BLOG

BLOG
Book Reviews

MEET EMMA

MEET EMMA
Illustration

Portfolio

Portfolio
Portfolio

HAPPY CHRISTMAS!


Hi everyone - I just wanted to take this opportunity to wish all of my lovely readers a very Happy Christmas, and all the best for the New Year. I will be taking a break from the blog until January, and will come back refreshed and renewed (and hopefully with some great reviews and post ideas!) in 2014! I already have a some good stuff scheduled so keep your eyes peeled.

When it comes to New Year's resolutions I have this one:

Meet my Goodreads Target!

I was only 3 away from it this year, so close! How did you do?!


I hope Santa is good to you all and that you get at least one book under the Christmas tree! ;)
If you are still struggling to get all your Christmas shopping done, why not check out my gift ideas post?

So, until 2014, HAVE A GOOD ONE!

1

Angelfall - review

“I never thought about it before, but I'm proud to be human. We're ever so flawed. We're frail, confused, violent, and we struggle with so many issues. But all in all, I'm proud to be a Daughter of Man.”  

Title: Angelfall (Penryn and the End of Days)
Author: Susan Ee

Publisher: Hodder
Source: Purchased on Kindle
Buy it:  Here


Synopsis

Angels have waged war on Earth, and humans are in the way. Penryn is 17, and is trying to navigate her disabled sister, Paige, and her mentally ill mother through San Fransisco safely, without attracting the attention of any of the winged men that have torn the city to the ground. When witnessing a bloody battle between opposing Angels, the family is caught in the middle - an Angel's wings are severed, and Paige is stolen by the battle's victor. Penryn's quest to save her is begun - alongside an unlikely partnership between enemies, and an unlikely protector in her mother's delusions.

Review

Starting Angelfall, I wasn't sure whether I would like it. Angels seem like a subject that has a lot of potential to get a bit... preachy! However, I was quickly swept up into the narrative and embraced the books easy-to-understand world building. Angels, in Angelfall, are not the sweet and pious things you may imagine. They are brutal, warring monsters - beautiful and deadly - and humans simply stand in their way. I really liked this unexpected characterisation of "heavenly" beings and it was the first step towards a lot of unexpected delights along the way.

I found Angelfall also dealt with the varying states of human condition in the characters in a believable and sensitive way. Penryn herself is often stubborn and at times tunnel-visioned, due to being thrust into the role of provider for her family, which is fragile both physically and mentally, at such a young age. Her sister, Paige, is without the use of her legs owing to an accident involving her mother, who in turn struggles to show love for her daughters and suffers from hallucinations, outbursts of violence and speaks in tongues. There are not enough words to say how brilliant I found the treatment of these roles. Paige is strong, despite her disability, and their mother is unendingly loyal, if aloof and troubled.

Then, there is the Angel of the book, Raffe. He is humanised by the loss of his wings, and is bitter and impatient at being lowered to that of the "monkeys". Raffe finds him self in a tense cooperative with Penryn, as he trades his knowledge of Angels to help find Paige, and in return she helps him blend into the human world while he searches for a surgeon to reattach his lost feathers. Some of the best dialogues in the book were the quick witted and snide exchanges between Raffe and Penryn, giving way to some evident "frustration" as the story progressed ;) These conversations paced the story brilliantly towards it's action packed, surprising and shocking conclusion.

If I was to give one tiny negative about Angelfall, it would lie with Penryn. At the beginning of the book, I would be pushed to believe she was 17. Her voice felt a lot younger and some of her actions when around Raffe were quite immature. However, once the two of them had reached the centre of San Fransisco her character had changed to reflect her age and experience more, and I never gave a second thought to some of the more jarring passages from earlier in the book!

Overall

An unexpectedly brilliant novel, where nothing is what you would assume. It reminded me in parts of The Reapers are the Angels - but with more of a defined YA lean.

Score 
★★★
0

Best Books of 2013

Want to know what my favourite reads have been this year? Look no further than the list below. I have read some amazing (and some not so amazing!) books this year, but these ones are the cream of the crop. What have been your best books of 2013?


1. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker  - REVIEW

Out and out my favourite book of the year! It's the one I've been recommending over and over again to anyone who will listen. It's a little bit sci-fi, it's a little bit deep and philosophical, it's a little bit coming-of-age, it's a little bit sweet and at the same time a little bit deadly! The writing was superb, the characters were adorable and I wouldn't hesitate to drop it onto a desert island book list!
Seriously guys, grab a copy.

2. Bellman and Black by Diane Setterfield - REVIEW

This was probably my most highly anticipated book of the year and it did not disappoint. It was so atmospheric and spooky, and a worthy follow-up to Setterfield's debut, The Thirteenth Tale. Not quite an all-out ghost story in the traditional sense, it still had a good haunting and lavish gothic influences. I know a second reading will have me enjoying the book even more!

3. The Boy Who Could See Demons by Carolyn Jess-Cooke - REVIEW

OK, so I may not have loved the ending of this book (putting it mildly!) but every step of the journey towards it was excellent. I loved the sense of mystery, the modern and often-unexplored setting, the characters... all of it was utterly great.

4. The Language of Dying by Sarah Pinborough - REVIEW

Just making it into the 2013 list by a hair (as it is released on the 5th of December)! This short story had me remembering just why I love reading so much. Beautiful prose, tense atmosphere, interesting and dark characters, a little bit of the impossible... Perfect :)

5. Allegiant by Veronica Roth - REVIEW

I actually read the entire Divergent series in 2013, but I think Allegiant was the only one released this year. I had highly anticipated the ending to Tris and Four's story and although some readers were left feeling betrayed(!) I absolutely loved the conclusion. I thought it stayed true to the characters, and delivered the endings they had kind of always been destined for.

6. The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan - REVIEW

It took me a little while to get into the swing of this book, but once I did I was rewarded greatly. It is quite a brutal book in many ways, but it was also fragile, honest and beautiful. If you come away with anything other than love for the main character Anais, I would be seriously surprised!

7. The Humans by Matt Haig - REVIEW

This was probably my most unexpected top ten book of the year, as I wasn't much of a fan of Haig's previous book, The Radleys. The Humans, however, is a complete departure from everything I felt towards the previous book. It is unique, touching, philosophical and, maybe just a little bit... genious ;) It's aliens, but it isn't really an alien story.

8 & 9 Angelfall by Susan Ee and The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey. (REVIEWS COMING SOON)

Ok, so I haven't actually finished these books yet, but some life stuff has cropped up which means I may not reach the final pages before the end of the year. The fact is, I'm enjoying both of these books SO MUCH, I really feel they need to be on this list! I'm putting my faith in the fact these books have good endings, so I hope they prove me right!

What were your favourite books of the year?!
3

Festive freebies!


This winter, I know I will be avidly taking part in two activities familiar to many a book blogger:

1) Trying my darned hardest to complete my 2013 TBR pile

and

2) Trying to drop (not-so) subtle hints of all the books I'd love to receive as gifts!

I just know I won't be the only one...

So, in the honour of festive giving, I have created these free functional bookmark print-ables. Helping you work through your pile of books and ALSO giving you a handy hint sheet to "accidentally" leave around ;)

I hope you like them! Just click the link below the pics to download all three, and print at your leisure :)

Season's Greetings, Guys!




PS. If you like these bookmarks, don't forget I also offer a range of affordable design services!
0

The Humans - review

“Laughter, along with madness, seemed to be the only way out, the emergency exit for humans.”

“Advice for a human - 86. To like something is to insult it. Love it or hate it. Be passionate. As civilisation advances, so does indifference. It is a disease. Immunize yourself with art. And love.” 

Title: The Humans
Author: Matt Haig

Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Source: Review copy via Netgalley
Buy it: Here


Synopsis

A Vonnedorian is sent to earth to possess a recently abducted Cambridge University maths professor's body, and destroy evidence of his most recent mathematical discovery by any means necessary; proof of a theory that will give humans an advancement in technology they are not evolved enough to acquire. However, the outsider doesn't expect the "violent" humans to have such an affect on his mathematical logic.

Review

When I read Matt Haig's last book, The Radleys, I wasn't overwhelmed by it - and I think much of that was the press surrounding it. I just felt the entire premise of vampire novels at the time was overdone and quite predictable. In The Humans, Haig takes on aliens, and I am so happy to say that it is the polar opposite of The Radleys! It was unexpected, original, relate-able(!) and genuinely humourous (in a satirical kind of way).

I loved the view of human life from an outside perspective. Matt Haig manages to write a character in "Andrew" that feels believably omnipotent and superior in ways we could never know, and yet have him almost childlike in his innocence of the world. I found the concept of mathematics being the route to all scientific discovery to be unique and even sensible! I especially liked reading Andrew's cynical impressions of the Human species and found his journey towards empathy both warming and inspiring - especially when I, myself, can feel hopeless about the world, I found that Andrew's outlook could encourage me to see the light!

The human characters in the book were privileged but "damaged" lives that represented a spectrum of human psyche. The presence of emotion in the book, especially love in all its forms, was beautifully written on these characters - bouncing from the innocence of Andrew to the weariness of Isobel and the fragility of Gulliver. Even the dog, Newton, gets a dose of humanity in the form of empathy.

To say this book is quotable would be an understatement. There are gems of brilliance littered throughout (I couldn't help but sneak two quotes in at the top of this review!) and I can really imagine there will be tshirts made of Andrew's final advice to Gulliver! I found myself nodding along so much my neck started to ache haha!

I found a special treat in The Humans within the setting; the book is set in Cambridge! I lived there for 23 years before moving to Bristol and reading about the universities and the parks gave me a small taste of home!

Overall

I hugely enjoyed reading this "outside looking in" perspective of human being. It's philosophical, uplifting, honest, heartbreaking and humourous. After The Radleys I wasn't expecting something as touching or as unique as The humans, but I stand happily proven wrong!

Score 
★★★
0

Catching Fire || FILM

Last night, I watched The Hunger Games part 2: Catching Fire. I was so excited, and couldn't wait for another dose of Jennifer Lawrence amazing-ness (who doesn't love her?!) However, I wasn't sure what to expect from the film itself. If I'm honest - The Hunger Games left me wanting. It wasn't the film I thought it would be... I thought it lacked threat, missed some very important plot points, and failed to explain with any satisfaction the motives and reasons for the Capitol.

I am so happy to say Catching Fire is everything The Hunger Games wasn't - and more! It was brilliant! I was on the edge of my seat for most of the film (despite obviously knowing what happens!) and really felt that this time, President Snow and the Capitol posed palpable evil deadliness.


J-Law was once again the perfect Katniss. I'm sure there will be gifs aplenty of "the lift scene" face! She provided a lot of emotion and a lot of strength in the role once more, and by the end had transformed completely into the symbol of the revolution. Equally brilliant was Jena Malone as the feisty Johanna - my favourite character in Catching Fire. There just isn't enough of her!

The supporting "games" team; Effie, Haymitch and Cinna are on top form. The only criticism I have of Catching Fire is that Cinna didn't get enough of a build-up before his departure... It didn't have that striking blow that I felt it had in the book, which his such a shame.


The experience of watching the film was a visual treat. The arena was perfect - exactly how I'd imagined it when reading - and the effects were seamless (I loved the haunting movement of the poisonous gas). The fashion - oh! The fashion! - it was like a special part of fashion week reserved for Capitol Dramatic! I wanted all of Katniss' dresses!

Overall the film felt darker, more tense, more brutal and above all "mounting". The end shot is excellent. I am already in the queue for Mockingjay part 1 ;)

Have you seen Catching Fire? What did you think?!
1

The Language of Dying - review

Forty next birthday and I’m looking out of the window for something that may be imaginary, that I haven’t seen in fifteen years, if ever I saw it at all.
But it’s one of those nights, isn’t it, Dad? A special, terrible night. A full night. And that’s always when it comes.
If it comes at all.”

Title: The Language of Dying
Author: Sarah Pinborough

Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books
Source: ARC via Jo Fletcher Books
Buy it:December 5th 2013


Synopsis

In the house she grew up in, full of dark and varied memories, a woman sits at the bedside of her dying father, awaiting the arrival of her siblings to make their final goodbyes. As she recounts the times shared, she is haunted by the recollection of a terrifying and wondrous vision she has seen twice before... and tonight she feels she may see it once more.

Review

First of all, I have to mention that the cover of The Language of Dying is one of the most beautiful on my bookshelf. When I got it, I couldn't help but touch it and admire the intricacy - it's so lovely. Secondly, I was surprised to see how short The Language of Dying is. It's definitely a quick read, but not, as you may assume, an easy one.

The writing in this novel(la) is absolutely gorgeous. Simple yet poetic, the words are considered, measured and perfect. The narrative deals with hard and uncomfortable themes of death, terminal illness, sibling resentment, alcohol abuse, domestic abuse and depression and yet they are delivered in such a way as to float into you, leave their mark and disintegrate into the all-encompassing "alltime" that is the present in this book.

I truly felt like I experienced something with the characters of The Language of Dying. Each of the siblings arrive at the house carrying their own burdens and dysfunction - and each of them are allowed to crumble or strengthen when their concoction of experience is entangled with death. I was reminded a lot of the character dynamics in books such as The Secret History and The House At Midnight, and the atmosphere was taught and oppressive, which will feel similar to anyone who has read the other novels.

The fantasy element of the book was stunning. I won't spoil the book, but will say the climatic ending gave me goosebumps.

Overall

Everything about the experience of reading this book was wholly enjoyable. It felt innocent despite the despair and I only wish it could have been longer!

Score 
★★★


2

The Bookish Gift Guide 2013

There's no escaping it - "That time of year" is just around the corner! If you are looking for the perfect gift for a book lover, I have plenty of bookish themed ideas that would make the perfect present for your favourite bookworm. Make someone's year with one of these brilliant gift options:

(You can also keep up to date with my gift-y finds on Pinterest!)







Do you make anything that would be the perfect bookish gift? Let me know and I'll add you to the list!

What will you be buying your bookish friends and family this year?
2

Revisited || The Book Thief

When I heard there was going to be a film made of The Book Thief, I knew I had to read it again before it came out...


The First Time

I first read The Book Thief long before I had started this blog, so there is no review to link you back to... however, I remember loving the altered perspective of reading from Death's POV, I remember loving Liesel and Hans and seeing every character and scene so very clearly. I enjoy novels that document events in WW2 and this book was possibly one of the first I read on the subject. It showed German life under Hitler's rule very honestly - even innocently.
I remember wanting to illustrate the side-notes and anecdotes. I think I might have done, with a couple...!
Most of all, I remember the shattering finale; sobbing heavily into the pages and walking around in a bit of a daze once the novel had been closed.
Despite this, I didn't find the book to be gripping. I easily dipped in and out of it, enjoying it when I was in it, but not longing for the next free minute to delve in again.



The Second Time

Having read a number of WW2 fiction since The Book Thief, I wondered whether it would have the same emotional effect the second time round. Then, I realised Death tells you what is going to happen very early on in the book anyway - was I forewarned as much before?
Once again I found myself instantly warming to Liesel and Hans - their relationship is just beautiful. However, this time I found I had more of an understanding for Rosa, Liesel's foster mother. I think I saw more of the subtleties in her moods, and began to empathise with her character better than before.
Death was a surprise for me. I had such memories of Death's observations - of his gift for describing colour so uniquely and for his attention to small things. I remembered his way of describing souls as tangible senses. On the second reading, I actually found Death to be a bit... pretentious! Some of his phrases sounded cliche more than profound. Perhaps this is due to "copy cat" novels having come afterwards, but I was not expecting such a reversal in my opinion of a character.
Emotionally, I found I was tearing up at points I didn't before. New characters and situations were stirring me. The ending still had me going, but it wasn't a gasping-for-breath cry that I remember!
Similarly to the first time, I still found I could easily stop reading at the end of chapters. However, this time I think I understood why. Death tells you what's coming. All the time! There is no mystery to keep you gripped, only the enjoyment of the experience of knowing these wonderful characters.

Will there be a Third Time?

I don't doubt that there will be. Perhaps a few years down the line, once I have watched the film and have been either horrified or elated at it's adaptation! I actually look forward to the third reading, to see how far my reactions and opinions will have changed once again!

Overall

I was not expecting such a difference in my reading experience of The Book Thief, but I enjoyed it just as much the second time around, if for different reasons!
0

50 Facts Tag


Eeep! I've been tagged! Zoe tagged me in her 50 Facts post and now I have finally gotten round to pulling together a few facts (ok a lot, phew!) about me. If you're interested, enjoy, if not - I'll see you next post ;)

I'm tagging back Orisi at Orisi's Blah Blah, Christina at Allodoxophobia, Kelly at DorristheLoris, Ellie at Crafty Cowgirl and Claire at Claireabellmakes! (Sorry if you've been tagged before/couldn't give a monkeys!)

So, here you have it: 50 Facts of Mab

YAY - 50!
1. My colleagues created Mab - as a way of merging my surname with my first name to differentiate between too many Emmas in the office!
2. I chose to embrace it because Mab's also an awesome character in the King Arthur legend...
3. ... and mentioned as a freaky-assed Fairy Queen in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.
4. I used to live in Cambridge.
5. I didn't go to Cambridge University...
6. ... although a subversive "Cambridge educated" may appear on one or two previous personal statements ;)
7. I didn't go to Uni.
8. I struggled with that for a long time.
9. Now I'm 100% OK with it.
10. I studied English Language and English Literature as separate A Levels. That was 8 hours of English a week. Tell me that's not winning?!
11. I got 90/90 on my Shakespeare paper (Yes, bragging, but if you did you should shout about it too)
12. I started blogging because I missed writing essays about my reading. Call me weird.
13. I had NO IDEA how to blog when I started blogging.
14. Three years later, I'm still learning.
15. When I'm not blogging, I'm a designer.
16. I also make jewellery from my illustrations.
17. I read a lot too (revelation of the century!)
18. My favourite kind of story is a ghost story.
19. My favourite book is a sequel.
20. The Subtle Knife, specifically.
21. I have lost count of how many times I have re-read the Harry Potter series.
22. The line "Have a biscuit, Harry" has me in fits of giggles. Every time. It's just so... random!
23. I got so nostalgic at the Harry Potter Studio Tour I almost wept.
24. Sometimes I can be an emotional moron.
25. I am happy to be at the half way point!
26. I used to read tonnes of vampire novels when none of my friends were into reading.
27. Then Twilight came along, and all my friends read them, and I didn't. (Honestly, couldn't. I tried!)
28. Fate is cruel.
29. I'm an unashamed Buffy geek.
30. I'm usually "the quiet one".
31. It's the "quiet ones" you have to look out for ;)
32. I like music.
33. I like my music loud.
34. And sometimes scream-y.
35. I'm currently ambling my way through my 3rd NANOWRIMO attempt.
36. It's the same book I've been trying to write for the past two years.
37. Sometimes I think I'll never finish it.
38. Actually, I did finish it once...
39. But it was written in teenage poetry.
40. I'm a little bit emo.
41. I love Berlin.
42. I'm not a fan of Paris.
43. I like to snack on pickles.
44. I can't stand goats cheese.
45. I want a cat
46. My boyfriend and I have already named it "Von Hohenheim"
47. Because we fangirl over Full Metal Alchemist.
48. It is my mission to persuade our landlord that little Vonnie won't be a mistake to allow!
49. I am now struggling for facts.
50!!! I'm so happy this is done and I can stop worrying about how boring I am!

That was HARD! So, over to you, dear tagged friends! (If you want to... ha!)

Orisi B
Christina at Allodoxophobia
Kelly at DorristheLoris
Ellie at Wellies, Crochet and Cows
Claire at Claireabellemakes
8

NANOWRIMO 2013

First of all:

GOOD LUCK! to all of those participating in the madness this year!

I know a lot of my blogger friends are doing NANOWRIMO this year and they have some great ideas. Wishing you all the best!

***

If you don't know what NANOWRIMO is, it is National Novel Writing Month. That means the mission, for those that accept it, is to write a 50,000 word target, in the 30 days of November - eek!

I have participated for two years previously, and let me tell you, IT IS HARD. Writing itself is wonderful, but finding the time to write so committedly for a whole month is a bit of a struggle, especially for me working a 9-5 with freelance on top. Not to mention the blog! My best final count to date is just over 36,000. The revered 50,000 has alluded me so far!

However, I shall once again be attempting NANOWRIMO with all the previous gusto of before. I'm very unprepared, and I think that this month I have even less time than usual owing to a few travel plans - but that doesn't mean I shouldn't try, right?!

I have the idea. (It's the same idea as last year - I aim to this time give it a middle and an end! ha!) And I'm going to "just write". Whoever invented "just write", I love you.

SO! Wish me luck everyone. I might update you on the 30th if I have anything half decent to show for it ;)


PS. Not so keen on the official graphics this year... what's everyone else think?!
1

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween to all my lovely readers! 


Here are some wonderful Halloween-y book quotes, alongside even wonderful-er buffy pics! (yay!)

Also, don't forget to check out my guest post from the lovely Claireabellemakes - Spider Web Bookends for some Halloween craft inspo!

Hope you all have a spooktastic day :D

BOO!



“Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make!” 

“I am all in a sea of wonders. I doubt; I fear; I think strange things, which I dare not confess to my own soul. God keep me, if only for the sake of those dear to me!”  

-- DRACULA


“I wish every day could be Halloween. We could all wear masks all the time. Then we could walk around and get to know each other before we got to see what we looked like under the masks.” 

-- WONDER


“Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg, and owlet's wing,—
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.” 

--MACBETH


“Whatever was about, whoever I had seen, and heard rocking, and who had passed me by just now, whoever had opened the locked door was not 'real'. No. But what was 'real'? At that moment I began to doubt my own reality.” 

--THE WOMAN IN BLACK

What are you doing for Halloween? Got any special posts to share?

If you've been inspired by this post, why not read one of these Mab-reviewed spooky novels:

The Seance
The Small Hand
The Man in the Picture
Rosemary's Baby
The Thirteenth Tale
Bellman and Black
0

Allegiant - review

“Can I be forgiven for all I've done to get here?
I want to be.
I can.
I believe it.”


Title: Allegiant
Author: Veronica Roth

Publisher: Harper Collins
Source: Purchased from Kindle Store
Buy it: Here  


Synopsis

In the final installment of the Divergent trilogy, Tris and Four discover the answers they have longed for since Edith Prior's announcement; that divergence is a signal that the Factions must move on to bigger things. As a power struggle in a factionless society ensues, Tris and Four discover what lies beyond the fence, what divergence truly means, and above all, what is worth fighting for.

Review

If there is one thing I can say of Allegiant, it's that it wasn't the book I expected it to be. Littered with surprises (both good and bad, in my opinion) the reader is drawn through the narrative in directions they probably never anticipated.

One of the most obvious surprises is that the narrative is now split between Tris and Four's POV. Initially I was excited by this development - Four's great! Or, should I say, was great. I very soon came to realise that Four's voice was Tris' voice. But, y'know,  not.
There was no personality difference to Four's chapters. No idiosyncrasies. No... uniqueness. He even saw Tris in the same way she saw him. ZZZZZZZZZZZ. Which is lovely and all, but c'mon.
I was even more shocked to find any "Tris-ness" had been wiped out of her own chapters! Where are the hot cheeks? The grabbing the hem of her shirt? The sweating palms? These are small habits she had for two books previous, that don't make a single appearance in Allegiant. It was sad to see. I love these characters, but I feel I was a little bit deprived of them here, whereas the new format should have allowed for more access!

Another thing I wasn't expecting was the truth of what lay beyond the fence.
Genetic purity is not a topic approached with ease. By it's very nature there are social, political and moral implications, none of which I feel were covered with any real satisfaction in the almighty info dump that made the first quarter of Allegiant feel like dragging feet through mud. In previous books, Veronica Roth built up the world she created through characters, through cause and effect and through informed observations. Here, her characters are told a lot. And I mean a LOT. Like, try cramming the whole 1940's Germany situation in 20 pages, but err, set it in an alternate world and describe it to people who don't even know Germany exists. You can probably imagine... I felt the big "outer world" reveal was messy and far too technical. But hey, it is what it is. I can look past it...

Because there were some great things to come. One of the nicest surprises was the development of Peter. We see him desperate to find a way to reconcile his guilt with himself - a theme present in many of the characters in this book. Learning the world is a much bigger place than he thought has Peter believing his actions pale in significance to it's massiveness - that he is just a tiny, tiny dot is the great spectrum of the universe - but soon he faces the reality within himself that his world is the one he interacts with, not the one he simply stands on, and he makes an extreme, unforeseen and - dare I say it - brave(!) choice.

Similarly - and perhaps most controversially, if you have read many reviews yet already! - I found the ending of Allegiant shocking yet fitting. I will not spoil it, but shall say that I felt the characters involved in the events were almost destined to do what they did. I think that each of the characters got their own selfish ending, which, when they have been fighting for others for so long, separated them from their beginnings and made them... more. I really enjoyed the choices Veronica Roth made for the ending, and I cant wait to talk about it with others, who I know will have differing opinions!

I could honestly make this review go on forever, because I think Allegiant left readers with a lot of things to talk about! And for me, that's one sign of a good story. It raises debate, not everyone sees things the same way, and we can all get together and be a big, chattering community about it! However, I will end it here and find the rest of my enjoyment in Fandom :) Thanks, Veronica Roth, for providing us with a book to talk about for a long time to come!

Overall

For me, Allegiant was a very slow starter that wasn't helped by a newly introduced and indifferent split POV. However, once the action got going I was eager to race to the end, and enjoyed the controversial and unexpected ending.

Score 
★★★


0

The Shining Girls - review

“There are only so many plots in the world. It's how they unfold that makes them interesting.”  

Title: The Shining Girls
Author: Lauren Beukes

Publisher: HarperCollins
Source: Purchased from Foyles
Buy it: Here  


Synopsis

Kirby is the accidental survivor of an horrific and brutal attempted murder at the hands of a vicious serial killer. However, while she interns with the retired cop who worked on her case, trying to convince the world of the serial nature of his crimes proves difficult as dates and artifacts present an impossible circumstance: A time-travelling murderer, killing women with shining potential.

Review

The Shining Girls takes a bit of a leap of faith. This is crime-sci-fi and everything about it shouldn't work, but once you release yourself to it, and just go with it, it is a brilliantly rewarding read.

The best thing about The Shining Girls are the shining women themselves. We meet many of them as the killer tracks them, lures them and eventually murders them.They are amazing women who shine because of their potential - political, artistic, knowledgeable and pioneering - the shining girls fight for their beliefs and fight for others. I particularly enjoyed Alice's character, and I kind of wished to read more of her before she died. Perhaps she could have a novella spin-off all of her own?!

The time-travel element of the book takes a bit of getting used to. The dates jump all over the place. Thank goodness I bought this book in paperback and not digitally, as I was flipping back every two seconds to remember what year it was! However, if you are willing to put a bit of work in to keep up with it all, it's a brilliant addition that turns The Shining Girls from a traditional crime genre book into something appealing and new to more than one reader-group. Yes it's supernatural, but it's woven so brilliantly into the action, it won't feel like it. I hope it wouldn't put crime fans off.

Lovers of crime fiction will find familiarity amongst the sci-fi, though, in Harper, the girls' predator; the uncompromising brutality of his life, destructive since childhood and darker than the shadows in the night. I thought he was a brilliantly hate-able criminal. I read in the Q&A with the author at the back of the book that she delighted in hurting him for what he did at every opportunity and I can see this is true. Harper doesn't walk away from the women he hunts unscathed and I liked that their strength is not always entirely extinguished by their killer. They leave their mark, regardless.

Some parts of this novel were quite graphic reading. There are some descriptions of violence - especially towards animals - that may upset unwarned readers. I think that considering the character they relate to, these instances were relevant and therefore not gratuitous, or there simply to shock, but some may find one or two sections a little too much. 

Overall

I really enjoyed The Shining Girls for it's dark plot, despicable killer and bold direction. I didn't think mixing sci-fi with crime would work but I was pleasantly surprised. The array of potential in the characterised Shining Girls made this book a celebration of life and an inspiration to make the most of it's fleeting nature, despite the death across the pages. Recommended for all crime lovers, and I think it would please fans of dark fiction too.

Score 
★★★


0

The perfect reading partner

For me, the perfect reading partner is TEA!

I'm British. I love tea. I don't go a day without it. Breakfast tea, fruit tea, spiced tea - you name it, I drink it. (There's even a place in Bristol that does tea infused cocktails - YUM)

So my weird post for this month is going to be some tea/book matches. Think of it like a highly sophisticated wine flight ;)  What book would you match with your favourite cuppa?

The Other Boleyn Girl >> Lady Grey
All the talk of ladies and titles, it was an easy choice!



Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children >> Licorice and Peppermint
A weird combination that just works!



The Bronze Horseman >> Nettle
Delicate and not as horrible as you think it would be (ha!)



Sherlock Holmes >> Traditional English Breakfast
Quintessentially British



Harry Potter >> Amaranth
Watching this dried flower come to life bloom in hot water is magical!




6

HALLOWEEN GIVEAWAY! (international)

Hi everyone! Halloween is my favourite time of year, and although the UK may not celebrate it as much as the US, I like to indulge in some spooky fun!

This year, I'm having a giveaway! It's my first international one, so I'm very excited. I hope you like the items!

Here's what you can win:


A copy of Florence and Giles by John Harding. This has got to be one of my favourite ghost stories and I would love you to find out why! It isn't a "classic" (yet!) but it has all the traditional gothic stuff: governesses, creepy kids, big empty houses... You can find my review here: http://www.mabismab.com/2011/11/florence-and-giles-review.html I think it's the perfect Halloween read, and so it's part of the prize bundle :D You can also find out why I love ghost stories here!


You can also win this Halloween themed charm bracelet! You may know already that when I'm not blogging, I'm a designer. I have recently started making these bracelets and plan to open my first online store in the new year! You can be one of the first to own a piece of Mab Jewellery ;)

Lastly, in the spirit of Trick Or Treating, I will be adding some surprise treats to the package!

So what are you waiting for?! Enter away! The entries close on Thursday October 24th - GOOD LUCK!

Winners will be picked at random via Rafflecopter and the winner will be sent their copy of Florence and Giles via The Book Depository. This is an international giveaway.


a Rafflecopter giveaway
14

My Fat, Mad Teenage Diary - review

“I want to be loved. Oh, it's SO CORNY, isn't it?! But I just want to be loved by a bloke that loves ME! I want to feel special, you know. I almost feel guilty for feeling it.”

Title: My Fat, Mad Teenage Diary
Author: Rae Earl

Publisher: Hodder
Source: Purchased from Kindle Store
Buy it: Here  



Synopsis

Rae is 17 years old in 1989. In 1988, she spent time in a mental illness hospital following a nervous breakdown. Now, she spills her thoughts and emotions into the pages of her diary as she struggles with her weight, her self image, her mum, and her ever evasive quest to find someone to love. Not to mention recording the who's-who of music on the cusp of the 90's.

Review

I think that we should first get this out of the way: Yes, this is the book behind the E4 TV series. No, I haven't seen it. However, I might change that after reading reports of it's brilliance ;)

Right, so, onto the review!

I was excited to read this book. I kept a diary as a teenager and I would NEVER have the guts to publish it(!) so I wondered what would lie in wait within the pages of My Fat Mad Teenage Diary with quiet eagerness. I expected no-holds-barred bitching, epic self indulgence, boys, boys and more boys. To be honest, I only got one of those. Rae is 110% focused on loving someone, and being wanted sexually by that person in return. Specifically sexually, because Rae has many people that love her, but who don't want a physical relationship with her. She perceives this to be because she has "a 38 inch waist".

Weight - as the title suggests - is a huge theme of the diary. Rae eats to support herself emotionally, due to having a mother who can't show her affection (although, admittedly, she has her moments) and a troubled past - which is insinuated but never fully divulged. She also has a malicious "friend" who uses her to find guys, knowing Rae is an attractive personality, but not a "threat" because of her weight. This "friend" also makes jokes at Rae's expense, exploit's Rae's insecurities and thinks nothing of stealing Rae's love interests for herself, just because she can. I found these moments particularly uncomfortable to read. However, we all know it happens and there are people out there who make those conscious decisions. If they had insight into the other side of the coin (this diary, perhaps?) I hope they would stop. Rae is completely aware of the way she is treated and it is heartbreaking to see her rationalising and justifying the actions of her so-called friend to herself.

Despite these hard-to-read moments, the diary offers many happy entries. Rae is a brilliant voice with stark and witty expressions. I genuinely felt happy when a horrible situation rectified itself, and the joy in Rae was evident through her writing. Like any teenage diary, the events can vary from end-of-the-world-awfulness to elated exuberance in the space of a few hours.

To be honest, I feel to pass any real opinion on this book would be out of line. This is the author's actual life, written in her actual diary. I can't be the judge of a 17 year olds writings, when she wrote them thinking they would never be seen! I will however say that although the insight into Rae's life was an interesting rollercoaster ride of emotion, it lacked direction. I felt it would all build up to a momentous final entry, but, it didn't... I think some, er, embellishment of the entries to give a narrative would have perhaps made for a greater read.


Overall

My Mad Fat Teenage Diary is a relate-able depiction of teenage years which has moments of brilliance, great humour and heartbreaking honesty. However, I found the lack of plot, due to the nature of the source, ultimately lead to quite a repetitive and eventually unrewarding read.

Score 
★★★


0

The Explorer - review

I couldn’t stand to relive this trip through my own eyes, I don’t think.”

Title: The Explorer
Author: James Smythe

Publisher: Harper Voyager
Source: Purchased from Kindle Store
Buy it: Here  


Synopsis

Cormac Easton is a journalist in space, documenting the travels of a small crew of explorers, on a mission to simply go further than anyone else has ever been before. However, very shortly, all of his crew are dead and he is left staring into the black abyss before him, contemplating his life, his choices and his fate. However, he is not as alone as he thinks he is.

Review

I have been intrigued by this book for so long, it's almost a travesty that I haven't read it sooner. The Explorer starts with what you would expect to be the end of a story - the deaths of all the crew of a space mission - and then continues to grip you in it's vice of suspense until the end.

Be warned, though, the suspense is not one of impending action. The Explorer is a psychological thriller in every sense. If you break down the component parts of the narrative, there are not enough events to flesh out much of a story. The book, you may think, could have been 3 times shorter. But what you will find is a character study. A man, a changing man, given the gift of hindsight and becoming something "else" - not even something better, not something more, but something just other than what he was. It is, ultimately, a very human book documenting the state of human being when it is stripped bare and alone, away from anything but the darkness, and left with nothing but it's own actions and past to keep it company.

Reading The Explorer felt like watching a film, in quite a few ways. Not least the fact that the narrator, Cormac himself, alludes to his story being made into a movie at various parts of the script. The great use of  language aligns us directly with Cormac and we see everything the way he sees it; like his eyes are the camera. The sentences build up at you and erupt suddenly in small bursts of action that are larger than without their prelude. At a number of times I felt like I was reading the accompaniment to a Woody Allen film, such are the descriptions of loneliness, introspection, self-loathing and boredom!

It is with that in mind that I would admit the book would not be for everyone. I have seen more than a few people calling The Explorer dull. I think at the end of the day it is down to personal taste, as it cannot be said that this book is badly written. I wholly enjoyed the slow build-up and the atmospheric feel of the dark and moody prose. I didn't "like" Cormac, and I think that was perfect. The finale left me wondering what happened next, but satisfied of a "right" ending.

Overall

The Explorer is not a rip-roaring romp of a Sci-Fi. It is not action packed and it isn't even very science-y. However, I found it built great, tense atmosphere, had wonderful language and was one of those introspective kind of books that you either love or hate. I loved it, and I can't wait to read more by James Smythe!

Score 
★★★





0