Monday, 28 March 2016

Book vs. Adaptation | Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Dark Places is Gillian Flynn's second novel and was published in 2009, the film adaptation followed in 2015 after the success of the 2014 adaptation of Gone Girl. You can check out my review of the book here!

After Gone Girl pretty much took over the world it seemed only natural that filmmakers would be quick to snap another of Gillian Flynn's novels to adapt. Dark Places was the novel of choice - though I believe Sharp Objects is getting a television adaptation - and honestly I'm surprised I didn't see this advertised everywhere. Either I just wasn't looking for it, because at the time of its release I'd never read any of Flynn's work, or the marketing was kind of poor.

This year I finally dove into Flynn's work. So far I've read Dark Places and Sharp Objects, which I've also reviewed here, and I still haven't decided if I'm going to pick up Gone Girl. I think it's inevitable that I will at some point, but I think I need a bit of a break from Flynn's worryingly dark brain before I do.

While I wasn't a fan of Sharp Objects, I did really enjoy Dark Places - in fact after I read it I realised I'd actually enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I had - and because I think we can all agree that Charlize Theron is basically a goddess I was eager to check out the film adaptation. I love watching a good crime drama, I watch a lot more crime fiction than I read, and I enjoyed watching this one, too. Is it as good as the book? No. Is it still pretty good all the same? Yes.

First thing's first: if you have read the book (and personally I think you should read the book first because there's a lot more to get out of it) don't go into the adaptation expecting the characters to look at all like they're described. Charlize Theron looks like... well, Charlize Theron, but she's still a great actress. Actually I forget how good an actress she is until I see her in something and I'm reminded that she's hella talented, and she's brilliant as Libby.

Most of the changes between the book and the film, and there are changes as there always are when it comes to adapting a story into a different medium, involved cutting things out that would have made the film too long. The basics are there and a lot of it's done well; Charlize Theron is a very good Libby, but I think the cast as a whole played their parts well, even Chloe Grace Moretz made a character I wasn't entirely sure I believed in the book a lot more plausible. That being said, I'm not sure I would have understood the film as well as I did if I hadn't read the book first. Obviously I can't know for certain that that's true - I can't erase the book from my memory and watch the film again - but something about the film felt a little... lacking compared to the book. It's not a bad film at all, but there's no doubt that the book is better.

Ultimately if you're a fan of the book I think this is a decent adaptation and one that you'll enjoy. If you haven't read the book I recommend you do simply because you're missing out on a very good book, but this is still a great film if you just want to curl up with some popcorn and try to figure out whether the butler did it or not.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

2016 Releases I've Pre-Ordered: The Updated Version

Earlier this year I wrote a post about some of the 2016 releases I've pre-ordered, and today I'm back with an updated version because some of the books I mentioned last time have since been released and there are some books that have since become available to pre-order!

The Tale of Tales by Giambattista Basile (Penguin Classics, April): Before the Brothers Grimm, before Charles Perrault, before Hans Christian Andersen, there was Giambattista Basile, a seventeenth-century poet from Naples, Italy, whom the Grimms credit with recording the first national collection of fairy tales. The Tale of Tales opens with Princess Zoza, unable to laugh no matter how funny the joke. Her father, the king, attempts to make her smile; instead he leaves her cursed, whereupon the prince she is destined to marry is snatched up by another woman. To expose this impostor and win back her rightful husband, Zoza contrives a storytelling extravaganza: fifty fairy tales to be told by ten sharp-tongued women (including Zoza in disguise) over five days.

Summer Days, Summer Nights ed. by Stephanie Perkins (Pan MacMillan, June): Maybe it's the long, lazy days, or maybe it's the heat making everyone a little bit crazy. Whatever the reason, summer is the perfect time for love to bloom. Summer Days, Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories, written by twelve bestselling young adult writers and edited by the international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins, will have you dreaming of sunset strolls by the lake. So set out your beach chair and grab your sunglasses. You have twelve reasons this summer to soak up the sun and fall in love.

Unicorn Tracks by Julia Ember (Harmony Ink Press, April): After a savage attack drives her from her home, sixteen-year-old Mnemba finds a place in her cousin Tumelo’s successful safari business, where she quickly excels as a guide. Surrounding herself with nature and the mystical animals inhabiting the savannah not only allows Mnemba’s tracking skills to shine, it helps her to hide from the terrible memories that haunt her. Mnemba is employed to guide Mr. Harving and his daughter, Kara, through the wilderness as they study unicorns. The young women are drawn to each other, despite that fact that Kara is betrothed. During their research, they discover a conspiracy by a group of poachers to capture the Unicorns and exploit their supernatural strength to build a railway. Together, they must find a way to protect the creatures Kara adores while resisting the love they know they can never indulge.

Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst (Balzer + Bray, November): Betrothed since childhood to the prince of Mynaria, Princess Dennaleia has always known what her future holds. Her marriage will seal the alliance between Mynaria and her homeland, protecting her people from other hostile lands. But Denna has a secret. She possesses an Affinity for fire—a dangerous gift for the future queen of a kingdom where magic is forbidden. Now, Denna must learn the ways of her new home while trying to hide her growing magic. To make matters worse, she must learn to ride Mynaria’s formidable warhorses before her coronation—and her teacher is the person who intimidates her most, the prickly and unconventional Princess Amaranthine (called Mare), sister of her betrothed. When a shocking assassination leaves the kingdom reeling, Mare and Denna reluctantly join forces to search for the culprit. As the two work together, each discovers there’s more to the other than she thought. Mare is surprised by Denna’s intelligence and bravery, while Denna is drawn to Mare’s independent streak. Soon their friendship is threatening to blossom into something more. But with dangerous conflict brewing that makes the alliance more important than ever, acting on their feelings could be deadly. Forced to choose between their duty and their hearts, Mare and Denna must find a way to save their kingdoms—and each other.

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler (Knopf Doubleday, June): Kate Battista feels stuck. How did she end up running house and home for her eccentric scientist father and uppity, pretty younger sister Bunny? Plus, she’s always in trouble at work – her pre-school charges adore her, but their parents don’t always appreciate her unusual opinions and forthright manner. Dr. Battista has other problems. After years out in the academic wilderness, he is on the verge of a breakthrough. His research could help millions. There’s only one problem: his brilliant young lab assistant, Pyotr, is about to be deported. And without Pyotr, all would be lost. When Dr. Battista cooks up an outrageous plan that will enable Pyotr to stay in the country, he’s relying – as usual – on Kate to help him. Kate is furious: this time he’s really asking too much. But will she be able to resist the two men’s touchingly ludicrous campaign to bring her around?

As I Descended by Robin Talley (HarperTeen, September): Maria Lyon and Lily Boiten are their school’s ultimate power couple—even if no one knows it but them. Only one thing stands between them and their perfect future: campus superstar Delilah Dufrey. Golden child Delilah is a legend at the exclusive Acheron Academy, and the presumptive winner of the distinguished Cawdor Kingsley Prize. She runs the school, and if she chose, she could blow up Maria and Lily’s whole world with a pointed look, or a carefully placed word. But what Delilah doesn’t know is that Lily and Maria are willing to do anything—absolutely anything—to make their dreams come true. And the first step is unseating Delilah for the Kingsley Prize. The full scholarship, awarded to Maria, will lock in her attendance at Stanford―and four more years in a shared dorm room with Lily. Maria and Lily will stop at nothing to ensure their victory—including harnessing the dark power long rumored to be present on the former plantation that houses their school. But when feuds turn to fatalities, and madness begins to blur the distinction between what’s real and what is imagined, the girls must decide where they draw the line.

The Muse by Jessie Burton (Picador, June): England, 1967. Odelle Bastien is a Caribbean √©migr√© trying to make her way in London. When she starts working at the prestigious Skelton Art Gallery, she discovers a painting rumored to be the work of Isaac Robles, a young artist of immense talent and vision whose mysterious death has confounded the art world for decades. The excitement over the painting is matched by the intrigue around the conflicting stories of its discovery. Drawn into a complex web of secrets and deceptions, Odelle does not know what to believe or who she can trust, including her mesmerizing colleague, Marjorie Quick. Spain, 1937. Olive Schloss, the daughter of a Viennese Jewish art dealer and English heiress, follows her parents to Arazuelo, a poor, restless village on the southern coast. She grows close to Teresa, a young housekeeper, and her half-brother Isaac Robles, an idealistic and ambitious painter newly returned from the Barcelona salons. A dilettante buoyed by the revolutionary fervor that will soon erupt into civil war, Isaac dreams of being a painter as famous as his countryman, Picasso. Raised in poverty, these illegitimate children of the local landowner revel in exploiting this wealthy Anglo-Austrian family. Insinuating themselves into the Schloss’s lives, Teresa and Isaac help Olive conceal her artistic talents with devastating consequences that will echo into the decades to come.

Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Thomas Dunne Books, October): Welcome to Mexico City, an oasis in a sea of vampires. Here in the city, heavily policed to keep the creatures of the night at bay, Domingo is another trash-picking street kid, just hoping to make enough to survive. Then he meets Atl, the descendant of Aztec blood drinkers. Domingo is smitten. He clings to her like a barnacle until Atl relents and decides to let him stick around. But Atl's problems, Nick and Rodrigo, have come to find her. When they start to raise the body count in the city, it attracts the attention of police officers, local crime bosses, and the vampire community. Atl has to get out before Mexico City is upended, and her with it.

The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley (Tor, May): A powerful collection of essays on feminism, geek culture, and a writer’s journey, from one of the most important new voices in genre. The Geek Feminist Revolution is a collection of essays by double Hugo Award-winning essayist and science fiction and fantasy novelist Kameron Hurley. The book collects dozens of Hurley’s essays on feminism, geek culture, and her experiences and insights as a genre writer, including “We Have Always Fought,” which won the 2014 Hugo for Best Related Work. The Geek Feminist Revolution will also feature several entirely new essays written specifically for this volume. Unapologetically outspoken, Hurley has contributed essays to The Atlantic, Locus,, and elsewhere on the rise of women in genre, her passion for SF/F, and the diversification of publishing.

The View From the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman (Headline, May): An inquisitive observer, thoughtful commentator, and assiduous craftsman, Neil Gaiman has long been celebrated for the sharp intellect and startling imagination that informs his bestselling fiction. Now, The View from the Cheap Seats brings together for the first time ever more than sixty pieces of his outstanding nonfiction. Analytical yet playful, erudite yet accessible, this cornucopia explores a broad range of interests and topics, including (but not limited to): authors past and present; music; storytelling; comics; bookshops; travel; fairy tales; America; inspiration; libraries; ghosts; and the title piece, at turns touching and self-deprecating, which recounts the author’s experiences at the 2010 Academy Awards in Hollywood.  Insightful, incisive, witty, and wise, The View from the Cheap Seats explores the issues and subjects that matter most to Neil Gaiman—offering a glimpse into the head and heart of one of the most acclaimed, beloved, and influential artists of our time.

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire (Tor, April): Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere... else. But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children. Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced... they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world. But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter. No matter the cost.

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton, October): Lovelace was once merely a ship's artificial intelligence. When she wakes up in an new body, following a total system shut-down and reboot, she has no memory of what came before. As Lovelace learns to negotiate the universe and discover who she is, she makes friends with Pepper, an excitable engineer, who's determined to help her learn and grow. Together, Pepper and Lovey will discover that no matter how vast space is, two people can fill it together.

Paper Girls, Vol.1 by Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang and Matthew Wilson (Image Comics, March): In the early hours after Halloween of 1988, four 12-year-old newspaper delivery girls uncover the most important story of all time. Suburban drama and otherworldly mysteries collide in this smash-hit series about nostalgia, first jobs, and the last days of childhood.

Rat Queens, Vol.3: Demons by Kurtis J. Wiebe, Tess Fowler and Tamra Bonvillain (Image Comics, April): Having survived the end of the world, the Queens follow Hannah back to where it all began: Mage University. A long perilous journey awaits the Rat Queens as they attempt to find out what happened to Hannah's father while battling their own demons.

American Vampire, Vol.8 by Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque (DC Comics, July): Vampires in space? It's 1965. Pearl and Skinner escaped The Gray Trader with more questions than answers, and their search for clues leads them to ... NASA! You've never seen vampires like this before, as the second major story arc of American Vampire: Second Cycle begins!

Have you pre-ordered any books this year? Which books are you most looking forward to in 2016?

Monday, 21 March 2016

Review | Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

by Gillian Flynn

My Rating: 

When two girls are abducted and killed in Missouri, journalist Camille Preaker is sent back to her home town to report on the crimes. Long-haunted by a childhood tragedy and estranged from her mother for years, Camille suddenly finds herself installed once again in her family's mansion, reacquainting herself with her distant mother and the half-sister she barely knows - a precocious 13-year-old who holds a disquieting grip on the town. As Camille works to uncover the truth about these violent crimes, she finds herself identifying with the young victims - a bit too strongly. Clues keep leading to dead ends, forcing Camille to unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past to get at the story. Dogged by her own demons, Camille will have to confront what happened to her years before if she wants to survive this homecoming.

I was bitten by the Flynn bug.

If you saw my review of Dark Places you'll know I finally read some Gillian Flynn, and that I didn't love it as much as I'd hoped I would. On reflection, however, I'm thinking of bumping Dark Places from a 3 star read to a 4 star read because I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since I finished it, and I do genuinely think that Libby Day is one of the best heroines I've read in a while.

Naturally, when I realised I had actually enjoyed Dark Places more than I thought, I decided it was about time I picked up Sharp Objects. I'm not all that interested in Gone Girl, but as Sharp Objects sounded like the kind of small-town, Southern Gothic story that I like to read I was really eager to dive in. And I really wasn't a fan.

Unlike Dark Places I don't think this is going to be a case of me misjudging my feelings, because I haven't thought about Sharp Objects other than to think 'man, that was effed up'. Seriously if you're feeling a little fragile, do not go anywhere near this book. It's so depressing!

Obviously I wasn't expecting sunshine and rainbows. There were lots of depressing bits in Dark Places too, but in Dark Places they felt like they were there for a reason. Sharp Objects, perhaps because it's Flynn's debut novel, simply feels as though it's been written fucked up for the sake of being fucked up. I found this story so difficult to believe.

Sharp Objects reminded me a little of Carrie in that it's set in a small American town with a freaky, obsessive mother and her abused daughter, but I actually found Carrie easier to believe. It's a book about telekinesis, and I don't even like Stephen King's work that much.

I was hoping for so much more from this book. Parts of it were interesting, such as Camille being a journalist who hated having to do a lot of the things that journalists find themselves doing, such as hounding bereaved family members for quotes after a murder has occurred, but I couldn't quite understand why she also had to be a fairly poor journalist. Why couldn't she be a brilliant writer who didn't like the nitty gritty parts of the job, because as someone who doesn't like being a journalist and also isn't the best writer around I struggled to understand how she still had a job. Her boss feeling sorry for her just isn't a good enough reason for me.

And then there are her mother and her terrifying younger sister. Her mother was a fairly decent villain, but her sister made no sense to me whatsoever. How the hell has this kid gotten away with her behaviour? One minute she's playing with a doll's house and the next she's taking drugs, and while part of me liked that juxtaposition between childhood and adulthood, I just couldn't believe that any town would consider it normal for 13 year old girls to go to house parties and have sex with several 18 year old guys.

It's worth mentioning that if you don't like to read books that feature underrage sex and/or sexual assault, I wouldn't recommend you go near Sharp Objects. There's nothing particularly graphic, but there's also no way that any 13 year old girl can give any kind of consent.

Honestly this was almost a 1 star read for me because, after Dark Places, I just didn't like it at all. I only ended up giving it 2 stars because Flynn, unlike Camille, is a brilliant writer. I mean, hey, I still finished the book, didn't I?

I feel like you really have to suspend your disbelief to enjoy this book, and I'm not quite prepared to do that with my crime novels. I want my crime novels to freak me out because I believe they could happen, not because the protagonist's sister reads like one of the twins from The Shining.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Oops I'm in Florence

Last year my friend Elena and I went to Rome for a long weekend and fell head over heels in love with Italy. Now that we're no longer at university, I no longer see her every day like I used to, we decided we'd try and make this an annual trip - this year we're in Florence, a place I've been wanting to visit for a long time.

Luckily, unlike last year, I haven't forgotten to schedule posts for my blog! There'll be a review up on Monday, so this is just a warning that I'm likely to be fairly quiet (in terms of replying to any comments) until the end of next week. We're back in the UK on Tuesday, but I won't be home until Wednesday evening and then I'm back to work on Thursday morning.

ANYWAY. This is a very long-winded way of me saying I'm on holiday, I may be a little quiet, and I'll be sure to share lots of photos of my trip when I return!


Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Top Ten Tuesday | My Spring TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week you compile a list of ten books which coincide with that week's theme. You can find everything you need to know about joining in here!

Today I'm going to talk about the books on my Spring TBR! As always, I don't tend to like TBRs much, but I do like creating seasonal TBRs.

The Rose by Jennifer Potter: This non-fiction book is all about what roses mean throughout history and around the world. It's a really heavy book, published on very thick paper for all the pictures, but it looks fascinating and I'm looking forward to reading it. Spring seems like the best time to read a book about flowers!

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen: Even more gardens! I love witches, so the more the merrier for me!

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett: Speaking of gardens, I'd quite like to read The Secret Garden this Spring - it's one of my favourite classics, and it's such a heart-warming tale.

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh: I picked up a second hand copy of The Language of Flowers in one of my local charity shops years ago, and still haven't read it despite it having brilliant ratings on Goodreads. Continuing with the flowery theme, I think this will make a great spring read.

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert: And to complete this gardening theme I've got going on, the heroine of The Signature of All Things is a botanist in the 19th century. I love reading historical fiction novels about women in science, particularly when they're set during the 18th and 19th centuries, and I've yet to read any of Gilbert's fiction.

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim: April's in the title, so what better time to read this modern classic? This book is about four ladies who decide to spend April in Italy and have some time to themselves for a change. I started reading it last April but, for whatever reason, I put it down and didn't pick it back up so I'd like to give it another shot. I'm actually going to Florence in two days, so I might take it on holiday with me!

The Sparrow Sisters by Ellen Herrick: This is one of the novels the lovely Mikayla @ Mikayla's Bookshelf got me for Christmas! It's another book that seems to heavily feature flowers, herbs and plants, so it should be another great read for Spring.

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton: Yup, even more gardens. Are you sensing a theme? Apparently this book features an old book of dark fairy tales, a secret garden, an aristocratic family and a mystery. Sounds like everything I like to read, then!

Faery Tale: One Woman's Search for Enchantment in a Modern World by Signe Pike: This is another piece of non-fiction, and one that sounds lovely. Signe Pike decided to leave her job and go in search for people who still believe in faeries. I really want to read it.

Among Others by Jo Walton: Speaking of faeries, I believe they feature in Jo Walton's most famous novel. I'm pretty sure Among Others was on my spring TBR last year too but I still haven't gotten to it, I really need to though because I think I'm going to love it.

Which books made your list this week?

    From Screen to Page #3

    Today I'm back with another From Screen to Page post! For any of you unfamiliar with these posts, From Screen to Page is a feature in which I recommend a piece of historical fiction I think people will like if they like whichever film I happen to be talking about. For example, in my very first post I recommended Maeve Haran's The Lady and the Poet to anyone who's a fan of Shakespeare in Love.

    It's been a while since I last did one of these - check out #1 and #2! - and today I'm going to do something a little different: instead of recommending a book that's like a film, I'm going to recommend a book that's nothing like a film at all. Why? Because Grease is kind of awful.


    ... Is it safe to come out now?

    Now when I say Grease is awful, I don't mean it's an awful musical. It's not my favourite - I like my musicals a bit more epic, like The Lion King and Les Mis - but there's no denying that it's a fun musical. People pop out of the womb already knowing all the words to pretty much every song, and because it's been a favourite for so many years, thanks to the 1978 film, it's the kind of story that entire families will sit down to watch together at Christmas. Kids love the songs, parents remember watching it when they were young, and grandparents can remember those unfortunate hairstyles.

    There's actually a lot about the story that I like. I think Danny Zuko is quite a charming hero, struggling to maintain his reputation as the high school bad boy while also falling head over heels for a girl who doesn't quite fit into his circle of friends, and I love Rizzo who, in my opinion, is one of the most complex and interesting characters in the musical.

    My biggest problem with the story is the way it treats Sandy. I'm all for coming of age stories, including coming of age stories set at high schools, but Sandy's story concludes with her being rewarded with her happy ending because she essentially changes everything about who she is. I'm not suggesting that because she smokes and puts on some leathers she's no longer the same kind, innocent girl, but there's something about a girl who changes that much for the sake of a boy that makes me sad. 

    Grease is set in 1958, and Robin Talley's debut novel, Lies We Tell Ourselves, is set a year later in 1959, with a very, very different atmosphere.

    While there are some similarities between Grease and Lies We Tell Ourselves in that they're both set at high school in the '50s, and both feature a love story between two people from very different social circles, they're not alike at all. Lies We Tell Ourselves tackles racism in the mid-20th century, and in particular how black students struggled when they were finally admitted to better, previously all-white schools.

    It's one of those books that'll just hit you right where it hurts, because it's so difficult to think that human beings were treated in this way. It's even more difficult to think that many are still being treated in this way.

    Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to be admitted to her previously all-white local high school, and the novel follows her as she battles racism on a daily basis and also tries to understand her sexuality. Everything becomes even more complicated when she meets and develops feelings for Linda Hairston, a white girl whose father is a huge bigot.

    If you want to know my thoughts on the book then you can check out my review here. From what I've said I think you can gather that other than the '50s setting and vaguely Romeo and Juliet style romance there are practically no similarities between Grease and Lies We Tell Ourselves, but that's no bad thing. Lies We Tell Ourselves is the perfect story if you want to read a story set in the '50s that actually deals with issues from the '50s beyond who's taking who to the dance. It's a powerful debut from a much-needed voice in the world of YA, and one that challenges the fairly problematic way that Grease portrays the '50s, where's there's not a poc in sight and oh wasn't everything just smashing?

    For me Lies We Tell Ourselves is like a version of Grease where Sandy falls in love with Rizzo, and the musical numbers are replaced by explorations of racism and sexuality. If that sounds more like the kind of story you want set in the '50s, then you need to pick up this book!

    How do you feel about Grease?

    Saturday, 12 March 2016

    The Liebster Award

    The lovely Catherine @ Based on the Book/When it does nominated me for the Liebster Award - thanks Catherine!

    The rules:

    Thank the blog who nominated you and link back to them.
    Nominate up to 11 other bloggers to receive the award.  To be eligible, they need to have 200 followers or less.
    Answer 11 questions from the blogger who nominated you.
    Tell your readers 11 random facts about yourself.
    Give your nominees 11 questions to answer on their blog when they post their nomination.

    I've actually been nominated once before for the Liebster Award so I won't tag anyone, but I will answer Catherine's brilliant questions and share some facts!

    Questions from Catherine:

    Do you have a favourite song?

    I don't know if I have one favourite song because there are so many songs I love, and I'm the kind of person who will obsessively listen to one song until I'm sick of it. That being said, there's a song I love because it means quite a lot to me, and that's 'Home' from the Beauty and the Beast musical; I love the version sung by Susan Egan, who was also the voice of Meg in Disney's Hercules.

    What literary character do you think you're the most like?

    Oo, that's a tough one. I don't know if I'm really anything like her at all, but one of the reasons I loved Signal to Noise so much last year was because I loved Meche so much; something about her reminded me of my teenage self.

    Cats or Dogs?

    I like both, but I think I'm more of a dog person. They're just so friendly!

    What film always cheers you up?

    The Mummy. It's one of my favourite films, and one that I could watch over and over again and never get tired of.

    Frodo, Sam, Merry or Pippin?

    Always Sam.

    What would be your specialist subject on a quiz show?

    It'd probably be '90s animated Disney films. I know way too much about those.

    Who's your favourite Disney Prince/hero?

    The Beast. He was the first Prince to really get a personality and have quite a lot of his own scenes, and I think he's such an interesting character. I also love Tarzan, Milo and Flynn/Eugene.

    If you could bring back one fashion from the past (e.g. poodle-skirts, togas, scrunchies) what would it be?

    It's probably a very typical answer, but I think flapper dresses are so much fun.

    What's your favourite gemstone?

    I've always liked emeralds, I don't know why. They're so pretty!

    What are your current favourite baby names (boy and girl)?

    I don't know if I'm ever going to have kids, but if I did I do have names: I like Alice for a girl (looking at my blog, you'd never tell) and Orion for a boy.

    Can you tell us a piece of random trivia?

    Of course, I'm full of pointless random trivia! The phrase 'fallen off the wagon' actually comes from executions; prisoners were taken to their place of execution on a wagon and allowed a last drink, if they decided to go and have that last drink they'd 'fallen off the wagon'.

    Facts About Me
    1. This year I've decided to keep a document in which I'm recording the authors I read throughout the year, because while I know I read more women than men (not on purpose, I just tend to read more books written by women) I don't know how many BAME authors or non-British/North American authors I read. And I like lists.
    2. I accidentally ended up having dinner to celebrate my 21st birthday next to the Welsh rugby team.
    3. When I was in primary school I was bullied by another girl called Jess, and in secondary school another girl called Jess accidentally broke my finger during basketball. Clearly I should stay away from other Jesses.
    4. I didn't start wearing lipstick until I was in my 20s because I convinced myself I wouldn't suit it, and now I love it. To any other brunettes, orange lipsticks look great on us!
    5. I love ghost stories and haunted house stories, but I'm such a scaredy-cat. If I watch a horror film I probably won't sleep well for a week afterwards.
    6. Last year my friend Elena and I went to Rome for a long weekend and I fell in love with Italy. We decided then to try and go back every year, and next week we're off to Florence - I'm very excited!
    7. I currently work in academic publishing. It's very busy, but very interesting.
    8. Thanks to period dramas, Horrible Histories books and pure morbid childhood curiosity, I know way too much about historical execution and torture methods.
    9. I'm not a big drinker - I've never been the kind of person who can just drink alcohol for the sake of it - but I do love toffee apple cider. Omnomnom.
    10. I always struggle with fact lists. I don't think I'm that interesting.
    11. Unicorns.
    Thanks again, Catherine!

    Monday, 7 March 2016

    Review | The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

    by Sarah Waters

    My Rating: 

    It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned, the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in South London, in a genteel Camberwell villa, a large silent house now bereft of brothers, husband and even servants, life is about to be transformed, as impoverished widow Mrs Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers.

    For with the arrival of Lilian and Leonard Barber, a modern young couple of the 'clerk class', the routines of the house will be shaken up in unexpected ways. And as passions mount and frustration gathers, no one can foresee just how far-reaching, and how devastating, the disturbances will be.

    At this point I think it's no secret that I'm a fan of Sarah Waters' work. Having already read four of her novels I thought the next book I picked up would be The Night Watch, but something about The Paying Guests, her most recent novel, was calling to me despite not hearing rave reviews about it.

    The Paying Guests is set in London in 1922, where Frances Wray and her widowed mother have had to take on lodgers - or 'paying guests' - to support themselves after Frances's father died and it was discovered he hadn't done a spectacular job with the family's finances. They rent out their upstairs rooms to Lilian and Leonard Barber, and when Frances and Lilian fall in love their relationship escalates into something dangerous.

    I wasn't expecting too much from The Paying Guests. I love Sarah Waters, she's a fantastic storyteller, but I'd seen enough reviews to know that her latest novel isn't considered to be her strongest, and having finished it I'd have to agree.

    Unlike any of her previous books, The Paying Guests is set in the 1920s, but rather than tell the 'typical' '20s story - think The Great Gatsby or Boardwalk Empire - Waters decided to focus on the quieter, more domestic side of the years after the First World War in which an entire generation of people had become disillusioned with pretty much everything. I found this aspect of the novel one of the most interesting parts; we soon learn that Frances was against the war, and even once threw her shoe at a politician, and that she lost both her brothers in the conflict. Some of the comments made about the war and its aftermath really made me think, and made me realise how little I know about the '20s that doesn't involve the typical story of flappers and prohibition.

    I think The Paying Guests rivals Affinity in terms of how gloomy the setting is, how mundane and repetitive Frances's life is, and I felt like there was certainly something bleak about the underlying tone of the book that suited many of the topics it touched.

    I've seen many reviews criticise The Paying Guests for being the most predictable of Waters' work, and I would have to agree - after reading Fingersmith and The Little Stranger it's difficult not to expect some amazing twist from this book, but instead it just plods along to a conclusion that I ultimately found a little unsatisfying. For me there wasn't enough chemistry between Frances and Lilian, and while I sympathised with them both separately I'm not sure I liked them together. I was actually a lot more interested in Frances's relationship with her ex, Chrissy, whom Frances left after their affair was discovered and she was persuaded by her mother to distance herself from her. Rather than the story Waters chose to tell, I'd've been much more interested in a Persuasion-esque story in which Frances and Chrissy were given a second chance. 

    I liked Lilian, but as the novel moves towards its conclusion it's difficult to believe that she and Frances will ever be really happy together. There are some things couples just can't move on from.

    If you're a fan of Waters' work I recommend checking this book out so you can make up your own mind about it - Waters is still a brilliant storyteller, and even though The Paying Guests is on the chunkier side I still read it fairly quickly - but if you're new to Waters I don't recommend starting here. Read Fingersmith instead!

    Friday, 4 March 2016

    Creatures of the Night Book Tag!

    I thought I'd do something quick and easy for my first post back after my accidental hiatus, and the Creatures of the Night Book Tag looked like too much fun to pass up! This tag was originally created by Katytastic over on YouTube.

    The aim is simply to pick a character that fits with each of these creatures - there are ten in total.


    I had to go with Skinner Sweet from Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque's American Vampire series. He's kind of terrible, but he fascinates me.


    Typical answer, I know, but how could I not choose Remus Lupin?


    Angel Crawford, star of the White Trash Zombie series, is my choice for this one. She's so much fun to read, and this is a great urban fantasy series!


    I really liked Elizabeth Hempstock when I read Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, so I had to choose her.


    Naturally, I chose Meche from Signal to Noise. I love her.


    I've barely read any stories about fairies or fae, but near the end of last year I read Elizabeth May's The Falconer and I thought Derrick was a really fun character. I wish I had a fairy living in my wardrobe.


    I haven't read many demon books, either, but I liked Amber from Demon Road - she's not your typical demonic character.


    I'm afraid I'm not a fan of angel books, they're just not my thing, so I don't have a favourite.


    I fell in love with Sissix in The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. You should drop everything you're doing and read that book, by the way.

    Superpowered Human

    Kamala Khan from Ms. Marvel of course! Who else?

    If you want to do this tag then do! I'd love to see some of your choices.

    Thursday, 3 March 2016

    Accidental Hiatus

    So I accidentally didn't post anything in the latter half of February. Oops.

    I like to update my blog with posts every Monday and Friday, and 99% of the time those posts are scheduled in advance because that's the way that works best for me. This is something I'm going to get back into through March.

    I managed to land myself in a reading slump in February - probably because of that bloody TBR I tried to set myself - and I also started a new job that I have to commute to; every week day morning I leave the house at around twenty past seven, and I don't get back home until around six o'clock. So I spend almost twelve hours of my day at work, at a fairly busy job, and getting there and back. By the time I get home I'm pretty tired, so I haven't been writing blog posts in the evening as frequently and I haven't been reading as frequently either.

    On top of that February wasn't the best mental health month for me. I'm not going to go into any detail - I'm fine, by the way - I just needed to take some time to myself where I didn't add worrying about my blog to the list of problems going round and round in my head.

    So apologies for my little absence - I'll be back to my usual blogging self from tomorrow!