Friday, 28 July 2017

The Blog Squad: Part 20

We are a group of three book bloggers situated on different continents but brought together by our love for books and a penchant for talking about them. We’ve joined our forces to create a collaborative series of posts about book blogging and we hope you’ll enjoy the discussions. 


What makes you add a book to your TBR? 

It’s a combination of a lot of factors… But generally I’d have to say that other reviewers are what drive me to add books to my TBR in the first place. Even when it comes to my favourite authors I probably only found these authors on recommendation from someone else. I’m just that sort of reader - I like to know that other people have read the book and enjoyed it before I pick it up!

For me too it’s a combination of factors. I think reviews and recommendations from from other reviewers, either on Goodreads or in the blogosphere is the biggest reason for why my TBR has grown like Jack’s beanstalk! Another big reason why my TBR is currently exploding is that I have a habit of going through book lists on Goodreads and looking for ones that I think I’d enjoy. I also end up browsing on Amazon for hours looking at both book reviews and the prices so I can make a proper wishlist.

What makes you most likely to buy a book? 

My favourite authors are definitely autobuys for me - I even pre-order when I can but for some reason I’m not often able to do this on Kobo. 

If I pick up the first book in a series and I absolutely love it I’ll pretty much go straight in and buy the next book - even if the first book was a library borrow and I could probably get the rest if I just went and looked - I just like to support the authors that I love and buying their books seems to me to be a great way to do this! 

Also if I’ve enjoyed a series by an author previously I’ll probably go and buy another of their books to try, even if it might take me awhile to get to it!

Here too, it’s a combination of factors - premise, cover and money. Premise because I have to actually read the book and not just showcase it prettily on my shelves (I do that at times), Cover because I like to oggle at pretty cover and also ‘cause I #bookstagram; and money because no one’s giving out books for free (Except authors and publishers who actually value my opinion. LOVE you guys.) If it’s the sequel to a book I’ve already read and loved, it gets moved higher up on my wishlist; same if it’s one of my favorite authors or if the plot makes me want to eat it (I swear I’ve never eaten books).

Are you comfortable with rating a generally disliked book highly? Or vice versa? 

Reading is so subjective. What I always try to keep in mind is that a lot of my ‘bad reads’ can just come down to personal preference as will a lot of my ‘good reads’. 

I love a lot of book bloggers out there but we don’t have to enjoy the same books for me to respect their opinion. In fact there’s only a couple that I feel have very similar reading tastes to mine. Often I’ve been surprised that people had issues with certain scenes in a book or even with an entire theme in a book that I was never bothered by. No two readers will ever be exactly the same! 

If I liked a book I’m going to shout it out there, whether other professional reviewers liked it or not. A book review is simply my own personal opinion and experience with a book and if I found something to enjoy I want to express that because there will surely be other readers out there that can enjoy the same things that I did. 

It can be difficult as a book blogger to know that your opinion isn’t aligned with the masses - whether you love a book that no one else seems to (because how could they NOT???) or whether you were disappointed after hearing a million good reviews and all the hype and a book just didn’t meet your expectations… If you can back up your opinion and you aren’t just doing it to be contrary it’s valid and you should OWN it.

I have a LOT of unpopular opinions and let’s face it, we all do because we’re not all potatoes. My unpopular opinions are mostly me not loving a book that almost everyone else seems to adore. And while it’s scary to admit to a group of chocolate lovers that you don’t like chocolates (I belong to the chocolate-loving group mind you), I think it’s perfectly okay! Isn’t that why we rate and review books? To get our personal opinion about it heard? 

Also, rating seems much easier compared to reviewing when it comes to unpopular opinions. It’s VERY scary. Okay so I’m not a fan of the Throne of Glass series. (Don’t you dare throw things at me!). Like I LOVED books 1 and 2 but the series just spiralled down for me after that. While I’ve rated the series, I haven’t written a review for books 3, 4 and 5. Why? Because it’s scary as hell writing a negative review for an extremely loved series and I honestly don’t know how to go about with it! All you guys who aren’t scared or intimidated by the task, you’re awesome and really brave! I do plan to write those reviews soon but *gulp*

Come check out my answers over at their collab posts!: 

We hope you’ve enjoyed Part 18 in our series of discussion posts! Please talk to us and let us know YOUR answers below. What do you think of our responses? If you have any specific questions you’d like us to address in the future, please let us know in the comments section below. Stay tuned for next week’s questions!

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Waiting on Wednesday #43: THE WOOD - by Chelsea Bobulski

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme originally hosted by Breaking the Spine and now taken over by Wishful Endings that highlights upcoming book releases we're excited to read. On my blog, I include movies as well.

Publication Date: 1st August 2017. 

After her father goes missing in the woods that they protect, Winter tries to seek the truth in what happened, why the wood is changing, and what it all has to do with the arrival of a mysterious stranger in this thrilling YA debut. When Winter’s dad goes missing during his nightly patrol of the wood, it falls to her to patrol the time portals and protect the travelers who slip through them. Winter can't help but think there's more to her dad's disappearance than she's being told. She soon finds a young man traveling in the wood named Henry who knows more than he should. He believes if they can work together to find his missing parents, they could discover the truth about Winter’s dad. The wood is poisoned, changing into something sinister—torturing travelers lost in it. Winter must put her trust in Henry in order to find the truth and those they’ve lost.

WOW. This looks so exciting, suspenseful, romantic and haunting. I love how there seems to be a ton of secrets seething beneath the surface. 
Can't wait to read this! 

Anyone else excited for The Wood?

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Weekly Round-Up: Watching and Writing

I start school again tomorrow (having had a three week holiday) and I'm so not ready. I've forgotten everything I learnt and I basically just wanna curl up and die. 
But there're a few hours before everything falls apart, so I'm trying to savour that. 

It's been a productive week. I haven't been reading much, but I've done a lot of writing and plotting for my WIP, and I've also set some firm writing goals for myself for the months to come. 

We also got Netflix!! Finally! And I am so overwhelmed by everything I want to watch: Red Riding Hood, Gangster Squad, The Big Short, The 100, Arrow, Gilmore Girls......the list goes on. This week I've just been watching The 100 and Arrow, and lamenting how only the first two seasons of The 100 are available to us (cos of our country and level of membership). Sigh.   
But I've been enjoying it so far. It's still got a lot of the book's flaws and the acting isn't always great, but the leads are decent and I love Bellamy, Jasper, Raven and Octavia. Also, can I please marry Bellamy? If not, I'll take Jasper. 

Posts of the week: 

Book Review: THE CRUELTY

I'm still reading The Lost Girl, and I'm thoroughly enjoying it :) 

I got eBooks of Starr Fall and Canary Club for review, and a print copy of Windfall as well. 

Genni reviews When Dimple Met Rishi

Genni does The Liebster Award

Heather gets Engaged

Di reviews The Last Magician

Eve shares a beautiful Poem

Uma has a huge Giveaway going on!

Uma reviews Starr Fall

I have exciting news! In August it's my 1 year blogiversary, and as part of my celebration, I'm going to be answering questions from you guys in an upcoming post. 

 So comment below with any question or questions you're interested in having me answer, and I'll feature and answer them in the blogiversary post! 

 (You're welcome to ask personal questions, just not too personal please. Lol ;)

Have you had a good week? What are you writing or reading or watching? 

Saturday, 22 July 2017

PASSENGERS (film) is boring but heartfelt

Director: Morten Tyldum.
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence / Chris Pratt / Micheal Sheen / Andy Garcia / Laurence Fishburne
Content Rating: PG 13 for sexuality, nudity, and action/peril.
Source: Rented.

A spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet and transporting thousands of people has a malfunction in its sleep chambers. As a result, two passengers are awakened 90 years early.

I wasn't expecting much when I sat down to watch this movie. It'd been panned by critics, and I'm not mad about sci-fi anyway. But it's been dubbed "Titanic in space", so I was keen to check it out anyway.

The visuals are impressive, and the sets are romantic and whimsical with an intense aura about them. Unfortunately, the cinematography is average, and so isn't as awe-inspiring as it could have been. But I did thoroughly enjoy the sights.
The musical score is gorgeous. Haunting, feverish, passionate sounds fade to dreamy romantic tunes when the scenes require it, and overall I loved the score. My only peeve is that I thought some scenes needed music - and yet they didn't have any.
The dialogue is dull and meaningless. It's so bland, pointless, and wastes opportunity after opportunity when it comes to Aurora and Jim's scenes, when backstory and important info need to be discussed. It's a waste.

The story isn't a bad idea. It's fascinating, actually, but there are times during the movie where I just wanted to laugh at the absurdity of it. It's ridiculously executed, and since there's so little depth to the world-building and characters, it's hard to suspend disbelief.
The solutions to the climax and other bumps in the story are also incredibly convenient and simplistic; there's no intelligence or originality to it at all.
So don't expect anything mind-blowing. The twists are predictable, and solutions expedient.  It's the kinda thing where you just have to "pull that one lever over there and it shuts down the whole operation". And obviously everyone over-sweats and fights to reach that one lever.
But the main problem with this film is how boring it is. There are spits of action, but they're far too up-and-down and lack proper consequences. Yet, the action isn't frequent; I suppose there's only so much you can make happen between two people in an empty spaceship. Even the other characters who appear are just plot-devices. It's slow, and it's tedious.
But the ending is intense and satisfying. And I did cry ;)

The acting is good. The writers clearly take advantage of their good-looking leads with hot make-out scenes and flattering outfits. But they aren't just pretty faces; they do act well. J. Law is as solid as she ever is, and I truly ached for Chris Pratt's character.
Not to mention their steamy, enthusiastic chemistry. It's heartfelt and genuine, and their romance did win me over.

There is no character development. Jim and Aurora's back stories are faintly touched on but never expanded upon, and what little is revealed does nothing to make them three-dimensional. At the end of the film they are as bland and flat as they were at the beginning.

Passengers is dull, and there's no meaningful dialogue or character development. But the visuals are stunning, and the movie glows with a Titanic-esque romance. 
It's not a bad film, but it could've been a lot better and a lot deeper. 

Friday, 21 July 2017

The Blog Squad: Part 19

We are a group of three book bloggers situated on different continents but brought together by our love for books and a penchant for talking about them. We’ve joined our forces to create a collaborative series of posts about book blogging and we hope you’ll enjoy the discussions. 


Do you read other commenter's responses on discussion posts before making your own comment?  

I have to confess that I don’t always do this…. Sometimes it depends on how much time I have available to visit other blogs and often it depends on the type blog post I’m commenting on - if it’s a discussion post I’m much more likely to read the comments to see what the other commenters are saying/thinking. 

I’ve often read comments on book reviews on my favourite blogs and then followed these to discover new blogs and to connect with people that may have expressed a similar opinion to mine on a book OR that made me think about it from a different point of view.

I don’t do this always but sometimes if it’s a review for a book I’ve read and loved, I enjoy seeing what others thought of it. But I think most times I read the comments on a post after I have commented. I always read the comments everyone leaves on The Blog Squad posts on Amy and Di’s blogs. It’s wonderful to see what everyone thinks of our answers! 

Sometimes through comments on others’ blogs, I’ve discovered new blogs and made new friends! For example I discovered Lindsey and Cait through Di’s blog! I love their blogs so much and I’m so glad I found them! Reading the comments on others’ blogs is a great way of getting to know many a people’s thoughts on books I love and discussions I enjoy.

Have you ever responded to a comment on someone else's blog? 

I have done this, but only once or twice, and mostly when a comment was directed at me - like on a collab post or on a combined review for example. 

I definitely wish it’s something that I did more of, especially on other people’s discussion posts - I mean, isn’t that what a discussion post is all about? Bringing up a topic that we all want to talk about? I would love it if people read the other people’s comments on my blog and started a discussion between themselves! That would be awesome. I haven’t seen it happen on very many blogs at all though - and I’m not sure if it’s considered taboo, but I don’t see why it should be.

I have mostly done that with our Blog Squad posts where the comments are actually directed at me but otherwise I don’t think I have responded to others’ comments on someone else’s blog. I would like to though, especially on discussion posts that interest me but I’m kind of scared to do so! I do hope I’ll foray into that soon because as Di says, that’s what discussion posts are all about right?

Is it okay to have an opposed/conflicting opinion with another blogger and voice this on their blog in comments?

This is a tough one, because it seems that as book bloggers we are always supposed to be seen as agreeable and amiable and definitely NOT controversial. I’ll agree that this is the BEST blogging community out there for so many reasons, not the least of which being the incredible support you get from other book bloggers, but we have to remember that we are all entitled to our opinions and differing opinions can spark the best kind of discussions - so long as everyone keeps the interaction positive.

I haven’t had any hugely conflicting opinions with any other blogger I believe except maybe about books we don’t feel the same about? But almost every blogger I’ve met has been polite about saying they don’t like a book I like. But I do believe that since we’re all humans, we DEFINITELY have different opinions than others and that’s just natural! It’s all the different opinions that makes a person and discussing different opinions is so interesting and helps us see stuff from another’s point of view. So yeah, I think it’s definitely okay to disagree with other bloggers as long as you don’t fight over it. Everyone has the right to have their own opinion.

Come check out my answers over at their collab posts!: 

 We hope you’ve enjoyed Part 18 in our series of discussion posts! Please talk to us and let us know YOUR answers below. What do you think of our responses? 
If you have any specific questions you’d like us to address in the future, please let us know in the comments section below. Stay tuned for next week’s questions!

Thursday, 20 July 2017

KONG: SKULL ISLAND (film) is poorly written and underdeveloped

Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts.
Cast: Tom Hiddleston / Samuel L. Jackson / Brie Larson / John Goodman
Content Rating: PG 13 for intense sequences of fantasy violence and action, and brief strong language.
Source: Rented.

A team of scientists explore an uncharted island in the Pacific, venturing into the domain of the mighty Kong, and must fight to escape a primal Eden.

This film left me extremely disappointed. I was so excited to watch it because I love Tom and Brie and lots of action, and my heart was shattered when it didn't live up to my expectations.
I still enjoyed it, but I'm not desperate for a re-watch.

It's a fun adventure flick, with some fantastic drama in a few scenes. The colours are vibrant, the cinematography is snappy and original (there are some awesome shots), and the musical score is solid.
But the dialogue is terrible. It relies solely on clichés for its dramatic statements, and it's badly written and boring with no real intelligence or wit to it at all. There are some nice humorous moments, but they never quite get there; it's too poorly written to have drawn more than the occasional, amused smile from me.
It's shallow, but it is fun and funky all the same.

The story's badly written and riddled with cliches that spew from every aspect. The beginning of the movie, especially, is a mess of jumbled characters and locations, and there's no proper development as to the expedition and the consequences/rewards.  It's weak and unconvincing. And the plot is extremely shallow.

The action is the best thing about the movie. It's epic, huge, and the CGI is spectacular. Every scene of the towering Kong is deliciously impressive, and the fight scenes are fast and ambitious.
I loved them.

The supporting cast is solid but not outstanding, and the leads are mediocre. Samuel L. Jackson is in a typical role for him, and I thought his acting was downright bad. The classic and brilliant John Goodman is wasted, and my darling Tom Hiddleston - despite looking exceptionally hot wielding a rifle and occasionally a sword - is wooden. Brie Larson (one of my favourite actresses ever) is probably the strongest of the cast, and she's definitely the most animated and enthusiastic. But even she isn't on top form.

The "romance" is perfectly subtle, and never distracts from the real threat at hand. But the relationship between Weaver and Conrad is never properly developed, despite Tom and Brie's easy chemistry. Their romance just sort of "happens", without a proper arc and buildup. It's another wasted opportunity, although I did love the moments between Weaver and Conrad - simply because I love Tom and Brie's dynamic so much.

There's no character development. Both Conrad and Weaver have massive potential, and I loved the idea that she's a war photographer and he's a cocky tracker with a background, but there's no depth to these surface labels!  They aren't fighting any internal battles, and their motivations are solely to survive. Believable, but boring. And in the end they're just two flat cardboard cut-outs whom even the actors can't save. It's so frustrating.
However, I did love that Weaver's character wasn't just a damsel. She gets in on the action and more than once saves the day. I loved that.

Kong: Skull Island is a feast for the eyes thanks to incredible CGI and the frequent spectacle of its towering hero. But the plot and characters are weak and underdeveloped, and the acting is wooden.
A fun adventure movie, but badly written.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Waiting on Wednesday #42: THE LAST MAGICIAN - by Lisa Maxwell

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme originally hosted by Breaking the Spine and now taken over by Wishful Endings that highlights upcoming book releases we're excited to read. On my blog, I include movies as well.

Published: 18th July 2017. 

Stop the Magician. Steal the book. Save the future. In modern day New York, magic is all but extinct. The remaining few who have an affinity for magic—the Mageus—live in the shadows, hiding who they are. Any Mageus who enters Manhattan becomes trapped by the Brink, a dark energy barrier that confines them to the island. Crossing it means losing their power—and often their lives. Esta is a talented thief, and she's been raised to steal magical artifacts from the sinister Order that created the Brink. With her innate ability to manipulate time, Esta can pilfer from the past, collecting these artifacts before the Order even realizes she’s there. And all of Esta's training has been for one final job: traveling back to 1902 to steal an ancient book containing the secrets of the Order—and the Brink—before the Magician can destroy it and doom the Mageus to a hopeless future. But Old New York is a dangerous world ruled by ruthless gangs and secret societies, a world where the very air crackles with magic. Nothing is as it seems, including the Magician himself. And for Esta to save her future, she may have to betray everyone in the past.

Okay, so I know this was published yesterday, but this is only one day off and I really really really needed to include it as one of my most anticipated reads because it looks AMAZING. 
Old New York, magicians, a girl who's a thief, dark secrets.....this looks like Passenger meets Doctor Strange


I can't wait to read this eerie beauty.  IT LOOKS INCREDIBLE. 

(And PS: I'm taking part in the blog tour in August SO DOUBLE YAY!)

Anyone else excited for The Last Magician?

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

THE CRUELTY - by Scott Bergstrom

THE CRUELTY - Scott Bergstrom
Published: 2017 - by Walker Books.
Pages: 448.
Genres: Young adult / thriller / contemporary
Source: Thank you so much to Pan Macmillan SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

When Gwendolyn Bloom realizes that her father has been kidnapped, she has to take matters into her own hands. She traces him from New York City across the dark underbelly of Europe, taking on a new identity to survive in a world of brutal criminal masterminds. As she slowly leaves behind her schoolgirl self, she realizes that she must learn the terrifying truth about herself. To overcome the cruelty she encounters, she must also embrace it.

I buddy-read The Cruelty with the lovely Melleny from ABookTropolis. We had such fun chatting about the book, even if we were disappointed by it.
Check out her review HERE!

I was so excited to read this book. I love thrillers, and an YA thriller with a badass teenage heroine on a mission to save her father seemed absolutely perfect.
Instead, I was left disappointed and conflicted.

But I did love the writing. It's dramatic, crisp, and flows smoothly. The descriptions are incredibly detailed and vivid, and the atmosphere and visual structure of every scene is strong.
The dialogue's also good. Not brilliant, but it's taut and crackling, fits the tone, and gives many of the secondary characters a distinct voice.
The book's not cheesy or clichéd, another thing I loved. There isn't any extreme melodrama or "purely for ego" statements. I think that's rare in YA thrillers.

The story is disappointing and random. There aren't any mind-blowing twists, and there are too many random incidents that don't serve a big enough purpose in the overarching plot. It's also very hard to suspend disbelief for what happens in the story; it's written so naturally, though, that it's bearable, but if you distance yourself from the writing then the story begs questions. It almost works, but looking at it now (having finished it about four days ago) I'm left feeling shallow and highly sceptical.

The plot also drags a lot. There's so much detail, but most of those details - and even most of the incidents in the story - don't lead to bigger things. I personally think that if you're writing a thriller, you can't afford to waste time on fluff and casual "fun stuff"; you're expected to deliver on the number of details you include in the story. You can get away with it in another genre, but not in a thriller/mystery.

“I run until the blind rage has washed me clean, rid me of hope. And for the first time, on this afternoon alive with neon signs and stars, I leave my heart open to the benign indifference of the world.”

Gwendoline is a boring heroine. She starts off with promise, but she's written so emotionally disconnected from the story that it's impossible to feel for her and her father. Considering what she undertakes and what she sees, I expected to feel something for her, and if not her then the poor people she encounters. But no, the writing didn't give me anything to work with and I couldn't sympathise with her. It's utterly vapid.
But it's not just the emotional aspect (lack of one...) that makes Gwen so bland. It's her lack of personality. She has no real hobbies, no interests, and her character isn't rounded.  The most interesting person in the book is actually Marina, a prostitute Gwen meets on her journey. At least Marina comes across vivid and three-dimensional.

Another irritating thing about the book is the author's apparent obsession with body image. A number of times when a new character is introduced, his or her looks are emphasised as their defining feature. I found that meaningless. There's more to a person than looks, and frankly I care more about a person's characteristics than whether he or she is attractive.
Then there's the subject matter of the story: sex trafficking. And I don't think the author executed that well at all. It didn't come across like it had been well researched, and it felt glamorised and too "Hollywood-ish". That one scene where Gwen sees the girls imprisoned and shoved around by the men comes across romanticised; not to mention the emotional aspect isn't strong, either, so that doesn't help.
It didn't sit well with me at all.

The Cruelty is a poorly plotted, disengaged thriller with scant characterization. The writing isn't bad and I actually liked it, but the story and characters need help. And the messages coming across are certainly questionable.