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

NaNoWriMo 2013 : It Is Decided

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Ladies and gentlemen, fellow NaNoers, good writerly folk, those who just stumbled across this by accident...I hereby announce my early retirement from the 2013 race. 

I prepped hard this year. Maybe too hard and it has just become too much. Last year, I had no plan, no ideas, nothing (click here if you would like to remind yourselves). This year, I had it all mapped out like TFL but alas, I just cannot do it. I cannot deal with the anxiety of writing 1,667 words per day on top of everything else. Instead, I will attempt to at least make a start on what I had so meticulously planned and let it grow organically. Plus, look what happened last year - here - I missed FOUR episodes of The Good Wife. Those of you in the know will know that cannot happen this year. Not with all that is going on with Lockhart Gardner/ Florrick Agos. 

Anyhoo, I wish everyone taking part the best of luck. I will cheer you on with mucho gusto from the sidelines and whoop extra loud when you cross the finish line! 

For now, Soph L over and out. 

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Character Names

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's theme is: Top Ten Names I Love. As someone who spends far too much time on Nameberry, I found it very difficult to choose ten names. Usually, if an author has chosen one great name, the majority of their characters will posses great names. Therefore, I’ve chosen ten books with multiple character names that I loved. However, I will warn you, I’m not one for made-up names so there will be no Katniss, Peeta, or Gale - sorry!

  • Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan - Full of posh names that wouldn’t seem out of place on Downton Abbey or Made in Chelsea. Astrid, Felicity, Cecilia, Alistair, Lorena, Peik Lin, and Araminta (my favourite).

  • Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta - I like to read the blog Waltzing Matilda* and it seems as though our mates down under are bold in their name choices. This is often reflected in the Aussie YA I’ve come across. Here we have Raffaela and Chaz Santangelo. 

  • Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead - Although I wasn’t particularly overwhelmed by the story, I did take note of the names. They were relatively ‘normal’ yet seemed distinct. Livia (which I love), Winn, Teddy, Daphne, Dominique, Agatha. 

  • The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson - I was reminded of the names in this book after finding out the young actresses who play Rayna’s daughters on Nashville are called Lennon and Maisy. In this book we have Lennon ‘Lennie’ and Bailey. I like Toby too (even though the name now reminds me of the poor HR guy on The Office). 

  • Gossip Girl and The It Girl by Cecily von Ziegsar  - These books were groundbreaking for me because beforehand, I don’t think I’d read anything with non-traditional names. Fond of surnames for first names and boy’s names for girl’s names, these names definitely helped fuel my name-nerdiness. Blair, Serena, Chuck, Kati, Easy, Tinsley, Brett, Sage, Heath, and Benny (for a girl, which I love!) 

  • Harry Potter by J.K Rowling - Saving the best for last obviously. Dozens of brilliant and wonderful names. Also, J.K Rowling really knew how to put together first names and surnames. Luna Lovegood (my absolute favourite), Justin Finch-Fletchly, Albus, Hermione, Seamus, Rowena, Minerva, Lavender.

Let the rain fall down

Friday, October 18, 2013

I've not been well these past few weeks so once again I'll just say everything I've wanted to say in short form.

Reading, 'riting, and absolutely no 'rithmetic

I've been stopping and starting so many different books these past few weeks. I'll put it down to the illness but I just couldn't get into The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. I thought I'd get out of my reading funk by re-reading something, so I picked up Under the Rose (the second in the Secret Society Girl series, which I absolutely love) but couldn't get into that either. Not even with my casting re-jig with Amy now being played by Katie Cassidy rather than (a younger) Joanna Garcia in my head. Anyway, I've settled down and I'm slowly but surely pushing through The Giver and This Song Will Save Your Life, which are both excellent so far.

I finally read Where the Stars Still Shine and loved it. I will probably review it but then again everyone else’s reviews say what I want to say so who knows. Whilst I have your attention, there's one thing I would like to ask those of you who have read it because I'm having a bit of a moment (shall we put it down to the illness again? Yes, let's do that). At some point, Alex tells Callie the combination to the lock on his boat is the numerical version of his name - 1356. Callie works it out in a beat and he is impressed. Well, either she is a genius or I should hand back my degree. How does that make sense?! Answers on a postcard to the usual address.

In terms of writing, I've had a lot of fun planning my NaNoWriMo 2013 project. Whether or not I actually write it hangs in the balance but I've enjoyed the building process. These characters have been in my head for years, perhaps they're ready now? 

That's Entertainment
  • It’s been (American) football central in our house of late. I've been watching The League, The NFL Show on Saturday morning’s, and I caught some of the UNC/Miami game yesterday even though my adopted CFB team is Alabama because I like to say 'Roll Tide' whenever possible, just like these people.  
  • Also on the tellybox this week - Wins for Survivor, Good Wife (team Diane), and Mindy (ahem, or so I heard). MTV are reshowing all of Laguna Beach (yay, congratulations LC!) and it's still addictive.We are also still highly addicted to Gogglebox in our house. So simple, so funny. 
  • It’s ben a week of Hiddleston/Cumberbatch (and to a lesser extent Fassbender) mania. Aren’t those last names great? I can’t say I'm as obsessed with these fellows as some of you ladies but they all give good interview. However, the highlight has to be Tom Hiddleston throwing shapes in Korea.
  • You guys, we have to pace ourselves. The Oscars aren't until MARCH 2014 thanks to the Winter Olympics, so do we really need to start predicting nominees already? Good news though, Tina and Amy (yes, we’re on first name basis) are back for the Golden Globes 2014.
  • Say what now? Kenan Thompson thinks there aren’t enough funny black women out there. Why do we always throw each other under the bus? Dear Kenan, ever heard the phrase united we stand, divided we fall? 
  • Aww, poor Donald Glover. Seriously though, do you think we have a problem with oversharing these days?
  • US Elle covers have caused a stir. I don’t see the problem with Melissa McCarthy’s cover but some people do. For me, Penelope and her wonderful eyebrows wins everything, everywhere anyway.
  • Dario Marianelli, one of my favourite film composers, is doing a BAFTA talk at the Royal Albert Hall and I want to go so badly but a) it’s on a Monday and b) I don’t fancy going alone.
  • Avicii has grown on me a lot this week. I've also been listening to White Walls by Macklemore and Lorde (like everyone else). 
  • Kacey Musgraves was on Jools Holland. I love her album and this song (Merry Go Round if you get country blocked).

Have a great weekend one and all! Hopefully the weather where you are is a lot brighter than here!

Fire with Fire and The Killing Woods

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Fire with Fire by Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivian

WHAT'S THE DEAL? Lillia, Kat, and Mary are back in the second instalment of the Burn for Burn trilogy. In the wake of the disaster that was Homecoming, the trio try to lay low whilst continuing to exact revenge on their frenemies - most notably Reeve Tabatsky. However, as feelings begin to change and secrets are found out, the girls have to decide whether or not it's worth the trouble. 

ANY GOOD? First of all, I have to say that I really, really want to read Siobhan Vivian's The List but I cannot get hold of it in the UK, what's with that? Now, onto the was brilliant! As I said in my review of Burn for Burn, I love the style of writing - it reminds me of the Earlybird Instagram filter (if that makes sense). I also really like the names of the characters. They're modern but also vintage sounding (Lillia, Mary, Reeve, Rennie). Anyway, the plot was fast paced and engaging and the character development was excellent. All hail Princess Lillia! I must say, it's really nice to have an Asian character as the lead. Also, it was interesting to get more of Kat's backstory with her mother's death and her relationship with Rennie. Oh and we managed to leave Jar Island for a bit too, which was exciting! Mary's story was weird from the beginning and it got hella weird in the end (but in a good way). The ending is a shocker and will leave you reeling and wanting more. I for one cannot wait for the final book of the series. 

ADD TO BASKET? Yes, most definitely but read Burn for Burn first if you haven't already. 

The Killing Woods by Lucy Christopher

WHAT'S THE DEAL? Emily's dad suffers from PTSD and regularly disappears into the woods near their house. One evening, he returns with the lifeless body of Emily's classmate Ashley Parker. Fast forward a few months and everyone is convinced Emily's dad is a murderer, including himself. However, Emily is not convinced and tries to get help from Ashley's boyfriend, Damon. It soon becomes clear that Damon knows more than he is letting on - even if he's not so sure.

ANY GOOD? A taut, dark, psychological thriller. If you thought Stolen threw out some twists and turns then you need to read The Killing Woods. The pacing was on point and I liked that the story seemed to go round and round, getting more confusing and frenetic, just like Emily in the woods searching for answers. None of the characters were particularly likeable (Emily had quite a few shrill, Carrie from Homeland style moments) but I don't think that matters in this kind of book. It was also quite a believable story as I'm sure there are young people who play similar games. Overall, it was a chilling but thrilling story. 

ADD TO BASKET? If you liked Stolen or those Scandi drama remakes/BBC 3-part, Sunday night murder mysteries. 

Bright Lights, Big City

Monday, October 7, 2013

Last week, the season finale of Washington Heights aired in the UK and it was even more bittersweet because I had found out a few weeks earlier that it didn't get picked up for a second season. Crazy, right? Washington Heights was the most real 'reality' show that has been shown on MTV in a long time. It reminded me a little of that reality show about the dancers, featuring the guy who was dating a Pussycat Doll, remember that? (Off topic: I'm just going through this Wikipedia page of old MTV reality shows. Gosh there were some goodies! Remember Rich Girls? Two-A-Days! Room Raiders! This warrants a separate post another day). 

For those of you unfamiliar with the small series, it followed nine young adults from - you guessed it - Washington Heights, NYC, over a short period of time as they pursued their careers and schooling whilst navigating the usual dramas that come about during late teens/early twenties. There were lots of break-ups and make-ups but also quite a bit of family drama. 'So, it's The Hills in New York City then?' I hear you cry. No - not at all! Firstly because The Hills in New York was called The City (the show that gave us the fabulous Olivia Palermo). Secondly, Washington Heights wasn't centred around wealthy girls who could afford to intern at top magazines and music companies whilst maintaining a high standard of living (no shade, I loved The Hills, just the truth). Yes, many of the Washington Heights cast were pursuing entertainment or arts careers but they were also shown trying to make ends meet at the same time. The closest show I can think to compare it to is How to Make It in America (which was also cancelled before time).

So, was this the reason why Washington Heights wasn't picked up for a second season? Was it too real? After all, nobody really wants to see the struggle, do they? Nowadays it seems everybody wants more than five minutes of fame and it is easier than ever before to do so on your own. Look at models such as Kate Upton who have made it by building a brand themselves via Instagram and the like, so that by the time an agency signs them, they've already gained a substantial following and the upper hand. I was watching the US version of The X Factor the other day and was dismayed to see this guy who believed his world was over because he was told 'no'. We live in a time where people who are mildly talented can upload videos and cultivate fan-bases across the whole spectrum of social media. At the same time, their family showers them with non-stop praise. They are fawned over and made to feel like pop stars in the blink of an eye. So, when they actually go and audition and enter the real world and they're met with negative but constructive feedback, they can't deal with it. In their eyes, they're already famous and everyone should agree. What seems to be lost in translation a little bit (and not just in the entertainment industries, also in 'normal' jobs) is that you generally have to struggle and hustle to make it to the top. Kids don't want to know that, so perhaps that's why Washington Heights wasn't so appealing to them. 

Another, perhaps more cynical view, is that MTV viewers don't want to watch ethnic people trying to make it. If they're making a fool of themselves or playing to stereotype (see Jersey Shore) fine but if they're actually trying to do something with their lives...maybe not. Cold? Pessimistic? Maybe. But I can't help think there's a slither of truth in that line of thinking. 

However, it all just comes down to the fact that I just want to know what happens next. How did Audubon get on with his tour? Is Reyna now a wine connoisseur? On seeing the finished product, did Frankie regret pursuing Ludwin like that? Are Jimmy and Eliza back together? And so on and so forth. I think BET should pick it up and bring us a season two. What do you think? 

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Publisher: Orion
Format: Kindle e-book
Rating: 4/5

Lincoln is working rather unsociable hours as an Internet Security Officer in the IT department of a local newspaper, where he spends evenings skimming over emails flagged for inappropiate content and subsequently sending warning letters to the culprits. Beth and Jennifer are work besties who flagrantly ignore their new internet policy, even though they know their messages are being read by someone, somewhere. After seeing their names crop up a few times, Lincoln begins to do more than skim-read when it comes to Beth's and Jennifer's emails and he's soon enthralled by the everyday goings on in their lives. Lincoln eventually realises he likes one of them more than he could ever imagine but how will she take the fact that he fell in love with her email self before he even met her? 

This was a great read. Really funny and lively and wholesome. It reminded me of the Meg Cabot books I loved, such as Boy Meets Girl. I wasn't really a fan of Eleanor + Park- I think I'm the only one out there- but I've wanted to read Attachments for a while and I'm glad I gave it a go. It was just nice to read about nice characters who weren't terribly boring. 

Beth and Jennifer's friendship was beautifully written - I can't wait to find my work BFF! I couldn't picture Beth for a while but I've been watching Rookie Blue quite a bit recently and heard Missy Peregrym's voice. Actually, I suppose it isn't too weird to not be able to picture her, considering nearly everything about Beth was revealed through her emails to Jennifer, so there wasn't the usual "I tossed my long, flowing, golden locks over my tanned, freckled shoulder and blinked my emerald green eyes repeatedly in irritation" style sentences. Having said that, from the get go I pictured Jennifer as Megan Hilty, so who knows. 

Online privacy is a buzz topic - quite rightly so - but I do wonder if this happens more often? It must be quite weird working in IT, reading the flagged emails, and then meeting the person in the lift on the way home. Then again, I guess it isn't too different from working in HR and trying to look certain people in the eye after reading certain things in their files. Awkward...Anyhoo, this could have been a really creepy, stalkerish story but Rainbow Rowell kept firmly on the right side of light and Lincoln was such sweet, likeable character that it softened the blow a little bit. 

The 1999/2000 setting was so much fun! I revelled in all the pop culture references (I loved Sally Jesse Raphael!) and the impending doom of the Millenium Bug that never turned up. Or so we think muhahahaha. Anyway, this was an altogether positiviely delightful story and I'm sure I'll read it again. I wonder if there's an audiobook version...

Blake's Got A New Face

So, last week Blake Lively talked about her forthcoming lifestyle brand. This seemed to be met with responses ranging from 'bleh' to 'girl please'. Not too many people seemed enthusiastic about it, which wasn't terribly surprising as we've spoken about the Mocktress before and in the wake of talents such as Jennifer Lawrence taking Hollywood by force, people are getting a little tired of those who seem to be faking it. However, I'm quite excited to see what she puts out there! Yeah, I agree with Lainey, her quote was a bit wishy washy. A one-of-a-kind life is no longer one-of-a-kind if everyone's living it, so she might want to tighten up on her spiel for when she launches the brand. Nevertheless, I want to know more. 

As I mentioned on here before, I'm not really the target market for Oprah and Martha, I don't have a child so Alba is out, and I'm not exactly rolling in it like Goop ($800 for a jumper, are you serious lady?!) However, twenty-somethings are a great market. We're just starting out on our own but like to look to the left and right for reassurance from our peers. This is why I enjoyed Candidly Nicole (even though she is in her early thirties, her content was accessible to my age group) and I also like to browse Lauren Conrad's website.

Blake has great style - ok, it might be hit and miss but isn't that the case for all of us who dress ourselves? - and regularly discusses her penchant for baking and homemaking. She did a little thing for Vogue where she cooked for Elettra Wiedermann (below) and there's no denying her charm, so I'm definitely going to check out her brand - so long as she's not promoting $800 jumpers. Ugh. Aspirational but accessible please Blake.