Saturday, 30 January 2016

Book Review: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Scarlet – Marissa Meyer

*Warning – may contain spoilers*
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Puffin Books
First published: 2013
Cover: Paperback

Pages: 452
Blurb: Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. The police have closed her case. The only person Scarlet can turn to is Wolf, a street fighter she does not trust, but they are drawn to each other.
Meanwhile, in New Beijing, Cinder will become the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive – when she breaks out of prison to stay one step ahead of vicious Queen Levana.
As Scarlet and Wolf expose one mystery, they encounter Cinder and a new one unravels. Together they must challenge the evil queen, who will stop at nothing to make Prince Kai her husband, her king, her prisoner…
History of my copy: So this was the third book I got from Waterstones just after Christmas. (You can find reviews for the other two books, Reasons to Stay Alive and The Selection here.) Having read and loved Cinder, I knew I just had to get my hands on the next book in the series, and I am so glad I did.

I absolutely loved this book! I will admit that I found the beginning a bit slow and confusing as we were suddenly faced with the new character Scarlet, when all I cared about was Cinder escaping! But after a few chapters, I really did start to get into it and I ended up adoring this one more than Cinder. Now I just have to wait a long time to get my hands on Cress…

Plot: Probably my only major problem with Cinder was just how predictable it was. (I know, it’s based on Cinderella, but it still felt just a bit too obvious). So, of course, when I started Scarlet I was expecting Wolf to have killed Grandma and be horrible to Scarlet. Wrong! This book was hardly like the fairy-tale at all! Whilst it of course kept key parts (I especially loved Scarlet’s red hoodie, bringing a modern feel to the traditional red cloak), this book was nothing like what I expected. And the way it weaved into the story from Cinder was exquisitely done! I would have preferred a little more development on Wolf’s, Scarlet’s and Thorne’s character, but I’m hoping there will be a lot of that to come in the next books.
Setting: I am still so in love with the way Meyer has set these fairy tales to be in the future after the Fourth World War. It adds such an interesting spin to it all! And perhaps to give us hope that, even in a world of destruction, lunar wars and a horrendous plague, fairy tales really do still exist. As a fugitive, Cinder obviously cannot remain in New Beijing, and thus most of this book takes place in France, mainly Paris, which gives us a chance to see how other countries are faring in this modern world. Meyer is a brilliant writer at settings, and just truly makes you feel that you really are there alongside them.
Characters: Cinder still remains one of my favourite characters of course, and this book does well with showing how she is coping with her new found identity. If you read my review of the previous book, you will know that I wasn’t a huge fan of Prince Kai. However, throughout Scarlet, I have learned to like him a little more now that we get to see the side of him that’s running a country, not the side that’s of course, flirting with and falling in love with the main character.
             Captain Thorne and Scarlet are both new characters in this book, and two that I would like to know more about. At first, Thorne annoyed me, but he has grown on me, just as he has on Cinder. Scarlet, however, is much more likable, and I particularly like how well she and Wolf complement each other.
Which, of course, brings me to Wolf! He’s probably one of the most interesting characters I’ve discovered in a while. Is he good, or bad? Do I love him or hate him? Can I even trust him? Who knows! I need more of him in my life, and I really hope Meyer delves into his back story some more at some point so we can see just why he is the way he is.
Iko! How could I discuss the characters without mentioning my beloved Iko! She is still hilarious and just so Iko-like, despite now being in a much, much larger body. I’m so glad Iko came back, and we don’t have to lose her for a long time again any time in the future.

To read or not to read: Read. Read! Read! Read! Honestly, stop reading reviews and go buy the book right now. Even if you weren’t a huge fan of Cinder, go read Scarlet because, in my opinion, The Lunar Chronicles have just got even better!

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Enchanted Forest Postcards Part 2

I've recently been working on the second page of the Enchanted Forest Postcards I received for Christmas.
I will admit that I'm not hugely fond of the finished piece, but I am glad I stuck with it and got it finished.
This was done entirely with Staedtler Triplus Fineliners. I picked a set of these pens up from Tesco to use just for colouring, as my Stabilo pens are primarily for schoolwork, and I absolutely love them! They are fine enough for all the small details, yet colour in large areas fairly well. I don't know whether it's because of the pens, card used in this book, or a combination of both, but they run smoothly across the card. 

All the colours used
Again, if anyone has any questions, tips or any comments at all, I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Book Review: The Selection by Kiera Cass

The Selection – Kiera Cass

*Warning – may contain spoilers*
Author: Kiera Cass
Publisher: Harper Collins
First published: 2012
Cover: Paperback (and I must add, the cover is stunning!)
Pages: 327
Blurb: In a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels, The Selection is the chance of a lifetime: to compete for the gorgeous Prince Maxon’s heart. But for America Singer, it means turning her back on her secret love, and leaving home for a prize she doesn’t want.
Then America meets Maxon and all her plans start to crumble. Can the life she’s always dreamed of compare to a future she never imagined?

History of my copy: Along with Reasonsto Stay Alive, The Selection was one of the three books I bought with my Waterstones gift card, and a little of my own money.

To all my friends, this book is the kind of book I should hate. Honestly, I told one of my best friends about it, and he actually laughed (well, it was through text but judging by his words, he was totally laughing. Although it wasn’t as great as his reaction to The Lunar Chronicles…) But, contrary to popular belief, despite everything, I am still a teenage girl, and we all need a soppy, love triangle from time to time, right?

Plot: Seriously though, this is the kind of book even I think I should hate, but I actually loved it! I’m not a fan of reality TV shows at all, but something about this book made it all okay. It follows America Singer as she leaves her family and home behind to enter a competition to become Princess of Illéa, along with 35 other girls. She becomes a friend to the Prince and thus he keeps her in the competition for her companionship, and as a favour so that she can continue to be away from her previous love, Aspen. However, unsurprisingly, Prince Maxon ends up developing feelings for her, and she for him, so America makes it down to The Elite for reasons that are no longer to do with friendship.
         Along with the inevitable competition between the girls and dates between them and Maxon, there are also rebel attacks on the palace, which gives rise to a reason for some of the girls to not be his wife. It’s an interesting twist, and shows that not every fairy-tale is happy and safe.

Setting: One thing I loved about this book in particular was its setting. As a dystopian novel, it can be hard to create a unique world. This one involves castes, which dictate your jobs, and therefore income. America is a five and therefore belongs to the artists of the country. I found this world immersive and it had just enough similarities to make it comfortable and not forced. It also made it more believable.

Characters: First to the main character, America Singer. A lot of people complain about her name, along with many others in this book, but I see no problem with it. She’s named after the country Illéa used to be, there’s no issue with that. There is also the issue that America Singer is a singer. However, surnames used to come from the jobs and personality of the people, or they certainly did in Britain, so it only makes sense that a family of artists would have the surname Singer.
                I liked America a lot. Her character was developed, she was funny and she was brave. Unlike most YA romance books, she didn’t spend 90% of the book whining over her oh so difficult love life, which is a huge bonus!
                I also liked Prince Maxon. It was nice to see a Prince that wasn’t perfect, and had clearly never been allowed to date girls before, or had the time. He had his flaws, and it was entirely realistic that he had no idea how to deal with crying girls!
                As for a character I disliked, unlike many I’m not going to put Celeste. At least she was different! There were many girls in the book that seemed identical, and were only there to make up the numbers. They were all pretty, polite and lady-like *yawn*. I understand that they’re there just to make the competition bigger, but a little more individuality would have been nice.

To read or not to read: Read. I really enjoyed this book. It was an easy read and quite funny. I am really looking forward to reading The Elite, and I do hope we get to learn more about the Queen in it! If you’re looking for a romantic, easy-to-read book, go for this one. You won’t be disappointed!

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Book Review: Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

Reasons to Stay Alive – Matt Haig

As previously mentioned, any reviews that aren’t of a fictional story book won’t follow my usual layout.

Author: Matt Haig
Publisher: Canongate Books
First published: 2015
Cover: Hardback with dust cover
Pages: 264
Blurb:    Aged 24, Matt Haig’s world caved in. He could see no way to go on living. This is the true story of how he came through crisis, triumphed over an illness that almost destroyed him and learned to live again.
A moving, funny and joyous exploration of how to live better, love better and feel more alive, Reasons to Stay Alive is more than a memoir. It is a book about making the most of your time on earth.

History of my copy: For Christmas, I received a £10 Waterstones gift card from my friend. Last week, I finally decided to use it towards an order of three books, Reasons to Stay Alive being one of them.

I had heard of this book through Goodreads, and saw that it was Waterstones non-fiction book of the month. This, along with the fact that I suffer from depression and anxiety, pushed me to buy it. And I don’t regret it at all. This is one of the best books I have ever read and, if you were to read only one book in your entire life, I would recommend this one.
It’s written by Matt Haig as he looks back on the darkest time of his life. He doesn’t dance around the issue of mental health, but delves straight in. It’s relatable and humorous, and it truly amazes me how he can put words to how it feels. Explaining your depression-riddled mind to anyone who has no idea what it’s like is impossible, and I even find it difficult to explain things to those unfortunate people who have suffered too, so, to me, it’s an outstanding achievement to be able to publish a book about it!
Matt Haig is an inspiration. He has shown that depression isn’t the end of it all, and that there is a life after it. He has also helped me feel much less alone, as many of the things he wrote about are exactly how I feel right now. He addresses the ‘difficult’ topic well, and discusses how, despite how common it is, and how deadly depression can be, there is still so much negative stigma surrounding it. I know I’m certainly not the first to feel like a disappointment for how my brain works.
Furthermore, the chapter regarding the things people say to depressives but not in other life-threatening situations really does say it all. As a student currently in my final year of a-levels, I am under a lot of pressure to get better and get my attendance back up to scratch. However, having had depression for years, I can’t cure myself and the medication doesn’t work, so I’m stuck on the waiting list for therapy. Yet, I am still expected to get better right now, despite the fact I haven’t had successful treatment. Family and friends are finally starting to realise, along with my favourite saying ‘you wouldn’t expect a patient needing a lung transplant to get better whilst still being on the waiting list and never receiving the transplant’, that this isn’t something I will immediately snap out of.

To read or not to read: Read. This book is a compulsory read for everyone. If you suffer from depression and/or anxiety, it really helps you feel so much less alone. If you don’t suffer, it can help you understand those who are just a little bit more.

If anyone would like to talk to me about depression or any mental illnesses at any point, whether you're at your lowest, or just want to know more, please feel free to leave a comment and I'll get in contact with you.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Harry Potter Colouring Book Part 1

Like thousands of people across the world, I was absolutely devastated to hear of Alan Rickman's death yesterday. He was an acting icon and, by all accounts from those lucky enough to know him, a wonderful man. My thoughts go out to his family, friends and fans during this hard time.
His biggest impact on my life, like many, was his perfect portrayal of Snape. Whilst I have watched a number of his films, as a Potterhead, his acting as one of my favourite characters in one of my favourite film series is what I will predominantly remember him for.
Hearing of his sad passing led to me finally finishing the first page in the Harry Potter Colouring Book. I did this piece with a variety of pencils. Mostly I used a set of metallic pencils, which the photo doesn't give credit to. They produce bright, shiny colours that compliment the picture perfectly. I also used a few cheap pencils I have, along with a couple Crayola pencils, which I love! They are so easy to work with and produce lovely colours. 
Again, if anyone has any tips or questions, feel free to comment.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Book Review: The Lost Kodas by Myra King

The Lost Kodas – Myra King

Author: Myra King
Publisher: Sweet Cherry Publishing
First published: 2015
Cover: Paperback
Pages: 186
Blurb:    In the shade if the Giant’s Throne Mountain, and on the coast on the Indian Ocean, Port St. Christopher is home to Apley Towers; a riding school for girls and boys, young or old, who learn what it means to be a true horse rider.
Kaela and Trixie call Apley Towers their Neverland. It’s the best place in the world – a place for friendship, laughter and learning. But when both girls take on more responsibilities than they can handle, they have to make some tough choices that take a toll on their friendship.
Will they have to sacrifice Apley in the end? It takes a girl on the other side of the world to remind them of what’s important and that challenges are there to be overcome.
History of my copy: I was lucky enough to win this book in a Goodreads competition. I will admit that I entered this competition mainly because the cover really caught my attention, but having read the book, I’m so glad I won – I probably wouldn’t have ever read it if I hadn’t.

As someone who is really not a horse person, I was genuinely surprised at how much I loved this book. For anyone who has doubts reading it because they too aren’t a fan of horses, go ahead and read it anyway. The message of the book is applicable to any situation, and the riding school is just a way of representing a commitment that you adore, but may not necessarily be able to pursue forever.
The message is that, when you’re young, it’s important to carry on doing the things you love. You have plenty of time when you grow up to decide what you want to do. And, although while young you must certainly work hard to keep as many doors open as possible, sometimes it’s important to sacrifice some of that to take a break. It’s also about standing up to people who are ‘bullies’.

Plot: This book follows two girls, Kaela and Trixie, through a difficult time in their lives. Although the plot itself isn’t outstanding, the message behind it is a wonderful and really relatable one. The book is about the pressure put on teenagers to be prepared for their future, and how that can affect them. This pressure not only pushes the girls apart, but it makes them really question things. It takes Phoenix, a native Canadian, to put things back into perspective.
Setting: The entire book is set at the Riding School, Apley Towers (with a little bit set at Kaela’s house and the local Chinese takeaway). Apley Towers itself really sounds like a wonderful place, and it is no wonder that it’s referred to as Neverland. Set in South Africa, you really get a picture of how different it is from where I live, England.
Characters: There aren’t many characters in this books, so I’m just going to write about my favourite, Trixie. I really like her as she reminds me so much of herself. This year, I gave up music lessons so that I could study 6 A-levels (for those of you not familiar with the British education system, that’s twice the average student). As I did well last year, and wish to study medicine at Cambridge, I felt like sacrificing music lessons for an extra subject or two was a good idea. After all, I could always pick up electronic keyboard lessons again later in life. Whilst I don’t regret my decision, I do miss my music lessons.
                Trixie has the same problem. She wishes to take more subjects, but that would mean she would give up riding. In the end, she does the opposite to what I did, and decided to not take the extra subjects.

To read or not to read: Read. I think this book contains a brilliant story about growing up and how important it is to carry on doing the things you love, and to not let future plans get in the ways of friendships. I really recommend this to anyone who is currently having to make important decisions in their lives, and even to parents whose children are making those decisions too. And, for people who aren’t fans of horse, don’t be put off! Yes, it does all take place at a Riding School, but I think the message of the book is more important than the setting.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Enchanted Forest Postcards Part 1

For Christmas, I was lucky enough to receive the beautiful Enchanted Forest Postcards by Johanna Basford. I'm entirely new to adult colouring and, although apprehensive of it at first (I believed it was highly overrated), I now have to admit I was wrong! I'm hooked, and it has really helped me relax.
Because of this, I'm going to publish any colourings I finish, and I would love to hear if any of you are colourers too!
All the pens and pencils I used are in the photo. The majority of it was done using Stabilo fineliners. I used a couple metallic pencils on the gate and around the flames, and all the gold on the gate is done using a gel pen I found on my desk. I also used a standard pencil for some of the rocks and the gate.
The only problem with this book, is that some of the details are nearly impossibly small, and that's coming from a 17-year-old with perfect vision!
Please feel free to comment any tips, or to ask about anything!

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Book Review: Eragon's Guide to Alagaesia by Christopher Paolini

Eragon’s Guide to Alagaësia – Christopher Paolini

As this book isn’t a fictional story book, this review will have a different layout compared to my usual one.

Author: Christopher Paolini
Publisher: Doubleday
First published: 2009
Cover: Hardback

Blurb: Greetings, Dragon Rider.
             Welcome and congratulations – it is a great honor to be chosen as a Rider. I have compiled these papers for you as an introduction to the most important peoples, places, and things within Alagaësia. Study them most carefully, for someday your life may depend upon this information. Mine has, and more than once.
Eragon Shadeslayer
History of my copy: I have owned The Inheritance Cycle for quite a few years now and, although I am yet to start the third book, I love them and the whole world Paolini has created. When I saw this book at a garden centre in autumn of last year, I got my parents to put it back for Christmas for me.

This book is a fantastic companion to The Inheritance Cycle, containing numerous pages of beautiful illustrations and extra bits of information about Alagaësia and the people that Eragon meets. I am a huge fan of ‘interactive’ books, and, with all the pull out extra items, miniature books and different materials throughout the book, it certainly doesn’t disappoint in that area either. Of course, I’m a little too old to believe that a piece of glittery card is actually a dragon wing, but I can certainly appreciate how a child would view this book. There isn’t much to read, and at points I do wish that there was more information about Eragon’s world. However, despite that, it does give a wonderful insight.

To read or not to read: Read. For any fan of Paolini’s books, or anyone who loves exploring fictional worlds in general, I would really recommend that they give this book a go. It’s the kind of book that you can just pick up and read a page at a time, and perhaps just leave on your coffee table for anyone to flick through, as the images themselves are enough to occupy even the most unimaginative of people.