Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Blog Tour: Literary Facts with a QI Elf


I am very excited to bring to you today the last stop on the blog tour for 1,342 QI Facts To Leave You Flabbergasted! To celebrate the release of the book, Anne Miller, one of the QI Elves, has written us a list of some of her favourite literary facts, so take it away, Anne!

At QI we all have our favourite topics. One of my all-time favourite QI facts is that a baby puffin is called a puffling but I will have to wait until 2018’s Series P to lobby for a show entirely about those brilliant birds. However, I also love literary facts and in Series L, I had the chance to write a whole show about books in the form of the ‘Literature’ episode of QI.

In that episode we covered the fact that T.S. Eliot was one of the publishers to turn down George Orwell’s 1984. 1984 is also the book that people are most likely to lie about having read. There was also the fact that the phrase  ‘Elementary, my dear Watson’ did not come from the Sherlock Holmes canon but instead from P.G. Wodehouse’s 1915 novel Psmith, Journalist.

This year’s QI book 1,342 QI Facts To Leave You Flabbergasted contains our favourite facts discovered in the last year. Some of my favourite literary ones include:

  • Charles Dickens
 helped stop P. T. Barnum from moving Shakespeare’s house, brick by brick, to New York. 
  • Pope John Paul II drew his own comic books. 
  • The French for ‘airport novel’ is roman de gare, or ‘railway station 
novel’. 
  • Thomas Jefferson kept a flock of geese to supply quills for his pens. 
  • The Pencil Sharpener Museum in Logan, Ohio, has 3,400 pencil sharpeners. 
  • Harper Lee, 
author of To Kill a Mockingbird, was an airline booking agent. 
  • Woody Allen writes his film scripts on a typewriter he bought in the 1950s. 
  • On a QWERTY keyboard
 a typist’s fingers cover 20 miles a day; on a Dvorak keyboard 
it’s only one mile. 
  • Roald Dahl, Noël Coward, Greta Garbo, Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra, Harry Houdini and Christopher Lee all 
worked as spies. 
  • H. G. Wells was A. A. Milne’s maths teacher. 

Thank you for sharing this with us, Anne! If you're interested in finding out more about the QI Elves, you can follow them on Twitter here, and 1,342 QI Facts to Leave You Flabbergasted is out now!

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

A Notice (#7): Coming Soon!

I am very excited to say that I will soon be hosting my first ever blog tour stop on Writing Starlight! Next Tuesday (13th December), to celebrate the release of 1,342 QI Facts To Leave You Flabbergasted, I'll be posting a list of literary facts from QI Elf Anne Miller! Make sure to keep an eye out for that, and if you want to have a look at where else the tour is stopping, check out blogs in the banner below! As well as that, I would definitely recommend following the QI Elves on Twitter, because they're always tweeting fascinating facts.


Faber & Faber, the publishers of the book, also sent me a copy, which I am very happy about, and look forward to reading over the holiday season!


Since I am making a post, I would just like to take the opportunity to apologise for not posting very frequently recently! I have had a lot of work to do for university, but I am hoping that over the Christmas break I will have some time to post on this blog, especially since I did get some books recently that I am excited to read, and I'm sure I'll be getting some books for Christmas that I'll want to post about! So make sure to stay tuned for all of that, and until then, have a happy Christmas!

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Name: A Darker Shade of Magic
Author: V.E. Schwab
Publisher: Titan Books
Date published: February 2015
Rating: 5/5


Kell is one of the last Travelers - rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.
Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London - but no one speaks of that now.
Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and Prince of Red London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they'll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her 'proper adventure'.
But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive - trickier than they hoped.
- From Goodreads.

When I finished reading A Darker Shade of Magic, I actually felt sad because it was over and I had really enjoyed reading it and had become so attached to the characters and the worlds. I just loved it all so much. The idea of the book is such a unique and inventive one that really captured your attention. It created so many intriguing possibilities, and it had such a fascinating past and background. The worlds were all well thought-out and it was obvious a lot of time and effort had gone into creating them.
Kell and Lila were amazing characters who I now love so, so much. They seemed so much like real, living people, they were well-rounded and developed, and they had flaws and made mistakes, but that only endeared them to you. They were so good, and strong, and, oh my gosh, I just want to hold them close to my heart and not let them get hurt.
There were so many little things in this book that I loved and that radiated with attention to detail. There was Kell's many-sided coat, which was completely and utterly brilliant, and which I now really want in my own life, as well as some other very stylish outfits, including Lila's fantastic masquerade ball costume, which was incredibly awesome. There was also the brilliant magical fights, the action of which was described  clearly and which were easy to follow, while at the same time remaining impressive and epic and everything you could want from a fantasy and adventure novel.
This was an excellent and marvellous story, and I am immensely excited for when I read the next one in the series, because from what I have read so far, it seems like it will be amazing!

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Name: The Raven Boys
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher: Scholastic Children's Books
Date published: 2012
Rating: 5/5


Even if Blue hadn't been told her true love would die if she kissed him, she would stay away from boys. Especially the ones from the local private school. Known as Raven Boys, they only mean trouble.
But this is the year that everything will change for Blue.
This is the year that she will be drawn into the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys. And the year Blue will discover that magic does exist.
This is the year she will fall in love.
- From Goodreads.

The Raven Boys had a slower pace than some of the other books I have read recently and I found I actually enjoyed it for that. It took its time and it was not episodic, with one big event after the other. It let you take the time to get to know the characters and was still interesting to read without having constant action. As it went on, especially towards the end, the story did pick up pace well, with added excitement and suspense which kept me eager to read and intrigued with the events of the story. The book was also structured well in that the mysteries of the story were very clever and the answers were hinted at in such a way that you did not realise the hint was a serious one until the answer was revealed.
The book had fascinating and complicated characters whose personalities were developed and revealed as the story went on, and continued to show their depth and potential to surprise throughout it. The language was used to provoke such feeling and empathy for the characters that you really came to connect to them and there was a fun sense of humour in the writing that added some brilliant lighthearted moments that explored the playful sides of the characters without ruining the mood of the darker moments.
There was also a really enjoyable exploration of magic and how it works in the world of the novel, how it affects each character and what it means to each of them. It was fascinating to read about Blue's family's relationship to magic and how they worked with it, and how that contrasted with the Raven Boys' relationship to magic and their almost desperate search for it.
Despite the fact that it is set in spring, it really does feel like a perfect book to curl up inside with on an autumn day, and I would definitely recommend reading it this season if you have not yet. I am very much looking forward to when I get the chance to read the other books in this series.

Add the book on Goodreads | Author's website

Friday, 23 September 2016

Review: Love Song by Sophia Bennett

Name: Love Song
Author: Sophia Bennett
Publisher: Chicken House
Date published: 2016
Rating: 5/5


A million girls would kill for the chance to meet The Point, but Nina's not one of them.
She's the new assistant to the lead singer's diva fiancée, and she knows it's going to suck. She quickly learns that being with the hottest band on the planet isn't as easy as it looks: behind the scenes, the boys are on the verge of splitting up. Tasked with keeping an eye on four gorgeous but spoiled rock stars, Nina's determined to stick it out - and not fall for any of them...
- From Goodreads.

Love Song drew me in right from the beginning and made me want to sit down and read the whole thing through in one sitting. It made me remember why I love contemporary fiction, as I have been reading a lot of fantasy lately, after which I could not find as much enjoyment in contemporary but this book reminded me what is so great about the genre.
I thought the passion for music that leapt from the pages was wonderful, I always really love books that convey a love for music because I adore it so much myself. Speaking of music, I just have to mention that I love the fact that Can't Help Falling in Love by Elvis was played at Orli's wedding because I just really, completely and utterly love that song. There was also a love for literature, poetry, art, and a great respect for creativity which I think helped emphasise the importance of being able to express yourself creatively, to show and understand your emotions, which is a thread throughout the book.
The characters were cute and funny and loveable (I mean the nice ones of course, not Sigrid, never Sigrid) and well-rounded, each with an important background, and they all really made the story fun and enjoyable. Even though Sigrid was incredibly dislikable, of course, she still felt like a real individual and not two-dimensional.
Overall, this was a sweet, enjoyable, and exciting read that I would recommend to anyone who likes funny and intriguing writing. Also there were Taylor Swift, Doctor Who and Harry Potter references, which is always fantastic.

Add the book on Goodreads | Author's website

Friday, 16 September 2016

Review: How Not to Disappear by Clare Furniss

Name: How Not to Disappear
Author: Clare Furniss
Publisher: Simon Schuster
Date published: 2016
Rating: 4/5
Spoiler warning: Minor


Our memories are what makes us who we are. Some are real. Some are made up. But they are the stories that tell us who we are. Without them, we are nobody.
Hattie's summer isn't going as planned. Her two best friends have abandoned her: Reuben has run off to Europe to "find himself" and Kat is in Edinburgh with her new girlfriend. Meanwhile Hattie is stuck babysitting her twin siblings and dealing with endless drama around her mum's wedding. Oh, and she's also just discovered that she's pregnant  with Reuben's baby.
Then Gloria, Hattie's great-aunt who no one even knew existed, comes crashing into her life. Gloria's fiercely independent, rather too fond of a gin sling and is in the early stages of dementia. Together the two of them set out on a road trip of self-discovery - Gloria to finally confront the secrets of her past before they are erased from her memory forever and Hattie to face the hard choices that will determine her future.
- From Goodreads.

How Not to Disappear was an emotional story that did not shy away from some difficult elements, and addressed those elements without making you want to stop reading it. By addressing troubling issues it showed how important it is that we face problems in our society and stand up to its flaws, such as racism and rape culture. It showed how important progress is, in that it reminds you of how much worse things used to be, but also how we still have room to keep improving.
While doing this, there was at the same time still a sense of humour which helped the book feel optimistic in the face of the tough decisions and situations that the characters had to deal with. There was an important message of keeping hopeful in the face of despair and this was helped by the fact that the two narrators still managed to find moments of humour, and it felt more realistic that way too, as it showed how complicated and mixed up life can be, with many different ups and downs.
The novel also had a wonderful use of language to convey emotion, it was evocative and heartfelt, and witty too. The language was well used to emphasise the significance of feeling in the story, and the importance of the idea of being alive in the moment and letting yourself feel in the moment.


Monday, 12 September 2016

Review: The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

Name: The Rest of Us Just Live Here
Author: Patrick Ness
Publisher: Walker Books
Date published: 2016
Rating: 4/5
Spoiler warning: Major


What if you aren't the Chosen One? The one who's supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?
What if you're like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.
Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week's end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.
Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions.
- From Goodreads.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here consists of a unique, clever and witty idea for a book that felt really refreshing and interesting. It took tired-out clichés and twisted the angle and made them new and exciting again. It was playful and thoughtful at the same time.
I think I expected it to be more humourous and satirical than it was. The humour and satire was there, but I suppose I expected to be more at the forefront, given the premise of the novel was a satire of the whole "chosen one" idea and genre, and I did not expect there to be such a serious tone and a focus on serious subjects, but I think that was a good kind of surprise, as it dealt well with the serious subjects, especially mental illness.
In terms of characters, I do not think I liked Henna as much as I should have done. I do not know what it was, but I felt like maybe she was supposed to be quite likeable, but while I certainly did not hate or even dislike her, I did not really like her too much either. Maybe it was because I felt she messed around with Mikey's feelings quite a bit and was not very considerate of them. I know she was trying to figure out her own feelings, and nobody is perfect, but she could have handled it better and thought more of how her actions might affect him and his feelings as well as her own. Mikey obviously was not perfect himself, and his jealousy was a good reason for her to be annoyed at him, and jealousy is one of the most annoying character traits (do not get me started on how much I hate love triangles), but I felt like I could understand more about why he was unhappy with her than why she was with him, and I do not think that is just because it was from Mikey's perspective. I am glad they did not end up together at the end because it would have not felt quite right between them.
Overall, I think it was a really great book that I very much enjoyed reading (I would not have read it as quickly as I did, in only a couple of days, if I did not), but I think I went in with my expectations a little too high and it did not quite reach them.

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