Sunday, 28 June 2015

A Whole Flipping Year

No, not a whole year since I last posted anything, though sometimes it does feel that long, but a whole year of university! First year is over (it technically finished for me a few weeks ago, but I'm a student. I never get around to doing anything. Which I hope explains some of the neglect around here lately) and it was actually fine. I didn't die, which is always a bonus, I passed and found some things which I think I might be legitimately academically interested in that doesn't revolve around my own desire for silliness, I made friends that feel like Actual Friends rather than Friends of Convenience. It's all been pretty good, actually. That being said, it's still been a weird year (when I say year, I mean from last September to now rather than an actual year year) and it feels like a lot has changed.

It's been a weird year because I think I was down for quite a long time in the first term, and I wasn't used to feeling so adrift and generally alone, even if Twitter and the internet and my family and friends at home were still there for me. I do think it helped a lot that I had a roommate who I did get along with even if we were never Friend friends. If I had had a room on my own, I would have isolated myself purely because of stress and anxiety and I genuinely don't think I would have met the people that are my friends now if I hadn't had my roommate and her friends to cling onto in the first few days.

It's been a weird year because there were some big changes at home and also because one of my cats died. And I know it sounds a bit pathetic to still be hung up on that because she was old and she lived a good life with us, but I loved her and I don't think I'll ever have a bond like that with a cat again. I love my other cat a lot, but it's not the same. I'm so glad that we had her, but I still miss her. I know how sad it sounds that I'm being this dramatic about a cat, but she was important to me so. 

It's been a weird year because I moved out and did stuff on my own and learned that as an adult I am not 100% entirely dysfunctional? And that I actually quite liked being away from home once I got used to it? It's nice to come home and not have to pay for rent and food, but it's also nice to be away and feel like I am actually actively living my own life instead of sitting in my room doing nothing. Granted at uni I would also be sitting in my room doing nothing, but I was paying rent for that room goddammit! But yeah, my lifestyle has really not changed much, if at all. Apart from reading less that I would have liked, I don't think anything changed at all.

It's been a weird year because I learned that yes, I am lazy enough that I will ensure that I have five weeks worth of clothes in order to avoid having to do my laundry at uni. And I am quite proud, in all honesty. 

It's been a weird year because I made friends, and I know I already mentioned this but I have a complete lack of faith in my ability to make friends. I know that I have friends but when it comes down to it I can never remember how any of that really happened and I'm pretty sure it always involved a third party and I just ended up becoming friends with a lot of my friends at home by proxy rather than because my actual personality. Also I have a lot of anxieties about going Out out, so I thought that that would mean my social life would be dead I would be a simple lonesome hermit, looking out upon the world of people with their social skills and easy friendships with longing. A simple lonesome starving hermit, because let's be real if I hadn't made some friends I probably would not have eaten properly because I'd be too scared to go to meals (I was in catered) and you can't live off toast and rice forever. But I did make friends! With people that I like a lot! And let me be the evidence that if even I, lonesome hermit who literally didn't go Out out once as a first year student, can make friends then you're probably fine.

It's been a weird year because I thought I would change so much but I really don't think I've changed much at all. I keep on expecting that every year on my birthday I'll wake up and I'll be a Proper Adult who knows how to make phone calls and how to do taxes and has a work ethic and is taller and more fashionable and all that but that's never going to happen is it. 

So yeah, it's been a weird year, but I don't think I'd change a thing. (that's a lie I would absolutely change things but whatever we get the hand we're dealt the past is in the past and all that. I was just trying to look wise and like I'd taken it in my stride.)

Sunday, 12 April 2015

It's UKYA Day, Hooray!

It's that wonderful time of year where, thanks to the wonderful Lucy (Queen of Contemporary) we get to celebrate the wonderful world of UKYA! 

UKYA has always been important to me (and by always I mean basically since I started reading YA and blogging because I wasn't actually aware of the concept of UKYA until then), and I think that this is mainly because it always seems more real to me. It presents a reality that is closer to my personal experiences than a lot of US books, which is not to compare them in quality. UKYA contemporary in particular always just seems to have the right tone and sense of humour that just makes it seem that much more real to me as a British teenager. There's also a great sense of diversity in UKYA that keeps getting stronger as books like Trouble and Remix by Non Pratt, Starring Kitty by Keris Stainton and The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson are released, and I sincerely hope that diversity increases in all YA. Those are all also brilliant books that you should read right now if you haven't already (apart from Remix which you should read as soon as it comes out on the 4th of June)
The Art of Being Normal,
about a trans teen
                                                                                                                              This has all been a bit contemp-oriented, but UKYA is also great for inventive and fun fantasy, sci-fi, horror, dystopia. You name it, we've probably got it (though you may want to refer to someone who actually knows about more recent/forthcoming release because I am ever so slightly out of the loop!) James Dawson is always good if you are looking for fun, creepy horror with books like Say Her Name and Under My Skin, though he's also making a move into contemporary with All of the Above which comes out later this year and will be LGBT+ (not to be confused with I. W. Gregorio's None of The Above, which I keep on doing mentally...). If you like disturbing Dystopian horror, then the winner of the first ever YA Book Prize, Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill is for you. It is one of the most unsettling books that I have read, but it is absolutely worth it. A truly chilling look at a future that feels all too close to the world now, and an excellent feminist book. If fantasy is what really gets you going, then I am always here to recommend Zoe Marriott's books. Personal favourites include FrostFire and Shadows on the Moon, and if urban fantasy is more your thing, then there's also her Name of the Blade Trilogy, the final book of which will be released in July, so there's plenty of time for you to catch up and join in the eager wait for it. There's also Laure Eve's Fearsome Dreamer duology, which has one of the most interesting worlds and genuinely mind-blowing plots that I've read in ages.  

This is pretty much the briefest of brief overviews of what UKYA has to offer, but it's not a bad place to start if you're looking to start reading UKYA. There'll be Q&A's all day with authors, as well as a couple of liveshows, all you need to do is check out the #UKYAday hashtag which I'm sure will be busy all day. There also several other brilliant posts celebrating UKYA today, so make sure to check those out! Have a happy UKYA Day, and may there be many more!                               

Monday, 6 April 2015

A Darker Shade of Magic review

A Darker Shade of Magic
V. E. Schwab
February 24th 2015
Tor Books

Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit. 

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London - but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her 'proper adventure'.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — trickier than they hoped.

It is no secret to anyone who has spoken to me since I have read this book that I absolutely loved this book. I knew from the moment it was announced that it was going to be great, especially as Vicious had just been so good. I was right, as per, but I think anyone who reads that blurb and looks at that cover knows that they're in for a goodun'. I loved this book so much that I've come out of my sad university cave to spread the word, even if it is about a month late. 

There are many things about ADSOM that I love greatly. It's not a perfect book, but it is good and it is fun and what more do you want from a book, really? The characters were what really made ADSOM come to life, for me. And I think that it speaks to the quality of this book and to Schwab's skills that she can take characters that feel familiar and turn them into something new and fun. The tropes are there, but they never feel old or lazy or poorly used. It is difficult to pick a favourite of of Kell, Lila, Rhy and Holland because I genuinely loved them all so much. They all work so well together as a kind of unit in that it is their interactions with each other that really bring them alive. There is also more room for humour in this book then there perhaps was in Vicious which definitely helps to ease the reader into the world and into liking the characters, regardless of whether you agree with their actions. There is also mucho shipping potential in this book despite the lack of actual romance. I myself am partial to Holland/anyone, Kell/Rhy, Rhy/Lila. Rhy/Kell/Lila... Basically every possible combination. I have no shame. 

The world is incredible. It is built so well, and world building is very important to me. I felt like I had a real sense of the three main different Londons, the magic and the rules behind that magic and the logic of the world. It's not too complicated or convoluted, and the rules are firmly set up in a way that isn't info dumpy. That, and it's a fun a world. Who doesn't want to read a fantasy book about parallel Londons? WHO. It's a cool idea and it's brought to life in a great way, and even if the characters were what made this book for me, the world is a very close second. There are such distinct differences between the Londons, and they are all so beautifully drawn out, each with their own positives and their own drawbacks. Even Red London, seemingly the best with its relationship with magic is problematic in other ways. And I really like the whole interdimensional politics aspect of the book, the history of these Londons and their relationships with each other and how they get along now. Even though I figure they're probably kind of irrelevent, I'm also interested to know about the larger worlds of Red and White London, and how they have developed in comparison to Grey London (our 18th century London)

I enjoyed the pacing and the plot a lot, but for me this was also where I had some qualms. Personally, I thought the ending was too neat which is not essentially a negative, but I feel like this came at the cost of a (admittedly fairly small) plot thread. I haven't seen this brought up though so it's probably just me being a fusspot/not actually realising what was going on. It didn't detract from my enjoyment of the book, though. The pace is so fast and the world, the characters, the plot so engrossing that small issues didn't really bother me at all. There's also a lot of perfectly distracting angst in ADSOM, which is always good. I love me some good angst. Not too much angst, not too little angst. The fic writers are going to have a field day with ADSOM, let me tell you.

All in all, A Darker Shade of Magic was about as good as I was hoping it would be (ie, BRILLIANT), and I am so gosh darn excited about the sequel already that I might explode a bit when it actually comes out. Long story short, READ THIS BOOK. If you haven't already, that is. It has been out for over a month. You really should have already read ADSOM, let's be real. It's so pretty. Okay, I've stopped making sense. This book is turning me into an incoherent mess.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Some (Brief) Thoughts on the UKYABAs

So, if you are part of the UKYA blogging community, you probably definitely know that the UKYABAs were this weekend! It was so much fun to actually see people again because I haven't been to an event or anything for months, and I have missed being around book people a lot. It was also such a lovely event, and I so glad for all the winners because I can't even imagine the amount of work and passion that they put into what they do! I have rarely felt as proud of the UKYA community of so glad to be even a tiny part of it as I was last night, surrounded by some amazing bloggers and just great people. Plus there was cake and a special deal for us on the books that night!

I was technically nominated for best teen blogger, so I would feel like a bit of a dick if I didn't say thanks for that - so, thanks! I genuinely did not expect to be considered for anything, and even if I feel completely undeserving, I appreciated it so much! 

Anyway, I've really not got that much to say other than CONGRATULATIONS to all the winners, and everyone really. You all deserve it! And also thank you to Andy Robb for organizing the whole shebang, as well as High Street Kensington Waterstones, as well as all the publishers involved and authors. What a swell bunch of people. And that it was just such a lovely experience!

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Not Dead

So, this is a bit awkward.

I haven't really had much time to blog lately. Well, that's not strictly true, I've had lots of time to blog lately, I just have elected to spend that time not actually blogging. There are several factors to blame for that: 

1) Dragon Age. My life and soul has been lost to the Dragon Age games. I am sorry. They are just too good, and I highly recommend that you also spend two months of your life with Dragon Age being the center of everything you do. However it did mean that all the time I would've been reading, I was playing these damn games.

2) Uni. Kind of an obvious one, but I do actually have to at least try and read the books for uni which also cuts into my reading time a bit. Also I have friends that I actually spend time with now, so most of my evenings are spent watching Spartacus instead of reading.

Those are actually the only two factors. I may have been misleading about how many things have taken me away from reading and blogging lately... But Dragon Age is all-consuming. I've started Mass Effect but I feel like nothing will ever replace Dragon Age in my heart.

The point is that I am sorry that I pretty much dropped off the face of the earth for a while, but I am alive and I want to keep this going. Just, I promise nothing. But I do miss blogging quite a bit. I like having a space to just talk about what I want and to just have that be okay, so I will try and post stuff intermittently, even if it is kind of like dragging around a dead horse. Though there will almost definitely be a post dedicated to Dragon Age and I am not going to apologise for that.

Any way, this is just to say that I am not dead or giving up on this whole thing, I'm just a bit preoccupied? And terrible at time management.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Monthly Round Up: October

Hello, guys! October has been a month of ups and downs for me, one of the ups being the blog! I actually did more than five posts. I'm pretty proud of myself. And I still managed to read quite a few books despite having to read slow, boring, old books for university. I chose the English Lit life, but that doesn't mean I have to like Daniel Defoe. The man is in desperate need of an editor. 

Books Read

Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan
The Golem and the Djinni by Helene Wecker
Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
Roxana (uni) by Daniel Defoe
The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud
The Fair Jilt (uni) by Aphra Behn
The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud

Total: 7

Books Reviewed

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud 

Book of the Month

If you guys know me at all, this should be completely obvious to you.

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater. HOW COULD IT BE ANYTHING ELSE?
Maggie is the queen of excellent books.

I also made a silly list of books to read for Halloween here, which is probably not much use to anyone now, but oh well! And the winners to the UKYA awards were announced here if you are interested. And I complain about university a bit here if you are so inclined towards whiny teenagers.

October was pretty uneventful event wise, but I was very lucky in that I got to meet one of my favourite authors, Zoe Marriott, at Walker the other week! It was so much fun and I finally got to get my books signed and she had a lot of interesting things to say about diversity and writing and all that cool stuff, so! Plus I got to see some bloggers again which is literally always good. It was a good day.

How was your October?

Friday, 31 October 2014

The Screaming Staircase review

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co #1)
Jonathan Stroud
August 29th 2013
Corgi Children's

When the dead come back to haunt the living, Lockwood & Co. step in . . .

For more than fifty years, the country has been affected by a horrifying epidemic of ghosts. A number of Psychic Investigations Agencies have sprung up to destroy the dangerous apparitions.

Lucy Carlyle, a talented young agent, arrives in London hoping for a notable career. Instead she finds herself joining the smallest most ramshackle agency in the city, run by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood. When one of their cases goes horribly wrong, Lockwood & Co. have one last chance of redemption. Unfortunately this involves spending the night in one of the most haunted houses in England, and trying to escape alive.

Set in a city stalked by spectres, The Screaming Staircase is the first in a chilling new series full of suspense, humour and truly terrifying ghosts. Your nights will never be the same again . . .

The Screaming Staircase, first book in the Lockwood & Co series by the wonderful Jonathan Stroud, was the perfect Halloween read for me this year. I imagine it is also just as good at other times of year, but spooky middle grade series kind of encompass the spirit of Halloween for me. Spooky, but not too spooky, and so much fun. I really adored this book and it's one of the few cases where I read the second book straight away because I just wanted to spend more time in this world with these characters.

There are so many good things about The Screaming Staircase, but for me, I think my favourite part was the main trio. Lucy, the narrator, is so excellent. I love her. She's just on the right side of grumpy (not that there is a wrong side of grumpy. I love grumpy characters. I feel them in my soul.) and she's also kind of a badass and she's a lot of fun to read about. Though, and this is just a little side rant, what is with girls in spooky-ish middle grade series like this hating girls who like 'girly' things or who are blonde. I mean, seriously guys. Get a grip. There's literally a point in one the books where Lucy describes a girl as being 'blonde, thin and pouty' which was enough to make her not like her. Valkyrie in Skulduggery Pleasant was the same and they're both some of my favourite characters but THIS REALLY ANNOYS ME. I can't say that I haven't been a bit like that, though. 

George and Lockwood are also completely adorable in very different ways. Lockwood is like a young Sherlock in that he has a fancy coat and wears too tight suits, but a lot more fun and sociable. He's the kind of person who you really want to be friends with and probably have a bit of a crush on (I'm pretty sure both Lucy and George have a bit of a crush on Lockwood. He is mega charismatic. I still can't believe my mum thought I'd fancy him, though. He's 14! I think. Or thereabouts.) And George is just hilarious. There is literally a point in which he takes a bath with a haunted skull in a jar. He's the research nerd of the group and he is not even remotely meant to be adorable as he's kind of disgusting and sloppy and mean, but I adore him.

I also really loved the world. It's basically the world as it is, but only 50 years The Problem started, so there are Visitors (ghosts) everywhere. However, it's only really children who have the psychic ability to see the Visitors, so the children get sent to fight the ghosts as part of psychical agencies. There's this really lovely old fashioned feel to it even though it is set nowadays, which just really suits the story. There also a darker side to the fact that it's just the children who get sent to do the most dangerous jobs, really, and it's that loads of kids die. It seems like kind people were nonchalant about children dying in this world, but I don't know if that was just me who noticed... Well I'm going to stop talking about that now because it seems like a bit of a touchy subject and I don't want to say anything stupid.

Anyway! There are so many wonderful things about Lockwood & Co. The characters are so fun, the tone is so lovely, there are genuinely quite creepy parts of the book and the world is so well built. It's just a great start to a really great series.
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