Sunday, 28 May 2017

10 Things I Love About Summer

1. It's lighter for longer, so I can get Domino's at 10pm if I want to without having to worry about losing my life in The Void. Driving in the dark freaks me out - I live in the sticks, where the council helpfully DOESN'T USE ENOUGH STREETLIGHTS, so it's pitch black in places. In fact, it's worse than pitch black - it's vantablack, aka the darkest pigment to ever exist. Fun fact for you there. One bit in particular freaks me out, where it's so dark that I've always called it - you guessed it - The Void. But it's summer, so I don't have to worry about that for a few months.

2. The weather. Here in the UK, our winter doesn't get as cold as, like, Canada, but it's still that level of cold where you shiver so much that it physically exhausts you. You're tense, you're shivering, your teeth hurt because they're sensitive to cold and you're scared of the dentist... maybe the last one's just me. Also, I'm pretty sure I got SAD last year. Soooo, no to winter, yes to summer.

3. The burst of motivation. You know on New Year's Eve when you think of the year ahead and all the things you're going to do? I get that in the run-up to summer, too. There's just so much more you can do in summer...

4. chips by the river; trips to the beach; pub gardens; working outside; walks in the forest; travelling (or dreaming about it); visiting the zoo; general chilling outside without actually chilling...

5. And summer brings so many pleasing things: bright yellow fields; the sound of lawnmowers and the smell of freshly mown grass; Magnums and Ben and Jerry's; the smell of sun cream; happier people; driving with the windows down; bright blue skies; time; flowers in bloom and vegetables ready for picking; shorts; in-season strawberries; sitting outside late at night and not dying from hypothermia; not having to lug a coat around with you everywhere...

6. The sense of possibility. Even if you're not in education anymore, I think the sense of freedom sticks with you. Unless you're in work, maybe... but yeah. I have so many books about creative writing, and a work-in-progress of 60K words which I'm ready to tackle. BRING IT.

7. In addition to my fear of driving in the dark, I'm also kind of scared of car washes, so I mostly wash the car/s (I'm the family car washer because I'm a golden citizen) by hand. Which is really annoying at any time other than summer. FREEZING COLD WATER. HARSH WINDS. I'm not about that life until the daily temperature is at least 24C.

8. Holidays. We used to go away every year - not out of the UK, don't overestimate my bank account/ability to get in a flying metal death machine plane -  but due to ongoing family illness (always me or someone else) we're not really able to do the loooong drive to Cornwall anymore. I MISS IT. I'm crossing my fingers sosososo hard that we go this year. I don't even mind the drive that much, mainly because 1) I'm not driving, thank god, and 2) because for 14 hours I get to eat at all my favourite places that I only get to go to when I'm travelling: Costa, Starbucks, Burger King, McDonald's... for 14 hours. It gets expensive (service station prices) but I'm not paying and there's literally no other option, which is WHAT I LIKE TO SEE. Also, the sea is bright blue. Over here on the east coast, our sea is brown. Ew. BUT BACK TO THE POINT: HOLIDAYS. I LIKE HOLIDAYS.

(Subtlety is my strong point, don't know if you could tell.)

9. Taking pretty photos for future blog posts. Everything looks so much nicer and more photogenic in summer. I love the top photo, a field of rapeseed, taken last summer. I've been waiting for an excuse to use it in a blog post, and now here we are...

10. I love summery reads and, strangely enough, most of them are released in or around summer... not only that, but during summer I have more time to pick up a book. It's a win/win situation. (Here's my TBR for the next few weeks!)

What do you love about summer?

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare

Title: Lord of Shadows
Author: Cassandra Clare
Published by: Simon and Schuster
Publication date: 23rd May 2017
Pages: 699
Genres: YA Fantasy/Paranormal/Romance
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Would you trade your soul mate for your soul?

A Shadowhunter's life is bound by duty. Constrained by honour. The world of a Shadowhunter is a solemn pledge, and no vow is more sacred than the vow that binds parabatai, warrior partners - sworn to fight together, die together, but to never fall in love.

Emma Carstairs has learned that the love she shares with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, isn't just forbidden - it could destroy them both. She knows she should run from him. But how can she when the Blackthorns are threatened by enemies on all sides?

Their only hope is the Black Volume of the Dead, a spell book of terrible power. Everyone wants it. Only the Blackthorns can find it. Spurred on by a dark bargain with the Seelie Queen, Emma; her best friend, Christina; and Mark and Julian Blackthorn journey into the Courts of Faerie, where glittering revels hide bloody danger and no promise can be trusted. Meanwhile, rising tension between Shadowhunters and Downworlders has produced the Cohort, an extremist group of Shadowhunters dedicated to registering Downworlders and 'unsuitable' Nephilim. They'll do anything in their power to expose Julain's screts and take the Los Angeles Institute for their own.

When Downworlders turn against the Clave, a new threat rises in the form of the Lord of Shadows - the Unseelie King, who sends his greatest warriors to slaughter those with Blackthorn blood and seize the Black Volume. As dangers close in, Julian devices a risky scheme that depends on the cooperation of an unpredictable enemy. But success may come with a price he and Emma cannot even imagine, one that will bring with it a reckoning of blood that could have repercussions for everyone and everything they hold dear.

Ohmygodohmygodohmygod, it's only that book I've been awaiting like mad for over a year... That's right, it's the second book in Cassandra Clare's latest trilogy, The Dark Artifices - and the first book, Lady Midnight, ripped out my heart and trampled all over it. Repeatedly.

Lord of Shadows is no different. Strap in, kids, because this is an emotional roller coaster and a half... although I'm not sure why anyone would expect any different from the Shadowhunter world. Once again, Clare astounds me with how believable it is, this world that has so many layers to it, so much depth and history. I was once again reminded of how intensely her writing draws me in, and how every single emotion felt by any of the characters can immediately be felt by the reader.

This book may even change how you previously felt about characters in Lady Midnight. In the first instalment, I wasn't that bothered about Mark, Kit or Kieran. I don't know what else to say except I just wasn't that drawn to them. Cristina was cool, but I think in Lady Midnight, my focus was definitely on Emma and Julian.

However, in Lord of Shadows, my opinion completely changed. I came to love Kit, who in this instalment is getting to grips with being not just any Shadowhunter, but a Herondale, and the nostalgia was real as I recognised bits of Jace (The Mortal Instruments) and Will (The Infernal Devices) in him. Mark, Kieran and Cristina piqued my interest much more this time round, too, likely because they had more going on this time.

That's another thing - if you thought Lady Midnight was action-packed, you haven't seen anything yet. Lord of Shadows switches between Los Angeles, London, and Cornwall, and the contrast of these awesome settings not only kept me interested for the entire 700-page novel, but also provided insight into different Shadowhunter locations around the world. It was especially interesting to see this new generation of Shadowhunters stay at the London Institute, the setting for one of Clare's other series, The Infernal Devices. As you'd hope and expect, it's full of sneaky references...

Something else which struck me was the amount of parallels with our current political climate. We don't appear to live in the most tolerant or open-minded world at the moment, and as it turns out, neither do Shadowhunters or Downworlders. Offensive views are challenged by a few characters in Lord of Shadows, hitting the nail on the head each time. It's subtle enough to still provide escapism whilst obvious enough to make you want to do lots of mini fist-pumps.

And... this wouldn't be a sufficient review without mentioning Emma and Julian, would it? I'm not going to go into detail about them because fans will know that their relationship is a complicated one, and there are lots of things to spoil that I'm not going to. Just let it be known that they remain my ultimate OTP and they DESERVE HAPPINESS, DAMMIT.

Anyway. The third and final book isn't out for two years. I'll be nearly 21?! Like, I'm an adult, but 21 is a proper adult... so that'll be weird. Not sure I can wait that long for the next book, but I'll have to, won't I? And it'll give my heart some time to recover from this one. This is an author whose books you need to read, people. I've never been more invested in another book than I am in anything Clare writes, and I read a lot, so that's saying something. Come on, get your heart smashed into pieces. Join the club. You know you want to...

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Noah Can't Even by Simon James Green

Title: Noah Can't Even
Author: Simon James Green
Published by: Scholastic
Publication date: 4th May 2017
Pages: 365
Genres: Young Adult/Contemporary/LGBT/Humour
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Poor Noah Grimes!

His dad disappeared years ago, his mother's Beyoncé tribute act is a totally unacceptable embarrassment, and his beloved gran isn't herself anymore. He only has one friend, Harry, and school is... Well, it's pure HELL.

Why can't Noah be normal, like everyone else at school? Maybe if he struck up a relationship with someone - maybe Sophie, who is perfect and lovely - he'd be seen in a different light?

But Noah's plans for romance are derailed when Harry kisses him at a party. And that's when things go from bad to worse utter chaos.

If you're like me and you're fast approaching the dreaded exam season, chances are that you're currently dealing with two things: stress, and less time to read. Like, much less time to read. And whenever you pick up a book, you immediately feel guilty that you're doing something for pleasure rather than revising. (Or maybe that's just me?...) I've read hardly anything lately, unless you count my Death of a Salesman textbook, which I don't. But, picking up Noah Can't Even and only intending to read the first couple of pages for the time being, I found that once I started, I couldn't put it down.

Readers, this is the perfect book to read during exam season! Give yourself permission to tear yourself away from your work, because Noah Can't Even is quite possibly the funniest book you will read this year. Seriously, it is constantly and consistently hilarious - I loved Noah and his quirks, and the awkward situations in which he often found himself.

In addition to being bloody funny - and, at times, painfully awkward and relatable - it also touches on important topics such as homosexuality and bullying. I don't think LGBT issues are prevalent enough in YA in general, but especially in UK YA. Have I ever read an LGBT book where the main characters are in their mid-teens? Uh... one, yeah. This one.

That's not all - there are so many clever twists and sub-plots weaved together in a way I very much envy, and it was clearly done well, because I haven't devoured a book so quickly for longer than I'd like to admit. Needless to say, I cannot wait for whatever's next from Green. The Inbetweeners meets Geekhood, Noah Can't Even is a wonderfully awkward and important book that will have you in stitches from start to finish.
Watch my videos with Simon below! The first is an interview, and the second is a game of Heads Up...