Friday, 30 November 2012

Mystic City by Theo Lawrence


About the book
Mystic City is the first book in the Mystic City series by Theo Lawrence. It was published by Corgi Childrens on 11th October and the book is 416 pages long. Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy.

Synopsis (Taken from Goodreads.com)
Aria Rose, youngest scion of one of Mystic City's two ruling rival families, finds herself betrothed to Thomas Foster, the son of her parents' sworn enemies. The union of the two will end the generations-long political feud—and unite all those living in the Aeries, the privileged upper reaches of the city, against the banished mystics who dwell below in the Depths. But Aria doesn't remember falling in love with Thomas; in fact, she wakes one day with huge gaps in her memory. And she can't conceive why her parents would have agreed to unite with the Fosters in the first place. Only when Aria meets Hunter, a gorgeous rebel mystic from the Depths, does she start to have glimmers of recollection—and to understand that he holds the key to unlocking her past. The choices she makes can save or doom the city—including herself.

What I thought
So, this book was pitched as being dystopian and both X-Men and Romeo and Juliet-esque. Not the most normal things you think of hearing go together but I thought this made it sound amazing and I wanted it immediately. Going back to uni took its toll on me reading wise (fun books anyway) so I had to put off some stuff that I wanted to get into immediately. Once I picked this one up though I couldn’t put it down.

As soon as I started this book I knew I was going to love it. Set in a flooded Manhattan, this was instantly different to anything I had read before. There is a very clear divide of classes here with the rich and well off living in luxury high above any danger while the poor and mystics live below where things are not nice at all. The mystics are a group of people who are seen as a danger. Each of them has special powers (all different kinds of powers) and are forced to register and be drained. However, there are rebel Mystics who have refused and live in exile. I LOVED the idea of Mystics. This is where the X-Men similarity comes in. Although we don’t get to meet too many Mystics in this book, the few we do get to meet have very interesting abilities and I loved the range of this.

Aria is the protagonist of Mystic City and the book is told from her point of view. At the beginning of the book it is explained that she is about to marry Thomas, son of the rival of her father. However, she doesn’t remember saying she would marry him let alone remember how they fell in love or anything they have done together. A great aspect about how the story starts is that you are in the same place as Aria, you have no idea what is going on or why and neither does she. I really enjoyed getting to discover her story along with her. As a character, she was great. Although she goes along with what her family is telling her, she knows something is not quite right and sets out to find out what is going on. She shows strength, determination and is brave at the same time so I admired her for that.

Then there is Hunter who is a rebel Mystic who turns up and surprises Aria. She doesn’t know who he is and has never met him before but there is something familiar about him. Because of Hunter, we get to find out a lot more about what it means to be a Mystic and what they can really do. He was a fantastic character who again, was strong and brave. Hunter has a lot of mystery surrounding him and is a major part of this story but saying too much about him will give a lot away.

There is quite a lot about politics in this book but not so much that it is too much. Aria’s fiancé Thomas is the son of the enemy to their family, his brother is running for office but so is a rebel Mystic. This is kind of where the Romeo and Juliet essences of the book come in. Aria and Thomas come from families who have had a long running feud which appears soon to be fixed once and for all. I didn’t think I would but I actually really enjoyed getting to know how the world that Theo Lawrence built worked. The different rules and regulations were interesting and it was fascinating to see how different people reacted to these things.

Although a lot of the plot is given to Aria figuring out what the hell is happening to her, it is also super exciting. A mysterious plot mixed with the excitement of realising what happened to Aria = one amazing book. Theo Lawrence had me hooked from page one, had me sneaking in reading quick chapters while I was at work and then picking it up again as soon as I got home. Mystic City is awesomely addictive!

Thursday, 29 November 2012

When He Was Wicked by Julia Quinn


About the book
When He Was Wicked is the 6th book in the Bridgerton series, written by Julia Quinn. The book was published by Piatkus on 2nd November 2006 and it is 384 pages long.

Plot
As soon as Michael Stirling set eyes on Francesca Bridgerton, he fell hard in love. The only problem was that she was about to get married to his cousin John. Since the marriage, Michael has been good friends with Francesca but not being able to act on how he feels in taking its toll. Even though Michael is totally in love with Francesca, he is still known as a notorious rake and she takes pleasure in hearing stories of his wicked ways. One unexpected evening, John retires early with a headache while Michael and Francesca go for a walk but when they return, something shocking has happened. John suddenly died while the pair were out and Francesca has no idea how to deal with what happened, especially considering that she has also just found out that she's pregnant. Michael, also in turmoil, can’t handle being around Francesca and flees the country to India.

Michael and Francesca are both having hard times corresponding with each other while they are apart and they still have unresolved issues after John's death. After four years away, Michael returns to England and Francesca immediately wants to know why he has been so distant. There is still tension between the pair but when Michael falls in with malaria, Francesca knows she has to stand by his side and help him take his rightful place in society.

Francesca really wants a baby but is still not over the death of her husband. She comes out of mourning and starts to look for a husband but at the same time, she pushes Michael to look for a wife. Jealousy is extremely clear between the two and they find themselves being pushed closer and closer together but can Francesca handle the feelings that she isn't supposed to have for Michael?

What I thought
This is my favourite book out of the Bridgerton series. I read these in the order that they were released although you don't need to read them in order. Each book doesn't move on from the last one, instead it tells the story of one of each of the Bridgerton children.

Unlike most of the other books in this series, When He Was Wicked doesn't have the obvious disaster/ scandal etc. but instead focuses on the mixed feelings of each of the main characters for conflict. Although something really bad happens very early on in the book, there wasn't the near death experience or anything like that which I would normally expect from this genre.

I really felt for Michael at the beginning of the book and more so as the story developed. It had to have been extremely hard for him to be best friends with Francesca once she married his cousin without ever being able to tell her how he felt. I can only imagine how much like hell that must have felt like for him but you could see how genuinely sorry and sad he was when John died. Not knowing how to handle anything, he was a coward and ran away but I could understand his reasons for doing so. Quite a way into the story he gives Francesca an ultimatum which was long overdue I think. He shouldn't have had to feel like he was living in purgatory with her, not knowing which way her feelings were going. He wanted all or nothing and he deserved nothing less.

At the same time though, I could totally understand how Francesca was feeling. It is never easy when someone you love dies and you feel like there is no one there to help you. She didn't really understand anything about Michael's feelings after John died because she didn't know anything about his feelings for her. The friendship between the two was very strong to begin with and it was quite sad to read about when it broke down because of what happened.

As you can expect from the title, When He Was Wicked is a little bit raunchier than the other books in this genre. Yes there are sex scenes in the rest of them but nothing like what you get in this story. Michael is a very well-known rake and he has had a lot of fun with women which Francesca loves to hear about. Michael never tells her all of the details of course but that is part of what intrigues her so much. Knowing this, you can only imagine how much fun the pair have together once Francesca gets the opportunity to live this experience for herself.

I really enjoyed reading this book and the reason that it is my favourite is because it completely stands out from the rest in the series. I like reading these in order as it gives a nice build up for when you get to When He Was Wicked. If you like the genre, definitely give this one a try.


Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Waiting on Wednesday



"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly event, hosted by Jill from Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Hysteria by Megan Miranda


Mallory's life is falling apart. Her boyfriend was stabbed. He bled to death in her kitchen. Mallory was the one who stabbed him. But she can't remember what happened that night. She only remembers the fear ...When Mallory's parents send her away to a boarding school, she thinks she can escape the gossip and the threats. But someone, or something, has followed her. There's the hand that touches her shoulder when she's drifting off to sleep. A voice whispering her name. And everyone knows what happened. So when a pupil is found dead, Mallory's name is on their lips. Her past can be forgotten but it's never gone. Can Mallory live with that?

Publisher: Bloomsbury
Released: 14th February 2013

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Book to Film Review: Whip It


About the film
Whip It is a teen coming of age/ comedy/ sports film that was released in April 2010 in the UK. It is based on a book by Shauna Cross (who also wrote the screenplay) called Derby Girl. The film is rated 12A due to crude and strong language, violence and minor scenes of a sexual nature and it has a run time of 111 minutes. 

Plot
Bliss Cavendar is 17 and lives in Bodeen, Texas with not much of a life apart from beauty pageants she is forced to enter by her mother and working in a roadside BBQ diner with her best friend, Pash. 

While on a shopping trip in Austen with her mother and sister, Bliss sees a flyer for the local roller derby and after seeing the girls involved, she immediately wants to be a part of it. Bliss talks Pash into going to one of the matches with her and along with meeting a cute boy, Maggie Mayhem (one of the players) tells her that she should come along to try outs for the Hurl Scouts. 

Try outs are a lot harder than Bliss had expected, realising just how aggressive the sport can be but due to how quick she is on her skates, she manages to secure herself a place on the team by lying about her age. She has to lie to her parents, change her work schedule and get on the bingo bus every time there is a match. How long will she be able to keep it up without anyone finding out, especially as she is quickly becoming the star of the team. 

What I thought
Ellen Page puts in a fabulous performance as Bliss and the transformation in her was great to watch. She goes from being quite shy and a loner to quietly confident and tough once she makes friends with the other women on her team. What I like about Page is that isn't afraid to take a chance on a role that she likes instead of going for the safe option. I'm sure we could have seen her in many teen comedies by now but I'm glad that she has only done a couple of films because they were great. As Bliss, Page manages to mix comedy with seriousness at times really well to make a very believable and likable character. 

Whip It is Drew Barrymore's first attempt at directing but I was also glad to see her have a part in the film. Her character, Smashley Simpson, reminds me of the character she played in Charlie's Angels, slightly crazy and rebellious. Also on the Hurl Scouts is RnB singer, Eve, who I wasn't expecting to see in this at all. She didn't stand out as much as some of the other cast but she was still pretty good. On one of the opposing teams is Juliette Lewis as Iron Maven who was really the girl to beat. She's tough, scary and extremely mean and doesn't seem afraid of anyone or anything. I really liked that there were some quite big names in this film because I wasn't expecting it and they were all really good. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the whole film for a few reasons. Watching Bliss change who she is for what she believes in was great but the actual scenes in the roller derby were the best. Although some of the shots are mainly of the girls whizzing past the camera, there are also some really good action shots of specific plays and the violence of the sport. Each match was exciting and I never really knew what was going to happen. I completely loved the looks of each team with their fish nets, over the top eyeliner and crazy outfits. I know I wouldn't want to be anywhere near any of them, they were pretty scary. 

The only thing that I didn't really like about this film was the romance aspect between Bliss and Oliver. There was enough going on plot wise to keep me thoroughly entertained and I felt like the romance was thrown in just as something extra. It didn't really add much to the film apart from being a time filler. The time could have been put to a much better use instead of wasted on this. 

Whip It is a great film that is full of action and comedy. One to watch!

Monday, 26 November 2012

I Am A Woman by Ann Bannon


About the book
I Am A Woman is a lesbian pulp fiction novel by Ann Bannon. This is the second novel in the Beebo Brinker series. It was published by Cleis Press in May 2002 (the edition I have anyway) and the book is 200 pages long.

Synopsis
After a bad break up and a terrible fight with her father, Laura flees Chicago to the bright lights of New York, hoping for a better future, a few friends and much less hassle. After finding herself a job in a doctor’s office, Laura hears of a room for rent with a woman names Marcie. They instantly hit it off and Laura moves in. However, Laura has secrets about her past and where she came from and keeps herself to herself for the most part. When Marcie introduces Laura to Jack, her life changes completely. Forced to acknowledge her past relationship with a girl, Laura finally begins to come to terms with the fact that she’s a lesbian. Jack introduces Laura to the Village, a place where being yourself is ok. This is where Laura meets Beebo Brinker, the star of this series.

What I thought
The books I have had to read so far for my Gender and Sexuality class have all been so different but up to this point, this one has been my favourite. I never know what to expect with a new book for this class so I have to go into each one with no expectations.

What I found about this one in comparison to the others we have read so far is how easy it was to read. Some, like Orlando and The Well of Loneliness, were written in the 1920s, were pretty dire for the most part. I found the language hard to get into and the story of both stiff and boring at times. None of this was the case with I Am A Woman. Being written in the 1950s and aimed at closet lesbians, Ann Bannon uses a fresh and exciting writing style, mixing humour into an important topic.

I warmed to the main character Laura immediately. The beginning of the book shows her life with her father in Chicago and how miserable she is, which is why I liked her. I wanted her to do well, I wanted her to get a better life and to finally be happy with herself. I really enjoyed following Laura’s journey as she got herself settled in New York, found friends, a job and somewhere to live. New York is so different for Laura compared to Chicago and she has never been alone in a new city before so it was all a bit of an adventure. As a character, Laura is shy and quiet, due to her past experiences and doesn’t really know what to think of herself at times.

Secondary characters were what made this book so special though. Laura’s flatmate Marcie and her ex-husband are an integral part of the story but they also bring in some humour and excitement. Jack is Laura’s best friend pretty much in New York and he really helps her come to terms with who she is and gets her to really think about what she wants. Beebo Brinker was a fantastic character which is why I guess the series is named after her. She is the most interesting and exciting character in the whole book and we never really get to know too much about her, but I wanted to. She had a lot of mystery around her but at the same time, she was also obviously really comfortable with who she is.

I Am A Woman asks important questions about homosexuality. There are sex scenes but they aren’t too explicit which was something I was thankful for. Laura’s journey of self-discovery and acknowledgement was one that I really enjoyed and found the writing style refreshing and unlike anything I had read before. I hope the rest of the books for this class are just as enjoyable. 

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Film Review: Rock of Ages




About the film
Rock of Ages is a musical film directed by Adam Shankman that was released in the summer of 2012. The film has a rating of 12A due to language, heavy drinking, suggestive dancing and sexual context. Rock Of Ages has a run time of 124 minutes.

Plot
Set in 1987, Sherrie Christian sets off from her small hometown to the bright lights of L.A. with the hopes of making it big. However, during her first day there, she is mugged and left with no money. A young barman from a nearby club, The Bourbon Room, helps her out and even manages to get her a job. The two instantly hit it off and there are sparks between them and they both have a lot in common with both wanting to be singers.

The Bourbon Room is a struggling club on Sunset Strip and manager Dennis thinks that he has all of the answers to getting back on track. Lead singer of the band Arsenal, Stacee Jaxx, is set to play at the club but he has a reputation for letting people down. At the same time, the new Mayor's wife is hell bent on getting the club shut down, saying it promotes sex and drugs. With all of this going on, Sherrie, Drew and The Bourbon Room have a lot of problems standing in their way.

What I thought
It isn't very often that I pay attention to a director of a film but knowing that Adam Shankman was behind this one made me want to see it. He's responsible for other musical films like Hairspray and Step Up 3D amongst many other films and TV episodes. There aren't many of Shankman's films that I haven't liked so his name being on a film gives me high expectations for it.

The plot for this film is extremely cheesy for the most part, not something I was expecting considering it is a film about rock music. With main character Sherrie heading off to L.A to make it to the big time and her quickly finding a love interest, it was clear to see how the rest of the film was going to be. From here, I was ready for 2 hours' worth of cheese. However, this isn't always a bad thing because it makes for some easy watching even with predictability being a high factor. As nice as the two main characters were, they were a little too nice for my liking and neither one had anything really special about them.

This is where Stacee Jaxx makes the film a little more interesting. Played by Tom Cruise, Jaxx is known as a Rock God with a huge reputation for letting people down and having girls faint at his feet. I used to really love Tom Cruise in his earlier roles but have found his newer films to not be nearly as good. However, I think he was amazing in Rock of Ages. Playing someone so arrogant and full of themselves seems to suit Cruise really well but he does give a fantastic performance at the same time. This is the first musical Cruise has ever been in and after reading an interview somewhere, I found out that he had months of vocal training before starting this film. While his voice isn't amazing in the soundtrack, especially compared with some of the other cast, he does good enough. As Jaxx, Cruise adds in a darker aspect to the film which is nowhere near light and fluffy like the main characters.

Other cast members include Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand and Catherine Zeta-Jones who all do an ok job but nothing amazing. Then there is Mary J. Blige who was seriously underused. Playing Justice Charlier, Blige is only in the film for a short amount of time. She barely gets any songs to sing and certainly none of the biggest ones of the film. As such a well-known singer, I thought that she would have had a more important role or at least had her vocal talents showcased. Her character is the owner of a strip club which is where she meets Sherrie. I think this part of the film was basically a filler and it didn't really have anything important to add.

The soundtrack is really what makes this film great. With a mix of fast and slow songs from the era, there is something for everyone. While the ballads were pretty boring for me, I loved the more up tempo numbers as they added a lot more fun and excitement to the plot. With songs like Hit Me With Your Best Shot, Any Way You Want It and We're Not Gonna Take It, it gives the film a really happy feeling to it and there are plenty of songs to sing along to. I was only 1 in the year this film was set in but I did know the majority of the songs that were used so if you weren't around then, it doesn't matter at all.

Overall, Rock of Ages is really cheesy but super fun at the same time. It won't appeal to everyone but for anyone who likes musical films, it's a good way to spend 2 hours.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Kindle Fire HD - a (hopefully) non-techy review!

For a long time I have been wanting and iPad or the Samsung equivalent. However, with getting married next year neither have been a viable option due to price. When the Kindle Fire was released, I was immediately interested as the price was much more affordable. Before buying a Kindle Fire though, I made sure I weighed up my options and made sure the Kindle would do near enough everything I wanted it to do. No tablet has a great word document feature and all have notes apps but other than that, to me they are all pretty similar. My wonderful fiancé decided the Kindle Fire HD would be my Christmas present this year and although it’s only November, I have it already. Now, we didn’t buy from Amazon as I’m impatient so we got it from Waterstones but the prices are the same.

*I appologise now for the quality of the pictures. The lighting in my room is utter shit!*

Buying options
The Kindle Fire HD comes in two varying sizes in terms of storage. You can either get 16GB or 32GB with prices being either £159 or £199 respectively. At Waterstones, you have no option to buy without special offers whereas you do on Amazon. Prices without the special offers are £169 and £209 on Amazon.  The special offers aren’t really special and really this just means that you get adverts on the Kindle unless you pay £10 more to get rid of them. However, you can pay the lower prices and then choose to opt out over the phone once your Kindle is registered. Due to buying through Waterstones, the ‘special offers’ were already on my Kindle but so far, I haven’t noticed anything too annoying that makes me want to pay to get rid of them.

Size and Design
The Kindle Fire HD has a 7 inch screen which for me is plenty big enough. The size of the actual machine is a little bigger, 7.6 inches, with a black border around the screen. The width is 5.4 inches. On the top middle of the front of the Kindle is a 1.3MP camera which can be used for Skype which is a feature I love! The back of the Kindle has on it the logo, the Amazon logo and some basic information such as ‘made in…’ as well as the speaker grates, one of the left and one on the right. If you hold the Kindle in landscape you will find buttons on the left side. The larger button is for sound (above it the hole for speakers and headphones) and the smaller button is for turning the Kindle on and off. I know many people have said the buttons are hard to find but I don’t find this to be the case at all.

The size and design of the Kindle Fire HD is lovely and I think it looks really nice when in your hands. It looks sleek and sophisticated and nothing at all like the older Kindles so it really stands out.

First time user
I have never owned a normal Kindle or a tablet so I had no idea what to do when setting this up. The cocktails beforehand did not help either!! Basic set up is super easy – all you need to do is turn it on with the button and voila! The Kindle is on. To begin with, you will be asked to put in Wi-Fi information, what language you want and your Amazon email address so the Kindle can be linked to it. That was the easy part. After that I had no idea what I was doing but still, even after a few cocktails, it was not that hard.

On the top of the Kindle screen is your menu, where you will find options such as Books, Music, Docs, Web etc. The menu is text only and runs along the top of the screen where you are able to scroll across to more options. Above the menu is the name of your Kindle, time, Wi-Fi connection information and the battery life bar. In the middle of the screen is your carousel, which is where anything opened on the Kindle will go. There is now a huge scrollable list of everything I have ever opened on the Kindle in the middle of my screen which is damn annoying. You can remove these big icons by pressing down in the middle of them and choosing ‘remove from carousel’ but if you forget to do this much, it will take you ages. In the bottom right hand corner of the screen is a little star. By pressing this, you will be able to see your favourite apps or books etc. To choose favourites for this section of the Kindle, do it in the same way as removing them from the carousel and picking ‘add to favourites’ instead.

Kindle as a Kindle
Although I didn’t only want to read books on my new toy, I did want to do that very much. In the top menu, you can go through the Shop to find Kindle books or you can do so on Amazon instead. You need to set up one click buying for you Kindle otherwise you will not be able to purchase books or apps etc. so this should be something you do quite quickly. As your Kindle is synced to your Amazon account, e-books purchased or downloaded for free will instantly be sent to your Kindle and kept in the books sections.

Now, while downloading and buying books was extremely easy, even for someone half drunk and who had never done it before, I did have some issues. Books cannot be sorted into folders or categories like the can on a regular Kindle. As an organisation freak, who lives for lists, this was not a good thing for me to figure out. Should I ever have a couple of hundred books on the Kindle, it will take me so long to find the ones I want. I would have thought that as a Kindle, this would have been a feature top of the list to keep. However, after having a strop and not wanting to look at more books, I decided to give it another go and ignore the fact I cannot organise my e-books.

While reading a book, you have options such as bookmark, changing the font style and size, go to which is where you can jump to different points of the book, and notes where you can add notes on bookmarked pages. There is also a feature called X-Ray where you can quickly find parts of the book which mention a certain name, place etc. and even find out biographical information. This is a really interesting feature although it doesn’t work on all books yet.  

For NetGalley users!
Before trying to send NetGalley books to your Kindle, you must first add their email address to your trusted contacts list through your Amazon account. It took me ages to figure out why the books weren’t being sent and this is why. Also, any books sent from NetGalley will go in the Docs part of your Kindle, not the Books part. I like this though as it means my review books will be kept separate.

Video and Music
Strangely, the Kindle Fire HD is a really good music player. Songs can either be bought through Amazon and sent to the Kindle or imported from your PC or laptop which is very simple to do. In order to do this, you again go through the Amazon website and into your Kindle settings. The screen tells you exactly what to do and you only need to follow the instructions. Music cannot be imported through Google Chrome though so make sure you do it in Internet Explorer or any of the other web browsers which are supported. Any music bought through Amazon can be stored in your Cloud, which is a way of storing content for free without using up the space on your device. The sound quality is amazing and much better than I had expected. Songs come through very clear and the volume is loud enough without being overpowering.

With the Kindle (with special offers) you get a free months trial with Love Film which begins when you start streaming your first movie. The picture quality, much like sound quality was much better than I had expected. Obviously, to stream films you need a Wi-Fi connection. If you have a slow internet connection you could suffer from buffering problems although this is not something I have experienced yet. Films are great to watch on the Kindle Fire HD and while I thought the screen would be too small, it isn’t. Just think of those portable DVD players you can buy, this is very similar to their sizes.

Apps
The Kindle Fire HD, powered by Andriod 4.1, makes it much like a mobile phone. Through the Shop part of the menu, you can search to your heart’s content for fun games and apps to download. The Apps store has a wide variety of games to download such as Angry Birds and The Sims as well as things like a notepad, calculator etc. The range of apps is fantastic although in the same way with phones, be careful which you choose as some are crap while others are great. Read the reviews if you aren’t sure about the quality of an app. 

Any apps downloaded or bought can be found in the App part of the menu or if recently used, in the annoying carousel. Like books, you cannot sort these into any kind of order and are pretty much shown like they are on bookshelves and you need to scroll through to find the ones that you want. While playing games etc, I have found the Kindle to be quick and efficient with loading and I was very impressed. I was expecting some things to lag a little bit while loading but no problems with this so far.

Other bits and pieces
As I said earlier, as a tablet, the Kindle Fire HD does a hell of a lot for the price. You can go online to your favourite websites through the Web function, go on popular social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook (as well as getting the apps) but you can also read magazines or upload all of your photos from Facebook onto the device. As you can see in the picture, your photos will be shown in different sizes although you can view the full size photo by pressing on it. 

When you buy the Kindle, you do not get a mains charger. Instead, you have to charge through the USB cable supplied which is a massive pain in the arse. Charging takes ages, especially if you are using your Kindle and then, it will barely charge at all. This also means leaving your PC or laptop on whenever you want to charge the Kindle. There are non-Kindle chargers available on Amazon and I will be getting myself one pretty quickly.

Covers are a must!! I have a lovely purple cover for my Kindle but I paid an insane price for it in Waterstones because I was impatient and couldn’t wait for one to come from Amazon, where they are available for a much better price (non-Kindle branded covers anyway). Without a cover, your Kindle will get scratched quickly and I wouldn’t advise taking it anywhere without a cover, especially if you are putting it in a handbag.

Final Thoughts 
While there are a few little niggles I have with the Kindle Fire HD, they aren’t enough to make me regret getting one. Ok, so it takes a while to charge – this can be fixed with a plug charger. The books cannot be sorted – fixed by deleting from the Kindle and being kept in Cloud storage on the Amazon website once you have read the book. This tablet has so many good features to it and considering the price, I am so glad I (or my fiancé) never splashed out for the iPad or Samsung Galaxy.

Lady of Desire by Gaelen Foley


About the book
Lady of Desire is the fourth book in the Knight Miscellany series by Gaelen Foley. The book was published on 7th July 2011 by Piatkus and it is 352 pages long.

Plot
All her life, Jacinda Knight has been walking on egg shells, not wanting to follow in her mother's footsteps. Her mother was notorious was having many affairs and earned herself the name 'Hawkscliffe Harlot'. Unlike her siblings who are able to marry whoever they want, Jacinda is about to be part of an arranged marriage that she is desperate to get out of, mainly because she knows she will end up being exactly like her mother. Determined to live her own life, she runs away and defies her brother but really, she isn't as tough as she thinks. Jacinda doesn't make it very far before she gets her purse snatched and finds herself in a den of thieves, led by her saviour, Billy Blade 'King of Thieves'.

Billy tries to keep up the tough guy act in front of Jacinda but he can feel the chemistry between them. Luring her real identity out of her, he is determined to be the good guy, knowing who her brothers are but before he takes her home, he manages to steal a kiss. Once home, Jacinda is beside herself, yearning for some more excitement and definitely more of Billy Blade but when William Rackford turns up, her feelings are confused. She can’t help but think she and Rackford have met before, but where from?

What I thought
This was the first of Foley's books that I read and it was the one that got me into liking this genre. Everything about the story screams danger and excitement but the romance makes it a bit softer than you originally think it is.

Much like Lord of Fire, Foley takes the story into places darker than the normal setting of the ballroom in order to get the drama right but each time; she manages to come up with something more interesting. Gangs of thieves are much more my kind of thing rather than the weird orgy parties that are in Lord of Fire.

Billy Blade aka William Rackford was one of the most interesting characters that I had the pleasure of reading about for a long time. When we first meet him, he is a thief and the leader of a notorious gang but you could instantly tell from the way that he speaks and acts around Jacinda that there is something more to him. I loved the idea that he had a hidden past, one better than where he ended up but he didn't want to acknowledge or accept it. His personality was really interesting because he seemed to find it really easy to be the bad guy in front of his gang but it was like he let his guard down quite quickly with Jacinda. It was lovely to see that he was so concerned (and scared for himself) when he found out who she really was because of her family name. He knew exactly what her brothers would do if they found him in a compromising situation with her. The thing that really sets Billy apart from other historical romance heroes is that he isn't anything like them at all. He doesn't know his way around a dance floor, he doesn't exactly have manners and he has tattoos and he isn't afraid to be himself at all.

I wasn't too sure what to make of Jacinda to begin with. I could totally understand that she didn't want any part of this arranged marriage but to run away, all on her own, was so stupid. It was obvious that she was a spoiled member of the ton and she really didn't know anything outside of her own world so her getting into trouble was bound to happen. Even when she gets taken into Billy's lair, she is still adamant that she is a strong, tough and independent girl but Billy could see right through her. However, I did like that once she had a little taste of danger and excitement, she wanted more, even though it could have come back on her really bad which is exactly what she didn't want. Jacinda tried to prove that she was no innocent little miss but Billy wasn't having any of it and put her in her place quickly.

As in most of the Knight books, the other siblings come into the story at some point but I think they had more to do with the story in this one compared to the others. Jacinda is the only girl in the family so each brother was very protective of her which was lovely to see, even if they didn't really have her best interests at heart sometimes.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Black Spring by Alison Croggon


About the book
Black Spring is a young adult novel by Alison Croggon. It was inspired by Wuthering Heights by Charlotte Bronte. The book will be released on 3rd January 2013 and published by Walker. Thanks to the publisher for providing me with an ARC for review.

Synopsis (Taken from the back of the book)
When Oskar Hammel seeks refuge in the grim Northern Plateau, he discovers a patriarchal society where vendetta holds sway and wizards enforce the code of blood and vengeance. Through a shocking encounter with the brooding Damek and his wilful young wife, Lina, Hammel uncovers a story of destructive longing and possessive desire beyond his bleakest imaginings.

What I thought
Although there have been quite a lot of reinventions of classic books released over the past two years or so, I haven’t read any of them. I don’t know why, they just didn’t pique my interest – until this book came along. I have to be honest here and say that I absolutely hated Wuthering Heights. I didn’t understand the large chunks in Yorkshire dialect and I found it quite boring overall. Anyway, I thought that Black Spring sounded like an interesting reinvention and I was hoping it would change my mind about Wuthering Heights.

Black Spring is told from multiple narratives, the first being Hammel, a man wanting to get away from busy city life. He decides to go away to the Northern Plateau where people have a completely different way of life. After a long time travelling, he finds his accommodation and realises he may be quite far out of his depth. After a meeting with the owner of the house he is staying in, housekeeper Anna begins to tell Hammel the story of Damek and Lina. I really enjoyed the way that this book was split into different narratives. By beginning with Hammel, we get to understand why the story is being told, with Anna we get a perspective of someone that has been there through it all and then with Lina, we get glimpses into her life.

As Anna gets into the story of Damek and Lina, Croggan’s dark and gothic writing style really stands out. Everything about this book was creepy, a little scary at times and definitely disturbing. Set in a world where wizards are ok but witches aren’t and where a long running vendetta rules what people do, there is plenty to be interested in rather than the love story which is so well known from Wuthering Heights. In fact, I liked the sub plots and background information much more interesting than Damek and Lina. Because of this, I do wish that there had been more about the witches and why they were supposed to be killed at birth. I wanted to know more of the witches and wizards and more about what they could actually do, which was something which was lacking for me. 

Getting to hear Damek and Lina’s story right from the beginning made them easier to relate to. I can’t remember where the story really starts in Wuthering Heights as I read it so long ago but I didn’t find Cathy and Heathcliff as likeable as these two characters. I also think that the language used made understanding their love for each other much easier than in Wuthering Heights. I remember not understanding any of the large chunks written in a Yorkshire dialect and skipped right past them, probably missing out on something I needed to know. Croggan doesn’t say what is happening with Damek and Lina explicitly but all of the clues are there and they are much easier to pick up on. I felt like I understood this love story much more than I did with Cathy and Heathcliff which is why I think I liked this book so much more.

Black Spring was a wonderful, refreshing take on Wuthering Heights with unique and exciting additions to such a well-known story. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one and considering I hated Wuthering Heights, I wasn’t expecting to like it quite as much. 

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Until You by Judith McNaught


About the book
Until You is third book in the Westmoorland series by Judith McNaught. It was published by Pocket on 1st April 1995 and it is 448 pages long.

Plot
Sheridan Bromleigh was hired to look after one of her students and an heiress on the journey from America to England. The student, Charise Lancaster, is betrothed and they are going to England so that she can meet her fiancé. Charise is a bit fanciful and when their boat visits a port, she runs away and marries another man. Sheridan is left to consider the consequences and what she is going to say to Lord Burleton.

Instead of Lord Burleton standing on their pier waiting for the arrival of his fiancé, Stephen Westmoreland stands there instead. Stephen has never seen Charise before so he has no idea what to expect and assumes that Sheridan is Charise. He begins to explain to her that an awful accident has happened and her husband to be is dead but as soon as she begins to speak, she walks straight into the path of a cargo load that hits her on the head.

When Sheridan finally wakes up, she finds herself in unfamiliar surroundings... Stephan's mansion but she has bigger problems than that. She has no clue who she is, where she is or why. Everyone is calling her Miss Lancaster so she assumes that must be who she is, even though she has a strange feeling, thinking otherwise. Stephen feels extremely guilty about what happened and is determined to be there for Sheridan even when the pair don't get on very well to begin with. Sheridan is beginning to feel at home with Stephen, really believing that they have a chance of true love but when the real Charise turns up, everything she thinks she knows is thrown out of the window.

What I thought
I was really looking forward to reading this book because I loved Whitney, my love so much. The introduction of Stephen was amazing and I immediately loved him but he wasn't the same man in this book. Somewhere in the middle, he turned into quite a cold man who hardly anyone seemed to like, which was nothing like the man we met in the previous book. Although you could see that he genuinely cared about what he did to begin with, his actions towards Sheridan weren't justified and I don't really understand why he treat her the way that he did to begin with. It was only towards the end of the book, once he stopped being arrogant and nasty, that I started to actually warm to him a little bit.

Sheridan on the other hand was fantastic which was hugely helped by the plot. I could really feel the confusion that she was experiencing and not knowing how to handle the situation that she found herself in once she had woken up. Sheridan was easy to like from the very beginning because nothing that happened was her fault. I felt extremely sorry for her throughout the book because Stephen was hardly ever nice to her and more often than not, he was incredibly mean to her, which she didn't deserve at all. Sheridan was quite a brave character. I think that if I were in her position and couldn't remember anything about myself, I would have freaked out a lot more than she did. Once she took on the identity of Charise, she did everything that she possibly could to fit in and make Stephen's life easier.

The story on a whole was quite good but it wasn't one that I loved as much as McNaught's other books. As soon as I started reading, I pretty much guessed the ending. The general romance aspects were there, like in any other book in this genre, but I also managed to guess how the conflict was going to happen. I love to have at least a bit of mystery in these books, something to keep me guessing a little bit even when I know the main characters are going to end up together but this one didn't really give me anything like that.

The minor characters were a nice addition to this story and apart from Sheridan, they were what kept me from hating this book. I enjoyed the appearance of Clayton and Whitney because it was lovely to see that Whitney wanted to return the favour to Stephen from the outcome of the previous book.

Overall, this book was just OK but it doesn't come close to the other amazing books by this author. If you have never read anything by her before then I urge you not to start with this one.


Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Waiting on Wednesday



"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly event, hosted by Jill from Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

All The Broken Pieces by Cindi Madsen



What if your life wasn’t your own?

Liv comes out of a coma with no memory of her past and two distinct, warring voices inside her head. Nothing, not even her reflection, seems familiar. As she stumbles through her junior year, the voices get louder, insisting she please the popular group while simultaneously despising them. But when Liv starts hanging around with Spencer, whose own mysterious past also has him on the fringe, life feels complete for the first time in, well, as long as she can remember.

Liv knows the details of the car accident that put her in the coma, but as the voices invade her dreams, and her dreams start feeling like memories, she and Spencer seek out answers. Yet the deeper they dig, the less things make sense. Can Liv rebuild the pieces of her broken past, when it means questioning not just who she is, but what she is?

Publisher: Entangled Teen
Released: 3rd January 2013

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Book to Film Review: Stardust


About the film 
Stardust, a fantasy film, was released in 2007. It is rated PG due to some fantasy violence and is 128 minutes long. The film is based on the book of the same name by Neil Gaiman. The script was written by Jane Goldman (Jonathan Ross's wife) and Matthew Vaughn and the narration is by Sir Ian McKellen. The film had a $70 million budget and went on to make over $135 million at the box office world wide. 

Plot
In a town called Wall, (because of the huge wall spanning the length with a guard preventing anyone from crossing over) a young man is desperate for adventure and manages to get across the wall. He meets a woman that has been kidnapped by a witch and they manage to spend 1 night together. 9 months later, a baby boy is left on his doorstep. 

18 years later, the baby is all grown up. Tristan has fallen deeply in love with Victoria, the town beauty. One night a star falls from the sky and he vows to bring it to her for her birthday, so long as she will marry him. The star fell on the other side of the wall but Tristan fails to get past the guard. His father gives Tristan the Babylon candle his mother left him as a baby, he decides to find his mother with the candle but as he lights the candle and it transports him to the crater where the star fell in Stormhold because he was thinking about that instead. Instead of what Tristan was expecting, the star is actually a woman. 

Yvaine (the star) is beautiful and Tristan connects himself to Yvaine with the enchanted chain that his father gave him and promises to return her to the sky after taking her to Victoria first. As easy as this sounds, it doesn't turn out that way. Three old, haggared witches are also looking for Yvaine so they can cut out her heart and use it to keep their youth. As well as Mormo, Empusa and Lamia (the witches), the Princes of Stormhold are also looking for her because at the same time the star fell, he threw his ruby into the sky and it fused with Yvaine. The King states on his deathbed that 'he of Royal blood' who finds the ruby will succeed him. 

On the way back to the wall, Tristan and Yvaine meet some interesting characters who both try to help and hinder their mission. Will the witches and the princes catch up with them, who will succeed the King, and will Tristan get his girl? 

What I thought
Stardust has a fantastic mix of American and British actors and it just goes to show not all of the great films only come from America. Even though Claire Danes was great as Yvaine, and im glad the other two actors turned down the role, she wasn't my favourite. It was nice to see the main girl not be a typical damsel in distress and she showed her feisty side every chance she got. 

Michelle Pheiffer was great as Lamia. I thought she played the crazed, youth hungry witch really well and as well as being quite serious in her role, she came across as very comical when things didnt go her way. The effects and make up were really imaginative and I loved seeing how Lamia changed every time she aged a little bit more. 


I loved Robert De Niro's character, Captain Shakespere. He plays a great pirate with a secret and he had me laughing all of the way through his scenes. I'm glad the part went to De Niro instead of Jack Nicholson because the part was made for him. 

As most of the film was filmed in many different locations around the UK, it has a great British feel to it, unlike some American films that try to get the British feel and atmosphere wrong. As well as being mainly shot in the UK, one of our biggest boy bands, Take That wrote the theme music 'Rule the world' after seeing a cut of the movie before it's release. The song went on to reach #2 in the charts and the band recently sang it at the Olympic closing ceremony. 

Before watching this film, I thought I was going to hate it, thinking it was just a kids film. I was very wrong. Stardust is exciting, interesting and emotional. I even cried at one point. There is a fair bit of fantasy violence throughout and because of this it might not be suitable for young children but other than that, it is pretty much a family film. Although there is some romance in the film, it isn't over done so it isn't just a chick flick. I know quite a few guys that were suprised by this film and liked it more than they though.

Monday, 19 November 2012

To Sir Phillip, With Love by Julia Quinn


About the book
To Sir Phillip, with love is the fifth book in the historical romance Bridgerton series and it follows of the story of Eloise. The book was published by Piatkus on 2nd November 2006 and it is 384 pages long.

Plot
After the death of his wife, Marina, Sir Phillip receives a condolence letter from Eloise as she was related to Marina. Sir Phillip replies like a true gentleman, thanking her for the note but then Eloise replies again and the two begin a weird friendship through correspondence.

Eloise Bridgerton has always believed that she will grow old as a spinster and has given up all hope of ever getting married due to her best friend, Penelope, marrying her brother, Colin. She feels a little bit sorry for herself and only a couple of hours after the end of the fourth book, Eloise decides to live a bit dangerously. Sir Phillip recently brought up the idea of marriage, even though they have never met, so she decides to pack and bag, travel halfway across the country and go to visit him.

Sir Phillip is shocked by Eloise's arrival but decides to try to make the best out of an awkward situation. He wants nothing more than a quiet life in the country but he also needs a wife, a mother for his two children and someone to manage his estates and he thinks that from the letters, Eloise will be perfect for all three jobs. Eloise only goes to visit Sir Phillip to determine whether or not they will suit but when she arrives, she is quite put out by his attitude. He is not even close to being romantic or charming and he is more grumpy than anything else. Even though she believes that he isn't the right man for her, there is definitely something between them and rather than be alone, she thinks that they will be able to work together to gain a mutual respect for each other.

What I thought
I was always looking forward to Eloise's story as she has some very quirky characteristics. I'm sure there wouldn't have been many women in the ton, from such a family as hers, that believed that they would never marry but that is exactly the way that she thought. She has always known her own mind and knows exactly what she wants and when she sets her mind on something, she goes right for it. Although she is serious quite a lot, she has her moments of comedy and manages to come out with some really funny and delightful things that I would have never expected from her. I really liked how Eloise would always try to make the most out of a bad situation and especially with Phillip, she tried to make things as good and comfortable for them both as she could.

Like most of the heroes in this series, Sir Phillip also has a troubled background. He had a bad childhood himself and doesn't want anything similar for his own children which is why he decides that he needs a new wife for himself and mother for them. Even though he desperately wants a happy family, ghosts from his past come back to haunt him and get in the way. There always seems to be something that haunts Phillip and it takes him a long time to get over this.

Eloise and Phillip are quite the opposite and it was quite funny when they finally met because they didn't quite know how to react to one another. While the couple grow closer all of the time, they also gain a large amount of friction because they cannot agree with each other on anything. It is quite obvious to the reader that they will have their happy ever after because that is the nature of the genre but the story tries to make you think something else. Their happiness is prolonged and they have to go through a lot on their journey and this is where the book seems quite strung out at times. I felt like some of it wasn't necessary at all and pages could have been used in a better way.

Quite a few of the Bridgerton siblings make an appearance in Eloise's story but then what else would you expect, considering that she ran away to another man's house on her own. The brothers make a huge entrance and demand to know what is going on and because of this, there is a lot of funny dialogue. The brothers can't seem to agree on anything either, especially when it comes to their hot headed sister. Quinn has a fantastic way of writing dialogue and it always seems real to me. Ok, there are the occasional out of place/ cheesy 'darlings' but I can forgive them. The main dialogue is always witty and funny but serious when it needs to be.

Phillip's children were another great addition to this story. The little rascals are very mischievous and they want nothing to do with Eloise when she arrives. They try everything that they can think of to get rid of her, even if that means playing some cruel practical jokes on her. What they don't bargain for is Eloise's sternness and they are a bit shocked when she puts them in their places.

This is one of the books in the series that is a lot more serious at times than the others and that is mostly due to Phillip's part of the story. Marina suffered with depression and attempted to kill herself so the beginning is quite sad but it soon changes and becomes a funny, romantic story. Not my favourite in the series but it is still a worthwhile read.


Sunday, 18 November 2012

Film Review: Star Trek XI




About the film
Star Trek is a science fiction film which was released in 2009 and directed by J. J. Abrams who is well known for TV shows such as Fringe and Lost. The film is rated 12A due to action, violence and some brief sexual content. Star Trek has a run time of 127 minutes. 

Plot 
The film begins when George Kirk takes over as captain of his ship but dies in a last stand against a strange time-travelling alien vessel. The other vessel is looking for Ambassador Spock, who, at that moment in time is actually only a child who is being bullied for being half human. The day that George Kirk dies is also the day his son James is born. 

Years later, James has grown into quite the trouble maker and after getting into a huge fight, he is challenged by Captain Christopher Pike to make something better of himself, something that his father would be proud of. However, James makes a few mistakes and isn't living up to the expectations made of him. When there is an emergency at Vulcan, James finds himself on the USS Enterprise even though he isn't supposed to be and finds himself in a situation very similar to his father's but will he suffer the same fate? 

What I thought
I'd been wanting to watch this film since it came out at the cinema three years ago and it's taken me this long to get around to it. I bought it recently is Sainsbury's for only £3. I haven't seen any other Star Trek films although my mum's ex-boyfriend used to watch the TV shows all the time so I did know the characters beforehand. 

On the front of the DVD box, there is a quote that claims this is the best action film of the year (2009 obviously). As earlier stated, J. J. Abrams is the director of this film and due to some of his other works, I was unsure about how this would work out. Abrams is known for thoughtful and complex storylines and with this film, it is all about the action and excitement. I'm so happy to say that Abrams gets it spot on with Star Trek. From the very beginning of the film, it is clear to see why these claims were made. With a huge budget, there is plenty to keep action fans happy. As this is a film set mainly in space, there are some fantastic scenes with fighting ships, explosions and all kind of things flying around. With this film, Abrams proves that he is a director of many talents and someone that can pull off a wide range of projects. 

The plot is quite simple, although it seems a little confusing to begin with. This confusion is mainly down to the time-travel plot but once you get your head around who everyone is and when they're from, it all becomes quite clear. I really liked the way that James Kirk's story was intertwined with his father's and that there was a question of him having the same kind of fate. What was especially good about the plot was that it didn't take anything away from the great effects that this film has. It is easy enough to follow once you get into it and it is really entertaining. This is where Star Trek is unlike other things that Abrams has done. There are no weird and strange complicated sub plots which are hard to follow but instead there is only a basic but extremely good story. 

The casting for this film is really what makes it so special though. Quite unknown to me is Chris Pine who plays James Kirk. Although I hadn't seen him in anything before, he does a wonderful job in this role as a rugged and quite untamed character. His delivery of lines was very convincing and while there isn't too much emotion needed, when it was, Pine did well. He has a great chemistry with all other actors involved and appears to be very much a part of the Star Trek family. As a character, James was very likeable due to his past experiences and what he goes through to become someone better in the film. 

As good as Pine was, he is easily outshined by Zachary Quinto who plays Spock. Leonard Nimoy, the original Spoke, also has a role in this film as Spock Prime. It was a really nice touch that the original actor was involved with the film and also that Quinto had the opportunity to work so closely with him in order to perfect his own role. Quinto really throws himself into the role of Spock as he prepares for a long time before acting began and also shaved those massive eyebrows which he is so well-known for. Although Quinto brings back to somewhat stiff and unemotional characteristics of Spock, he also breathes new life into such a famous character. I really think that Quinto was amazing in this role and it is so far from Sylar from Heroes or Chad in American Horror Story. 

Other cast members unfortunately take a little bit of a back seat to these two main characters. Zoe Saldana plays Uhura, fellow Starfleet member and love interest while Simon Pegg plays (beam me up) Scotty. Both do a really good job but they're just outshined by the story, effects and other cast members. It was nice to see Pegg step slightly out of his comfort zone though in such a big film in comparison to the British films that we are used to seeing him in. Here, he also breaks his stereotypical character expectations which was a good thing and it helped to show his diversity. 

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this film and really can't fault it. Star Trek was everything that I was hoping it would be and more and I highly recommend it!