The Clasp by Sloane Crosley These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik

I Don't Care, I Love It!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

I've been listening to quite a lot of music lately - music with words as opposed to film soundtracks. Lately I've been going through phases where I cannot even begin to think about putting my headphones on and then all of a sudden I'll hear a song on Soccer AM or something, look it up, and then get lost going from song to song. 

Anyway, here's a taster of what's on repeat at the moment. I don't really write all that much outside of NaNoWriMo- nothing of substance anyway- I just don't seem to be able to find the motivation without a deadline. However, listening to some of these songs, I've had all sorts of characters (some new, some ghosts of Christmas past) floating around behind the eyes, so who knows? Perhaps I'll try Camp NaNoWriMo this July - goodness knows I've been feeling nostalgic since watching that Bug Juice opening.

Oh, and the latest Vampire Weekend album is AMAZING! 

Perfect Scoundrels by Ally Carter

Monday, May 20, 2013

Publisher: Hachette Children's Books
Format: Paperback
Rating: 4/5

Kat Bishop comes from a family comprised of the best thieves and con artists in the world. Although, more recently, Kat has been using her thieving skills for good by returning Holocaust artwork to the rightful owners. However, this time around, help is required a little closer to home. W.W Hale is Kat’s rich boyfriend who uses his resources to bankroll their operations. When Hale’s grandmother unexpectedly passes away, he suddenly finds himself in charge of the billion dollar Hale Industires empire. Kat doesn’t belong in this world and is all but ready to leave until somebody points out the obvious – why is a seventeen year old running a huge corporation? Something must be wrong. So, with the help of her extended family, Kat tries to save her beloved Hale.

Some books just require sound effects to convey how you feel. When I finished Perfect Scoundrels my first reaction was: eeeee awwww oooooh! As I mentioned the other day, I do love the Heist Society series.  I feel the same way after reading these books as I did with Gossip Girl and It Girl. This book was just as fun as the others but also a little bit more mature. After all, Kat and Hale are together and there’s a family death to deal with. I couldn’t help but notice the Batman feel to the Hale story, such as the gadgets man who brought to mind Morgan Freeman's Lucius Fox, Marcus the British butler and Michael Caine's Alfred, and then obviously the whole young man running a massive company hoo-ha. However, this doesn't take away from the story at all. Perhaps they're there for a reason - who knows what's in store for Hale in the next book!

I think we should talk about Kat though. I really like this character. She’s not your typical girl and she’s not the fake atypical girl (you know in some books where the girl is supposed to be different but she is actually the tallest most beautiful and funny misfit. The 'Manic Pixe Dreamgirl' if you will). Kat Bishop is very quiet for a protagonist. We’re never told much about what she looks like and we don’t hear her prattling on mindlessly. Instead, Kat is a doer - always on the move in the shadows. I think Ally Carter had to make her protagonist this way or else the whole premise would collapse. A know it all, perfect girl + all the heists and jet setting in the novel, which is obviously quite unbelievable, would just push the reader over the edge. Kat is the calm amidst the chaos.

Hale is a well crafted character too. Where Kat is a behind the scenes kind of girl, Hale is confident and charming. I like that he faultered a little and had to lean on Kat in this book and I like that she stood up to the plate. Perfect Scoundrels is a great addition to the Heist Society series – I have absolutely no complaints. So, I'll leave you with the song that was playing just as I finished the book because it fit the end scene perfectly.

The Not So Simple Life

Friday, May 17, 2013

I've always been a big fan of Nicole Richie. I remember wanting to cut my hair like hers when she chopped it off - luckily I didn't because it wouldn't have suited me at all! I love that she's completely rebranded herself and is miles away from her Simple Life self. Nicole Richie is proof that people grow up in their own time and space (so we should all lay off Miley and co. but that's another story). Anyway, have you seen her web series Candidly Nicole? Take a look here

There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to the content so far but it's highly watchable. I never thought I cared about flowers but I was scarily engrossed in that episode! The latest episode was entertaining too, as she talks style with friends Erin Foster and Ben Lyons (remember when Ben was the film guy on the Daily 10? And Sal Masekela! I used to love their reports from Comic Con. Gosh those were the days.)

I think the reason it works very well is because Nicole isn't a try-hard - she's one of those rare, effortlessly cool people. She isn't trying to climb the ranks with this web series, she's not a preachy 'mocktress', she doesn't pimp out her kids or partner or even her dad, and her advice is much more relatable to someone my age than, say, GOOP. I had to unsubscribe from GOOP because it was just getting too depressing but I do have a soft spot for Gwyneth Paltrow. I hope Nicole expands her lifestyle brand more because I'd happily sign up to a newsletter from her if it featured all these little bits of advice. 

So, if you're looking for some fun hints and tips - check out Candidly Nicole. 

Top Ten Tuesday - Tough Subjects

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's theme is books dealing with tough subjects. 

1. The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick - Although the film made the story look like a romantic comedy, this book is really about Pat trying to survive. It is also about a difficult father and son relationship, a mother's love, grief and much more. Yes, there is some dark humour running throughout but it certainly has no place on last week's light-hearted top ten list. 

2. Stolen by Lucy Christopher - This book is about a British girl who is kidnapped on a layover in Bangkok and ends up in the Australian outback. Again, this is a tale of survival with a dash of Stockholm Syndrome to really confuse everybody. I'm sure this will be one of those books everybody has to read in secondary school- and quite rightly. 

3. Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork - Oh, I have such a soft spot for this book. Marcelo is one of my favourite characters. The main tough subject is Marcelo's autism and how he deals with 'the real world' whilst interning at his father's law firm. He must come to terms with the way people treat each other, injustice, God, and obviously, love. 

4. The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder - Of all the recent YA novels featuring characters with terminal cancer, this was my favourite. Just like the cover of the book, there's a beautiful tint to this story.

5. Your Voice in My Head by Emma Forrest - A heartbreaking memoir from Emma Forrest about her journey thus far living with her mental illness. It's just blow after blow after blow and it makes you wonder how one person can deal with so much. However, as with SLP, there's some dark humour in there too.  

6. Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides - This tour de force deals with the immigrant experience, relationships, family and war. All of this is told from the point of view of the main character, Cal, who is a hermaphrodite. As well as being a saga spanning generations, this book really makes you think.  

7. Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr - Religion and faith, a missing person, an absent father, an alcoholic mother, and loneliness are just a few of the tough subjects dealt with in this fairly short but expertly crafted story. 

8. The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney - In this novel, Alex is raped at her boarding school and takes her case to the school's underground student court. In the wake of all that has happened in Steubenville (yes, even us UK folk heard about it) this gem of a novel is more relevant than ever.  

9. Some Girls Are / Cracked Up To Be by Courtney Summers - Everything I have read by Courtney Summers has been thought provoking and even a little disturbing at times. Some Girls Are is like Mean Girls from hell and Cracked Up To Be is quite simply one of my favourite contemporary YA's ever. 

10. When God Was A Rabbit by Sarah Winman - Here we have to deal with the man next door, survivor's guilt,  9/11, and sibling relationships all told in Elly's magical voice. 

Mini Reviews

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Bellwether Revivals by Benjamin Wood

What’s the deal? Oscar is happily going about his business as a care worker when a chance encounter at evensong drags him into the world of a privileged group of Cambridge students, spearheaded by Iris and Eden Bellwether. However, whilst pursuing a relationship with Iris, Oscar soon notices that Eden’s eccentricity has a more sinister undertone. Determined to help his beloved Iris cure her brother, Oscar finds himself further entangled in the Bellwether siblings’ complicated relationship. 

Any good? The idea was intriguing and even though there was quite a bit of psychological chatter on the topic of NPD, I loved that you never quite knew if Eden actually had powers. However, I think the pace could have been quicker. This type of book shouldn’t be a slow burner. The scenes of Eden ‘performing’ were creepy and exciting but then there would be fifty pages of Oscar and Iris chatting in bed or doing something else unexciting. I wish it had been as swift as Before I Go To Sleep. Nevertheless, it was a good novel and I will keep an eye out for more Benjamin Wood books in the future.

Should I get it? If you like Brideshead Revisited or The Secret History (although I can't say for sure because I still haven’t managed to finish this one). 

Legend by Marie Lu

What’s the deal? June is the brightest student in the Republic and destined for a glittering military career – like her brother and guardian, Metias. Day is the most wanted criminal, a vigilante righting the wrongs of the Republic in the slums. However, one of Day’s quests for justice goes wrong and June’s brother is caught in the crossfire. This sends June on the hunt for Day, although what she finds when she meets the most dangerous person in the Republic is not exactly what she expected and she learns some hard facts about her employers. 

Any good? It took me a while to get over what happened to Metias in the first few chapters of the book (he could have been an interesting character!) but overall this was a fun, quick and easy read. I thought June and Day seemed older than fifteen but that wasn’t too much of a problem - it will probably make more sense in the later books. I’m looking forward to getting the other books in this series. The test is always the second book, right?

Should I get it? If you really like dystopian YA books. I don't think Legend is strong enough to convert anyone to the genre though. 

Exposure by Mal Peet

What’s the deal? Otello is the best footballer in South America. Desmerelda is a Shakira type pop star. Otello is black. Desi is white. When the two meet, it is love at first sight. However, in the still openly racist area of South America in which they live, this is a problem. To help them navigate the heated political turmoil their union has caused, Diego Mendosa steps in but are his motives pure? 

Any good? I ashamedly admit I have not read Othello but I liked this well written story. It took a while for everything to come together – there were so many secondary characters. The only thing I don’t understand is why Diego hated Otello so much – why did he want to bring down one of his own clients so badly? Was it just for sport? I liked the side stories with Bush, Bianca and Felicia and also the police captain – I would read separate books about them. I think this is a good read in the build up to the Brazilian world cup. I don’t think the story was set in Brazil itself but we all know there is a problem of racisim there and obviously the politics of football. Now I need to go and listen to or watch Othello – I think a commenter on Celebitchy said there’s a good recording of Chiwetel Ejiofer/ Ewan McGregor’s version. 

Should I get it? If you like modern day retellings of The Bard’s greatest hits. 

Heart-Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne

What’s the deal? Emily Koll is in a young offendors institution. Emily Koll is the daughter of gangster Harry Koll who is in prison for killing his rival. Like father, like daughter then, yes? Well, Emily takes the opportunity to set the story straight. 

Any good? I really, really liked this book. It was raw and punchy and complex and very…London. The kids spoke like kids and the characters reflected the London I know. The story had twists and turns galore. In an interview at the end, Tanya Byrne said originally the story was going to be told from the perspective of Nancy but Emily’s story is much richer. There’s more opportunity to get a reaction from Emily's narrative. Sid and Nancy were accessibly cool characters – those kids who were friends with everyone at school. My only gripe is that I wish it had been a little bit longer – I wanted to know more about Harry’s gangster life so that there was even greater motive on Emily’s part – at least from the reader’s perspective. 

Should I get it? If you want an insight into teen life in London with a criminal twist. 

Top Ten Tuesday - Light Hearted Reads

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's theme is books to read when you need something light and fun. 

1. The Jessica Darling Series by Megan McCafferty - I love these books so, so much. It is a coming of age series full of genuine characters, some proper laugh out loud moments, excellent music and even a catchphrase/tagline of sorts. 

2. Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella - Forget the film, these books are hilarious. Becky is a hoot and I love how very British it is. Not in a Downton way. More like Jules' family in Bend It Like Beckham. 

3. Finding Cassie Crazy by Jaclyn Moriarty - (Also called The Year of Secret Assignments outside of the UK and Aus) This is one of my favourite books of all time. I wanted this to happen at my school so badly! 

4. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling - A collection of essays from everybody's new imaginary BFF. I laughed so much whilst reading this. If you haven't read it I urge you to get a copy right away!

5. Gallagher Girls Series by Ally Carter - This series has spies AND boarding school, what more could you want? I love Heist Society too, which is good if you're looking for an Ocean's 11 by way of the CW style of book. 

6. This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper - Even though the subject matter is not light hearted at all (a death in the family), the characters and the series of events poor Judd is subjected to are handled with dry wit and heart. Oh and there's a film adaptation on the way too - just look at that cast!

7. Endless Summer by Jennifer Echols - Perfect summer book. Love triangles, switcheroos, and plenty of sun make for a playful read. Think I'll read it again when I finally manage to go on holiday. 

8. The Nanny Diaries by Emma McClauhglin and Nicola Kraus - As with Shopaholic, forget the film adaptation, the book is much better. Perfect for fans of The Devil Wears Prada. 

9. The It Girl Series by Cecily von Ziegesar - I was tempted to put Gossip Girl here but I think this series fits the theme better. Also, I prefer the ensemble characters in this series. Obviously, nobody can replace B & S but Callie, Brett and Tinsley together make for a far more interesting friendship group. Be warned, they are quite addictive. 

10. Queen of Babble by Meg Cabot - I like most of Meg Cabot's books but I've re-read this series the most. Lizzie is an extremely likeable character and reminds me a little of Becky in Shopaholic. 

Cultural Nourishment

Monday, May 6, 2013

Over the past few weeks I've seen and heard some brilliant work, so I thought I'd share the highlights. 

Peter Moffat's The Village is the best thing the BBC has offered in a long, long time. I was left speechless after almost each of the six episodes. To cut a long and complicated story short, The Village is going to be a huge project depicting life in the same village over the course of almost one hundred years, as seen through the eyes of Bert Middleton. It is supposed to be the British answer to the German drama Heimat. This first series was set during WWI and tackled pretty much every issue under the sun from class wars, to conscientious objection, to mental illness. The acting was simply phenomenal. People were down on the series in the beginning, claiming it was too depressing for Sunday night but life's not always a party, particularly during wartime. The loyal fans stuck with it and we were rewarded with a work of art that will no doubt be watched for many years to come. I for one hope the BBC show the final episode again this Remembrance Sunday. 

I don't know much about the Kennedy's but I remembered reading something about this documentary on Lainey Gossip at some point, so when it came on Sky Atlantic I taped it for a later date. I finally watched it a few weekends ago and was blown away. It was a very inspirational and poignant documentary and Rory Kennedy's love for her family and admiration for her mother was palpable. I am now on the look out for a good biography on Ethel and Robert Kennedy. 

Last weekend, I made my way down to Sundance London. I didn't see any of the films on offer but made sure I was there for this talk. It was much busier than I expected but then once inside they asked how many present were composers and at least 1/3 put up their hands, so that was understandable. David Arnold (Stargate is one of my all time favourite themes and it was amazing to hear him explain pitching the sound as Lawrence of Arabia in space because it is!) talked about his life and discussed some of his more famous works such as Independence Day and James Bond. Overall, it was a fascinating talk and interesting to hear about the process of composing for film. 

Looking forward to...
I haven't been to the theatre in a while so I am hoping to get tickets for:

What have you been watching/listening to lately?