Saturday, 17 March 2018

MY COUSIN RACHEL (film) is passionless and tedious

Director: Roger Michell.
Cast: Rachel Weisz / Sam Clafin / Iain Glen / Holliday Grainger
Score: Rael Jones.
Cinematography: Mike Eley.
Content Advisory: PG 13 for some sexuality and brief strong language
Source: Rented.

A young Englishman plots revenge against his late cousin's mysterious, beautiful wife, believing her responsible for his death. But his feelings become complicated as he finds himself falling under the beguiling spell of her charms.

Because I've been desperate to read the Daphne du Maurier book for ages, naturally I was excited to see the movie, too. I'm also a huge fan of Rachel Weisz. I had high hopes for the film.

Visually, it's stunning. The cinematography is excellent, the scenes well crafted, and the setting and landscapes magnificent. The direction is also very good, and the scenes are atmospheric.

But the script is poorly written. The film starts off extremely rushed, and we're flung into the story without nuanced development. The scenes are also discontinuous, and I personally think they could've been either rearranged or replaced with alternative sequences and the plot would've been tighter - better - for it. As it is, they feel like missed opportunities. It doesn't help that the pacing is odd, too.
I was so bored. The story is just dull. Because the scenes aren't taken to their full potential and the writing isn't brilliant, the whole story drags and every scene is slow. I wasn't gripped - I wasn't entertained. It's disappointing.

The story doesn't leave an impact. I was never certain what the theme was, or who I was supposed to be rooting for, or what I should have been thinking. It's not powerful enough; it dragged me along and showed me characters and incidents but I was never sure how I should react. I couldn't appreciate the content.

Sam Clafin's performance is good, but overwrought. He doesn't make an impression. Rachel Weisz, on the other hand, is intoxicating. She's ethereal, terrifying, seductive, and captivating. Her acting is spellbinding. She carries what she can of the boring story and almost makes the film worth watching.

But Weisz and Clafin have no chemistry. There's zero spark between them. I think this definitely contributes to the overall impression of their relationship, and took a lot away from its soul. I also don't like how little is seen of the progression of their characters' relationship; Rachel arrives, Philip sees her, and he's utterly charmed by her. There's no solid development to their romance. I wish we could've seen him slowly falling under her spell, but the story misses that.

My Cousin Rachel is beautifully filmed and led by a mesmerising Weisz, but otherwise it's insufferably boring and poorly plotted. It's a missed opportunity.

Friday, 16 March 2018

FIREBLOOD (Frostblood #2) - by Elly Blake

FIREBLOOD - Elly Blake
Published: 2018 - Hodder Paperbacks 
Genres: Young adult / fantasy / romance
Pages: 416.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Mild fantasy violence
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Jonathan Ball SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Against all odds, Ruby has defeated the villainous Frost King and melted his throne of ice. But the bloodthirsty Minax that was trapped inside is now haunting her kingdom and everyone she loves. The answers to its demise may lie to the south in Sudesia, the land of the Firebloods, and a country that holds the secrets to Ruby's powers and past.... Despite warnings from her beloved Arcus, Ruby accompanies a roguish Fireblood named Kai to Sudesia, where she must master her control of fire in a series of trials to gain the trust of the suspicious Fireblood queen. Only then can she hope to access the knowledge that could defeat the rampaging Minax - which grows closer every moment. But as sparks fly in her moments alone with Kai, how can Ruby decide whom to trust? The fate of both kingdoms is now in her hands.

I buddy-read this book with my wonderful friend Di from Book Reviews By Di. We both felt similarly about the book, and you can check out her review HERE!

I absolutely love Blake's descriptions. They are gorgeous and vivid, with beautiful, unique language that stops just short of flowery. I adore the tangibility of every description. I think Blake writes them so well. I'm not mad on the writing, but it's easy to read.
That said, the dialogue is awful. There's no wit or spark to any of the characters' conversations and it's like the author's more concerned with getting information across than she is about the characters' personalities leading the interactions. It's aggravating.

Despite being rather predictable, the plot is a lot better than it was in the first book. It's enjoyable and fun. But unfortunately, the cliches are still there. There's nothing new to this fantasy story, nothing we haven't seen before, and a lot of the directions this book takes (namely Kai's role and Ruby's trials) feel like a lazy way out of creating something original and fresh. It's still fun, but it's also disappointing because it's uninspired.
The pacing isn't bad, though. And the end climatic fight is brilliant. But the plot did give me a lot of mixed feelings, and I just wish it was more original.

Petals like white wood shavings rose above gently curling stems, and shrubs flaunted leaves in the most delicately crocheted lace. Tall feathery fronds drowsed over tightly woven packs of icy rosebuds....Miniature trees with translucent trunks etched in a frosty wood-grain pattern sported flat, veined leaves and peach-shaped globes. Icy crystals hung like frozen tears from every branch and stem.

To look at the positives first, I love Marella's character and her arc. Her role in the story starts off a bit stereotypically, but she soon comes into her own. I like her character.
Ruby also gets good character development. She has a few big "realisation" moments in terms of discovering who she really is, and I love that we get to see that. But at the same time, she's also very much The Chosen One. That annoys me. I don't like how she's leaning toward becoming a special snowflake, and I also think she could use more flaws - and more enemies. She's too much on a pedestal. It's cliche.

The secondary cast isn't great and no one is particularly memorable. Kai's character - a rougish, witty, arrogant Prince come Privateer - is a stereotype, but I don't dislike him. He's just very predictable and stereotypical.

I'm not shipping anyone, to be honest. The love triangle is completely unnecessary. Arcus is a bit of an idiot in this book, and Kai is a cliche. It's not easy to root for either of the relationships Ruby gets into.

Fireblood is a solid sequel and one that improves marginally upon the first book. But the cliches are too overwhelming, and the plot lags more than it flies.  It's enjoyable, but it's not amazing. 


Thursday, 15 March 2018


Published: March 2018 - Wildfire 
Genres: Adult / thriller / contemporary / mystery
Pages: 352.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Infrequent bad language.
Format: Paperback
Source: Thank you so much to the publisher for sending me this book in exchange for a honest review.

Juliette loves Nate. She will follow him anywhere. She's even become a flight attendant for his airline, so she can keep a closer eye on him. They are meant to be. The fact that Nate broke up with her six months ago means nothing. Because Juliette has a plan to win him back. She is the perfect girlfriend. And she'll make sure no one stops her from getting exactly what she wants. True love hurts, but Juliette knows it's worth all the pain...

It was the unique premise that grabbed my attention. You don't often find a thriller told from the point of view of who is, essentially, the villain; nor is it usually the girl who tries to get back the guy. I was enthralled by that premise.

The writing is captivating. It's also an example of telling versus showing where telling actually works; it fits the character, and the reportive style actually enhances the chills and the atmosphere. It excels where it typically wouldn't. It suits the story.

The story is a combination of the past and present of Juliette's life. The flashbacks are so seamlessly interwoven with the present that even without clear-cut breaks in the chapter it isn't hard to follow them. They're also just as entertaining as her present situation, and I enjoyed the glimpses into her history.

But the plot left me with mixed feelings. It is slow, which doesn't actually bother me all that much because I love the writing and characters, but it does get a bit confusing. As much as I love the originality of Juliette's job, I do think the many changing settings as she flew here and there and back again got rather bizarre. She just moved so fast. Not to mention the different places aren't always announced when she arrives. There's also the fact that the people she wants to meet with or who are essential pieces in her evil master plan, always just happen to be where she is - where her plane touches down. Maybe I'm missing something, but personally it seems very convenient and too easy.

There's also the ending. It's unsatisfactory, and it doesn't resolve things properly. There's not enough closure. I don't hate it, and it's not enough to make me angry, but it's still a bit of a cop-out.

“If you love someone, set them free. If they come back, they’re yours. If they don’t, make them.”

The thing I've discovered about guilt is that some days you can live with it. Other days, it hits - like grief - without warning and it burns, all-consuming and acidic. And the worst of it is that there is nothing you can do. You can't change a mistake. Ever. Instead it weaves its way inside you, becomes an embedded part, a bad, rotten, suffocating part.

Inside me exists a sense of dread which has never, ever truly left me. And without a major change - something wonderful to focus on - I fear it never will. Because without love and acceptance, all that's left is something dark and hateful.

The characters are stunning. Everyone is multi-faceted and incredibly well written, and despite a big cast they're all unique, three-dimensional, and compelling. I particularly love all the female characters, of which they are many. Katie, Amy, Bella, and Babs are all very human and well-realised and they make up an awesome female cast.

Juliette is a chilling anti-heroine. I love how complicated and damaged she is, and it's so unnerving to have her (as the narrator and point of view character) do things that are so obviously wrong as if they're right. It's weird, but it's fascinating. It's scary, but it's so naturally written; I love how deeply the author gets inside her head.

Another thing I adore is how strong Juliette's motivations are. The author has built up such a powerful past for her character, and I found myself sympathising with her even though she's doing terrible things that should not go without punishment. She's a terrific anti-heroine.

The Perfect Girlfriend is a clever, quiet, and slowly twisting thriller with excellent characters and writing. The plot often left me a bit confused, but otherwise I loved the the story.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018


CRYSTAL KINGDOM - Amanda Hocking
Published: 2015 - Pan Macmillan
Genres: Young adult / fantasy / romance
Pages: 422.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Fantasy violence.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Pan Macmillan Ball SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Cast out by her kingdom and far from home, she's the Kanin people's only hope. Bryn Aven - unjustly charged with murder and treason - is on the run. The one person who can help is her greatest enemy, the enigmatic Konstantin Black. Konstantin is her only ally against those who have taken over her kingdom and threaten to destroy everything she holds dear. But can she trust him? As Bryn fights to clear her name, the Kanin rulers’ darkest secrets are coming to light… and now the entire troll world is on the brink of war. Will it tear Bryn from Ridley Dresden, the only guy she’s ever loved? And can she join forces with Finn Holmes and the Trylle kingdom? One thing is certain: an epic battle is underway—and when it’s complete, nothing will ever be the same…

I am so, so, so disappointed with this book, and I don't think I'm going to be reading another Hocking novel anytime soon. I used to enjoy them simply because they were light and fun, but I can't take her writing style any more.

The writing is the main issue. There is so much telling and exposition that it grates on my nerves till I want to shriek. Just when an action scene gets going, Hocking has to throw in some pointless dialogue or monologuing to give the reader useless information. She doesn't allow you to think for yourself - she dishes everything out in painful, thick dollops. It's so unnecessary!
Oh, and the dialogue is terrible, too. It's really bad.

The characters are one-dimensional. Bryn has some personality (although the fact that she's literally perfect annoys me to no end), but everyone else is weak. I'm also annoyed with the love triangle, which is forced and badly written and has Bryn not wanting to pull away from another guy's kiss even after she's decided loves Ridley. I don't get that. It's so inconsistent.

But to be positive, the plot of this book is much better than the first two in the trilogy (excluding the love triangle aspect). There's more intrigue, and it's not so predictable. So yay.

Published: 2015 by Macmillan Children's Books
Genres: Middle grade / fantasy /
Pages: 224.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Nothing.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Pan Macmillan Ball SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

People are flocking to Ghastly-Gorm Hall from far and wide to compete in Lord Goth's Literary Dog Show. The esteemed judges are in place and the contestants are all ready to win. Sir Walter Splott is preparing his Lanarkshire Lurcher, Plain Austen is preening her Hampshire Hound and Homily Dickinson and her Yankee Poodle are raring to go. But there's something strange going on at Ghastly-Gorm - mysterious footprints, howls in the night and some suspiciously chewed shoes. Can Ada, the Attic Club and their new friends the Vicarage sisters (Charlotte, Emily and Anne) work out what's going on before the next full moon?

Oh please people, if you have a little kid, or if you're in the mood for an outrageous, innocent adventure, read this book. It's Middle Grade at its very best. It's absolutely lovable.

The characters are fantastically eccentric, and the themes of family and friendship are tender against a backdrop of craziness and absurdity. The plot is all over the place, but it's still so much fun. It's beautifully written, and the imagination is incredible. The bizarreness of everything is both overwhelming and exhilarating. It's a wonderful, heartwarming tale.

And the humour is amazing! It's so cute. The characters include "Homily Dickenson", "Anne Bowl-In", "Anne of Peeves", " Georgie Elliot", "Plain Austen", "Hands Christmas Andersen", and more - they are an absolutely hilarious. I also adore the many absurd twists on famous literature classics and lines; I lost count of how many times Austen was misquoted. It's delightful. I smiled so much.

The black and white sketches are also gorgeous. The detail is exquisite, and they're just adorable. I love them.


Jazzy Jessie: Going for Gold - Emma Moss
Published: 2017 by Macmillan Children's Books
Genres: Middle grade / contemporary /
Pages: 305.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Nothing.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Pan Macmillan Ball SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Jessie's got a lot going on . . . As well as having to give up her bedroom to the new lodger, she's busy filming her popular pranking videos for the Girls Can Vlog channel, there's an important gymnastics competition to prepare for, and the SummerTube convention is just around the corner! But there are only so many hours in a day, and the girls are getting fed up with Jessie constantly running late. When a huge row breaks out, she is faced with an impossible choice . . .

This is a sweet, relaxing, fun story, but I didn't love it.

The writing is irritating. There are so many exclamation marks, and all the teen slang is overdone and cringy - I got sick of hearing the girls say stuff like "Hashtag incredible!" and "Hashtag ridiculous!" And yes, they actually say hashtag. It's not funny or adorable, it's embarrassing and cringy.

The story is okay. I like the themes of female friendship and the vlogging, but all the "mean girl" drama gets too much. I rolled my eyes at that.

Just FYI: I've eaten some of the chillies Jessie and her father ate and let me tell you there is NO way her whole family reacted so calmly to eating those chillies. They wouldn't have laughed about it - they would've been screaming and possibly vomiting. Believe me, I know. I've been there.

This is a decent book, but all the slang and "cool, hip, teen talk" is way overdone.

Hope you liked these reviews! Have you read these books? What did you think of them? 

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Romanticised Abuse: Crazy House by James Patterson

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.

Last year I read Crazy House by James Patterson, a YA dystopia thriller. I ended up hating the book (you can read my rant review HERE) but the main issue I found with the story was the author's handling of certain topics, namely rape and sexual abuse. 
I'm horrified at his treatment of them. 

On pages 98-99 we are told that a teacher has raped one of the main female characters. Without warning, without build-up, without even a hint, we are smacked in the face with this disgustingly written scene: 

I actually felt the blood draining from my face.
"Don't you talk about my ma," I said in a low, shaking voice. Something inside me came undone and I went on, not sounding like myself at all. "You're not the only one who can make threats. Remember when you pushed me into the supply closet? Remember shoving your tongue down my throat?"
Mr. Harrison got red, his eyes narrowing.
"I'm sure you do, because I bit the hell out of it," I went on. "But Becca wasn't so lucky, was she? No, you actually got her alone that time. And you forced yourself on her! You're just a rapist! Not any kind of teacher."
"You listen here," Mr. Harrison began, striding towards me angrily, "The girl had it coming to her! Just like you!"
(Yes, there's also sexual assault mentioned in this scene - with the supply closet incident. I'm not going to go into that now, although it's also handled terribly and treated solely as a plot device). 

My problem with this scene? Rape is used as a plot device. To make it worse, it's there for shock value. Cassie tells us that Mr. Harrison raped her sister - Becca - and the information comes in the form of a flippant outburst. Yes, the information is obviously horrifying, but it's handled terribly. For goodness sake, Cassie shouts out the accusation like she's having a spat with a friend! The author is splaying the details of a rape scene across the page and basically having the two characters in the scene have fun with the whole incident! They bring it up as if Patterson just thought "hey, how can I make Mr. Harrison a bad guy? Oh wait! I know!" So he hastily writes in that exchange, and doesn't worry about making sure there are proper consequences. And there aren't consequences. Cassie (the narrator) doesn't mention it again, and the scene quickly moves onto other topics. 

I feel revolting. I cried when I first read that scene, and now I just get furious. Not only is rape just "thrown in" out of nowhere, but it's just as easily dismissed once it's provided the plot with some drama (I feel sick writing that, but that's honestly how it comes across). 
Read pages 136 and 178 ↓↓↓ : 

"You were pregnant?"
"Yeah, I guess so. I didn't want to admit it - even to myself. But I was.......A teacher back home - he raped me.....Anyway, I got pregnant. Well, now I'm not."

I had to tell her. " know, Harrison.... Anyway. I got pregnant."
My sister looked appropriately horrified......"Oh, honey. I'm so sorry."......
"Yeah. But a couple days ago I had a miscarriage. I got kicked really hard. And they operated on me to make sure it was all gone."......
"Someone kicked you?"

BTW: She tells her sister she got raped and that she miscarried and her sister IS SHOCKED SHE GOT KICKED. AND THEN THEY CONTINUE TALKING ABOUT OTHER STUFF.

The author obviously needed something to keep the plot moving, so he decided to have Becca get pregnant as well. It's like he wants to "milk the incident for all it's worth, which sounds absolutely outrageous to say, but that's how it comes across. I'm sorry I have to share all this horror, I truly am; it makes me sick. It's extremely disturbing. But I cannot not criticise Patterson's flippant attitude towards what's happened to Becca. She was raped, she got pregnant, and miscarried after being beaten up. That. Is. Serious. It's beyond serious. It's psychologically - not to mention physically - damaging for life. It is not something you get over. 
And yet, the incidents are dismissed. The only tiny closure we get is this one female character eventually killing Mr. Harrison later on in the book; in a very quick, painless way. Which isn't all that satisfying. 

Then there's Becca and how she's dealing with what's happened to her. Except, she isn't. Patterson obviously thinks that what happened to her has no purpose other than packing the plot with some drama. 
Hey. Hey hey hey hey. I don't care if this is a brutal world - someone who has experienced what Becca has experienced does not simply cope with it, get over it and not even mention it again

Someone who's endured what that poor girl has endured does not move on without pain, suffering, and unspeakable trauma. She will be emotionally and physically affected for the rest of her life, and for the author to never mention her ordeal again or even allow her a proper response to it is atrocious. It's not realistic, if anything else. And it's extremely offensive to people in real life who've undergone such horrors. 

This book handles rape and a miscarriage/abortion disgustingly. They're skimped over, with the characters barely acknowledging them, and it all comes across childish, immature, and "oh well, it happened. Let's move on." I strongly think that if you're going to mention topics like that it's your responsibility to handle them well and make sure they get the closure, attention, and sensitivity they deserve. As it is, I'm furious and heartbroken at the way Patterson addresses the incidents. Even if the story world or characters don't give the topics proper handling, that in itself needs to be addressed in the story. But in this book it never is.

Crazy House was my second James Patterson read and it's my last. I will not support an author who deals with incidents of rape and female abuse as crudely, insensitively, and trivially as Patterson does. 

Monday, 12 March 2018

A PERFECT MARRIAGE - by Alison Booth

Published: March 2018 - RedDoor Publishing 
Genres: Adult / thriller / contemporary / mystery
Pages: 222.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Theme of domestic abuse / one scene of strong sexual content
Format: eBook.
Source: Netgalley.

Sally Lachlan has a secret that has haunted her for a decade, although perhaps it is time to let it go. A chance meeting with the charismatic geneticist, Anthony Blake, reawakens her desire for love and, at the same time, her daughter Charlie shows signs of wishing to know more about her father. Both the past and the future are places Sally prefers not to think about, but if she wants to find happiness, she will first have to come to terms with her long-ago marriage. Only then will she be able to be honest with Charlie. And herself.

The main element that draws me to a thriller is the promise of twisty relationship dynamics. I adore the promise of something or someone not being as they seem - especially someone. The premise of this book drew me in with that promise, and I couldn't wait to start reading.

The writing is sublime. It's pitch-perfect. From language choice to sentence structure, it's simply masterful. I soaked up the words hungrily and their haunting vividness swayed me into euphoria. The dialogue is equally immersive - entertaining and gripping every time someone opens their mouth.
The level of detail is incredible. The author's deep perception of people and scenes makes every scene come alive and the characters instantly three-dimensional. It's not the boring kind of detail because the language is so strong, and I love it.

The setting adds so much to the story. Under bleak, overcast English skies in the middle of a bustling city, the plot comes alive and the scenes are richly complemented. It's beautifully atmospheric.

The plot isn't packed with twists; in that regard, it's rather predictable. But I didn't mind at all because I was so engrossed in the characters and in Sally's journey. The emotion is understated, there's no big action or adrenaline pumping scenes, but it's still tight, gripping, and entertaining. It's superb.

What had happened to our love; what was happening to our marriage? I’d been a somebody once, a woman with a bright future. Now I was a nothing. A nobody who didn’t have the strength to do anything, let alone leave.

The characters are brilliant. They're the kind of characters who give a first impression along the lines of "She's hiding something, he's so layered, they're so human and three-dimensional". They're instantly real people, if you know what I mean. You just know there's depth to them because the author pays attention to detail when she introduces them. It's effortless " bringing to life" of characters. It's impeccable.

Sally is a lovely heroine. She's well written and vivid, her journey as heartbreaking as it is hopeful. I loved seeing her character development and how her relationship with her daughter changes, too, as the story hops between Then and Now perspectives. And her relationship with Charlie (her daughter) is amazing. It's so relatable and genuine. I love well written mother-daughter bonds, and this one is wonderful and dynamic.

There's also female friendship! I love seeing Zoe and Sally come together, and they have each other's backs, which is quite a twist considering the story events. But it's good. It's unique, and it's empowering. I can't say much more cos of spoilers ;) 

This is a thriller that's more about relationships than it is about thrills. I loved watching Sally interact with all the different people in her life, especially her relationships with the other female characters. Everything is so sincere and at the same time entertaining. It's beautiful.

A Perfect Marriage is a stunning, gently moving tale of love, loss and the things we hide - even from ourselves. The writing is eloquent, the characters brilliant, and this book is incredibly moving. 


Sunday, 11 March 2018

Weekly What's Up - writing, reading, watching

It was the Oscars last Sunday! Honestly, I'm kinda disappointed with the wins (excluding Gary Oldman's and Sam Rockwell's) because I found them predictable, but I did love seeing all the beautiful outfits on the red carpet. I thought Emma Stone, Lupita Nyong'o, and Zendaya were definitely best dressed. They looked stunning. Oh! and I adored Frances McDormand's speech. Wow. It gave me goosebumps.  

The trailer for the live action Christopher Robin has just been released, and it looks beautiful.

Oh and this happened. 

Posts of the Week

I did two mini book reviews for Big Little Lies and The Art of French Kissing, and both books are wonderful. Highly recommend them.

My first WIP Diaries post went up, and I shared a short story I wrote for a fairy tale competition... *hides in embarrassment*

I reviewed Ignite the Stars by Maura Milan. It is such an amazing YA sci-fi novel - definitely one of the best I've ever read.

To celebrate International Women's Day, I shared a list of some Biblical Heroines who inspire me <3

I did a discussion post about Goodreads ratings and how wrong I think it is to rate a book before you've read it.

I reviewed the amazing Molly's Game, an autobiography by the infamous Molly Bloom. It's such a good book.

Currently Reading

I'm buddy-reading Bride of the Sea and Sky in the Deep with the lovely Di, and I'm more than halfway through The Perfect Girlfriend (which is AMAZING!)

For Review

I got a paperback ARC of The Perfect Girlfriend, and got approved for a Netgalley eARC of The Orphan's Wish!

Around the Blogosphere

Di reviews Hero At The Fall

Erica Robyn reviews The Hazel Wood

Lindsey shares three amazing ways To Celebrate International Women's Day

Lauren reviews The Wicked Deep

Genni shares 5 reasons why she loves Netgalley

Angela reviews 2 Snow White retellings

Alyssa shares a swoon from Sky in the Deep

Tânia celebrates women in YA fiction

Heather reviews Renegades

How has your week been? What are you reading and watching? 

Saturday, 10 March 2018

MOLLY'S GAME - by Molly Bloom

MOLLY'S GAME - Molly Bloom
Published: 2017 (Film Tie In) - by Dey Street Books
Genres: Memoir / autobiography
Pages: 262.
Triggers/Content Advisory: 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.

When Molly Bloom was a little girl in a small Colorado town, she dreamed of a life without rules and limits, a life where she didn’t have to measure up to anyone or anything—where she could become whatever she wanted. She ultimately got more than she could have ever bargained for. In Molly’s Game, she takes you through her adventures running an exclusive high-stakes private poker game catering to such clients as Hollywood royalty like Leonardo DiCaprio and Ben Affleck, athletes, billionaires, politicians, and financial titans. With rich detail, Molly describes a world of glamour, privilege, and secrecy in which she made millions, lived the high life, and fearlessly took on the Russian and Italian mobs—until she met the one adversary she could not outsmart: the United States government. It’s the story of how a determined woman gained—and then lost—her place at the table, and of everything she learned about poker, love, and life in the process.

I first heard of Molly's story by hearing about the movie starring Jessica Chastain (who's one of my favourite actresses and just an amazing woman). Molly's tale looked so incredible, and I'm so happy I got the chance to read her autobiography.
I highly, highly recommend it. (And then when you've read it go watch the movie because it's Jessica so duh it'll be good).

Even if you're not a fan of autobiographies or memoirs, I still think you'll enjoy this book. The writing is brilliant. Bloom writes so well, and her experiences are breathtakingly vivid. The details are meticulous, the scenes are richly embellished, and the characters are larger than life. It's incredible.

The story is gripping, entertaining, and irrestible. I was easily sucked into the seductive but brutal world of A-listers and their devotees, with their finely spun secrets and ruthless ambition. The world buzzes with a catastrophic energy, every scene something you can sink your teeth into, and it's dazzling. I wouldn't want to be there, but it's fascinating - and tragic - to read about.

And watching Molly, I can't help but admire her. Yes, her choices were certainly questionable and I don't agree with a lot of what she did, but she was essentially a woman in a man's world who despite starting at the very bottom fought her way right to the top. Her ambition, her stamina, is immensely impressive. She's an amazing woman; flawed, compelling, and terrifyingly driven. This book is a mesmerising look into her twisted life.

Molly's Game is the inspiring, extraordinary true story of a woman at the top of her game. And who fell all the way down. 
She's a brilliant lady, and her story is unforgettable

Friday, 9 March 2018

Goodreads Ratings - rating before you've read the book

Rating a book on Goodreads before you've even read the book, is a topic I feel very strongly about. I recently saw some ratings on Goodreads that came from people who hadn't even read the book they'd rated, so I thought I'd do a blog post discussing that. 
Please leave a comment sharing your thoughts because I really want to know what you guys think! 

High Star Ratings

Last week, I was scrolling through the Goodreads reviews for A Thousand Perfect Notes by C. G. Drews. It's obviously a hugely hyped book, and from what I've seen it looks brilliant. Cait is popular - people are excited for her book. It makes sense.

But then I saw that someone had rated the book 5 stars. And they hadn't even read it. They said something along the lines of "because I love Cait I'm so excited for this book", and then they'd rated it 5 stars.

That makes me furious. Yes, I'm sure the book is good, and yes, Cait may be an amazing writer, but you are rating her book based on your opinion of the author and based on your surface-level reaction to the book. You haven't read it, but you think you're gonna like it so you're rating it 5 stars.

That's dishonest. It's misleading for other readers, and it's deceptive. I don't think you should rate a book highly simply because you think you'll like it - you don't know if you will, and you haven't even read it so how can you make that claim?

Low Star Ratings

Remember all the controversy over Laurie Forest's The Black Witch? People were hating on that book, and I mean trolling. The hate was unparalleled. Hating on a book is for another discussion, but the thing that gets me with that particular case was that most of the people rating The Black Witch 1 star and writing rant reviews hadn't even read the darn thing. They were getting worked up over reviews from other people who'd read the book, and from what they had seen from other people, the book was awful and deserving of hate. But most of them hadn't read the book themselves!

That's inexcusable. You're hating on a book that an author has spent time and money on, and you're rating it 1 star because you think it deserves that.
That's cruel. That's malicious. It's unfair and totally insulting for the author. You have no right to subject a book to a negative review and low star rating when you haven't even read the book yourself.

I would love to rate Fifty Shades of Grey 1 star on Goodreads. I'm sure that it deserves that, and I'm sure that when I do eventually read the book I will end up giving it 1 star (or less...). But until I've read the book, I simply can't rate it with a clear conscience. It wouldn't be right. It wouldn't be fair. It would be completely cruel, selfish, and arrogant. Until I've read the book and formed a strong opinion on solid grounds, I can't subject the book to any rating. There wouldn't be a legitimate reason for me to rate it.

In Conclusion...

But so what? What do ratings matter anyway? What difference do they make?

They matter. They make a lot of difference. Every single rating goes towards the book's overall average, which can be a deciding factor in the book's popularity and whether or not someone picks it up to read. By giving a book 1 star when you haven't even read it, you are hurting the author, the publisher, and your fellow readers. You're being incredibly selfish.
If you rate a book 5 stars without reading it, you're being misleading, and you're perhaps giving the book praise that it might not deserve. What if you rate a book 5 stars, popularize it, then when you read it you realise it's actually extremely racist? (For example).

My point is, you need to be able to back up your opinions when you rate or review a book. The best way to do that is by reading the book. If you rate a book positively or negatively on Goodreads without actually reading the book in question, you're discrediting yourself, the author, and the book. You're being cruel and selfish.

What are your thoughts on this topic?  Do you think it's wrong to rate a book you haven't even read? Please let's discuss! 

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Celebrating Women's Day!! // Biblical Heroines

Happy International Women's Day to all amazing women! <3 I hope it's a great day for ladies everywhere.

When it came to choosing a post topic for today, I had a lot of ideas going round in my head. "Favourite Fictional Heroines" seemed too predictable, and since I only remembered it was Women's Day on Monday, I didn't actually have a lot of time to pull together a lengthy post.

But eventually I decided on something. As a Christian feminist, as someone who believes that God created men and women equally in His image, I wanted to honour that. So I've complied a diverse list of inspiring, courageous, complicated, very human women from the Bible - women who actually lived and who served God and others. Re-reading their stories, I was surprised by just how incredible these women were. They led armies, they saved nations, they had faith in God's perfect judgement, and they refused to bow to evil men's desires.
They're amazing. I hope you're also inspired by them :)


Esther was an incredible woman. She was beautiful, but she was also intelligent, courageous, and kind, and used her position as Queen to save the lives of thousands of people - the Jewish minority who were being oppressed at the time. Esther a true heroine. She literally risked her own life, but she continued to trust God and stayed devoted to her people; even as Queen, she didn't forget them in times of persecution. She was a young woman, a minority, and yet she saved an entire race.


Mary was a 16 year-old unmarried virgin when an angel of the Lord came to her and told her she would conceive God's beloved son. Despite the fact she was an engaged, insignificant young peasant girl, God had chosen her to carry his son on earth. And Mary accepted his decree. Her faith was incredible. As she said in Luke 1 verse 38: "I am the Lord's servant......May it happen to me according to your word." She gave birth to Jesus on earth, raised Him like a son, and above all, put her faith in God, not in man or herself.


Abigail was the wife of Nabal, and both of them lived during King David's reign. The Bible calls Abigail "discerning and beautiful" (1 Sam 25v3) but Nabal was harsh and cruel. When Nabal refused to care for and house the King's men who visited his property, Abigail was the one who welcomed David, fed his troops, and eventually convinced him not to kill her husband - which would have been bad for the whole kingdom, considering Nabal was an Israelite, like the King, and killing his own people would not have helped David's position of authority.
Abigail is a truly heroic character. Her wisdom, discretion, and kindness stopped a war, and she even went against her own husband when she recognised his poor judgement.


Deborah was a literal warrior. When the Canaanites oppressed Israel, God raised a woman - Deborah - to lead the fight against them. Before she lead them, however, she was a wife and a judge, someone the Israelites came to for advice and wisdom. Initially, Deborah wasn't going to join the actual battle, and had plans to send in one of her commanders. But he refused to go without her. So Deborah joined him and went into the fighting.

Deborah was a warrior woman. But she had great wisdom, too, and she was a strong political figure, passionate and unafraid. More importantly, she acknowledged God as her sovereign and as the one who'd given her her achievements. At the end of the battle, she sang a lengthy song of praise to Him in worship.


Hardly anything is said about Queen Vasti, who was the first Queen of King Xerxes of Persia. But I think what is mentioned about her is extremely significant. When King Xeres is drunk during a banquet, he orders his eunuchs to bring his wife, Vasti, "before the king with her royal crown, in order to show the peoples and the princes her beauty, for she was lovely to look at." (Esther 1 v10)

Firstly, this is an all-male feast the King is hosting. Secondary, I doubt he's the only drunk man there. And third, he's basically ordering Vasti to come so he can show her off and have everyone oggle her. But Vasti doesn't come. She refuses. And no one is allowed to refuse the King. One of his officials even says: "For the queen's behaviour will be made to all women, causing them to look at their husbands with contempt, since they will, 'King Xeres commanded Queen Vasti to be brought before him, but she did not come'." (Esther 1 verse 17)

I admire Vasti so much. She loses her position as Queen, she essentially loses all respect and reputation in the land, but still she refused to let her husband parade her like property in the midst of his drunken male courtiers. If that isn't inspiring - empowering - I don't know what is. 


Hannah suffered. She longed for a child with all her heart, but remained barren. She had to watch as her husband's other wife gave birth to child after child, and while the woman taunted her for being unable to bear any children herself. Hannah even stopped eating - her heart was so broken. But in her sorrow, she turned to God. She prayed to Him and begged Him for a child, and God heard her and answered her. Hannah conceived, giving birth to Samuel. She even gave her son up to the temple so he could live there and serve God, something which would have been agonising for any mother to do. But she did it as a way to honour God - as she said to the temple priest: "Oh my lord! As I live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord. For this child I prayed, and the Lord had granted me my petition that I made to him! Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord." (1 Samuel 1 verses 26-28)


I absolutely love and admire Ruth's respect and kindness towards her widowed mother-in-law. A widow herself, she chooses not to abandon her mother-in-law when faced with the choice, and instead goes with her to a new land and works to earn a living for them together. She takes care of Naomi (her mother in law). And I also love how proactive and diligent Ruth is, working hard "in the field until evening" (Ruth 2 verse 17), gleaning barley and savouring what wheat she can for her and her mother-in-law.


I feel so sorry for Leah. She was the so-called "ugly" daughter, the one Jacob didn't want to marry and was eventually tricked into doing so by Leah's father. When Jacob finally married the woman he really wanted to marry - Leah's beautiful sister Rachel - Leah was ignored and rejected. She felt unloved, broken. Unwanted. But... "When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. And Leah conceived and bore son{s}."
And Leah praised the Lord for blessing her.

I love Leah's story because she's the "lonely, unwanted" woman. She's painfully relatable, and yet the Lord doesn't forget about her or her hardship. He looks after her and encourages her. That's why Leah's experiences are an inspiration to me.


Hagar was a broken woman. She was a servant, and her mistress - Sarah - gave her over to her husband - Abraham - to bear children on behalf of her, since she herself was unable to conceive (that was a common occurrence in those times).
But Hagar was bullied and abused. Sarah treated her cruelly because she was jealous and angry, and Abarham didn't stop her: "Abram said to Sarai, 'Your servant is in your power; do to her as you please'. Then Sarai dealt harshly with Hagar, and she fled from her."

It's a heartbreaking story. Hagar escaped to the desert, but God did not forget her. He commanded Hagar to return to Sarai, and he allowed Hagar to bear Abram a son, who, as he says, "...shall be called Ishmael, because the Lord listened to your affliction...... I will multiply your offspring so they cannot be numbered..."
The Lord gave Hagar honour in her distress, and He upheld her when she returned to her master and mistress.


Jael's story is interwoven with Deborah's, and it's a remarkable tale. When the captain of Israel's enemy fled his army and came looking for a place to hide, Jael coaxed him into her tent with assurances to feed and care for him.
But as he slept, Jael took a tent peg from their tent and drove it through his skull, killing him. Deborah praised her actions and called her a hero, as Jael was the one who'd had the honour of killing their enemy.

Her story is brutal, but it's fascinating. Jael was the one who killed the enemy leader, the one who'd had the honour and who Deborah praised in a song after the battle. For a woman to have done that deed is extremely powerful.

I really hope you enjoyed this post and reading about these incredible women!  

Happy Women's Day <3

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

IGNITE THE STARS - by Maura Milan

Published: September 2018 - Albert Whitman
Genres: Young adult / science fiction /
Pages: N.A
Triggers/Content Advisory: Violence
Format: eBook.
Source: Netgalley.

Everyone in the universe knows his name. Everyone in the universe fears him. But no one realizes that notorious outlaw Ia Cocha is a seventeen-year-old girl. A criminal mastermind and unrivaled pilot, Ia has spent her life terrorizing the Olympus Commonwealth, the imperialist nation that destroyed her home. When the Commonwealth captures her and her true identity is exposed, they see Ia’s age and talent as an opportunity: by forcing her to serve them, they will prove that no one is beyond their control. Soon, Ia is trapped at the Commonwealth’s military academy, desperately plotting her escape. But new acquaintances—including Brinn, a seemingly average student with a closely-held secret, and their charming Flight Master, Knives—cause Ia to question her own alliances. Can she find a way to escape the Commonwealth’s clutches before these bonds deepen?

OK so please just do yourself a favour and read this book. It's only publishing later this year so I guess that explains why it hadn't been hyped so much yet, BUT I'M TELLIN' YOU IT SHOULD BE HYPED because it is amazing. It is easily one of the best sci-fi novels I have ever read. Just read it.

The writing is excellent. The book might be a debut, but the writing does not feel like that of a typical debut's. It's absolutely genius. It's stellar.

The plot is insanely good. There's tons of chilling, adrenaline pumping action, but also a fair amount of beautiful, quieter scenes, and the whole sorry is so exciting, fun, and fast-paced.  I also adore the humour, which lends itself to some awesome laugh-out-loud moments, too. Overall, the plot is just amazing.
Oh! And I also have to mention the ending/climax! Without giving spoilers, let me just tell you how absolutely perfect it is. I cried, I laughed, I didn't think it was possible to love the book more, but I did. The ending is perfect in every way.

But I found the world building disappointing. It is intriguing, but it's a bit confusing too. I wanted more explanations and details. It's quite limited and all over the place. 

This girl was a child of violence. She had suffered and survived. That was a part of her, but what about the girl who had teased him five minutes ago? Where did she fit in? Was she a mirage, a mere trick of the eyes? Did that person really not exist at all?

His eyes traced the elegant line of her neck as she swiveled around to face him, her eyes sparking like collapsed stars swallowing up the surrounding light. She was a dark star, a black hole in the endless sky, and if he got too close, he would surely disappear. He knew all this, but even then, he couldn’t turn away from her.

The characters are brilliantly written. Everyone is so real and human, with lots of depth and development, and the chemistry between everyone is insane, too. It's just incredible.
I love the three leads: Ia, Brinn, and Knives. They're all so different but all equally compelling, and the depth and development they each get is amazing. I fell in love with all of them.  They're three of the best main characters I've ever read about; Ia's arrogant but she's fierce, Brinn's insecure but she's a whizz with numbers, and Knives is tormented but passionate. I absolutely love and appreciate what they each contribute to the story.

The romance!! Oh my word it's perfect. Knives and Ia start off fighting and trying to kill each other so of course I'm reading it grinning and shipping them hardcore, and the development of their relationship is stunning. I ship them so much.

Female friendship!! Oh my gosh this is a female friendship to rival even Inej and Nina's. Almost. But seriously, Brinn and Ia's friendship is beautiful. They start off disliking and distrusting each other, but soon get to see the heart of the other person and what they're hiding, what they fear, and what they're fighting for. It's lovely and heart-wrenching to watch. And even though I shouldn't really say too much about the climax, it is the perfect example of girls having each other's backs. It's magnificent.

Ignite the Stars is a breathtaking tale of love, friendship, and inner healing and growth. It's exciting and brilliantly written, but its characters give it its invincible heart. 

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

The WIP Diaries - MONSTROUS: a short story by me

The WIP Diaries is a blog series about my writing, my current projects, and what's to come in my writing life // 
WIP stands for Work In Progress, for those of you who don't know's blog post is me sharing my writing. I'm scared. Nervous, more like. But I'm doing it because I wanna and because I thought it'd be fun.

A while ago I entered my first ever short story competition where the guidelines said to write a fairytale of no more than 1000 words. That's hard, y'all. Flipping hard. But I entered.
Unsurprisingly, and yeah it was a disappointment all the same, I didn't win. But I really feel like it was good practice for my writing skills and generally just a worthwhile thing to have done. I am glad I did it.

And here we are! I'm gonna share my little fairytale with you. It was very hard to write because 1) I wrote it in third person - for some reason - and I literally never write in third person and 2) because I wrote it centred around a child and told it from her perspective. Which I've never done either, and to be honest writing about kids scares me ;) They literally never feature in my books. Haha.
OK shut up now Amy. Here's my story.

(And a big thank you to Di and Uma for helping me edit!)


Once upon a time a little girl dreamed of monsters. Monsters that linger in your heart and imprint upon your being.
Dark, destructive companions.

The little girl envied those monsters.

There was a village breathed to life by fairyfolk. It was hidden among the trees, removed from the outside world, and everyone in this village was of fairy breath. They were unlike any human ever seen. There was a fairy- breathed girl, who had skin like ebony and eyes like emerald pebbles, and she lived with her fairy-breathed mother.

But this child did not play with the other fairy-breathed children. When they dived squealing into the brook, she could not follow because she could not swim. When they laughed and danced and chased each other and she ran after them, she could not keep up because her legs were short. She could not sing, or dance, or paint. But she had no interest in doing anything else.

When the mothers and the Fairy Queen gathered to talk, the children went to play. But the little girl listened to the Fairy Queen’s words. She walked up to the mothers, and looked at the Queen.
"I want to go outside the village," she told the Fairy Queen, who sat on her dandelion throne. "I want to join those outside."
"There is evil outside. Monsters, and things beyond imagination "
Everyone was staring at the little girl, so she said, "I am not afraid of monsters. I want to run. I want to explore what is outside. I want to live with the monsters."
The children turned from their play, and the mothers gasped. They hurried their children away, and the child repeated to the queen, "I want to leave the village."
"What about your mother?"
The fairy- breathed child pouted. "I want to leave."

At bedtime when she sat in her mother's lap and her mother brushed her hair, the child asked her: "Why can't I go beyond the village? Why can't I join those who are outside?" The mother's voice was soft as she said, "We have everything we need here, and more. We do not need to go outside." 
The child did not think she had everything.
When her mother fell asleep, her face as tragic and soft as a fallen star, the child went to the edge of the village. From the forest came howls and laughter that berated the trees and sent birds shrieking. The child grabbed hold of the invisible barrier and ground her teeth. She kicked at the dirt and spat out the sweet air she inhaled. She kept spitting and kicking until she drooped to the ground and her eyes fluttered closed. Her mother found her at first light, and scooped her up and carried her home.

In the morning the child's thoughts were bloated with dreams of the outside. She shooed away the breakfast of bread and honey her mother offered, and she ran to the Fairy Queen.
"Let me go out there!" she ordered the Queen.
"What about everything you have here?" the Queen said.
"I want more," the child glared. She asked her mother, "Let me go out there! I cannot be happy here."
Her mother sighed so softly she almost didn't hear. "You have everything you need here."
"I do not have everything," the child growled.

That night the child did not let her mother brush her hair. She slipped from her grasp and ran outside. She scraped her dirty nails down the invisible barrier.
"There are monsters outside. There is evilness," the Fairy Queen said, watching her.
"I like monsters," said the child. "I want to be a monster. I want to be free."
"Nothing out there is free."
"I want to go!" said the child, and kicked at the night and strained for the noises writhing up from the forest.
"Go home," the Fairy Queen said.
"I do not want my home."
"Go home," warned the Queen.
But the child did not move. Her green eyes were alive in the blackness, her small body a figment of the night. She looked up to the trees, her heart bursting.
She whimpered, "I want to leave."
The Queen stared at her sadly, her face soft, pained. Her heart squeezed for the child. But this time she did not refuse.
The Fairy Queen opened the doors to the world outside. The barrier dissolved, the child rushed to meet it...

 But her heart did not stop craving. She did not stop wanting. Around her the forest seethed, and from it sprung thoughts and fears and desires that feasted on innocence. Anger built up within the child like a bubbling spring. She grabbed a stick from the ground to hurl at the Fairy Queen, but when she touched it, it became a brown snake, slithering around her flesh. She screamed and dropped it. It wriggled in the leaves at her feet and the girl stamped on it and beat it into the soil. Only when she stopped did she see what she had done.

Realised she had killed.

The little girl whirled around for the Fairy Queen, the village.
But they had vanished.
She swung at shadows and kicked at the darkness. In her mind grew thoughts that twisted around her soul.
She screamed for her mother.
 And she heard crying.

The fairy-breathed mother stopped near her little girl. The child sobbed. The mother turned, tears cascading down her cheeks, but her eyes could not find her child. This was the outside, the world of darkness and lost souls who crave but are never satisfied. The child wished she had freedom. She wished she had eaten bread and honey and let her mother brush her hair. The fairy-breathed child realised what she had chosen. And she did not want it anymore.

Then when the little girl could watch her mother no longer, she turned to the world outside and she plunged into the darkness of monsters and men.

*disappears into hole after sharing writing with people* 

I hope you enjoyed my story! Do you like writing short stories?