Monotony and Changing Times

This summer I have made more blog posts than I have in the entire year I have been writing this blog, but looking back, they are all reviews. 100%. Which for a book review blog sounds about right. Except when I actually got through and read my blog, I want something else. To be honest, I want to write something else – review after review after review is beginning to get a bit monotonous, and you know, that is pretty much the entire point of Goodreads. And Amazon review. Basically we don’t need another site for that.

That isn’t to say that I regret writing so many reviews. I think starting a blog can be hard and daunting, and sometimes you need something basic until you can work out exactly what it is you want to explore with your newfound platform. Writing reviews has allowed me to establish how I like to write, the voice I like to use – through it I have been able to work out where my comfort zone is, and in what ways I want to go beyond it. What I’m saying is that sometimes, monotony is good. It is the monotony of going to school everyday, learning the same subjects and half the time being bored out of our minds that gives us the skill and the knowledge to be able to go off to work, or university, and be able to become our own people. It is the monotony of practice, whether in sport or music or any area of life, that gives us the opportunity to take a skill in our own direction. It was the monotony of learning to read – tracing letters over and over from a Letterland worksheet; the increasing weirdness of yet another Biff, Chip and Kipper book, that shaped our love of books today. Monotony is important. But only if you then choose to do something with it. You have to choose to build.

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I go back to university next week and, as seen last year, Oxford isn’t really an environment which allows you a lot of free time to explore your own bookshelves. I spend most of my time in a library anyway, so to be honest when I get back to my room, my desire to read anymore isn’t particularly high. And to be honest, once I take extra-curriculars and having any semblance of a social life into account, I just don’t have time. I’m going back as a Master’s student this year as well, which means the work will be harder, more intense, and at this point I have no clue how my time will have to be divided. Which means reading will probably have to take a backseat. I think the same idea goes for a lot of people going away to university, whether as an Undergrad or a graduate. Change is daunting, but it isn’t something to be afraid of.

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So I’m going to use the opportunity to make a few changes here. I’m still going to write reviews. I love reviewing books – it’s basically just an opportunity to rant and fangirl wildly – but I want to explore other things too. I have no clue what, probably just more ramblings like this (I don’t even know what this is) but yeah. Change y’all.

~ Becca x

HEIR OF FIRE IS AMAZING

Why I loved Heir of Fire, and wish I loved The Assassin’s Blade.

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Because I did. Love Heir of Fire I mean. It was so good. I don’t want to say too much, because if you haven’t read it YOU NEED TO GO AND READ IT. So much world building; we finally get to see why everything is the way it is, both in terms of the role of magic, and in term’s of Celaena’s past. New characters – Manon is especially interesting I think because I don’t really know what her motives are going to be yet, and I’m just really really hoping Sarah J. Maas doesn’t just decide to make her completely good and moral by the end because I think there is just so much more that can be explored there; I’m trusting her though as she hasn’t let us down with anything else. Celaena especially develops as a character throughout the book, not only because we do get to understand her backstory, but also in the decisions she makes, and the way she views herself, once you get past the angst in the first half of the book (I mean, completely understandable and deserved angst, but still angst of the highest degree). And Rowan and Celaena. Oh my god. Yes. So much yes. For the first time we get a Throne of Glass book where romance isn’t one of the main story arcs, and as much as I loved watching Chaol and Celaena up to now, the platonic relationship between these two was absolutely wonderful, and so, so needed. It’s the relationship I wanted between Paige and Warden in The Bone Season, and it made me SO HAPPY. And then the ending – beautifully brutal. I can’t bear to wait a year for the next one.

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Which makes me think that I should actually try and finish The Assassin’s Blade, as a good was to get my Celaena fix during the wait. But the thing is, I really struggled with it. I don’t know why, but I ended up putting it down half-way through, having taken a good month or so to get there, and just never had the desire to get pick it up again. Which makes me sad. I feel like I couldn’t connect with Celaena in anywhere near the same way as I do in the actual novels, and it just felt clunky and rushed and I don’t know. It put me off so much that I actually went across London to Foyles so as not to have the novella that came as bonus material in the Waterstones editions. If anyone has any ideas how to make me like it I will love you forever – I am determined to try it again soon, but in the meantime, I’m going to sit here and think about Rowan.

~ Becca x


Buy it, buy it – no, seriously, go buy it:     UK     US

Free Ebooks: The Good – Stray by Andrea K. Höst

So starting off on a high note for the free ebook world, we have Stray, the first in the Touchstone series by Andrea K. Höst. I really enjoyed this book! Written in diary form, it tells the story of an Australian highschooler who accidentally walks through a tear between worlds. Stranded on an apparently abandoned planet she tries to fend for herself – surprisingly well actually; it’s nice to see a lead character using her brain to do what she can (foraging fruit, making wool blankets) but also accepting that she has huge flaws in her knowledge. And certainly things don’t go great for her. I really enjoyed this, it gets boring reading characters who are thrown into alien situations and are suddenly able to survive perfectly without any previous training or knowledge, but due to their pure awesomeness. Not so here – Cass’s future only really looks up when she’s rescued by a group of psychic space ninjas, taken to their planet and eventually ends up entangled in their mission to close the tears between worlds and fight off the monsters produced by them. Let me say it again: psychic space ninjas.

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The thing that I really enjoyed about this was it’s believability (alternate planets and telekinesis aside obviously). The whole world is very well thought out. There is an entire history to the people she ends up with which is really very intricate, with the Tarans being descended from a previous race, the Muinans – it’s both too complicated to go into here and too integral to the story line, but it really does fit together well. I’m also interested to know how Earth fits into the mix as that question has yet to be answered. I have a feeling that, as per usual, us Earthlings will end up being some superior original or something, but I’m hoping that Höst is a bit more creative than that.

The characters themselves are diverse. Cassandra is a typical teenager: sarcastic, outspoken and easily aggravated, but she also has a very strong set of values which she follows, even when it’s not in her best interest, without becoming sickeningly altruistic. There’s also a ton of science fiction references packed in there, from Doctor Who to Stargate which appealed to my inner nerd, and made me appreciate certain bits of the humour even more. In contrast there are the Setari (the psychic space ninjas) who are far more formal and reserved. And yet they aren’t just clones of one another. Each has a very distinct personality, from the chivalrous, caring leader Maze, to the stoicism of Ruuel.

So all in all I really enjoyed this book. It’s not necessarily up there with some of the oh-my-god-I-must-buy-the-next-book-as-soon-as-it-comes-out series, but probably will buy the rest of the series at some point. I’m really intrigued to know what happens. And considering the first one is free, I’m seriously impressed.

~ Becca x


Find it here:      UK     US

Percy Jackson and the Olympians – Rick Riordan

A lot of people would tell me that I am far too old for these books. And true, I probably should have read them years ago. True, I got some very weird looks as a 21 year old standing in the 9-12 section of Waterstones. But I don’t care because they are AMAZING. Perhaps after two months away from my subject I was getting withdrawal symptoms, but I raced through the entire series in about two weeks. So addictive. I actually had to take an emergency trip to the bookstore because I needed the next ones so badly. Twice. Aah. The Greek mythology is surprisingly accurate,  taking into account that it’s set in the modern day, which was appreciated by this Classics student, and the stories are well and truly entertaining. The plot is fast paced, the characters are lovable; just yes. I feel like a lot of the books I review I either love or hated, probably because those are the ones on which there’s something interesting to actually say – regardless, the pattern seems to be continuing here, because I loved these.

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The Percy Jackson and the Olympians series tells the story of Percy Jackson, a boy living with his mother and stepfather in New York, when he finds out that his father is actually Poseidon, Greek god of the sea – the ancient myths are real, and he is a demigod. Along with his friends from Camp Half-Blood, a motley combination of demigods, satyrs, driads, centaurs and giant hellhounds, he must save the world from the evil Titan Kronos, who is attempting to come back to life and destroy the gods…

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Percy himself is such a goofball. It’s great because he is not a perfect protagonist. Whilst he is brave and loyal, and smart when he needs to be, he often makes idiotic mistakes, says stupid things, or completely misses the point. Mainly with Annabeth. I love Annabeth. She is by far my favourite character. I’m now reading the Heroes of Olympus series which follows on from Percy Jackson (maybe a review on them to come, we’ll see), and I think the struggle I had with the first two was almost entirely down to the lack of Annabeth. Daughter of Athena, the brains of the outfit, feisty with a strong, independent mind, the series really would be nothing without her. She perfectly plays off Percy’s laidback, goofballish attitude. And whilst the relationship between the two is a ship that practically sails itself, it’s not the main focus of the books at all. It’s barely a sidenote until right at the end, because, dude, they’re 12 in the first one, please don’t try and get them to date. So yeah, no dating until 16 is good. And Rick Riordan’s brilliant shooting down to the many, many people who asked if Percy and Annabeth will get married by the end of Heroes of Olympus makes me so happy – they’re 17, STOP BEING RIDICULOUS. Yay Rick. (I’ve spent like 20 minutes scrolling thorough tumblr though and still can’t find it :( )

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So yeah, do it. Get over you’re fear of being horrendously judged for reading books aimed at elementary school and go have one hell of a time. And please, please persevere with it. The first book is a bit underwhelming, and feels like it’s aimed at kids (which is porbably why I never managed to read it in the first place) but get to Sea of Monsters, and seriously, you won’t regret it.

~ Becca x


GO GET IT NOW:     UK     US

Ready Player One – Ernest Cline

This book was really, truly, enjoyable. It’s not something I’d usually go for either. It’s not YA for starters, it’s not a stereotypical dystopian, romance is not the driving factor. Which isn’t to say it is devoid of such factors. The world is post-fuel-crisis with the majority of the population being poor and living in ‘stacks’ of caravans. The protagonist, Parzival/Wade does have his romantic life explored, but it is in a far less idealised manner than in many of the books I read. The fate of the world does not hinge on his epic romance – if anything his romantic interests are more of a hindrance than a help.

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Ready Player One is set in a world where the horrendous reality of real life is avoided by many in favour of a virtual world known as the OASIS – a fully immersive virtual reality created by computer genius, Halliday. And this world is particularly inviting: upon his death Halliday revealed that an easter egg was hidden within the game, the finder of which would inherit the fortune he left behind. This then led to a frantic hunt across the virtual universe, by many, and after years of no progress, by the persistent few known as gunters. One such gunter, 18 year old Wade Watts is the first to unlock the quest. Whilst he attempts to complete the quest and find the final easter egg, he  must go head to head not only with his fellow gunters, but with the Sixers, who work for a company wanting to monetize the game.

The premise as a whole was inviting. Video games and nerd culture galore. The entire book is rammed full of eighties references – the entire plot is hinged on them. Having a vague concept of early video games and eighties pop culture makes the book so much more enjoyable. To be honest, I’m not sure my knowledge was anywhere near good enough to appreciate all of the nuances, but I could at least follow what was going on! And even if you have absolutely no clue what happened in the eighties, the book is fairly good at guiding you through.

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The book wasn’t predictable. I mean it was, but deliberately. The blurb implies that Wade is probably going to be the one to find the easter egg, and from the first few chapters you can be relatively sure of it, but to be honest I just didn’t really care. It was how he got there that was interesting, the role the other characters would play, and what the different parts of the quest would be. In the same way as playing a lot of video games is (or at least the ones I’ve played, which admittedly is relatively few because my skills are entirely lacking). You know that in the end the main character is probably going to win/defeat the bad guy/save the world, because that’s kinda the point, but the storyline of the game is still fun because you get to find out how they do it. It’s also nice that the main character isn’t all that likeable. Nor that dislikable. He’s just kind of average. And not in that annoying, ‘Bella Swan is an average girl and in making her so I’ve decided to take away every inch of personality’ way. He’s kind of a dick. Some of the time. Other times he’s lazy, or distracted by hormones (I mean he is 18) or pretty damn kickass. He’s pretty believable and that makes a nice change.

Also I want all the stuff. You’ll see.

So yeah, if you’re looking for something different, this is probably the one to go for, especially if you like video games. Or the Eighties.

~ Becca x


Take a look:     UK     US

BookBub

Following on from my post about The Boss, I realised just how many free ebooks I have stacked up on my Kindle, and thought that now might be a good opportunity to show y’all the joys that the free ebook world has to offer.

Let me introduce you to a wonderful website: BookBub.

This absolute gem of a website collates together all of the cheap/discounted books available from reputable sellers, across a range of devices, including kindle and nook. You can either scroll through the website itself at your own leisure or sign up. Signing up means that you will be sent a daily email based upon your chosen interests, with a selection of books which they’ll think you’ll like. Now I was initially quite wary of doing this, thinking that I’d just end up ignoring their emails and eventually getting annoyed, but that actually hasn’t happened. I actually read their emails daily. It’s great – not only does it open up a whole range of free, less mainstream books without you  having to trawl through pages and pass on Amazon, but it also alerts you when more well known books are going for great deals. The Silkworm was on their a couple of days ago, and I also saw We Were Liars for £0.99, which was almost annoying since I already own the paperback. So all in all, worth a look at least.

Now I know what you’re thinking: aside from those cheap mainstream titles aren’t most of those ‘free’ books pretty awful? And to you I say no! True, they can be rather hit and miss – but if you aren’t enjoying the story three chapters in there is nothing stopping you from putting it down, and since they’re free, you haven’t lost anything, except maybe a bit of storage space on your kindle. On the other hand, you might find something that’s your new thing. I think it’s perhaps one of the most accessible ways to get into a new genre too, especially one you’re not sure you’re going like. I have a few cowboy romances waiting to be picked up that I would no way have bought in a shop, but am rather intrigued by now that I don’t have to pay for them. And if you’re going away on a budget, you’re holiday reading is sorted.

The Boss – Abigail Barnette

I just wanted to mention this book briefly. If you haven’t read Fifty Shades of Grey yet (although I think most of the world already has), don’t bother. Just wait a couple of months for the film to come out and go and rant at that instead. It will be quicker. If you are absolutely desperate to read dubious yet smutty writing and have had your fill of fan fiction written by twelve year olds, read this instead.The plot is relatively standard: twenty-something, personality-less girl falls in love with her drool-worthy boss and enters a sexual awakening. Yes, the Sub/Dom stuff is still there. And even though the age difference is a lot weird, if you can get past that it’s a darn sight better than 50 Shades of an Abusive Relationship. Because, y’know, they’ve developed the ability to actually communicate, and to use the word cock instead of some weird euphemism. Thank goodness.

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Also, be warned. There’s four of them, not that I’ve so far gone beyond the first. But the first IS free on kindle, so what do you have to lose.

~ Becca x


Where to get your smut:     UK     US

Cinder – Marissa Meyer

Well this was fun. I had been waiting a while to read this book, and it was way up there on the *congratulations you’ve finished exams do all of the reading* list. I’d heard good things about this book, and just from the premise alone you can tell that fun is the best way to describe it. Cinder is not so much a retelling as a reworking of Cinderella set in a futuristic city, which appears to be some sort of weird-Firefly-remeniscent fusion of American and Chinese culture. And Cinderella is a cyborg. Need I say more?

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I will admit that this book was fairly predictable – I had inklings of the final revelation pretty much from the start, and had solidified my theory by the whole burning dream thing that happens a few chapters in. Like seriously, how did no one else see it? It’s so bleedin’ obvious. Come on people. I have to say though that it really didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book. The world is fascinating, and the characters are well thought through. Cinder and Prince Kai may have been a teeny bit irritating at times, but no more so than their versions in the original fairytale, and you have to feel rather sorry for Kai being thrown in at the deep end. The Lunars were a concept that I wasn’t expecting when I picked it up. I know they’re in the blurb but I wasn’t expecting them to be such a central part of the plot and so, I don’t know, annoyingly kniving? JUST GO AWAY ALREADY. Yes I know it’s the title of the series, but that is not the point. It was still cool. Oh, and Iko. Iko is priceless.

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Once again I say this book was fun. A darn sight more fun than Cinderella ever was if you ask me.

~ Becca x


Where to buy the book:   UK   US

It’s Been A While…

And I’m back – it’s been a while. I know, I know, I’m useless. Oxford Finals hit hard, and left me no time to read, let alone write. But I now have a degree, and have had well over a month at home to recuperate, and, more importantly crack on with the huge pile of books I have been accumulating during the time I wasn’t allowed to read them.

It’s been wonderful to not have to revise anymore! And whilst I definitely miss uni, I’ll be going back in October for a Masters – hopefully I’ll be a bit more successful at writing this time around. I’ve already read a bunch, enjoyed almost every minute of it. I’ve read books that have been waiting by my bed throughout exams, with me desperate to open them. I’ve reread books I wasn’t thrilled with in my younger years, and fallen in love with some if not others, even if I do look a bit strange digging through the 9-12 section of Waterstones! And with a month and a bit of summer left to go, and my weakness for buying books, I’ve got a lot to get through.

~ Becca x

The Bone Season – Samantha Shannon

The short review: read it. It’s so good.

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The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon takes place in the future of an alternate universe. Whilst the places we hear about are recognisable from our own world, in the world created by Shannon the appearance and then outlawing of clairvoyance, or the ability to access and use the spirit world, sent the universe along a different path. The story follows Paige Mahoney, who is part of the criminal underworld which is the only real safe haven left for clairvoyants in Scion London, until she is kidnapped and taken to the hidden city of Oxford, ruled over by a mysterious race called the Rephaim.

With a nineteen year old protagonist, The Bone Season does not feel like YA fiction, and yet it is just as accessible as anything from that part of the bookshop. Shannon’s writing is clear and easily drunk in, yet it is at no point patronisingly dumbed down. it claims to be neither YA nor adult fiction, and to be honest, why should it? Books now are too forcibly categorised, with adults feeling embarassed to admit to reading YA fiction, and teenagers daunted by the endless shelves of adult books claiming to be serious and thought-provoking when half of them are just Mills and Boon. The Bone Season reminds us that the line between the two is not so clear as shelf assignment might lead us to beleive.

Yet the thing I enjoyed most about this book was the way Shannon built her settings. Being in Oxford myself, I’m slightly biased here, but the city was actually RIGHT (although she is a St Anne’s graduate so I’d expect nothing less…). It’s hugely frustrating watching or reading about things set in Oxford, Lewis, Morse and the rest, and everything being wrong. NOT ALL ROADS GO PAST THE RADCLIFFE CAMERA. Argh. It angers me. And then here I have this very developed story where the setting was so detailed, and so accurate that I could actually imagine where they were, joining up the paths they were taking and having an idea in my head of what they actually looked like. Take Paige’s first walk in Magdalen for instance. Not only was the layout of the college accurate, but even the crest was the real Magdalen crest. Samantha Shannon, I think I love you. Granted, this mostly just applies to me, or anyone else living in Oxford I suppose, and you all probably think I’m crazy, but it really was refreshing.

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And this attention to detail reverberated throughout the book. The use of Victorian slang, modified slightly over time, authenticated the setting, and her immaculate understanding of how clairvoyancy worked, and how the classes fit together meant that I actually knew what was going on, and who was what, and I didn’t have to spend every other page flipping back to the chart at the front of the book.

The only gripe I do have was during the ending, so kind-of spoilers for anyone who doesn’t want to hear them. We almost got all the way through the book without turning it into a romance. Sigh. True, love was touched upon, and I think that’s important as it’s something unavoidable in human existence, but did we really have to have a major love story? I almost threw the book against the wall. To be honest, I’d seen it coming, but we were almost finished and I was really holding out hope that we could keep Paige as our lead actor without her needing a significant other? Still, it did work I suppose. And I think it could be an interesting theme to explore in later novels (I know there’s definitely going to be a sequel, but I think Shannon has seven books planned?). Just a bit of a pet peeve of mine, so if anyone knows any YA dystopiany-fantasy-adventure books that don’t center around romance send them my way!

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All in all, the Bone Season was great. I mean, when the only thing I can find to complain about is a minor aspect which isn’t even a real flaw in the plot, the book has to be pretty darn great. At 21 Samantha Shannon has made a spectacular debut, and it makes me think that maybe I should start catching up…

~ Becca x