Making Up for Monday #3

Monday, 27 July 2015

This is a meme hosted by An Avid Reader, A Wannabe Writer. Every week there is a theme or game, or something fun to do that week. 

This week's question: If you could go to dinner with any author (dead or alive), who would it be and why?

I had to really think about this question, and I ended up discussing it with the family too, to see who they would like to meet. If you're interested, answers included Max Hastings and Jane Austen! 
In the end I decided I would like to meet F. Scott Fitzgerald. Apart from the fact that he wrote one of my favourite novels ever, he also seemed like a really cool guy to know, with a crazy life of partying and travelling!! I think having dinner with Fitzgerald would be an awesome experience!!


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Book Review- Changeling

Thursday, 23 July 2015
Title: Changeling 
Author: Philippa Gregory
Published: May 24th 2012
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 256
Series: Order of Darkness #1
Genre: Historical Fiction, Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance

Rating: 2.5/5

Dark myths, medieval secrets, intrigue, and romance populate the pages of the first-ever teen series from #1 bestselling author of The Other Boleyn Girl.
Italy, 1453. Seventeen-year-old Luca Vero is brilliant, gorgeous—and accused of heresy. Cast out of his religious order for using the new science to question old superstitious beliefs, Luca is recruited into a secret sect: The Order of the Dragon, commissioned by Pope Nicholas V to investigate evil and danger in its many forms, and strange occurrences across Europe, in this year—the end of days.
Isolde is a seventeen-year-old girl shut up in a nunnery so she can’t inherit any of her father’s estate. As the nuns walk in their sleep and see strange visions, Isolde is accused of witchcraft—and Luca is sent to investigate her, but finds himself plotting her escape.
Despite their vows, despite themselves, love grows between Luca and Isolde as they travel across Europe with their faithful companions, Freize and Ishraq. The four young people encounter werewolves, alchemists, witches, and death-dancers as they head toward a real-life historical figure who holds the boundaries of Christendom and the secrets of the Order of the Dragon. -Goodreads

I bought this book on ebook when it was released in 2012, and I had very high hopes for it. I had heard good things about Philippa Gregory's adult historical fiction novels, and I hoped she would transition to Young Adult smoothly. Unfortunately she seems to have dramatically reduced the level of her writing, to fit what she thinks is the YA level. This whole novel is written extremely simply, like she thinks we readers wouldn't be able to understand anything too complex, which is very disappointing. YA isn't a dumbed down version of adult books, and should never be treated as such.
This really got my reading off to a bad start, but it all went downhill from the very first line, which is utterly appalling.  "The hammering on the door shot him into wakefulness like a hand-gun going off in his face." WTF, it reads like something a student might write when trying to make their story read better, and to give it a punchy beginning, but instead ends up being clunky and cringeworthy! I actually read that line two or three times just to make sure I had read it correctly!!
The characters are not amazing in this novel either, they are disappointingly one dimensional and difficult to care for. Luca the main character I found difficult to get to grips with. I flipped very quickly from hating him and the things he said and did, to actually almost liking him, then flipping back again. Also the whole changeling thing makes no sense, it's mentioned like its true, then the next scene it's denied, so I had no idea what was going on at all!
The other male main character is Frieze, who is Luca's servant, who has slightly more personality than Luca, he can be sarcastic and snarky, but he still wasn't particularly likeable, he could actually be quite rude too, and I struggled to like him!
The two girls were very non-descript too, Isolde is so bland, I'm actually struggling to think of anything to write about her, or her personality. I really wanted to love her, it started out ok, when she defended herself against the advances of her brother's friend by knocking him out, and standing up to her brother, but she was soon turned into a weak girl who fluttered her eyelids at Luca.
The only character I could feel myself warming to was Ishraq, who is Isolde's servant and companion, she is very intelligent and brave, but again I just struggled to feel invested in her and her welfare, I just didn't care about her, or any of the characters to be honest!!
The tempo of the plot was quite odd. The characters spent a lot of time at the Abbey in the beginning of the novel, even though the blurb talks about them all travelling together. It took about 70% of the novel to actually reach the travelling together part, it seemed to drag on for quite a while! 
The whole book also seemed to have a lot of dialogue, and not a lot of action, meaning it dragged on even more, as very little actually happened but lots of talking. 
Overall I was quite disappointed with this novel, I had hoped for a lot better from Gregory and she failed to deliver. I don't think I will bother to read any more of this series, as I don't really care much for the characters or for what happens to them next.


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This Week in Books 22.07.15

Wednesday, 22 July 2015
This is a weekly meme hosted by Lipsyy Lost & Found in which we can share what we're reading, now, then and next!

Now

Pride and Prejudice- Jane Austen
This is a re-read for me, and I just decided to pick it up on a whim after seeing the BBC adaptation with Colin Firth on tv again, it reminded me just how much I love this book!
















Then

Changeling- Philippa Gregory
I just finished this book last week, it's a YA historical novel by Gregory, who is very famous for her adult historical fiction novels, and I had high expectations for this novel! 
Review to come!!!















Next

BZRK- Michael Grant
I've had this book in my TBR pile for a couple of years, I bought it right after I read the last book in Grant's Gone series. If this series is as good as the Gone series was, I won't be able to put it down!!













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Making Up for Monday #3

Monday, 20 July 2015

This is a meme hosted by An Avid Reader, A Wannabe Writer. Every week there is a theme or game, or something fun to do that week. 

This weeks question: If you could meet any book character, who would it be and why?

I actually spent a lot of time thinking about this question, there are so many characters I would love to meet, almost too many, making this a really hard question. So I've decided to go with the main character of the book I'm currently reading which is Pride and Prejudice and the character of Elizabeth Bennet. To be honest, who wouldn't want to meet Lizzie, and discuss all things boys, books and life in general with her. She's funny, caring and strong minded, and I would like to not only meet her, but be best friends with her!! 
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Fictitious Friday #1

Friday, 17 July 2015
Fictitious Fridays' is a new weekly meme hosted by Aiysha at Mortal Moments



Each week a specific subject will be chosen for the spotlight for example: favourite fiction book, character, place, food and many more you will have to wait and see!

This week's topic: Favourite Fictional Consecutive Series Covers

We are all guilty occasionally (or more often) of judging a book by its cover, and I am especially bad at this!! I have been known to buy books, and sometimes even whole series based solely on their covers, having no idea what the actual book is about!! As a result, this list could be extremely long, but I'm going to do as the host Aiysha has done, and give my top three! Here they are:

1. Pure Trilogy by Julianna Baggott

This has always been one of the first YA series I recommend to people when they ask, and I'm so glad that the covers are just as stunning as the books themselves. Although dystopian/apocalyptic novels are very overdone in YA, I know I will come back to read this one again and again!



2. Caster Chronicles by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

I love the colour scheme and the way the typography of the title adds to the sense of magic and beauty that runs through the novels themselves. The spines are also gorgeous and look fabulous on my shelves!!



3. Seraphina Series (although there are only two released so far, shhhhh!) by Rachel Hartman

This picture isn't actually the same covers as the ones I own, but these are so pretty that I decided to include these covers instead of the ones I actually own. I just love everything with dragons and mythical beasts in it, and these books don't disappoint, and who doesn't love a book cover with a dragon on it!!!




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Author Interview- Alex Pearl | Blog Tour

Thursday, 16 July 2015
*This is my stop on the blog tour for the novel Sleeping with the Blackbirds by Alex Pearl. Enjoy!!*

About the Book:


Eleven-year-old schoolboy, Roy Nuttersley has been dealt a pretty raw deal. While hideous parents show him precious little in the way of love and affection, school bullies make his life a misery. So Roy takes comfort in looking after the birds in his suburban garden, and in return the birds hatch a series of ambitious schemes to protect their new friend.
As with the best-laid plans, however, these get blown completely off course - and as a result the lives of both Roy and his arch tormentor, Harry Hodges are turned upside down. While Harry has a close encounter with God, Roy embarks on a voyage of discovery that draws in and impacts on everyone around him, including the local police, his headmaster and the national media. Where will it all end, and will life ever be quite the same for Roy Nuttersley?

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About the Author:


Who is Alex Pearl?
It's a question I often ask myself. Well, basically I'm a short-sighted bloke aged 50, which I suppose is pretty old really. And for 27 years I have worked at various advertising agencies and marketing companies as something called a copywriter. This means I have to sit in an office and write the words that appear in adverts, leaflets and letters. It's a funny old job. Sometimes it can be fun when, for instance, you have to make a TV or radio commercial. But this doesn't happen very often. At other times it can be rather dull and frustrating when a client rejects your work that you created and insists that you do something far less interesting.
Outside work I'm a husband and a dad, and I live in North West London with my wife and two children. We don't have any animals in our house but we do see lots of birds in our garden. And yes, we do have a bird table, but only the one, and this is usually attacked by the squirrels before any bird can get to it.

Author Interview:

Outline your novel for us and tell us what makes it unique
The story revolves around an ungainly 11-year-old schoolboy named Roy Nuttersley. Roy suffers the most ghastly parents who constantly bicker and barely notice the existence of their introverted son. School life is barely more tolerant, as Roy seems to have no friends at all and attracts the attention of Harry Hodges, the school bully and his sidekicks. Roy’s only solace comes from looking after the birds in his suburban garden. And in return, the birds attempt to help out their friend. But as with all the best-laid plans, these backfire hopelessly and turn the lives of both Roy Nuttersley and his arch tormentor, Harry Hodges upside down - but in a surprisingly good way.
I think this is the only story ever written in the English language to feature a bird poohing squadron of Canada geese. So I guess that makes it unique.     
What made you decide to write Sleeping with the Blackbirds’?
I wanted to write a story for my kids that they’d find entertaining while also showing them that we’re all shaped by our own back stories. I also wanted to write in a slightly old fashioned, whimsical style that employed colourful language.
Can you share your experience of publishing ‘Sleeping with the Blackbirds’? who is the team behind it?
I employed the services of PenPress to publish the book in 2011. But I wasn’t happy with the cover design so gave this to John Mac, the photographer and Lyndon Povey, the typographer to conceive. They produced a first class cover that went on to pick up a gong at the 2013 Authors DB Book Cover Awards. PenPress did a decent job on the production of the book but nothing in terms of marketing. And their press release and editing services left a lot to be desired. I parted company with PenPress in 2014 and republished it in paperback through CreateSpace, and then employed Red Button publishing to reformat the book for Kindle and Kobo. Red Button are very professional and did a very good job for a very modest fee.
What would you love to write someday but haven’t yet?
I’d love to write an adult novel and have a germ of an idea for a story that combines two genres: crime and the supernatural.
What are your favorite books and authors?
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Great Gatsby by Scott Fitzgerald
Atonement by Ian Mcewan
Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake
What are two things people might be surprised to know about you?
I am a painfully slow reader and have the world’s worst sense of direction. Thank heavens for satnav.
When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing?
I love cinema, classical music, good food and a little light gardening. My idea of luxury is spending time with my wife and kids and chilling out in the garden with the Sunday papers.
Do you like to multitask while you write? Why/Why not?
I’m not really the multitasking sort. When I write, I usually write solidly in silence.

What is the best feedback you've ever got?
The best feedback I received was from George Layton, the author, actor and screenwriter. I left the manuscript with George and he very kindly read it on the train to Manchester the next day. He really liked it and said that he couldn’t have written it himself. In the next breath he offered to write a byline for the cover. More importantly, he also made a very useful suggestion. He quite rightly pointed out that Roy’s parents needed a very clear reason for behaving as they did. Without wanting to spoil the story for those who haven’t yet read it, all I can say is that it took a perceptive writer like George to spot this fault in the narrative. And once he raised this, I could see straight away that he was absolutely right. It was something I needed to address, which, of course, I did. In fact, as a result, I managed to create one of my favourite scenes in the book in which the couple’s motive is dramatically and inadvertently revealed. So I have much to thank George Layton for, other than his incredible kindness and generosity, of course.
What advice would you give to new writers?
Don’t let harsh criticism or rejection from literary agents put you off or get you down. Remember that all the great writers in this world have been rejected at one time or another. Even J K Rowling had Harry Potter turned down by agents before Bloomsbury rose to the bait. Above all, enjoy your writing, because if you don’t, nobody else will.
Is there anything else you wish to share with us?
Always draw on real experiences and real people. Be inspired by the world around you. It makes for the best kind of writing. There are several real people and experiences woven into the narrative of Sleeping with the Blackbirds. The old gardener who features in Roy’s essay is based entirely on my parents’ old gardener. I’m not going to say another word. To find out more, you’ll just have to read the book.

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*Thanks to Emily at Confessions of a Bookaholic for organising this tour, I hope you enjoyed!!*

Book Review- The One

Monday, 13 July 2015
Title: The One
Author: Kiera Cass
Published: May 6th 2014
Publisher: Harper Teen
Pages: 323
Series: The Selection #3
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian

Rating: 4/5 stars


When she was chosen to compete in the Selection, America never dreamed she would find herself anywhere close to the crown—or to Prince Maxon's heart. But as the end of the competition approaches, and the threats outside the palace walls grow more vicious, America realizes just how much she stands to lose—and how hard she'll have to fight for the future she wants. -Goodreads

*Received an ebook copy of this novel from NetGalley in return for an honest review.*

I really enjoyed both of the previous books in this series, and I was eager to find out what would happen next.
This novel begins basically where the last one left off, with America being one of the final 4 girls in The Selection, and her and Maxon still deciding how their relationship is going to unfold. 
This novel contains more action and danger than the previous two, which pleases my adventure loving side immensely!!!
Both the southern and northern rebels play a much bigger role, both as a threat, and as a physical presence. Without giving much away, we learn a great deal about both sets of rebels in this book, which answers a lot of the questions which were left unanswered from the previous two novels.
I don't think this is too much of a spoiler but there is quite a lot of death in this novel, and some of my favourite characters didn't make it to the final page (sob). The fact that I actually felt something for all these characters is credit to Cass's excellent writing, all her minor characters were fleshed out, making it very easy to relate and feel vested in their progress and what happened to them.
We also got to learn a bit more about America's family, I always struggle to remember who's who in her family, so this was handy for me to get to grips with them again! 
I still really love America's character a lot, although I am still frustrated by her indecision between whether she loved Maxon or not. She showed her bravery and her selflessness throughout this novel, and I still really love her narrative voice and her personality too. 
There were only two characters who I changed opinion of in this novel and that was Maxon and Celeste. One for the better and one definitely for the worst
. Surprisingly I actually disliked Maxon quite a lot in this novel, especially towards the end of this novel. Some of his decisions in this novel were so weird, he flipped in the way he treated America to such an extent that it started to really get on my nerves. Celeste however was the opposite. She was written to be the villain in the group of girls, she was the one who went around sabotaging the other girls and fighting America. However by the end of this book she became probably my favourite girl in the section other than America!!
Overall I really enjoyed this book, it was a great third book in the series, and I'm really excited to see where the fourth book takes the series after the fantastic ending. 

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