Wednesday, 17 January 2018

EVERLESS (Everless #1) - by Sara Holland

EVERLESS - Sara Holland
Published: 2018 by Hachette
Pages: 362
Genres: Young adult / fantasy
Triggers/Content Advisory: Mild, occasional fantasy violence
Format: ARC paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Pan Macmillan SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.
In the kingdom of Sempera, time is currency—extracted from blood, bound to iron, and consumed to add time to one’s own lifespan. The rich aristocracy, like the Gerlings, tax the poor to the hilt, extending their own lives by centuries. No one resents the Gerlings more than Jules Ember. A decade ago, she and her father were servants at Everless, the Gerlings’ palatial estate, until a fateful accident forced them to flee in the dead of night. When Jules discovers that her father is dying, she knows that she must return to Everless to earn more time for him before she loses him forever. But going back to Everless brings more danger—and temptation—than Jules could have ever imagined. Soon she’s caught in a tangle of violent secrets and finds her heart torn between two people she thought she’d never see again. Her decisions have the power to change her fate—and the fate of time itself.

A few days ago, I was in the mood for something to sweep me away. Something I could lose myself in for a few hours. Then Everless arrived.
It turned out to be just what I needed.

The writing is simple, but dreamlike. I love the intensity which courses under the words from start to finish, and that makes it an intoxicating, consuming, breathless read - as beautiful as it is moving. The emotion is understated, but it's deep. There's a sincerity to every character and every word that makes this book so powerful.

The plot is incredibly unique. There's not a lot of action, but the story never drags. There are so many secrets and mysteries lurking behind the scenes, and the anticipation/need for answers drives you from page to page. Towards the end, the twists blow you away.  They're excellent.
There's a real integrity to the plot and a real passion, and I feel like the author wasn't afraid to make her story unique and concentrate on what aren't the norms for a YA fantasy. Speaking of which, it is an extremely original story. Despite a rough first chapter - it begins with the all familiar scene of the heroine hunting in the forest - the story is unpredictable, unique, and intense. There's a lot of emotion in these pages, but it's never melodramatic. It's realistic and hauntingly relatable.

The world is so dangerous, so entrancing, and so different and vivid. It takes your breath away and you never know what to expect. It's also intelligent, with a rich history flavoured finely with mythology. I loved soaking it up - it's perfect escapism. You sink in, never wanting to look up, and it sweeps you along on a stunning journey.

Maybe I am a mystery— a secret— that needs unravelling...

The characters are beautiful. I love Jules, and I love how she's flawed, genuine, impulsive, and above all: kind and soft-hearted. She's not a push-over and she's definitelty capable, but she has a big heart. That and her impulsivity often puts her in danger or makes her trust the wrong people, but it makes her human - relatable. She's a wonderful heroine.
The secondary characters are also lovely. Everyone is vivid and genuinely lovable - even the villains' have a winning three-dimensional aspect to their personalities.

This book has so many incredible relationships. Jules' friendships - FEMALE FRIENDSHIPS TOO SO YAY YAY YAY - are strong, positive, and absolutely heart-warming. I love her interactions with everyone and how they all look out for each other. It's brilliant. As for the romance, there's barely any, and out of fear of giving spoilers, all I'll say is: I SHIP JULES AND LIAM SO HARD AND HELLO NEW OTP. So yes, there isn't much romance, but Jules' and Liam's friendship is spectacular. I WANT MORE OF THEM PLEASE.
Jules' relationship with her father is perfection. It's so realistic and beautiful, and I love his character as well. They truly have an amazing father-daughter bond.

Everless is a riveting whirlwind of alluring secrets, unique worldbuilding, and beguiling characters. It's beautiful, it's mesmerising, it's intoxicating, and you'll find yourself willing to  sell your soul just to escape into this world for a few more minutes. Even if it is on borrowed time...

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Romanticised Abuse: Bad Boys

Our goal is to raise awareness and draw attention to romanticised abuse in films, book, etc, in order to fight it
- Join us! Design your own header (or use mine)  and start posting - once a week, two times a week, whenever
- Share examples of romanticised abuse you've seen in books or films - doesn't even have to be a whole book or film; simple one scene is enough, if there's an instance of romanticised abuse in it
- Keep the post short. Just a few paragraphs.
- Please link to my blog as the original creator.

// Just a quick recap in case you're not sure what a bad boy stereotypically is. A "bad boy" in fiction is the guy who usually thinks of himself before anyone else, goes against rules and what is socially appropriate, and is typically mysterious, dangerous, and with a shady agenda and past. He's the opposite of the "angelic blonde goodie-goodie hero". He's the anti-hero. He borders dangerously close to the villain, except his behaviour is apparently acceptable because he's good-looking and makes the ultimate right choice in the nick of time - usually just at the end of the book. // 

Bad boys in YA literature are a huge thing. We love reading about brooding anti-heroes with tragic pasts, angsty protective sides, and of course the ultimate six-pack and sexy wardrobe. Guys like Damon Salvatore, Jacob Black, Chuck Bass, adore them.  
But what puts me off bad boys, is that too often they're physically and psychologically abusive - if not to the heroine then to someone else - and they are constantly disrespecting their girlfriend or love interest. Personally, I don't find myself swooning over someone who ignores the "no" with a "I'll do it anyway because I'm hot and trust me, you'll love it". It just isn't romantic. It isn't loving. The problem with bad boys is that they're usually violent, sexually menacing, and ignore the heroine's sexual boundaries. They don't take no for an answer. They can frequently touch or sexually harass the heroine, and yet it's thought of as " hot" and romantic because it's so heavily romanticised. 

But if these abusive relationships need to stop, that begs the question: 
if bad boys tend to romanticise abuse through their relationships, then should writers stop writing bad boys? 

That seems a little extreme, so below are some points that I think expand on possible solutions to this dilemma. 

1: Draw the line at sexual violence & assault / A boy can be bad without sexually assaulting the girl! Don't feel that in order to make your hero dark, dangerous, and an outcast of society you need to make him sexually violent, controlling, and sexist. Look at Nate from One of Us Is Lying; he's a criminal and the bad boy of the school. He's morally grey, and swoony because of it, but not once does he assault Bronwen, touch her without her consent, or try to control her. McManus writes a bad boy who doesn't abuse the heroine, and their kisses and interactions are still hot and sexy. More so because it's based on mutual consent. Consent is sexy, people! 
Another example would be Kaz from Bardugo's Six of Crows duology. Kaz is a morally grey character who does terrible things and fits the bad boy persona, but he never disrespects or assaults the female characters. He treats them like equals deserving of respect, and he's still protective of them. 
Thousands of readers love Kaz (myself included). Thousands also ship him with Inej (myself included). This proves that a bad boy and his romantic arc can be sexy, swoony, and shippable despite the fact the bad boy isn't sexually violent or abusive.   

2: Write good good guys / The reason so many readers favour bad boys - I think - is because the alternative is usually a boring, stereotypical, good male character who plays by the rules and doesn't have serious flaws. Come on. bad boys are interesting because they have flaws, right? 
The sooner writers start writing three-dimensional, flawed, good looking good guys, the sooner we'll learn to love them. Look at Mal from Bardugo's Shadow and Bone trilogy. Most readers call him boring, annoying, and bland, and favour Nikolai (the trilogy's "bad boy") instead. Compared to Nikolai, Mal isn't as well written, as three-dimensional, or as compelling. Bardugo uses these two stereotypes very mildly, but it's still a point: Nikolai's morally grey with a winning, witty personality, and so we love him, but Mal has very few interesting qualities so we don't. Yet what if Mal was as well written as Nikolai? As three dimensional and rounded? We'd probably appreciate their characters equally. And maybe, we'd even prefer rooting for and swooning over the so-called good guy, instead of the bad boy. 

(FYI: Yes, I do acknowledge that we're all different people with unique taste who inevitably favour one character more than another, simply because. It does depend largely on your personal preference). 

3: Call out the sexual perversity for what it is / If your bad boy is causing the heroine emotional distress or making her physically uncomfortable, treat that seriously! Let her get angry with him, call him out on it, and avoid him for most of the book (that's not much of a story, granted, so maybe just avoid including sexual harassment, etc, altogether - see Point 1). And then, if you still insist they need to be together, have the guy apologise sincerely and have him work for her forgiveness. She should be furious with him, and he should genuinely change before they can even get close to each other again. 

But again, I personally think you're playing on very thin ice if your bad boy assaults your heroine and then, despite apologies and forgiveness, they end up together. I just think that sexual assault isn't something you can easily come back from - if at all. Even murdering someone can be explained and is sometimes easier to forgive because there are other ways to interpret it (examples: it was self-defense, it was an accident, etc). 
Maybe it's just better to adhere to Point 1 above and stay clear of including any kind of sexual assault/harassment and/or abusive themes.  

Writers, write guys with flaws - disastrous flaws. But don't, I am begging you, feel like you have to make them controlling, violent, sexist, and an attempted rapist or sexual assaulter to make them sexy and darkly appealing. When women are assaulted daily, in or out of a relationship, romanticising these horrific behaviours in fiction is atrocious and toxic. A guy can be dark, brooding, and morally grey without backing the heroine up against a wall and caressing her body without her consent. That should not be something you glamorise. It should be something you call out and write solid consequences for if it has to feature in your story at all. 

Boys can be bad. Girls can be bad. We're all flawed people. But do not write an incident of sexual assault into your book and label it as anything other than sexual assault simply because you think it's the only way to make a dude flawed and irresistible. 

←Jacob and Bella in Twilight 

Monday, 15 January 2018

Cover Reveal: MERCURY RISES by Scarlett Kol

I AM SO EXCITED TO SHARE A COVER REVEAL WITH YOU TODAY. And not only is the cover absolutely incredible (scroll down to see) but the book is a ROBIN HOOD RETLLING WHICH IS LITERALLY MY DREAM. (I love Robin Hood). I hope I get to read this book at some stage. I really do. 

A girl looking for a way out. Being the daughter of New America’s leader, Mercury Masters has everything a girl could want. A glamorous life full of beautiful people, and the power to have anything she wants, except for one thing—to escape. Because Mercury’s perfect life comes with secrets to keep. Dangerous secrets that if made public would destroy her, her family, and her father’s reign. Then she meets Hawk. A boy looking to be a hero. Hawk, a handsome prep school dropout turned vigilante, has his own family secrets. Deadly secrets that have haunted him since he was fifteen. But instead of fighting the ghosts of his past, Hawk has assembled a group of misfit hackers and thieves to save the future from the corrupt government of New America and the mysterious virus that is killing off its citizens. But trying to do the right thing is tough when the person you really want to save is your enemy’s daughter. A love that could kill them both. Powerful forces keep them apart, but coming together could be the key to saving New America from destruction—even though it may cost both their lives //         A near-future YA biopunk retelling of Robin Hood.
Goodreads  /  Pre-order: AmazonKobo

Scarlett Kol grew up in Northern Manitoba reading books and writing stories about creatures that make you want to sleep with the lights on. As an adult, she's still a little afraid of the dark. Scarlett now lives just outside Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada with her husband and two boys, but if you need to find her she's likely freezing at the hockey rink.

Doesn't the story sound amazing and isn't the cover absolutely stunning?! 

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Weekly Round-Up: Reading and watching

I've been reading a lot this week. I also finished watching Godless on Netflix, and have been watching F.R.I.E.N.D.S and The 100 sporadically.  This is my last week of holiday, though, so I'm gonna make the most of it ;) 

Posts of the week: 
Book Review: THE SNOWMAN

Currently Reading

I'm still dragging my way through And I Darken, and I'm halfway through Renegades with Uma :)

For Review

AHHHH!! THIS WAS THE BEST BOOKMAIL WEEK. I got an amazing signed hardcover of The Language of Thorns, and a beautiful ARC of Everless - both from Pan Macmillan. 

I've already finished reading Everless ;) It was that good. 

Around the Blogosphere

Heather reviews A Study in Charlotte

Angela reviews Invictus

Erica's hosting an adorable Giveaway

Emily talks Goodreads goal

Michelle compares the Big Little Lies book and TV show

Kyra reviews Wintersong

Lauren reviews Beneath the Haunting Sea

Audrey shares ways to Grow as a Christian and as a writer

Entertainment News

IT'S ABOUT TIME. There's not much info at this stage because the development is still very early, but I do know that the movie's getting a female writer! Yay!  

The BAFTAS will be held on the 18th of February, and Joanna Lumley will be presenting. 

It was a Golden Globes like no other. Women came together in black, standing against sexual harassment and assault. There were some amazing speeches in line with this protest, with Oprah's  keeping people on their feet. 

Have a look at the upcoming Ophelia film, starring Daisy Ridley and Naomi Watts. 

Big Little Lies came out strong in the TV section with 4 wins, and The Shape of The Water won Best Picture.

Neeson says that the sexual assault allegations in Hollywood have started a witch-hunt. To a degree, I actually agree that he has a point. The article is worth reading.   

Five women have accused Franco of sexual assault and harassment, making him the latest male in Hollywood to come under fire for inappropriate behaviour. 

Coming Up...

This week, I'll be reviewing Everless and Wonder Woman: Warbringer. There'll also be another Romanticised Abuse post.

Week 2 of January is gone! Can you believe it?!

Did you have a good week? What are you reading or watching at the moment? 

Friday, 12 January 2018

THE SNOWMAN (Harry Hole #7) - by Jo Nesbo

Published: 2017 (Film Tie-in) - Vintage
Pages: 576.
Genres: Adult / thriller / contemporary / mystery
Triggers/Content Advisory: Strong, frequent sexual content and explicit sex scenes / frequent gory violence / infrequent bad language
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Penguin SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.
Soon the first snow will come A young boy wakes to find his mother missing. Outside, he sees her favourite scarf – wrapped around the neck of a snowman. And then he will appear again Detective Harry Hole soon discovers that an alarming number of wives and mothers have gone missing over the years. And when the snow is gone… When a second woman disappears, Harry’s worst suspicion is confirmed: a serial killer is operating on his home turf. …he will have taken someone else

While I did struggle - missing out elements of back stories and past cases, etc - starting with what is the seventh book in the Harry Hole series, I do think it can be read by itself, just at the expense of some character development.
I requested this thriller because I'm dying to watch the movie (Michael Fassbender. Say no more). I thought it'd be a good idea to read the book first.

The writing is excellent. Short, punchy sentences that get right to the point, and dialogue that crackles.  The setting is also very atmospheric, and every scene is vivid and three dimensional. I love that.

The plot is tight and complicated, and not only is the mystery clever, but it's easy to follow. Too often when I read thrillers their "cleverness" ends up losing me, but not in this book - it's definitely incredibly intelligent, but it carries you each step of the way; you feel like you're alongside the detectives and learning as they learn.

The story is gripping, as well - the pages fly by as you tear through.  It's also very creepy, dark, and scary. The characters are twisted, and the crimes graphic and sadistic. There's no light or real love in this book; it's grim, harsh, and as unforgiving as ice. When you finish reading, you'll appreciate the masterful story and writing, but you won't necessarily be dying for a re-read. It's a good thriller, but I don't love it. There's nothing extremely likeable about it.

“We're capable of understanding that someone has to drop an atomic bomb on a town of innocent civilians, but not that others have to cut up prostitutes who spread disease and moral depravity in the slums of London. Hence we call the former realism and the latter madness.”

The characters are all complicated, twisty people, either fighting their demons or still damaged from that fight. It's a pretty big cast, but I like that I was given just enough information to place everyone in the story and know the backbone of their characters. No one is exceptionally vivid, but they're all firmly on the page. It's bearable. 

Harry Hole is a decent character. I think that by starting the series with the seventh book I missed some pivotal moments in his past and his relationships, so perhaps that's why I felt him slightly lacking. Still, he's definitely the most vivid of the cast - which is appropriate. He clearly has a lot of depth and ghosts in his past, and the glimpses I got of those were compelling. He's a strong character. I just wanted to see more of that, which I'm sure I would've if I'd read the previous books.

But I don't love any of the characters. I've read books with unlikeable casts before and actually loved them, but in this story everyone's too hard and crude. Not to mention I don't typically enjoy reading from men's perspectives because I find their views of women unsettling and perverse. In this book, the scenes where men describe women are uncomfortable to read. At least for me. 

The Snowman is an enthralling thriller dripping with bloodlust and captivating dialogue. The mystery is clever, easy to keep up with, but I can't say I loved the book.  The lack of true goodness from the plot or the characters makes it harsh and bitter.