Friday, 23 January 2015

Book Review- Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Title:  Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief
Author:  Rick Riordan
Series:   Percy Jackson and the Olympians
Published:  May 2005 by Miramax,  May 2006 by Miramax
Length:  377 pages
Source: bought and library
Other info: Many other series such as The Heroes of Olympus and the Kane Chronicles have stemmed off. There was a film adaptation of The Lightning Thief.
Summary :  Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he can't seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. And lately, being away at boarding school is only getting worse-Percy could have sworn his pre-algebra teacher turned into a monster and tried to kill him. When Percy's mom finds out, she knows it's time that he knew the truth about where he came from, and that he go to the one place he'll be safe. She sends Percy to Camp Half Blood, a summer camp for demigods (on Long Island), where he learns that the father he never knew is Poseidon, God of the Sea. Soon a mystery unfolds and together with his friends -- one a satyr and the other the demigod daughter of Athena -- Percy sets out on a quest across the United States to reach the gates of the Underworld (located in a recording studio in Hollywood) and prevent a catastrophic war between the gods.

Review: Percy Jackson is a mostly normal child. Yes, he has trouble concentrating and keeps getting thrown out of schools but mostly, he's ok. Until, on this school trip, it looks like he'll get thrown out because his maths teacher wants to kill him. And he vaporises her with a sword. More things happen, and Percy ends up at Camp Half Blood, with satyrs, demigods, and a centaur of a Latin teacher. And a quest. Because Zeus is angry. And things get better from there.
I love this series from the bottom of my heart. I read it first when I was eight or nine, maybe? I don't know, but I wanted a book and I asked my dad for recommendations in Waterstones and he picked this off the shelves and I fell in love with it when I read the chapter titles. Add the fact that I already had a love of Greek mythology and you can see how this is going to work out.
I reread this because my reading aim for 2015 is to work my way through all of Rick Riordan's demigod series and this is the first one.
The world of this is wonderful. The Gods are alive and kicking and operating out of the USA, doing what they've always done in a more modern way. This "what they've always done" includes having children with mortals, thus necessitating Camp Half Blood, a safe place to train and live without fear of monsters.
The characters  are well fleshed out and great to read about. The new takes on mythology are genius, especially when you notice the clever ways little things are updated'. You just fall in love with all the characters- Percy for his determination to keep trying, Grover for his determination to keep trying, Annabeth for her cleverness and levelheadedness, Chiron for his general badassery of being both a centaur and a Latin teacher...the list goes on.
They adventure in such a way that we meet a variety of creatures from Greek myth. I must say, when I first read it, I felt so proud of myself for being to guess ahead as to who this threat was, and I also enjoyed learning about new aspects of mythology too.
The writing describes well, but has a huge dose of humour. Case in point: chapter titles. But I loved the sheer amount of fun that this book was, comparatively speaking to everything else I was reading.
The  plot keeps running in new direction throughout the whole novel. The twists at the end where we learn how the thing got in, I  did not see coming the first time I read it. It was foreshadowed so perfectly and the way it all came round made me happy.


Overall:  Strength 5 tea to  a strong opening to a brilliant series.


Monday, 19 January 2015

Book Review: The Bubble Wrap Boy by Phil Earle

Title:  The Bubble Wrap Boy
The Bubble Wrap Boy by Phil Earle review at Death, Books, and Tea
Author:   Phil Earle
Series:    N/A
Published:   1 May 2014 by Penguin
Length:   272 pages
Source: library
Other info: Earle has also written Heroic, Being Billy, and Saving Daisy
Summary :  All my life I've been tiny Charlie from the Chinese Chippie, whose only friend is Sinus, the kid who stares at walls. But I believe that everyone's good at something. I've just got to work out what my something is...
Charlie's found his secret talent: skateboarding. It's his one-way ticket to popularity. All he's got to do is practice, and nothing's going to stop him - not his clumsiness, not his overprotective mum, nothing. Except Charlie isn't the only one in his family hiding a massive secret, and his next discovery will change everything. How do you stay on the board when your world is turned upside down?

Review: Charlie Han is the boy from the Chinese takaway shop, with an overprotective mother and only one friend, Sinus. He plans to find the one thing that will improve his reputation and make his life better, and then he finds it. Skateboarding. However, due to said overprotective mother, he needs to keep his new hobby a secret. One day, he answers the phone to find another member of the family also has a huge secret. These secrets may bring them all together or tear them apart.
I didn’t know what to expect from this really, other than a chinese main character (bringing my total of memorable chinese main characters I’ve read up to four :D) and great things (mainly due to Jim).
It starts off really lighthearted, with a lot of comedy stemming from Charlie’s huge clumsiness and the freidnship that Sinus and Charlie have.  The characters are well developed. Sinus by the end also has secrets and it’s pretty awesome when they come out.  Charlie’s mother is highly overprotective,  but luckily it’s not part of being an overbering non-academic tiger mother; instead, there’s a very good reason and once we learn that reason we see a new side to her and understand her more.
I really liked the fact that family plays a huge part in theis novel. I was not expecting it to be that emotional but the revelation of the secret and all the interactions following made me smile and ugh I can’t describe the happiness from some of the scenes and the sadness from some others and  you just need to read it.
I’d call it a coming of age story because of some of the themese carried through it: the learning ot become more open  with your family, the wanting to make a new identity, the dealing with a major upheaval for the first time in one’s life.
It’s an open ending, which I didn’t like for this because I felt it ended too soon. I’d have liked to know more about Charlie’s mother’s reaction, and the aftermath within the school. However,   Charlie’s costume at the end. Perfect.

Strength 4 tea aka 4 stars at Death, Books, and Tea

Overall:  Strength 4 tea to a mostly funny, but also serious,  coming of age book.




Sunday, 18 January 2015

Blog Awards + News

Hey! Things are kind of getting sorted in my life right now.

News! 
There's going to be a chat tomorrow (19 January) on twitter about  teenage mental health at 7pm GMT. The hashtag is #gdnbluemonday. Go join in.
Also, Tom Pollock wrote an incredibly brave and powerful post. Go read it. 
I'm really glad that mental health is something that's being talked about more. It might feature a bit more on this blog, I don't know yet. But, like many other things that we need to talk about, it is being talked about more, and maybe slowly society can do the same.

Happier news! I discovered Judd Books, and independent store in London, because I saw Stacey (The Pretty Books) and Jim (YaYeahYeah) by chance while trying to visit the Gothic exhibition in the British Library (I failed. Why did my teachers, who knew we'd be studying  Frankenstein all year, only tell us that it was on and it would be highly useful the week before it closed?)  Anyway, I got two non fiction books because non-ficion second hand books tend to be rarer so I got a book on the history behind the Trojan War and on LGBTQ rights in the Middle East.

Also, I'm thinking of attempting to do fortnightly vlogs. Would anyone be interested?



Main post time! I got nominated for two blog awards over the past few weeks- the Liebster award from Jo, who writes the Eclectic Feel Blog, and the Infinity Dreams award from Holly, who writes Holly Quills and Ivy. Thank you, guys!

From Eclectic Feel Blog. wordpress.com

  • Describe your blog in 3 words. So much work.
  • What’s your favourite smell and why? Rum and vanilla tea because good memories of times when it was there- see birthday party involving tea duelling
  • Name an unusual skill/talent you have.  Less a talent, more proof of my brain being a jumbled mess- randomly slipping correctly conjugated/declined Latin into French lessons or mostly incorrectly conjugated French into Latin
  • If you could only choose one – books, music, art, craft or photography? This is evil. Book s or music... books. Just. Evil.
  • Oranges or lemons? Organes.
  • Your top 3 ambitions for 2015? Sort out my physical health and mental health and sleep pattern. Get decent grades.  Not mess up too badly.
  • What was your last holiday destination and what’s (hopefully) your next? Edinburgh  (Fringe festival!!) and Spain (not sure where).
  • Trilby or fedora? Fedora
  • What was the last book you read/album you listened to (and rate it out of 10)? Last book completed- Love, Sex, and Tragedy- 7.75 out of 10. Last album listened to: Spring Awakening Original Cast- 7 out of 10
  • What’s your favourite cheese? Whatever it is that goes on dominoes pizza
  • Will you be rocking Pantone’s colour of the year “Marsala” in 2015? No, since I have no idea what it is.


From HollyQuillsand Ivy

Required 11 facts
  • I can’t stick to plans about what to read next
  • I love my Latin lessons excessively
  • I have illustrated my Latin workbooks with daleks, corsets, and a graphic body count of Titus Andronicus
  • Underneath my bed is a lot of food
  • Current teas on the go: Russian Morning Kusmi 24, and Lapsang Souchong.
  • I can’t drink lapsang souchong at night or the caffeine keeps me awake
  • I have no idea where I want to start writing my TEDx talk
  • My to-review box is overflowing badly
  • I keep random bits and bobs in pretty teacups
  • Miscast cabaret/backwards broadway nights on youtube make my life complete
  • I really want to become fluent in at least two more languages.

And questions...  

  • In your opinion, what book has the most beautiful cover ? Current favourite, liable to change: This Book is Gay just because its cover fits it perfectly.
  • What is your favourite song? Another current favourite , liable to change, is Touch Me from Spring Awakening.
  • Why did you start blogging? Stephanie said she did it and she loved it. I decided to go.
  • Would you rather be in The Hunger Games arena or in a zombie apocalypse? Zombie apocalypse
  • If you travel anywhere where would you like to go? A tour of all the capital cities.
  • What celebrity would you fangirl over most? Hmm...... there’s many..... I have love for Haylee Atwell, Kat Dennings, Colbie Smoulders, Scarlett Johanson.... all the ladies of Marvel really... and Sebastian Stan.... and James Dawson.... and Kim Curran... and Patrick Ness.... and Tom Pollock.... and Laura Lam... and Rainbow Rowell.... I don’t know!
  • What is one skill you wish you had? Apart from languages, consistently decent violin skills.
  • Narnia or Neverland? Neverland
  • Is there one film you can quote word for word? Repo! The Genetic Opera. And the play version of Rent (not a film, but I can do that as well)
  • What was your worst read of 2014?  I can’t think of an absolute worst, but I couldn't deal with Game of Thrones.
  • What was your best read of 2014? Probably A Kiss in the Dark.

OK, I’m sorry I don’t have time to nominate people or write questions, because I can’t deal with going and seeing who’s won it already and such right now and my interview conducting skills are zero,  but if anyone wants to  tell us a bit about themselves, please do! 

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Book Review- The Bullet Catcher's Daughter by Rod Duncan

Title:  The Bullet Catcher’s Daughter
Author:  Rod Duncan
Series:    The Fall of the Gaslit Empire #1
Published:   August 2014 by Angry Robot
Length:   364 pages
Source: netgalley

Summary : Elizabeth Barnabus lives a double life—as herself and as her brother, the private detective. She is trying to solve the mystery of a disappearing aristocrat and a hoard of arcane machines. In her way stand the rogues, freaks and self-proclaimed alchemists of a travelling circus. But when she comes up against an agent of the all-powerful Patent Office, her life and the course of history will begin to change. And not necessarily for the better…

Review: The United Kingdom has been split in to two, the Kingdom and The Republic.  In the Republic, Elizabeth Barnaby lives as herself by day, and as her brother Edwin at night, who works as a detective to pay her debts. One case she picks up is to find a missing aristocrat. This leads her on yet another adventure
I wanted to read this because steampunk and cross dressing detective women makes a good combination.
The alternate history was developed through implications from the narration and flashbacks. I like the way  the division  of the country (halfway north, halfway south) meant both parts evolved into different places with different attitudes to things, and the world building was generally good. The glossary at the back would have been helpful to clarify things as I was reading (I dind’t know it existed until I got to the end).
I loved Elizabeth. She was smart and quick and handled things well and I enjoyed reading about her. My favourite character was Julia, who also took the initiative, and then she started to fall for Edwin, and [Spoiler alert! Highlight for details] I was seriously hoping  she’d find out the secret and still be into Elizabeth, because I love my queer girls. Alas :( [end spoiler]. The Patent Office made a good adversary, though I didn’t like the guy from it.
The plot took a little time to start, but once it did, it developed continuously. Twists and turns kept coming throughout the novels. Travels happen  on airships around the country, and you also visit a circus, both parts of the split country, and other steampunky tropes turn up which work well in this novel. However, I felt the end was a bit of an anticlimax and the middle part dragged a little.
I really liked the extracts from the Bullet Catcher's Handbook at the start of each chapter. 

Overall:  Strength 3.5 tea, more a 3, to a good steampunk  story. I’ll read the next one because, judging by the series title, something hugescale’s going to happen and that will hopefully be awesome.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Book Reviews: Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell and Sleepless by Lou Morgan

So, Stripes Publishing have a little imprint called Red Eye where horror stories are being published. I don't read much horror, but I tend to enjoy what I do. Here's a review of the first two books out from Red Eye.

Title: Frozen Charlotte
Author: Alex Bell
Series:  Red Eye 
Published:  5 January 2015 by Red Eye/ Stripes
Length: 368
Source: Publisher
Review:Sophie is playing with her best friend when they recieve an ominous message through a Ouija board. A few days later, Sophie is sent to a schoolhouse to live wirh her cousins: Cameron, whose hand was badly burned, Piper, who seems perfect, Lilias, who's terrified of bones, and Rebecca, who has the dolls in the house. And is dead.
When I first heard of the Red Eye series that Andersen Press were bringing out, I was very excited. Because I enjoy horror and there should be more YA. Oh, and Lou Morgan (see me profess undying love for her adult series here). So, yes. A series with snazzy covers and different concepts. Yay!
Its quite predictable in some places-though in others, the twists were great. The level of interest fluctuation mirrors the level of creepiness fluctuating- while the dolls are definitely creepy in places. Lilias attitude and the things she does are brilliant, at times it seems a little too forced. What made it a lot scarier to me  is the  way the ideas got into the characters heads and took them over. The idea that you cant get away due to this being set on an isladn also helped.
I really liked Lilias. I'm not sure why  but she's the most memorable for me. Piper-oh my gosh yes. Sophie was a bit like the stereotypical teen horror film heroine and it worked well.
The supernatural elements are nicely contrasted with the real life elements  of grief and loss that added a bit more depth to the characters. Also, I liked the tie-ins to the history of the school.
The plot goes slow to start and speeds up towards the end. It's very easy to read and enjoy.


Overall: Strength 3 tea to a creepy story. Looking forwards to seeing what else RedEye puts out.
Links:Amazon | Author Website | Goodreads


 

Title:
 Sleepless
Author: Lou Morgan
Series:  Red Eye
Published:  5 January 2015 by Red Eye/Stripes
Length: 334 pages
Source: Publisher
Review: At Clerkenwell, you just dont fail. But with exams coming up, Izzy and her friends need to study. But Tigs has pills she bought off the internet, that claim to make you better at studying. They take it. And then start hallucinating. And then it all gets worse.
This is the book that  made me highly excited for the Red Eye series because of Blood and Feathers and the fact that horror was coming to the YA market hopefully more.  
The characters feel like stock tropes, especially Tigs. I didnt feel I could connect or get to like any of them, except Kara, because for going to a highly prestigious school, they must have understood the risks of taking a random pill and more than one of them should have had enough common sense to not take it (looking at you, Noah. I understand exam pressure, but really?)
The tension is built up really well in places. I liked the use of more relatable settings, bringing it most definitely to a contemporary setting, the Barbican in London (I cant think off the top of my head of any horror books/films that are set in the middle of a city; abandoned/far out settings come to mind more when thinking about horror settings ).
The endingerm, the last few paragraphs. Its ambiguous, and I think I get what happened, but the explanation  behind those last few paragraphs is unclear and I didnt really like it.
Like Frozen Charlotte, its scary levels went up and down. Some things again felt forced, especially some peoples *****s in the second half. But also, theres a section where they start getting very paranoid and I couldnt stop reading that bit.
Overall: Strength 3.5, slightly more a  4 tea to a book that was quick and easy, and sometimes scary, but not always.


Initial thoughts on the series: I was excited for both these novels. The quality of both in terms of scares and of  varies throughout, but were both quick, easy, and enjoyable reads. Coverwise, theyre brilliant. Im looking forwards to Flesh and Blood and Bad Bones, the Red Eyes coming in March and May. Finally,  in the hands of good directors, both these books would make excellent films. 

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Things I would like to do this year


I have plans for this year. Some are definite, some are hopeful. All have a slightly higher chance of being achieved if I make my intentions public and there’s  people who can shout at me if I don’t do them. Normal blogging service will resume next week. As for my goals for this year, here you are!

  • Blog  at least twice a week. I think this will have to be a case of “schedule things so you don’t get a full week of posts then radio silence” thing,  but you should start seeing regular content from now on
  • Be involved in at least two theatre projects. I know there are two theatre projects I’d like to be involved in because one  (Spring Awakening with the fabulous Renegade Theatre Company) is auditioning on Monday and the other is one I’ll be doing myself (see next point).
  • Do a Latin play! I have this all planned in my head. There’s a play called Menaechmi, which is like The Comedy of Errors but marginally simpler. I have the Latin text and an English translation. I need to edit it down so it’s shorter. We rehearse the play and produce as normal. We perform it, speaking Latin and having a PowerPoint in the background surtitling the English like an opera. This is ambitious, but it should work!
  • Do TEDx! I’m a confirmed speaker at my school’s TEDx Youth Conference, which came about because one of my friends is just brilliant and decided to hold one and so we’re having one. I’ll almost certainly be speaking about diversity in teen fiction, because that is what I somewhat know about. And there’s some bloggers who’ll be coming for a bloggers’ alley and an author will be speaking too(probably)! It’s exciting, it’s happening in July, and you can find more information on Twitter and Facebook.
  • Read at least 52 books and review them. Without letting them pile up.I'm setting targets low, because this will be a busy year. Hopefully I'll do more. But low targets to start with are good. 
  • Keep on top of emails.  Not just read them, say "I'll reply later" and look back a month later and think "Would it be awkward to reply now?"
  • Connect with bloggers even more. I’ll make buttons to find me elsewhere in the coming weeks, but connect on the blogs as well. I’m terrible at commenting, both because of time and because of lack of knowing what to say, but I’ll try. Also,  I should be going to the Fire Sermon Blogger event later on in the month, so anyone going should say hi. 
  • Survive the year without doing anything permanently stupid.
  • Sort out my sleep pattern. I try and get off screens by 10 and be asleep by 11, to wake up at 6.25, but it's not working to a ridiculous extent and it's messing with my life too much. Any tips would be appreciated!
  • Become somewhat healthier, both physically and mentally. 
  • Decide on a uni course! I think want to go into law. So do I do a law degree, or go  do classics and a conversion course after? Because classics would be awesome, and I love classics, but then that’s another year of my life in training and who knows what’ll happen to training fees? But then, coming out of a classics course, I have few more options if I decide not to do law. Choices!! Anyway, this decision WILL be made by October, because I’m applying for Oxford if I get the grades and early applications must be made by then and so yay UCAS?
  • Connect more with writers. I like the idea of maybe going into editing (writing’s hard. Improving it is something I’m much better at) and I’d be happy to help anyone with any writing that they want going.
  • Get good grades on my AS levels, but also not stress out over them excessively! French, Latin, Government and Politics, English Literature, and Critical Thinking. Exam time gets nearer and nearer and I do not feel prepared. Yay!
  • Have a good year! I know it won’t be all brilliant, but hopefully the good times will outweigh the bad ones. 
These aren't resolutions, because if they were, they would not happen. Just things I shall be attempting to do. Anyone who also has things they would like to do this year, I wish you success. Happy New Year, everyone!