Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Book Review: Worlds of Ink and Shadow by Lena Coakley

Read: December 28-29   Verdict: 4 Stars

I received a free digital copy from the author/publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest feedback.

Emily and Charlotte Bronte are some of the best known names in the world of classic literature, along with their younger sister Anne. But when they were teenagers with their brother Branwell, they created other characters in other worlds. Worlds of Ink and Shadow plays with the story of the younger Bronte siblings and slips in a thread of magic that makes their stories come to life. But soon things become dark, and the siblings have to work together to save themselves but may set their tragic fate in stone along the way.

Magic realism meets classic Bronte characters is the best way to describe this book. It's easy to see the basis of Heathcliff, Rochester and Jane Eyre in the early characters created by the siblings and I really loved being able to identify them.

I loved the idea in this book of story characters running away from their creators to make their own story. Anyone who is a writer knows the strange ability fictional characters have of suddenly writing their own lines and how a story can be intended to go one way and ends up the complete opposite. And what writer wouldn't like to physically step into the world they've created and converse with their own imaginings. I loved how Coakley played with this idea.

I didn't know much about the Bronte sibling's history so I think it's one of the big reasons the book worked so well for me. I'm sure, like all fictional books about real people, there are some flaws in it but I thought there was enough classic Bronte, magic and adventure for me.

Monday, 28 December 2015

Book Review: No One Wants To Be Miss Havisham by Brigid Coady

Read: December  26-28   Verdict: 3 Stars

I received a free digital copy from the author/publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest feedback.

Edie Dickens has it all as far as she's concerned. A great job doing what she loves - being a shark of a divorce lawyer with a reputation as ice cold and a repertoire of successful cases, a beautiful home and a good income. Edie doesn't need love, marriage or any of the mush that comes with it. It's hard enough having to go to all her friend's weddings and play bridesmaid then have one of her own. Edie thinks life is great until she's visited by the ghost of her old friend Jessica Marley who tells Edie that if she doesn't get her act together and be nicer and thaw out her heart, she's facing an afterlife of misery. Edie is about to be visited by three ghosts and she's not sure if she wants to see what they have to show her.

First off, the whole idea of this story is genius. Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol meets chick lit. Yes. Plus the names of the characters just made me so happy - Edie Dickens, Jessica Marley, Timmy, Jack Twist. Yes. I laughed out loud at Edie's ghost chain being made out of glitter boas and penis straws as a sign of all the times she was the sourpuss at the hen parties. Edie was very much a Scrooge. She was cold, calculating and downright mean without seeing what she was doing wrong and it certainly took her a lot of convincing to prove it to her. She is definitely quite hard to like as it does take a while for her to really warm up and much like Jack see, she does crack sometimes and show the softness she's constantly holding back but sh just patched up the crack, said something bitchy and then I was back to hating her.

There were times were I felt like the book was written to give some cheap laughs and not all of it was totally realistic, asides from the whole being haunted by ghosts of weddings thing. I've read my fair share of 'chick lit' and I enjoy it for the most part as I did this book but there were definitely times that I groaned a bit at the cliches. I also felt a bit off at the slight accusation that because Edie didn't believe in marriage, she was an ice queen. I agree that her take on love was very much bitchface but that doesn't mean she has to believe in marriage and babies and all that jazz. And just because she was good at her job didn't mean she was a cold stone bitch too. 

I would have liked more emphasis on Edie's abseil, I felt like the actual event just popped up out of nowhere though maybe this was on purpose to show Edie's lack of thought and proper planning that went with it. An epilogue of how Edie's relationship with Rachel and Jack, not to mention her dad, wouldn't have gone amiss for me either,

I really liked Jack and how steady he was in wanting to see the real Edie. I did feel like the pair were running around in circles at times and it was frustrating but eventually it seemed to settle well enough for me. Overall, a great piece of fun reading with a Dickens' twist!

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Book Review: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Read: December 22-26    Verdict: 5 Stars

All The Light We Cannot See is a tale of two teenagers on the opposite sides of war and how events eventually bring them together to help them save each other and to touch each other's lives in unexpected ways. Marie-Laure is a blind girl living with her father in Paris and Werner is a young German boy living in a mining village who comes to the attention of the Hitler Youth.

I loved this book. From the setting to the way it was written and how both Werner and Marie-Laure told their stories and step-by-step they drew closer and closer to one another. It was utterly captivating. The first few pages in the book are set in a French village in 1944 and it becomes clear that the two main characters are in the same location. The way the story skims through different views is like a standing moment in time and I really loved it and it really set the scene.

Flashback to when the characters were younger and we begin to learn more about them. From Werner's childhood to Marie-Laure's battles with learning how to be independent while blind and her love for her father and Werner's love for his sister. I loved the connection that eventually came about with the stories Werner and Jutta heard on the radio and how we eventually learn how this is connected to Marie-Laure, it was very subtle at first but I loved it.

I found the prose and descriptions in this book extremely beautiful, Marie-Laure's chapters in particular. Because she is never describing what she is seeing, she is using every other kind of sense to bring the scene to the reader's mind eye and it works. I could see where Marie-Laure was even though she couldn't see it herself.

I liked the subtle magical element with the Sea of Flames though I do think the reality of the magic in it was down to the reader. We could decide whether everything was simply a coincidence or whether the diamond did have something to do with the train of events.

I found myself just reading and reading and reading, and because of the way most chapters were quite short it didn't take me long before I was really making progress through the book. While the story isn't action-packed, I found it to be fast-paced in the best possible way. I could have just soaked in the words and descriptions all day long. This was a fantastic historical read and I really recommend it. I can't wait to read more of Doerr's work now.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Book Review: The Casquette Girls by Alys Arden

Read: December 14-19   Verdict: 4.5 Stars

I received a free digital copy from the author/publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest feedback.

This book has been getting a bit of hype recently as people start to review it in time for it's publishing date and I can honestly say that it really deserves it. The Casquette Girls seems to have pretty much everything you want in a book - sense of place, atmosphere, friendship, magic, supernatural and history.

Adele is returning to New Orleans a few short months after the devastating Hurricane Katrina. Adele and her father have no idea what or who they will be returning to and all they do know is that the city is home and it needs them to bring it back to life. But Adele has more to worry about than fixing up the neighborhood when she appears to develop magic powers, plus dead bodies sucked dry of blood are showing up around the French Quarter. With the help of an ancestor's secret diary, Adele must combat an ancient curse and create a secret witchy coven along the way.

One of the best bits in this book is the sense of place and the atmosphere that is described around the areas of New Orleans and specifically the French Quarter where Adele goes. It's so natural for her to have friends who dress as vampires, scientists for café workers, tour guides dressed like romance novel covers and much more and I loved it. Adele is a very likeable character, she takes the devastation of her home and her favourite places so bravely and really strives to carry on with school and work when it would be easy to crawl into a ball. She is also very accepting of her magic and isn't one of these people that keeps refusing it exists. I loved Adele's relationship with everyone in the book and there's a deep sense of Adele's belonging in the place. The way she knows and communicates to everyone and how they respond to her really brings to mind the fact she grew up in the cafes and bars of the French Quarter (in a good way mind you!)

There were so many diverse characters from Africa-America, Creole, French, Italian not to mention personalities. The hot and cold Niccolo, the exuberant but deadly Gabe (who I couldn't help but really like), mysterious Emilio, the absent mother, the caring father (who reminded me of Lance in Arrow), and the unlikely best friends Desiree and Isaac. 

I found myself really enjoying the book and its pace which took a while to build up naturally because of the focus on the effects of the storm. I loved the dip into the history of the place now and again plus Adeline's diary to her father and her details of what had happened with her spell. I would have liked much more about Adeline and what happened to her (why did Isaac keep having dreams about Adeline and fire for instance, was it just the magic thing?) and who the hell her dad was. I felt like i was still grasping for some additional information by the end of the book about Adeline, her father, Isaac and Desiree's sides of the story which was skipped over plus Niccolo's decision at the end. I would love to have been in his mind for a while (NOVELLA PLEASE!). Hopefully some of the questions I have been left with will be answered in the next book.

I recommend anyone looking for a bit of magic to wrap themselves in to pick up this book. I don't think it will disappoint. I'm so looking forward to the next book in the series.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Book Review: A History of Glitter and Blood by Hannah Moskowitz

Read: December 11-14    Verdict: 3 Stars

I received a free digital copy from the author/publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest feedback.

I'm not totally sure what I just read bit that doesn't mean I hated it. A History of Glitter and Blood is a very weird book about a fairy-dominated city called Ferrum entering into a war with the gnomes who eat fairies and live underground. All the fairies run away except a pack of the youngest and mostly-limbed fairy children - Scrap, Beckan, Cricket and Josha. However, something terrible happens when Cricket is killed by the Gnome King and Scrap and Beckan have to live with the consequences. And then they meet some new friends and for the first time, it looks like peace might be something that could happen.

This book is told in a strange way that definitely takes some time getting used to. Throughout the book, Beckan and Josha mention how Scrap is always writing and before long it becomes clear that what we are reading is what Scrap is writing. So the story is often interrupted by some of Scrap's musings about Beckan or just him grumbling or giving out to himself. While at first it was confusing, I got used to it and eventually ended up liking it. I liked Beckan and particularly liked Scrap though Josha took a bit of time for me to warm up to as I felt, apart from his grief over Cricket, he was a rather flat character.

There are parts of the book that, among the weirdness, are extremely beautiful especially the inter-species relationship between the pack, Piccolo, Tier and Rig. I also loved hearing about the different creatures that lived in the world from the glitter-covered, otherwise normal, fairies, the rope-spitting two-toed tightropers, the backpackers who have to carve their babies out of their backs at the cost of their own lives and the sharp-toothed, fairy-eating, but surprisingly gentle gnomes. I'm not sure if this is a book I would recommend but it was definitely a book I found myself surprised by enjoying!

Friday, 11 December 2015

Book Review: The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Read: December 6-8    Verdict: 4.5 Stars

I pretty much knew nothing going into this book. All I knew was that it was about a girl called Kelsea that, one day, gets called up to take her rightful place as Queen and I think this book works when you have no idea what you're getting into it.

The Queen of the Tearling reads much like a fantasy book, an adult fantasy not a YA fantasy which I kept forgetting, except at some points where America and Britain are mentioned as well as the “seven volumes of Rowling” (which I take to be Harry Potter) as well as The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. It’s pretty confusing though whether the country of Tearling lies somewhere in America or Central Europe, as well as Mortmense.

I liked Kelsea as a character, and I particularly liked that she wasn’t one of these characters who never gained weight. She describes herself as having a bit of extra girth and she likes second and third helpings. And while Kelsea is aware that she needs to slim down to become a better swordswoman, she doesn’t make huge efforts to do so. Which is refreshing as it’s so very normal.

However, the lack of information about pretty much everything is incredibly frustrating for the whole of the novel. I felt like 50% of the book was Kelsea asking questions, and everyone around her refusing to answer because of a very annoying vow. We find out barely anything about Kelsea’s mother, apart from some not-so-nice tidbits, and considering there’s so much emphasis on the jewels and their power, I still have no idea about them or what exactly they do and what kind of magic Kelsey wields and if she has any kind of control over them.

I did like the lack of romance and how all of the plot focused on Kelsea’s journey to becoming a good Queen. But that doesn’t mean that I’m looking for some more chemistry-laden scenes with the Fetch, and maybe some more bare-chested scenes with Pen, no? I do think that the Queen of the Tearling set up a great adventure to come, and I’m looking forward to reading the Invasion.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Book Review: The Silver Witch by Paula Brackston

Read: November 26-29 Verdict: 3.5 Stars

I received a free digital copy from the author/publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest feedback.

The Silver Witch follows Tilda and Seren, two silver-haired women living in a remote section of Wales hundreds and hundreds of years apart. Tilda is living in the 21st century, dealing with the death of her husband and learning to enjoy life, and art, again. Seren is a shaman for a community living on a crannog, dealing with her affections for a Prince and trying to interpret her visions that show a terrible future. In some way, the women are connected, and Seren might be able to save Tilda's life when an ancient evil is forced awake.

It definitely took me a while to really get into the flow of the writing style of this book. It's written in present tense so instead of, "She stepped outside of the house and looked around", it was "She steps outside the house and looks around." It definitely threw me off at first, especially the way Tilda kind of spoke to herself in third person when she was running. However, after a while I began to connect with Tilda and I enjoyed her character a lot more.

For the first half of the book, I enjoyed Seren's chapters more. At the start, she was a much stronger character than Tilda, who was dealing with grief and anxiety. Seren was very self-confident and she definitely had an air of ancient magic around her (something that by the end of the book Tilda has as well.) But as Tilda's began to develop as a stronger character, I really enjoyed reading her as well. i really felt she had some great character development, and i really appreciated that she dealt with the grief over her husband's death but didn't let her really hold herself back when it came to starting a new relationship and being happy.

I would have liked to have seen Tilda harness her powers a little bit more, the way we see Seren use hers. I still felt like Tilda wasn't 100% in control after the events of the book but in a way it makes sense as well as the magic in this book isn't all for show. There's no sparks or flashes, it's very subtle and understated and very ancient.

I enjoyed the difference in Tilda and Seren's appearance. Not only were they silver-haired but they both had the albino pale skin and pink eyes, and Tilda discussed the problems she had with living with it often, and wondered how Seren had dealt with it as well.

This book just had a beautiful feel to it, and it really thrummed with magic by the time i finished it. It's definitely turned me on to Paula Brackston's writing, and I'm definitely picking up her other books as well - especially as they all revolve around witches, my favourite!

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Book Review: Too Many Cooks by Dana Bate

Read: December 4-6        Verdict: 3.25 Stars

I received a free digital copy from the author/publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest feedback.

Kelly has always thought her life was pretty perfect. She has a gorgeous and dedicated doctor boyfriend and a great career as a cookbook ghostwriter but things come crashing down when Kelly's mom suddenly passes away and leave her a letter telling her to shake things up and live life with no regrets. The next day, Kelly finds herself taking a job offer for Natasha Spencer, a very famous actress, and moving across the water to London for a whole year.

I enjoyed this book to an extent. The writing was good and detailed and I really liked Kelly's experimentation with all of the recipes. I'm not someone who enjoys cooking but I still enjoyed reading about the different ingredients used and how they changed the taste of the food. It would have been nice for Kelly to see a bit more of London while she was there and ingratiate herself into a group of friends a bit more. Normally with these kinds of novels, the protagonist finds herself a small group of friends she bonds with and can chat to and have some adventures with. Kelly was very isolated, and in a toxic environment, and I think this made my mood a darken a little bit while reading it. It would have been nice for Olga and Kelly to bond more, I felt like a nice relationship kept being hinted at and it just never happened.

And Natasha, oh my goodness. It's been a while since I hated a character so much and since a character has irritated me that much. I wanted to reach through the pages and throttle her. She, and Poppy, reminded me a tiny bit of Miranda Priestly, especially because Poppy acted like Miranda's assistant Emily, both in her attitude towards her job and towards Kelly.

I knocked off a few points on the ratings (this was originally going to be 3.5-4 stars) because of the relationship between Kelly and Hugh. It left a bitter taste in my mouth. I always suspected it wasn't going to end up great and I hate that, even though he wasn't necessarily a bad guy, he managed to get away with everything, I would have liked some kind of epilogue showing that Kelly did get her book deal for definite but maybe there will be a sequel. Overall, I was impressed with the writing style and strength and despite some of my problems, I enjoyed the story.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Book Review: The Novice by Taran Matharu

Read: November 30 - December 1    Verdict: 5 Stars

I received a free digital copy from the author/publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest feedback.

The Novice is a fantastic new fantasy debut that contains lovable demons, amazing magic and war that consists of elves, humans and dwarves facing off against terrifying orcs. The unlikely hero is Fletcher who, after being gifted a strange book. discovers he has the ability to summon demons and perform magic, meaning he is a vital member of the war effort against the orcs.

This book contains a school of magic which means it's already on the road of being loved by me. Fletcher was a pretty usual character in such a novel. He had no idea who his real family were, lived a modest life but was tough and friendly, meaning he could easily make friends but also make all the wrong kind of enemies. I really loved that the demons in this book weren't the type of demons you automatically think of. They were more like lovable monsters, bonding with the people who summoned them and becoming like pets that you don't want to cross. Ignatius reminded me of a mini Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon and I really loved him and his bond with Fletcher.

I loved all of the characters though there were the typical tropes regarding the relationships between the nobles and the commoners. The way the nobles treated both the commoners and the elves and dwarves reminded me of how the slum people were treated by magicians and nobility in Trudi Canavan's Black Magician trilogy.

The story was paced really well and I got a great feeling for both Fletcher's life in Pelt and then his new life in the Voltans. The last few months towards the tournament were pretty rushed, squashed in one paragraph but other than that I was happy with the pacing of the story and how the lessons went. I really felt the unfairness in the way the noble novices were treated compared to the commoners and i did wonder how it could be so obvious yet it could be brushed away. I also felt that squeezing four years of studying into one year was pretty far-fetched, though with the circumstances in the war, I guess it could be forgiven. Most of the novices aren't completely trained, and they were pushed aside a lot so the nobles could get an advantage, so how can they be expected to survive on a battlefield?

At the end of the day, I loved pretty much everything about this book from the characters, to the magic, to the world (also, there was great world-building though I would have loved more, which I think we'll get in the next book). I can't wait for the second book!

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Book Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Read: November 22-25   Verdict: 5 stars

This book was exactly what I needed!

Agnieszka lives in a little village near the mountains, beside an enchanted woods that creates evil things. Her land is ruled by the Dragon, a centuries-old wizard who takes a new girl to his tower every year for an unknown reason. When it comes to Agnieszka's year to be in the round-up of women, everyone is shocked when the Dragon chooses someone other than who they thought it would be and Nieszka's adventures begin.

Wow,oh wow. I was having a pretty crappy Monday when I started this book and my dad suddenly came so much better because I was looking forward to just jumping back into it. This is the kind of story where I had such a clear image of all the characters in my head. Much the way Nieszka imagines the land during her spells, I was able to see the Tower and the Dragon and Nieszka arguing and the creepy Woods and the Walkers. It was truly magical.

Nieszka was a great character for me. She had spunk and wasn't a dainty little princess. She's tall, with tangled mounds of hair and dirty dresses and just so much fun. She ran headlong into things and just kept shocking people along the way. I loved her relationship with Kasia, it was such a great strong friendship with two girls who would kill for one another and I found that really beautiful.

And as for the Dragon, oh lord, that chemistry!! It was killing me! Their scenes had me laugh out loud, their arguments and stubbornness just thrilled me and other scenes left me feeling breathless. The sex scenes in this book were perfect for my taste. They weren't crude at all but were just on that perfect edge of sexy. I really liked reading them.

This was the kind of book that I just wanted it to go on forever. I actually stopped myself from reading too fast because I wanted to savor every single word. It was just amazing. I am bound.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Book Review: Searching for Grace Kelly by M.G. Callahan

Read: November 12-14 Verdict: 2.5/75 Stars

I received a free digital copy from the author/publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest feedback.

Searching for Grace Kelly tells the story of three women, Laura, D
olly and Vivian, and the six months they spent in New York City in 1955. The girls are all living in a women's residence and all searching for that one man to whisk them away to marriage and motherhood. 

At first I enjoyed this book. It was full of that mystery and glamour you can expect from a 1950s New York City. From the clothes, dates and places of food and drink, I was able to really imagine the era. The book was full of wonderful descriptions that really brought the story to life and it's obvious the author put a lot of research and effort into getting all of this right. I really imagined myself at the Blue Oyster with Laura and Box, looking at all the privileged people around me and the sounds of glasses chinking and the smell of cigarette smoke wafting around.

However, I began to lose interest in the story. I think this was partly because the Paris Shootings happened, and I suddenly couldn't bring myself to care about these three girls whose only problems were finding the right man to marry. They became trivial and honestly, my mood was down and I began to skim. By that time, the only parts I liked were Vivian's for obvious reasons. She had become trapped in the kind of relationship that many women still find themselves in, and I was interested to see how it worked out (guessing the prologue related to her). Laura became a Mary Sue to me. She had such big plans to be a writer and succeed in Mademoiselle, and yet literally all her moments were full of worries about Box and Pete. It became boring and I honestly couldn't care about her. Laura's attitude, and the whole book's underlying attitude, to Dolly also irritated me. There were so many mentions of Dolly's food habits and how that was most likely the reason she couldn't find a man. God forbid a woman with some lumps and bumps is found attractive by the opposite sex.

If there are any readers interested in this period in time, and a bit of (man-filled) drama then I would suggest checking this book out. But it's definitely not something that has a whole load of depth to it.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Book Review: Darkhaven by A.F.E Smith

Read: November 8-10 Verdict: 4 Stars

I received a free digital copy from the author/publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest feedback.

Ayla lives in a world where the leaders of her land can transform into terrifying but beautiful beasts. Ayla also happens to be the ruler's daughter and is his only living child capable of changing which means her father has taking the right to be heir of Ayla's brother, and given it to Ayla...and she really doesn't want it. After arguing with her father, Ayla is locked up and then the night she escapes, her father is brutally murdered. On the run, and wrongly suspected of murder, Ayla needs all the help she can get, even if it's with the man who killed her mother.

This was one of those kind of books that after one chapter, I knew I was going to be completely enthralled. I mean, a world where one of the main characters can transform into a golden horse with a spiral horse and wings made of flame...awesome! I found the world and city the story was set in pretty interesting, and the way the city was laid out reminded me a little bit of Trudi Canavan's The Black Magician trilogy. I enjoyed pretty much all the POVs, with a particular favourite being Tom Caraway's and Ayla. Myrren and Serenna grew a little bit too soppy at points but they weren't too bad. There was enough action and mystery to keep me going, and I did jump around a few times to finally settle on who I believed was the mysterious Changer.

The book lost a star for me for how quickly some things seemed to wrap up. For all of the book, Ayla had been resenting Tom and he had purely helped her because of his loyalty to her family and his remorse over her mother. While the reader was told that Ayla had once fancied Tom, there no real sense of any flickers of attraction there until the very end where Ayla is rather blunt about the whole thing and Tom just goes along with it (even though there was pretty much nothing about how he felt about Ayla in that way in the rest of the story). I just would have liked this relationship to have built up more in terms of attraction and 'moments', like Serenna and Myrren's.  I also felt this book was often a victim of the readers being told something, rather than shown. Travers repeatedly called Myrren weak and afraid, the same with Ayla talking about Tom's hangdog expression. I would have liked to have seen a bit more of this in the character's actions. I also would have liked more Changing in general but for reasons, Ayla trying to stay hidden, I understand why she couldn't.

This was a great fantasy debut, and I can only hope there is more to come!

Monday, 9 November 2015

Book Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Read: November 8   Verdict: 3-4 Stars (haven't quite decided yet)

Before going into this book, I knew about all the hype. I had heard so many good things about it, and i knew it was suppose to take your breath away and there was a massive gasp-like twist that left people reeling. I reserved this book from my library around the same time that BookTubeaThon was on, I think, because loads of people were reading it and reviewing it. But because of some system changes, the book had to be reserved again and basically it took a few months before it landed in my hands. But that was a good thing because by then my expectations had decreased and I wasn't riding on the expectation carousel.

We Were Liars centres around a very rich, privileged family and how they all spend their summers on a private island with their own houses, docks, beaches and servants. But something happened that caused a terrible accident and two years later, Cadence is back and trying to piece together the forgotten memories of her fifteenth summer on the island.

Basically, despite the great detailed writing, this is a story about terrible people doing terrible things. There's nothing quite redeemable about the family. It has a bit of a King Lear quality to it, except I couldn't quite tell which aunt/sister was Cordelia. They were all very Goneril and Regan at different times. The weaving of the fairytale stories was a nice little twist and I enjoyed them. But at the end of the day, everyone, even Gat, was selfish, spoiled and pretty rotten.

When the big twist came, I had't guessed it at all but nor was I falling off my chair in shock. It was more of a small, "oh, okay, I can work with this" and carried on reading. I'm glad I gave this book a chance and that I finally read it but it definitely didn't blow my mind.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Book Review: Put A Spell On You by Karen Clarke

Read: November 7-8 Verdict: 3.5 Stars

I received a free digital copy from the author/publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest feedback.

Josie's life isn't going the way she expected to. Her boyfriend Will has abandoned his job to grow vegetables and look after abandoned donkeys. Her friend Lara is more focused on her crying baby than listening to her best friend's woes, and she is about a centimetre away from losing her job on top of everything else. Luckily, it's Josie's 27th birthday and she's about to inherit a book of spells from her grandmother. But is the family tale really true? Could Josie use spells to her advantage and fix everything? Or does magic always come with a price?

If you're looking for a light, fast-paced and comedic read, this is it. Josie does what everyone thinks she will do and ends up in some pretty funny scenarios with absolutely no idea how to get out of them. This would make a pretty funny chick-flick as well as an entertaining read. Josie definitely got on my nerves at times, it seems like she lacked a lot of understanding for those who were doing things wrong (in her point of view). She was a lot more concerned for money than her boyfriend's happiness, not to mention the fact that she hadn't even bothered to venture out to see what it was he was actually doing. And her feelings about Lara and Olly, and her mum and Del. bordered on extremely selfish. Despite everything, there were, at points, times I could sympathise with Josie. She just wanted life to go the way she planned it. And that's not too much to ask for, is it?

The humour was great in this book but at time it felt almost too much and too ridiculous. I think it could have been toned just a tiny bit and, like is mentioned at one point, it would have strayed away from seeming like an episode of Carry On.

Overall, a great read for a bit of respite away from heavier books.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Book Review: The Beach Hut by Cassandra Parkin

Read: November 3-5      Verdict: 4 Stars

I received a free digital copy from the author/publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest feedback.

Ava and Finn have only ever had each other. For her whole life, Ava has watched out for her little brother Finn and in return, he's always kept her happy and been there when she needs him. Now, the siblings have returned to a childhood holiday beach to live in a tiny beach hut for a few months. Accidentally, they end up annoying Donald and entrancing Donald's daughter Alicia. As all their lives intermingle, secrets unravel and families fall apart and are sewn back together.

I really enjoyed this book. From the get go, Ava and Finn's relationship was so beautiful. I haven't read about such a strong relationship in quite a while and I think, as a big sister myself, I really connected with Ava and her overwhelming desire to keep her brother safe from any harm. This trait in Ava follows them into adulthood and even when they're living on the beach, Ava still thinks of Finn and how she can protect him. While we didn't get a really in-dept look at Ava, I still felt like I knew her and she was a very likeable character, as was Finn. Finn was one of the characters that's larger than life. He almost seemed liked a changeling child, full of stories and magic.

Finn's fairy tales are interspersed among the ordinary chapters in this book and I thought they were so beautiful, and in some way they related to the characters of the story and what was going on or had happened in their life.

I didn't much care for Donald and Alicia. I much preferred Finn and Ava's story, and I just wasnt bothered with Donald's back story. It wasn't as exciting and even with the twist bit, I was surprised but I still wanted to go back to the siblings. I would have liked a bit more of a conclusion to Alicia's situation as it was interesting and I feel like some kind of repercussions for those involved would have been good to see.

This book was a nice way to say a fond farewell to summer and now autumn until next year.  It has a mix of summer and autumn feelings in it, and is just a great story of family sticking together and holding each other up through thick and thin.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Book Review: Crane by Stacey Rourke

Read: November 1-3   Verdict: 3 Stars

When Ireland Crane moves to Sleepy Hollow, mysterious things start to happen. And those mysterious things include a headless horseman chopping off people's heads, weird dreams and a narcoleptic man who has, apparently, been asleep for centuries waiting for Ireland's arrival.

I don't the know much, or anything really, about the legends around Sleepy Hollow and the horseman, nor do I know the famous figures at the center of the story. However, I do love the show Sleepy Hollow so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Ichabod Crane was a central character in the story. Because I love the show and it's returned for a new season, I think I found it hard to separate the Ichabod and Katrina from the show, with the same characters in the book. But Rourke was able to out her own nice little flair on the story of the Headless Horseman and Crane's involvement. 

The weird distance I felt with Ichabod spread to other characters as well, namely Ireland and Noah. Even at the end of the book, I didn't really feel I knew her. I think part of this may have been the mindset I was in while reading the book. I'm not sure if I really focused enough on the story, maybe if I was, I would have bonded with Ireland a little bit more. There were hints of her coming to Sleepy Hollow to get away from other things, and I just didn't feel that her douchey ex was all of that reason. I also hate the cliché of a douchey ex. Though the fridge story was funny.

A little bit of the descriptive language was a little bit too cringey for my taste. The "soft waves" of Katrina's blonde hair caressing her face like the sea on sand, and her satin soft skin. No thanks.

There was definitely a lot of action in the latter half of the book when Ireland finds some things out, and I really liked the addition of Rip as a character in the modern day world (and it reminded me of Ichabod's story in TV show Sleepy Hollow, minus the stress-induced narcolepsy). I do wish that maybe he had been more help but hopefully that will come in the next book. The two timelines started to come together nicely as the reader finds out more, though I'm still not 100% sure I get the whole "Hessian" thing but that's just me.

I will be continuing on with this series, if not to just gush about the beautiful covers. 

Book Review: We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas

Read: October 25 - 31    Verdict: 2.5 Stars

I received a free digital copy from the author/publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest feedback.

We Are Not Ourselves focuses on the life of Eileen Tumulty. Born to Irish parents in New York, Eileen strives to make a better life for herself and a better marriage. The book follows Eileen through childhood, young womanhood, marriage, children and all the ups and downs in between. Eileen eventually becomes Eileen Leary, wife to Ed and mother to Connell. 

I thought this book would be a real insight into Eileen's life but at times I felt like a stranger watching through a blurry window, not 100% sure what I was looking at, or what I should be looking at. Despite being with Eileeen through so much, I actually felt very little connection to her. 

I also thought the book was too long. Some parts of Eileen's life were skimmed over, and others parts of it just had too much focus. It was so packed with words, it was difficult to read at times, huge chunks could have been taken out without a negative effect to the story as a whole. It was just too long, and too far from what I thought it would be. I found myself getting bored a lot with it, and when I came back to it after putting it down, and reading another book, I felt I didn't really care if I finished it or not.

Book Review: Room by Emma Donoghue

Read: October 29 - 31 Verdict: 3.5/3.7 Stars

This book is pretty unique. Told from the point of view of Jack - a five-year-old boy who's only ever known the room he was born into, and his mother is locked into. Jack has a very different perspective on life than a normal child. He has no idea what a playground is, or what grass feels like. He's never felt the sun on his face or sand between his fingers. All Jack knows is his Ma, Rug, Melteded Spoon, Jeep, Remote, TV and other objects in the cork-tiled shed he lives in. 

This was a different way of reading a book and it did take time for me to really understand what Jack was saying. Because of how he was born and raised, he has a different way of describing things. Sometimes he was clear, other times he wasn't. There were certain events, one particularly big event that happened for Jack and his mother that I felt was very rushed. I can't say whether this was on purpose because everything was from Jack's point of view, and as a child it may have happened faster in his mind than an adult POV, but I felt a bit disappointed about how little action happened in that scene. It was a kind of pivotal moment that I wanted all kinds of sights, sounds and actions but because I was looking through Jack's eyes, it was extremely blurred.

This book is a good read, it just wasn't as good as I expected it to be. I do want to go on and read the rest of Emma Donoghue's books though as I feel she is an extremely interesting and diverse writer. Plus, I will definitely be seeing the movie adaption for Room.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Book Review: Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill

Read: October 23-25   Verdict: 4 Stars

Set in a dystopian future, Only Ever Yours is narrated by frieda, a 16-year-old girl living in a world where baby girls are no longer born, they're created. Growing up in a school where she's constantly told how to be pretty, and skinny, and how to please a man by doing whatever they ask, whenever they want it. The reader meets frieda and her 'sisters', the other Eves, a few months away from the Ceremony - an event where they will either become Companions (wives), Concubines (prostitutes) or chastities (nun-like teachers). As the Ceremony draws nearer, frieda started to unravel.
This book is terrifyingly real. Everything the Eves are taught, mimic the unconscious message that's constantly put across in today's society. Fat is ugly. Skinny is pretty. But you can't be too skinny or else you're undesirable. A girl shouldn't say no to a guy, but saying yes mean's you're a slut. Saying no means you're frigid. The other girls are your friends. But they're also your enemies.

I couldn't help but feel that this book was not going to have a happy ending. The whole tone of the book is desperate and remorse, and frieda flicks back and forth from being reliable to an unreliable narrator, depending on how much SleepSound she's taking. I really wanted her to do well, and become independent of isabel and megan, and not need that constant reassurance from everyone. Again and again, frieda let everyone down but it was almost like she was programmed to do it. I really wanted more from Darwin or any of the other guys but at the end of the day, the girls were just meat to them, as they had been taught they were.

I thought it was a really interesting and smart decision of Louise O'Neill to take away the girls' capital letter in their names. It was one more subtle way of taking away their power and making them second-class citizens. They were 'unworthy' of having a capital letter in their name.

I wouldn't be surprised if in 5 years or more, this book appeared on required reading alongside The Handmaid's Tale. It almost feels like a sequel to Margaret Atwood's modern classic. While this is not comfortable reading, I would certainly recommend it as it's a fascinating read.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Book Review: I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

Read: October 22-23    Verdict: 4.5 Stars

This book starts off with an accident and then a woman called Jenna is running away from all her heartbreak, wanting to make a fresh start where no-one knows her and she can forget about what's she's lost. Ray, a detective with the Bristol Police, is trying to investigate all the pieces of the night that changed Jenna's life but as the months go in, he starts losing a grip on his family. Eventually, just as things start going well for Jenna, they all fall down again. And when Ray think's he's solved the case, another mystery appears.

This is an amazing, beautifully written and emotional read. I was completely hooked. I really felt for Jenna and loved all the mystery surrounding her life, even though it drove me crazy. I felt like I was pretty sure I knew what I was reading until about 50% through when suddenly it flipped and everything turned much darker and a lot more sinister. From that point, I couldn't put the book down until I had solved everything. This was definitely not one of those books where I guessed what would happen. It really did keep me on the edge of my seat until the very end!

The detective and police work described in this book by Ray and his colleagues felt very authentic to me, and it all made sense when I read the Author's Note and Clare Mackintosh wrote about her years as a police officer and dealing with a similar case as in the book

This was an incredible debut and a really strong introduction into the world of mystery and thrillers for Clare Mackintosh. I'll definitely be picking up her next book! 

P.S I also adore the cover of this book!


The one thing I didn't like were the feelings Ray had about Kate. They didn't seem entirely solved. He walked away with her once at the end of the book but it didn't make clear if he would walk away again. I also felt frustrated at him believing his son to be bullied for almost two years, and not bothering to once approach a conversation with him. I also would have liked to have read about Ray's conversation with Tom when they found out the truth. Or something like Ray explaining Jenna's story to Tom and making him realise that he shouldn't want to grow up to be a bully of a man like Ian. I was happy with the way domestic abuse was approached in this book, there was a huge degree of respect given to the women involved (largely, I guess, taken from Clare's own experience with such case while she was a policewoman) and it was just handled very beautifully. It was wasn't introduced as a 'click-bait, view grabber' kind of way but as a real aspect of the story that became very important.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Book Review: Because You'll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas

Read: October 15 - 17   Verdict: 5 Stars

I received a free digital copy from the author/publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest feedback.

THIS BOOK IS AMAZING! A must-read for anyone who has read Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon.

Ollie is allergic to electricity. Moritz is a blind kid with a pacemaker. Because of certain obstructions, these two teenagers who feel very alone in the world can never meet but they do write letter. Because You'll Never Meet Me is a book completely told through Ollie and Moritz' correspondence to one another. They share secrets and their fears, they tell each other daily details on their lives and who they see everyday. They encourage each other and metaphorically pick each other up when they fall. I throughly enjoyed this book. I couldn't put it down and kept saying "Just one more letter, one more letter." And of course, something would happen that I would have to read the next letter.

This book tells the power of friendship, overcoming boundaries and fears and truly accepting yourself for who you are. You have got to read it!

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Book Review: The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle

Read: October 12 - 13   Verdict: 4 stars

I received a free digital copy from the author/publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest feedback.

Cara Morris and her family are a little bit accident prone. In fact, so many bumps, bruises and other things happen to them (including deaths in the family) that they've dubbed a certain number of weeks in Autumn 'The Accident Season'. This year, things feel stranger and more dangerous than usual. It seems that this accident season, more things will break than hearts and secrets will be revealed.

This book is a perfect October read. Not only is it set in the last two weeks of October but the whole premise of the story is set in a very subtly mystery and spookiness. Who is Elsie and why does she appear in every photo? Why can't anyone remember her? What is Alice hiding? Is Bea actually a witch?

The creepiness, well, creeps up on you. It furls around your ankles like mist until before you know it, it has hold and grabs you under, bringing you in a world of mystical changeling siblings with a tin man with a metal smile as a stepfather.

The relationships in the book are all strong and weak at various times but it's very heartening how everyone sticks by each other, and no-one really lets off steam about someone else needing alone time, or sharing secrets with others when they're not ready to share with everyone. Everyone has their own personal problems and troubles to solve, and they know they have someone ready to catch them at the elbow if they fall.

I also loved that the book was set in Ireland. i didn't know it was at first and it was Irish in a beautiful subtle way. No silly over emphasis on Irish culture or language. Certain words (such as school classes and exams) weren't changed to American slang, but were kept, at least in the edition I read, the Irish system.

The Accident Season is full of friendship, family, mystery and spook all woven together with beautiful lyrical threads.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Book Review: FaeFever by Karen Marie Moning

Read: October 4-6 Verdict: 3/3.5 Stars

Faefever continues the adventures of MacKayla Lane in Dublin, Ireland, as she hunts the evil fae who killed her sister and are now stalking her. At the same time, Mac is also dealing with the strange and turbulent affections of two strange and powerful men.

Since starting to read this series, I've had time to reflect back on the other two and slightly lessen my opinion on them. I was so caught up in the hype of the books, that it took me several months to actually stop and really think about them - causing me to slightly drop my rating of the first two. I'm not 100% sure that this book series deserves all the hype anymore but they are still enjoyable reads, if not amazingly written.

I went into FaeFever with my critique cap on and boy, did i write notes, and I had fun writing them too! Mac does have great character development in this book. Following her experiences in the last book, she has grown more confident and lethal and isn't afraid to make tough choices anymore. There was, as always, insane sexual tension between Mac and Barrons and Mac and V'Lane. It's starting to get a bit unbearable to be honest. While I love both male characters, their opinions on women are extremely derogatory. There are several remarks that women are basically made for sex and made to be controlled and they rubbed me the wrong way (though, they did Mac as well.)

Okay, so I need to point out some flaws in this series, coming from an Irish reader. It's very obvious this book is written by an American, who may think they know Dublin and Ireland well, but really doesn't. Honestly, the amount of murder and 'dark zones' in Dublin don't make sense to me anymore, there's simply too many of them now. Dublin is a pretty small county, despite being the Capital, in retrospect to the rest of Ireland. And the city is only a portion of it, with a larger portion being suburbs. The crime rate and 'locations disappearing off maps' are simply too much for me to be completely logical. Also, on the 'American tries to write about Ireland', the phrasing of certain language and placement of these words in sentences... not to mention some of the bogus pronunciation guides at the back of the book for Irish words (most of it is wrong).

Yes, in Ireland we refer to fun as 'craic' and often use 'feck' in sentences. However, we don't describe places as 'craic-filled'. We say, "What's the craic?" instead of "What's up?" or "Sure it was grand craic" for "It was great/lots of fun". So you have no idea the frustration when these words are used wrong. It's also not right to put 'feck' and 'fecking' randomly into sentences. It doesn't work that way. The way Dani talks...yeah, noone talks like that.



Sorry guys, that one's been bothering me for years!!!

The end scene was gruesome, and I didn't particularly enjoy it. It felt to me like the times that TV shows put in sexual assault or rape to boost viewings. It didn't feel right at all, and it made me angry. BUT, it made me want to pick up the next book asap.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Book Review: The Chimes by Anna Smaill

Read: September 26 - 29   Verdict: 3 Stars

The Chimes tells the story of Simon, a boy who loves in a strange dystopian/alternate version of London, where reading and writing no longer exist. Instead, everything is told through sound and music - directions, announcements, conversation. People can no longer retain memory, only the vaguest sense of body memory. Memories are stored in physical objects and are taken out now and again in an attempt to relive and remember.

Simon meets Lucien and the other members of the Five Pact and before too long, Simon realises that he can hear and remember differently to others. Soon Simon and Lucien embark on a mission to destroy the memory erasing The Chimes and change the order of their world.

I quite enjoyed this. I didn't love it but I didn't hate it either. It's definitely something very different and I'm glad I gave it a chance. I do wonder if I was a little bit more schooled in musical terms if I'd have understand more. I have no idea if lento meant fast or slow. It was hard to imagine a world where everything is sung and it was both repulsive and beautiful at the same time. It was definitely not the kind of dystopian or alternate world I would like to live in. It didn't seem like anyone had a great life.

I enjoyed the fluidity of Simon and Lucien's relationship. It was slow and lapping and beautiful with subtle undertones. There was no great passion, but there was such a beautiful strength and connection between the two that I really loved.

If anyone is feeling hesitant about picking this book up, I'd urge you to give it a chance. It has such beautiful imagination and stringing together of words that while it's not the best book I've ever read, it's definitely rememberable.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Book Review: From A Distant Star by Karen McQuestion

Read: 25 - 26 September   Verdict: 5 Stars

I received a free digital copy from the author/publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest feedback.

The best way to describe this book is E.T meets YA fiction. Emma is the girlfriend of Lucas, a young man dying of cancer. On a night that Emma vows to do anything to save the love of her life, he suddenly wakes up, miraculously cured. However, Emma soon realises that the new and improved Lucas is not actually her Lucas. Instead, his body has been temporarily taken over by the consciousness of an alien life form called Scout, who is looking for a way to call home. Before too long, Emma ends up becoming involved in a race to get Scout home, and Lucas back.

I really enjoyed this book. It took me little over a day to read and it really kept me enthralled throughout. I felt that the personalities of all the characters really shone through, even Scout. Karen McQuestion had a great way of allowing her character's unique personality to shine through, such as Mrs Walker's...annoyingness, and Eric's smarts. I liked the small glimpses the reader got of Scout's world...I'd almost really love some kind of novella all about Scout when he returns home and reunites with Regina (also, I loved the Mean Girls references).

While Emma's devotion to Lucas was one of the strongest points in the book, I did feel concerned about how Lucas seemed to be her whole world. While I understood that Emma would be preoccupied with Lucas while he was sick, it seemed that even before that she had no one else but him. At only points in the novel does Emma mention her friends - one was when she said she used her phone for updates from friends (but didn't mention names), another was when she said that two of her friends had ditched her in fifth grade. She didn't seem to have one best friend. When Lucas got sick, his friends dropped her to school...she had no friends of her own. I found this concerning, and a little unhealthy. I don't think it's a great message to send to younger readers, that's it okay to make your world center around one boy because when they leave, you end up with nothing. I enjoyed the book overall too much for me to detract a star because of this though.

This was a fast-paced, easy and enjoyable read and I just really want to know how Scout is doing now!

Book Review: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Read: September 22 - 24 Verdict: 3 Stars

Seraphina lives in a world where dragons can take human forms and mix in among human folk. After years of terrible war, a fragile treaty now exists between the dragons and humankind but that doesn't mean that Seraphina is free to broadcast the fact she is half human/half dragon. Seraphina is now 16 years old and working in the palace as an assistant to the music master. Suddenly Seraphina is pulled into an investigation of the death of the Prince, alongside Prince Kiggs.As the treaty becomes close to snapping, can Seraphina try and save both the humans and the dragons she has come to love?

I really wanted to give this book more stars as the premise itself was very interesting. I think the problem I had was that it seemed to take a long time for me to really get into the story and get into the characters. None of the characters really stood out for me, even Searaphina. I didn't get much of a glimpse of who Kiggs was, despite him being nosy and quick to anger, I didn't see anything else there. I would have liked to see a more colourful Seraphina instead which I hope will happen in the next book when she's not so scared of what she is.

The world itself, hmm...while I am impressed at the imagination it took to create such a story and land, I felt very discombobulated for a lot of it. There was no quick explanation or summary about the relationship between humans nad dragons at the start of the book, and the reader is quickly immersed in the life of Seraphina and she lets us know what's going on. However, all the strange words and lands etc dropped into conversation and description threw me off a little bit. I think a map at the start of the book would have been a big help.

Despite my initial reservations, I do think I'll continue on with the series.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Book Review: The Soul Thief by Majanka Verstraete

Read: September 20 - 22   Verdict: 3.7 Stars

I received a free digital copy from the author/publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest feedback.

Riley thought she was an ordinary 16-year-old girl until the night she's involved in a terrible car accident and she sees a girl collecting a young victim's soul. Suddenly, Riley finds out that she's a member of the supernatural world. She is a halfling, the product of an Angel of Death and a human being and she's not suppose to exist. Riley is put under the guidance of Leander and she discovers how to be angelic, and tries to find out more about the mysterious deaths of teenage girls in her town.

The concept of the book is really good and the plot itself is fast-paced and quite informative. I really enjoy the world that the author has created. The hierarchy of angels and the strange rebellion that happened reminds me a little bit of the TV show Dominion, which isn't a bad thing. Riley took things pretty in stride I felt, she didn't really have a lot of freak-outs until her gran had a talk with her. Overall, I found her a pleasant character though perhaps a little bit too 'Mary-Sue', Hopefully, she'll step up the game in the second book in the series, which I think she will. I also hope we will have a better look at more creatures and even angels in the next book as, while they're mentioned in The Soul Thief, I wish we had a few more character of different species - seeing as they actually exist and all.

The major problem I had with this book though was the relationship that occurred between Leander and Riley. Now, when I was 16, I definitely felt like i was really grown up. Now that I'/m 23 however, I realise I was still a baby! So the fact that Riley and Leander, who despite looking like he's in his twenties, is actually probably like over a thousand years old, started a romantic fling.....EW! If Riley was 18, or on the cusp of 18, this would have been okay. But 16? Nope, don't like it at all. It's probably one of the very few times I've read a book and really not shipped the relationship! 

Overall, I enjoyed the book and where it's going and I'll definitely pick up the next one!

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Book Review: Barbara the Slut and Other People by Lauren Holmes

Read: September 16 - 19 Verdict: 4 Stars

I received a free digital copy from the author/publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest feedback.

Barbara the Slut and Other People is a collection of short stories about various groups of people in their early twenties and different experiences in their life such as new jobs, relationship struggles, bullying, etc. It's very much a book that gives quick, brief glimpses into a 'slice' of different lives.

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I never pick up collections of short stories, they're just not something i read. However, after hearing about this book several times on YouTube and Goodreads, I decided to risk requesting it on NetGalley and I'm glad I did. Despite being out of my comfort zone, I really enjoyed the specific stories and I was able to deal with any disappointment and frustration I felt when I wanted to know more about what happened and didn't get it. Instead, I quickly became immersed into the next person's story instead.

I think my favourite stories were, I Will Crawl To Raleigh If I Have To, Desert Hearts, My Humans and Barbara the Slut with the latter two being the top two. I enjoyed the frankness about sexuality and sex in the stories and how all the women and men really owned their bodies and weren't ashamed. It was quite the opposite of 'slut-shaming' particularly in Barbara the Slut, in which she is being bullied for her sexual history. I felt like she really took advantage of her situation and admired how she stood up for herself.

I feel like most of the stories in this book would resonate well with anybody, but in particular with those in their twenties and early thirties. The characters are easy to connect to, and the stories easy to follow. The book left me both happy and sad that I didn't get the full story of each character's life but I guess that's just how these things go.