Happy Mother’s Day!

This week I was planning on doing a Friday Feature in honor of Mother’s Day in which I wanted to look at some of my favourite mother/daughter relationships in literature. But you know what, I came up with nothing. Nada. I scrolled through Goodreads and my bookshelves, and nothing.

When I was at Uni studying creative writing, one of the first things I was told in my Children’s Fiction module was ‘kill off the parents’, something I never really agreed with because it’s been done to death, excuse the pun, but seriously, there must be some good books out there that went against the grain and didn’t do away with the parents?

Maybe it’s just because I don’t read that much Contemporary Fiction, so if you have any recommendations please do!

So as an alternative, in honor of all the brilliant mum’s out there -especially my own of course – here is best TV mum ever!

Happy Mother’s Day!

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Frog Music by Emma Donoghue

frogSummer of 1876: San Francisco is in the fierce grip of a record-breaking heat wave and a smallpox epidemic. Through the window of a railroad saloon, a young woman called Jenny Bonnet is shot dead. The survivor, her friend Blanche Beunon, is a French burlesque dancer. Over the next three days, she will risk everything to bring Jenny’s murderer to justice – if he doesn’t track her down first. The story Blanche struggles to piece together is one of free-love bohemians, desperate paupers and arrogant millionaires; of jealous men, icy women and damaged children. It’s the secret life of Jenny herself, a notorious character who breaks the law every morning by getting dressed: a charmer as slippery as the frogs she hunts. In thrilling, cinematic style, FROG MUSIC digs up a long-forgotten, never-solved crime. Full of songs that migrated across the world, Emma Donoghue’s lyrical tale of love and bloodshed among lowlifes captures the pulse of a boom town like no other.

Frog Music feels like a return to what Donoghue knows best; like she’s returning home after the Hollywood vacation that her best selling book Room took her on.

Despite being set a century later, and in San Francisco rather than London, Frog Music has a lot of similarities to her earlier novel, Slammerkin. The protagonist in this case is Blanche de Danseuse, an exotic dancer at The House of Mirrors who lives with her lover-cum-pimp Arthur and his pretty much shadow of a friend Ernest.

One night Blanche literally runs into Jenny, a larger-than-life character who rides a stolen bicycle and who refuses to wear ‘ladies’ clothes despite being continuously fined and jailed for wearing trousers.

Frog Music jumps from the fateful night in which Jenny is killed, back to the moment they met. Which sounds good in theory, but I like to be informed when timelines are shifting and this book didn’t do that. When starting a new chapter it took a while to figure out where in the story I was, which left me confused and annoyed at times.

However, Donoghue has such a beautiful, enticing, and musical way with words that Frog Music was satisfying to read even if I was unsure of what was going on with the plot. I was also kept interested by certain breadcrumbs of information, such as Blanche being so adamant that it was Arthur who killed Jenny, but meaning to get her instead. What happened between the time Jenny was welcomed into their bohemian, flirtatious friendship and the night she was killed?

I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read by Emma Donoghue, and this was no exception, but I was a little disappointed. My main issue, I think, was the character of Blanche. I wanted her to be bolder, more outrages but instead she was rather bland for a french bohemian exotic dancer and prostitute.

unicorn rating 3

Disclosure?: I received a free copy from the publisher/author in exchange for an HONEST review.
Title: Frog Music
Author: Emma Donoghue
Details: Hardcover, 352 pages
Published: March 25th 2014 by HarperCollins
My Rating: 3/5

WWW Wednesday 26.01.2014

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To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading? • What did you recently finish reading? • What do you think you’ll read next?

Happy Wednesday everyone!

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Currently Reading: Frog Music by Emma Donoghue and The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen. I’m going to the book launch of Frog Music on Sunday too which is exciting!

Recently Finished: I finished Monsters of Men (review here) by Patrick Ness, which broke me, as expected, and The Medea Complex by Rachel Roberts which I really enjoyed.

Up Next: Ahhhhh too many good books! I have A Love Like Blood by Marcus Sedgwick, After Wimbledon by Jennifer Gilby Roberts, Frostbite by Richelle Mead, Scarlett by Marissa Meyer, The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas and The Selection Stories by Kiera Cass in the running. How to choose????

Leave a comment with your link and I’ll come visit! 🙂

Top Ten Tuesday: Things on my Bookish Bucketlist

toptentuesday
Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish (click the image to visit them) who pick a different topic each week. This week the topic is Top Ten things your your Blogging/Bookish (or not so Bookish) Bucketlist. My list also includes my writing bucketlist.

  1. Live in a castle. It’s not too much to ask is it? IS IT?
  2. Write something amazing. Get Published. Win at life.
  3. Open Vintage Bookshop (one of my dreams is to own a actual book shop but I’ll settle for an online one I suppose).
  4. Attend Launches, Book Blogger/Publishing Events etc
  5. Do  (& pass obv) an MA in Creative Writing/Publishing.
  6. Go to Hay festival.
  7. Win at NaNoWriMo!
  8. Get a ‘Never is an awfully long time’ tattoo.
  9. Read the Iliad.
  10. Go on a Writer’s retreat.

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts #1

This seems to be a week of signing up for new things so I’ve decided to take part in this meme hosted by the Bookishly Boisterous which was brought to my attention by the lovely Jess at What Comes Next.

The idea is simple, it’s a round-up of your week, your thoughts, and basically anything you’d like to share on your blog.

I’m not sure if I’ll make this a weekly thing (maybe fortnightly?) and the original is posted on Wednesdays, but I’m going to schedule mine for Mondays. That’s allowed, right? COME AND STOP ME :p

But anyway, it seems like a great way to share what’s going on, whether in book world or your real life world.

1. So the Divergent film is imminent. Naturally, I have casting rage and think it looks awful from the trailer, but my friend Di and I will *have* to go and see it to snigger in the back row and ultimately declare it to be the worst adaptation since Twilight. I also came across this list of 10 Books You Should Read That Are Being Adapted on Pop Insomniacs. How have I not read The Maze Runner yet?

2. My brother is visiting this weekend which will inevitably involve a lot of drinking! We’re also going to a Sing-Along screening of Busgy Malone at the Prince Charles Cinema (who btw have a great film blog here). Yay! Not so yay is that he will be here on Sunday, which is Mother’s Day so I have major guilt that neither of us will be there to spoil our mum. Bad children!

3. I got an invite to my first ever book launch last week, for Emma Donoghue’s Frog Music. It’s taking place in a secret London location and looks all kinds of awesome! Can’t wait!

4. Have you guys been following the Let Books Be Books Campaign this week? There’s been this whole bickering in the UK press about books being purposely marketed for either a male or female audience and I must say I do think it’s a bad trend we’ve gotten into. There are so any great books that either boys or girls won’t read, because the covers and marketing material have targeted just one gender. It’s hard enough to get boys to read books with a female protagonist and vice-versa without making the covers pink or blue! I loved this post on the subject by author James Calbraith: Girls With Bows

5. I’ve finally decided to open an Etsy shop to sell Vintage Books and other finds. I’ve been wanting to do it for years now and even set up an account in 2012 but I never had a good enough camera to take the photos. So I bought myself a vintage SLR camera (what could be better than a vintage camera to take photos of vintage books?) We shall see! I’m building up stock slowly, and will hopefully be up and running in a month or so. Exciting.

I could seriously carry on all day with this but I’ll spare you. I think I’ going to enjoy this meme. 🙂

Once Upon a Time: Join the Quest!

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Yesterday I came across a new challenge on the lovely Lynn’s blog, and while I have done pretty rubbish in the challenges I set myself at the start of the year, I’m signing up.

But it’s OK, because Once Upon a Time uses the term ‘challenge’ pretty loosely and you can sign up just for ‘The Journey’….

Once Upon a Time is brought to us by Carl over at Stainless Steel Droppings, and is in its 8th year. It’s ‘a reading and viewing event that encompasses four broad categories: Fairy Tale, Folklore, Fantasy and Mythology, including the seemingly countless sub-genres and blending of genres that fall within this spectrum.’ It runs from March 21st to June 21st and you can sign up for minimal participation (1 book) in ‘The Journey’ or five other quests. Check out the original post on Stainless Steel Droppings for more info or to sign up.

I’m going for Quest the Third because I’ve been wanting to reread some Shakespeare for some time, and this is the perfect encouragement.

once8jquest3

Fulfill the requirements for The Journey or Quest the First or Quest the Second AND top it off with a June reading of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream OR a viewing of one of the many theatrical versions of the play.

So I’ll be doing The Journey (1 book min.) – even though I have quite a few books that would fall into these categories on my TBR list – because I just don’t want to commit to more given my bad start to the year where other challenges are concerned, and reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream in June. Fun!

Be one of us…

Monsters of Men (Chaos Walking #3) by Patrick Ness: Spoiler-Free, Lazy Saturday Review!

momIn the riveting conclusion to the acclaimed dystopian series, a boy and girl caught in the chaos of war face devastating choices that will decide the fate of a world.
As a world-ending war surges around them, Todd and Viola face monstrous decisions. The indigenous Spackle, thinking and acting as one, have mobilized to avenge their murdered people. Ruthless human leaders prepare to defend their factions at all costs, even as a convoy of new settlers approaches. And as the ceaseless Noise lays all thoughts bare, the projected will of the few threatens to overwhelm the desperate desire of the many. The consequences of each action, each word, are unspeakably vast: To follow a tyrant or a terrorist? To save the life of the one you love most, or thousands of strangers? To believe in redemption, or assume it is lost? Becoming adults amid the turmoil, Todd and Viola question all they have known, racing through horror and outrage toward a shocking finale.

And so it came to an end. I can’t even describe the emotional journey that this series took me on. The only thing I am certain of is that Patrick Ness is pure evil (not really I’m sure he’s lovely)! Boy, Colt!

After the first two books of which I attempted -in a similar way to this – to review here: The Knife of Never Letting Go & here: The Ask and the Answer, I wasn’t sure which way this book was gonna go. I decided to myself that there were two options. 1. The Happy Ending or 2. Everyone Dies. But, how silly of me, those options weren’t even close to giving Patrick Ness enough credit. Of course it wouldn’t be that simple! He was going to mess with me a bit longer beforehand.

Monsters of Men started off pretty slowly for me, as did the last book, so I in no way found them perfect reads. At the time of reading I was frustrated, I felt like the story wasn’t evolving, Viola & Todd were still separated, Todd being slowly influenced by the Mayor and Viola by Mistress Coyle whose ‘My Girl‘s were driving me mad. But by the end of the book, it was always worth it. I felt I needed those calm 200 pages to really appreciate the magnitude of what ended up happening. The calm before the storm, if you will.

Thinking about it, Monsters of Men finished the only way it should, leaving me with one message as hard as a slap in the face by the hands of Thor: NOTHING GOOD EVER COMES OF WAR.

And that’s it, I’m done. Sorry, I think I’ve gone a bit mad today.

unicorn rating 4

Disclosure?: Nope, I borrowed it off the lovely Dianne @ Icefloe
Title: Monsters of Men (Chaos Walking #3)
Author: Patrick Ness
Details: Paperback, 603 pages
Published: October 1st 2010 by Walker & Company
My Rating: 4/5

Zombies Vs Unicorns…if only it were that simple!

A Short Story Collection Edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier

zomIt’s a question as old as time itself: which is better, the zombie or the unicorn? In this anthology, edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier (unicorn and zombie, respectively), strong arguments are made for both sides in the form of short stories. Half of the stories portray the strengths–for good and evil–of unicorns and half show the good (and really, really bad-ass) side of zombies. Contributors include many bestselling teen authors, including Cassandra Clare, Libba Bray, Maureen Johnson, Meg Cabot, Scott Westerfeld, and Margo Lanagan. This anthology will have everyone asking: Team Zombie or Team Unicorn?

For me, the question of who is better Zombies or Unicorns is pretty ridiculous. I’m fairly renowned for my obsession love of unicorns so when I found out that Holly Black had compiled this collection of short stories I had to put it on my wishlist, even though I’m not a huge fan of the short story.

There were a lot of things I liked about this book, the set up for one. Holly Black is in charge of Team Unicorn (Yesssss) and Justine Larbalestier, Team Zombie (Boooooo). The stories are alternated between TU and TZ and have a little introduction (sometimes more like a pep rally cheer) by each respective Team Leader followed by a rebuttal from the opposing team. At first I found this a bit too kitsch. It felt like two friends playing up to a crowd. Oh aren’t we funny, how we love to bicker with each other…that kind of thing. But I warmed to them eventually. If you can’t beat them, join them, right!?

And the collection itself? It was definitely a mixed bag for me, as most short story collections are, and it really, really pains me to say that I found myself enjoying the zombie stories more than the unicorn ones. In fact, it really made me want to write a good unicorn story to prove that it’s possible.

That might be a bit harsh, they weren’t all bad. I really enjoyed The Care and Feeding of Your Killer Baby Unicorn by Diana Peterfreund – a spin-off to her Killer Unicorns series which I haven’t read but want to now. In Peterfreund’s stories ‘real unicorns are man eating beasts with razor sharp fangs and a fatal venom in their lethal horns. And they can only be killed by the virgin descendants of Alexander the Great’. Fun!

As for the Team Zombie stories, there were a few stand-outs but Maureen Johnson’s The Children of the Revolution was my favourite. A girl who had followed a boy out to England to pick berries all summer long finds herself needing to get away from him. Homeless and jobless, the perfect solution arises when she is offered the job of nannying the children of a Hollywood superstar. But of course, they are not normal children. Johnson totally nails the satire of the rich and the famous, and the celebrity in question bore more than a passing resemblance to Angelina Jolie. Picturing her amused me no end.

I also really enjoyed Alaya Dawn Johnson’s Love Will Tear Us Apart, a cute boy/boy zombie romance in a similar vein to Warm Bodies, and also Scott Westerfeld’s Inoculata which reminded me little bit of the film Stakeland, but with Zombies. See, there’s something for everyone!

Overall, I’m really glad I own this book, and not just because it looks pretty and sounds badass. I’d definitely like to revisit a few of these stories, and I feel like it’s getting me one step closer to embracing the medium of the short story.

I feel like maybe I should switch to a Zombie rating for this book, but alas, I cannot. Unicorns til I die!

unicorn rating 3

Disclosure?: Nope, it was a gift!
Title: Zombies Vs Unicorns
Author: Various
Details: Paperback, 418 pages
Published: April 3rd 2012 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
My Rating: 3/5

Friday Feature: We Need to Talk About…

…reviewing books in a series.

What happened to #1???

What happened to #1???

I’ve been thinking about this for a while. In a similar way to how I find reviewing 5-star (or in my case 5-Unicorn) books difficult, I find reviewing individual books from a series just as difficult.

I’m wondering this as I try to write a coherent review of Monsters of Men, the final book in Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking Trilogy. But I’m not even talking about trilogies here. They are hard enough, but what about say a book #6 or #10 in a series? How do you, as reviewers, tackle those? I tend to get vaguer with every sequel I talk about!

Here are the obstacles as I see them:

1. Spoilers: It’s pretty much impossible to review one of the books with enough depth without giving away any spoilers from any of the previous books. Depending on the complexity of the series of course, but it can be impossible to mention anything plot-wise that will not give away something that you wouldn’t want to know if you hadn’t read the previous books.

2. Content: And then there’s the actual content of the review. Do you give an overview of the story so far each time, or do you just concentrate on that one book? If you don’t give any background, will what you say even make any sense?

3. Audience: Which brings me to wonder if only people who have read, or at least started the series, will want to read the review? I must admit – I do it. If bloggers put one of those handy ‘about’ bits at the start of their review and it says ‘Series so and so’ #4′ I probably wouldn’t bother reading the review. I might see if it gives the name of the first book to check out, but 9 times out of 10 I wouldn’t read the main body of the post. Don’t get me wrong, blog stats are not the be all and end all for me at all. But what’s the point of spending time writing something and posting it on a public outlet for no one to read it. That’s why we blog right? Especially if you do that for 8 books that the majority of your readers won’t read.

Luckily for me, I am pretty rubbish at sticking to series. I have to be really engrossed by them read every book just because I don’t like to read the same kind of things back to back, and when I take a break from a series to read something else I usually forget to go back to them…and by the time I do remember I don’t feel the same need to read the next book any more. Madness, I know.

One I do want to continue with though are the Vampire Academy books by Richelle Mead. I really enjoyed the first book and I’m waiting for the next one to arrive. Early days yet, but if I do end up reading the whole series I’m wondering how to tackle it. I know I won’t read them all in one go so it could be forever until I finish them if I wanted to review the series as a whole. Or do I just do mini-reviews (I think I like this idea the most – anything to save a bit of time)…?

So I ask you lovely blogosphere…have you come across any of these obstacles? And, if so, do you have any tips to share?

WWW Wednesday 17.03.2014

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To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading? • What did you recently finish reading? • What do you think you’ll read next?

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Currently Reading: I’m reading The Medea Complex by Rachel Roberts and I’m just finishing up Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness

Recently Finished: This week I finished Blood Orange Soda by James Michael Larranaga (review here).

Up Next: Probably The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen.