Monday, 19 February 2018

THE WIFE BETWEEN US - by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

THE WIFE BETWEEN US - Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
Published: January 2018 - by St. Martin's Press  
Pages: 346.
Genres: Adult / contemporary fiction / thriller / mystery
Triggers/Content Advisory: Themes of abuse and mental illness 
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Pan Macmillan SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.
When you read this book, you will make many assumptions. You will assume you are reading about a jealous ex-wife. You will assume she is obsessed with her replacement – a beautiful, younger woman who is about to marry the man they both love. You will assume you know the anatomy of this tangled love triangle. Assume nothing.

This is a thriller that I was absolutely dying to read. I love relationship conflict and dynamics, and I adore this premise. I expected to love this book.
Just a warning: The last paragraph of this review, following on from the quote in the middle, is spoilery. I just couldn't write a decent review without talking about that spoiler, so I'm afraid I had to include it. If you don't want to be spoiled, please skip everything after that quote. 

The story is unique. The authors take well-known conflicts, but look at them from different angles, which I think is great. The book feels fresh.
The writing is.....good. It's quite similar to Mary Higgens Clark's style, and the whole tone of the book feels like something from her books. It doesn't feel like a modern, 2018 kinda story, it feels like something from the early 2000s and rather dated in terms of language and fashion, etc. It does work, it's just a change from what I typically expect from thrillers these days.

I love the language the authors use. It's very specific, and makes for some wonderfully vivid scenes. Every scene is well-fleshed out in all aspects.
The characters aren't incredible. They're okay, but they aren't very three-dimensional or vivid. They're stereotypes, and yet they aren't terribly written. They're just.....there, on the page. And they aren't exciting.
However, I do love how well drawn everyone's motivations are. The authors really flesh out the characters' pasts and give them solid motivations which explain their present day actions. Unfortunately it doesn't quite make them vivid, but it does prop them up a bit.

“I was happy, I think, but I wonder now if my memory is playing tricks on me. If it is giving me the gift of an illusion. We all layer them over our remembrances; the filters through which we want to see our lives.”

I don't think this book works well as a thriller. I guessed the big twists way before they were revealed, and until about page 200 or so I was extremely bored. It's just not gripping - and the topics the authors delve into (like abuse and mental health issues) could've been more powerful if the authors had stopped trying to make the book into a thriller and instead just sat down with the characters and those tough subjects and paid them more attention, instead of trying to make secrets out of everything (which I personally think fails, because the "big twists" were very obvious to me).
But the theme of abuse is handled very well. The authors show the horror of an abusive relationship with a lot of raw emotion and subtle, psychological build-up. They address head-on the ignorant, cruel question we so often hear "why doesn't she just leave?" and make it clear that it is NEVER A MATTER OF "JUST LEAVING". I love how they handle that.
But when they're handling a topic like that, I wish they'd just forget about trying to make the book into a thriller. It think Vanessa's story would've been so much more satisfying and powerful if they'd tossed aside all these so-called secrets and mysteries and just narrowed it down to the abusive relationship and how the characters deal with that.

The Wife Between Us could've been an incredible book if the authors hadn't tried to draw out so-called mysteries and instead just focused on the characters dealing with the abusive relationship they're tied up in.  

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Weekly Round-Up: Reading and writing

I've finally gotten round to writing my WIP, now that I've finished the outline. I'm nervous, but excited to see how things go. I'm also re-outlining my NaNo novel from last year and sorting that plot and characters out.  Hopefully I'll start writing its second draft when I've finished with my other book.  

In other news, I'm on season 5 of F.R.I.E.N.D.S!! Yay! And lemme just say: Monica and Chandler for the win <3 I ship them so much. 

Posts of the week:

Currently Reading

I haven't gotten very far with these two yet...

For Review

I've begun to use Netgalley more, and to start things off I got these two books :)


I won paperbacks of these two books from Camelle and Maria! Thank you, ladies!

I read Frostblood in about two days ;) I won't be reviewing it on the blog, but you can check out my mini GR review HERE!

Around the Blogosphere

Aneta reviews The Daughter of the Siren Queen

Emily talks the latest about J. K. Rowling

Erica shares her Favourite Cutesy Romance Books

Esther reviews Into the Water

Amber Elise talks about the Tropes she loves

Lindsey reviews The Cruel Prince

Entertainment News

Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux have split
Another celebrity marriage come to an end :(

Rachel Weisz weighs in on the possibility of a female James Bond
I'm not against the idea of a female Bond, but Weisz makes an excellent statement: Why not create your own story rather than jumping on to the shoulders and being compared to all those other male predecessors? Women are really fascinating and interesting and should get their own stories.”

Reviews are in for Jennifer Lawrence's Red Sparrow
It actually looks like a really good movie...

Coming Up...

This week, I'll be reviewing The Snowman (film), The Wife Between Us, and I'll have another Romanticised Abuse post up and a book blitz promo up, as well.

So how has your week been?! What are you reading and watching? 

Saturday, 17 February 2018


Published: January 2018 - by HarperCollins Publishers  
Pages: 436.
Genres: Adult / contemporary fiction / thriller / mystery
Triggers/Content Advisory: Mature themes / infrequent bad language
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Jonathan Ball SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.
Anna Fox lives alone, a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times--and spying on her neighbors. Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, and their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare. What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? 

This is an extremely hard review to write. The book left me with a load of mixed feelings, and I'm still not sure if I've condensed and communicated them properly. While I like this story for the most part, I'm also left with the feeling that it's missing something. A something that stops me from saying "I love this book!" or "Wow that was amazing". It's something I can't put my finger on. Perhaps it's the language that is a tiny bit too flowery? Or that the ending climax is slightly too melodramatic? Or that the twists - excellent as they are - never quite manage to come across genuinely?
Ugh I just don't know.

But one of the things I do love about this book is its atmosphere. It is so atmospheric, breathtakingly film noir, and with details ranging from Anna's obsession with black and white films to the way the author describes and chooses props for Anna's house, I felt like I was watching an old Hitchcock thriller in my mind's eye.
But the writing is a win-lose for me. I like it, and I generally love the vividness. However it feels a bit too purple-prosey at times, and some descriptions are overdone: page 200: "the car, glossy as a shark"... page 107: " Black as a spent match inside. I yank the string beside the bare bulb. It's a deep, narrow atttic of a room, folded beach chairs slumped at the far end, tons of paint like flowerpots on the floor......Ed's toolbox sits on a shelf, pristine". I don't know if those lines give you enough of an idea, but overall I just think the language is too flowery.

Until page 116 and Anna hears The Scream, I was kinda bored. The book takes that long to get going. Perhaps it was also that the writing and characters weren't enough to grip me until the twists and action came. Although admittedly, the twists do make up for that intial slowness...
Gosh the twists are good. Finn takes the word "twist" to a whole other level with this book. When there isn't a twist, the story's not gripping, but as soon as something huge is dropped, you can't look away. The shocks are so clever and so razor-sharp. The story goes from creepy to deathly creepy in the blink of an eye. It's excellent.

“If there's one thing I've learned in all my time working with children, if I could whittle those years down to a single revelation, it's this: They are extraordinarily resilient. They can withstand neglect; they can survive abuse; they can endure, even thrive, where adults would collapse like umbrellas.”

Anna is a compelling heroine and I love how unreliable she is. Her story and past are heartbreaking, and I almost cried reading about it. It's so painful.
But the secondary characters could be stronger. They never give the impression of being fully three-dimensional human beings, and I really wish they had more personally and vividness. The whole cast just needs a bit more...punch.

The book is similar to The Girl on the Train. I thought it'd be useful to mention that. Anna is an alcoholic, an unreliable narrator, and the whole premise of her not being believed rings very close to TGOTT idea. This story does take its own path, though - thankfully - but the similarities are hard to miss.

The Woman in the Window is an atmospheric thriller jabbed with terrifying twists and lots of heart. I recommend it for all thriller fans, despite feeling like it's missing something that could've made it magnificent. 

Friday, 16 February 2018


Published: 2017 - by Macmillan.
Genres: Young adult / fantasy / fairy tales / retellings
Pages: 281.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Mild sexual innuendo
Format: Signed hardcover.
Source: Thank you so much to Pan Macmillan SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.
Love speaks in flowers. Truth requires thorns. Travel to a world of dark bargains struck by moonlight, of haunted towns and hungry woods, of talking beasts and gingerbread golems, where a young mermaid's voice can summon deadly storms and where a river might do a lovestruck boy's bidding but only for a terrible price. Inspired by myth, fairy tale, and folklore, #1 New York Times–bestselling author Leigh Bardugo has crafted a deliciously atmospheric collection of short stories filled with betrayals, revenge, sacrifice, and love.

I'M STILL SO OVERJOYED - AND HONOURED - THAT I GOT A SIGNED HARDCOVER OF THIS BOOK. Thank you to the incredible people at Pan Macmillan <3 As a Leigh Bardugo fan, there's nothing more exciting than a signed hardcover of one of her books. Thank you!

By now, I think all of you know that I will read whatever Leigh writes and smile about it - if not scream and squeal and possibly succumb to a book hangover. Her writing is just so. flawless. Everything about her sentences is perfect. Every word, every phrase, is magic breathed into ink. I devour her writing.

The world in these stories is beautiful. It's so imaginative, so lavish, and so deliciously colourful and fascinating. You can get lost in it, and that goes for the whole book. It's simply relaxing. It's pure, fairytale escapism.
The illustrations are also stunning. I absolutely adore the artwork, and I love, love, love how they add so much to the tales. They're beautiful and empowering. 

“We were not made to please princes.”

“This goes to show you that sometimes the unseen is not to be feared and that those meant to love us most are not always ones who do.”

My favourite short story is definitely the last one: When Water Sang Fire. It's by far the best of the lot, I think, and it certainly holds together the most powerfully. I also love the tale that's a spin on Hansel and Gretel; I love Bardugo's take on it.

But the whole book didn't blow me away. Somehow, it lacks something. None of the stories are amazingly plotted, and some are quite confusing to follow. I love it because it's Leigh and because it is a relaxing, enchanting collection, but it's not altogether incredible. Which is kinda sad :(

The Language of Thorns is a collection of gorgeously imaginative, effortlessly feminist, and darkly atmospheric short stories. As a Leigh Bardugo fan, I love it. But I do think it's missing the extra magic that takes me from loving it to LOVING it.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

My Favourite Fictional Ships

Happy Valentine's Day!! And even if you don't celebrate, just buy yourself chocolate and stuff your face. Or wait till after Valentine's Day when the chocolate isn't so expensive. Which kinda defeats my first point. But anyway.

Today I'm doing a blog post about my favourite fictional ships. I also did one last year, but my mind has changed a lot since then, so I needed to do an updated version ;)

Hope you like this post! <3

- Kaz and Inej / The Six of Crows Duology / These two are the definition of "JUST KISS ALREADY!" Their relationship is built on mutual respect, and their romance is a slow, steady burn throughout the duology. The small ways through which they show their love for one another are incredible and thoughtful, and I love how protective they are of each other. Kaz & Inej are an amazing ship. AND I NEED A THIRD BOOK FOR THAT KISS PLEASE LEIGH 

- Jasper and Alice / The Twilight Saga / Forget Edward and Bella, Jasper and Alice are the real canon of Twilight. They are so thoughtful, sweet, and protective of each other, and they support each other no matter what. They're partners in everything - it's beautiful to watch.

- Jules and Liam / Everless / THESE TWO BETTER BE CANON. They aren't even a couple in Everless, but there's definitely an implication they could be in the second book. I love the development of their relationship, their chemistry, and whenever they interact it's magical. PLEASE LET THEM BE AN ITEM IN BOOK 2 SARA

- Scarlett and Wolf / The Lunar Chronicles / AW THESE BABIES. They are so sweet and protective of each other, and they're equals through and through. They're my fave Lunar Chronicles couple, and I love how subtly they show their love for each other. They aren't a kissy-kissy or touchy couple, but their love runs deep. 

- Juliet and Declan /  Letters to the Lost / The great thing about this book is that there's almost no romance between Declan and Juliet. They're just friends; friends who have a complicated relationship, who learn so much from each other, and who come to respect and support each other. So when they do finally kiss at the end, it's a kiss that makes the wait worth it. They are probably the best example of friends-to-lovers I've ever read about. 

- Nate and Bronwen / One of Us Is Lying /  He's the bad boy, she's the girl who never breaks a rule. But their relationship is incredible, and every scene between them is swoony as heck (especially the kisses OMW). Their chemistry is amazing, but I hate how the author handled their relationship at the end of the book.  


- Tony and Pepper / The Marvel Universe / AWWW THESE TWO DARLINGS. They're my Marvel OTP, and RDJ and Gwyneth Paltrow have stunning chemistry. I love the development of Tony and Pepper's relationship, and I love when their personalities clash. It's fantastic ;)

Peter and Gwen / The Amazing Spiderman / ANDREW GARFIELD AND EMMA STONE WHY DID YOU SHATTER MY HEART. Their chemistry was off the charts, their acting made Peter and Gwen a couple to be reckoned with, and Gwen's death was a cruel but beautifully tragic finish to what they had. It hurt, but their love was invincible. I still cry to think of them.

- Emma and Killian / Once Upon A Time /  These two characters have had such an incredible journey, and YAY to them getting their happy ending! I love Emma and Killain, and I love how they compliment each other. They're both such haunted, broken human beings, but they grow so much and never give up on each other, despite being through some of the hardest trials imaginable. I just love them.

- Amy and Rory / Doctor Who / I'm convinced that seasons 5 to 7 of Doctor Who were actually just a story about Rory and Amy's relationship, because WOW did they have an amazing relationship. It was so well developed, and they went through so much together. Even though they had their fights and their ups and downs, they were passionately in love. And when Amy came to that heartbreaking choice in series 7, she still choose Rory over the Doctor. I treasure that.

- Jim and Pam / The Office / Jim and Pam's will or won't they romance lasted three long seasons, and although their finally getting together took away a bit of the magic, they were still an amazing couple. The chemistry between Jenna Fischer and John Krasinski and the way their characters struggled with their feelings for long before spilling them, made this couple one to root for. Their humour, their friendship, their partnership - it was all beautiful.

- Will and Djaq / Robin Hood / I'm not a Robin and Marian shipper or a Gisborne and Marian shipper, but I always loved Will Scarlett and Djaq together. They are so cute, so protective of each other, and the small ways their attraction for each other is hinted at throughout the series before they actually become a couple, is adorable.

- Sybil and Tom / Downton Abbey / Awww Tom and Sybil. The lady and the chauffeur. SOB. These two fought long and hard to be together, and battled social norms, furious family members, and even a world war to follow their hearts. They were equals with shared passions. When Sybil died, it was heartbreaking.

Who are your favourite fictional couples? Do you love any of the ones in this post? 
Let's chat! 

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Romanticised Abuse: The Notebook

Our goal is to raise awareness and draw attention to romanticised abuse in films, books, etc, in order to fight it
- Join us! Start posting whenever you want.
- Share examples of romanticised abuse you've seen in books or films - doesn't even have to be a whole book or film; simply one scene is enough, if there's an instance of romanticised abuse in it.
- Please link to my blog as the original creator.
- This is not only about romanticised abusive relationships. It is about romanticised sexual assault, rape, and harassment, as well.
- Please consider the following statement a trigger warning: this blog series explores and draws attention to themes of abuse in fiction. I will discuss sexual assault, abusive relationships, and rape. I will infrequently explore those topics in depth as the fictional example requires it. Please read on with care. These subjects could be triggering.

Please Note: I have not read the Nicholas Sparks novel. I am only judging the movie. 

A while ago I was browsing online when I came across an article that claimed that Noah from The Notebook was a creep. I didn't read the article (never have) but my ignorant reaction was one of shock and anger. How dare they say that about Noah?! How dare they suggest his romance with Allie wasn't amazing?
But as I thought about The Notebook, the film, I couldn't stop thinking about it. And so I decided to rewatch it, keeping in mind that Noah might, well, be a creep.
What I saw literally made my jaw drop. After taking extensive notes throughout the film, I decided to speak out and write this post.
Here are the reasons why I believe Noah and Allie's relationship is not a romance.

The Ferris wheel incident / Noah and Allie meet for the first time when he comes up to her at the carnival. Their conversation goes like this:
N: "Do you wanna go out with me?"
A: "No."
N: "Why not?"
A: "Cos I don't want to."
She then walks off with her girl friend, murmuring in an uncomfortable tone, "Did you see, he was like two inches from my face?" whereas her friend replies, "That's Noah, though."
Hmm. Not cool, dude. Respect her space.
Allie then climbs onto the Ferris wheel with a guy. Noah, not one to give up easily, climbs after her and falls into their laps amid Allie's startled screams. He repeats, "Will you go out with me?" She says "No...because I don't want to", and Noah then proceeds to hang from the metal rail of their compartment, threatening to let go, until she agrees to a date.
That. Is. Not. Cool. She said no; take a hint and leave her alone. Threatening a girl to make her go on a date with you is not romantic. Watching that scene, I was also stunned by how serious and solemn it was. This wasn't a light hearted event (until she pulled his trousers down - you go, girl); Allie was genuinely angry and uncomfortable, and Noah refused to take no for an answer.

Noah confronts Allie / Noah confronts Allie in the street about the date she apparently swore she'd go on with him (she might have sworn, dude, but she screamed it while you hung from a rail threatening to let go. That's pressure). Noah refuses to let her go back on her word, and says this: "It was a stupid thing to do {the Ferris wheel incident} but I had to be next to you. I was drawn to you......when I see something I like, I got to ha - I love it. I go crazy for it." Anyone else getting serious creeper vibes from this? It doesn't sound like romance, it sounds like Noah is obsessed with Allie. It's creepy, not flattering.

First "date" / Noah and Allie's friends "set them up" on a double date to the cinema. Allie doesn't know Noah's coming, and when he shows up she honestly looks uncomfortable and distressed. She pulls her friend aside, but being the bad girl friend her friend is, her friend shrugs off her worries. At this point it is not clear that Allie has any kind of affinity towards Noah; at this point, she's simply trying to avoid him, and he and her friends are making that impossible.
However, their time at the cinema goes okay, and by the end of it Allie is obviously smitten with Noah. But that does not excuse her friends and Noah setting her up when she was genuinely uncomfortable about it, given Noah's previous behaviour.

Lying in the road / That is reckless as heck. And I hate, hate, how Noah says to Allie "you need to learn how to trust" as he convinces her to lie down in the middle of the street with him. That line and the way he says it does not sit right with me.

Allie is physically abusive / Allie frequently hits Noah, and I'm not talking a light nudge or even a slap. I'm talking beating with her fists. Once in the street, when they're arguing, she turns on him and starts hitting him. Again when he says he has to break up with her, she slaps and punches him and shoves him so hard he bangs into his truck.
There should not be another way to take this! She is being physically abusive. No doubt about it. There's verbal abuse that goes both ways, too, but it's the physical abuse that I'm more concerned about.

The letters / Allie leaves town and Noah's hurt. I get that. But the guy sends her a letter every single day for a year. She never replies, and although we as the viewers know that it's Allie's mom who's keeping them aside before Allie can read them, for all Noah knows, Allie is purposefully not relying because she's moved on. Sure, it would be hurtful, but she is entitled to. And yet that doesn't stop Noah from sending her 365 letters. Three hundred and sixty five!! Obsessed much? Noah, for all you know, she's moved on and happily so. Quit being a creep and a stalker.

Noah's unstable / Noah feels things passionately, and yes, Allie hurt him when she left. It was a cruel cutoff of the relationship they had. But....he is emotionally unstable. After he sees Allie and her fiancé together (which would hurt, obviously) the narrator follows up with: "After seeing Allie that day, something inside Noah snapped. He got the notion into his head that if he restored the house where they had come that night {slept together} Allie would find a way to come back to him. Some called it a labour of love {not me, just FYI}. Some called it something else {Yup. Toxic obsession.} But in fact, Noah had gone mad." 
And there you have it. Noah is emotionally unstable, and although I feel sorry for him, his relationship with Allie (as you can see above) is not a healthy one. This goes beyond passionate and right down to obsession and yes, abuse. Here's more proof of Noah's instability: "{When Noah finished building the house} he got rip-roaring drunk, considered setting it on fire......He told the man who offered him $5000 over his price {to buy the house} that no one in their right mind would do that and he wouldn't have a lunatic living in his house." He then scares the man and his wife off his property with a gun. 
Just... What the heck?! How can we ignore that?!

Allie visits / An engaged Allie decides to visit Noah to "see if you're alright". She and Noah have a chat, and she tells she "loves him {Lon, her fiancé} very much." They then have supper together. Allie remarks jokingly, "I have to warn you, I'm a cheap drunk. A couple more of these {beers} and you're gonna be carrying me right out of here." Noah replies, " Well you go slow then, I don't want to have to take advantage of you." Allie says, "You wouldn't dare. I'm a married woman", and Noah points out, " Not yet." EW EW EW EW EWWWW. And did you catch that "to have to"?! That's gross.
Look, Ryan Gosling is an excellent actor, and in this scene he really communicates Noah's anguish. The thing is, he says those lines in a way that's less of a joke and more darkly serious. In that scene, he acts like a psychopath, what with his tone of voice and body language. I'm not implying that Noah would take advantage of Allie if she did get drunk, but what he says and how he says it is creepy and disturbing. Knowing his psychological issues, I for one would want to run out that house then and there. It's not romantic. It's intimidating and creepy.

After Allie goes / After supper, Allie leaves the house. The narrator's voice-over tells us that, "She had come back into his life like a sudden flame.....Noah stayed up all night contemplating the certain agony he knew would be his if he were to lose her again." 
SAY WHAT? He stayed up all night?! Isn't that just a tad disturbing and worrying? The narrator isn't exaggerating, either, and knowing Noah I'm not surprised he'd do that. But is that romantic? Is that healthy? It shouldn't be! The guy is fixated with Allie.

The Notebook is unanimously one of most classic fictional romances in the Western world. But rewatching the movie, I saw not a tale of beautiful romance, but a story about toxic obsession. Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams might have incredible chemistry, but their characters are not depicting a loving relationship. Noah is psychologically abusive, and Allie is phsycially abusive. I don't think this is a love story. It certainly isn't the kind I hope to be in one day.
I strongly believe that The Notebook, although well acted and well filmed, is a romanticised depiction of obsession and abusive behaviour.


Monday, 12 February 2018

SHADOWSONG (Wintersong #2) - by S. Jae-Jones

Published: 2018 - Wednesday Books.
Genres: Young adult / romance / fantasy /
Pages: 384.
Triggers/Content Advisory: The author herself includes a content warning, for which I respect her so much. There are strong themes of substance addiction and self-harm, and this book is a lot darker than the first.
Format: eARC.
Source: Thank you so much to the publisher for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.
Six months after the end of Wintersong, Liesl is working toward furthering both her brother’s and her own musical careers. Although she is determined to look forward and not behind, life in the world above is not as easy as Liesl had hoped. Her younger brother Josef is cold, distant, and withdrawn, while Liesl can’t forget the austere young man she left beneath the earth, and the music he inspired in her. When troubling signs arise that the barrier between worlds is crumbling, Liesl must return to the Underground to unravel the mystery of life, death, and the Goblin King—who he was, who he is, and who he will be. What will it take to break the old laws once and for all? What is the true meaning of sacrifice when the fate of the world—or the ones Liesl loves—is in her hands?

I adored the first book in this duology, Wintersong. It ended on such a cruel but perfect note, and I immediately requested the sequel to review. I was confident that it would be just as good, if not better, than the first book.

Jae-Jones' writing is stunning. It is purple, but it's effective and it means something. It's...purple with a purpose, I guess. And considering I'm not generally a fan of purple prose, I'm surprised and delighted that Jae-Jones' style won me over. I just love her graphic choice of language.
Shadowsong is just as atmospheric as its predecessor, but in a different way. The story is darker, heavier, and it takes place in some breathtaking new settings. We get to see Liesl and her family adjusting in the wake of their experiences with the Goblin King, and Jae-Jones looks at their story from a different angle. It's enlightening and it's fresh.

The plot is slow, but it's tight. I love how the story focuses inward, focuses on the characters' internal struggles more than their external ones. There's little to no romance, and instead it's a story about Liesl's relationship with her brother and how they both - as broken people - are struggling to find themselves, heal themselves, and come to terms with who they are. It's heartbreaking, but it's beautiful and thought-provoking. There's a lot more backstory and history relating to the Goblin King's past, as well, which is needed.
I also love the strong themes of identity; how the characters face theirs, and all Jae-Jones says about the subject. I adore how the ending zooms in on exactly that, to the point of Liesl saying who she is - what makes her "Elisabeth, entire". It's a maelstrom of everything come before it; it's a catastrophe of heartbreak, of love, of sacrifice, and of identity. It is numbing, but it's perfect.

“Perhaps I loved the monstrous because I was a monster. Josef, the Goblin King, and me. We were grotesques in the world above, too different, too odd, too talented, too much. We were all too much.”

“For all that I could not bear my own silence, I wanted the voices of the world around me to disappear. Solitude was different from loneliness, and it was solitude I was seeking.”

We see so much more of these gorgeous characters in the sequel. We see more of Kathe and François, and there are two new characters as well: the Count and Countess. Everyone is vivid and three-dimensional, and the recurring characters are more fully realised. Liesl and Josef are each struggling with demons, and I love love love the development they each get. Liesl is one of my favourite YA heroines ever.
I also adore the dynamic sibling relationships between Liesl, Kathe, and Josef. They're so well written, so human, and Jae-Jones is not afraid to dig deep.

Shadowsong is a soul-stirring piece of psychological poetry taut with raw emotion. I personally prefer the first book because it's more romantic and gripping, but this sequel is still incredible. 

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Weekly Round-Up: Reading and writing

I've done a lot of WIP outlining and planning this week, which I'm super excited about. I got a new book idea that I can't wait to write. But I'm nervous, too, because I always get seriously terrified that my writing isn't gonna do justice to the story in my head. So that's a pain ;) 

Posts of the week:

Currently Reading

I got Empire of Storms from the library and gosh is it boring. I'm only reading it because of Dorian and because I feel like I need to have read all Maas' books to complain about them.
I'm also buddy-reading Roar with my #squad, and so far our feelings are mixed. I started The Woman in the Window on Friday, too.

For Review

On Friday, I got an incredible haul of paperbacks from this amazing SA publisher. I also got an eBook of Mercury Rises from the author for the upcoming blog tour I'm participating in.

Around the Blogosphere

Genni reviews American Panda

Lauren reviews You Will Be Mine

Greg reviews The Woman in the Window

Amber Elise reviews Shadowsong

Alyssa reviews Beautiful Broken Hearts

Brittany talks about Audiobooks

Abby celebrates 5 Years of Blogging

Lindsey talks about Online friendships & the blogging community

PLEASE NOTE: I am a terrible blogger when it comes to commenting on people's posts. I struggle to find the time, although that doesn't excuse it.
SO. From now on, whenever I share bloggers' posts in this weekly round-up, those are also the posts I'm going to be visiting on Sunday. I'm gonna try keep all my blog hopping to a Sunday. I apologise for only being able to visit your blog then (although I may occasionally make exceptions in the week when I get some spare time) but I will definitely visit on Sundays.

Entertainment News

Marvel assembles for an epic group photo
This is beyond epic. To celebrate ten years of Marvel, every star assembled for a class photo.

New Infinity War trailer
Now this is amazing. CAN IT BE MAY ALREADY.

Mission Impossible: Fallout trailer
It looks ridiculous, but what do you expect. I will watch it when it comes out, though, because I love the action - however far-fetched it is.

Once Upon A Time comes to an end
I think it should've ended at the end of season 6, but never mind. It's now official that OUAT will end after season 7. And I'm glad - with the main cast gone, it's about time.

Coming Up

This week, I'll be reviewing Shadowsong and The Language of Thorns, posting another Romanticised Abuse feature, and I'm also going to posting a special Valentine's post: My Fave Fictional Ships.

What's up? What are you reading? How was your week? 

Saturday, 10 February 2018

AMERICAN ASSASSIN (film) is offensive and badly written

Director: Michael Cuesta
Cast: Dylan O'Brien / Micheal Keaton /
Cinematographer: Enrique Chediak
Score: Steven Price
Content Advisory: R for strong violence and gore, some torture, and brief nudity
Source: Rented.

After the death of his girlfriend at the hands of terrorists, Mitch Rapp is drawn into the world of counterterrorism, mentored by tough-as-nails former U.S. Navy S.E.A.L. Stan Hurley.

I STRONGLY ADVISE YOU NOT TO WATCH THIS FILM. I don't usually say that in a review, but I feel like this case calls for drastic measures. It's triggering, offensive, insensitive, and sexist.
Do NOT let yourself watch it just because Dylan O'Brien is in it and he's hot as heck (that's what happened to me). YOU WILL REGRET IT.

However, the cinematography is gorgeous. The scenes are stunningly shot. The musical score is also beautiful, and the same heavy, atmospheric tone is consistent for the whole movie. I also love the fast-paced action scenes, which thanks to great camera work seem to immense you in the thick of the fighting. That's good, and at times scary, too.

But the whole film is so badly written. There's no wit (just FYI: swearing doesn't equal wit or intelligence. It equals laziness) and although the film seems to be trying its hardest to be all slick and smooth Jason Bourne-esque, it never manages. The plot also lags in the middle of the film - some scenes are simply not gripping, and the pace is inconsistent.

It is not a fun action movie flick. The whole story is peppered with terrorist attacks, and it's triggering, too relevant to our current world climate, and the violence is unnecessarily gory and in your face. Yes, terrorism is real, but this movie never handles it properly due to terrible writing. Instead, it's just offensive, insensitive, triggering, and there for shock value. The movie never makes a point, and it gives no message. It's just uncomfortable to watch.

Dylan O'Brien acts well. His character - Mitch - actually has some potential for three-dimension, but when his emotions are squashed out of him by Michael Keaton's character's toxic masculinity, Mitch's arc remains unfulfilled. His character could've been compelling - and O'Brien does induce sympathy - but his arc is predominantly stagnant. It's a shame.
The rest of the cast of characters are completely flat and one-dimensional. No one is well written.

But the main problem with the characters in this film is the way the women are written. I probably sound like a stuck record by now, but I have to mention this because it's important. It's critical. Yes, this is an action film and action films don't generally spend a great deal of time on character development and they aren't known for writing great female roles, but it doesn't mean it can't be done. (For example, the Bourne series has written two decent female characters, portrayed by Rachel Weisz and Julia Stiles respectively).
In American Assassin, the female characters are there for the following reasons: make the hero look good, lick his wounds, and be leverage for the bad guy. On top of that, their characters are flatter than any of the male characters, and they follow female stereotypes to a tee.
We start with Mitch's girlfriend who is blonde, sweet, and bikini-clad before she's shot by terrorists. I'm not picking on her role in the story, exactly, (because male characters have fallen prey to that kind of misuse as well: providing motivation, their deaths acting as catalysts, etc) but I'm angry about the lazy way in which she's written. She's a stereotype through and through. Couldn't the writers have done better?
But that's only the beginning.
Annika is the hot action chic that pops out of nowhere and joins Mitch as his wound-licker. There's hints of potential romantic feeling there, and twice she's held at gunpoint to convince him to lower his weapon (basically she's an upgraded damsel in distress). She also gives him the cliche heart to heart scene, and helps him clean his wounds when he's injured. Mitch then attacks her in the bathroom when he suspects she's working for the enemy, and almost drowns her. The violence in that scene made me want to vomit, and I instantly lost any sympathy I had for our hero. His treatment of Annika is gratuitously violent. It's sick, badly written, and it feels like the writers are simply lounging back on their chairs and enjoying watching Mitch beat up this girl. That's what it feels like. Later on in the movie, Annika then kills herself when she's being held by a bad guy, to give Mitch a way out of the ultimatum he's faced with: lower his gun, or she dies. Her death is lazy and insulting, as it's so obviously a way of getting her out of the way for Mitch to have the rest of the film to himself. 
But then there's more misogynistic horror. In one scene, we see an unnamed topless woman standing in front of a mirror. She's obviously the mistress of the bad guy Mitch has come to kill, and before she's ruthlessly gunned down by Mitch, the writers apparently thought that seeing her topless was a necessary addition to the script.
It isn't. It serves no purpose. And this is a prime example of the male filmmaking gaze; of male writers writing women. The shot we get of a topless woman is completely unnecessary to the story, and the context is crude and offensive. She doesn't even have a name or a purpose in the story other than be naked from the waist up and get cruelly shot with a few bullets. It is freaking insulting.

The women in this film are shoved around, violently dismissed, and are flat, stereotypical characters. I literally felt nauseous watching how they were being treated.

American Assassin is bloated with gratuitous violence, stereotypical characters, and shabby writing that treats the female characters like garbage. It is not a film we need in the world right now

Thursday, 8 February 2018

PARTING SHOT (Promise Falls #4) - by Linwood Barclay

PARTING SHOT - Linwood Barclay
Published: 2017 - by Orion.
Genres: Adult / thriller / contemporary / crime
Pages: 490.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Mature themes / Chapter 14 is extremely disturbing and graphic
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Jonathan Ball SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.
After a tragedy rocks the community of Promise Falls, Cal Weaver is asked to investigate the threats being made to the accused's family. He's heard all about Jeremy on the news: the young man who drank too much, stole a Porsche and killed a girl, and who claimed afterwards not to remember a single thing. It seems an open and shut case, but for reasons he can't explain he accepts the job. Soon Cal finds himself caught up in a vicious revenge plot, and it's only a matter of time before threats turn into action . . .

This is the fourth book in the series, but despite missing a bit of background from the two recurring main characters, I think it can be read as a standalone. I didn't feel like I was missing much.

The writing is good. I love the strong language, the strong mental pictures I got from each scene, and I love the details the author scatters so meticulously. The dialogue is brilliant, too, and it crackles with pitch-perfect characterisation. Every character's voice comes through sharply. It's wonderful.
The story is an absolute rollercoaster of thrills and lies and betrayal. It's so fast-paced and literally impossible to put down. Every scene grips you, tempts you with what could come, and locks you in the situation the characters are experiencing on the page.  It's insanely gripping, and easy-to-read.
But the twists. Oh my word the twists. I guessed one near the start, but that was it. The rest of the book shocked me and continued to shock me, literally stealing the breath from my lungs and leaving me reeling. It's unpredictable in the most natural way. Just when you think you have it figured out, new information arises or a character whom you weren't expecting makes a reappearance. It's utterly jaw-dropping.

Every crime has its consequences. Every town has its secrets.

This book is very character-driven. Every character is immediately three-dimensional and vivid, and I love all the twisty relationships, family dynamics, and romantic entanglements. Everyone is so human and so flawed that to watch their fallible nature take them into dark places is both extraordinary and relatable. They all have their secrets, and they're all prepared to do whatever it takes to keep them. It makes for a brilliant story. 

But the cast is way too big. Once I'm in a scene and reading, I have a grasp on who everyone is in that scene, but as soon as the scene switches I have to kind of "reassess" in my mind as new characters take over. And new characters keep getting introduced! All the time. My mind got scrambled trying to remember everyone. To make it worse, there are two different storylines running alongside each other for most of the book, and each storyline has a huge group of characters. I was constantly getting them mixed up. It's hard to keep track of everyone. 
But I do feel a bit conflicted. I think every character is well-written and is vivid, and everyone is distinct. So I guess the problem isn't that all the characters aren't vivid or distinct enough, it's simply that there're too many people in the book. 

Parting Shot is a thrilling ride from start to finish. The tension never lets up, the twists never stop coming, and the characters are all flawed, human, compelling people.
Prepare to spend a day in this thriller's clutches. 

Wednesday, 7 February 2018


Published: 2017 - Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Genres: Middle grade/children's
Pages: 160.
Triggers/Content Advisory: None.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Penguin Random House SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.
Thor's world is about to explode in this exciting junior novel based on the upcoming film Marvel's Thor: Ragnarok. His devious brother, Loki has taken over his home of Asgard, the powerful and ancient Hela has emerged with dark designs, and Thor is imprisoned on the other side of the universe. To escape and save his home, Thor must compete in an alien contest of champions, fighting his way to freedom against none other than his former ally and fellow Avenger... the Incredible Hulk!

I haven't watched the Thor Ragnarok movie yet, but I love Marvel and Loki is my bae. I was so excited to read this short little book.

It turns out that Let The Battle Begin is quite a significant title. This book covers only half of what I imagine the full story is - as seen in the movie - and it stops just before Thor and co. are returning to Asgard to face Hela. So don't expect to find the whole film transcript in here (which is basically what I expected).

The writing isn't amazing, and I don't think it's meant to be. This is a short and sweet tale, with characters we know and love, and a strong story. Even though this isn't a great price of literature, it serves its purpose: fun, entertaining, and enjoyable. You watched the movie, now enjoy this little story.
It's fun.

Marvel fans will love this short and entertaining story packed with the characters we love and have followed for years. 
It also has some awesome illustrations.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Romanticised Abuse: Once Upon A Time

Our goal is to raise awareness and draw attention to romanticised abuse in films, books, etc, in order to fight it
- Join us! Start posting whenever you want.
- Share examples of romanticised abuse you've seen in books or films - doesn't even have to be a whole book or film; simply one scene is enough, if there's an instance of romanticised abuse in it.
- Please link to my blog as the original creator.
- This is not only about romanticised abusive relationships. It is about romanticised sexual assault, rape, and harassment, as well.
- Please consider the following statement a trigger warning: this blog series explores and draws attention to themes of abuse in fiction. I will discuss sexual assault, abusive relationships, and rape. I will infrequently explore those topics in depth as the fictional example requires it. Please read on with care. These subjects could be triggering.

(This post will make a lot more sense if you've watched the TV show 'Once Upon A Time')

I am a huge fan of Once Upon A Time. But one of the purposes of this blog series is to be unafraid to dig deeper into beloved stories, films, and TV shows, and being confident enough to speak out if those stories are disguising problematic content. If I shied away from Once Upon A Time, why bother fighting against romanticised abuse at all? I'm not picking and choosing here.
So here I am, writing this post.

When you saw that graphic above, you probably thought: "What?! Rape?! In Once Upon A Time?! No no no that can't be." When I first examined the scenes in question because something was niggling me - something just didn't sit right - I was shocked at what hit me in the face. Surely it wasn't rape? OUAT did not just write and dismiss two rape scenes, surely not! I honestly believed I was wrong about the whole thing. So I googled, to see if anyone else had interpreted the incidents like I had. Turns out some people had. And that gave me the courage to look deeper into those scenes and write this post.

The first incident revolves about Regina - the Evil Queen - and Grahame (who's the Huntsman). This  incident happens while Regina is still evil and kills anyone and everyone she chooses. She's the bad guy here.
When Grahame fails to bring back Snow White's heart, Regina is furious. She then yanks out his heart (because this is OUAT and that's a fate worse than death - they don't die unless you squeeze their heart to dust, but as long as you don't squeeze, you control them just by being in possession of their heart) and proceeds to say these chilling words to him:
"Now you're my pet. From this moment forward you will do everything I say. If you ever disobey me, if you ever run away, I'll squeeze. Your life is now in my hands. Forever. {then to her guards} Take him to my bedchamber." - Season 1 - Episode 7
He is then hauled to her room, fear etched on his face, and he remains with her until the curse sends them to the present day (Regina and Grahame's situation in present day is slightly different, so for now I'm not going to do more than touch on that).
But look at that passage. Watch the scene for yourself, and look what she does, what she says. That. Is. Rape. Grahame has not consented to have sex with her, the only way for him to get out of the situation is to try run away, but then he'll die so that's no option at all. The implication is there: Regina rapes Grahame. He is her sexual slave.
This scene breaks me. The writers have glossed over rape. They have chosen to ignore what Regina does, and they've continued writing her arc towards her being one of the good guys without holding her accountable for her actions towards Grahame.
The writers of OUAT have actually been asked about this whole situation. Read this exchange between a fan and one of the OUAT writers (Adam Horowitz):

By saying "also" Horowitz has confirmed it was rape - WHICH UNLIKE THE MURDER IS NEVER ADDRESSED IN THE SHOW.
Then, a glimpse at the present day situation where everyone in Storybrooke is under the curse:

And there you have it. Regina rapes Grahame, yet she gets away with it, and the fact that Grahame is killed off soon afterwards is a convenient excuse for the writers to never bring up the subject again. It's sick.

The second rape happens in series 4. Zelena, ironically Regina's sister, disguises herself as Robin Hood's wife Marian (Marian has actually been dead for a while but Robin doesn't know that - it's complicated; this is OUAT, after all) and becomes pregnant with his child. She uses a magical glamour, so she looks exactly like Mariain, but is actually Zelena underneath. Robin does not love Zelena, he knows she's evil, and he sleeps with his wife because he believes she is his wife and has no reason to believe anything different. He consents to have sex with Marian, his wife. He does not consent to have sex with Zelena.
That. Is. Rape.
When Robin realises he's been deceived, he's obviously shocked and angry. But it seems to escape the characters that he's actually been raped. Of course, Regina (who's in love with Robin) is furious with Zelena - her sister - but predominantly because Robin is her beloved and now the upcoming child presents complications for her and Robin's relationship.  There is no mention of rape, and Robin isn't allowed any time to come to terms with what has actually happened to him.
This literally breaks my heart. The writers could've and should've taken this storyline in a different direction with Zelena being held accountable for her actions and Robin slowly but surely coming to terms with the fact he's been sexually assaulted.  It would be a heavy plotline, but the writers owe it to the characters and Robin. To the fans and the viewers. Yet they don't take this route. Zelena is a popular female character on the show, so they keep the story, end up killing Robin off a few seasons later, and Zelena eventually becomes one of the heroes.
That's just disgusting.

I still love Once Upon A Time. I still think Regina is one of their best written characters. But I am disgusted that the writers never address or properly handle these two instances of rape, all for the sake of two popular female characters and some plot twists and drama. To put it bluntly, Regina and Zelena are rapists. Robin and Grahame were rape survivors. Yet the writers ignore the horrific connotations of those scenes and move on. Regina and Zelena escape punishment. The writers, however implicitly, used rape as a plot device in the case of Zelena and Robin, and failed to handle - let alone acknowledge - the two separate incidents.
It's evil. It's inexcusable.
And perhaps, is it because these incidents are women raping men and not the other way around, that it's easier to be blind to it? We shouldn't be, but the sickening thought is there. If it had been Grahame to push Regina up against a door, forcefully kiss her, and have her dragged to his bedchamber, would we have immediately seen the horror for what it was? Did the writers maybe think they could get away with such behaviour because it was disguised in a way we aren't used to?

← The Phantom of the Opera

Monday, 5 February 2018

Blog Tour & Blitz: THE PROMISE by Sally Jenkins

I'm so thrilled to be participating in the blitz for this captivating new thriller that hit shelves on the 28th of January.

Enjoy :)

A man has been stabbed. A woman is bloodstained. The nightmares from her teenage years have begun again for Olivia Field – just as she is preparing to marry. Ex-convict, Tina is terminally ill. Before she dies, the care of her younger, psychologically unwell brother, Wayne must be ensured. So Tina calls in a promise made to her thirty years ago in a prison cell. A promise that was written down and placed with crucial evidence illustrating a miscarriage of justice in a murder case. Tina believes Olivia is perfectly placed to provide the care Wayne needs, but to do so, Olivia must be forced to cancel her own wedding and wreck the lives of those close to her. Tina’s terrible blackmail demands put Olivia’s entire future and, ultimately, her freedom under threat. The Promise is a fast-paced psychological thriller told from several third person viewpoints. The novel explores the lengths to which people are prepared go in order to protect those they love and the impossibility of ever fully escaping our past actions.

 Goodreads  /   Amazon  /  Barnes and Noble  /  Apple iBooks   /  Google Play

Sally Jenkins lives in the West Midlands. She is a member of a Speakers’ Club, a volunteer library reading group coordinator and a church bell ringer. Sally's first psychological thriller, Bedsit Three won the Ian Govan Award.
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Hope you liked this post! Doesn't the book sound fantastic?