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.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Halloween Reads!

HELLO.

IT'S NEARLY HALLOWEEN AND I AM EXCITED. I love Halloween. It's like Spooky Christmas to me and I am all about it and to help get me in the mood for Halloween, I know I like to spend the week reading some spooky as heck books. SPOOKY AS HECK, I SAY. So I thought I would share with you, dear readers, some of my favourite spooky Halloween books to help us BOTH get into the spirit of Halloween. But I am always in the spirit of Halloween. THIS IS MY TIME.

HERE ARE SOME BOOKS:

The Name of The Star by Maureen Johnson


We start this list of Halloween books with the most wonderfully creepy and very good The Name of the Star. The best book in the series (out of two, so not much competition...) The Name of the Star combines Johnson's charm with her creepiness. Also, JACK THE RIPPER BUT GHOSTS. Now you're interested. If you haven't already read it.

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Just to mix it up so that this whole thing isn't novels, the comic anthology Through the Woods is one of the creepiest books I've read. I had chills, I tell you. CHILLS. Plus it's a beautiful book that you will want to keep in your house forever.

This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

This is Not a Test is the book I read for Halloween last year and it is MY FAVOURITE. Zombies. High schoolers. High schoolers trapped in a high school with zombies. EMOTIONS. DRAMA. ZOMBIES. How much spookier can you get. Really.

The Night Itself by Zoe Marriott


Okay, so The Night Itself isn't actively scary, but the Nekomata is one of the creepier monsters in an urban fantasy that I've read and I just like this series a lot and it seems Halloweeny to me.

The Skulduggery Pleasant series by Derek Landy

PREPARE YOURSELF for the Skeleton War by reading this Middle Grade series of books about a Skeleton Detective who was once involved in a war and ends up in another one I mean how much more Halloweeny can you get than a talking bloody skeleton that CAN DO MAGIC. What more do you want from me.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

Again, not an actively scary book, or creepy really, but LOOK at that cover. It just screams Halloween to me. Halloween is not just about being scared, guys. The spirit of Halloween takes many forms and some of them are YA urban fantasies about goths and vampires.


The Raven Cycle by Maggie Steifvater

Kind of just another excuse for me to talk about this series of all series. There IS a ghost in it so it's completely valid. Plus it opens with some dead people so. Treat yourself to a Halloween gift by buying yourself one of the best series you'll ever read.

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Kind of a no brainer, really. Anna Dressed in Blood is pretty much THE YA horror. Or it was when it came out. I'm not really up with the times these days I don't really know what's happening on the YA horror scene but this book is gross (SHE RIPS A MAN IN HALF IT'S AMAZING) and creepy. And just look at that spooky cover. So spooky.


Say Her Name by James Dawson (but Hollow Pike is pretty spooky tooooo)

If Say Her Name doesn't make you even a tiny little bit afraid of mirrors then clearly you a much braver person than me/you have no sense of fear/you're appreciation of your own reflection is stronger than your fear - in which case, respect (or you might actually be the mythological figure Narcissus, in which case you are both mythological and dead. What are you doing here.) If I had to take away one thing from Say Her Name, it would be 'don't fuck with Bloody Mary or she will FUCK WITH YOU'. Not an actual quote, but I think they should put that on the cover.

Dead Romantic by C J Skuse

Do you like Frankenstein? Do you like Weird Science? Do you like kind of weird but also kind of funny books with excellent covers about girls who try to construct the perfect boy and also adorable dog companions? LOOK NO FURTHER. 


CORALINE BY NEIL GAIMAN SO SPOOKY

'Cicely, why is Coraline in all caps when the rest of the book titles are normal and also Neil Gaiman's name is not Neil Gaiman So Spooky are you okay?'

To answer the question imaginary you has just posed to me, no. I am not okay.

Read Coraline, and you, too, can not be okay.

*hisses at the cover* THIS BOOK IS NIGHTMARES

The Diviners by Libba Bray

The Diviners might not be the kind of book you expect to actually creep the crap out of you, but if you ever read a Libba Bray book before you should know already that expectations should be throw straight out the window. If you like The Name of the Star, you will LOVE this. MORE GHOSTLY SERIAL KILLERS. CREEPY HAPPENINGS. THE 1920S. PERFECTION.

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

'pFFT, Good Omens? THAT book isn't scary, Cicely, you're just an idiot.'

I'm glad you said that, imaginary audience! Correct, Good Omens is NOT scary. It is a funny apocalypse book about the four horsemen and some children that noone I've even spoken to who has read the book actually cares about and an Angel and a Demon that everyone cares about. It's the best. And to me it screams Halloween, and this is my list and I'll do what I want with it.

Also I was trying to think of a 13th book to put on this list because I am lame like that and this was all I could think of.

HAPPY HALLO-FRICKING-WEEK MOTHERFRICKERS

Thursday, 23 October 2014

University and Identity

I think that title makes this sound like it's going to be a lot more fancy than it actually is, because it is me, and I don't do fancy. I do getting sometimes uncomfortably personal on the internet because I'm bad at talking about my feelings in real life.

So, let's get personal. Ish.

You know at this point that I am at university now. It is pretty much all I talk about. It might be annoying for you, but whatever, I am here, it is a thing that is happening in my life, I've not got much else to talk about it so. Deal with it. Though I will try to stick to books on the blog, being that it is a book blog and that comes with certain expectations. However, I am currently feeling some feelings, and this is also my place to talk about those feelings, so here we go. Feelings.

University has been okay so far. I'm not particularly unhappy, but I'm not particularly enthused and motivated either. That one might just be me though, so. But I hadn't really been able to put a label on how I felt until I went home for a few days. Going home, I realised that that was a place where I know who I am and what I am to other people. I know who to be and how to be and it is comfortable and effortless. I am lucky like that, to have a nice home where I feel comfortable and safe. University is a whole new ball game because I am away from home and away from that sense of self and security in who I am and how I am and how other people are.

I don't know who I am here.

This place isn't home to me, and I know that this is something I have to go through being a human person who is becoming an 'adult', whatever that means. It's just strange to feel detached from my home and my friends and that sense of being me. It's easy there, because those people know me and I don't have to figure out who I am in relation to other people and what they expect me to be. I am lucky in that I have a great group of friends and have had that group of friends for a long time, but I don't think that's really helped me here. I can't remember the last time that I had to actively make friends and seek company. And again, it's not that I am unhappy or lonely, it's just that I feel kind of dissonant. Like I'm drifting while everyone settles. Like I've missed my chance, and that I'm stuck now with what I've got, even though I know that that's true.

I also think that this is one of the reasons why I've taken to Twitter so much since I've been here. Twitter, like home, is one of those places where I know who I am and what I am to other people. It's another place where I feel secure in my sense of self, and where I can present myself in whatever way I choose to. It's more difficult to do that in real life, even if I did have the opportunity to do an overhaul on myself at the start of this whole endeavor. To be honest, I think that would have made it even more difficult for me to be comfortable if I didn't ever feel like myself. I don't think I could affect myself like that. I am who I am and that's cool, it's just that it's hard to locate yourself in a place where you don't have the reassurance of your peers because you don't really have peers in the sense that you used to. I think that that's possibly the reason why I enjoyed going out by myself to cinema the other day. I was alone in a place people couldn't really see me and judge and have those things have any consequences. I had a chance to locate myself and just be without having to think about it.

It's not that it's hard, it's just weird and kind of tiring at times. I know what kind of person I am, and unless we have one thing in common to talk about (TV shows, usually. TV shows are the basis of an unreasonable number of my friendships.) and even then I don't get close. It took about 6 years of me being friends with my friends for me to actually properly invite them round my house. I don't form close relationships quickly, which is why it's weird and kind of scary to see all these people be so attached to each other after only four or five weeks. I literally do not understand how they do it. And I'm just generally loathe to do actual things, which is probably another thing which inhibits my ability to get human contact. And I do have people, but they're just that. People who I say hello to in the corridor, people who I talk to in lectures, people who I eat food with. I think I just want to feel part of something.

I don't know. I'm think I'm just more unsure of myself. I've always been insecure and unsure, but here all the things that I was at home aren't the same things that I am here. People don't know me in the same way, possibly because I don't really let them. There is the potential to be whoever you want to be when you move out to a different place with different people, but I don't even know who I would want to be. Even my intelligence, which is one thing I was fairly comfortable with, is something now that I'm unsure about. Being faced with the thought of having to figure out who you are, and to have that person turn out to be completely unexceptional, boring, plain and quiet, generally unimpressive and dull is a terrifying thought, but I think it every day. What if I turn out to be a complete disappointment, mainly to myself? I don't like thinking about these things. I don't want to BE those things.

I don't know. But I think I've talked about myself enough for the time being. 

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Blue Lily, Lily Blue review

Blue Lily, Lily Blue
Maggie Stiefvater
October 21st 2014
Scholastic

There is danger in dreaming. But there is even more danger in waking up.

Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs.

The trick with found things though, is how easily they can be lost.

Friends can betray.
Mothers can disappear.
Visions can mislead.
                                                                           Certainties can unravel.


Look at me, posting a review for a book that actually recently came out! It's been a while since that last happened, but you know how it is with Maggie Stiefvater's books. The minute you finish them, you just kind of want to sit there for a while and absorb everything that you've just read, while feeling empty at the fact that it's over and then also wanting to tell everyone on the planet how good that book was. Blue Lily, Lily Blue was no different. It's an incredible book in an incredible series by an incredible author.

Maggie Stiefvater is an amazing writer, but I always forget just how amazing she is until I read another one of her books and am reminded. I feel like there will never be a book of hers that I actively dislike just because of how good she is at crafting sentences, characters, worlds. She is just so skillful and talented that it kind of makes me want to cry, but in a good way. She just has this way of being able to pinpoint a character or a location in such a way that you would never expect but makes perfect sense when you think about it. Things are described in such a way that are so peculiar and yet so accurate that you feel like you'll never get the same sense of things as you do the things in one of Maggie's books. I don't know if that made any sense, but you get what I'm saying. If you've read one of her books before then you know. You know what I'm talking about.

The other thing, specifically about The Raven Cycle, is that I always feel like they just shouldn't work. When you really think about it, a series of young adult books about four private school boys and a girl who comes from a family of psychics looking for the body of an old Welsh king along Ley Lines in a small town in Virginia is just kind of weird. But it just WORKS so damn well and it's such a perfect series and I constantly wonder why everyone hasn't read these books because they are so incredibly good. And they just keep on getting better. I even liked Adam's POV in this book! Usually I'm kind of meh about Adam, but CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT and BEING BONDED TO A MAGICAL FOREST and ADAM AND RONAN HANGING OUT.

I also loved that a lot of this book was about Blue. I love the whole gang, obviously, but I love Blue a lot so I was really happy to see more of her after The Dream Thieves (though I also love that book because I love Ronan a lot). It's just these characters and their relationships to each other matter so much to me. They have one of best and most interesting dynamics going on and they are so close to my heart I just want to keep them all safe. I'm not even remotely ready for the series to be over with only one more book. It feels like they should go on forever, having adventures, looking for dead kings. Blue and her Raven Boys. Now I really get how other people usually feel about series ending. It doesn't feel fair for this series to end.

And it's not just the characters, it's the plot, too. I can never tell where the books in this series are going to end up, not really because they're unpredictable as such, because I'm rarely shocked at what happens (although there is a THING that happens in this book that I am still kind of reeling about). It's just that you kind of get taken along for the ride in a way where you don't want to think about what's going to happen next because that would require being taken out of the moment of the book where you're at. Also, like with Maggie's writing, things rarely happen that you expect, but you realise that there was no other way these things could have happened. Everything is just... right.

Okay, I have gone way over into obsessive fangirling so I'm going to cut this short while I'm ahead before i start making even less sense. All you really need to know is that Blue Lily, Lily Blue is exactly as good as you thought it would be, even if there is no Ronan POV. Maggie Stiefvater is a gift. The Raven Cycle is brilliant. 


Saturday, 4 October 2014

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe review

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Benjamin Alire Saenz
February 21st 2012
Simon & Schuster

A lyrical novel about family and friendship from critically acclaimed author Benjamin Alire Sáenz.

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.


Aristotle and Dante is another book that I loved. I know, I've loved every book lately, but it's nice to read so many books in a row (like, 4?) that I have just adored. When I finished Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, the first thing I wanted to do was read it again. Straight away. Which I kind of did, because it's just so touching and sweet and not always easy, but always good.

I really loved both Ari and Dante, and I think that to read a version of the story told from Dante's perspective would be amazing (I think I saw somewhere that Benjamin Alire Saenz was working on it, but I might have dreamed that). Ari is kind of broody and gets into fights sometimes, and is angry without sometimes knowing why (so, basically, a normal teenager), but he wasn't the kind of character I was expecting him to be. Well, he was all those things, but he was so much more, and I enjoyed him having all these complexities and really getting to see who he was as well as who he made out he was. Tough, but vulnerable. Obviously in love with Dante, but in denial about his feelings. It was great reading about his journey of self discovery as well as friendship and love. 

Dante was also wonderful, and might be one of my favourite characters in a while. He poses a nice contrast with Ari as he's quieter and more sensitive, but incredibly stubborn. He also has this lovely innocence regardless of what he actually does and he's just so weird and sweet and ugh. I want to give him a cuddle, but he probably would resent that. Ari and Dante just work so well together, and I love their friendship and their love (I say love as in friendship love as well as like romantic feelings because they are both there). They have such a great dynamic.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is also just beautifully written. It's one of those books that just strikes a chord with people, I think. It struck a chord with me, any way. It deals so tactfully and wonderfully with themes of identity and family and friendship the kind of things that contemporary YA is usually about, I suppose, but that doesn't really matter. It covers all those things without being annoying or seeming pretentious, which I liked a lot. It just felt honest.

I wish I had a lot more to say about this book (I always wish I had more to say about a book unless I end up writing about 7 paragraphs about it and then I wish I had a *lot* less to say) because I did love it a lot. It's sweet and enjoyable, but doesn't feel fluffy (not that there's anything wrong with that I will always and forever love 'fluff' whatever the hell that is anyway), and it's diverse which I have been trying to work on a lot this year to probably limited results. The point of this whole thing is that Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a really great book that you should definitely read if you're in the mood for a contemporary about two boys who totally fall for each other.




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