Friday, 21 July 2017

Book Review - Infinity - Tabitha Lord

Please note I was sent a copy of this book to review - as always this will not affect my thoughts.

Infinity is the second book, following Horizon a feminist, dystopian rendition of the French resistance. I quickly read through Horizon before reading this - something you don't need to do but I would recommend as I always like to know as much about the characters as I can.

This books jumps straight in; Derek and Caeli return to her warn torn home, where people like her, people with powers, are being killed off, children are even being sold into slavery all in a bid for the dictator Marcus to build an arsenal of alien weaponry. Caeli returns on the search for the resistance to help with the rise up of Marcus's cruel dictatorship.

I am glad I read the first book because there are a lot of characters, and with this being the second book there isn't too much description to tell you about them - without having read the first I think I would have struggled to keep up with all of the information thrown in.

Tabitha Lord is really great at world building, something I think can be really tricky with Sci-Fi genres. She explained everything about the alien world and tech in a way that it seemed completely believable which I really think is key when writing something like this.

The plot is action packed. Its a intense adventure of standing up for what is right, fighting back and regaining hope. And this is really well written, it felt somewhat movie like.

I'm not one who often cares about relationships between characters in books, romance just being a filler for me - but you can see how Derek and Caeli's relationship works well and what conflicts they will face in the future.

Overall I enjoyed the book, there was a lot of information going on so it did take me longer to read than usual, but the pace picks up and then you're really involved in the action 4/5

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Mexico - Occidental at Xcaret - 2017

We've just got back from the most incredible week away in Mexico.

Anyone who has been following my blog for a while will know that I went to Mexico back in 2015, we loved it so much we went back - to the same hotel and everything!

I know a lot of people will raise their eyebrows on this, perhaps tut, but it was for a special occasion. Ben turns 30 in July, and though he refuses to accept it, I think this is a big birthday. I was stuck for what to get him, something special. At the same time we were thinking about where we should go away this year, we wanted to do something big before we knuckle down and save up for a house - and then it hit me - Mexico! I have been the one telling Ben that we have to travel and we can't keep going back to the same place no matter how much we love it, at least not for a few years but I knew it would be something he would love, and it would also be the holiday we both desperately needed.

We opted to go for a week - and honestly this was mostly because I couldn't afford two weeks. I would have loved to have been able to take him for his actual birthday, but the specific week we went was a few hundred pounds cheaper than any other time so I snapped it up.

We flew with Virgin Airlines again, the same as before, and really I think they are possibly the best airline to fly with on long haul flights. Free drinks and food plus really great in flight films and TV makes the long 10 hour haul feel less crappy. Obviously unless you can afford upper class it is always going to be somewhat crappy. If you're tall like me your legs will just never fit comfortably into the seats, and you always have some wanker in front of you choosing to lean the whole way back for the entire flight meaning using your tray table is practically impossible. Plus sitting next to a stranger for that long is always awkward, you're both trying your very hardest to keep your elbows attached to your ribs... but it is all part in parcel of travelling, and with a good selection of movies to watch on the way I was quite happy. We did have a little trouble on the flight with some cunts smoking in the bathrooms, and then when we were told about it over the tannoy and told that if anyone was caught smoking again they would land us at the nearest airport they still decided they desperately needed a cigarette... luckily someone grassed them up after that - it turned out to be a group of smashed boys which meant they cut off alcohol for everyone on the flight for the rest of the journey, but at least they didn't land us before we got to Mexico.

As I said before we stayed at the same hotel as before - Occidental at Xcaret hotel. We did this because 1. we knew it was an amazing hotel from before and 2. they have an eco park next door that we were able to get unlimited access to with our booking. 

The hotel is incredible. Its all inclusive (which I always need when I am away!) and set in what feels like the middle of the jungle. It is a really big resort, they have little bus stops inside of the hotel to take you from your room to the beach or restaurants if you don't fancy the walk, but I really enjoyed being able to explore around it. They have animals roaming around, including monkeys swinging through the trees, deer and oh so many iguanas, as well a few ruins which are interesting to look at. 

I'm not sure if it is just because it was quite quiet when we went, or if it is usual practice but you don't have to book in for restaurants, it's first come first serve and if they're full when you arrive they will give you a little buzzer to let you know when a table is free, meaning you can go get a drink or wander off and not have to worry about keeping check on the restaurant. As we were only there for a week we only ate buffet for dinner once, choosing the restaurants at the other times. The fish restaurant is probably my favourite, we paid a little extra and got lobster which came with the most amazing buttery prawns and a fat peice of fillet steak. It was the best meal of the whole trip. We also ate at the steak restaurant twice as they cooked the steak amazingly (rare as fuck). If you're like us and get hungry once you've had a few too many drinks they've got you sorted with Paco's Tacos a small taco/pizza place that is open until 2 am. The waiter there is great and loves it if you attempt to order in spanish (perhaps more so if you're useless at it)

Most of our time was spent in the pool, or at the pool bar if I am being more specific. We're not sunbathers as you can probably tell by our skin tone, and with the heat relaxing in the pool with a cocktail is my favourite past time - something I need to be doing in this sticky English heat right now instead of desperately trying to cool myself down in front of an ancient fan. 

And when we weren't in the pool we were next door at the eco park. Knowing how large it was from before we decided to spend a few hours here a day rather than one long day. I am just not fit enough to for all the waking, and there is so much to see. There are animals dotted around the park, an aquarium and rivers you can swim in that take you around the whole park. As well as this they have a small mexican village, a cemetery and ruins to explore. For extra cost you can swim with sharks, dolphins, stingrays do a sea trek and more. We decided to swim with the sharks and do a sea trek, both of which were probably the highlights of the trip and I would definitely recommend.

Overall it was an amazing holiday, relaxing, but not at all boring and something to remember as we won't be going away properly now until we own a house. 

Friday, 2 June 2017

Book Review - The Power - Naomi Alderman

In The Power the roles of men and women change. Teenage girls now have immense physical power - they can cause agonizing pain and even death. And, with this small twist of nature, the world changes utterly.

The premise of this book really intrigued me. It promised a feminist, dystonian novel with the roles of men and women reversed. And I would say the first half of the book mostly delivers this.

In the first half of the book we see how the world reacts to the new power - the overwhelming reaction of course being fear. We meet a few different characters and see how the adjust to either having the power, or being surrounded by it - it sets the tone for a very good book.

However, I found the further I got a long with the book, the less believable it became, and the less I enjoyed it. There is one line that sticks with me even after a few months of having read it, where a woman is being interview by a man, that she has seen topless pictures of online, and she thinks 'how can he expect me to take him seriously after seeing that.' If this is satire I think it is poorly executed. Sure there may be some women who think like that - but this is a character we have known throughout the book and it just doesn't fit. It seems to push the theory that if women had the power over men then they would for the majority become scummy and sexist. I get it, it is reversing how it is now, but I don't think it is believable - but perhaps that is the hippy in me.

There is a very heavy scene where women rampage a camp of men in hiding and rape and torture them. It is brutal and horrendous - but what struck me most was how common it was to see the reversed story of this in most fiction, and how normalized it is, to then see if from this point of view and be horrified. This scene really made me aware, and I thought I was before, of how normalized rape and torture of women is, of how you come to expect it of certain genres of books and shows and how numb you are to reading it. Always with the excuse of 'this is how women used to be treated' even in bloody fantasy shows like Game of Thrones where there are dragons flying all over the place. It isn't a real place, this isn't real history, why do we still have to expect to see this treatment of women? (I know this does still happen in parts of the world today, my example is nodding more towards historical fantasy fiction etc)

I would have enjoyed it more if it gave a more believable account of how the world would be if the roles were reversed. I just don't think women would pop up, overthrow men and then treat them like shit. I just don't. I think the idea was great and that is what pulled me in, but the execution fell flat, but then again it did make me think about how normalized sexism is now-a-days, even with this new wave of feminism being seemingly in fashion.  It is an interesting read, and the idea was great but because of how it panned out I will give it 3/5


Friday, 26 May 2017

Book Review - The Haunting of Hill House - Shirley Jackson

I've been a fan of Shirley Jackson ever since reading We Have Always Lived in the Castle, but somehow never read her horror The Haunting of Hill House.

I found this book to be a subtle horror. There were some more typical haunted house scenes, but mostly it was slow, subtle psychological horror. It wasn't what I expected, but it was true to Shirley Jackson's writing style. Bleak yet somehow beautiful.

I think the relationship between Theodora and Eleanor is, in my opinion, the most powerful part of the book. What starts off looking like a firm friendship turns more twisted, spiraling between lust and loathing, and is an integral part to the slowly unraveling of Eleanor's mind.

I think, however, when the Dr's wife and friend join the story further into the story, some of the creepy spell the book had created was broken. They came across comical, and rather annoying which did nothing to add to the bleak, tense novel. They were characters that I think the book could have done without.

If you're looking for a jumpy type of horror, this isn't it, but if you're looking for something a bit slower, something that when you read you feel fine, but keeps you up at night, spooked in the darkness, then this is for you. I thoroughly enjoyed it - 4/5

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Folkestone - Kent - April 2017

With spring in full swing here in England, last weekend my family and I did what all Brits do at the sight of sun - headed to the beach. 

My parents aren't really the lay out in the sun kind of people, neither am I, they're more the 'lets go on really long walks when the sun is boiling our already sweaty bodies' kind of people, which I am not. To me, Sunday is the day of laying in bed doing nothing but dreading Monday, but I was summoned by my parents and that meant we were heading off to Folkestone, Kent.

As I've been there a few times over the years I thought I would take a few clips of the area and make a (very) short video:

Its a really beautiful area, though the beach being stony meant my going for a paddle ended in me whining in foot pain. Still it increased my longing to live by the sea, one day it will happen!

I don't know, since my holiday video I've been really enjoying making them, I think its the little nod to the home videos my dad would make when I was younger - they can be much more personal, and tell you so much more than pictures (which I still enjoy taking). Anyway, I thought I would share with you guys, and perhaps inspire some of you to go and visit Folkestone on the weekend!


Saturday, 1 April 2017

Book Review - Strange Medicine - Mike Russell

I was kindly sent this book to review by Strange Books - an indie press based in Brighton. I knew straight away that this book was for me, and was delighted to be given the opportunity to read it.

Strange Medicine is a collection of short, weird stories, that get progressively strange the further you read. I found myself snort laughing on the train home from work at the unexpected absurdity of the first story; a nice touch for the book, but not so much for the appearance of my sanity to the other passengers.

Unlike Pretty Monsters, the stories in this book aren't dark, or any way twisted. They're strange of course - thats said in the title! But I would describe them more as charming than anything else. They're easy to read, and easy to make you smile.

I've read a few other reviews on this book, and a lot of people comment about the morals of the stories, and what Mike Russell was trying to get across to the reader. It could be because I am fantastically dim, but to me there wasn't another agenda other than for the reader to enjoy short, weird reads. And I think that should be the way you go into it, not to look, and analyse everything that has been said for a deeper meaning (English teachers around the world stand in uproar), but to just enjoy it for what it is.

My only complaint is that the book wasn't longer, I think I finished this over the course of 2 days worth of train commutes.

If you don't like weird, if you like everything to have a strong significant meaning, then this book isn't for you. But if you're open, if you're willing to step into a world that is just a little bit odder than our own I would definitely recommend giving this collection a go - 4/5

Friday, 24 March 2017

Book Review - The Butterfly Garden - Dot Hutchinson

I saw this book on Goodreads as one of the best thrillers of 2016 - I looked into the blurb of the book and just knew I had to read it. And read it I did, all in one night.

If you don't like rape, kidnapping, child molestation, abuse and more (like is probably the wrong word but you know what I mean) then this book definitely isn't for you. Its dark, gritty and utterly captivating.

The chapters are split into police interviews, where we get to meet FBI agents  Victor Hanoverian and Brandon Eddison  and first person recountings of the Butterfly Garden, told by victim Maya. I liked the layout of this retelling, we got to see right into the story of the butterfly garden, but also get to ask ourselves how trustworthy this first person recounting is - Maya was getting interviewed by the FBI after-all, can we believe everything she has to say?

I did find it difficult to actually imagine the Butterfly Garden though. I couldn't really grasp the sheer size of it, and how the girls within could have gone unnoticed for so long, however, after a while I just went with it and got completely absorbed with the story.

There have been complaints that the writing of the women is sexist, and they all just go along with what their captor tells them. And in some ways I understand this, Maya especially seems to just keep quiet and do as she is told, however, as explained in the book, if you push too far you die and get put on display for all the other girls to see. I don't think we can really judge as we have never been in that situation! Though I would like to think I would fight, then how would I get out of the garden? Would I actually be brave enough to fight when so many before me haven't been able to get free?

I just really enjoyed this book, it was something different from what I usually read, it had all the darkness and brutality that I wanted, that I expect of a book that claims to be potentially offensive. It was just really great 5/5


Friday, 17 March 2017

Book Review - The Roanoke Girls - Amy Engel

'Roanoke girls never last long around here. In the end, we either run or we die.'

I was sent this ebook for free through blogging for books - however this will not influence my review in any way!

I had never heard about Roanoke until the latest season of American Horror Story. Finding out about this creepy place where a whole colony just disappeared with the added hauntings through the tv show got me hooked. Though this book doesn't look into the history of Roanoake, you get the same creepy, disturbing story that if you enjoy AHS you will love here.

I have read a few reviews about this book where people feel bad or wrong for enjoying it - because of the themes (such as incest) it touches on. I really enjoyed this book, so I don't know if I should also feel guilty? But I don't, its just a story, and sure its creepy and wrong but I'm not hurting anyone by reading it!

The story follows Lane Roanoke, both in the past and the present. Her mother kills herself while Lane is young, and she is sent off to live with her Grandparents and cousin, where she discovers that having a loving family is not all it is cracked up to be. In the present, Lane goes back to Roanoke to look into the disappearance of her cousin. As all of the Roanoke girls have upped and left at one point or another, Lane is sure something is amiss in regards to her cousin's disappearance, and is defiant in finding out what that is. 

The revelation of incest comes out slowly in this book, even though I think it is obvious what is happening throughout? And I would have liked Lane to stick around longer just to see how far her Grandfather would push her - in ways I think she got off easy. I want to see the darkest, twisted parts of the story, not just have mentions of them. Though if a lot of people found this offending, I don't think they would have been able to cope with anything darker.

I read this book cover to cover in one night, I was hooked on the story and wanted to know where it went. I loved that it had the mystery woven into the story and really recommend. 4/5

Monday, 13 March 2017

Book Review - King's Cage - Victoria Aveyard

“I've been broken too many times to break again.”

This is the third book in the Red Queen series - you can find my review of the second book here

There are so many things I dislike about this series, yet I find myself needing to read the next one to see what happens. So in a way I hoped this would be the last in the series, partly because I like trilogies and partly because I don't want to have to keep buying into the story. Sadly it isn't, so it won't be too long until I am here reviewing the next one because I am a sucker for a cliffhanger.

Overall I think this book is better than the last, and part of that is because I liked that we got more points of view this time other than Mare and her eternal torment. If I could just cut out all the parts of her and Maven and they're bullshit love story I would be happy.

The book starts with Mare having been taken hostage by Maven, her powers are taken from her by Arvens and she is locked in a small room with nothing to do. Outside of the city walls the Scarlet Guard are continuing their fight for the Reds and Newbloods, and through the book we meet new characters and new alliances. 

We finally get a proper fight scene in this book. I was really ready for it at the end of the last book, but it was taken from me at the last moment. I'm not completely dismissing the fight in the prison in the second book, but I've been so ready for a proper Silver vs Red/Newblood war.

I think my biggest problem with the series is the love story arc that carries on throughout. I cannot for the life of me understand why so many people 'ship' Mare and Maven, I even have issue with Mare and Cal... I just don't think the romances work, but because they're so loved by so many people it is becoming a bigger and bigger part of the story. I care about the war, about the reds and their struggle, about the new bloods and their confusion and powers. I do not care about Mare's conflicted feelings for Maven who is quite clearly a bastard who doesn't deserve any love. Just because he was 'made' by his mother doesn't stop him from still being a cunt now. Any pity for him is quickly lost and her tortured feelings about him every time he flutters his eyes is just... its the worst. 

Of course the book ended on another cliffhanger, because Aveyard is just a pro at book endings, and therefore I will have to read the next one. 

I think Cameron is a great addition to the book, she is similar to Mare in a lot of ways, but I really enjoy reading her and even Evangeline's chapters. I think they add so much more to the series. 

Overall I would give this book a 3/5. I just hate the love story. I'm sorry, but other than that I didn't get as annoyed reading this as I did before! 

Have you read any of the Red Queen series, what do you think? Are you a Maven/Mare shipper? Let me know why in the comments below. 

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Book Review - The Fifth Petal - Brunonia Barry

'In the realm between life and death, time, as we know it, does not exist.'.

I was sent this ebook for free through blogging for books - however this will not influence my review in any way!

Murder, crime, mystery, witches - all things that led me to choose this book. I didn't realise that this was a second book of a series, but it really didn't impact my enjoyment of the book.

Salem’s chief of police, John Rafferty, now married to gifted lace reader Towner Whitney, investigates a 25-year-old triple homicide dubbed “The Goddess Murders,” in which three young women, all descended from accused Salem witches, were slashed one Halloween night. Aided by Callie Cahill, the daughter of one of the victims who has returned to town, Rafferty begins to uncover a dark chapter in Salem’s past.

Honestly? I don't know what I think about this book. I found myself enjoying it, but at the same time thinking 'this is going on foreverrrr' which isn't how you should feel about a book - especially one that isn't even that big? And sitting down now to review it, I'm coming up quite blank.

I definitely found the writing to be a little forced at times. Callie, for example, will finish someone's sentence and then think 'I know what people are going to say before they say it' - yeah we can get that from the writing, I don't think it needs to be pushed on you. Show don't tell, you know? And I think it happened a few too many times so it got on my nerves.

I did enjoy the looks back into Salem witch trials, I think these were some of my favourite parts, plus the world building was written well giving the whole book an autumnal, Halloween theme suitable to Salem. I would read more books in the series too as I'm interested in the occult going on in the town and how this affects Rafferty's work.

It was also a lot sexier than I thought it would be, I had to check no one was reading over my shoulder on the train a couple of times!

Overall, I think I would give this book a 3. I just feel kind of meh about it? I would read other books by the author, but only if it were on sale ... if that makes sense.

Have you read The Fifth Petal? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Book Review - Nod - Adrian Barnes

'Life's a scab, and it's our nature to pick at it until it bleeds.'.

Nod is a unique, dystopian novel (albeit a short novel), that follows Paul in a world where the majority no longer sleep.

I was intrigued by the idea of this book as soon as I saw it. It isn't something I've seen before and I really wanted to see how it panned out; the slow, sleepy descent into madness.

It isn't a long book at all, the chapters are set into days, the countdown till insomnia could kill; but a lot sure happens in those days. The crazy just seems to pour out of these people so quickly. Its hard to imagine actually happening, but the again I can barely stay away for 12 hours without getting grumpy, let alone 16 days.

You never get a reason why with this book, but that didn't bother me, Paul is a normal person, he wouldn't know why it is happening, so why should the reader? I would have liked to see more of the silent children, even some guesses at why they are like that, but that is only small. I also think that, surely, the sleepers should have been... I don't know, better? I know they're up against a lot of people, but these are people that haven't slept in forever, they aren't smart, the sleepers still have their brains, they should have been able to outsmart some kind of escape?

What you do get is a lot of crazy, and a lot of characters that you hate. More characters that you hate than that you love. I mean I really hated Charles. So much so that I got annoyed every time he popped into a scene. I mean, I think you're meant to, but he is in it quite a lot, so that is a lot of angry reading. I didn't feel bad for him, I didn't care about his situation, I just wish that Paul ripped his head off of something.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I liked seeing the crazy, and the group mentality of the crazy. I do wish it was longer, but then I don't know where it would have really gone. 4/5


Friday, 20 January 2017

Book Review - The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood

'Better never means better for everyone... It always means worse, for some.'.

Since reading the Heart Goes Last I am all for Margaret Atwood. Granted I've only read three of her books... but all of them I have loved. And after hearing that The Handmaid's Tale was going to be coming to TV in April, I knew I had to read the book first.

The Handmaid's Tale is a feminist, dystopian novel. Margaret Atwood imagines an extreme Christian future for America, and in this future Women have absolutely no rights, they belong to men, to serve in what way they wish. And in a way, its a future I can imagine. You know, if the world went completely backwards and tits up, and even then, there are many places in the world where women are still seen as belonging to men rather than being their own person. Its scary, it's wrong, but its believable.

The thing with Atwood's writing, aside from having no quotation marks, is that she just jumps straight into the story. One minute Offred, our protagonist, is a working wife and mother, she is a free woman, then in the space of what feels like seconds she is covered head to toe in red garb, used as a baby machine for her new Commander. There is no in between. You would expect uproar if such a vast change in laws/events happened no? I, for one, would be screaming bloody murder if I strolled into work one day, to be told that I can no longer be there, oh and my partner is in charge of all of my money, you know, because he has a penis. Anyway, back on the book. Atwood jumps straight into the world she imagined, without much thought of what kind of timeline events would actually follow, and I understand it, she wants to get to her idea of the book, she wants to write about what she has imagined. And once you get past it, you're involved with the main story as well.

So, the book follows Offred, one of the few women left in the country that can have children (the subject isn't looked into much, but it is something to do with radiation, and of course it's the woman's fault if a baby isn't conceived, it has absolutely nothing to do with the man I mean all men are perfect right?) Anyway, it follows Offred in her new household where every month she has to lie back and try and have a baby with the Commander of the house (its even weirder than you first might have thought, the wife and the baby maker have to hold hands throughout the whole affair... very awkward) It isn't a fast paced novel, I see it more as just an introduction of such a world through Offred's eyes. We get glimpses of her past, contrasts to how she lives now, and hints of the affects of not following the rules. And thought I would have liked to have seen the darker side of the world, which you know there is one! You don't really get to see this, its a small gated area of the life that we get to look into.

All the same, I think Offred's view of it is believable. Time has past, and she has, pretty much, given up. She is resigned to this life she lives now. How she thinks, she seems numb to it, and in a way I think that is better than raving and screaming, she wouldn't get away with actions like that, not anymore, and she has a child, somewhere, she has to think of her, even when she thinks of suicide, which they have taken many precautions against, she still thinks of her child, and whether giving up would be anything more than letting them win.

Don't let the bastards get you down

I did enjoy the book, its slow but not monotonous, and I am looking forward to seeing how they translate it into a TV show - 4/5

Have you read a Handmaid's tale? If so, are what did you think? Are you looking forward to the show? Let me know in the comments below!

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Book Review - Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King

'How life did imitate art sometimes. And the cruder the art, the closer the imitation.'.

Full Dark, No Stars is a collection of novellas from the king himself, Stephen King.

Stephen King is the writer I aspire to be. Sticking to no genre, just writing great novels, consistently and constantly. I know a lot of people choose to criticise, but I think unnecessarily, no one can tell a story quite like him, and if I can be just 10% of the writer he is, I will be proud.

Now, back to the stories. King writes stories about normal people in extraordinary situations. That's his thing, he isn't interested in the heroes, he is interested is us Joe Norms and how we feel and react. That is, what I think, draws a lot of people in, because deep down, as much as we try to deny it, we are just an average person, living an average life, I know I'm no hero, the closest thing I would get to adventure would be being thrust into it as an innocent bystander.

Of course, true to King he has kept the tones of these stories dark, with themes of murder, rape and cancer, though all are very individual.

I think the one that stuck in my mind the most was A Good Marriage, not just because it is the last story in the book, but because King wrote it in such a way that I felt that I was this woman, married to a man she has just discovered she had no true clue about. He wrote her so well, he wrote their relationship well, and, I think, he wrote how she dealt with the situation in a way most of us would actually react. Though I will say the ending to 1922 definitely stuck with me, I thought it was the weakest of the stories when I was reading it, that was until the last few sentences.

If you're triggered by topics such as rape though, I would fully recommend skipping Big Driver. This was probably one of the darkest of the lot, and even I felt a little uncomfortable when reading it because, It could happen to any of us.

I would definitely recommend this book, whether your fans of Stephen King or not. They're short enough to enjoy over the course of one of two commutes to work, but detailed enough to feel like a full story. 4/5

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