Friday, 3 October 2014

london: the harry potter studios tour and seeing kate bush live

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hi guys! sorry for being so m.i.a. recently, a few weeks ago i moved into my student flat and i started university this week! so i've been crazy busy, getting used to things, meeting new people, exploring the city, so i haven't had much time to write (or read, really). i'm trying to get back into blogging now so there's gonna be a little backlog of posts before things get back to normal.

so at the end of august i went down to london for the weekend with my family. i had tickets to see kate bush and was planning on going alone just for the day but we decided to visit the warner brothers studio tour as well and make a little holiday of it. i won't say much about the harry potter tour as i believe the pictures speak for themselves, but it was wonderful. it was like being in a very warm, cosy environment and it reminded me a lot of my childhood. it was also incredible to see all the costumes and sets and things, it totally got me excited to start my costume course!

the main event of the weekend for me was, of course, seeing the beautiful kate bush in concert. i adore kate bush, so when i saw that she was going to perform again i knew it was something i couldn't miss. the show itself was magical; kate's voice blew me away and she seemed so comfortable and at home on stage. the love for her in that room was insane; we gave her a standing ovation after almost every song and everyone around me had tears in their eyes at some point or another during the show. my favourite moments were hearing 'top of the city' (which i had never really liked, but performed live it became this huge rock anthem and kate destroyed it), seeing her perform with her son, the story of the drowning girl (i had never heard any of 'the ninth wave' before the show but i sobbed so much, especially during 'and dream of sheep', it was so beautiful), and her 'cloudbusting' encore when the whole audience was on it's feet singing and smiling and just enjoying themselves so much. it was truly one of the best nights of my whole life. i came out of that show knowing i would never be the same and i was in a 'kate bush coma' for about 2 weeks after. plus, an extra bonus for me was meeting jarvis cocker of 'pulp' whilst i was in the merch queue haha!

so that is all i'm going to say on my weekend in london! i probably could ramble on for a lot longer but i should probably go get some work done! thanks for reading, and hopefully i'll be posting a lot more regularly now. :-) xx

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

august wrap-up

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hi guys! today i have my august wrap-up for you! so, let's get right into it:

'the tooth' by shirley jackson (goodreads) - this is a collection of short sinister stories by the queen of creepy. it's part of the penguin mini modern classics collection which i adore, they're very short reads and a great way to take a break in the middle of a monster 800-pager or something. the stories were about having a tooth pulled, a creepy man on a coach, a bad child at nursey, a village lottery, and a young girl at an adults party. the first and last stories didn't have any real effect on me, but i found the three in the middle to be really unsettling and creepy. they're too short to give any kind of explanation of the events so you're just left going, "oh my god, what?! what?! what was that about?!", and i LOVED that reaction.

'peter pan' by j.m. barrie (goodreads) - 'peter pan' is my favourite disney film and i adore the characters, and felt it was about time that i read the book. we're all very familiar with the beautiful story, so i won't explain the plot. it was so charming and wonderful, and it was such a pleasure for me to read. i feel like j.m. barrie knows and understands both children and adults really well, and he appealed to both the young and old in me.

'scott pilgrim' #4, #5, and #6 by bryan lee o'malley (goodreads 4, 5, 6) - as i said in my last wrap-up, this was a re-read for me, and i adored getting back into this world. it was like putting on a lovely warm blanket in winter. we all know what 'scott pilgrim' is about so i won't say much about it other than it is pretty much the original graphic novel series and i really enjoyed reading it again.

'so long, and thanks for all the fish' by douglas adams (goodreads) - this is the fourth book in the 'hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy' series that i've been reading for quite a while know. it's a widely celebrated sci-fi story most well known for it's PERFECT british humour. this book is kind of a bit of a love story as the protagonist, arthur, returns to earth and meets fenchurch, who is an adorable character, and it's essentially about their relationship and how they spend their time together. fenchurch really made this book for me, i thought she was excellent.

'mostly harmless' by douglas adams (goodreads) - this is the final book in the 'hitchhiker's series. sadly fenchurch was absent in this book, which i was really sad about, but it did feature a lot of hilarious ford/arthur dialogue, which i adore. overall i feel like the ending was a bit sudden and kind of underwhelming but, having thought about it, it did resolve the series nicely. i'm actually really sad that the series is over; i've been reading it so gradually over the past year that it's become a part of my life and i don't really know what to do with myself now, haha!

'four: a divergent collection' by veronica roth (goodreads) - earlier this year i read and loved the 'divergent' series (i wrote about it here, here, and here) so of course i had to pick this up. it is a bind-up of four novellas from four/tobias' point of view, and also a few extra scenes from 'divergent' from his point of view as well. i have mixed feelings about this book, really. i really enjoyed learning about four's initiation and his transfers to dauntless, but getting his perspective on scenes i had already read from tris' point of view just didn't add anything for me at all, and i found them quite boring. i felt the same about the extra scenes at the end. overall, i liked getting back into the world, and i love veronica roth's style and i can't wait to read more from her, but this book just didn't excite me. if she were to write some stuff about eric, however, THAT would excite me.

'the disenchantments' by nina lacour (goodreads) - this book is about a group of friends who go on tour with their band the summer after they finish high school. the protagonist colby thinks that he and his friend bev are skipping college and going to europe after the tour, but it turns out that bev has other plans, which she breaks to him just after they set off, and the story unfolds from there. i ADORED this book! it's the perfect road-trip story and made me so eager to go travelling. i loved the approach to life that was shown through their adventures as well - starting a band and playing shows even if you suck, travelling across states just to talk to a guy with a tattoo you're interested in, drawing and creating things all the time, making friends and coming together to collaborate on artwork, just DOING STUFF. it's exactly the kind of life i want to lead and i actually found this book so inspiring. other than that, the story was excellent and i loved the characters, but it just really spoke to me.

'the bermudez triangle' by maureen johnson (goodreads) - i was in the mood for the some contemporary this month so of course i turned to the queen of contemporary, maureen johnson! i've adored every maureen johnson book that i've read so far and this one was no exception. it's about 3 girls who are all best friends, and during the summer one girl goes away to a summer school, and when she returns she finds the other two friends have started seeing each other. i adored the characters in this book, and it approached the issues of exploring your sexuality as a teenager and dating a close friend really really intelligently. i loved it!

'horrorstor' by grady hendrix (goodreads) - i wrote a whole review on this incredible book so you can click through to read that here, but let me tell you: it is FANTASTIC. i loved it. it is incredible. go read it right away.

thanks for reading guys! hope you had a great reading month, and please link me to your wrap-ups in the comments below! x

Thursday, 28 August 2014

horrorstör by grady hendrix

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hi guys! today i have a review of the absolutely fantastic 'horrorstör' by grady hendrix (goodreads) for you! a big shoutout to the wonderful people at quirk books who were kind enough to send me this beautiful copy - thank you, you're so awesome! you guys spoil me so much! and just as a side note, i used my new compact canon camera to take the photos for this post, so let me know what you think in the comments!

obviously we have to talk about the production - it is fantastic. the book is about a horror/ghost story set in an ikea-like store called 'orsk', and the book itself is designed to look like an ikea catalogue. it goes the extra mile and has a bunch of cool stuff inside it, including an order form, a map of the shop, their store policies, and so on. plus, at the beginning of each chapter is a diagram and description of a different piece of furniture that orsk sell, and the furniture gets more and more sinister as the story goes on. it really is the most perfect production of a book i've ever seen. some books that have production gimmicks like this just tend to fall back on it and forget about the story, but that really didn't happen here. the story itself is fantastic and the production just compliments it, which is exactly what you want from a book like this.

the story centres around amy (the protagonist), her colleague ruth anne, and their manager basil as they spend the night in orsk to find out who keeps breaking in and damaging their displays while the store is closed, and, as you can expect, it all gets a bit strange and they find themselves in the middle of a ghost story.

i really liked the setting of the book. obviously, everyone loves ikea, so that aspect made it fun to read, but it also makes it so much more relatable for me. we all know the torture of the shop maze, we all like to play in the room displays, we all understand how the shop is run, and that really helped me get on board with the plot. yeah, it's fun, it's unique, but that choice was used really wisely here.

for me, i didn't find it very scary, but personally i define 'scary' as something that makes me jump and makes my heart race, and this isn't really that kind of book. it's more the kind of book that gets in your head and makes you question things, and it definitely delivered in that aspect. it was very sinister and creepy, and reminded me a lot of stephen king's 'the shining', in the sense that things keep happening and neither the reader nor the characters are sure if they're real or not.

this ghost story had that perfect thing that every ghost story should have: it made me question everything. were matt and trinity ever really there? did they just make it all up? was it just a hallucination? i've thought about this book a lot since i finished reading it and i still can't quite decide what i believe happened, which i really love.

the use of exhaustion was something i really adored and i felt it was used perfectly in this book. as a retail worker myself i'm all too familiar with the exhaustion of serving people, of dragging myself out of bed in the morning, of doing ridiculous things for customers, and because this is a book set in a retail store, i think using exhaustion as the key method of torture was absolutely perfect. it's used quite a lot; amy having to pull herself out of that chair, amy having to fight against submission to the ghosts, amy having to go back to save the others. the monotony of it all as well - how they keep almost escaping and then getting drawn back in. it mirrors amy's everyday life perfectly, and really, you could even interpret the whole thing as being just a massively over-exaggerated surrealist story about the horrors of retail life.

speaking of amy, i found her to be a very relatable character and i really felt for her. i think lots of people are going to understand her situation because we've all worked jobs that we hated, and it was so easy for me to root for her. i also loved the character of ruth anne, and i thought basil was fantastic; his dedication to his job in even the most ridiculous and frightening circumstances really warmed my heart and actually made me tear up at one point. i'm laughing thinking about it now but i really cared about these people! i wanted them to get out safe!

overall i absolutely adored this book. i gave it 5 stars on my goodreads page - it was so fantastic! it delivered on every level and it was just as exciting as the cover makes it seem; i can't fault it all. i cannot recommend it enough! x

p.s. i just want to add how amusing i found the word 'liripip'. a liripip is like a basic budget wardrobe sold at orsk, and it's referred to in the book quite often, and everytime a character said 'liripip' i had a little chortle to myself. it is truly an excellent word.

the 'across the universe' series by beth revis - spoiler-free review

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hi guys! today i have my long-overdue review of beth revis' 'across the universe' series! so let's get right into it:

the premise is what really sucks you into this series - you arrive into the story on a spaceship called 'godspeed', which was sent off from earth almost 300 years ago to transport a big portion of america's population to a newly-discovered habitable planet. personally, that's the most exciting bit for me, but i found the marketing of this series to be really odd, and blurbs/reviews/etc. always focused on the character of amy. amy is a girl from earth who was frozen on this ship (among many others) to be awoken when they land, but for some reason is woken up early and nobody knows why. it comes about that this was an attempted murder and they have to find the killer, and that storyline is actually very interesting, but the focus on amy is ALL WRONG. she is boring, she is bland, she is whiny, and i really didn't like her. she's quite unimportant to the story itself, initially, and i feel that if she had died at the beginning instead of living then the story could have continued quite unchanged.
what was really interesting though is how the politics of the ship changed as new characters were introduced and things began to happen. it gave a really interesting perspective on what it's like to run a country or to be in charge, and i really enjoyed that aspect of the story. you also get an insight into how the ship might run, both politically and mechanically, and i really enjoyed looking at the environmental aspects of it, and considering how they would grow food, how they would get vitamins, how they would create a simulated living environment for livestock, and so on.
the series has a double narrative between elder, a teenage boy who is learning how to be the leader (or 'eldest') of the ship, and amy. i found the double narrative to actually be really useful because you get to see the situation from the perspective of someone that has lived on the ship his whole life and also from a perspective of someone who finds it all alien and strange. i have no issues with amy and elder being the main characters but there was a totally unnecessary romance element added which i really didn't care for and i felt that it added nothing to the story.

so those are some comments i have on the series in general, and now i'm going to talk about a few things i thought about each individual book:

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  • the characters in 'across the universe' were bland and flat. i had no connection to them at all and they really didn't excite me.
  • some of the twists were pretty obvious in this book; in the first few chapters elder muses about something (no spoilers here!) that is a TOTAL GIVEAWAY to the big twist! it was so obvious! i understand that as an author you have to lay down clues to your twists but it was so sloppy. 
  • however, some of the other twists were really interesting and unexpected. they really built upon the premise that i found so interesting to begin with, which got me more involved in the story and were really the only thing that pushed me on to read the second book. 
  • although the characters were quite basic, at some points it seemed like beth revis really didn't understand them at all. amy calling her dad 'daddy' seemed overly childish for an otherwise strong character, and eldest calling amy a 'freak' seemed overly childish for such an authority figure. these are minor points but it really struck me as odd and it affected the flow of the dialogue.
  • i'm not sure if this was an attempt to seem ~futuristic~ or something, but constantly using words like 'frex', 'brilly', and 'uni' (to replace 'fuck', 'brilliant', and 'universe', i assume) were just annoying. 

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  • the premise of the series is excellent in general but i feel like it really kicked it up a gear for 'a million suns'. i loved the idea of a revolution and it was such a simple way to change the social dynamic so that this book didn't feel like just an extension of 'across the universe' even though the situation hadn't changed. very smart move!
  • some absolutely incredible characters came out in this book, particularly some really strong women. i absolutely adored second shipper shelby and victria. i also loved how the character of orion developed in this book.
  • the split narrative really worked for me in this book - this is a perfect example of how to use a split narrative to build tension. switching to elder when something exciting was happening with amy really helped get me interested in the story line and really motivated me to keep reading. 
  • to say that i really didn't care about the characters in the first book, at all, i loved some of the new characters so much that i actually CRIED. TWICE. beth revis really stepped up her game in 'a million suns'. 

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  • there were some more great characters introduced in 'shades of earth'. i really liked amy's parents; i think they split her personality traits perfectly - her dad getting her fighting side and her mum getting her explorative side. i also really liked how bartie developed in this book.
  • more badass women were also introduced! emma blesdoe was a fantastic character.
  • in this book we learn a lot more about the new habitable planet (known as centauri-earth), and i was quite underwhelmed by it. it was mostly described as being a rainforest type landscape, and the only animals that were encountered were pretty much just pterodactyls. it could have been so much more unique than that, i was really disappointed. 
  • the ending, however, was fantastic. it broke my heart.

overall, i did end up really enjoying the series, and it definitely improved over time. the main flaws are obviously the initial characters but i think the development of the side characters really made up for this. the premise managed somehow to get increasingly interesting and it was incredible that beth managed to keep the suspense going and to create new twists that were exciting and shocking even when the conditions of the story didn't change that much. i recommend picking it up and persevering through into 'a million suns' if 'across the universe' doesn't interest you very much - it does get better!

so that is it! thanks for reading guys, and i'll have my august wrap-up up on here for you very soon! hope you're having a great day. :-) x