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I swoon over fictional men

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January 2017

*stands up on a random podium* Ahem, your attention, please!

This is my best friend, Stu. We’ve done a lot together. We went to uni together. We went to our Japan interviews together…hell, we even experienced actual Japan together. We’ve written musicals together (which, one sweet day, will most certainly see us becoming bigger than Andrew Lloyd Webber himself). We’ve done drunken karaoke together (although the drunken part was mostly down to me). In short, we’ve been through a lot, me and him. Like I said, he’s my best friend (and a very handsome fella – look at those pictures! This mini photo shoot occurred outside my Japanese apartment).

Not only is my best friend, though, he’s an incredibly talented guy and this is why I would like to share his blog with you all. Stu returned to the WP realm not so long ago but has wasted no time in becoming an active blogger whose humor, wit and intelligence shines through in everything he writes. He writes flash fiction (click here to check out his latest story), gaming reviews and comedy pieces (the latter of which have me literally wheezing with laughter – here’s a link to one of my favorites!)

Check out his blog and please offer him a warm welcome to WordPress!

Follow this link: https://pookykun.wordpress.com/

 

 

Any Mirakee users? 

I’ve been meaning to ask this for ages, but does anyone here have Mirakee? It’s like Instagram, but for writers. It’s a great little app to share poetry and what not 🙂 I’ve only really started being active on it and it would be great to know some other people on it!

5 things I’ve learnt from book blogging

When I started this blog, way back in June last year, I didn’t know what to expect from the coming months. I’d never actually blogged about a specific subject and I felt somewhat shy about my chosen topic. Books, sure…but paranormal romance? Would I be subjected to the same amount of ridicule I’d faced from people ‘IRL’ (as the cool kids say)? Hell, would people even be remotely interested? These were all questions that ricocheted around my brain.

“Fuck it,” I finally said, clicking ‘Sign up’ on WordPress, “I’ll give it a go.”

And here I am, nearly eight months later. I’ve found that I absolutely adore book blogging. For one, I get to talk about books pretty much every day and two, I get to talk about them with the most awesome bunch of people I’ve ever come across!

But the important question is this: what have I learnt from book blogging? What pearls of wisdom can I pass down to the book bloggers taking their first tentative steps into the WP universe? *clears throat*

  1. Be yourself. Although I’m branching out into different genres, my specialist subject is paranormal romance. I read it. I write it. Dude, my friend and I even podcast about it! It’s a genre I’m knowledgeable in and one I can talk about for hours…but do you know how much courage it took for me to create a blog dedicated to it? Aaaaaaaaaaaages. I was worried it was too niche a subject to write about and that people, very much like people I know in real life, would scoff at the idea of it being deemed ‘literature’. But do you know what? The book blogging community doesn’t care what you read or who your favorite author is. If you enjoy reading it, then they’ll enjoy it simply for that fact. I have a date nights feature where I talk about what a date with a certain paranormal romance lead would entail and even though many people don’t read this genre, they still take the time to read and comment on the features, expressing their enjoyment. The book blogging community is so supportive, so you needn’t fear about being yourself.
  2. It isn’t all about reviews. Sometimes life can take over and before we know it, another week has passed and we haven’t even managed to finish one book, let alone the three we had planned to read and review…and that’s okay. Don’t sweat it. A book blog isn’t just about the reviews. During your busier times, it’s fine to post a funny book meme or a link to an awesome bookshelf you found on eBay.
  3. Book reviews aren’t necessarily about spoilers. When I first started reviewing books, I was awful for major spoilers. In fact, I’m just awful for spoilers in general. I remember years ago going to the cinema with a friend to see a movie I’d already seen. When a major character (who for about 3/4 of the movie you think is a good guy) made his first appearance, I leaned across and whispered “He turns out to be the bad guy.” Yeeeeeah. It’s an ongoing problem I’m working on. If you check out some of my earliest reviews, they’re literally just essays where I’m picking apart the plot and revealing major details. If you read them, there’s probably not much point in reading the actual book. Basically what I’m saying is that it’s possible to review and critique a book without giving away the shocking plot twist.
  4. Interact. The book blogging community is the friendliest online community I have ever encountered so I can’t emphasize this point enough. Like posts, comment on posts, engage in discussions. C’mon, don’t be shy! It’s a fantastic way of making new, like-minded friends, learning random tidbits of information and gleaning new books for your ever-growing TBR list.
  5. Have fun! Probably the most important point on this list. Books take us elsewhere when there’s nowhere we can go. They offer us respite from the struggles and strains of everyday life and so should your blog. A majority of us run our blogs in our spare time. It’s a side project…a hobby. And hobbies should be fun, right? Don’t sit there stressing because you can’t piece together the ‘right’ words for a review or rant. Simply save it to your drafts, make yourself a cup of tea and go back to it later.

What have you learnt as a book blogger? Let me know in the comments below!

‘Signal to Noise’ Silvia Moreno-Garcia

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Mexico City, 1988. Long before iTunes or MP3s, you said “I love you” with a mix tape. Meche, awkward and fifteen, has two equally unhip friends – Sebastian and Daniela – and a whole lot of vinyl records to keep her company. When she discovers how to cast spells using music, the future looks brighter for the trio. The three friends will piece together their broken families, change their status as non-entities, and maybe even find love…

Mexico City, 2009: Two decades after abandoning the metropolis, Meche returns alone for her estranged father’s funeral.
It’s hard enough to cope with her family, but then she runs into Sebastian, reviving memories from a childhood she thought she buried a long time ago. What really happened back then? What precipitated the bitter falling out with her father? Is there any magic left?

I picked up Signal to Noise in my local bookstore simply because I was drawn to the funky, retro-looking cover. They say don’t judge a book by its cover and while that’s true, covers can definitely kickstart that initial curiosity.

I really, really enjoyed Signal to Noise, which was Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s debut novel. As you’ve probably noticed by now, I adore books centered around paranormal themes and Signal to Noise just completely and utterly reinvents this genre. It’s fresh and it’s innovative.

The magic that the three main characters – Meche, Sebastian and Daniela – discover, arises from music and the sheer power encased within it. The idea of magic and music being intrinsically linked reminds me of the band, Two Steps From Hell, who say “Music makes you braver.” It’s an undeniable truth. Is the idea of sitting on the couch and watching Netflix sounding more appealing than going for a jog? No problem, pop in those headphones and get some classic rock blasting. That’ll get you lacing up those sneakers soon enough. Nervous about an upcoming job interview? Crank up the volume and sing along to Journey’s Don’t stop believing. Those nerves will be calmed in no time at all. Music does make us braver. Music is powerful. Music is…magic. The fact that Silvia has identified this and written an entire novel about delighted me to no end. Plus there were a ton of music references and I had a lot of fun YouTubing (is that a real verb?) new songs.

Signal to Noise is a compelling read. To use the ol’ cliche, it’s a real page turner. Literally. The narrative is split between two years, 1988/9 and 2009. When reading a 2009 chapter, Meche would think about something – for example, “that night” which, let’s be honest , is pretty vague as an explanation – and suddenly I’d be compelled to stay up just “five minutes longer” so I could get whisked back to the 80s and witness what happened on “that night”.

Furthermore, Signal to Noise encourages us to ask important questions about ourselves as individuals. If bestowed with such power, how would we wield it? Would we be responsible? Would we recognize the dangers of it and exercise caution? Or would we, like Meche, give in to our darker side and punish people as we saw fit?

Signal to Noise is a very human novel. If that makes sense. Most of the characters get an opportunity to drive the narrative, even the supposedly not-so-nice characters. Initially, I despised Meche’s dad, Vicente, branding him irresponsible. However, the more I saw from his perspective, the more I understood his actions. Even his worst decisions are born from a desire to succeed and craft a better future for him and Meche. Signal to Noise shows us that we’re all human and we make mistakes and nothing – not even magic – can change that.

A powerful read. I’ve been quite generous with my 5s lately, but Silvia deserves nothing less. Super excited to read her other books!

Oh and one more thing. Can someone magic up a portal that allows us to dip in and out of fictional worlds? I need to try some of Meche’s grandma’s cooking.

Rating: 5/5

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Song: Queen’s Kind of magic

This book is available on Amazon in both e-reader and paperback format.

‘Rise’ Karina Bliss

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Zander Freedman; a has-been rock icon looking to revive his career. 

Elizabeth Winston; an acclaimed historical biographer seeking a professional challenge.

On paper, Zander and Elizabeth seem two very different people, but when Elizabeth agrees to undertake the monumental task of penning the Rage front man’s memoir, she uncovers a man far more complex than she could have ever imagined. 

Presented with a once-in-a-career opportunity, Elizabeth becomes engulfed in a world of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll which, in Zander terms, translates roughly into green tea, sore throats and nicotine patches. 

Life on the road with a rock star and his entourage isn’t quiet – ex-girlfriends, resentful ex-band mates, quarreling spouses and paparazzi to name but a few. Elizabeth sees it all yet still finds herself being pulled further in. 

Both workaholics, can Zander and Elizabeth deny their feelings for both the sake of themselves and their careers? 

Rise is a book I read based on the recommendation of author, Nalini Singh. It’s a rock star romance, which might sound pretty cheesy but c’mon, let’s be realistic. Who doesn’t love a good rock star romance? Who didn’t once look at posters of their favorite singers and think “One day…”. Who still does? *tentatively raises hand*

I’ve read a couple of rock star romances in the past and I based my initial assumptions upon my experiences with those books. I was wholeheartedly expecting Zander Freedman to be a bit of a jerk. I expected him to be every inch the diva the fictional media in Rise make him out to be.

But he isn’t. Far from it. He wears a bad boy facade but in reality, he’s a tender-hearted, kind man who wants to give up and coming musicians a head start in their careers. He cares deeply for his staff and lives to please his fans, even at the risk of his own health. He’s not perfect, he makes mistakes, but who doesn’t? Zander presents us with the harsh realities of fame. So often we perceive our idols as these immortal, untouchable people and Rise shows us the very human side of it all.

Elizabeth is a unlike any female character I’ve ever come across. 35, unmarried and blessed with the ability to not go weak at the knees every time a hot guy so much as blinks in her direction, Elizabeth is an intelligent, hard-working and career focused individual. The oldest of her siblings, she’s underappreciated and forever the victim of blind date set ups and this is something that really riled me up on her behalf. No one – not even her colleagues – truly understands her. They either poke fun at her for being single or mock her for working with Zander. It’s not until she meets Zander that she finally feels ‘herself’; intelligent, appreciated, needed, confident and beautiful.

Rise was a slow burner, but I feel slow burning novels are sorely underappreciated. There’s just something about the anticipation of waiting for someone to make a move, isn’t there? Slow burning novels also add a dash of realism. Rise isn’t a oh-god-you-look-so-divine-marry-me-right-now job. It’s very organic in the way it develops. You don’t witness Zander and Elizabeth’s first kiss and think “Well, fuck. I didn’t see that one coming!”. They take time to acquaint themselves with one another and Elizabeth is given the chance to bond with Zander’s entourage independently of him. So often in romance – conventional and paranormal alike – a woman becomes isolated from those around her for the sake of a man, or faces hostility from his friends and family.

I really enjoyed how everybody got a chance to be the narrator, from the ex fallen on hard times to the seemingly haughty PA. Rise isn’t just Zander and Elizabeth’s story. It’s everyone’s story and makes for an enticing prelude to the books following it.

Rating: 4/5

Song: Bon Jovi’s Born to be my baby 

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This book is available to buy on Amazon in both e-reader and paperback format.

WWW Wednesday – 25th January 2017

I’ve been super productive in regards to reading this past week. As I’ve said before, despite being an avid reader and reviewer of books, I read painfully slowly sometimes. Let’s crack on anyway. I’ve got a review to write after this!

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words. I love WWW Wednesday because it gives me a chance to meet and interact with fellow bookworms. Not only that, it gives me ideas as to what I can read next and I hope my WWW Wednesday does this for other people!

Want to participate? Great! All you’ve gotta do is answer the three Ws below and post a link to your answers here. Don’t forget to check out your fellow blogees’ answers too!

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The three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently reading

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The sequel to Once Burned, Twice Tempted has been sitting on my Kindle for a while now. I wasn’t blown away by the first book in this series – I though Vlad was a bit of an asshole, to be honest – but perhaps he’ll redeem himself. I also love this front cover. I think he’s meant to look seductive, but the slight turning of his body and the look on his face suggest we’ve walked in on something we shouldn’t have. He’s like “What the hell are you doing here?”

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No idea what this will be like but hey, that’s why we read books, right? I bought Signal to Noise with a gift card I got for Christmas.

Recently finished reading

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A slow burner, but I like books that draw the romance out. The moment when the romantic leads finally kiss or admit to their feelings is akin to taking a gulp of air after being submerged beneath water. Well, kind of. Maybe that’s a slightly dramatic analogy.

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Breathtaking. Beautiful. Sad. Uplifting. A Monster Calls will stay with you long after you’ve turned that final page. Check out my review here.

Next on my reading list 

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I started reading Felicity Heaton’s Eternal Mates series while I was in Japan and then just…stopped. I don’t know why because it’s such an incredible series with a wide range of complex characters. Excited to dive back into it!

I need to vent

I think I’m having an existential crisis.

I came back from Japan filled with dreams and ambition. I stepped off that plane and smiled as I thought about the upcoming months; a month or two with my family, catching up while I applied for jobs in publishing houses down in London.

Nearing a year on, it’s apparent things haven’t gone quite to plan. Words cannot even describe the unhappiness I feel in my current job (I work in a hotel). My applications to publishing houses were either unanswered or replied to with a “You haven’t got enough experience.” (Just how much experience do you need for an ‘entry level’ role?) On top of that, most of my friends live elsewhere and I miss them so fucking much. Seeing them is difficult when we all work different shifts or haven’t the funds to travel.

So, I decided to jump back into teaching. I recently completed a 120 hour TEFL qualification, which I’m super happy and proud about. I’ve been applying for a number of jobs, both in the UK and overseas.

However, a lot of roles within the UK (which are the ones I want to apply for), require me to undertake either a CELTA certificate or a MA. I’ve been talking with my family about doing the latter but it scares me. I’m 24 years old. So many people I went to school with are getting married and having kids and I’m not (not that I want to yet admittedly). I feel like I should have my life together and I don’t 😦 I’m scared people look at me and think I’m pathetic because I still live at home and haven’t made a career for myself yet.

I know it’s probably just me being overly anxious, but I feel like I’m getting old and need to  be already be sorted with everything 😦

I need a hug 😦 And maybe some chocolate.

‘A Monster Calls’ Patrick Ness

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The darkness. The wind. The screaming. The hands that slip from his grasp, no matter how hard he tries to hold on. 

It’s a nightmare that has stalked Conor in the realms of sleep ever since his mother fell ill. Tonight, though, Conor awakens at 12:07 to find the lines between nightmare and reality blurred. He awakens to find a monster outside his window. It’s not the monster, but it’s a monster that’s far more dangerous because it wants something that Conor cannot give.

It wants the truth. 

 

I’ve been sat here for half an hour now, wondering where I can possibly begin with this review. The most logical thing, I guess, is to begin by shedding some insight into the creation of this achingly beautiful, heartrending book.

The idea behind A Monster Calls was the brainchild of award-winning author, Siobhan Dowd, who sadly passed away before its completion. To quote Patrick Ness, “She had the characters, a premise, and a beginning. What she didn’t have, unfortunately, was time.” Although Siobhan and Patrick had never met, they had both worked with the same editor, Denise Johnstone-Burt. Denise approached Patrick and explained the situation, telling him about Siobhan’s idea and how something could be made of it. Understandably, he was reluctant. He didn’t want to mimic Siobhan’s writing style, something he felt wouldn’t do her justice, nor did want to produce a memorial. However, upon seeing the idea written down, he realized it wasn’t a project he could easily walk away from.

“There was so much power in what she’d put down…”

And so A Monster Calls was born.

A Monster Calls is many things. To use the old cliché, it’s a roller coaster of emotion. For one, it’s heartbreakingly sad. Watching Conor’s reluctance to accept the terminal nature of his mother’s illness tore me to bits. Despite the brave front he dons in front of his teachers, his grandmother and, initially, the monster, it’s clear in the way he so viciously denies the truth of the situation that he’s just a frightened little boy. He believes that by denying the obvious albeit painful truth, he can drown out the reality of the situation. The monster seeks to change this. The monster walks so that Conor may speak his truth and heal. 

It’s also, believe it or not, humorous in places. Conor is such an intelligent and complex character. He has this incredible perception of people and the world around him and makes for a humorous narrator with his wry comments regarding his grandmother and father. It’s an intelligence and complexity that render his character three dimensional. He seems to spring from the pages, take us by the hand and pull us into his life. We live his life. We experience everything. His pain is our pain and a story that makes us believe this is more than just a story.

Above all though, A Monster Calls is a story that instills hope. Conor is just Conor. Mum is just Mum. Grandma is just Grandma. They’re not specific people. They can be anyone…anyone’s mum, anyone’s grandma. A Monster Calls shows us that what’s happening to Conor can happen to anyone and while that’s a frightening thing to admit, it also offers us hope and courage. Conor learns something valuable from the monster and it’s something that we, the readers, learn too. It’s a lesson that strengthens Conor, thereby strengthening us.  What that lesson is, I’ll leave that for you to decide. I feel that this is a book that can be interpreted in a variety of different ways and I, personally, feel that I learnt a number of different thingsAlthough it’s a bestselling, award-winning novel, there’s something quite personal in the reading of it and it’s an experience that will be different for each and every reader.

In short, A Monster Calls is a masterpiece.

Rating: 5 out of 5

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This book is available on Amazon in both e-reader and paperback format.

 

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