I've also had my bedroom redecorated since my last Bookish and Not So Bookish post. I've had the walls re-painted and I've had new furniture, a new carpet, and new curtains put in.

4. I've also started to collect funko pops for my bedroom as I wanted to jazz up my bookshelves a little bit and the dolls are so very cute. At this moment in time I only want a small collection but from what I've gathered it can be a very addictive hobby so who knows how many I'll eventually end up with, lol?!

5. The best books that I've read since my last B&NSB post have been Star Wars: Bloodline by Claudia Gray, Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson, and Katherine by Anya Seton - all brilliant reads!

6. It looks like the book The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel-Pie Society is finally getting made into a movie! I've only read the book once (am hoping to re-read it fairly soon though) and that was quite a few years ago but I remember really loving it and thinking that it could make for a wonderful movie. And the cast for this movie looks great so far as well! Lily James, Michiel Huisman, Penelope Wilton, Matthew Goode and Jessica Brown Findlay :)

7. I have a new phone! I've gone from having an iPhone 5c to an iPhone SE in Rose Gold. Ooh, get me! :D I know the SE isn't the fanciest iPhone out there (it's basically a more updated version of their 6c I believe) but I can't really afford Apple's newer products and I'm honestly really happy with it. My new phone only costs me 50p more a month than my old phone but has three times its amount of storage and data (I was constantly having to delete apps on my old one!)

8. Sadly I think I'm going to have to give my local bookshop a wide berth for a while as I was sitting in their café a couple of weeks ago and happened to notice something moving around under my table. So I looked down and saw a mouse (or possibly even a rat) running around by my feet! I was pretty freaked out and left pretty sharpish after that but not before informing the barista who told me that they've been having problems with them for a while now. So, yeah, I think I'm going to be buying most of my books online for a while *shudders*

9. I hate to be negative - especially since almost everyone I follow online seems to have loved this film - but I've seen the new Beauty and the Beast and I was honestly so frustrated with it :( The 2015 Cinderella is still by far and away my favourite of the new Disney live-action films. The animated Beauty and the Beast is probably my favourite Disney film and although I never for one minute believed that this new live-action version could top it I genuinely believed that it could be a great "companion piece" to that film. But this film was just... *groans* Alright, there were some positive aspects to the new version to be fair. The castle looked awesome, Luke Evans and Josh Gad were both great (their musical theatre backgrounds really show!) and on a shallow note I also very much appreciated the opening scene in which the Prince gets turned into the Beast (as Dan Stevens was giving me major David Bowie from Labyrinth vibes). But aside from that... for the vast majority of the time I was just wishing that I was watching the original version instead. The big musical numbers in this new version had none of the energy and animation (pun intended! :D ) of the original's, the pacing seemed off in places, and the new songs that were in it were forgettable. Emma Watson seems like a very nice and intelligent person in real-life but I still have yet to be sold by her as an actress and I certainly think that she was miscast as Belle. The blatant auto-tuning to her voice had me cringing at times, I didn't sense any chemistry between her and Dan Stevens, and to me her Belle just didn't have any of the warmth and liveliness of Paige O'Hara's. And finally, because this rant is getting a bit longer than I intended, the new plot additions and backstories for the characters added very little to the story and even created some logical inconsistencies i.e. SPOILERS (highlight to read) Why didn't Belle just use the Beast's magic book to transport her back to her father? And if the Enchantress has been living in Belle's town for the whole time then how come she never placed a curse on Gaston? We know she likes to punish the arrogant, which Gaston definitely is, and he even insulted her on one occasion! 

10. And now that I've finally finished this post I'm going to have a good long shower and...

Good night! 

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists! Each week we will post a new Top Ten list that one of our bloggers here at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Everyone is welcome to join. All we ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND add your name to the Linky widget so that everyone can check out other bloggers lists! If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Have fun with it! It's a fun way to get to know your fellow bloggers. 10 is just a suggestion to aim for if you can hit it -- do a list of 3 or 5 or 20 on your list. Your post, your choice! Really, it's just a starting off point. We realize 10 can be hard and we don't at all always expect it. And we always thumbs up anyone putting a different yet related spin on the topic to make it work for them!

Today's Topic: Still on hiatus but freebie link-up

For today's freebie I've decided to go with my Top Ten Opening Sentences. According to quite a few online articles that I've come across, the opening sentence is by far the most important aspect of a story because if a book doesn't immediately engage its reader from the very first sentence then the reader will in all probability abandon said book and never bother to pick it up again. But I happen to very much disagree with this commonly-held view as quite a few of my favourite books have had opening sentences that didn't instantly grab me! The opening sentence of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone ('Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much') has never really struck me as a particularly great first line for example. Opening sentences are certainly important I think but what's even more important is everything that comes after that. That being said, there are certainly opening sentences that I really love and that I feel give a glimpse of the greatness that lies in store :)

1. 'It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.' From Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

2. 'There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.' From Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

3. 'In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole and that meant comfort.' From The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.

4. 'There was a hand in the darkness and it held a knife.' From The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.

5. 'In the land of Ingary, where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of three.' From Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones.

6. 'The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don't got nothing much to say.' From The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness.

7. ‘Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born (as I have been informed and believe) on a Friday, at twelve o’clock at night. It was remarked that the clock began to strike, and I began to cry, simultaneously.’ From David Copperfield by Charles Dickens.

8. 'There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb and he almost deserved it.' From The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis.

9. 'The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.' From A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.

10. 'It was night again. The Waystone Inn lay in silence, and it was a silence of three parts.' From The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.

So there you have my list of opening sentences! It was very hard to limit it down to just ten and in the end I chose to leave out the opening sentences of The Great Gatsby and Anna Karenina as I felt that they were maybe a bit too iconic and obvious. And now I'm very curious! Which of these books would you now be interested in reading purely on the basis of their opening sentences? And what are your personal favourite opening sentences? :)

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists! Each week we will post a new Top Ten list that one of our bloggers here at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Everyone is welcome to join. All we ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND add your name to the Linky widget so that everyone can check out other bloggers lists! If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Have fun with it! It's a fun way to get to know your fellow bloggers. 10 is just a suggestion to aim for if you can hit it -- do a list of 3 or 5 or 20 on your list. Your post, your choice! Really, it's just a starting off point. We realize 10 can be hard and we don't at all always expect it. And we always thumbs up anyone putting a different yet related spin on the topic to make it work for them!

Today's Topic: Top Ten Books I Loved Less/More Than I Thought I Would (recently or all time) -- or you could do something like books I liked more/less than everyone else. 

I thought I'd have a go at handling both sides of this topic today. The first part was much harder to narrow down than the second part as I'm usually very reluctant to read books that I don't think I'll enjoy!

Top Five Books I Loved Less Than I Thought I Would.

1. Paper Towns by John Green. I read this book purely on the strength of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars. I loved that book so much when I read it a few years ago and I remember being really excited to read more from him! But Paper Towns was such a disappointment. The early chapters of it were actually quite promising and made me think that it was going to be a really interesting and fun novel, but once Margo went missing it became such a boring and aimless read and I found both her and Quentin's characters super whiny.

2. The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett. I've only read two of Terry Pratchett's books but both of them were disappointments. One of those was Good Omens which he co-wrote with Neil Gaiman (who's usually a favourite author of mine) and the other was The Colour of Magic - the first novel in his Discworld series. I think I read that book sometime back in 2012 or 2013 but I never reviewed it on this blog. I know I didn't enjoy that book but unfortunately I can't really explain why because I can remember absolutely nothing about it apart from the fact that I didn't like it! I still intend to give the Discworld books one more try though because a girl that I knew at university once told me that all of the Rincewind books in the Discworld series were crap and that I'd be much better off starting with one of the books that feature the Witches. And what do you know! I had a flick through the Witches' book Maskerade at the library the other day and it was... funny!

3. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman. I did enjoy some of the descriptive passages in this book and its refreshing choice of setting (1920s' Western Australia). However, the pacing was much too slow for me and I found Isabel so incredibly selfish that I just couldn't bring myself to feel very much sympathy for her.

4. This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper. This book certainly isn't bad and I did still like it overall but I ended up much preferring its film adaptation which I saw afterwards! The film has a great ensemble of actors who are all perfectly cast in their roles (i.e. Jason Bateman, Adam Driver, Jane Fonda), it's less crude than the book, and it's also much funnier than the book.

5. American Gods by Neil Gaiman. As I've already mentioned, Neil Gaiman is one of my favourite authors but not everything that he's written has worked for me. Good Omens is one of those books and so is American Gods. Although I know many people out there consider American Gods to be his masterpiece, it's never been a book that I've much cared for. The book has a great premise and some interesting themes but it really drags in places and I found Shadow's character to be so bland that I just wasn't able to connect with or care about him at all.

And now for the happier, more positive side of this topic...!

Top Five Books I Loved More Than I Thought I Would.

1. Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. I read this book after falling for its Studio Ghibli adaptation and I was so pleased with it! Because I'd loved the film so much - and had heard that it was actually very different from the book - I really wasn't expecting to enjoy the book as much as I did! Although I do still love the film I now love Diana Wynne Jones's book even more as it's much funnier, its world is richer, and its characters are more flawed and are therefore more interesting in my opinion.

2. A Room with a View by E.M. Forster. A friend of mine had to read this book for school and didn't enjoy it which then put me off from reading it for several years. But when I then discovered that two of my blogger friends were both big fans of it I thought I might as well give it a go for the Classics Club. I then loved it! The book was much funnier than I thought it was going to be and I loved its prose, its colourful characters, its Jane Austen-esque social satire, and its Italian setting!

3. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. Northanger Abbey is one of Jane Austen's lesser-known works and because I hadn't seen it talked about all that much I really wasn't expecting all that much from it the first time I read it. But boy was I in for a surprise! Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney are both such loveable characters and this book has made me laugh out loud more than any of Austen's other works! It's such a fun read and is one of my favourites of Austen's novels.

4. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte. Since I'd read both Emily's Wuthering Heights and Charlotte's Jane Eyre I was starting to feel that I really ought to read something by Anne. The reviews for Anne's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall were more favourable than for her other novel Agnes Grey so I decided to go for that one first but - just as with Northanger Abbey - I still had some doubts about this book because of it not being as famous as the works by her sisters. But I was amazed! The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is brilliantly-written and is such a fascinating, powerful and modern book! It's a criminally underrated work!

5. Star Wars: Bloodline by Claudia Gray. This book is literally the book that I last finished! Even though I'm a massive Star Wars fan I haven't had very much luck with its tie-in novels. Ian Doescher's William Shakespeare's Star Wars books were hilarious reads but up until now I've been very disappointed with the few EU and new Disney canon novels that I've read. So even though I'd heard a lot of good things about Bloodline I still had some doubts about this book. But in the end I was hugely impressed with it! The book is set six years before the events of The Force Awakens and is focused on Leia Organa's character. Claudia Gray captures Leia wonderfully and I had no trouble whatsoever in imagining Carrie Fisher saying all of Leia's lines, which was especially welcome to me given her recent tragic passing (I sobbed when I heard that she'd died). The new characters in this book (Ransolm Casterfo, Joph, Greer Sonnel) are extremely interesting, likeable and well-developed as well and the story in this book is great. I honestly think that this book is a must-read for Star Wars fans!

So what books have surprised you in both good and bad ways? :)

Thursday, 16 February 2017

'The Hero of Ages' by Brandon Sanderson (2008)

Synopsis: The Hero of Ages is the third novel in the Mistborn series and is the final book in its original trilogy. The novel is set a year after Vin was tricked into releasing the evil, destructive force Ruin from the Well of Ascension. Now that Ruin has escaped from imprisonment, the end of the world is closer than ever before. Volcanoes are spewing black ash and lava, crops and animals are dying, the Steel Inquisitors have gone rogue, the Koloss are rampaging throughout the land, and the mists are attacking and killing people every day. In a desperate attempt to save the world, Vin and her newly-made Mistborn husband Emperor Elend Venture have been travelling all over the land. They've been using their emotional allomancy to bring the Koloss under control and have been conquering cities in order to seek out the storage caches of food and water that were left behind by the Lord Ruler. They've also been trying to find the Lord Ruler's hidden supply of atium which Vin believes must be essential to the saving of the world. The only two major unconquered cities remaining are Fadrex City, which has reverted to the Lord Ruler's old structure of Skaa repression, and Urteau, a city where the Skaa are free and where the nobility are being ruthlessly executed. In order to bring these two cities into their empire, Vin and Elend set about trying to conquer Fadrex City whilst their friends Spook, Sazed, and Breeze travel to Urteau to attempt to negotiate with the city's leader the Citizen...

I finished this book several months ago and it's taken me quite a while to finally get this review of it out of my draft box. Hopefully that means I can now start to make some progress on clearing the other half a dozen or so reviews that are still sitting in there! :D Warning: the rest of this post contains major spoilers! 

The previous two books in the Mistborn trilogy were certainly epic and suspenseful reads but The Hero of Ages is even more so and is the best series finale that I've come across ever since I first read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows almost 10 years ago! The threats and perils that the characters face feel so intense and real in this book and Sanderson does a truly superb job of tying up all of the various loose ends of the trilogy in it e.g. we finally get to learn about the true nature and origin of the mists, how Scadriel came to look like it does, and the true identity of the Hero of Ages.

Another aspect of this book that I especially loved was the reveal that the threat to the world was so much greater than the Lord Ruler and that the Lord Ruler was actually well-meaning and good in comparison to how evil and terrible Ruin is! In that sense this trilogy reminds me so much of the experience of reading J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-Earth books - where with each novel there was always brand new information revealed that would considerably enrich our understanding of everything that had gone on before. Because Tolkien first gave his readers The Hobbit, an epic story in its own right, and then followed that up with the even more epic The Lord of the Rings in which we learn that Bilbo's discovery of the one ring was far more significant than we thought. And then Tolkien eventually went on to follow the LOTR up with The Silmarillion in which we learn that the War of the Ring is only a tiny part of a history that has spanned 10s of 1000s of years and that the villain Sauron pales in comparison to how terrible Morgoth was.

Yet another aspect of this book that I especially loved was its wonderful character development. It was fascinating to find out how Elend has developed his new Mistborn powers and Spook, who has only been a fairly minor character up until now, gets far more page-time in this one and ends up getting one heck of an awesome character arc! And the ending of this book! It was so beautiful and moving and perfect that I was pretty much an emotional mess at the end :') I was so happy for Sazed and Spook! I was sad that both Vin and Elend died of course but I was glad that they both died together as I personally feel that it would have been far more tragic had one died and the other survived. And we know from Sazed's final letter to Spook that there's an afterlife in the Mistborn world and that the two of them are together and happy which I loved! And Kelsier even got to have a presence in this book as well!

This Mistborn trilogy is an amazing series that I would completely recommend to any fantasy fan and I'm certain that these books are going to continue to impress me in the future. I really want to read Sanderson's second Mistborn series as well now although I don't think I'm quite emotionally ready for those books yet and have decided to check out some of Sanderson's other fiction for a while. At the moment I'm currently reading his standalone novel Warbreaker and then later on in the year I'm hoping that I can make a start on his YA series The Reckoners :)

Rating: 5/5

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

My Year of Reading (2016)

I suppose it's quite late to put this up now, since we're now into February, but as I've done it for previous years... here are all of the books that I read in 2016! I read 35 books last year (not including a handful of books that I didn't finish) which is low compared to the previous couple of years in which I averaged at about 50 but is still higher than the national average I believe. My favourite books from last year are here and I'm hoping that I can get back into book reviewing again over the next couple of weeks :)
  1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens by Alan Dean Foster (2015)
  2. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (1908)
  3. Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson (2006)
  4. False Colours by Georgette Heyer (1963)
  5. Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery (1909)
  6. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon (2000)
  7. This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper (2010)
  8. Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery (1915)
  9. Kim by Rudyard Kipling (1901)
  10. The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling (1894)
  11. The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham (1925)
  12. R American Gods by Neil Gaiman (2001)
  13. Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde (2002)
  14. N The Theater of War: What Ancient Greek Tragedies Can Teach Us Today by Bryan Doerries (2015)
  15. S by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst (2013)
  16. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (2013)
  17. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne (2016)
  18. The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson (2007)
  19. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (2011)
  20. Love and Freindship and Other Youthful Writings by Jane Austen (2014)
  21. N As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of 'The Princess Bride' by Cary Elwes and Joe Layden (2014)
  22. The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson (2008)
  23. The Glimpses of the Moon by Edith Wharton (1922)
  24. East O' the Moon, West O' the Sun by Naomi Lewis (1991)
  25. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas (2015)
  26. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas (2016)
  27. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (2008)
  28. The New World by Patrick Ness (2010)
  29. The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness (2009)
  30. The Wide, Wide Sea by Patrick Ness (2013)
  31. Legion by Brandon Sanderson (2012)
  32. Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness (2010)
  33. Snowscape by Patrick Ness (2013)
  34. The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman (2011)
  35. Adulthood is a Myth by Sarah Andersen (2016)
  • R = Re-read
  • N = Non-fiction

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists! Each week we will post a new Top Ten list that one of our bloggers here at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Everyone is welcome to join. All we ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND add your name to the Linky widget so that everyone can check out other bloggers lists! If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Have fun with it! It's a fun way to get to know your fellow bloggers. 10 is just a suggestion to aim for if you can hit it -- do a list of 3 or 5 or 20 on your list. Your post, your choice!

Today's Topic: FREEBIE --- that super specific list you want to make?? All yours to tackle this week!

My first post of 2017 sooo... I'm alive! :D I hope everyone reading this has had a great year so far! Today's topic is a freebie which works out well for me as it allows me to do a topic that I didn't get around to last year - my Top Ten Books of 2016. Some of these books I still haven't got around to writing in-depth reviews for yet so I'm glad that I get to talk about them a little here :) So in alphabetical order they are:

1. Adulthood is a Myth by Sarah Andersen
I first became aware of Sarah Andersen after seeing some of her "Sarah's Scribbles" illustrations floating around on Pinterest. This book is a compilation of many of Andersen's drawings and I'm a big fan. I find her drawings to be so funny and relatable!

2. As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of 'The Princess Bride' by Cary Elwes and Joe Layden. 
The Princess Bride is one of my favourite films of all time (it would easily make my top 10) and this book is a delightful memoir from its lead actor Cary Elwes about the making of that film. The majority of it is told from Elwes's perspective but there are still plenty of asides from various other cast and crew members. If you're a fan of The Princess Bride then I'd say that this book is an absolute must-read as it's full of funny and interesting stories and its tone is thoroughly affectionate and positive. I'd especially recommend the audiobook version of this book as well as it's read by most of the cast and you'll get to hear Elwes's excellent impressions!

3. Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness.
Since I loved Patrick Ness's A Monster Calls so much (which you'll also find on this list) I decided to read his YA dystopian series Chaos Walking for a blog event called the Sci-Fi Month. My feelings on the first two novels in the series were initially very mixed as I was reading them and I couldn't quite work out if I actually liked them or not... but the final book was so great that it made me look back on the series as a whole far more favourably! And now I'd even say that this series has surpassed The Hunger Games as the most impressive YA dystopia that I've yet read. Although this series is rather violent and difficult to get through in places, its concept is so unique, its world and characters are so well-developed, and its themes are so rich and thought-provoking.

4. The Court of Thorns and Roses Saga by Sarah J. Maas.
Last year I finally got around to reading the hugely popular YA high-fantasy author Sarah J. Maas and I was very much impressed by her ACOTOR series! Not only was the quality of the writing far better than I was expecting - I found the prose unexpectedly lush and atmospheric - it's a very imaginative and fun series. The books are set in a super interesting world ruled over by various fairy courts and are filled with adventure, political intrigue and sexual tension. And a big bonus point is that its covers are gorgeous! I can't wait to read the third book in the series which is due out later this year and to eventually get started on Maas's Throne of Glass series!

5. East O' the Moon, West O' the Moon by Naomi Lewis.
This book is a middle-grade picture book and is a faithful retelling of a beautiful Norwegian fairy tale called East of the Sun, West of the Moon. This book would make for an ideal Christmas/Winter read and I loved it very much. It features absolutely stunning illustrations from P.J. Lynch and the fairy tale itself has an active and resourceful heroine and a story that is strikingly similar to the much more famous French fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, which is probably because both of them were drawing from the same source material (the Eros and Psyche story of Greek mythology).

6. The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman.
This novel is such a bittersweet and haunting work of historical fiction and concerns a young Jewish couple called Lenka and Josef who find themselves separated during WWII. The writing in this book is exquisitely beautiful and lyrical, the difficult subject matter is well-handled, and I became so invested in Lenka and Josef's characters and love story. I'm still thinking about this book months after I finished it.

7. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.
A Monster Calls is a middle-grade low-fantasy novel and is a brilliant work. It's such a moving, poignant and powerful read and - although the story is a sad one that concerns death and grief - I still found it to be extremely inspiring as there's so much courage, love, hope and forgiveness in it as well. I'd also especially recommend the illustrated paperback version of this book as it features beautifully eerie drawings from Jim Kay. I'm looking forward to finally getting to see this book's film adaptation tomorrow as well :)

8. The Original Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson.
The original trilogy of Brandon Sanderson's high-fantasy series The Mistborn pretty much blew my mind and was every bit as amazing as I'd heard! It's got action and adventure, political intrigue, a truly fascinating and imaginative world, humorous dialogue, hugely likeable characters, an utterly unique and detailed magic system, a lovely romance, genuinely shocking plot twists, and an ending that gave me ALL THE FEELS! :) I do really want to read the second Mistborn series as well now but I've decided to put that off until 2018 and will instead focus on reading some of Sanderson's other works for the rest of this year (e.g. Warbreaker, The Reckoners). I'm glad that he's such a prolific author!

9. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion.
This book was somewhat outside of my comfort zone since it's contemporary fiction (which I don't tend to read very much) but I loved it so much that I then bought it for two of my two best friends! This book is hilarious (one of the funniest that I've ever read!) and is such a quirky and heartwarming read. I also loved its refreshing choice of setting as most of this book takes place in Melbourne, Australia.

10. The Theater of War: What Ancient Greek Tragedies Can Teach Us Today by Bryan Doerries.
This book is both a memoir and a piece of literary analysis. It was written by a man called Bryan Doerries who runs a charity called The Theater of War that puts on productions of plays (mainly Greek tragedies) for soldiers, prisons, churches, synagogues, hospitals, and natural disaster survivors. Doerries includes some stories from his personal life and the people that he's met over the years that I found very moving and I loved getting to learn more about the Greek tragedies. I'd also highly recommend the audiobook version of this book which was read by Adam Driver - one of my favourite actors and my biggest celebrity crush :)

Honourable Mentions: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon, The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham, and Legion by Brandon Sanderson.

What were your favourite books in 2016? What topic have you chosen to do today? :)

Friday, 16 December 2016

Bookish and Not So Bookish Thoughts

Bookish and Not So Bookish Thoughts is a weekly blogging event hosted by Bookishly Boisterous. It allows book bloggers (and non-book bloggers) to write about pretty much anything, bookish or otherwise (i.e. share exciting plans for the weekend, rants on things they've encountered during the week, etc).

1. I generally try to write a Bookish and Not So Bookish Thoughts post every 1-2 months but looking through my archive I can see that it's been almost four months since my last one! Oops! Anyway by far the most interesting thing that's happened to me over the past few months is that I finally got to go to New York so most of this post is going to have an NYC theme! :)

2. I went to New York in November with my mum and we had such an amazing time. We flew with American Airlines and after an 8 hour flight we arrived at JFK on Wednesday, the 16th of November. We landed at about 12.30 pm local time but it then took us another two hours to get through customs, claim luggage, ride the Airtrain and subway to get to our hotel in Midtown (the Hilton Metropolitan on Lexington Avenue), and wait to check into our room. After that we freshened up a bit and went to look at some sights! Our first stop was Grand Central Terminal which was about a 10 minute walk from our hotel. We had a look at the concourse there (which really is as beautiful as it looks in all the movies!) and then went down to the food court where I had a coffee and a banana pudding (so good!) at Magnolia Bakery. After that we walked over to the NY Public Library on 5th Avenue and had a quick look around (we didn't stay too long as there seemed to be some kind of a private function going on). Then we sat down and watched the ice skaters at Bryant Park for a while and then walked up to Times Square, After that we then headed back to our hotel and chilled out at the bar for a while before going to bed.

3. We both woke up really early on the Thursday morning as we were both still on UK time. Then we walked back over to Times Square so we could buy some tickets for the Broadway musical The Color Purple that night. I was shocked at how inexpensive our tickets were as the rush tickets were only $35 each and we had really good seats as we discovered later on! After that we then had breakfast at a diner-type place near the theatre and walked up 5th Avenue. We stopped off to look at the beautiful St Patrick's Cathedral and then had to navigate past the Trump Tower which was an absolute circus. The place was full of TV newsreaders, police officers, protesters, and tourists snapping photos. And after that we then went into the Rockefeller Center so we could see the incredible views at the Top of the Rock and then walked over to Central Park. We saw the Mall, the Bethesda Fountain, and Bow Bridge there and the park was so pretty with all of its autumnal colours :) We then stopped to have a drink at the Loeb Boathouse there (I remember having green tea) and then walked back to our hotel so we could change clothes and head back out to Broadway to see The Color Purple which was... oh my goodness it was honestly one of the most moving and inspiring things that I have ever seen in my life! Neither of us went into the musical knowing a huge amount about it and we were both completely blown away by it! Gah...!

4. I think Friday must have been the one with the most amount of walking judging by how exhausted we were by the end of it! First of all we took the subway down to Lower Manhattan so we could go to the Whitehall Terminal and ride the Staten Island Ferry that takes you past the Statue of Liberty. Once we got back we then walked up Broadway and stopped off to look at Trinity Church and Wall Street. Then we went to pay our respects at the 9/11 Memorial and eventually made our way over to the Brooklyn Bridge. We then walked the bridge and got off at the first exit to have a look around the Brooklyn Heights area. Apparently a lot of rich and famous people live around here and I can completely understand why as you get the most amazing views of Manhattan here and the houses are all just so beautiful! We walked around for a while in this area and then made our way back to the bridge so we could eat at the nearby Shake Shack and Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory (again, I had such good food on this trip!) After that we then walked back across the bridge and got on the subway to Union Square so I could stop off at the famous Strand Bookstore. I'd told my mum that it was only going to be a quick stop, as I already knew which books I wanted to get, but it took us ages to find the place because we got off at the wrong exit. I felt pretty guilty about it. Once I found the books I wanted (Rainbow Rowell's Attachments and Sarah Andersen's Adulthood is a Myth) we then got on the subway back to the hotel and that was the end of our day.

5. Saturday was our last full day in New York and we started off the day by getting the subway over to the Chelsea Market where I had a breakfast that consisted off macaroons at Bar Suzette and a red velvet cake at another place :D The Chelsea Market is only around the corner from an exit of the High Line so we then got onto it and walked that for a bit. After that we then got on the subway over to Soho to do some shopping. Soho is another beautiful area of the city and I managed to get some overalls at Top Shop and some Mac foundation at Bloomingdale's. By this point it was mid-afternoon and we then got back on the subway so we could go over to Williamsburg in Brooklyn which is where we spent the rest of the day: we had dinner at a lovely Italian restaurant called Diviera Drive and cocktails at a bar/cinema called Videology there before heading back to the hotel. Williamsburg is a great area with so many cool places to eat, drink and shop. Apparently it has a reputation for being full of hipsters but we didn't actually see any hipsters there at all! Brooklyn Heights and Williamsburg were actually my favourite places in New York. They're both such great areas and yet I saw hardly any tourists in these places: just local families and people out walking their dogs which I really loved. I felt like I was seeing the "real New York" :)

6. Sunday was officially our last day in New York although we really didn't have the time to do very much apart from having food at Ess-a-bagels which was just around the block from our hotel. I do kind of wish that we could have had a full week in New York to be honest - as I would have loved to have seen the MET Museum and some of Queens and maybe even gone out to the Hudson River Valley for a day trip - but I still had the time of my life in this city and I know I'll treasure this holiday forever! :) The weather was so mild when we were there as well and I was so impressed by how kind and helpful everyone was (New Yorkers are so much friendlier than their reputation!) and how diverse the city was.

7. So that's what I got up to in NYC basically! But I've also been reading some wonderful books over the past few months! The book that I'm currently reading is Richard Adams' Watership Down. It's actually a re-read for me as it's one of my favourite books from my childhood :) I figured that now would be a good time to re-read it as a combined BBC/Netflix adaptation of it is coming out next year (starring James McAvoy and John Boyega!) which I'm very excited about. Other books that I've read recently and loved but haven't yet got around to reviewing are:
  • The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson (the final novel in the original Mistborn trilogy) which left me an emotional mess! 
  • The first two novels in the Court of Thorns and Roses Saga by the hugely popular YA fantasy author Sarah J. Maas.
  • A stunning children's picture-book retelling of the East of the Sun, West of the Moon fairy tale.
  • A heartbreakingly beautiful novel set in WWII called The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman (which is getting a film adaptation with Daisy Ridley starring).
  • the audiobook of As You Wish by Cary Elwes (a hilarious and touching memoir about his experiences of making The Princess Bride).
8. A very surprising recent development is that I have finally started to like drinking coffee! I've been especially enjoying all of the festive coffees that I've been drinking over the past few weeks :)

9. I think most of my regular readers should already know that I'm a massive Star Wars fan and I finally got to see Rogue One last night. Overall I liked it but I didn't love it. Visually it's an incredibly beautiful film with a lot of action (the space battles are spectacular!) and I really liked that it introduced some more moral ambiguity into the Star Wars universe and that we got to see a lot of new planets in it. But I also can't help but feel that the film got too carried away with all its spectacle and planet-hopping and that we didn't get to know any of its characters properly. I felt that the characterisations and emotions got sacrificed and it's made me appreciate what The Force Awakens achieved even more. So yeah, I thought Rogue One was a very good, solid film with a lot of super cool moments but it didn't blow me away.

10. And that's pretty much it for me! I'm going to try to do a Top Ten Tuesday later in the month but this could well be my last post for this year. So just in case I'd like to wish everyone reading this a wonderful Christmas and end of year!

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

My Wrap-Up for the Sci-Fi Month (2016)

Hello again everyone, it's almost the end of November and the end of the Sci-Fi Month! In total I read three novels, three short stories, and a novella for this event which were all written by the authors Patrick Ness and Brandon Sanderson. I was also planning on reading and reviewing Ernest Clines's Ready Player One for this event but I didn't really have the time for that one in the end (I hope I haven't disappointed anyone!)

My posts for the Sci-Fi Month were:

Tuesday, 1st November: My Introduction to the Sci-Fi Month 2016 (post)

Friday, 4th November: Top 10 Sci-Fi Films/TV Shows That I Want to Watch (list)

Tuesday, 8th November: Top 10 Sci-Fi Books That I Want to Read (list)

Friday, 25th November: My book review of Legion by Brandon Sanderson (2012, review)

Tuesday, 29th November: My book review of Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness (2008-10, review)

Wednesday, 30th November: My Wrap-Up post

I've written this Wrap-Up post to announce that I'm finished with the Sci-Fi Month now but also because I want to give a huge thank you to Rinn and Lisa (who have done such a wonderful job in hosting!) and to everyone who commented on this blog :) I'm sorry that I haven't done a huge amount of commenting myself for this event but, over the rest of this week, I am going to be writing up responses to comments on here and I'll also be doing a lot more blog-hopping so you might still see me around. I've really enjoyed the blog-hopping that I have managed to do for this event so far though: it was wonderful to see so many people that love the Sci-Fi stories that I love and I found out about some really interesting sounding new ones (i.e. Ken Liu's The Paper Menagerie).

I loved doing this event and I'm definitely planning to take part in it again for the following year. I hope everyone else who took part really enjoyed themselves as well and I wish everyone reading this a fantastic December, Christmas and end of year!

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

'Chaos Walking' by Patrick Ness (2008-10)

Synopsis: Chaos Walking is a YA dystopian sci-fi series that consists of three novels (The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer and Monsters of Men) and three short stories (The New World, Wide Wide Sea and Snowscape). The series is set in the far-future on a distant planet that has been colonised by a small group of human settlers from Earth. In The Knife of Never Letting Go, Todd Hewitt is a boy just a month away from his 13th birthday (which would make him a man in the eyes of his community) and is the youngest person in the tiny village of Prentisstown. Todd has been raised by two men called Ben and Cillian - and has been brought up to believe that all of the planet's females and half the men were killed in an act of germ warfare by the native alien species of the planet (the Spackle) during the early years of the humans' settlement. A side-effect of this germ was that all of the remaining males of the town were left with the ability to see and hear each other's thoughts in a constant, cacophonous stream of Noise. Even their animals were affected by this germ. But when Todd and his dog Manchee then go through a walk in the nearby swamp one day they're left both shocked and overwhelmed when they manage to find a small patch of silence in it. And when Todd then goes home to his guardians and lets them know what he's found, the pair of them then mysteriously insist that Todd must now leave Prentisstown immediately. They then force Todd to flee their home and go on the run - whilst fighting off men from the town - and give him nothing but a hunting knife, a map of the planet, a small pack of food, and the diary that once belonged to Todd's mother. Todd and Manchee then escape back into the swamp and are able to discover the source of the silence - a teenage girl called Viola who has crash-landed on their planet. The three of them then embark on a dangerous quest across the planet towards the city of Haven, a larger settlement that should be able to protect them from the men of Prentisstown...

This review is going to be rather atypical for me as I don't think that I've ever attempted to review an entire series in one post before! It hadn't been my intention to review the entire Chaos Walking series in one post at the start of the Sci-Fi Month but I've just been so unexpectedly busy this November that I simply haven't had the time and the energy to write any individual reviews for its stories. I'm actually really glad that this has happened though because this series seriously grew on me as I was going through it and my overall thoughts on it are now far more positive than they were just a few weeks ago! :)

There were two main reasons why I chose to read the Chaos Walking books for the Sci-Fi Month. One reason for my wanting to read the series is because there are film adaptations of it that are now in the works (with Doug Liman directing and Daisy Ridley and possibly Tom Holland starring) and the other reason because I really loved Patrick Ness's brilliant middle-grade fantasy novel A Monster Calls when I read that book earlier this year. However, my experience of reading Chaos Walking was actually very different to my experience with A Monster Calls! The major difference I suppose was that I loved A Monster Calls pretty much instantly whereas with the Chaos Walking series it took me a very long time to decide how I actually felt about it, lol.

This book series really took me by surprise! I knew when I went into it that it had been primarily aimed at an older audience than A Monster Calls and that it would be sci-fi rather than fantasy, and I have read a few dystopian novels before so I was obviously aware that these books were hardly going to be feel-good comfort reads. But even so I was completely unprepared for how emotionally draining this series would be! This series is very dark and violent at times and I found it very difficult to get through in places. In fact there was this one particularly graphic scene of violence in The Ask and the Answer that I found so upsetting to read (my hands were shaking and I genuinely felt dizzy) that I had to put the book down for a few days. For that reason, even though Chaos Walking has been marketed for teenagers, I wouldn't say that this series is for everyone and I'd be very reluctant to recommend it to kids in their early teens.

BUT although Chaos Walking was a very challenging and hard read for me at times I was still very much left with the feeling that this series had all been worthwhile! The concept of the series is so unique, its world is so intriguing, atmospheric and well-developed, and its themes are incredibly rich. This series touches on colonisation, racism, genocide, war, misogyny, slavery, terrorism, religious bigotry and hypocrisy, and the loss of privacy! The prose and pacing in these books is also outstanding. Patrick Ness's descriptions and insights are so beautiful and powerful and there's so much action and suspense in this series!

I was never really able to picture Todd and Viola's characters as 13/14 year olds in this series (in my mind they were always at least 16 so the decision to age them up in the films like the Stark siblings in Game of Thrones makes perfect sense to me) but nevertheless I felt that they were both brilliantly-written. Viola was definitely my favourite character in the series as she's an extremely bright, determined, brave, resourceful and compassionate heroine. Having said that Manchee is the most adorable dog that I've encountered in fiction since Dug from Up and I really liked the characters Lee and Bradley who appear in the later books. As for Todd, it did take me a while to truly warm to him as I honestly thought that he was a whiny, stubborn brat at the start of The Knife of Never Letting Go and that he made some really stupid decisions at times. However Todd really does have a good heart, he grows tremendously throughout the series, and his relationship with Viola is very sweet.

In the end I found Chaos Walking to be extremely rewarding as it was deeply powerful, thought-provoking and haunting. The series is hard to read at times but looking back I don't think that the story was ever without hope and optimism and, ultimately, I felt that it was a tale about love winning out over war :)

Overall Rating: 5/5

P.S. Recently I've actually seen a few sarcastic and negative comments about the Chaos Walking books online. When the film adaptations were announced I saw quite a few comments along the lines of "Oh great, yet another YA dystopian adaptation" and "Oh yeah whatever, this series is clearly just a rip-off of The Hunger Games". This is sooo frustrating to me now that I've actually finished this series! Firstly, because The Knife of Never Letting Go was actually published a few months before the first Hunger Games novel and, secondly, because I now think that Chaos Walking is the best dystopian series that I've yet read. Although I have a great fondness for The Hunger Games, I found Chaos Walking to be the far more visceral and thought-provoking of the two, and for me it actually got better with each book whereas the sequels to the first Hunger Games novel stayed the same and then got worse. Erm, yeah... I couldn't finish this review on too positive a note, I had to get a rant in there somewhere, lol!

Friday, 25 November 2016

'Legion' by Brandon Sanderson (2012)

Synopsis: Legion is a sci-fi mystery novella and is the first in a planned trilogy. Stephen Leeds (a.k.a. "Legion") is a reclusive millionaire living in modern-day America and has been diagnosed with a multiple personality disorder. However, Stephen's real mental condition is considerably more unique and bizarre than this and is actually extremely useful to him. Stephen is able to hallucinate about many different "aspects" (imaginary persons) who all have their own specific personalities, skill-sets and knowledge. J.C. is a trigger-happy Navy SEAL and weapons expert, Ivy is a psychologist, Tobias is a historian and philosopher, Kalyani is a linguist, and so on and so on. Although Stephen is technically mad (and is of immense interest to the medical community), his various aspects help him to do almost anything and he's been able to earn a huge amount of money as a private detective. It's then that Stephen is approached by a woman called Monica who offers him a very unusual case: to track down a scientist called Balubal Razon who has been able to develop a special camera that can take pictures of the past. It turns out that Razon has now gone off to Jerusalem to try to find out if Jesus Christ truly existed so Stephen, Monica and the aspects all get on board the next available flight to Israel. However, the group soon discovers that finding Razon's exact location is the least of their problems as a dangerous terrorist group is also after the camera.

I wasn't originally planning on reviewing Legion for this year's Sci-Fi Month but as it's only a novella I was able to squeeze it in amongst the novels that I've been reading :)

Earlier this year I managed to read the original trilogy of Brandon Sanderson's epic high-fantasy Mistborn series (which I absolutely loved!) Now obviously since Legion is a far shorter work that belongs to a different genre and is set on modern-day Earth it made for a very different change of pace to The Mistborn and it certainly didn't compare to the richness, depth and overall brilliance of that trilogy - but that being said Legion was still a terrific little read! Its premise is fascinating, the writing is fast-paced and brisk, it's got plenty of action and mystery, and it even manages to touch on themes of faith, science, mental health, and politics. However, as much as I enjoyed its plot, the very best about Legion for me was without doubt its characters. I loved how quirky, eccentric and diverse Stephen's aspects all were - not just in terms of personality but also in terms of gender and race - and all of the amusing bickering that went on between them and Stephen :D

Although I do wish that this novella could have been longer and that the subplot concerning Stephen's mysterious ex-girlfriend Sandra could have been explored more, I had sooo much fun reading this novella. To be honest I wasn't in a good mood at all when I started it but it really cheered me up! I'm definitely looking forward to reading this book's sequel Skin Deep now and more of Sanderson's fantasy and sci-fi works in general of course! Once I'm done with Skin Deep, I'm thinking either Warbreaker or Steelheart will be my next Sanderson reads...

Rating: 4/5