Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Review - The World's Wife by Carol Ann Duffy


Synopsis (from Amazon) - That saying? Behind every famous man . . . ? From Mrs Midas to Queen Kong, from Elvis’s twin sister to Pygmalion’s bride, they’re all here, in Carol Ann Duffy’s inspired and inspirational collection, The World’s Wife. Witty and thought-provoking, this is a tongue-in-cheek, no-holds-barred look at the real movers and shakers across history, myth and legend. If you have ever wondered, for example, how exactly Darwin came up with his theory of evolution, or what, precisely, Frau Freud thought about her husband – then this is the book for you, as the wives of the great, the good, the not so good, and the legendary are given a voice in Carol Ann Duffy’s sparkling and inventive collection.

I don’t read poetry very often, in fact I have hardly read any since finishing university. However, Carol Ann Duffy has stuck with me ever since reading some of her poems whilst studying for my A-levels. So I bought this collection, I remember reading some years ago and utterly loving them. I sat down the other morning, coffee in one hand and this book in the other, and I did not put down the book until I had finished. An hour later, I had read the whole lot, and was completely enthralled. Duffy’s writing is brilliant, she is so clever, witty, and hilarious. I can not recommend this collection of poetry enough.

Like I said I don’t read a lot of poetry, but this collection is definitely my favourite, and Duffy is absolutely my new favourite poet. I really enjoyed the feminist perspective of some of History’s fictional and real men. I also enjoyed the variety of poems, some short and witty, some long and thought provoking. Also the variety of stories, from Greek Mythology to Bible stories, to Fairytales, to important men of History. I would highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys feminism, poetry or humour. Some of my favourites include ‘Mrs Darwin’, ‘Anne Hathaway’, ‘Mrs Quasimodo’, ‘Medusa’, ‘Frau Freud’  and ‘Mrs Beast.’

Friday, 11 August 2017

Most Anticipated Book Releases (2017-2018)

Something new for me today! I want to talk about some of the upcoming book releases that I am looking forward to in the next year or so. So here goes, in chronological order (all descriptions from Goodreads) -

The Last Tudor by Philippa Gregory (8th August 2017, SImon and Schuster)

The latest novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Philippa Gregory features one of the most famous girls in history, Lady Jane Grey, and her two sisters, each of whom dared to defy her queen.
Jane Grey was queen of England for nine days, dying on the scaffold for her faith. But few people know about her two sisters, cousins to Elizabeth I who also faced imprisonment and death sentences for treason.
Katherine Grey was the beauty of the family who earned the lifelong hatred of her cousin Elizabeth I when she married for love. Mary Grey was an extraordinary little person known as a dwarf in Tudor times, who defied convention to marry the tallest man at court in her own secret love match.

I know this one is already out, but it’s brand new and I felt like it deserved a mention. I really love Philippa Gregory,  I love the Tudors, and I have always been fascinated by Lady Jane Grey, so you can imagine how excited I am to get my hands on this!

Fully Functioning Human by Melanie Murphy (24th August 2017, Hachette Books)

In her first book, Irish YouTuber Melanie Murphy shares a series of experiences from the struggle that is growing up in the digital age: cyberbullying, dumping by text, gaining (and then losing) too much weight, having acne in a world of Instagram filters, and, most of all, finding the strength to tackle poor mental health. From self-image struggles to important life lessons about family, friendship, love and mindset, Fully Functioning Human (Almost) is a warm, illuminating memoir full of wit and wisdom that doubles up as a life guide for millennials.

I haven’t been watching Melanie’s videos for very long but I really love them, Melanie is engaging, relatable, honest, I really respect her for these qualities, so I am very intrigued by her first ever book. I am sure it will be as hilarious and blunt as her videos.

Wonder Woman by Leigh Bardugo (31st August 2017, Penguin)

She will become one of the world’s greatest heroes: WONDER WOMAN. But first she is Diana, Princess of the Amazons. And her fight is just beginning. . . .

Diana longs to prove herself to her legendary warrior sisters. But when the opportunity finally comes, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law—risking exile—to save a mere mortal. Even worse, Alia Keralis is no ordinary girl and with this single brave act, Diana may have doomed the world.

Alia just wanted to escape her overprotective brother with a semester at sea. She doesn’t know she is being hunted. When a bomb detonates aboard her ship, Alia is rescued by a mysterious girl of extraordinary strength and forced to confront a horrible truth: Alia is a Warbringer—a direct descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about an age of bloodshed and misery.

Together, Diana and Alia will face an army of enemies—mortal and divine—determined to either destroy or possess the Warbringer. If they have any hope of saving both their worlds, they will have to stand side by side against the tide of war.

Do I even need to say how excited how I am for this?! Leigh Bardugo and Wonder Woman? Yes please?! I am massive fan of Diana, and like everyone else I fell in love with Gal Gadot’s portrayal in this year’s movie. More women writing about badass women please!

Feel Good 101 by Emma Blackery (7th September 2017, Little Brown, Sphere)

In FEEL GOOD 101, YouTube's most outspoken star Emma Blackery is finally putting pen to paper to (over)share all her hard-learned life lessons. From standing up to bullies and bad bosses to embracing body confidence and making peace with her brain, Emma speaks with her trademark honesty about the issues she's faced - including her struggles with anxiety and depression. This is the book Emma wishes she'd had growing up . . . and she's written it for you.

I have been watching Emma’s videos for years, since about 2012/2013 I think. I am so pleased she has written a book version of her Feel Good 101 videos. I really liked those videos and I know it helped a lot of her viewers (I’ll be honest most did not apply to me, but I loved the messages she spreads in them). Emma can be controversial to some people, but I have always adored her humour and straight talking.  

Tangleweed and Brine by Deidre Sullivan (7th September 2017, Little Island Books)

A collection of twelve dark, feminist retellings of traditional fairytales are given a witchy makeover, not for the faint-hearted, from one of Ireland's leading writers for young people. You make candles from stubs of other candles. You like light in your room to read. Gillian wants thick warm yellow fabric, soft as butter. Lila prefers cold. All icy blues. Their dresses made to measure. No expense spared. And dancing slippers. One night's wear and out the door like ash. You can't even borrow their cast-offs. You wear a pair of boots got from a child. Of sturdy stuff, that keeps the water out and gets you around.

I will be honest, I really don’t know much about this book, I saw someone mention it on Twitter and it sounds really amazing. I love fairytales, and I like the idea of feminist retellings, I am sold!

It Only Happens In The Movies by Holly Bourne (5th October 2017, Usborne Publishing)

Audrey is over romance. Since her parents' relationship imploded her mother's been catatonic, so she takes a cinema job to get out of the house. But there she meets wannabe film-maker Harry. Nobody expects Audrey and Harry to fall in love as hard and fast as they do. But that doesn't mean things are easy. Because real love isn't like the movies...

The greatest love story ever told doesn't feature kissing in the snow or racing to airports. It features pain and confusion and hope and wonder and a ban on cheesy clich├ęs. Oh, and zombies... YA star Holly Bourne tackles real love in this hugely funny and poignant novel.

It has got the point now that whenever Holly Bourne releases a new book, I instantly have to buy and read it straightaway. I first read The Manifesto on How to be Interesting, then I had to read Soulmates immediately after. I adored the both. Then of course there is the wonderful Spinster Club trilogy.  Her books are always ridiculously good and incredibly enjoyable. This one sounds no different, and no doubt it will be as witty, funny and engaging as all of her other books. October can not come soon enough! (Also that cover though!)

Turtles All The Way Down by John Green (10th October 2017, Penguin)

It all begins with a fugitive billionaire and the promise of a cash reward.

Turtles All the Way Down is about lifelong friendship, the intimacy of an unexpected reunion, Star Wars fan fiction, and tuatara. But at its heart is Aza Holmes, a young woman navigating daily existence within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

In his long-awaited return, John Green shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity.

John Green is a wonderful writer, there is no denying it. I have read all of his and books, enjoyed them, some less so than others, but his writing style is so unique and beautiful, it’s captivating and makes me jealous because I will never be as good a writer as he is.  It’s been 4 years since The Fault in Our Stars was released (and made us all ball our eyes out, it’s time for some more John Green in the world!

The Witch’s Blood by Katharine and Elizabeth Corr (8th March 2018, Harper Collins)

I couldn’t find a description for this, but basically this is the third book in what I think is to be a trilogy (feel free to correct me if I am wrong), by the Corr sisters. I loved the first 2 books, (you can read my review of the first one here), and am really excited to see where Merry and Leo end up, and to read more of their adventure (especially after that cliffhanger am I right?!) March seems so far away!

Jane Seymour, The Haunted Queen by Alison Weir (3rd May 2018, Headline Review)

Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen by bestselling historian Alison Weir, author of Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen and Anne Boleyn: A King's Obsession, is the third enthralling novel in the Six Tudor Queens series. A fascinating look at Henry VIII's third wife. Essential reading for fans of Philippa Gregory and Elizabeth Chadwick.

I am currently reading the first of this series and am really loving it. I have been a fan of Alison Weir for years. I love everything she writes, fiction and nonfiction, she does both so well! As I said, I have a massive interest in the Tudor period, it’s my favourite historical period, so to have a whole series dedicated just to Henry the Eighth’s wives is a dream come true, something I have actually wanted for a long time, and I am so pleased it’s Weir
that is tackling them.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Review - The Witch's Kiss by Katharine Elizabeth Corr

Harper Collins

Synopsis (From Amazon) - Can true love’s kiss save the day…?
Electrifying dark magic debut by authors and sisters, Katharine and Elizabeth Corr.
Sixteeen-year-old Meredith is fed-up with her feuding family and feeling invisible at school – not to mention the witch magic that shoots out of her fingernails when she’s stressed. Then sweet, sensitive Jack comes into her life and she falls for him hard. The only problem is that he is periodically possessed by a destructive centuries-old curse.
Meredith has lost her heart, but will she also lose her life? Or in true fairytale tradition, can true love’s kiss save the day?

(Spoilers – sorry!)

My Review – I am going to put this out there, I love witches, always have, always will. I will read any book about or containing witches. Fantasy is one of my favourite genres. Having said this, I realised recently that I haven’t read very much fantasy in the last couple of years, absolutely shocking. So I saw this in Waterstones, and so many people on Twitter were talking about it, I had to have it and read it. So I did, and instantly bought the sequel (should tell you how much I enjoyed this book). I am also a sucker for a fairy-tale, so I was very intrigued by the Sleeping Beauty retelling element of the story.

Story wise, the book felt like a modern fairy-tale, which is incredibly enjoyable to read, the way the Corr sisters weave it in with the modern setting and the use of flashbacks I thought really bulked the story and added to Jack’s character and makes the reader appreciate what he had been through, much more so than if he or any other character had just explained what had happened. It also made Gwydion a more compelling villain where otherwise he could potentially have been rather generic. I actually felt sorry for him when he was rejected by the love of his life, it was brutal.

In terms of the actual magic/fantasy element of the novel, I really liked the world the Corr sisters have created. It’s not often I come across a book that focuses solely on a witch, and I liked the way Merry had to balance her magical life with her normal life, doing all the normal teenage girl things, school, falling in love, her relationship with her brother and her mum. Speaking of, I loved Leo, he was brilliant! I liked how he was the ‘normal’ and was often the voice of reason. I also really liked how the book dealt with his sexuality, and I was absolutely heartbroken when Dan died!

As a protagonist, Merry was solid, really likeable and you really do root for her. I liked how she already knows she’s a witch from the beginning of the book, it’s rooted in her family history, so they all know. We skip the whole preamble of her discovering her powers, it was very refreshing. As a reader we could just delve straight into the story and learn about the characters without a lot setup. This also allowed for good pacing, the story wasn’t bogged down by exposition. It was also interesting that by the end of the book, Merry still wasn’t an especially good witch, she still had a lot to learn about magic, which we see much more of in the sequel.

The romance between Merry and Jack was relatively enjoyable, though I felt like there wasn’t a whole lot of depth to it, I did like them as characters separately but I am just not sure what brought them together romantically. It just happened. It was nice to read regardless, and this is no way hinders the story, it was just something that I wasn’t a fan of, I feel like it could have been better developed. Having said that, this is really the only gripe I have with the book. To be perfectly honest the romance was so… romanticised (for lack of a better word), I am still shocked that Jack actually died. I was not expecting, the type of the story that was being told, i.e fairy-tale, I was expecting a fairy-tale ending, but that is not the case.

I think it’s obvious that I highly recommend this book, if you want to just sit back and enjoy a book about witch’s and magic and evil sorcerer’s, then please give this a try!

(Image not mine - credit to Goodreads)

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Book Haul #1 (August 2016)

In the last couple of weeks I have bought quite a few books, so I thought this called for a book haul post, (my first one, yay!) I have never done one of these before so bear with, bear with.

First off I ordered a couple of books online –
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany.
-       I think this needs little explanation, I am a huge HP fan, I pre-ordered it, I read, loved it, review to come!
Between the Lines by Samantha van Leer and Jodi Picoult
-       I bought Off the Page, the sort of sequel to this book, and really wanted this one as well, so I ordered it.

Then I went to a charity shop. Always a bad idea because I always seem to find some amazing books, they’re cheap but I always walk out with at least 2 books, not good for someone who lacks space for them at the moment. However, I went in anyway and walked out with –
One Hundred Names  by Cecelia Ahern
-       I love a bit of Cecilia Ahern, and I saw this and instantly knew I needed it, I mean look at that cover!
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
-       A book set around a bookshop in Paris? Gimme.

Last week I went to Birmingham to visit a friend, and of course we went to the Waterstones there, and I bought even more books -
What’s a Girl Gotta Do? By Holly Bourne
-       I love Holly Boune, and the Spinster Club series is amazing so I knew I needed to get my hands on the last of the series.
You Know Me Well  by David Levithan and Nine laCour
-       The friend I was with recommend this book, and seeing as they were buy one, get one free, I thought, why not? Besides, a book by David Levithan? Also gimme.
The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley
-       Now, I nearly walked with just two books. Then I got to the counter to pay for them, and there were some books on display. Me, my friend, Lily, and the cashier got talking about them and the lovely cashier said she could sell me this book for half price! So of course I said yes! Thank so much Birmingham Waterstones!

As if I hadn’t done enough book shopping, I visited my local bookshop with my boyfriend. Again, I wasn’t actually planning on buying anything, just wanted to have a look… So naturally I left with three more books –
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
-       Of course, I already own this book, (I might have 2 other copies), but have you seen how pretty the cover is?! I needed it.
His Last Bow, and The Return of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
-       Again, I have a complete collection of the Sherlock Holmes stories, but these had the TV show covers so I got them. Plus they were really cheap because they were second hand, but in amazing condition.

So there you have, my first book haul! I hope you enjoyed it! 

Friday, 22 July 2016

My Hogwarts House!

So today, I am here to talk about a very serious subject – My Hogwarts house of course!

I joke, but this is genuinely something I have struggled with my whole life! Okay, (*takes a deep breath*) here goes – when I first read the Harry Potter series I was 7 or 8 years old, so I wanted to be a Gryffindor, obviously, what kid doesn’t? The house with THE Hermione Granger in? Sign me up!

As I got older however, I started to realise that I really wouldn’t fit in Gryffindor. It just wasn’t for me. So that made me ask myself -  what house did I belong in? Well I loved school and learning, so perhaps Ravenclaw? I considered myself of relative intelligence, but wasn’t sure I was smart enough for the house of wit and learning.  So that left Slytherin and Huffepuff.

At this point I would like to point out that I had taken a million of those quizzes you can find online that supposedly tell you which house you’re supposed to be, and I usually got Ravenclaw. On the odd occasion I got Hufflepuff. I would also like to note that they usually give you 4 options and it so damn easy to pick the one that correlates to whichever house you want.

I am not going to lie, I really didn’t like the idea of being in Slytherin. There are certain stigmas that come with that house, plus I would not consider myself especially cunning or ambitious. Hufflepuff, however, I could get on board with! Loyal, patient, hard working? Sounded like me. But I still wasn’t sure, so I always said I was a Ravenpuff. It made sense. However, I always avoided buying merch relating to any house, not even Gryffindor.

Then 2011 change everything. 2011 was the year Pottermore was launched. I was excited, finally, J.K herself would finally tell me which house I belonged in. I took the Sorting Hat quiz, and to my absolute astonishment, (yay for alliteration), I was sorted into Slytherin! Of all houses! I was convinced I was going to be Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff! I was so conflicted. Was this who I was, a Slytherin? I couldn’t relate to any of the house traits though. My friends were all getting houses that made sense, that I thought applied to them, but not me.

For years I was torn, and never committed to a house. Still sure that Slytherin was not for me. It didn’t help that I took the quiz a second time and got Ravenclaw… Anyway… I slowly came to terms with it though, determined to not let it affect me. In that time I did get rid of all prejudices though, I realised that just because most of ‘evil’ character in the series were in Slytherin does not mean that all Sytherins are bad.

So though I wouldn’t say I embraced my sorting, I had somewhat accepted it. Then earlier this year, my life changed. Pottermore was revamped and there was a new Sorting Hat quiz! I had to take it. I was even more nervous than the first time. This was truly going to cement which house I was in. I GOT HUFFLEPUFF! I was so happy!! I wasn’t in Slytherin! Being a bit older, Hufflepuff made complete sense to me. The house embodies everything I inspire to be, loyal, kind, hard-working, patient.

So here I am now, a proud Hufflepuff. I know what people say about Hufflepuffs, okay, but I don’t care, I think it’s a wonderful house. Also, I love yellow, so what can be bad about that?

So the moral of this story is, don’t judge someone on their house, especially Slytherins. 

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Bookish Habits - Music

I love reading. I love music. So you would think, why would you not combine them? This sounds great in theory, but not so much in reality, at least as far as I am concerned.

            I started listening to music whilst reading when I was 10. I am not (that) embarrassed to admit that I used to listen to a lot of Westlife whilst reading The Chronicles of Narnia. So I have experience in this area. I noticed, however, that is was actually very difficult to do the 2 at the same time. I would either subconsciously ignore the music or focus on the book, or I found myself re-reading the same page because I hadn’t given it my full attention. I continued to listen to music whilst reading though. But just found the music was simply background noise. Even now, on public transport I will put on some music to drown out the other people around me. Definitely not so people won’t talk to me. Nope. I wouldn't do that...

            Trust me people, it does get better. I used to read in silence, I just found it easier. However, the answer to my problem was simple; classical music! Obviously! No lyrics, and it’s lovely to have on in the background! My favourite scores to listen to are any of the Harry Potter soundtracks, I love them.

Please let me know what you think, do you like music in the background, or silence? 

Monday, 6 June 2016

Review - The Potion Diaries by Amy Alward

Simon and Schuster

Synopsis (From Goodreads) - When the Princess of Nova accidentally poisons herself with a love potion meant for her crush, she falls crown-over-heels in love with her own reflection. Oops. A nationwide hunt is called to find the cure, with competitors travelling the world for the rarest ingredients, deep in magical forests and frozen tundras, facing death at every turn.

Enter Samantha Kemi - an ordinary girl with an extraordinary talent. Sam's family were once the most respected alchemists in the kingdom, but they've fallen on hard times, and winning the hunt would save their reputation. But can Sam really compete with the dazzling powers of the ZoroAster megapharma company? Just how close is Sam willing to get to Zain Aster, her dashing former classmate and enemy, in the meantime?

And just to add to the pressure, this quest is ALL OVER social media. And the world news.

No big deal, then.

My Review - I love magic. I really do, I have always loved books and films with magic in them. So I was really excited to read this! However, this book was so much more than about magic. I really enjoyed the world Alward created. A world of people with magic or the ‘Talented’, and the people without, the ‘ordinary.’ I didn’t like the term ‘ordinary’ because it implies the people without magic, i.e our main character, Samantha, are not special, and she really was. Despite this, the exploration into potions, potion making and alchemy was really interesting, and unlike anything I have ever read. Though, to be fair I have never really read a book where potions were the main focus, which I found refreshing.

Samantha was a great character, she was clever, and I found her very likeable. She was very determined, headstrong, and beneath it all, a teenage girl with goals and aspirations, with a slight cheeky rebellious side. An all-round wonderful heroine. In fact, I liked all of the side characters too, Sam’s grumpy, stubborn grandad, Anita, Molly and Kirsty as well, although I feel that some of them could have been fleshed out more. Reading it, I felt the relationships between Sam and her family and friends was well written, but I really didn’t feel like we actually got to know any of them aside from Zain and Evelyn. Evelyn’s chapters were great, absolutely hilarious. Zain was a decent love interest. The rich boy who doesn’t feel like he fits in. I enjoyed the development in the relationship between Zain and Sam, they had great back and forth, and the way Zain completely admires and adores Sam was just so compelling. Princess Evelyn’s evil Aunt Emilia was also an imposing antagonist whose downfall you cannot wait to happen.

The way Alward weaves this fantastical world with the more familiar modern real world, was really attractive to me. It drew me in. She does it so effortlessly. The rivalry between alchemy and the synths was also really intriguing. The idea of something manmade versus natural really caught my attention. The way they went against each other in the Hunt for a cure for Princess Evelyn was captivating. It really was a race against time to save the Princess, it was the stuff of fairy tales and I was hooked. I am sucker for magic and Princesses.

This was probably the most fun I have had reading a book for a while. It was light-hearted, but action packed and fast paced. I would highly recommend to fans of Disney movies, The Princess Diaries, and anyone who likes a bit of magic in their life.