Friday, 28 August 2015

Recommendation: Books that make you cry

'The Fault in Our Stars' by John Green
'Struck by Lightning' by Chris Colfer
'The Perks of Being a Wallflower' by Stephen Chbosky

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Monday, 24 August 2015

Book Review: Muirwood: The Lost Abbey

'Muirwood: The Lost Abbey' by Jeff Wheeler, Matthew Sturges, Dave Justus, Alex Sheikman, Lizzy John

Rating: 2 stars

A copy of this book was provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Maia, the daughter of king Comoros, has been secretly learning magic despite it being forbidden in her kingdom for women to do so. When she is recruited by her father, she is sent on a mission to save her kingdom.

I loved the cover art for this book, so I was a little disappointed with the internal art as well as the story itself. The cover suggested a story filled with adventure and magic with a strong female heroine, but I felt let down on all of those aspects.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Jay, a short story

This is a short story I wrote during my week at the Guardian Summer School Masterclass for Creative Writing.

Photo Gallery: Book Haul

'The Shock of the Fall' by Nathan Filer
'One Day' by David Nicholls
'Gone Girl' by Gillian Flynn
'The Help' by Kathryn Stockett


Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Book Review: The Great Gatsby

'The Great Gatsby' by F. Scott Fitzgerald

5 stars

"can't repeat the past?... Why of course you can!"

The Great Gatsby shows humanity to be shallow, obsessed with the image of themselves and others so much so that they create an illusion of perfection for themselves. Jay Gatsby's illusion comes in the form of Daisy, his old love and now a married woman.

Nick's honest and reliable narration highlights how people are careless with one another, but that not all people behave so. Although Gatsby is not the most realistic of characters, Fitzgerald creates a contradiction within his character. Of all the aspects of himself Gatsby altered in order to move forward from the past, the one thing he cannot let go of is Daisy. His mind revolves around Daisy so much that both his sense of reality and sense of self is lost as no one knows who he is, not even himself.

Fitzgerald uses his novel to show that there is no such thing as a greater person, and that those given such a title are often provided it by strangers looking from a distance. It is only when one looks at the whole picture that it is clear that Gatsby is not "great", only a man deluded by his own fantasy.

Find this review on Goodreads

- Helia

Friday, 14 August 2015

Book Review: The Book Thief

'The Book Thief' by Markus Zusak

Rating: 5 stars

In World War II, a German couple and their adopted daughter Liesel hide a Jewish man in their basement. Even though her world seems to be collapsing around her, she befriends the man whilst filling her world with the words from the books she steals.

Despite having a seemingly simple concept at first glance, Zusak brings this book to life by (ironically) having it narrated by Death.

This has become one of my favourite books, as it explores the thoughts and emotions of the various characters, as well as showing that there is more than one side to people and that no one is all good or all bad.

The choice of Death narrating was unique and enabled beautiful foreshadowing, as well as a good reflection of human nature.

'The Book Thief' is a beautiful mix of happy, sweet, sad and funny, and has the power to make one consider the power words have.

Find this review on Goodreads


Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Top 10 Tuesday: My Most Read Authors

Top 10 Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish! Today's topic is authors I've read the most books from:

1. Cassandra Clare (12 books)
I was not even surprised when I checked goodreads. I was obsessed with The Infernal Devices when I first read them.

2. Rick Riordan (10 books)
I read the Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus series over the past two years and my love of Greek Mythology only grew.

3. J.K. Rowling (7 books)
Obviously. I really want to read some of her newer books.

4. C.S. Lewis (7 books)
Narnia was one of the first magical lands I read of that I genuinely wanted to live in.

5. Eion Colfer (7 books)
Artemis Fowl was my childhood. I've still yet to read the final book.

6. Cathy Cassidy (7 books)
Wow, childhood books are a theme here, aren't they? Every kid in primary school was reading these books.

7. Jill Marshall (7 books)
And the kids books don't end! I encouraged my sister to read the Jane Blonde series too.

8. Ali Sparkes (5 books)
The Shapeshifter series: not the most well known, but certainly one of my favourites as a kid.

9. Julia Golding (4 books)
I have a vague memory of The Companions Quartet, only that they filled the void that was the first few years of High School.

10. Chris Colfer (4 books)
Have a gushed enough about Chris Colfer already? No? Didn't think so.

Is your list similar to mine, or totally different? Let me know who your most read authors are!

- Helia

Book Review: The Raven Boys

'The Raven Boys' by Maggie Stiefvater

Rating: 4 stars

Blue does not lead the most normal life, but her family of psychics all seem to agree that if she kisses her true love, he will die. This does not bother Blue all too much. All the boys in Henrietta go to the prestegious Aglionby Academy. Known as The Raven Boys, they are rich, obnoxious and definitely not her type. But what Blue did not count on was that she would be swept away by an ancient mystery, and that The Raven Boys need her help.

I first picked up 'The Raven Boys' several months ago as a result of the hype surrounding it, and put it down after roughly 50 pages. The pace was too slow for me, but a few weeks ago I decided to give it a second chance, and I could not put it down.

What makes the book different to others in the Young Adult genre is that the characters self aware and complex, as are their relationships. Gansey, their leader, has an obsession with the supernatural and an intense sense of responsibility over his friends. Adam does not believe in magic, but endures Gansey's fanciful notions despite his pride. Ronan is reckless and intimidating, yet mothers a small bird named Chainsaw. And Noah is loyal and knows many secrets, but is so quiet that it often seems as though he isn't there.

The focus of the book is on the characters rather than plot, but also has a dark mystery inspired by Welsh mythology that assists in driving the story.

I wait in anticipation to read the remainder of the series.

Find this review on Goodreads


Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Book Review: Lois Lane: Cloudy With a Chance of Destruction

'Lois Lane: Cloudy With a Chance of Destruction' by Gwenda Bond

Rating: 3 stars

A copy of this book was provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

'Lois Lane: Cloudy With a Chance of Destruction' is a short story tied to the novel 'Lois Lane: Fallout', which was released in May 2015. It tells the story of a young Lois who moves frequently and has a love of many (but not all) explosions.

I do not wish to spoil too much as the story is relatively short, but I found Lois a genuinely likable character. She has personality, is smart and an attitude that may have the potential to get her in a lot of trouble, yet she is kind hearted without being a pushover. 

Overall, I found the story entertaining despite knowing little background on Lois in terms of comics or film. For me personally, this story was not engaging enough to encourage me to read the novel it prequels, but I found it enjoyable and may reconsider picking it up in the future.

Find this review on Goodreads


2015 Reading Challenge: August Update

I have completed half of the popsugar reading challenge! The books I have read this year can be found on my Goodreads under the 2015 Reading Challenge.


Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Recommendation: 'The Land of Stories' Series by Chris Colfer

Many people may recognise the name Chris Colfer from the television series 'Glee', but you do not have to be a 'gleek' to appreciate this fairytale-inspired series.

Colfer pulls many traditional fairytales together to form a beautiful series of books that although are aimed at children, can be enjoyed by people of all ages. The characters are each complexly individual with clear personalities that are a wonderful twist yet still do justice to the original stories.

Gripping cliffhangers, lovely imagery and moral messages with more depth to them than most adult books. If you are looking for a light read or a bit of magic in your life, pick up these books - you will not be disappointed.


Monday, 3 August 2015

Writing: why you shouldn't let go of your passion

Writing is a huge passion of mine, and lately I have neglected it. I kept making excuses for myself, some of them valid such as having to prioritise school work, others less so. I'd write down the occasional notes and go through what I'd written previously, but I could not bring myself to actually sit down and do it.

There are several reasons for me doing so. One of these reasons was that what I wrote felt inadequate. They say that you ought to write every day, or work to a schedule which encourages you to write frequently and when you do so, not everything you write is going to turn out great. As a perfectionist hoping to write a fantasy book trilogy (having never even written anything longer than 15,000 words of an uncompleted story so terrible it couldn't be saved) writing continuously is a challenge. Writing to a high standard every day is impossible. When the goal is to write something so large, motivating oneself is a difficult task.

I kept putting my story off, telling myself I will write it later when I was in a better frame of mind. But the truth is that there isn't always a better time to do things. It got to the point where I was too scared to write because it had been so long. All it took was a couple of weeks to completely throw me off, my confidence gone. Once that happens, it's difficult to get started again.

This goes for all passions or hobbies. They require commitment, which can be a hard thing to give.

Here are 5 Quick Tips I've learnt on how to stay motivated:

1. Just write it. It doesn't matter how terrible it is or if you know you could do better. The chances are that you are going to go over it again at a later point because having a perfect first draft is impossible, so it doesn't have to be great straight away.

2. Write for you. If it's something you enjoy then it shouldn't matter. Don't think about what others think of your writing, because it's not them that you are trying to please. You are your number 1 fan as well as your top critic, so you should prioritise your thoughts before anyone else's.

3. Go through things you've written before. Learn to laugh at the embarassingly bad things you have written, but acknowledge that there was some good as well. Know that you can only improve from what you've written in the past.

4. Write a little every day. Last night I only wrote 310 words, but it made me feel so much better to know that at least I was making progress again.

5. Know that there is never going to be a better time to write. You have to make the time. It's alright if one day you can't write, but try to write regularly even if you don't follow a set schedule.

I can't say that I follow all of these tips myself all the time, but I am trying to, as writing is something that is very important to me.

If you have any other motivational tips or writing advice in general I'd love to hear it! Just leave a comment below.