Tuesday 29 November 2016

Audiobook Review - Betrayal

Not sure how audiobooks are saving me from my weird reading slump, but I am very grateful! GO AUDIOBOOKS!

Today, am going to review/chat about Betrayal by Martina Cole. Now, I must admit I have read Martina Cole many MANY years ago - around the time The Know was published in hardback. Yes, THAT FAR INTO THE PAST!!! I remember reading it over Christmas (was Xmas present) and loving it because it was so grown up and so very unlike my normal reads. I was meant to go back to reading more Martina but got sidetracked. So, when the lovely people at Midas PR asked if there was any audiobooks coming out in October/November I wanted to review, I jumped on Betrayal. 

Aiden O'Hara has been the head of the family for as long as he can remember. And with him rising quickly in the London underworld, he wants to be on head. Head of the family. Head of the game. And he's going to stay there.

His lover, Jade, has been in the game for longer than Aiden. Mother to his son, calmer of his temper and rage and a force in her own right, Jade knows the truth. She knows that no one is indestructible. Especially in their line of work.

Keep your friends close, your enemies closer and your family close of all, because betrayal comes in all shape and sizes...

I am going to admit this: I am in two minds over Betrayal. I enjoyed the story and kept listening to the audiobook, but at the same time, I kept help but think that I had read this story before...

I enjoy Martina's writing and I like that, while this is very much outside my comfort zone, I sped through and enjoyed the story. This is readable fun and shows Martina is still a force to be reckon with in the crime gangster genre.

However, Betrayal felt lacking. I know some readers of Martina have voiced their disappointment over this book and I understand and agree with some of their problems. The story felt stale and wasn't anything new - I am sure we have all read/watched this story before. There's ever a scene where characters discuss what film is better: Goodfellas or The Godfather (does every gangster-type story have this conversation in?). The characters didn't feel quite fleshed out. Certain words and phrases were used repetitively over the course of several paragraphs. Certain elements of the story were dragged out while the ending felt rushed.

The best way to describe it is this story felt very cookie-cutted. The story, the characters, the situations, they were all cookie-cutted. All very tried and tested. While I don't think that this is a bad thing in some books and series, it felt out of place here. And for an author like Martina Cole to use this formula is off.

I liked listening to the story, don't get me wrong. But it's was lacking. It felt very flat and very paint-by-numbers. And while this might be ok for some readers, other readers will not be so forgiving...

Sunday 27 November 2016

Who Owns the Story?

This is something I keep coming back to. It doesn't happen often that an idea keeps coming back to me. I chatted about it a while ago for the Bookish Brits in a roundabout kinda way a few years ago. Since then, I think about it when something happens or a debate flares up. Then I carry on with my day.

But in the past few days/week, events have happened on TV and books that made me go "Ok, I have an hour spare, let's try and write this up".

So, question: when a story is released into the world, who owns it?

Before you all go "That is a stupid question!", hear me out.

In the past few days, the TV show Gilmore Girls has released 4 feature-length episodes and we have been told that the final ever (to my knowledge) episode will end with 4 words. These four words are important as these were the words the creator of the show, Amy Sherman-Palladino, always wanted to end the show on. But, due to events (aka her leaving the show at the end of season six due to network and then the show getting cancelled the following season), fans never got them. Now, fans have seen the show and have heard the words, it's thrown a mix of reactions. Some fans are excited, and others... not so much. 

This is the same with How To Get Away With Murder. In the winter finale of season three, we discover that one of the main character is dead. This is a huge shock for fans as it's such a small cast... and fans reacted with shock and panic and "This is going to ruin EVERYTHING about the show!"

This is the same with books, films and radio. Remember readers react when they were reading Veronica Roth's Allegiant? Or film goers reactions when they were watching the Hans scene in Frozen? Or certain moments in BBC Radio 4's The Archers while it was tackling Helen's domestic abuse storyline? Or fans reactions when JK Rowling shot down a question on whether Sirius Black was gay? 

Yes, these stories belong to the creators. But once it's out of their hands/control, does it still below to them? 

Technically, yes. It does. Open up any book and you will see, on the information page, that story's copyright belongs to the author. With TV shows and films, the ownership belongs to either the broadcaster (BBC, ITV, BSkyB, etc) or the production company (Warner Bros, ABC Studios, Endemol Shine Group, etc). 

But... and here is where things get a little tricky with my thinking. Has anyone heard of the term "The Author is Dead"?

The term means that, once the story is out of the creator's control, they no longer have input. Because all the information should have been told. So, some people would say that, unless certain information/facts are put into the story and the creator states it in an interview or on their website, that information isn't valid. 

So, this would mean things like Pottermore wouldn't count because it's "outside" the story. 

Let's stay with Harry Potter. A good example of this is Sirius and Lupin's relationship. In the books, they are shown as close friends. In some parts of the fandom, fans wonder if they were gay or bi and might have feelings for one another. It's never stated in the books that they are gay or bisexual so fans can say that they are. JK Rowling tweeting that Sirius isn't gay is null and void because of the Author is Dead and this wasn't in the story. 

Let's say one reader who has read the Harry Potter novels has always read Neville as having autism. There's nothing in the book confirming or denying this, but if the reader sees Neville this way, then there's nothing wrong with that. This reader just reads a character different, compared to another reader who might say "I never read Neville as having autism. But I always read Luna as Muslim." Which could be different from a third reader going "Never saw Luna or Neville that way. But I do think Dean Thomas and Seamus Finnigan are in a same sex relationship". A fourth reader might go "Really? Never saw those characters the way you guys have, although, I've read Professor Flitwick as a baddass transgender..."

And I could go on and on. You see, every reader comes into a story and away from a story differently compared to the next reader. 

These readers might read any book - say, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell and all could say "I saw Cath, Wren and their father as black" which goes against what most illustrations show.

But these ideas that readers have could go against the creator's own. 

So, who's right? The creator or the audience? 

My theory? Both. Yes, the creator created this story and we, the audience, must respect the work and their own ideas. If the creator says "I wrote a character this way because ...", the audience must respect this is how the author saw them.

However, this is the two-way street. Just because the creator saw this character one way, doesn't mean the audience should either. If they see said character a different way, the author must respect this, not try and shoot it down and go "No, you're wrong!". The creator should go "I thought of them this way, but if you see them different, that's ok." 

It works both way. Stories and information isn't going to be please everyone, but we should respect each person's take on stories, characters and themes within the story. Respect is key. 

Thursday 24 November 2016

Book Review - An Illustrated History of Notable Shadowhunters & Denizens of Downworld

I am a bit behind on my Shadowhunters reading. I have, on my current TBR; City of Fallen Angels, City of Lost Souls, Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy and Lady Midnight (though, when I do get my rear in gear to read these, I won't be reading these in order. I sense I might read Shadowhunter Academy and Lady Midnight before I read City of Fallen Angels and City of Lost Souls. And let's not get me start of the upcoming Last Hours trilogy coming soon...).

So, imagine my surprise when, out of nowhere, Simon and Schuster sent me a copy of (brace yourselves for long title to say in one breath) An Illustrated History of Notable Shadowhunters and Denizens of Downworld. And with my weird reading slump, I decide to blitz this tiny gift. 

In this anthology, we see characters from all of Cassandra Clare's Shadowhunter world - The Infernal Devices, The Mortal Instruments, Tales from the Shadowhunters Academy, The Dark Artifices and the upcoming The Last Hours - with never before known titbits of information on each character and with illustrations from Cassandra Jean - creator of the Shadowhunter Tarot that we've seen on Clare's website. 

I am a bit torn over this book. On one hand, I think true fans of this series will love this christmas stocking filler. Cassandra Jean's art is beautiful and is the real selling point for this book, in my opinion (and I love reading art books and spent quite a bit of time looking at illustrations in the books I read). 

Like I said, true fans of the series - all of the Shadowhunters series - will love this. But for someone who isn't up to speed (aka myself), the information given is a bit of a problem. While new information (and fans will be reading these and going "oh, that makes sense with so-and-so"), it doesn't feel entirely important to the world. For example, why is it important to tell us that, when younger, this one character had a brief spell at stamp collecting? 

There were times that I looked at this and thought "Is this a cash cow moment?". 

This is a die-hard fan book. But if you are a casual fan, I would say get a copy from your library. But go enjoy the art. 

Monday 21 November 2016

Audiobook Review - Fun Science

So... my AFN was a bit of a bust, wasn't it? STUPID READING SLUMP!

But, because of this, I treated myself to listening & reading what I wanted for first few weeks in November to get myself out of reading slump and get myself up straight before the blog goes off on it's Christmas holiday. So, let's start the Xmas countdown with Fun Science.

I was given this audiobook via Midas PR and Audible.co.uk (thanks, you guys!) in exchange for honest review so, like with every book/ebook/audiobook review on this blog, am going to be honest!

Charlie McDonnell (also known as youTuber, CharlieIsSoCoollike) has a thing about science. Not in school, but once he left and started reading up about it. And here is the bases of the book. Where Charlie writes about life, the universe and explaining why science is actually pretty cool.

I am not a fan of non-fiction. It's not my go-to when I read - and this is something I want to change a little in the future. So... for someone who doesn't like non-fiction, what was this audiobook like?

Quite good, actually. I was surprised how much I enjoyed listening to Charlie talking science and not making it sound overwhelming (which, let's face it, it can be!). He tried, as a science fan himself, not to be all technical and simplify it down enough. It was a good mix of humour from Charlie himself and his editor's notes, while breaking down science into bite size chucks.

I do have a few problems with the audiobook. Mainly that I believe this would be better in book form rathe than audiobook form. I say this as there were times, I felt like I was missing something. I was missing an illustration/editor's note or a joke that would work on paper but not in audio. There was one or two things, also, that the I wanted to go back and relisten to a piece of science for one reason or another, but couldn't on an audiobook (whereas a book would be easier).

But this is a good gateway to making science fun and easier for people to read and understand without readers going "Oh no! Science is so dull!!!". I am hopefully that Charlie writes another science book - the solar system would be my hope.

Friday 18 November 2016

Flash UK Contest!

Surprise 24 hour flash contest!

I don't do these but, ok, am doing a quick contest that will end tomorrow (Saturday 19th November 2016) at midday UK time!

So, while I was in New York last month (before the US election - the one we don't speak of because of our rage!), I went into the Disney Store in Time Square and bought two small Tsum Tsums. I bought more for myself (am beginning to think I might have a problem), but I wanted to give these two away!

Wednesday 16 November 2016

Carve The Mark Event

Last week, I was very kindly invited to HarperCollins HQ, along with a few others bloggers and booksellers. Why, I hear you ask. Well, HarperCollins was getting a few people together to do a live web chat with Veronica Roth about her upcoming novel, Carve the Mark

I don't know how I got invited, but I must say thank you to Jessica at HarperCollin for inviting me and everyone at HarperCollins for being so nice and lovely (and for giving me three glasses of wine -a dangerous thing to give a blogger who ate a very rich chocolate moouse from a tiny coffeeshop round the corner). 

Unfortuately, I left my notepad in my bag (and put said bag in the building's cloak room) so I have made no notes. 

I know, blogger fail. 

And there are some things I can't get into because... well, spoilers (well, I say spoilers. HarperCollins UK and US are keeping this book very under wraps!). And with this book, I sense you guys should go into this knowing as little as possible. That way, you can't compare to Divergent. But from the little we know, this book is rumoured to be Veronica's best book to date. 

Can not wait! 

Anyway, there was a tiny Facetime/web chat (not web cat as I wrote a few minutes ago!) with Veronica and she is lovely. And very cool. It's sickening how cool she is. She talked about writing Carve the Mark, fan expectations and, very briefly, about the US elections (aka The Subject Of Which We Do Not Speak Of!). 

And then, out of nowhere, Veronica read a tiny snippet of Carve the Mark. This was the first ever reading from this book. Ever. Big deal. Huge. So, how everyone in the room wasn't freaking out over this, I don't know! But you could hear a pin drop while Veronica was reading and, from that tiny snippet, I can say it's gonna be good. Right up our street - well, my street - reading wise. I can not WAIT! 

After chatting to a few bloggers, booksellers and publishing peeps (and realising that I barely know anything about the book industry!), I came away excited for next year but also two book titles I need to research and being told off for not reading The Good Immigrant yet (I WILL!!!). 

Again, I thank HarperCollins for inviting me, everyone at the event who was a laugh and putting me at ease (I always feel like am faking at being a blogger and last Thursday, I felt very much like I was conning everyone) and for Veronica for putting time out to answer some questions. Including my own (where I was sliding down in my seat, going "I didn't know I had to talk to an international best selling author and my questions are crap!" while trying to get my phone to actually work so I can answer said questions and wondering why my grandparents were trying to call me [wrong number. I checked!]). 

So thank you. Now... who fancies getting their ninja-gear in and breaking into Harper to steal a copy of Carve the Mark? (Am kidding, Harper Collins!)

Monday 14 November 2016

ALN Update

Ok, am going to write this tiny post to say ALN isn't going the way I hoped.

Due to a huge reading slump (thank you Goldenhand by Garth Nix) and the events of the past few weeks (I have now banned myself from watching the news because it upsets/angers me to no end!), am calling time of ALN.

I am going to do an adult literature month in the future. I am not giving up on it, but because the world has gone dark, I decide to read things that make me happy. We need some light in the world. Some humour. Some fun. And I can only do that if I get a little selfish and read books/listen to audiobooks that make me happy.

Mental health is important so I want to make me happy.

Life is too short for crap books and I am going to read what makes me happy. Once I do, I will fight for the things I am passionate about and for things I believe in.

So... yes. Writing this to keep you up to speed.

Hope you all are safe and are reading stories that are making you happy. I hope you and your loved ones are happy (physically, mentally and emotional) and this blog will be getting its smile on in the coming few days.

Now, before I leave you, let me leave you with this Vine that made me howl with laughter when I saw it at the weekend!

Saturday 12 November 2016

I Can't Think Of A Good Title For This Post/Contest...

The world is dark at the moment. It has become a lot darker as the year has coming gone by, but it seems that in the last week, most of us have definitely seen the shift.

Because of this, I decided that now is time to try and throw a bit of light out there. I want to be a better person, and try and fight the dark.

So, I have a small international contest for you. It's not much, but it's a start.

Because of funds, one winner will win a book (or, in one option's case, two - again, funds) of their choosing from the shortlist I have created (see below).

I am using Book Depository so, if you want to enter, please check they can send books to where you live. This contest will end on Wednesday 16th November 2016 at 5pm UK time and I will be using Random.org to pick a winner at random. After that, will email to get your address and confirm the book you want. After that, will buy and your prize will be in the post, heading your way!

I know this post isn't my normal jokey self but I really think, after the week we've had, we need something light to help us fight but also to give us hope, compassion and empathy.

Good luck to everyone who enters.

Wednesday 9 November 2016

DNFing Heartless

Because I have said that I will try and be as honest as I can about (and it's important to be honest with each other, dear reader, in my opinion). Sometimes, no matter how much we want to "click" with a story, for one reason or another, you just don't.

And sadly, Heartless is one of them. I think I know why, but let's talk about the book first before I explain my thinking.

We all know the story of Alice in Wonderland. But do we know the story about the Queen of Hearts? Before she became Queen, Cath just wanted to be the best baker in Hearts. She just wanted to fall in love.

The King Of Hearts wants to marry her, much to Cath's horror, and when she meets the new court jester, Jest, Cath feels a pull towards him. She wants to have control over her own life, her own destiny. But in Wonderland, where magic, monsters and madness go hand in hand, fate has other plans...

This type of book, I should be all over! I always seem to like Alice in Wonderland reimaginings/retellings and go towards them, and I have been excited to read this since I first heard of it a few years ago.

But why am I DNFing this? At 50 percent (yes, half way!)?

I have a mix of reasons. I think I might be in a bit of a reading slump since reading Garth Nix's Goldenhand and because of this, I am a bit harsh on my reading. And I did try to read several other stories before I started Heartless and seeing as I made it to 50%, I'm not entirely certain if this is the full reason.

I think I have two problems: the pacing and the characters. From what I have read, the majority of the story is quite slow in pace. I don't mind a slower paced story, but there were times I really struggled with the pacing. When it got going, I flew through those pages, but then it's slowed and I struggled to keep my reading pace going.

My problem with the characters is that they felt flat at times and, because of this, I didn't connect with them. If they were a little fleshed out, I think I would be on board with them. But they felt flat and, because of this, I didn't related.

I am saying this now that this isn't a review. I am not reviewing Heartless. I'm stating why I decided to stop reading this now (even though I'm currently meant to be in an adult literature reading month). I would like to return to read this once I feel more out of my reading slump and maybe closer to UK publication date.

Thursday 3 November 2016

ALN - Bridget Jones's Diary (Audiobook)

Confession to make time: I asked to review this back in September and the lovely people at Midas PR and Audible happily said yes. I asked if I could listen to this to celebrate the move release of Bridget Jones's Baby, but when I thought of my "Adult Literature Month", I knew I had to push this back and talk about it here.

This is Bridget Jones's diary. We see inside her head as she tackles modern day London, being a modern woman, her parents, relationships, career and everything else.

I have seen the movie (and from what I remembered, I enjoyed it) and I have audiobook Pride and Prejudice at the beginning of this year (Bridget could be seen as a modern-day reimagining of P&P) so going into this was interesting as I knew vaguely where the plot would go but wasn't sure where...

It is my honest belief (and I know this because I have tried to read a sampler of this and the sequel, Edge of Reason) that I couldn't and wouldn't have read this book and audiobooking it was a great help. I couldn't get my head round the writing style (I am not the biggest fan of books told in diary entries), but while it did take a while for me to warm to this style in audiobook form, once I got it, I got it. I think this is because of the reader, Imogen Church. She made Bridget seem more real to me and, even at times when I was frustrated with Bridget (will get there, hang on), Imogen made her likeable.

I liked the story. I liked how Bridget tried to figure out her life. I could relate to one or two things in it. And Bridget's entries made me smile. I didn't laugh at them, but I thought "I had something similar, but this is so heightened!"

However, while I liked the story (fun, fluffy read), Bridget frustrated me to no end. She would write or say one thing then completely contradict herself a entry or two later. It annoyed me endlessly! For example, there was one point she talked about her weight and how she will never count calories again and enjoy life because after so many years of trying to get to the perfect size, she applies ill. And yet, she still carried on counting her calories. She talks about her being single is wonderful and great, only to whine about being single a few hours later. There were occasions I would question Bridget's stance on her feminism as she would say one thing, only to do something which contract it. And, at times, she comes across completely unlikable (the reader, Imogen Church, does a lot to save this character for me).

She's flawed and, while this is refreshing (how many times have we read characters that seem too perfect or have one tiny flaw?), there are other times I couldn't help but get angry at her.

While I liked this audiobook, I'm not sure if I want to continue with series (unless I get audiobook for Edge of Reason and have the same reader). But not sure if I would read it. This sits in the middle of the fence for me as some of you will enjoy and love Bridget, others not so much.

Wednesday 2 November 2016

ALN - We Should All Be Feminists

Let's start this themed month of reading (well, for me, anyway) as I try to go on and read something that will make me think. And this essay from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's speech about feminism is a perfect place for me and this month to start.

There is very little to say on this essay's description, expect this is an essay based on a talk Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gave in 2012 for the TEDxEuston. She talks about feminism but touches on other things: how society shapes both genders from sure a young age, all with a hint of humour.

Now, I know some of you will have read and watched this (I will put the video down below as I think we should all watch it) and go "This isn't anything new. This has been discussed a hundred times over by different people" and I agree with you. But I think this makes the scary subject of feminism easier for some people to understand, because it tackles the idea of feminism and how the world sees feminism and inequality.

I think I have talked about my feelings of feminism on here and on Twitter but reading and watching this pointed things out that I missed. It made me more aware of the world around me. That this is so deeply engrained into us, it will take years/decades/centuries to unlearn.

There was a section in the essay (In the video below, the section starts around 17 minutes and 30 seconds in) where a paragraph stuck me. It made me stopped reading, made me put down and kindle and think. Because I realised that this does happen. This happens. Let me quote it (sorry if I get it wrong. Using video and my Twitter as, at time of writing, Kindle is on charge):

We teach girls shame. Close your legs. Cover yourselves. We make them feel as though by being born female, they are already guilty of something. And so girls grow up to be women who cannot say that they have desire. Who silence themselves. Who cannot say what they truly think. Who have turned pretence into an art form. 

This is an important subject and we must keep talking about it. And I think this is a really good way to start or continue the conversation. (Sorry if this isn't much of a review but highly important essay. Go out and read it)

Tuesday 1 November 2016


So... if this all goes to plan and I haven't been an awful blog planner like I normally am, I am welcoming you to ALN.

ALN is Adult Literature November. Which, basically, I am going to try and spend the whole month reading "grown up" books.

I chatted about this back in "My Reading Identity" blog post back in September, that I wanted to reading more adult fiction and, back in September, I thought I would do a month reading (and reviewing on the blog) adult fiction. But the more I thought about it, the more I went "Hang on, I want to try and read other things. Non fiction. Short stories. Essays." and I saw that there were books I wanted to read that wasn't called "fiction".

So this changed to Adult Literature. And because I wanted this is last for a whole month (have you seen the sizes of some of these books?! THE SIZE OF HOUSE BRICKS!!!), I decided to call it "Adult Literature Month" or ALM for short (much easier as a hashtag, I think you'll agree).

So, I hear you ask, what am I going to read? Hopefully, a good mix of things. And because I have been thinking about this since early September, I should have a good few reviews and discussion blog posts all scheduled and ready to go (hence why I took an extra few days in last month's RSM. I wanted to read a few of these without people going "Why are you doing that?")

I'm not going to say what I have read or I hope to read now (I did that in my Murder Month - and I did that because I knew I would have them read and reviewed in time and as am writing this a little ahead of time, I don't wanna jinx myself). However, I will be creating a ALN board/s on my Pinterest that you can check out. And I will create a shelf on my Goodreads so you can have a look there also (it should have been created a few days ago. If not, shout at me and I will get myself in order). If you are not friends with me on Goodreads or Pinterest, go check me out at goodreads.com/PewterWolf or visit me on Pinterest at uk.pinterest.com/pewterwolf.

There are other social media you can check me out on. All on the side or on my "Find Me" page, but yes! Am going to try and read more "adult" and pretend to be an adult for the next month... I doubt this will last, but it's going to be an interesting reading experience for me!