Month: June 2016

TV Review: Gossip Girl 1.01 – Pilot

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Back where it all began, in the first episode of the first season. The mysterious Serena van der Woodsen is back after her disappearance last year, and Blair is trying to ‘seal the deal’ with her boyfriend Nate.

Serena van der Woodsen
Serena is the first character we’re introduced to, who returns to New York after a year away at boarding school. Her disappearance to boarding school was abrupt and unexplained, and her return is met with hostility from her best friend, Blair Waldorf, and awkward conversations with Blair’s boyfriend, Nate. In this episode, Serena is accosted by Chuck Bass, a boy from school, and ends up going on a date with Dan Humphrey to see his father’s band. We learn that her return to New York was caused by the attempted suicide of Serena’s brother Eric. We also learn that she left after sleeping with Blair’s boyfriend, Nate, at the Shepherd wedding, which was witnessed with Chuck.

Blair Waldorf
Blair is the daughter of a fashion designer, and is dating the very handsome Nate Archibald. Spurred by Serena’s sudden return, she decides to sleep with Nate for the first time, but he reveals he slept with her best friend, Serena, last year. Blair also hosts the Kiss On The Lips party, but actively decides not to invite Serena, who left abruptly last summer and didn’t inform her of her return.

Nate Archibald
Nate is the boyfriend of Blair Waldorf, who slept with her best friend, Serena, the year before, when Nate and Blair were still dating – they have been dating since Kindergarten. After revealing this information, we see him forced into reconciling with Blair as his father wants to sweeten a deal with Blair’s mother and her fashion company.

Dan Humphrey
Dan is the kid who doesn’t fit in – he doesn’t live on the Upper East Side, and he lives in a loft with his father Rufus and his sister Jenny. He is hopelessly in love with Serena van der Woodsen, who he ‘accidentally’ bumps into at a hotel where she asks him on a date. They end up going to see Dan’s dad’s band, and then saving his little sister Jenny from Chuck Bass. Dan is often ignored and is ‘invisble’ to others at school, including Nate and Chuck.

(also can we mention how ‘accidentally’ bumping into a girl is quite creepy!)

Jenny Humphrey
Jenny is Dan’s younger sister who aspires to fit in with the kids at school, and makes copies of designer dresses she likes on her sewing machine. She gains an invite to the Kiss On The Lips party in exchange for addressing all of the invitations, and is taken advantage of by Chuck Bass who plies her with alcohol and forces himself on her.

Chuck Bass
Chuck is the resident ‘bad boy’ which is a bit of an understatement in this episode – he forces himself on two girls (Jenny and Serena) and tries to persuade Nate to sleep with Blair. I’m not impressed with him as a character at this point but his behaviour isn’t condoned and he is confronted by Dan at the end of the episode.

Other notes
There is so much music in this pilot! Every scene is accompanied by cinematic shots of New York and some tune.
Hints at a past romance between Rufus Humphrey and Lily van der Woodsen.
Pilot starts and ends with a similar shot of Serena staring out of a window pensively.

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Review: The Selection by Kiera Cass

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The Selection by Kiera Cass

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I know I’m coming to this series way too late, but I finally read The Selection as it was available on NetGalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

The Selection is the Bachelorette (not that I’ve ever watched the Bachelorette) meets The Hunger Games, and follows America Singer, a Five (out of Eight) in a dystopian United States. She loves a boy against the rules – Aspen is a Six, someone who is not worthy of her because of his social status, and they meet after curfew in a treehouse.

Pushed by Aspen, who doesn’t feel worthy of her, and her mother, who dreams of what it could bring the family, America is pushed to enter The Selection, where 35 girls are whisked off to the palace for the chance to be chosen to marry Prince Maxon. Even being selected elevates the girls’ social status and changes their lives forever.

I really enjoyed The Selection – it’s a fun dystopian tale that doesn’t take itself too seriously (and that’s important to remember). It actually works in more alternate world history than many serious dystopians, and I loved America’s character – the fact that she has a boyfriend at the beginning of the novel, and seemed generally unimpressed with Maxon’s charms produced an interesting character, who isn’t swept off her feet immediately, if at all. Many of the periphery characters were a little underdeveloped, but to develop them would have taken the story off in tangents that it didn’t need to explore.

I especially loved how America seems human – she doesn’t get over Aspen easily and she doesn’t dive straight into another relationship. She’s a real fish out of water in this novel and her perspective on events is interesting and entertaining.

It’s important to note that this is more of a Part 1 of a book, with the next two instalments (The Elite and The One) filling Parts 2 and 3 – there isn’t a real story resolution and I’m glad the next two books have already been released. I’d like to see this story as a bind-up to complete the story.

Overall, a fun read that has instigated a need to finish this series (if not only for the gorgeous covers!).
View all my reviews

Annalise x

#WaitingOnWednesday – Nothing Tastes As Good by Claire Hennessy

This week’s Waiting On Wednesday book is Nothing Tastes As Good by Claire Hennessy!

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UK Publisher: Hot Key Books

UK Release Date: 14th July 2016

Nothing Tastes As Good is the story of Annabel, a recently deceased teen who suffered from anorexia in life, who is assigned to help another teenager with a difficult relationship with food, Annabel.

I’ve been absolutely loving Irish YA at the moment (and so is everyone else, if they deluge of awards for the likes of Sarah Crossan and Louise O’Neill is anything to go by) and I’m SO excited for this July release.

There’s a pandemic in YA of important issues that affect teenagers which tend to go ignored because they’re difficult to write. I’m talking things like body image and body dysphoria, discovering your sexuality or coming to terms with a disability or illness.

Finally, we have a book that tackles anorexia, obesity and eating disorders, and it has some brilliant reviews (GoodReads average 4.5 at time of writing), and I can’t wait to read and review. If you know of any books which tackles similar issues, please let me know!

Annalise x

Review: And I Darken by Kiersten White

And I Darken by Kiersten White

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**Disclaimer: copy received from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review**

3.5 stars

And I Darken is the first in a new trilogy by Kiersten White, whose Paranormalcy I have previously read and enjoyed, but just didn’t carry on with. It follows Lada Dracul, the gender-swapped version of Vlad the Impaler. Pretty awesome, right?

I loved the concept of this novel from the outset, and knew I just had to read it. I love Dracula, and I love alternate histories.

The novel begins with Lada’s birth and childhood, which I really enjoyed seeing – we rarely see the background of a character, and this beginning felt very different. We’re dropped into Wallachia, gaining an insight into the upbringing of Lada and her younger brother, Radu, from whose perspective the story is also told. Lada is boistrous and violent, whilst Radu is quiet and timid, and these were fun roles to explore.

We slowly see Lada and Radu grow up, and soon they are traded and betrayed by their father to the Sultan, whose son, Mehmed, they soon grow close too. I actually really liked the character of Mehmed, who struggles with politics and power. The only problem with Mehmed is that everyone and their dog appears to be in love with him. The romance between Mehmed and Lada is interesting, simply because she struggles with wanting to be her own woman, and also with jealousy of Mehmed’s wives and concubines, which I thought brought an original and refreshing twist on a typical romance. She also rebuffs his advances which I liked – many girls in YA simply fall for the handsome prince when he dares to look their way.

My problem with Lada is the same problem I had with Celaena Sardothien in the first Throne of Glass novel – for a character advertised as cutthroat, murderous and ravenous for blood, she doesn’t do much killing. In fact, she’s left behind while the men go off to fight, and she never kills except for in self defence. I think there’s a hesitation with authors to write a character, and especially a female character, who actually is a bit evil, and does actual killing without remorse. Lada really did show promise at the beginning of the novel, but she just didn’t live up to her promise.

Another problem I had – and this is perhaps my own fault – is there were so many characters in this, and I forgot who they were and what had happened previously to them. I did put this book down about 1/3 of the way through in early June and pick it back up to finish it a few weeks later, but some of the characters just weren’t memorable, and then became important. I loved almost all of the female characters, but I just became confused about who a lot of the male characters were and when they had been introduced.

What this book really needs at the beginning is a map and a timeline – I got confused when time skipped ahead quickly, and had no idea what year it was or how old the characters were, although this would have been easier with a real life copy of the book.

What ultimately led me to give this book 3.5 stars was the voice – this book is written in third person limited, and so we don’t really get to see the feelings and motivations of the characters, and I felt a bit disconnected from them.

This book did however inspire me – I really want to see more alternate (or not) historical fiction, especially in unusual time periods and locations like this one. It genuinely is an original book, and I’d love to see more books like this on the market. I also really appreciated the inclusion of religion in this book – it’s a topic often shied away from, and it certainly wasn’t here.

Overall, a really refreshing read with an original concept, but that fell a little short of excellent.

View all my reviews

Annalise x

Review: Eat Sweat Play: How Sport Can Change Our Lives by Anna Kessel

Eat Sweat Play: How Sport Can Change Our Lives
Eat Sweat Play: How Sport Can Change Our Lives by Anna Kessel

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

** Disclaimer: Review copy received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review**

Eat Sweat Play is the perfect clash of feminism and sport, and seeks to address why so many women are put off sport, whilst men revel in it, and the implications that has. As someone who unapologetically hated PE, and identifies as a woman, I found this book fascinating.

Anna guides us through sport during the milestones of a woman’s life – puberty, when many girls are put off sport and become self-conscious about their bodies, pregnancy, when women are seen as irresponsible to carry on with sport, and motherhood, when sport tends to get pushed aside due to other pressures, despite the pressure to bounce back to your pre-baby body. This book was really informative and I learnt a lot about women in sport, and the reasons many women are put off it.

As a feminist work, this book was really intersectional, with discussion of race, gender and sexuality, and did not shy away from the sometimes taboo topics of periods and miscarriage.

This book was incredibly thought-provoking and inspirational, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in feminism, sport or a mixture of the two. The book isn’t preachy or snobby, it’s written by a woman who also happened to have hated PE in school and who now works as a sports journalist.

Eat Sweat Play is full of interviews with experts and athletes and discusses a lot of recent events in the world of sport, which kept it current, although I worry that with time this book will become a little dated.

Overall, an inspirational feminist work that changed by perception of women and sport.

View all my reviews

Annalise x

Review: Sunny Side Up by Holly Smale

Sunny Side Up
Sunny Side Up by Holly Smale

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**Disclaimer: Review copy received from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review**

Sunny Side Up is my first Geek Girl novel (and it’s technically a special novella) although the first book is waiting for me at home – and I can’t wait to dive in.

Harriet Manners, the ‘Geek Girl’ of the series is a geek turned supermodel, and Sunny Side Up is the story of her debut at Paris Fashion Week. Harriet is intelligent and fascinated by facts – I love how there’s so much interesting information packed into this book and I loved the Paris setting. I believe we see a lot of the characters from the main series in this novella.

I loved this Summer Special, and I can’t wait to get stuck into the main series – this is such a fun summer read, and definitely one to pick up if you are a fan of the main Geek Girl series.

View all my reviews

Annalise x

Review: London Belongs to Us by Sarra Manning

London Belongs to Us
London Belongs to Us by Sarra Manning

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Seventeen-year-old Sunny’s always been a little bit of a pushover. But when she’s sent a picture of her boyfriend kissing another girl, she knows she’s got to act. What follows is a mad, twelve-hour dash around London – starting at 8pm in Crystal Palace (so far away from civilisation you can’t even get the Tube there) then sweeping through Camden, Shoreditch, Soho, Kensington, Notting Hill . . . and ending up at 8am in Alexandra Palace.

Along the way Sunny meets a whole host of characters she never dreamed she’d have anything in common with – least of all the devilishly handsome (and somewhat vain) French ‘twins’ (they’re really cousins) Jean Luc and Vic. But as this love-letter to London shows, a city is only a sum of its parts, and really it’s the people living there who make up its life and soul. And, as Sunny discovers, everyone – from friends, apparent-enemies, famous bands and even rickshaw drivers – is willing to help a girl on a mission to get her romantic retribution.

 

London Belongs To Us is the fourth Sarra Manning novel I’ve read – my first and favourite being Unsticky – and the first YA novel of hers I have read (although she has written loads).

LBTU is the story of Sunny, a mixed-race working-class seventeen-year-old Londoner, who has decided she’s going to lose her virginity to her boyfriend Mark – tonight. It’s the August Bank Holiday weekend (the last weekend in August for all of you non-UKers), and her mum is out of town, and Sunny has the house to herself (although she’s not allowed any of those wild teenage parties that get out of hand!).

Sunny is hanging out with her best friend Emmeline when she gets a text – a photo of her boyfriend, Mark, kissing another girl. What ensues is a 12 hour chase around London landmarks, meeting interesting characters and doing crazy things Sunny would never have dreamed of doing – all so she can dump Mark and get her dignity back.

What I really did like about this novel is the fact that for every London area visited, there’s a little history to really set the mood. What this novel was missing however, was a map. If in doubt, add a map in the front! This is really common in fantasy novels, but I’d also like to see maps in contemporary novels like this one where the story takes place all over a city.

The absolute highlight for me was the characterisation and diversity in this novel. I loved how Sunny was mixed-race and in an interracial relationship and she did encounter racism, but it wasn’t the main arc of the story. So many stories about non-white characters focus on stereotypes – often featuring gangs, drugs and murder. It’s refreshing to see a non-white character who isn’t defined by their skin colour.

On the topic of diversity, there’s a whole host of diverse characters here – the LGBTQ spectrum is well covered, we see characters from a range of different class backgrounds, and, as mentioned earlier, we see characters of different races. The diversity in this novel doesn’t feel forced – it feels natural, as does the characterisation of London.

This novel introduces lots of characters for such a short book, but it’s done well – they are each unique and memorable, as well as being well-developed.

Overall, this is a fun, short novel which is itself an ode to the culture of London. If you’re looking for a quick summer read that gets diversity right, check this one out.

This book reminded me of another recent YA release, You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan, so if you enjoyed that, this would be another great read.
View all my reviews

Annalise x

YALC Reading List Part 7!

I’m afraid it’s going to be a short installment this week – I’m sick(!) and my thesis is due in a few days, after which I’ll be back on top form! It also means that the last few installments can be full length (8 authors).

You can catch-up or reread the first six installments in the YALC Reading List here – one, two, three, four, five and six.

52. Pete Kalu

Book to read: The Silent Striker

This one sounds really interesting – The Silent Striker is about an aspiring footballer, Marcus, who discovers that he is losing his hearing, and his world falls apart around him. This is a story of disability, friendship, family and first loves, which touches upon racism and depression. This is the second book in the Striker series – the first is Being Me, which focuses on a girl called Adele, who wants to be a footballer. Both of these books look to be complex and deal with difficult teenage issues.

53. Dawn Kurtagich

Book to read: The Creeper Man

Dawn writes ‘psychologically sinister fiction’ and has two YA novels – The Dead House came out last year and The Creeper Man will be released this July. I’m not entirely sure horror is my kind of genre, but The Creeper Man has good reviews, and is about two girls who escape an abusive father to live with their aunt, where sinister figures watch them and their aunt locks herself in the attic. This one is definitely intriguing.

54. Richard Kurti

Book to read: Monkey Wars

Monkey Wars was released in 2013, to critical acclaim. It’s a tale of political unrest and turmoil, through the eyes of two monkeys, from opposing tribes. Perfect for fans of George Orwell or Catch-22, this one sounds interesting but I can’t find too much information about it! It was nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Medal.

55. Eugene Lambert

Book to read: The Sign of One

The Sign of One is a sci-fi thriller about Kyle, who flees for his life from the Barrenlands of Wrath, where people can’t die of old age. This sounds like such an interesting concept dystopia, and reviews say it is full of twists and turns. The Sign of One was released in April, and the reason I haven’t picked this one up is the cover doesn’t look particularly interesting.

56. Patrice Lawrence

Book to read: Orangeboy

Orangeboy is the story of Marlon, whose mother has been widowed and whose brother is caught up in gang violence. After a disastrous first date, he become a hunted man – caught up in the world of gangs, drugs and violence, but not sure why. Reviews say this is fast-paced and harrowing, with a frustrating main character, and again, this probably isn’t my cup of tea. Orangeboy was released on 2nd June in UK.

That’s it from me for this week – i’ll be back next Sunday evening with a full-sized dose of reading list goodness!

Annalise xxx