Sunday, 9 August 2015

[MUSINGS] REVIEW || Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Book Title: Landline
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: Orion, 3rd July, 2014
Source: Book Swap
Format: Uncorrected Proof Copy, 354 pages
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository
Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems besides the point now. Maybe that was always besides the point. Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go home without her. When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything. That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts . . . Is that what she’s supposed to do? Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?
Oh Landline, what do I have to say about you?

What can I say about you?

Your concept certainly had me peering above my duvet, and it didn’t hurt that the writer who penned you is one that I’ve read of and loved before. What exactly are you supposed to be? I asked myself. I still don’t have an answer to that question, you were a strange mix of concepts between Contemporary and… magic? Which was done very well, I have to say, if not still quite a strange thing to accept without any explanation.

I enjoyed this book immensely, I did. It was interesting and had a certain quirkiness to it that appealed to my inner (or rather outer) eccentric self. The whole thing took a while to get used to, the writing style and the main character, to put it simply, I don’t like Georgie. At all.

The whole situation that the book was based around (Georgie and Neal’s not-happy-marriage) just annoyed me to no end, it was very irritating. All I wanted to do was knock some sense into them, the whole thing could have been solved very easily. Meaning that as the story went on I did get very wary of what was happening and how tangible it could really be when it was such an irritating situation. As a result of this, I did get pulled out of the immersion for at least half of the book. 

Then something else happened.

I actually started caring, there was a huge turnabout and nothing that I can pinpoint it to. Suddenly, I was okay with it all and I really started liking the book and liking the plot and the direction it was taking, at that point I just couldn’t stop reading.

Now, one thing that was immediately clear was that Rainbow hasn’t lost her talent for making absolutely adorable and cute romances, and romantic moments that can be believed. Once I really got into the novel I couldn’t stop echoing aww’s and ooh’s and oh my godddd’s. The moments between Neal and Georgie are things that you can’t help but love. It was fantastic to read a romance like that, even if it was broken or breaking at points. It’s very hard to separate what I hated and what I loved about this book because the end product of everything is something that I really like. And I don’t think I’d like this book as much as I do if I didn’t have issues with it, which means that what I hate about the book is also what I love about it.

It’s complicated. But, I liked the book, a hell of a lot. Eventually.

It’s one of the more so conflicting Contemporaries that I’ve read.

I don’t think I can round up this review in any way really, it was one of the tasks in the Triwizard Tournament to simple write the review itself because I was that confused and conflicted. In the end I can’t deny that I really liked this book. I adore Rainbow Rowell.

Reading this book was a strange experience, and I do recommend that you give it a go!

Rating = 4 Bookish Birds

Friday, 7 August 2015

REVIEW || An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Book Title: An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes #1)
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Publisher: Harper Voyager, 4th June, 2015
Source: Publisher
Format: Uncorrected Proof Copy, 450 pages
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository
What if you were the spark that could ignite a revolution? For years Laia has lived in fear. Fear of the Empire, fear of the Martials, fear of truly living at all. Born as a Scholar, she’s never had much of a choice. For Elias it’s the opposite. He has seen too much on his path to becoming a Mask, one of the Empire’s elite soldiers. With the Masks’ help the Empire has conquered a continent and enslaved thousands, all in the name of power. When Laia’s brother is taken she must force herself to help the Resistance, the only people who have a chance of saving him. She must spy on the Commandant, ruthless overseer of Blackcliff Academy. Blackcliff is the training ground for Masks and the very place that Elias is planning to escape. If he succeeds, he will be named deserter. If found, the punishment will be death. But once Laia and Elias meet, they will find that their destinies are intertwined and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself. In the ashes of a broken world one person can make a difference. One voice in the dark can be heard. The price of freedom is always high and this time that price might demand everything, even life itself.
I’m going into this review with many mixed thoughts and different opinions, which means it’s always very hard to come to reasonable conclusion and not ramble on a lot or be quite controversial, as I tend to be but as one of my most anticipated reads of the year this book left me with an overwhelming sense of disappointment, because my expectations were very, very high. It certainly delivered on what it promised, brutality, and fantasy which was great in premise and in practice but it wasn’t an epic book, and it wasn’t an epic fantasy for me.

I think the beginning statement to get across about this book is that I love to hate loving it. I have issues with this book, most of which occurred after reading, some which annoyed me whilst reading and as a result my mind is very twisted and confused. Here’s why; when reading I really enjoyed the book, actually, I thought it was great – I didn’t connect to characters at all, but the plot of the book, the writing the pace of it all kept me enthralled. After reading it though, I just kept finding flaws and more flaws and things that bothered me, but I still couldn’t get over the fact that I really, really, liked this book. And I started hating that I loved it when there were so many obvious issues. 

Which leaves me at a stalemate.

First off, contrary to others, I thought the world building in An Ember in the Ashes was fantastic, it gave me just enough to really be able to build the world and give a feel for the whole era itself, whilst not being a huge info-dump. Something that also helped was the fact that I adore the Greco-Roman period and as this seemed to be a replicate, I enjoyed it. I loved the relationships and dynamics between the characters, it was the championing aspect of the book, for me.

It took me at least a third of the book to get used to the writing and the continuous pace, which I can’t say was a bad thing as the pacing was very well done - but I love the ebb and flow of things whereas this book was just a constant drumbeat. Furthermore, the book itself was quite predictable, in my opinion. There was nothing that surprised me, which did take away from the book immensely. I don’t know how to describe the writing itself other than “talkative”, there were short sentences that built the tension but a lot of the time it was just very talky, and I’m not referring to dialogue. Now this wouldn’t be a problem, because I tend to enjoy getting to grips with the characters mind and rummaging about inside, especially when they mental babble, but I didn’t really like the main characters, or connect with them at all, which was a bust.

Now, Laia and Elias are good, solid, characters, particularly for a book like this. Personally, I just didn’t connect with them in anyway, at all – I felt that they were very two-dimensional, and the way that they were presented… it seemed as though they had almost no flaws at all (we all love a flawed character). With Laia, her biggest flaw that is constantly factoring into her own mind babble, is that she’s a coward. That got a bit tiring. As the book was told from the perspective of both main characters, I believe it would have been much more effective if I had connected with them. A lot of the time it did feel like they were talking about everyone and everything else (when they weren’t dwelling on themselves and their motives) – in the end it made for flat characters, that were likable, but not much else.

On the other hand, we are told many a time (though rarely shown, which is indeed a bit of a sore point with me) how brutal and terrifying this world is, and the people that they live under. I thought that this was executed quite well within the writing, the way certain characters walked and talked, you really did get that feeling of brutality, but like I said, it was rarely shown and I’m someone who prefers to experience something rather than just be told about it. Despite this, when there were scenes of a bloody/violent nature, they definitely lived up to their expectancy. 

The plot of the book was well done, although I did think it predictable, it was still woven very well and the ending of the book leaves many exciting options and pathways open for the second novel, which I am eagerly anticipating. In conclusion, I did absolutely love this book, I would re-read it, and I definitely recommend it. I do have reservations about it, but to love something I think you also have to see it flaws, and if you can accept the flaws, then all the better. It took me a while to get this this conclusion, and I’m happy that I have. I look forward to the sequel very much, and hope that Tahir stuns me with her next book.

Rating = 4 Bookish Birds

Monday, 3 August 2015

Tunes and Tomes || First Edition

Yes, indeed, this is another one of those common blogging things called ‘features’. With me being back in the blogosphere again, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, brainstorming, and this was a product of that. I’ve mentioned before how I wanted to be able to talk about things other than books without going off on a complete tangent, but still including a more personal note to posts, so what did my ingenious mind come up with? A music feature. That also includes books.

Hold on, hold on, keep the assumptions at bay because as overlord of the realm I am about to explain what Tunes and Tomes is all about. It isn’t just about any music, because that would be boring. No, Tunes and Tomes is about physical music, not some digital widget or image I’ve just inserted with a bit of html.

Yes, it’s about visuals. It’s about vinyls. It’s about photography. It’s about music.

I love music. I adore records, especially. I eat, sleep, and inhale books – isn’t that a cracker of a combination? This is basically a feature that gives me the opportunity to talk about music and books and also exhibit some more-so justified photography. How will I do that? Well for every Tunes and Tomes post I’ll have an album/record/CD and a book pairing. The pairing might be because I think cover art corresponds or because I think the album personifies the book, you’ll just have to wait and see.

For the first installment of this new feature I thought we would take it easy, so yes, the record I picked for today’s post was not bought in a totally hipster fashion from a totally underground record store. It was bought from HMV, brand new.

Nonetheless, it is an awesome record, and it comes with a pretty awesome book, if I do say so myself.

Today’s pairing is The Rolling Stones and Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli!

I picked this vinyl and this book to go together for two main reasons.

Reason 1) I put these two together as a pair for appearances sake, at first, I will admit – I think the colours and design go together wonderfully and they complement each other quite well, with Simon Vs being very scarlet and that running through the cover art of the album but the tones or grey, white and mustard adding more to the palette, as well as the blue in the lettering of Simon Vs echoing in the pen script decorating the album. And with both having the profiles of young men.

Reason 2) Straight away I knew this was the perfect pairing anyway because if you asked me to describe Simon Vs, many words that come to mind are fun, cute, lovely, sweet etc. but it does have other things that it deals with very well and I think the songs on this particular album do work to that very well. They’re very fun and I hesitate to use this term but it fits, they are quite ‘hip’ whilst others are more serious in their lyrics if not their tone.

Now I am not an expert in music, or books – I just happen to enjoy them both, so please do not bite my head off if you don’t agree with this, it is just my own opinion and its completely fine if you disagree, in fact I would love to hear what your thoughts would be, but like I said, I’m no expert, I’m just doing this for fun and giggles.  All I have to wonder now is whether or not the author would agree with me! 

On a different note, Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda is a brilliant book as I have said many times before and I desperately urge you to read it. Even my review falls short of praising this book as much as it deserves to be praised, but you can check it out anyway (here) to see what I thought. I do hope you enjoyed this new project that I’m trying out, and if you would like to take part in the feature then please do contact me on Twitter or via email! Lastly, I'd just like to quickly thank Michelle, Cat and Georgia for helping me get this feature off of the ground!

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Hello, Blog

Well, hello there.

*tries to sidle out of sight and avoid all responsibilities*
This is very strange, doing the whole “blogging thing” again, after months and months and months (okay, it wasn’t that long, but it certainly felt like it) of not blogging. Actually, it’s rather like riding a bike now all I want to do is blog again, which is a plus. On this occasion of having to take an unexpected hiatus, I did actually have a good reason, which was school – or more specifically, exams. Yep, for a whole two months I had to adult and do a bunch of stressful, “life deciding” iGCSE exams. I thought I’d be able to blog, you know it wouldn’t be too bad, and inevitably I was wrong and that’s when the whole unexpected hiatus started. Then I finished my exams, and I thought “yeah, I can start blogging again, this is going to be awesome!” And then reality hit, in which I am quite lazy which definitely had an effect, and I have just been procrastinating writing this post since the middle of June.

I think I at least deserve a pat on the back for getting round to writing this post. 

Though to be fair I can’t take all the credit, I do have to thank the wonderful Sunny who has been awesome to talk to about this whole blogging rut and helped me find my feet again. Sunny is a book blogger I’ve been following for ages and she’s in a bit of a rut at the moment too, so it’d be awesome if you could check out her blog and give her some love, she has written some truly brilliant posts! 

Getting on with the actual purpose of this post, which would be... (yes, there was an actual purpose) that yep, I am back at blogging and if there's still some peeps out there who want to listen to my lunatic rantings then that is another plus. Honestly, now that I'm actually sitting down and writing something it has hit that I've missed doing this a lot. But hey, no chick-flick moments!

Instead, I would like to end today's post with a book recommendation...

I recently read Neil Gaiman's, The Sleeper and the Spindle, which is a really great re-working of a fairy-tale that we may have heard before. Now, I'm not usually one for these types of books but it was written so well, the accompanying illustrations (by my favourite illustrator, Chris Riddell) and the simple product of the book itself was excellent. Along with the gorgeous design Gaiman added his signature twist that made this more of a Brothers Grimm tale than Walt Disney. I definitely think this is a book to be enjoyed by all.