Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters I'd NEVER Want To Trade Places With

Top Ten Tuesday was created and is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This is my twenty-ninth Top Ten Tuesday post.

I think this is a brilliant topic and I'm looking forward to seeing what answers other bloggers come up with. Honestly, I would not want to trade places with any fictional character. Although many of them get to do really amazing things, I like my life and I wouldn't want to deal with the type of stuff that makes for an interesting plot! I tried to pick the characters that have the worst lives, in my opinion, for my top ten, but there were so many of them I had to cheat a bit and make it one point per book/series...

The word no written on a bit of paper
Top Ten Characters I'd NEVER Want To Trade Places With

1. Aria from Under the Never Sky, by Veronica Rossi - her mother goes missing, she gets chucked out of her home, she nearly gets eaten by cannibals! I love the story and some cool things happen to Aria, but I wouldn't want to be her!

2. Everyone from Lycopolis, by Ali Luke - they summon a demon through an online roleplaying game! Terrifying things happen! No thank you!

3. Echo and Noah from Pushing the Limits, by Katie McGarry - it's an amazing book, and their romance is lovely but they have lived through such horrible things.

4. Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins - getting to be great at archery is not a fair exchange for the stuff that Katniss has to endure.

5. Rae from Sunshine, by Robin McKinley - she gets kidnapped by vampires and then they try to hunt her down and kill her. I could not handle that much fear.

6. Bella from Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer - doomed for eternity to spend her days at high school and her evenings, nights, weekends, and holidays with her boring vampire family. It's great that they're not heartless murderers, don't get me wrong, but there seems to be a severe lack of entertainment chez Cullen. I've only read the first book, I just watched the films after that, so feel free to correct me!

7. Candy from Candy, by Kevin Brooks - this is a book that should scare anyone away from drugs. Nobody wants to end up like Candy.

8. Sandra/Lady from Lady: My Life as a Bitch, by Melvin Burgess - she gets turned into a dog, and I'm quite happy being a human, thanks!

9. Ann from A Great and Terrible Beauty, by Libba Bray - oh, poor Ann. Nobody loves her, and she is indebted and poor, destined to work as a governess for her cousins children, with no escape in sight...or is there?

10. Theo and Rachel from Blood Ties, by Sophie McKenzie - they try to solve a mystery and end up finding out terrible, terrifying things about themselves. No, ta...

Are any of these characters on your list? Are there any characters that you would want to trade places with? There are some whose lives I might like to borrow for a couple of hours, but no longer!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Monday Amusements 27

I've been spending a lot of time with these lately, attempting to plan my life!

Everyone seems to have started the New Year determined to post more reviews, and I have several to share!

This review of Pawn by Aimee Carter, at So Many Books, So Little Time makes it sound like a really exciting, interesting read. At the same blog, Sophie is celebrating her fifth blogoversary. Make sure you go congratulate her and enter her celebratory giveaway!

Carly at Writing from the Tub reviewed How to Love by Katie Cotugno, and got me really intrigued with her description of the non-linear narrative. 

Across the Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund, has a beautiful cover and, according to Quinn, a wonderful story with very strong worldbuilding.

Cicely made A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge sound so amazing that I couldn't help but open up my local library catalogue immediately to find out if I can borrow it (I can)!

The reliably amazing Booka Uhu has convinced me to try not just one but two books I might otherwise have ignored: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake and My Friend the Enemy by Dan Smith.

On to discussion posts. Nikki Ramsey at Literary Escapism talks about her and her husband's drastically different views on description in books. Personally, I love description as long as it seems natural and isn't too long winded and avoids purple prose territory. As a writer, I struggle sometimes to work out exactly how much description to include. My first drafts tend to be heavy on dialogue, with some physical action, and minimal description - I usually have to add more in my second drafts!

Tanya at GirlXOXO shares 6 Speculative Fiction Books By Authors of Color Coming Out in 2014 that she's looking forward to reading.

 Is teen romantic fiction bad for boys? Or does it show ordinary romantic heroes? I definitely agree more with the second piece. I think it depends on the book, and that it can be just as bad or good for girls. Some books are full of flawlessly beautiful yet strangely needy characters, while others show teenagers as they really are with their acne, awkward teeth, and emotional ups and downs.

As always, feel free to share the best blog posts you've read recently, or even one you've written, in the comments!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Book Review: Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Nick, teenage boy and bassist in an average queercore band, looks down from the stage one night and sees his newly-ex-girlfriend, Tris in the crowd. He can't bear the thought of having to exchange greetings with her and the guy she is standing with, so he turns to the girl next to him, and asks her to pretend to be his girlfriend for the next five minutes.

Norah has a lot on her own mind - her future, music, her own Evil Ex - and if it were just her she had to look after, she'd tell Nick where to go, but he might have a van or a car, and she needs to get her drunken friend Caroline home in one piece...

My first ebook! I really liked this, it was just the kind of YA book I'd have loved as a teenager - people, cooler than me, having relationship issues and new romances, swearing a lot, and participating in makeout scenes that give those in Diary of a Crush a real run for their money! Phew!

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, as you might expect, is told from the alternating perspectives of Nick and Norah. I preferred Nick's narration, as I expected. I've read solo books by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan before and I like David Levithan's writing more. But even though I didn't like her narration quite as much, Norah was still an interesting character with an enjoyable voice.

Both Nick and Norah tell their stories in a style that is very stream-of-consciousness, and at times I found this hard to follow, especially as the whole story takes place over the course of one night/day and the pace varies a lot. Every now and then I'd have to stop, go back a few pages and re-read to remind myself what was physically going on.

I really liked the secondary characters. There's a whole cast of weird and wonderful individuals who show up, disappear, and re-appear throughout the novel. I loved that although Tris seems pretty horrible at first, nicer sides to her personality are revealed later on.

I saw the film adapation of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, with Michael Cera and Kat Dennings (object of much girlcrushing) a few years ago and really liked it. The book is quite different - the film has more of a plot beside the romance - but they are both enjoyable in their own right.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Book Review: Witch Finder, by Ruth Warburton

Luke Lexton is pleased to be finally old enough to become a member of the Malleus Maleficorum, a secret brotherhood of men sworn to rid the earth of witches. His initiation ceremony involves three trials, the first two take place that evening, but he is given a month to complete the third and final task: kill the witch selected at the ceremony, or his own life will be forfeit. He is nervous, but determined - the witch is only a teenage girl, though she comes from what is known to be one of the most powerful families.

The girl is Rosa Greenwood, whose formerly wealthy family of witches are now depending on her to make a good match and secure their social and financial standing. Although she doesn't feel ready for marriage, they have chosen the man they want her to persue, and she wants to save her family's country house and hold onto the happy memories of the place from when her father was still alive.

In order to get close enough to Rosa to kill her, Luke becomes a groom in the Greenwood household. But when he meets her, he discovers that she is not heartless and cruel, like the witches that he has been brought up to hate, and his resolve begins to weaken...

Witch Finder is a prequel to the Winter trilogy, which I haven't read yet, so I was a bit concerned that I would be diving into a world that I wouldn't understand. Happily, this wasn't the case at all.

The story is told with alternating points of view. Rosa and Luke, the two narrators, come from very different backgrounds and contrast nicely. I preferred Luke and thought he was the stronger of the two characters. Rosa is kind and sweet and therefore most interesting when she is angry! I'm looking forward to seeing her develop. Hopefully we'll get to see a lot more of her magic.

I really liked the way in which fantasy is blended with historical realism. Rosa, as a young woman in the Victorian era, does not have a particularly pleasant life. Her family are upper-class witches with very little money, so Rosa has many rules to obey and social pressures to conform to, and must dedicate a lot of time and energy to hiding the fact that she is on the verge of poverty. Marriage will mean giving up any independence as once married, her husband will own her and all her property. Her mother and her brother, Alexis, want to marry her off to stabilise their own financial and social positions and don't care about her future happiness. There are quite a few scenes that I found difficult to read, when characters act particularly cruelly towards each other, but they gave the story a lot more gravitas than it otherwise would have had and I'm glad they were included. I also liked the details about servants and factory work.

My main criticism is that there was not much explanation of how magic works in this world. At one point Rosa mentions childhood spells, but doesn't explain how witches learn to use magic, or where it comes from. Rosa is more powerful than her mother and brother, and I wondered why. However, I expect that the Winter trilogy covers this, so many readers probably already know all about the rules of magic and don't need a second explanation here.

I wasn't a massive fan of the romance, but it is more of  a slow-burner than an instalove, and I'll be interested to see what turns the story takes next in the sequel, Witch Hunt, out later this year.

Many thanks to the publisher for allowing me to read Witch Finder through NetGalley.

Witch Finder was the Bookish Brits Book Club choice for February 2014! Find out what we all thought of it by watching the video below:

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Things On My Reading Wishlist

Top Ten Tuesday was created and is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This is my twenty-eighth Top Ten Tuesday.

I haven't done any of these in ages! But as I mentioned in this video, Top Ten Tuesday is my favourite book blogging meme, and I want to get back into the habit of joining in every week. This theme struck me as being quite similar to Top Ten Words/Topics That Will Make Me Pick Up or Buy A Book and Top Ten Settings I'd Like To See More Of (Or At All), but I have tried hard to think of different things for this list!

Top Ten Things On My Reading Wishlist

1. Loneliness - As much as I love reading about friendships, being a teenager can be a very lonely experience and I like to see more YA novels deal with this.

2. Young carers - I've been doing some work recently that relates to carers and it occurred to me the other day that I've probably never read, or even heard of, a book about a child who has to care for their parent, even though according to the 2011 census, there are 178,000 young carers (under 18s) in England and Wales. I've seen TV shows about this issue, but I can't think of any books. If you have any suggestions, let me know in the comments.

3. Unusual hobbies - learning about new things is almost the whole point of reading, right? I would love to read more fun novels about characters with unusual hobbies. Totally painless education!

4. Diversity in New Adult books - I would love to see everything Jamie from The Perpetual Page Turner put on her list, but I would be particularly interested in this. I read one New Adult book last year (The Secret of Ella and Micha) but haven't bothered trying any others as they all seem to have the same themes. I'd love to read books about "new adults" where romance isn't the main focus. I'd also like to see more diverse characters as well, in terms of race and sexuality and gender.

5. Open ended romances - a romance can be a powerful and meaningful story even if the characters don't refer to each other as soulmates and declare their eternal love by the end of the book.

6. Volunteering - I can think of a couple of books where the main character does some volunteering but not many. Volunteering is GREAT. There should be more.

7. YA characters that want a science-related job when they grow up - Don't get me wrong, I love reading about teen musicians and actors and artists, but it would be cool if there were more characters that planned on becoming a medical doctor or a engineer or a research chemist, for example.

8. Businesspeople - I'd like to read more fiction about people who start businesses. I don't know that much about business, and as I said in point 3, reading novels about it would be a totally painless form of education!

9. More family drama - families are important and sometimes very difficult to deal with but they get sidelined in a lot of books. I would like to read more books where family is a focus or at least equal in importance to the romance/friendship drama.

10. Couples that stay together throughout the whole novel - no dramatic flounce-led breakups, just ordinary ups and downs for us to enjoy following. Without babies. I have no interest in reading about babies.

Do you have any of these things on your reading wishlist? Have you any book recommendations for me?

Bookish Brits Vlog 7: Books I MUST Read This Year

In this video I show you a load of books that I really really want to read but have left sitting on my TBR for a year or more, in order to shame myself into reading them this year!

I hope you enjoy!

This video was inspired by this post from last January, Top Ten Books I Resolve To Read in 2013.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Monday Amusements 26

My latest mini-TBR. I almost always take these photos in the bathroom, can you tell? What do you think I should read first?

I liked this interview with Ruth Warburton at Chicklish, part of the Project UKYA tour. I finished reading Witch Finder for this month's Bookish Brits Book Club on Saturday, and I really enjoyed it. I'm looking forward to reading the other Witch books now. A Company of Swans is on my TBR, so it's great to see it get an enthusiastic mention!

I bookmarked this list a while ago, but I decided it needed a re-read now that I've started vlogging: 12 Tricks To Looking Awesome On Video.

Psychology in YA - Identity is a great start to the new Psychology in YA series (it better be a series, it's such a good idea!) at Fluttering Butterflies.

Reviews responsible for the sharp increase in the size of my wishlist this fortnight:

Beauty's Daughter: The Story of Hermione and Helen of Troy, by Carolyn Meyer, at Bookish
Boys Don't Knit, by T.S. Easton, at SisterSpooky
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, by Leslye Walton, at SisterSpooky
Being Sloane Jacobs, by Lauren Morrill, at Rather Be Reading
Magic Marks the Spot, by Caroline Carlson, at Lunar Rainbows
Please Ignore Vera Dietz, by A.S. King, at Fluttering Butterflies
Ruby Red, by Kerstin Gier, at The Pewter Wolf
Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman, at The Bookette

Have you read any great posts that I've missed?

Friday, January 03, 2014

Twelve Posts of Christmas (and New Year): Twelve - My Favourite Posts of 2013

Happy New Year! Today is the tenth day of Christmas, and the third day of 2014! I'm sad that the festive season is nearly over but looking forward to all that I'm going to achieve in this new year.

Today I've decided to take one last look back at 2013 and share my favourite blog posts that I've written (and videos that I've made) this year. I posted 77 times on this fleeting dream this year, which beats all previous records! I've kept up with my Monday Amusements and took part in Top Ten Tuesday as often as I felt able.

My favourite Top Ten Tuesday topic of 2013 was from January, Most Frustrating Characters Ever. It was so much fun to write, and I loved reading other people's lists too.

I wouldn't be the person I am today without libraries, so in February I celebrated National Libraries Day by writing a list of Ten Things I Love About Libraries - a topic I will be revisiting soon for Bookish Brits.

May was one of my most productive months, at least on this blog. I wrote another of my favourite Top Ten Tuesday posts - Books Dealing with Tough Subjects, and then launched Diary of a Crush Week, to celebrate the new paperback release of this series I've loved since my teens. It began with my first Celebrating Series post, and although I didn't get to write any more of them in 2013 I have lots of ideas for series to feature this year.

In June, before packing up all my books for The Great Redecoration, I filmed a bookshelf tour. This was my first YouTube video ever! It's quite dark and shaky, but I've learned a lot about making videos since, thanks to the Bookish Brits project, and when I eventually get around to filming my 'after' bookshelf tour, I'm sure it will be much better!

As the days got shorter, I started to think about getting the most out of the limited daylight, and in September I wrote Reading in the Afternoon, Blogging in the Evening. I have started writing in the morning and afternoon too, so that I can get the most out of my energy first thing, but I still prefer to blog in the evening.

Finally, in December, I started this Twelve Posts of Christmas (and New Year) series. I'm really pleased with how it's turned out and will definitely be revisiting it next year. I enjoyed writing them all, but I think my favourite post was number four - Presents I Would Buy for Characters.

If you write your own round-up of your favourite posts, please do link it up below, or if you'd prefer, share the link to a blog post that you're particularly proud of in the comments.


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