Sunday, 11 October 2015

Top Ten: Fictional Places

I've been wanting to make this post for a while, as the fantasy, fairytale and science fiction genres are some of my absolute favourites, and I love the imagination involved in creating the places that they feature. Before I give you my top ten though, I should just note that these are in no particular order because I am far too indecisive for that. Comment below with some of your favourite fictional places!

Hogwarts* from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
The narrow path had opened suddenly on to the edge of a great black lake. Perched atop a high mountain on the other side, its windows sparkling in the starry sky, was a vast castle with many turrets and towers.
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J.K. Rowling

The Discworld from the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
The disc, being flat, has no real horizon. Any adventurous sailor who got funny ideas from staring at eggs and oranges for too long and set out for the antipodes soon learned that the reason why distant ships sometimes looked as though they were disappearing over the edge of the world was that they were disappearing over the edge of the world.
- The Light Fantastic, Terry Pratchett

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams
The Restaurant at the end of the universe is one of the most extraordinary ventures in the entire history of catering. It is built on the fragmented remains of an eventually ruined planet which is (will haven be) enclosed in a vast time bubble and projected forward in time to the precise moment of the End of the universe.
This is, many would say, impossible.
- The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Douglas Adams

Elsa's Ice Palace from Disney's Frozen
My power flurries through the air into the ground
My soul is spiralling in frozen fractals all around
And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast
I'm never going back,
The past is in the past!
- Let It Go, as sung by Indina Menzel in Disney's Frozen

The Library from Doctor Who
It's a world. Literally. A World. The whole core of the planet is the index computer. Biggest hard drive ever. And up here, every book ever written. Whole continents of Jeffrey Archer, Bridget Jones, Monty Python's Big Red Book. Brand new editions, specially printed. We're near the equator so... This must be biographies! I love biographies!
- Silence in the Library, Steven Moffat

Neverland from Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
Of all the delectable islands, the Neverland is the snuggest and most compact, not large and sprawly, you know, with tedious distances between one adventure and another, but nicely crammed. When you play at it by day, with the chairs and tablecloth, it is not in the least alarming, but in the two minutes before you go to sleep it becomes very nearly real. That is why there are night-lights.
- Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie

Narnia from the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
And that is the very end of the adventures of the wardrobe. But if the Professor was right, it was only the beginning of the adventures of Narnia.
- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis

Wonderland from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
We're all mad here.
- Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

Halloween Town from Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas
I'm a master of fright, and a demon of light
And I'll scare you right out of your pants
To a guy in Kentucky, I'm Mister Unlucky
And I'm known throughout England and France
And since I am dead, I can take off my head
To recite Shakespearean quotations
No animal or man can scream like I can
With the fury of my recitations!
- Jack's Lament, as sung by Danny Elfman in Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas

Stormhold from Stardust
To the new King of Stormhold. Whichever of you fine fellows it might be.
- Stardust, based on the novel by Neil Gaiman

*Don't worry, I know that Hogwarts is definitely real.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Review: Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Name: Allegiant
Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: Harper Collins
Date published: 2014
Rating: 4/5
Spoiler warning: Moderate

The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered - fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she's known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.
But Tris's new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningliess. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend to complexities of human nature - and of herself - while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love.

- From Goodreads.

I really liked the plot of Allegiant, in fact I adored it, with all its different layers of secrets and plans and discoveries of what was on the outside of the city. However, I didn't like the characters as much as I liked the plot. I liked Tris, of course, but I don't think she's one of my favourite characters, and I think I liked some of the side characters more than I liked the two main ones, Tris and Tobias. I definitely didn't like like Tobias as much as I liked Tris, and so I couldn't relate to her affection for him as much as I should have been able to.
There were other emotions and actions of the characters that I couldn't understand, like jealousy. I always find jealousy very annoying in characters because it usually feels so stupid (I could probably be more eloquent about that, but I think it's just one of those things that annoys me too much to be eloquent about). It implies distrust and possessiveness and I very much dislike those two things.
The dual viewpoint felt strange at the beginning of the book as the other two books in the series didn't use it, but I suppose that, although it took some getting used to, it made sense towards the end. Speaking of which, I think I'm glad it ended the way it did, with society building itself towards something better (although perhaps I'm not so happy with certain character deaths, there were some pretty upsetting ones, but I won't say anymore about that because this is entering dangerous spoiler territory).
A very good point about this book was that I didn't know what was going to happen and I couldn't predict what was going to happen either which kept it exciting and made the ending more of a shock (and that's definitely where I'll end this because I am on the brink of spoiling everything and I don't want to do that).

Add the book on Goodreads | Author's website

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Review: Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Name: Insurgent
Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: Harper Collins
Date published: 2012
Rating: 4/5

One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.
Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.
- From Goodreads.

Despite any flaws Insurgent may have had (and it really didn't have many), I found I couldn't stop reading it. I just kept turning the pages because I was so interested in it. It was pretty addictive and I ended up reading it all in one day.
I thought it was a good sequel to and a good continuation of the first book in the series, and it wasn't too dull, like some middle books are in trilogies, with not much going on, only filling the space between the first and third books. This wasn't like that, not too much anyway, and it had everything I liked about the first book, the fascinating world and characters, the imagination behind it, and it managed to keep going at the same pace.
It left me really looking forward to reading the next, and final, book to find out how it all ends. The Divergent series is a very exciting one, that can't be denied.

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Sunday, 20 September 2015

Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Name: Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: Harper Collins
Date published: 2012
Rating: 4/5
Spoiler warning: Moderate

In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.
During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

- From Goodreads.

At the beginning of Divergent, I couldn't really relate to the Dauntless at all, I couldn't understand them, and then I realised that I didn't really like the way they and some of the other factions worked. Then I realised that maybe that was how I was supposed to feel, because, while some members of Dauntless understood the real values of the faction ("I believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another"), they were then punished for that, and it was clearly a corrupt faction, just as Erudite was discovered to be, and maybe even just as the whole faction system was. I thought it was clever how you came to realise these facts over time while reading the book.
The story included some really interesting ideas, of the future, of a dystopian society, with the factions, the relationships between them, down to the characters themselves. All of these ideas were well thought out and consequently quite interesting. It was clear that a lot of thought and effort had gone into creating the world of Divergent, and that left me intrigued to know more about it.

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Sunday, 13 September 2015

Review: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

Name: Will Grayson, Will Grayson
Authors: John Green and David Levithan
Publisher: Penguin
Date published: 2013
Rating: 4/5 (actually more like a 4.5 out of 5, but Goodreads doesn't do ratings by halves, so I suppose that I won't either).
One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two strangers cross paths. Two teens with the same name, running in two very different circles, suddenly find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, culminating in heroic turns-of-heart and the most epic musical ever to grace the high-school stage.
- From Goodreads.

In Will Grayson, Will Grayson, I thought that there was a really interesting dynamic between the two Will Graysons (Grayson's?). They were two very different people who still managed to understand each other despite their differences. I liked the symmetry of the fact that they only met twice; the first time towards the beginning, on the night that sort of put everything into motion (I don't want to say the night when everything changed, or the night that started it all, or anything else like that, because it doesn't start everything, because some things have already started and you can never really say exactly when something starts, and it wasn't when everything changed because some things were already changing and some things didn't change - but I digress), and for the second time on the night of the play, where the book ends. I don't really know why, but that kind of symmetry is really quite satisfying (and now that I've spent half of the review blathering on about symmetry and other nonsensical things, let's move on to the next point).
Despite the fact that, I suppose, this book could be called a romantic comedy (or a comedic romance?) (although calling it that would very much simplify everything and would actually really not be a great summary), it wasn't an easy read, in that it challenged you a little, mostly with the cat thing (I'm not a great philosopher), but also with other stuff, for example, in dealing with issues of sexuality, body image, and depression (which it dealt with in a good manner, I thought).
Finally, I would also like to note that I would have thought that David Levithan's Will Grayson's complete lack of correct capitalisation anywhere at all in his sentences would have really annoyed and frustrated me, and maybe it did at first, but eventually I got used to it, and actually ended up sort of forgetting it by the time the book had finished, so I think that must be a plus point.

Add the book on Goodreads | John Green's website | David Levithan's website

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Review: Love, Rosie by Cecelia Ahern

Name: Love, Rosie
Author: Cecelia Ahern
Publisher: Harper
Date published: 2014
Rating: 5/5
Best friends since forever, Rosie and Alex have shared their hopes, dreams - and firsts. But one awkward moment at eighteen, one missed opportunity, and life sends them hurtling in different directions. Although they stay in touch, misunderstandings, circumstances and sheer bad luck seem to be conspiring to keep them apart. Can they gamble everything - even their friendship - on true love?
- From Goodreads.

One of my greatest weaknesses is stories of romance, or, even better, stories of romance and comedy (Love Actually? Notting Hill? Four Weddings and a Funeral? Yes, please), and Love, Rosie has both, and a brilliant combination of both, at that.
The fact that the story takes you over a lifetime, rather than just looking at a year or so in the character's life, really means you can take the time to get to know all the characters and become attached to them, to understand them, to really feel like you've spent time with them. Consequently, the more emotional parts of the story really get to you, really make you feel the happiness, sadness and everything else.
I felt like you really get to know the places in the story, as well as the characters, especially Ireland. You get a real feel for exploring the world, with all the travelling the characters do. I really like it when you can travel the world through reading books and this book definitely has elements of that which add to its enjoyment, and there is definitely a lot to enjoy about Love, Rosie.

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Sunday, 30 August 2015

Review: No Stone Unturned by Helen Watts

Name: No Stone Unturned
Author: Helen Watts
Publisher: A & C Black
Date published: 2014
Rating: 5/5
Kelly, a Traveller girl, is isolated and unhappy at her new school. Until the hot summer day when she meets Ben. Ben offers to help Kelly with her history project. It's just schoolwork - except that the investigation quickly becomes compelling. Strange puzzles are revealed. A dark secret of the local quarry comes to life. Soon the mystery of the past is spilling into the present - and into Kelly's own life. Kelly must bring the long-buried truth to light. And she will leave no stone unturned...
- From Goodreads

No Stone Unturned was an excellent, intriguing story that I really loved reading. I loved the way the author was inspired by real history to create a story of her own, and that story really brought history to life, giving facts and figures real action and emotions.
I think I really enjoyed this so much because I've always been interested in history, especially with how it feels to go out and discover something on your own. But I also really liked the mystery of it, it encouraged you to work out what had happened and I thought that made it very intriguing. I think both lovers of history and crime mysteries will enjoy this book.
Plus, I always love it when I find Doctor Who mentioned in a book, so props to Helen Watts for the Weeping Angels reference! (I also, like Kelly, hid behind a cushion when I watched that particular episode. In fact, I think I might have even hidden behind the sofa).

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Sunday, 23 August 2015

Review: Paper Towns by John Green

Name: Paper Towns
Author: John Green
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Date published: 2010
Rating: 5/5

Quentin has always loved Margo Roth Spiegelman, for Margo (and her adventures) are the stuff of legend at their high school. So when she one day climbs through his window and summons him on an all-night road trip of revenge he cannot help but follow.

But the next day Margo doesn’t come to school and a week later she is still missing. Q soon learns that there are clues in her disappearance . . . and they are for him. But as he gets deeper into the mystery – culminating in another awesome road trip across America – he becomes less sure of who and what he is looking for.

- From Goodreads.

Paper Towns was a book full of insightful metaphors, beautiful descriptions, fantastic symbolism and all that other kind of stuff that John Green is just so good at. 

I thought that the book had a really interesting perspective on the way that we look at people and whether  what we see when we look at people is actually them or just one idea of them - maybe even just one idea of many. For that reason, I found it quite thought-provoking; I was continuously thinking about the ideas the book presented throughout the story.
I think it can also make you think because of the twists in the plot and the different directions it kept taking, in the search for Margo and with the different theories of what happened to her that everyone had. 
I liked the inclusion of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, because I read it this past year at university, and I really liked the way Q couldn't quite understand it at first, and then came to understand it through coming to understand Margo. I think I might have to go and read the poem again now that I've read this book, because I think I've definitely been given a different perspective on it!

P.S. I went to see the movie this week, and it was amazing! The acting was brilliant and I really loved the music that was used in the film. I'd definitely recommend going to see it (and reading the book, of course)!


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Sunday, 16 August 2015

Review: The Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury

Name: The Sin Eater's Daughter
Author: Melinda Salisbury
Publisher: Scholastic Children's Books
Date published: 2015
Rating: 4/5
Spoiler warning: Pretty major, to be honest. I couldn't seem to write about this book without spoiling it, to be honest.
I am the perfect weapon.
I kill with a single touch.
Twylla is blessed. The Gods have chosen her to marry a prince, and rule the kingdom. But the favour of the Gods has it's price. A deadly poison infuses her skin. Those who anger the queen must die under Twylla's fatal touch.
Only Lief, an outspoken new guard, can see past Twylla's chilling role to the girls she truly is.
Yet in a court as dangerous and the queen's, some truths should not be told...
- From Goodreads.

I thought that The Sin Eater's Daughter included really brilliant world-building with the beliefs, geography, legends and all of the other details of the fantasy world it was set in being so well thought out. This was especially true with the way that we came to believe in it all too, which made it really devastating when Twylla's world came crashing down (side note: cool name, Twylla).
The great world-building was paired with excellent writing, although I noticed that the phrase "It wasn't until...that I realised I had been holding my breath" , or at least some variations on that, cropped up more than once, and while I think that it works as a phrase, emphasising tension and all that jazz, I think caution should be taken in repeating it, because it loses it's impact when it's used more often.
Another point which meant that I gave this book a rating of four rather than five, was that I wasn't sure about some of the choices Twylla made or some of the actions she took as I couldn't relate to them myself, and while I definitely enjoyed reading the story, I found I was distanced from it somewhat because of that. I also found I didn't fall in love with Lief as much as Twylla did, I did like him, but I couldn't relate to Twylla's feelings towards him, and I think I liked him more when he was first introduced than I did by the end (and not just because of what we found out about him) and I felt more sorry for Merek than I ever did for Lief.
Something else I wasn't sure about was the ending. I liked how Twylla had independence and happiness and how she had promised to return to Merek if the sleeping prince ever appeared, I thought that was the right promise to make, but I think I wanted her to stay with Merek in the castle in the first place (I'm not sure why but I think I might be Team Merek, if that's a thing). I also thought it was quite clear who it was that knocked on her door at the very end and I'm not sure how I feel about that either.
However, all in all, I very much enjoyed the book and now I'm going to go and learn about Victorian flower language, reread the book once I have done so, and then try and discover if there is going to be a follow up to this book, because if there is going to be one, then I will most definitely be reading it.

Add the book on Goodreads | Author's website

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Review: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

Name: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Author: Jesse Andrews
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Date published: 2015
Rating: 5/5
Greg Gaines is the last master of high school espionage, able to disappear at will into any social environment. He has only one friend, Earl, and together they spend their time making movies, their own incomprehensible versions of Coppola and Herzog cult classics.
Until Greg’s mother forces him to rekindle his childhood friendship with Rachel.
Rachel has been diagnosed with leukemia - cue extreme adolescent awkwardness - but a parental mandate has been issued and must be obeyed. When Rachel stops treatment, Greg and Earl decide the thing to do is to make a film for her, which turns into the Worst Film Ever Made and becomes a turning point in each of their lives.
And all at once Greg must abandon invisibility and stand in the spotlight.

- From Goodreads.

I don't even know if I can form a coherent sentence about this book (in a good way), but I suppose it's worth a try. 
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was straight-to-the-point hilarious. I found it funny from the first sentence, which you might not expect considering the subject matter, and which consequently gave the book quite a unique twist (I don't know about you but I've never read a laugh-out-loud funny book about cancer before). I think part of what made it so funny was the real, relatable characters, especially with Greg's self-deprecating narration which felt so true to life. It's completely and utterly honest in a brilliant way.
Something else that really made me love this book was that, even with the comedy element, it still managed to make you feel emotional about the characters and concerned for them. And even though you're kind of told what's going to happen at the end, you still hope it doesn't happen, you don't want it to happen, and yet the book almost helps you to accept that it will happen. Basically, it's depressing in a funny kind of way (and by that I mean both funny as in haha and funny as in odd).
Sometimes (and here's the part of the review where I just get emotional and ramble) it was so funny but then it was just so sad and I wanted to take Rachel and Greg and put them in a place where nothing could hurt them. Because cancer is so stupid.
Basically, it's a really depressing book and you should never read it, ever, because it's really awful and I hate it so much and I can't wait to tell everyone about it because it's now one of my favourite books and I love it so much and everyone should read it and you need to read it because it's so brilliant. It's ridiculous, really. By the end, I was sort of laughing and crying at the same time and it was just terrible, really terrible.
Conclusion: read this book. 

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Thursday, 2 July 2015

Review: Dare to Dream by Carys Jones

Name: Dare to Dream
Author: Carys Jones
Publisher: REUTS Publications
Date published: 2015
Rating: 3/5
Spoiler warning: Moderate
“The world was going to end. Of that, Maggie Trafford was certain.”
Fourteen-year-old Maggie Trafford leads a normal life. Well, as normal as being crammed in a three-bedroom house with four siblings and a single parent can be, anyway. But despite being somewhat ignored at home, Maggie excels, earning top grades, a best friend who would do anything for her, and stolen looks from a boy in Maths. 
It’s not until the dreams start that Maggie realizes “normal” is the least of her problems. Every night, she lives the same nightmare—red lightning, shattered glass, destruction. But nightmares are just that, right? No one believes her when she says it’s an omen. At least, not until the already mysterious pillars of Stonehenge start falling. 
No longer alone in her fear, Maggie and the world watch with bated breath as one after another, the historic stones tumble, like a clock counting down. But only Maggie knows what it means: when the last stone falls, destruction will reign. And when the world ends, there’s only one option left—survive.
Horrifying and raw, Dare to Dream is equal parts tragedy and hope, detailing the aftermath of apocalyptic catastrophe, the quest for survival, and the importance of belief.
- From Goodreads.

Dare to Dream, while being quite a unique story at some points, did include some stereotypes and clich├ęs. The main one featured Maggie's mother, who, having been left to care for her five children by her husband several years ago, now will not hear any mention of him, and has the tendency to drown her troubles in alcohol. As well as that, the children are often bratty and troublesome. While this may happen in real life, and while it really must be horrible to experience, it felt more annoying than truly hurtful in this story, and so, perhaps, the writing of the characters could have been improved to make it feel more realistic. However, I did feel that the setting and subject of the book, with the supernatural elements, put a twist on it and made it more interesting. 
Continuing on with the issue of realism, there were other parts of the story that did not feel completely realistic. That may seem a strange thing to say when it is a supernatural story, but when you are working with fantasy, you need to make it as realistic as possible to stop the reader from feeling like the story does not make any sense. For example, one question I asked myself while reading the story, was whether Maggie would truly have been so devoted to her father, as she is during the first part of the novel, despite the fact that her mother hates him, and the fact that he left when she was about five and she has not seen or heard of or from him since. 
There was also some moments that I felt were glossed over and could have been gone into in more detail, like Maggie's trip to see her father, or some aspects of Maggie's journey to Hawkstone Park with Dawn and Andy. There were some parts of that latter trip which were not really detailed enough, like when they had to walk over a crevasse on a fallen tree, while there were others which were far too drawn out. Consequently, while it should have been suspenseful, that part of the story felt more frustrating.
Overall, I did think that Dare to Dream had an exciting plot, with some complex characters, which all had a lot of potential, but I do not think that this potential was completely fulfilled, as there were several small things which prevented it from doing that.

Add the book on Goodreads | Author's website

Monday, 15 June 2015

Review: The WorldMight by Cyril Bussiere

Name: The WorldMight
Author: Cyril Bussiere
Publisher: Cyril Bussiere
Date published: 2014
Rating: 3/5
A mysterious prince looks the world over for a word that would save his love from the grip of an ancient beast. 
In the kingdom of Alymphia, Princess Aria and Prince Hob are readying themselves for the Fall Passing Festival, unaware that events that happened generations prior are about to change everything. 
An epic fantasy imbued with romance and mysticism, The WorldMight is a classic tale of love truer than time, a spiritual journey in a world heavy with secrets and magic. Despite spanning generations and more, it is also a very personal story of devotion, jealousy, and redemption.
- From Goodreads.

I think there was a lot about this story that I really liked, and that definitely includes the description. I thought the description was excellent and gave a wonderful sense of rhythm to the writing. It draws you in and floats you along the story, the emphasis really is on the words of the book. The description is especially used well to create suspense, fear and anticipation. However, although the description was excellent, at times it felt like there was too much of it and it stopped the story from moving forward. I understand that there needed to be world building, but I felt like there needed to be more show than tell. Similarly, I found that some parts were drawn out when they could have been covered more quickly, and since the prologue started in the middle of a scene with some action, the first few chapters seemed quite slow in comparison.
One of the negative aspects of The WorldMight was that, at some parts, it was difficult to keep reading because, although the story was interesting, I found I still had to almost fight with myself to be motivated to read it at some times, mainly towards the beginning, because of the slow pace. There was also the fact that I found some parts a bit strange because they did not quite fit, they either could have  been written differently or did not really need to be included at all. As well as that, at times it was hard to follow the plot because of the switches between the times and places, which I felt could have been clearer. Even with the situational details at the beginning of some of the chapters, sometimes it still took a bit of effort to work out exactly where and when certain parts of the book were taking place. Another negative aspect relates more to the technical side to the book, rather than to the actual story itself, as sometimes there were little spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and phrasing that did not quite work, and while it did not prevent me from being able to understand the writing, it was a little annoying.
Back to the positive aspects of the book, I really liked how everything tied together towards the end, and while I did guess at how certain things linked together earlier on, it was enjoyable to see how things fit together and how it all made sense. Speaking of the end, it was certainly not what I thought it would be! While I had guessed at how things would link together, I had no idea what would happen after that, and I definitely had not guessed at what did happen. When you are at the beginning of the story, you will have no idea where it will end, and in that respect it is most certainly not predictable.


Sunday, 3 May 2015

Top Ten: Snacks & Drinks for Revision

Since exam season is now upon us (I have a presentation this Thursday and then my first exam is the following Monday and I'm feeling pretty nervous to be honest), I thought a post to help you in your revision would be useful, possibly. Now, because I'm not entirely sure how great any revision tips from me would be, because effective revision is still something I'm working on (but hey, maybe next year I'll have improved and might be able to write a post about that), I decided to write about the snacks and drinks that I have found to be best for revision. Because snacks and drinks I can do. Although I will give you one revision tip, it's not best to eat while you're revising, rather it's better to take a 15 minute (or half an hour, depending on how you're feeling) break to maybe check your phone or watch a YouTube video for a bit of relief, and eat a little something and have a drink while you're doing that. So anyway, here are my top ten snacks and drinks for revision,  in no particular order:

Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate contains quite a few vitamins and minerals that are good for your health, and it has caffeine in it which can help give you energy, but it has less caffeine than coffee so it won't make you too hyper like coffee can. Plus, I've found that, because it's richer, I eat it more slowly than other kinds of chocolate, and so it's easier to eat in moderation.

Nuts
Nuts also contribute valuable vitamins and minerals, and I find I like almonds (especially whole ones with the skin on, because they're better for your heart that way) and walnuts best. Almonds have calcium and vitamin E, while walnuts are rich in Omega-3 (which I know is good for you because my parents are always telling me to eat more fish, which has that in it, at least some fish does).

Dried Fruits
Dried apricots are great because they have potassium, which is great for energy, as well as vitamins A and E. Raisins are good for protein and also have minerals like potassium. I'd definitely recommend dried fruits because they keep you healthy as well as give you a bit of energy when you're tired from revision.

Fresh Fruits
Blueberries are good for things like lowering blood pressure, improving mental health and for maintaining healthy digestion, while bananas have high levels of potassium. Those are just a couple of suggestions, and most fresh fruits are great for a revision break snack.

Yoghurt
Yoghurt can enhance your immunity to illnesses, which  is useful when your immune system is weakened due to stress (which is unfortunately quite likely during exam season).

Toast with Jam
Fruit, as mentioned before, obviously contains a lot of healthy stuff like vitamins, and in the form of jam it can provide us with a beneficial quick boost of energy. The toast is just to put the jam on. I don't know the health benefits of toast.

Granola
This supplies vitamins and minerals, and it goes great with yoghurt so you can have two healthy snacks at once (get you)! I actually like to have granola and yoghurt for my breakfast, because my local supermarket does two pots of yoghurt for two pounds, and I'm a student so I love a good bargain, but that's a bit of  a digression.

Raw Vegetables
Everyone knows vegetables are good for you and are great for maintaining a healthy body. Raw vegetables, like carrots, celery and cucumber, are great for snacks because you don't have to deal with cooking them, you can just cut them into sticks and have them with dips, which I love to do. Mmm, scrumptious.

Tea
Herbal teas are best, especially at night as they help you to get to sleep, which can be a bit of a trouble when you're stressed from exams and studying.

Water
This may be a bit simple and obvious, but it needed to be said because some people just don't drink enough water, which can be really bad, especially when you're working hard. Water stops dehydration, and consequently stops headaches and dizziness, fights infections, improves concentration and boosts your energy. This is one thing I'd break the no-eating-or-drinking-while-revising rule for, and I'd just have a bottle of water by you while you're working. Don't let yourself get thirsty before you go and get a drink, because that means you're already dehydrated. Just make sure you drink regularly throughout the day (don't drink non-stop though, you don't want to have to stop revising every ten minutes because you need the loo).

I hope you have found this somewhat useful, I think I definitely will and will probably come back to it at some point, just for a reminder. I realise I've been quite conversational in this post (e.g. I mentioned the loo), I don't know if that's a good thing or not, but there we are. Before I go, here is a list of links to find out more about the snacks and drinks I've mentioned, and to prove that I haven't just made all of this up.
The Health Benefits of Drinking Water
Eating for Exams
What are the Benefits of Eating Raw Vegetables?
Granola Health Benefits
The Amazing Health Benefits of Fruit Jam, Jelly and Preserves
Health Benefits of Yoghurt
Six Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate
The Health Benefits of Nuts
12 Healthiest Dried Fruits
What are the Health Benefits of Blueberries?
25 Powerful Reasons to Eat Bananas 

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Review: From Bad to Cursed by Katie Alender

Name: From Bad to Cursed
Author: Katie Alender
Publisher: Hyperion
Date published: 2011
Rating: 3/5
Spoiler warning: Minor
Although I did think that it was a good book, I did have a couple of issues with From Bad to Cursed. I thought that perhaps Alexis' change from trying to destroy Aralt to worshipping him could have been slightly more subtle and gradual. I found it quite noticeable and pronounced. If it had been done more discreetly, with the realisation of what was happening only eventually creeping up on the reader, that could have made it a little more intriguing.
And then there were other parts that were slightly hard to follow and sometimes I found it hard to remember whether Alexis was completely loyal to Aralt or not. I know this sounds contradictory to my last point but what I mean is that because Alexis' transformation from enemy to worshipper of Aralt was so sudden, because it was not slow enough, it was a bit difficult to understand, I was confused rather than intrigued. There were also moments when I almost could not keep up with what the other girls involved were up to.
Despite these issues, I did actually very much enjoy this book. I thought it was an interesting story with action, suspense, and even some humour mixed into it.

Add the book on Goodreads | Author's website

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Review: Fearless by Tim Lott

Name: Fearless
Author: Tim Lott
Publisher: Walker Books
Date published: 2007
Rating: 5/5
Spoiler warning: Minor
With Fearless, I really liked how the story was mostly told from the perspective of Little Fearless and the other children. They were quite innocent and naive, not exactly knowing or understanding what was going on outside the institute, or inside it, for that matter. But they were still intelligent, and definitely brave, in their own ways, and I think this all added to the inspirational nature of the story.
The book also had a very emotional nature, and I found the Controller's part especially sad. I did guess who he was (in relation to Little Fearless) quite close to the beginning of the book, but that did not make it any less heartbreaking when the truth was revealed.
Fearless had a very strong and important message about control and freedom, and I thought that the fact that it almost seemed to be written as if it was a young children's story while it had such a sinister truth to it gave the story's message a lot of impact.

Add the book on Goodreads | Author's website

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Rambles (#3): On Being "Normal"

"Normal" can be a tricky and potentially dangerous word, but it shouldn't be. Because most people are normal. Being unique, having qualities and quirks of your own, doesn't make you abnormal. Everybody has a little something different about them, and that's normal. And everyone is at least a tiny bit similar to everyone else, and that's normal too. Just because you like a type of music that nobody else seems to like, that doesn't make you strange. And just because you like a new trend going round that a lot of other people like too, that doesn't make you dull.
When you type "define normal" into Google, the first definition given (and the definition relevant to this ramble, we're not going to go into the mathematical and scientific ones) is "conforming to a standard; usual typical, or expected". Personally, I don't think that's a bad thing, and it's not exactly a good thing either, it's somewhere in between. It really is just normal. I think we need to take it as a neutral term, without positive or negative connotations. Normal just is. It shouldn't be a compliment or an insult. I wouldn't worry about being "normal", it's really not as bad, or good, as it's made out to be.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

A Notice (#4): Bloglovin!

Follow my blog with Bloglovin
I have now officially joined the Bloglovin train/bandwagon/group/situation/thing, so, if you wish, you can follow this blog on there! Let me know below if your blog is on Bloglovin and I might just follow you!

Review: Someone Else's Life by Katie Dale

Name: Someone Else's Life
Author: Katie Dale
Publisher: Simon and Schuster UK
Date published: 2012
Number of pages: 478
Rating: 3/5
Someone Else's Life was incredibly dramatic, with many, many plot twists. Although I understood why it was so dramatic, as it dealt with a couple of very serious topics, I'm not sure if I liked how some parts were done and how there were a couple of questions that were still unanswered by the end. Seeing as the main point of the story was for Rosie to go on this journey to find out the truth about her life and the lives of the people around her, I felt it strange that I still had questions when it was over. Surely all my questions should have been answered?
At some points I did enjoy reading the book, it wasn't all bad, far from it, but there were some points when I really did not enjoy it. I especially didn't enjoy it between the middle and end of the book, when some of the characters' actions frustrated me and annoyed me slightly, so I couldn't relate to them because I didn't understand them.
Overall, I'd say that this was a good book, but it could have been better with some more realistic actions and reactions from the characters and with an ending that didn't feel as unsettling as it did.

Add the book on Goodreads | Author's website

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Rambles (#2): On Ambition

I suppose I could be called ambitious, after all, not only do I want to be a writer (something which recently I've become very determined to be) but I've also found that I'm also quite ambitious in everyday terms. I always want to do at least one productive thing every day and I hate waking up late (mostly I aim to be up by 10 o' clock) because I feel like I'm wasting the day away sleeping when I could be getting stuff done (plus I don't like missing the oppurtunity to have breakfast, I like my food). Most people my age that I've come across find this quite strange and look at me weirdly when I say I've never slept later than 11am. But I'm most productive in the mornings and early afternoons, I think, so I might as well be awake when I'm most productive.
So, I like to do at least one productive thing a day. And it's not just that I like to do it, I also feel like I have to if I want to achieve my goals and go through with my plans, of which I have a lot. I do plan a lot, but (most of the time) I manage to not plan so much that I don't actually get any of what I'm planning done. Obviously I do have days when I feel incredibly tired or just utterly lazy and then I don't get anything done apart from watching television and YouTube videos. If I'm ahead on my plans or if I've been working hard and I feel like I deserve a day off then I don't feel bad about having a lazy day, but if that's not the case and I don't feel like I deserve a rest then I feel pretty bad if I do have a lazy day.  And that's why I get stuff done, because it stops me from feeling bad and actually makes me feel happy. And I suppose that contributes to making me pretty ambitious.
I am not too sure why I'm writing this and putting it out there, but perhaps I just really needed to explain it to myself, and writing is always a good way to make things clearer in your mind. I do find that, quite a lot of the time, I'm writing because I need to sort out my thoughts.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

My Life (#6): Resolutions

So, back in January, like many other people, I made some resolutions, basically a list of things I want to do this year, and since we're now into the second month of the year, I thought I would look back on the past month to see how I've been progressing with those resolutions.
Firstly, I decided I wanted to be more experimental with cooking; I wanted to try new recipes and make a meal plan for each week to keep track of what I was going to eat (which makes it easier to make shopping lists, as well as to keep track of how I'm doing with my resolution). I decided to do this because last term, which was my first term at university, I mainly survived on rice, pasta, and soup (although I am happy to say that I barely touched a ready meal and went nowhere near the pot noodles). And I have to say, I think I'm doing quite well with this resolution. I mean, I still make quite basic meals, and there is a lot of pasta and rice involved, but I think I am becoming more varied in what I'm eating. Today I even made chicken with curry sauce and rice, which I'd never tried making myself before, and it turned out pretty well.
Now, my second resolution was to take up running and my aim was to be going on regular runs, probably twice a week, by the end of the year, but I have changed that resolution since I made it. I've found it difficult to make time for running, so I've decided instead to simply do more exercise. I know it's vague, which might make it more difficult for me to stick by, but I have ideas for how I'm going to do that. I'm going to take the stairs up more often (I live on the thirteenth floor of my building, so I think that'll help), and then when I move off-campus in September, I'm going to try and walk into campus when I can (it's about a forty-minute walk). And when I can, I'm going to go on walks.
Finally, I've resolved to learn to drive this year. I'm 19, so I've had two years to start learning already, but I've just never gotten around to it, so I want to get it done this year. I'm planning to do it in the summer, when I'll have a few months off from university, and hopefully I'll be able to learn, take my test, and get my licence!
Hopefully, I will manage to do these resolutions, and hopefully this post has been interesting to you! I'm not sure how interesting it is to read someone else ramble on about their resolutions, but there we go. Comment below what your resolutions were, if you made any, and if you've managed to stick to them or not, I'd love to hear (or rather read) from you!

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Rambles (#1): Writing About Writing

A couple of months ago, I spent some of my birthday money on a couple of notebooks, and I was not sure what I wanted to write in one of them, so I just began to write what came into my head. Then, when I had written a page, I realised it read like a blog post, so, I decided that this new notebook would be where I wrote all my rambling thoughts that could potentially become blog posts, and, since this blog is called I Tend To Ramble, I have decided to call the posts that come from my rambling writings 'Rambles'. And here is that first ramble:

I don't think I know a lot about much, to be honest I'm not even too sure why I'm writing this, or what exactly I'm actually going to write. I do know that I just want to write something. That's a feeling I've known for as long as I can remember, I've always loved to write. I didn't always want to be a writer, sometimes I wanted to be an artist or a singer, but there has always been that need to keep writing, and recently it's been getting stronger. Maybe that's because I've realised I do want to be a writer, an author, now, I don't know. Whatever the reason for my need to write, I'm glad I have that need. I don't know who I would be if I didn't want to write.
I don't always write about myself, like I'm doing now. Sometimes I do, I keep a diary, which I write entries in very irregularly, and occasionally I like to write poetry or song lyrics which can be about my own experiences, but they aren't always. Sometimes I'm inspired by things that have nothing to do with me. And I also like to write fiction, sometimes short stories, sometimes longer ones, which, of course, can be inspired by my life, but they aren't about me, they're about completely new people and new places that the world has never seen before.
That's part of what I love about writing, the ability to let your imagination run completely wild, to share crazy and unique ideas with people all over the world, people you've never even met before. I just think that's amazing. I don't think people should ever stop writing and reading other people's writing. True, talking with someone face-to-face is something special, and there may even come a day when people don't necessarily need to write, but I still don't think, even then, that people should stop writing. There is just something about books, and letters, and little notes, and random jottings. It can be difficult at times, but it's so expressive and I really do love to write.