Monday, 7 January 2019

Almost Midnight- mini review

As this book is a collection of two short stories, I thought I would give it a mini review! I read both of these stories in one sitting and loved them both. The first story, Midnight, follows Mags, a girl who has to watch her best friend and crush kiss a different girl on New Year's Eve year after year. This story was incredibly sweet and even though it was obvious where the story was heading I still loved it.

The second story, Kindred Spirits was my favourite of the two. It follows Elena, a Star Wars fan who decides to queue up days in advance of the midnight premiere of The Force Awakens. Despite expecting to camp out with a big group of other fans, Elena is disappointed to discover there are only two other people in line. As a Star Wars fan myself I found Elena relatable, and I loved all of the Star Wars references. Elena's mum constantly checking up on her was too relatable, as my mum did exactly the same thing when I queued for hours to get a good spot at a BTS concert. As I also look younger than I really am and love Star Wars, I think I would be good friends with Elena! I loved how even though the experience wasn't what Elena was expecting, she still enjoyed it. I also loved how Elena and Gabe had Star Wars in common despite being part of different social circles.
I loved these stories and recommend this book to anyone who wants a quick and light-hearted festive read!

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Review on The Great Sugar War (The Land Without Color #2)

After learning about how his Grandpa Alvin saved The Kingdom of Color, Brandon is determined to teach his classmates the truth about their history. When he discovers the ruins of the old color factory, he is shocked to find the skeleton of General Droww, and an old book describing the adventures of Brandon's Great Great Grandfather Otto, who had discovered The Land of Color long before Grandpa Alvin. With the help of General Droww and the Mighty Lion, Otto discovers that there may be an outside force propelling the war between The Kingdom of Color and The Kingdom of Shapes, and Otto must do anything to bring peace between the kingdoms once more.

So I decided to read this series for Series Crackdown, a reading event created by my friend Mel (TheBookMoo) where the goal is to read a series you've been putting off for a while in ten days. As I got sent the last two books in The Land Without Color series a while ago, I decided to reread the first book (my review for that one can be found HERE), and then read the other two books.

Instead of focusing on Alvin, this book takes place many years earlier, and follows Alvin's grandfather Otto, who had come across The Kingdom of Color after losing his way at sea. Otto soon finds Colonel Droww, who after having his ship sank, is helplessly lost at sea. Droww recruits Otto to be his assistant in the war between The Kingdom of Color and The Kingdom of Shapes, where the Sugar Soldiers are killing both the soldiers and the grasshoppers of Grasshopper Fields. This book felt different to the first one, as although the writing style was still very much middle grade, the plot itself seemed more serious. Where the first book was full of talking animals and a two headed dragon, this one focused on war and an elaborate plot to rule both kingdoms. I must admit that I did prefer the first book, and felt as if this one was a lot darker in it's themes.

I loved that some of the characters we met in the first book returned, such as Droww and the Mighty Lion. I loved seeing how different Droww was when he was younger, and learning more about things that were briefly mentioned in the first book. Something that I felt was lacking in this book however was strong female characters. Even though female characters were lacking in the first book too, Permy was a huge help to Alvin, and stuck by him the whole way. The only female character in this book was Aunt Nellie, an old lady who seemed to carry everything in her bag. She initially seemed like an interesting character, but sadly ended up doing nothing more than providing the men with items to help them on their quest. I also didn't like how she stayed behind to look after the babies on the last leg of the journey, as it seemed to imply that only men can be the hero's, and women have to stay behind to look after children. I think the book would definitely have benefited from a strong female soldier.

The book tended to drag in places, especially when they were discussing war tactics. I also felt as if the second half of the book could have been planned out better, as I found myself getting confused when characters who had only been briefly mentioned before became central to the plot. New characters were added too close to the end of the book, and I felt as if children could have a hard time keeping up with what was happening. I was also disappointed in the reveal of the main antagonist, as it felt very repetitive from the first book.

Even though I found parts of the book boring, I did love some of the more action packed scenes, particularly the fight against the Sugar Soldiers. I loved that we were told how the grasshopper fields had become the Sugar Desert, and I particularly loved the addition of The Kingdom of Shapes. The book was overall a little too confusing, and seemed to read more like an arc than a finished copy. Even though I know practically nothing about editing, it did have quite a few mistakes for a finished copy, and I think it could have been looked over one more time for grammatical errors and plot inconsistencies. It was an enjoyable book overall, and I am looking forward to reading the final book in the series!

  | Amazon Book Depository

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Review on Supernova

Four friends, one year.
Sex, drugs, rock n' roll
What can possibly go wrong?

April is struggling with anxiety, while Tom is dealing with his father's death, and the effect it's had on his mum. Meanwhile, April's best friend Jamie is struggling to keep up with her mother's high expectations and wants to just be able to be herself. Everyone has their own struggles, but will they be brave enough to share their deepest secrets with each other?

As Ericka was specifically looking for reviewers who had experience with anxiety, this book immediately caught my interest. There aren't enough YA books that focus on characters with anxiety, and as Ericka has experienced it herself, I was interested to see what her interpretation would be.

Before I start talking about the story itself, I just want to briefly mention the setting. I loved that the book was set in London, and although there wasn't many stereotypically British themes, it was nice to read about an education system I was familiar with and had gone through myself. Another thing that I loved was that the book is set in the 90's, bringing with it nostalgia in the form of The Spice Girls and listening to music off casette tapes. I was a little disappointed in the lack of references to 90's toys. Although the main characters were too old to play with toys, I would have loved if there had been a scene where Tom's little sister had been playing with a furby or tamagotchi. Something that I thought worked well with the book being set in this time period was the lack of internet. April couldn't just google her symptoms like we would today, and anxiety can often stop you from getting the help you need. Although I didn't start suffering with anxiety until around 2009, I was in a similar situation to April. Everyone would always describe me as being shy, and as they were adults who I thought knew better than I did, I didn't think there could be more to how I felt than that, and I didn't actually find out what was wrong with me until years later. It's important that mental health is talked about more now that we have the knowledge and technology.

Although I did relate to April, I felt as if her anxiety seemed quite mild. She seemed to only get anxious in stressful situations, whereas most people who's anxiety is more severe often feel anxious and have panic attacks over seemingly nothing. I have had panic attacks in my sleep and while relaxing in my own room, so I was a little disappointed that April never went through something like that, as it seems to be a lesser known part of anxiety. Up until her exam, April's anxiety seemed to get better, particularly after she started dating Tom. The idea of a boy being able to cure a mental ilness is ridiculous, and although April did up up having a panic attack in an exam, her previous safety behaviours such as checking for ways to get out of a room disappeared once Tom was her boyfriend. As I was led to believe that anxiety was the main focus of the book, I was disappointed in how little it was focused on.

Tom's storyline was a sad but important one. After the death of his father, Tom's mother allowed the grief to take over, and became dependant on an antidepressant that wasn't working for her. There is no way for a doctor to tell if an antidepressant will work or not without getting the patient to try it out, as some work for some people but not for others. Sadly Tom's mum was put on one that wasn't right for her, making her feel even worse. I loved how well grief and depression were dealt with, and how Tom and his mum finally got the help that they needed. An important theme that ran throughout the book was that it's always better to ask for help rather than suffering alone. I loved how all the characters were happier once they had someone they could trust with their problems.

One thing that I didn't like was how taking pills was seen as a bad thing. We see two instances where pills are bad news, first with Jamie taking an ecstacy pill, and then with Tom's mum's antidepressants. We later have April telling her mum that she doesn't want to take birth control, as she has come to associate pills with bad things. I felt as if this was a bad message to give to the reader, as a lot of people rely on medication to stay alive. If my dad stopped taking his blood pressure medication, it would lead to all sorts of health problems, and many people are in similar situations. It is true that some pills do more harm than good, but making all pills seem bad is a terrible idea.

I thought the romance was way too cheesy and clichĂ©. Tom and April lacked chemistry, and apart from a couple of sweet moments between them, all they really did was kiss. Honestly there were whole chapters dedicated to them kissing and it got boring and repetitive very quickly. The fact that I didn't enjoy the romance, which made up the majority of the book is one of the main reasons why I didn't enjoy this book as much as I thought I would.

Something that I never bring up in reviews but felt as if I had to in this case was the editing, which was terrible. As I read quite a lot of proofs I'm used to bad editing, but I know that these mistakes will be fixed before the book is published. If this had been a proof the editing wouldn't have mattered, but it was quite shocking that this book had been put on sale with so many mistakes. I can let a few grammatical errors slide, but there were times when I couldn't even work out what the author was trying to say. It was obvious it hadn't been professionally edited, and almost felt like a first draft.Although I realise self-published authors don't have a team of people working behind the scenes to make their book the best that it can be, and might not be able to afford to hire a professional editor, I still think that putting work on sale that contains so many errors seems unprofessional.

Another problem I had was with the diversity representation. Towards the end of the book, Jamie is revealed to be a lesbian, something that isn't really hinted at except for a girl in their school knowing a secret about her. This almost seemed like a plot twist, as we are lead to believe that Jamie will end up dating Yuki. I don't think a characters sexuality should ever be used as a plot twist, and although I loved that Jamie finally stood up to her mum, the way she came out was a little too over the top and not very believable.

I had several problems with Yuki, the first being that he had a Japanese name when he was Chinese. It felt as if Ericka threw him in for the sake of having a character who wasn't white. It seemed as if she had done little research on Chinese culture, and proceeded to throw every Chinese stereotype she could think of at Yuki. There were some distasteful jokes regarding Yuki's race, such as Tom joking that he was immune to chinese burns, and Tom's Nan feeding him nothing but rice and constantly getting his name wrong. Although these things were meant to be funny, I found them to be quite racist, and despite all this, Yuki's character was never developed properly, and he remained a side character who drove the others around and did his best to help Tom. I felt as if Yuki could have been an interesting character if he had been given his own storyline.

Unfortunately I didn't enjoy this book as much as I thought I would. Although I thought grief was dealt with well, and there were some parts of April's anxiety that I related to, there was just too much I disliked to be able to enjoy the book as a whole. I would strongly suggest to Ericka to get her work professionally edited in the future, as I thought the story had potential but just wasn't quite where it needed to be.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Review on The Dark Lands #3 War of the Sentinels

While in the midst of battle with The Dark Man and his army, Sundown suddenly finds herself thrown into an alternate Glorian. Sundown soon discovers she has fallen through a rift into the past, where people she knows to be dead are still living, and where no one seems to know who she is. Sundown is desperate to get back to her brother Webb, but she soon has even bigger problems. The rift she came through is still open, and it won't be long before The Dark Man finds a way to attack Glorian in both timelines.

So this books follows my favourite character, Sundown! As the previous books focused more on her brother, I was looking forward to learning more about Sundown. Most of the characters from the first two books were left behind in this one, but we were introduced to a few new characters, and some of the characters that had been around in the background of the previous books had more prominent roles. Out of the new characters, my favourite had to be Lucien. We are told in the second book that Lucien is dead, so it was a little bittersweet to see him in this book and knowing his fate. There are a few things that weren't properly explained in the first two books that were elaborated on, such as how Lucien died, how Kane got the scar on his face, and how the Sentinels had been wiped out. I loved how these minor details were explained, as it showed just how well this series has been planned from the start, and how nothing was just a coincidence.

There were a few things that I felt were a little too obvious. There is a big reveal near the end involving Sundown's fate that I had worked out towards the middle of the book that ruined the shock value. Although my predicion was slightly off, the end result was pretty much the same. I love plot twists that are able to surprise me, but sadly this wasn't one of them.

This book was a lot more wibbly wobbly timey wimey than the others, and although I love time travel stories, I was confused quite a lot of the time. I think being a little confused is almost inevitable with time travel stories, so although it didn't bother me too much, I did end up overthinking and trying to make sense of everything.

Something that I loved was how we were told more about The Dark Man. Up until now he had been completely mysterious, but this book delves into his past and shows us how he got to this point. I loved that he had had multiple lives on Earth as various evil dictators, causing as much war and chaos as possible throughout the centuries. It made him a much scarier character, as he was shown to be all powerful and have no remorse.

I loved all the new abilites that were introduced and I particularly loved that Sundown was a Time-Walker, and could manipulate her surroundings while time was frozen. I also loved the Acidics, Glorians who were able to control and manipulate fire. Out of all the abilities, I think I would want to be a Reclaimer, as I am constantly making stupid decisions that I wish I could take back!

There are still a lot of problems for the Glorians to solve, and I'm looking forward to reading the final book in the series to see how everything will end. I'm hoping that Fangus will become a more central character, as I found the fact he had changed sides interesting. I would love for him to return to Glorian or act as a double agent, as I'm sure he will have inside informaton on The Dark Man. I'm looking forward to seeing how The Dark Man will be defeated, and if Webb will eventually make it back to the real world

War of the Sentinels is now available to purchase!

  | Amazon Book Depository

Friday, 28 September 2018

Review on Jinxed

When Lacey Chu is rejected from Profectus Academy, she is heartbroken. She has dreamt of working for Moncha for years, the company that created the baku’s, robotic animals that can do everything a smartphone can and more. Then Lacey meets Jinx, a cat baku who is different from what Lacey has learned about baku’s. With Jinx’s help, Lacey finally makes it into Profectus, but it’s far from smooth sailing. Lacey soon comes to realise just how different Jinx is from other baku’s, and that having him as her companion might be putting her in danger.

As someone who is constantly checking her phone, the idea of a baku immediately appealed to me! I’m probably not the only one who struggles to go a whole day without social media, and the baku’s function is to keep people connected to the internet without disconnecting them from the real world. Honestly, I think owning a baku would instantly cure me of my smartphone addiction.

Lacey was an interesting character, and something that I loved about her was that she wasn’t perfect. She was constantly making bad decisions, and was pretty awful to her friends on several occasions. Most authors go with a likable protagonist, so it was interesting that Lacey wasn’t always likable. There were times when I was rooting for her, but also times where I felt bad for her friends. I particularly felt bad for Lacey’s best friend Zora, who was often left behind. As someone who has been replaced by friends, I empathised with Zora. Honestly if I was in Zora’s position, I would probably have cut Lacey out of my life altogether, as eventually it felt as if Lacey only contacted Zora when she needed something from her. I did however love the friendship between Lacey and her teammates, as although she had treated them badly, they still helped her when she needed them.

I wasn’t that keen on the romance between Lacey and Tobias. To me they lacked romantic chemistry, and the kiss between them seemed pretty random, as Tobias hadn’t really shown any signs of liking Lacey in a romantic way. I felt as if it was built up too quickly only to be dragged back down when Lacey fell out with her teammates.

I adored Jinx and his sassy attitude. If cats could talk, they would be exactly like Jinx. I loved how independent he was, and how he seemed to only help Lacey when he felt like it. I loved how Jinx eventually formed a strong bond with Lacey, and how they helped each other get what they wanted.

I loved the baku battles! Although baku’s are programmed not to fight, Profectus has a special rule where baku’s are able to fight each other in an arena built for that purpose. This was a bit like Pokemon crossed with robot wars, and I loved the teamwork that was involved, from the battles themselves to repairing the bakus in the aftermath. It was interesting to see how people reacted differently to their baku’s, with characters like Lacey and Ashley seeing them as a companion, while others only saw them as tools. We constantly replace our smart phones without having any sentimentality attached to them, so it was interesting to see how this changes for some people when they devices were in the form of robotic animals.

I loved that Lacey’s school focused on STEM subjects, and how Lacey was so interested in them. STEM fields have long been seen as jobs that men do, and statistics show that there are far less women working in STEM jobs than men. I loved how efficient Lacey was at companioneering, a type of engineering focused on working on the physical bodies of the bakus. Lacey was far better at this than the boys on her team, and I loved how it showed that these types of jobs aren’t just for boys, and girls can pursue STEM careers too.

I overall loved this book, and I’m looking forward to the next one in the series! The book ended on a huge cliffhanger, so I’m eager to find out what happens next to Jinx and Lacey. 

Jinxed is now available to purchase!

Amazon Book Depository 

Friday, 21 September 2018

Theatre Review- The Time Machine from Gone Rogue

Today I have something a little different! This year I attended the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for the first time and was lucky enough to catch a few shows. It was pretty overwhelming how many shows there were and I honestly wanted to see them all but as I was only in Edinburgh for a week, I would have needed a time machine to see them all- which brings me onto the topic of this post! The lovely people at Gone Rogue offered me a free ticket in exchange for a review of their performance of The Time Machine, and as I already review classics, I thought it would make an interesting blog post! Now I’m clearly not a professional theatre reviewer. My experience with theatre includes seeing a few West End shows, getting a GCSE in drama and knowing practically every song from every musical, but as I’ve never properly studied theatre I don’t know many theatre technical terms so I won’t be using many of those!

The majority of the plays I saw over the week had a proscenium stage, so the first thing I noticed was the seating arrangement. I did do a little research on stage set-up, but the closest example I could find was a thrust stage. However instead of the audience surrounding three sides of the stage, it only surrounded two. The audience was on the same level as the actors and consisted of just two rows. I loved this layout as it created an intimate atmosphere, and made the audience feel included. The stage area was used completely, and the actors performed to every audience member, making everyone feel included. My only criticism of the staging was that there were a couple of times when I couldn’t see part of the stage due to another actor being in the way. There was one point where I couldn’t actually see the shadow puppets due to the time machine and The Time Traveller being directly in front of them from where I was sitting, which was a little disappointing.

The play took aspects from the book, but also from the 2002 movie adaptation. I was happy to see that the majority of the play was based on the book, and the Eloi acted like they do in the books rather than the much more human versions from the movie. However there were also quite a few scenes from the movie that had

been adapted, including The Time Traveller having a name (the same name he had in the movie) and the same driving force from the movie, which is that The Time Travellers fiancé has died and he is trying to find a way to change the past and save her. It was clever how they were able to merge the movie and the book, but as the play was only 45 minutes long, it made me wonder if the movie aspects were actually necessary.

Something that I loved was how the actors didn’t rely on props, and often acted as props themselves. I particularity loved the forest scene, as even though the actors themselves were acting as the trees, it was obvious that The Time Traveller was struggling through and tripping over fallen logs and branches. I did however love the main prop, which of course was the time machine. I loved how it looked so home made as if The Time Traveller had used anything he could get hold of to create his  machine. The costume changes and construction and dismantle of the time machine were done quickly, and there was always something happening on stage to keep the audiences attention. Something else I loved were the Morlock costumes. The sound of them and the red glowing eyes were especially creepy, especially when they started heading towards you!

Something I always love about theatre is when something goes wrong and the actors have to find some way to

fix it. As the actors go through multiple costume changes, there was one scene where one of the actors hadn’t quite got her shirt on right, and one of the other actors helped her out while staying in character. There weren’t too many funny scenes in the play, so this happy accident brought some humour into the play. I also loved how they were able to fix the problem by improvising, as it showed they were able to diverge from the script and then go straight back into it without affecting the plot.

I was overall impressed with this performance, and how it took us on a journey through time in just 45 minutes. These young actors are clearly talented, and I would highly suggest going to see the show if you get the chance. I was also able to catch another Gone Rogue show, a performance of The Trail to Oregon from Starkid, which was

As a huge Starkid fan, I was impressed with their performance, and the actor playing McDoon even gave Joey Richter a run for his money! Hopefully, I will be able to return to The Fringe Festival next year to see what else Gone Rogue have to offer!

Monday, 10 September 2018

Reviewing the Classics #11 The Time Machine

Goodreads Summary:

A Victorian scientist and inventor creates a machine
for propelling himself through time, and voyages to the
 year AD 802701, where he discovers a race of
humanoids called the Eloi. Their gently indolent way
of life, set in a decaying cityscape, leads the scientist
to believe that they are the remnants of a once
great civilization.

He is forced to revise this assessment when he
comes across the cave dwellings of threatening
ape-like creatures known as Morlocks,
whose dark underground world he must explore
to discover the terrible secrets of this fractured society,
and the means of getting back to his own time.

After being invited by Gone Rogue to review their performance of The Time Machine (review on that will be coming very soon!) I thought I would reread the book. I remember reading The Time Machine in school, but as that was ten years ago (wow am I really that old?) I thought I would read it again and share my thoughts on it!
H.G Wells created the idea of the time machine. Without this book, Doctor Who and Back to the Future probably wouldn't exist, and really where would we be without time travelling Deloreans and Police Boxes? The book follows The Time Traveller, a man who's name we never actually learn. I loved this idea of keeping him anonymous, as it made him even more strange and mysterious. After successfully creating a time machine, The Time Traveller tests it out by travelling forward  to the year 802'701, where he discovers that humans are no longer what they used to be.

This is a short book that is packed with action and adventure. I’m a huge fan of time travel stories and different interpretations of what the future will be like. Something that I do find with time travel stories is that they can get confusing, so I was surprised with how simple the time travel aspects were in this book. I was grateful that there were no time paradoxes or characters meeting their future selves, which seem to have been created later on to confuse us.

I found it interesting that there weren’t many characters. Apart from The Time Traveller and Weena, an Eloi who he saves from drowning, no other characters are properly developed. The story is definitely plot driven rather than character driven, which with the book being so short works out perfectly. The story strives to tell us what will become of the human race if we don’t change our ways.

The political messages were interesting, especially the power structure between the Eloi and the Morlocks. The Time Traveller theorises that humanities desire for an easy and simple life has made their bodies small and weak, and they have forgotten how to do simple tasks such as making fire. The Time Traveller believes that the Eloi used the Morlocks to serve them, and forced them to labour underground, where their eyes became sensitive to the light, but were able to see in the dark. I loved the idea of the Morlocks becoming the strong ones, and rebelling against the Eloi, as with nothing constructive to do, the Eloi’s minds and bodies became weak. Although The Time Traveller sympathises with the Eloi, and shows the Morocks as terrifying, cannibalistic creatures, it was the Eloi who were the original enemies and brought their fate upon themselves. It made me wonder if The Time Travellers theories were true, and what the Morlock’s version of their history might be.

I loved the end of the story, as The Time Traveller went even further into the future where humans seemed to no longer exist at all. However there are still signs of life millions of years into the future, including giant crab-like creatures. I loved the idea that there would always be some sort of life on Earth even when the Earth itself was starting to die. I think we have all wondered what the end of the world would be like, so it was interesting to see H.G Wells’ interpretation. I loved that The Time Traveller was still curious about the future despite everything he had gone through. I also loved how The Time Traveller’s fate is up to interpretation, as he never actually returns to his own time after telling the narrator that he would prove his time machine worked. Not knowing what became of him made him even more mysterious.

I enjoyed this book and feel that it would be a good choice for anyone wanting a quick and action-packed read. It is short and to the point, and none of the scenes drag on as they tend to do in some other classics. I definitely want to read more of Well’s work in the future!

The Time Machine is now available to purchase!

 Alma Classics  | Amazon Book Depository