Friday, 23 March 2018

January & February Wrap-Up & March TBR Pile - I'M BACK I'M BACK I'M BACK I MISSED YOU


I'm not sure for how long, because I'm SO BUSY preparing for my exams, but I've missed blogging so much that I thought even though I'm drowning under past papers and flashcards, let me make an appearance so that y'all don't forget me.

SO, here I am! *appears in a tornado of confetti and glitter*

How are you guys doing? Have you read any good books? What's been your favourite? Has anything interesting been happening in your life? LET ME KNOW. I MISS YOU GUYS.

SO, this year has been good but busy. I finally have tutors and they're actually giving me set times to do stuff, which is weird because I've been in control of all my schoolwork the past 6 years, so that's different but good

It was also my NINETEENTH BIRTHDAY last month! My last year of being a teenager. Also, I'm like, 3 years older than most of the protagonists in YA and it's freaking me out. WHEN DID I GET SO OLD?! I had an amaaaazing birthday, though! My actual birthday was on Sunday the 11th of February, but I decided to celebrate the Friday and Saturday as well! IT WAS SO FUN. MUCH CAKE WAS HAD. 

On Friday I went out with my one friend to Nando's; on Saturday I went out to Nando's (can you tell I love it there?) with a group of my girl friends and then they came back to mine for cake. THERE WAS SO MUCH CAKE. There was chocolate brownie cake, chocolate cheesecake, cupcakes, chocolate buttons, pavlova, ice cream and chocolate mini eggs. I felt like double the person on Sunday! I had the most amazing time seeing them all - I'm so grateful to know such lovely people! 

Then on Sunday my mom invited some friends over for tea and cake, and then I went to church that night. It was a really chilled day, which was nice, as the other two days were so busy!  

I was SO SPOILED for my birthday! I got a Kawai electric piano!!! IT'S SO BEAUTIFUL. Of course as soon as I saw it I started crying, because I'm an emotional peanut. All I've been wanting to do lately is play piano, so it made me SO TREMENDOUSLY happy to finally be able to do that! I've been playing so much the last 3 weeks, which is also a reason for not having as much time to read and blog! I'll try to insert a video of me playing, but when I've tried to post a video on my blog before it hasn't worked? I SHALL GOOGLE THOUGH, FEAR NOT. I've learned Fur Elise by Beethoven in its entirety (it's always been my goal to learn all of it) - now I just need to get my tempo and timing right! I've also been practicing Le Onde by Einaudi, which I could already play but I desperately needed practice, seeing as I haven't played piano in THREE YEARS. I'm also finally getting the hang of Comptine d'un autre ete by Yann Tiersen! YAY! I'd learned a third of it when I was 16, but the other night I realised I'd misread the notes in the first few bars. Well done, Kyra. 

What else have I been doing? Mainly school work, Bible study and volunteering at my church's cafe once a week! I'm probably going to start volunteering at the infant group they run at my church as well, AND I might start teaching little ones part-time! I'M SO EXCITED. I've taken a break from ballet until my exams are over, because although it's once a week, it's super late and I already have a late night when I work at the cafe, so I thought I'd take a break from that for now! If you were wondering about the whole ballet thing, which you probably weren't, but I like to overshare pointless stories.

I've also been journalling again, which I find so therapeutic. Last week I finished my A4 Nutcracker journal that I've been using from the age of 17 (it's so great actually filling up an entire notebook, isn't it?!), so I've started writing in the new one I got for my birthday! I finished my old journal on the last day of February, so I find it really satisfying that it starts on the first day of a new month! 

These are the books I've read in January and February! I've only managed one book a week so far, but at least that means I'm on track for my Goodreads reading goal! 

Wintersong (Wintersong, #1)Steelheart (Reckoners, #1)Firefight (Reckoners, #2)Calamity (Reckoners, #3)
Sweetly (Fairytale Retellings, #2)English as a Global LanguageCartwheeling in ThunderstormsFlora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures

Wintersong - πŸ’›πŸ’›πŸ’›πŸ’›.5 | Steelheart - πŸ’›πŸ’›πŸ’›πŸ’›πŸ’› | Firefight - πŸ’›πŸ’›πŸ’›πŸ’›.5 | Calamity - πŸ’›πŸ’›πŸ’›πŸ’›πŸ’› | Sweetly - πŸ’›πŸ’›πŸ’›πŸ’› | English as Global Language - πŸ’›πŸ’›πŸ’›πŸ’› | Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms - πŸ’›πŸ’›πŸ’›πŸ’› | Flora & Ulysses - πŸ’›πŸ’›πŸ’›.5

YAY FOR NO SUCKY READS!!! My 2018 got off to a great start with Wintersong. I absolutely ADORED it. You can read my full thoughts here. I also finally got around to reading the Reckoners trilogy which has been on my TBR pile for ages. I LOVED IT. I fell completely in love with David (the main character); I loved the romance, the dialogue, the humour and, of course, all the plot twists. It was SOOO good!!! YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY READ IT. 

I then proceeded to read Sweetly (on Valentine's day, I thought it would be suitable), and I actually really enjoyed it?! I thought it was going to be one of those books that I'd like but not love, but I kind of loved it?! I really liked the main character and her brother; I liked their brother/sister relationship; I liked the setting and the writing; I eventually warmed up to the love interest, and I enjoyed the plot! I'm really looking forward to reading the companion novels. Also, I'm clearly stupid, because I only recently realised there was a face on the cover. I was always like "Aw, look at the pretty house and the scary trees!", but I never noticed the face. 😢

I also read English as a Global Language as research for my English language case studies. It was really good! If you're interested in learning about English as a global language and how it came to be that way, the author does a great job of concisely summarising the information. 

I then read two middle-grade novels which were very cute! I picked up Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms because I saw Katherine Rundell's name, and I've been meaning to read more from her! I then immediately decided to take it out after flicking through and seeing the characters say "Ja" (Afrikaans for "yes") a lot. I then actually read the blurb and realised the book was set in Zimbabwe and England. I love reading books set in Africa! I really enjoyed reading it, but it made me SO homesick that I ended up crying. I'm not even from Zimbabwe. I am from South Africa, though, so...there were some things that reminded me of home. Like I said, I'M AN EMOTIONAL PEANUT. 

I then decided to read Flora & Ulysses. IT'S GOT PICTURES IN and a cynical middle-grader and her superhero squirrel, who wouldn't want to read that?! It was a very cute story. I liked the character, the pictures and the dialogue. Not a lot happened in terms of plot, which was quite disappointing - still a very cute story regardless! 

I don't know why I still bother setting TBR piles (actually I do: because they're fun), as I NEVER stick to them. However, I've always done it and I'm not going to stop now. So! The books I'll (probably not, but hopefully will) be reading this month:

  • Seraphina...because DRAGONS.
  • All About Mia...I started reading this randomly in the library and I was hooked. So, naturally, I had to take it out. 
  • All the Crooked Saints...I read a few pages, and I think I'm going to really like it. 
  • OBSIDIO!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I got sent a review copy! EXCUSE ME WHILE I CRY AND FLAIL AND CRY SOME MORE!
SO, LET'S CHAT! What books are you planning on reading this month? What's been your favourite book that you've read this year? Tell me one interesting thing that's happened to you this year so far!
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Monday, 15 January 2018

What I've Been Reading #24 - No books were read this week, sadly


I hope you guys are well!

This week has passed in a blur of school, stress and anxiety. I haven’t been taking my homeopathic drops, because I was feeling fine, but now I’m feeling decidedly not fine. I’ve been struggling with bad anxiety this week, and it’s been really hard. There’s a lot going on in my life at the moment, and as I started school this week, that’s added to my stress. So I’m a very anxious peanut at the moment. It’s not fun. 

ANYWAY, my parents and I went to Cheltenham on Monday, and I popped into some charity stores there and bought a few books! I FINALLY got a copy of The Night Circus, which I'm dying to read. I was going to loan it from my library, but they never have it in. BUT NOW I HAVE MY OWN COPY. YAY. 

I also went to Bradford-on-Avon on Friday. My mom and I visited some of her friends which was really nice! There was a sweet middle-grade novel I wanted to buy at one of the charity stores there, but after finally reaching the till (I waited forever in the queue) I was told I couldn't pay with a card unless it was over £5. As per usual, I had no cash on me, so I had to leave urgently because my mom's friend's car was running, and we had to go. So I had to leave the pretty. BUT LOOK, I TOOK PICTURES OF THE PRETTY PLACE.

Nothing. TSK TSK TSK. 

Firefight (Reckoners, #2)

IT'S SO GOOD. I think I love it more than the first book?? I LOVE DAVID. Sometimes he makes stupid decisions, but I STILL LOVE HIM.

Calamity (Reckoners, #3)

I DON'T WANT IT TO BE OVER! I'll be reading this next, though! WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME I MARATHONED A TRILOGY?? Forever ago. Slight exaggeration, perhaps, but that's what it feels like!

How was your week? What are you currently reading? What was the last book you read? 
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Thursday, 11 January 2018

The 2017 releases I didn't get to BUT WILL GET TO THIS YEAR

You know, every year I tell myself that I'll try to read more of the books released that year, but every year I manage to do exactly the opposite. 2017 released so many amazing books, and I read barely any of them! I have quite a few on my bookshelf and there are a few out from the library that I'm hoping to get to next year. Have you missed out on any of these?

This book was so hyped when it first came out. I still remember hearing about it and thinking OH MY GOSH I NEED IT IN MY LIFE. Well, clearly I didn't need it as much as I thought I did, because here I am, in January, and I still haven't read it. I have it out from the library, though and I'm so excited to read it! IT LOOKS SO MAGICAL AND SUSPENSEFUL AND I'M READY. 

GUESS WHO GOT THIS FOR CHRISTMAS AFTER PINING FOR IT FOR MONTHS?! Meee! I'm so excited to read it, as I love Laini Taylor's writing. The story sounds utterly incredible and so, so gorgeous. Laini is my #1 writing inspiration. She's a phenomenal author.

THIS BOOK IS LITERALLY SO PRETTY. I have a copy of it on my shelf, and it's so gorgeous. Not that that's the only reason I'm excited to read it, of course. I adore the premise of this book. Apparently it's about virtual reality and hacking and spies and protagonists with rainbow coloured hair? Doesn't that sound like fun?! IT SOUNDS LIKE FUN TO ME.

I feel like this book came out earlier than 2017, but nope – it came out last year. I'm going to be reading this with my friend, Amy, from The Magical World of Words this month which I'M SO EXCITED ABOUT. This book is about music and trolls...and other stuff that I don't know yet because I haven't read it yet!

*EDIT* I read this book a few days after writing this post! GO ME!

Truth be told, I'm 132% terrified to read this book because the first book was SO! MIND-BLOWINGLY! BRILLIANT! That I'm scared the sequel won't be as good. The reviews are great though, so fingers crossed I'll love it!

EVERYONE HAS RAVED ABOUT THIS BOOK (well, mostly everyone). It sounds like such a cute read! It's diverse and it's contemporary and it sounds adorable. I'm here for that.

I got this for £2 from a charity shop. And it's hard-cover. IS THIS EVEN REAL LIFE?! I've heard so many amazing things about this book, and it sounds like a book that I'll love. I absolutely love fantasy books that have characters who can control the weather/elements – I find it so exciting to read about!

This book sounds so cute! Why haven't I read it yet? It's a Cinderella retelling that takes place in a convention. There's fandoms and fangirling and WHY HAVEN'T I READ THIS YET?!

I think I'm going to really enjoy this book! It focuses heavily on social media, people who become famous overnight because of it (think Alex from Target) and being in love in the public eye. I really like it when YA contemporaries include social media, as it's such a large part of most people's lives these days.

I bought my dad this book for Christmas because a) he likes John Green and b) I like John Green. As soon as he's done reading it, I'LL BE READING IT. I've heard it can be quite intense as it's an own voices book about OCD. Reading about anxiety can trigger my anxiety, and as I'm not in a very good place with it at the moment, I think I'll wait awhile before I read this!

I have this on hold at my library. It sounds so good. We need more dragon books – wouldn't you agree? I've heard the characters, the romance and the dragons are amazing. I AM EXCITED.

This author's writing has been likened to that of Laini Taylor which makes me SO! HAPPY!
I adore the sound of this book, and I'm super excited to dive in. I feel like it will make the perfect winter read.

THE AUTHOR IS AN ASTROPHYSICIST. I WANT TO BE AN ASTROPHYSICIST. Ahem. Anyway, this book sounds amazing. Genetics and hacking and DNA and secrets – ooh, sounds intense.

14.Before She Ignites
DRAGONS AND ANXIETY, DRAGONS AND ANXIETY (anxiety from dragons? I can understand that). Do you know how rare it is to read a YA fantasy with mental health rep?! IT'S RARE. SUPER RARE. I'm so excited to read this: there's dragon smuggling and anxiety. Fingers crossed I'll be able to read it this year!

I haven't read City of Heavenly Fire, The Bane Chronicles or Lady Midnight. I AM SO BEHIND ON CASSANDRA CLARE'S BOOKS. Here's hoping that in 2018 I'll finally catch up!

Have you read any of these? Which ones should I make a priority? What was your favourite 2017 release? Let's chat!
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Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones was my first read of 2018 and what a spectacular read it was!

Title: Wintersong
Series: Wintersong #1
Author: S. Jae-Jones
Publication: February 7th 2017, Titan Books
Pages: 436 Pages, Paperback
Source: Thank you to Titan Books for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review!
Rating: 4.5/5
Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.
All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.
But when her sister KΓ€the is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let KΓ€the go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.
Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.

Wintersong was the first book I read in 2018, and it was brilliant. I haven’t felt so immersed in a book in months. It was addictive, mesmerising and rich. Add this darkened fairy tale to your reading list, and fall in love with the magical world S.Jae Jones has composed.

There were many things I loved about this book, but perhaps the most striking thing was the writing. You know when you find a book whose writing you connect with? A book whose writing feels like sugar-iced snow; the sweetest, saddest melody and spun gold? A book that is richly layered and reveals it’s buried secrets the further you find yourself in its pages? A book with writing that is haunting and lilting, a melody itself? The writing in this book was utterly incredible. It was enchanting, sensual and simply otherworldly. The sentences flowed into one another with the elegance and grace of a spinning ballerina. SJJ’s writing is utterly captivating. I have found my new writing inspiration. 

I loved the atmosphere; it was dark, tense and gleaming with enchantment. This book reads like a fairy tale; a sensual, dangerous tale that explores the contradictory emotions of human nature, the painfulness of loneliness and the otherworldly beauty of selfless love. I adored the European setting of the first half of the book, and I adored the macabre beauty of the Underground. It was haunting and eerie, dusted with gold.

The one thing that prevented me from giving this book a full five stars was the plot, or, simply, the lack of plot in the second part of the book. This book is essentially split into two parts: Liesl trying to rescue Kathe from the Underground and Liesl living Underground with the Goblin King. Despite that, I still really enjoyed this book in its entirety. There was a constant air of mystery, danger and trepidation, a constant hint of the fine line the characters walked between chaos and tenuous calm. This book wasn't fast-paced, but it was richly detailed and deliciously in-depth. Once Liesl reached the Underground, there was a deceleration in pace and a fading of plot, but that is where the chiselling, refining and excavating of Liesl and the Goblin King's very beings began. Even though the second half of the book wasn't fast-paced and was slightly repetitive, I couldn't put it down. I read this book in three sittings. The world SJJ crafted captured me and confined me, rendering me incapable of escaping. Intoxicating and alluring like the Goblin King Himself, I couldn't put it down. Despite the second part not being plot-heavy, there were subtle revelations and hinted mysteries that added an extra layer of intrigue to the story and that, alongside the writing and the characters and the romance, compelled me to keep reading.
I loved how this book focused heavily on family as well. I loved Liesl's relationship with her younger brother and her sister. . She was her little brother's confidante, his guardian; he was her teacher and the one who understood her. There was also the loving, yet jealous, relationship with her younger sister. The family dynamics were complex, loving, protective and wounded. I adored how realistic Liesl's relationship with her siblings were: there was fierce, protective love but also jealousy and darker emotions. The relationships were tender and complex and deeply layered. Lovely, but flawed, as many things are.

Another aspect I adored about this book was the musical aspect. I play piano, guitar and I sing (not very well, if I'm being honest). I absolutely adored the musical element this book featured. The all-consuming inferno of concertos, minor scales and ivory keys that sparked the heart of Liesl and her family was beautiful. I could relate to a great deal of the sentiments Liesl expressed, especially the encompassing desire to make music. I have gone through phases where I've felt hypnotised by a melody and compelled to unleash it again and again and again for an eternity. It was as if Jones snatched the beating butterfly wings of the passion in composing, the penetrating power of sung notes and the sheer beauty of music and pinned it into her book, with metaphors and poetry as the push-pin. However, even if you aren't musically inclined, I'm sure you'll be able to appreciate the burning passion and the raw love that the characters felt when creating music. After reading this book I wanted nothing more than to sit at a piano and have my being unravelled by the melody I played.

You know what else I loved? The characters. Oh, how I loved the characters! They were so complex, contradictory, vulnerable, magical and unpredictable. They were so real. There wasn't a single perfect character in the book; it was extraordinary. There's Liesl: dutiful, obedient, plain, ashamed and scared. The music is locked inside her, straining to get out; however, harsh words and belittling circumstances have her made her lose confidence in the brilliance she's beginning to doubt she ever had. Liesl was an interesting character. Not only because she wasn't the chosen one, she wasn't physically beautiful (a fact acknowledged by the characters in this book) nor was she the brave, confident heroine you'd expect to find in a YA fantasy story. She's flawed and she's human. She's jealous and she's wishful and she's selfless. She undergoes immense change and her development is expressed with admirable dexterity. From the first few pages I realised there was the true version of Liesl locked within herself, and as the book wore on, I watched the author stoke the fire and release Liesl's character in an explosive manner. The simmering traits that were laced, hidden, through the first part of the book came exploding to the surface in the presence of the Goblin King. The desire, the brilliance, the raw hunger and the pride roared to life. Liesl went from an ashamed and shadowed girl to a fiercely brave, ravenous, confident woman. Her change was drastic, but not surprising, not unbelievable. I could write more on Liesl's character, but I feel like this is where I should mention the Goblin King. For it feels like Liesl could not exist without the Goblin King. They sustain one another; their souls waltz together; they compliment each other in such a manner that I'm not sure where the one starts and the other ends.

The Goblin King tempted a maelstrom of emotion within me. Initially it was mistrust, anger and shock. With his wolfish, enchanting exterior he was magic, myth and danger personified. I didn't trust him and, at first, I wasn't drawn to him.
And then I was. 
His capricious nature and his deceptive games, his flashes of gentleness and humanity that appeared in lightning flashes chipped away at the mistrust of him I harboured. He was terrifying; he was powerful. Yet I wouldn't dare insult him by labelling him as a stereotypical bad boy: he was far too complex for that. I started out with a hardened heart towards him; I didn't see how I could grow to like him, but SJJ is clearly a remarkable the end of the book I had fallen in love with him. He had softened my heart and moulded it in his calloused hands, leaving his fingerprints all over it. He was terrifying and terrified, in love, ashamed, guilt-stricken and aggrieved. He was tender and lost, raw and exposed. I feel like his character was written with so many layers and such painful honesty. I feel like I could analyse his character, reading this book again and again, yet never quite reaching the bottom of his infinite depth. I'd actually love to reread this in the future, as I know it's the type of book that will relinquish new insights and new depths with every reread. I absolutely loved the Goblin King. He was wild and untameable, passionate and gentle; his personality is incapable of being captured in a few adjectives. I loved how the characters were unravelled and refined, moulded and broken and stitched back together again. They were constantly evolving and constantly offering up previously hidden secrets of themselves. There were moments of epiphany where the threads of who they were formed a breathtaking masterpiece of an image and I (aha!) felt like I truly understood them.

I said I couldn't mention Liesl without mentioning the Goblin King and that's true, which brings me to their relationship. I loved their relationship. It was passionate and gentle; tenuous yet unbreakable; selfish yet selfless. It was contradictory and stark in contrast, so multifaceted that I don't think I can stitch all the pieces together to form an accurate image of their romance in this review. They fitted together so perfectly. The Goblin King was Liesl's catalyst to her growth and her self-discovery and she a balm, a key to his wounded, hidden self. Their differences and similarities pushed and tainted and excavated their true selves. I felt as if they bared their souls on the page, yet they only truly revealed themselves to one another. They were exposed, but only attainable to each other. Their relationship was extraordinary. I loved the romance. I loved how the Goblin King looked beyond the exterior and fell in love with Liesl's entirely; I loved how Liesl prodded and demanded and sought until she found the humanity in the Goblin King. I loved watching the shifting, evolving dynamics between them. Games, tugs of wars for power, and trickery that reached a powerful crescendo before lulling into  a softened hymn of truth and gentleness, understanding and pure love. Throughout the novel, the author added remnants of nostalgia and forgotten memories, liberating traits of innocence that were lost to the surface. A shifting jigsaw puzzle of raw, magical emotions that, when completed, revealed the most heart-rending of love stories. And that's what I found in these pages: a woven tapestry of artistic brilliance that is the passionate, enchanting, heartbreaking, beautiful love story of Liesl and the Goblin King. It was sensual, intimate and complex.

Another thing I found very interesting and what I thought was handled very well, was the faith of Liesl and the Goblin King (more so the latter). This book isn't religious but the Goblin King did have faith. Rarely does one see the mention of God, of Jesus, in fantasy, so it was a pleasant surprise. Especially seeing as it was done so artfully and gently. As a Christian, I loved seeing the Goblin King acknowledge and revere God. If you're going to write a religious character into a fantasy story, that's how you do it.

Wintersong was sensual, dark and enchanting. The haunting words strung together were reminiscent of the melancholic echoes of a violin's dying song that resonated within me. S. Jae-Jones is a remarkably talented writer. The depth and detail, the infinite layers of the characters and the relationships, the unforgettable song of her spellbinding writing and the fairy tale atmosphere that swept me up made Wintersong a spectacular read that I couldn't help but love.

I give it: 4.5 cupcakes

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