Top Ten Tuesday #220

TTT-Big2

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had a good week this week, I have spent pretty much all my time at work, my job is fun but very full on and I’m so tired that my current read is taking me quite a while to get through as I barely have the time to sit down and read, thank goodness for my audiobook on the bus in the mornings and evenings (it’s Priory of The Orange Tree and I’m loving it for anyone who’s wondering!). I’m going to London this weekend so that should be good. It’s also only two weeks until YALC and I am so excited, it’s been ages since I last saw Hannah and our weekend of bookish fangirling is always my favourite of the year.

Anyway, since it’s Tuesday, I have another Top Ten Tuesday for all of you, courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week we’re talking our Top Ten Auto-Buy Authors, which should be a fun one, I’d love to see if you guys could guess who was going to be on this list, so let me know in the comments if you guessed any beforehand (if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll probably get most of them, since I talk about them quite a lot). So here we go:

  1. VE Schwab

Who’s surprised? No one? Kind of figured! Yes, VE Schwab is one of my favourite authors and I will devour absolutely anything she writes, so all of her new books are automatic must buys for me. I’ve read 7 of her books already, but I’ve still got four on my shelves that I haven’t read yet, plus her most recent comics, so I’ve got plenty to be going on with until her next book comes out.

2. Leigh Bardugo

I’ve really enjoyed everything I’ve read by Leigh Bardugo so far, i.e. all the Grisha books and I’m so looking forward to diving into King of Scars, and Ninth House when it comes out. She writes the kind of dark fantasies that I just love, so she was a very natural addition to this list.

3. Jodi Picoult

The only non SFF author on this list, Jodi Picoult probably wouldn’t be an author that most people would associate me with, but I do really love her books. It’s very rare for me to get sucked into adult books that aren’t fantasies, but Jodi Picoult has such an engaging writing style and I love how all her books tackle moral/ethical debates and really make me think about things, so every new book she releases, I’m pretty much guaranteed to read.

4. Derek Landy

Skulduggery Pleasant was one of the two big series of my teenage years (Percy Jackson being the other one) and from then on, I’ve been completely addicted to everything Derek has written. I love how well he combines darkness and humour and I just think his worlds are so creative and fun and I always really enjoy his books.

5. Neal Shusterman

I was just starting to fall out of love with science fiction dystopians when I found the Unwind series and completely fell in love with it. Neal Shusterman is another one of these writers who is amazing at combining the dark with the comedic, he creates such brilliant worlds and characters and I’ve just loved everything I’ve read of his so far.

6. Samantha Shannon

My friend actually turned me onto Samantha Shannon’s books (Nicola, from Uni) and it wasn’t love at first read, honestly I found The Bone Season kind of complicated and hard to engage with, but I’ve enjoyed every subsequent book of hers I’ve read, including my current read, Priory!

7. Rick Riordan

I’ll admit, Rick Riordan is not as much of an autobuy author as he used to be, as I’ve got older, I haven’t loved his books as much as I did when I was a teenager, which is fair enough, he does write books for people half my age! Still, I had to include him on this list because for so many years he has been an auto-buy author of mine, and I still love his older books, even if I’ve not been as keen on the Trials of Apollo series.

8. Sarah J Maas

I know there are a lot of mixed opinions about Sarah J Maas’ books, but I really love them and eagerly await her next one each time she has a new release, though I will admit that Kingdom of Ash is far too long and I have yet to finish it!

9. Maggie Stiefvater

Well any Raven Cycle related books anyway, I’ve found I haven’t had much luck with her standalones, I liked but didn’t love The Scorpio Races and I couldn’t finish All The Crooked Saints. I’m so excited for Call Down The Hawk though, I can’t wait to catch up with Ronan and hopefully some of the rest of the gang too.

10. Alwyn Hamilton

The Rebel of Sands trilogy might have had a mixed reaction from me (loved the first book, was a bit meh about the second and not keen on the third) but I love Alwyn as a person, she’s always so lovely at author signings, that I’m eagerly awaiting what comes next from her.

So there we go, my auto-buy authors. Do we share any? Are you excited for/have you read any of these authors’ most recent books? Let me know in the comments! Next week’s topic is Settings I’d Like To See More Of, so that should be a fun one as we haven’t had a settings topic in a while.

I should have another Book Vs Movie comparison soon, but that will depend on how busy I am at work!

Advertisements

Jo Talks Books: What Makes A Five Star Read For Me?

Hi everyone! We’re back to our regularly scheduled book posts after my little detour at the end of last month talking about graduation, and this time I’m going to be talking a little about my rating system for the books I read, focusing particularly on what makes a five star read for me as I know I tend to be a bit more stingy with my five stars than other bloggers, or at least it seems that way to me sometimes, so I wanted to explain, as much as I am able, since rating books it such a subjective thing, what makes a book a five star read for me. Though honestly it’s not always the same thing, of all the books I’ve loved over the years, I can’t say that I’ve loved exactly the same things about each one of them.

The biggest thing for me with five star reads, isn’t really a tangible factor, like oh I love great worldbuilding, or great friendships, or a fast paced interesting plot. Yes, those are all things I love and will contribute to me giving a higher rating to a book, but it’s not the most important thing.

For me, what differentiates a four star read from a five star read is that feeling of immersion in a world. When I read a book, and forget for hours where I am or what I’m doing and I’m only focused on that world and those characters, that will instantly be a five star read for me, no matter if the writing could be better or the plot better paced. It’s why I fell in love with reading in the first place, it’s what made me want to be a writer, and it’s something that all my favourite books have in common. This is why world building is so important to me, because only when a world has been fully developed can I feel properly immersed in it.

I also obviously need to have a really strong connection with the characters in a book. I say I prefer plot driven books, and I do, I often find that character driven books somewhat lack in plot, but characters are obviously really important for me too. If I feel no connection to the characters in a book, if I don’t care about them, then that book is never going to be a five star read. Five star books for me are books where I find myself thinking about the characters long after I’ve read the last page, and am desperate to know more about them, what they are doing in the future etc. All my favourite books and series have characters that I have fallen in love with pretty much from the very start of the book.

I don’t know if this is important for everyone, but it definitely is for me, I love dialogue. Dialogue is my favourite thing to write and it’s my favourite thing to read, I think because I’m not a massively visual reader, so I don’t really picture places or people in my head, but I can hear them speak (if that makes any sense at all!) so natural dialogue is a must for me. It’s also a really good way of establishing character dynamics, if the dialogue feels natural and fits the characters then I will be much more likely to believe and enjoy their dynamics with the other characters in the story. I especially love humourous banter though I know that doesn’t necessarily fit in every book.

I also have personal preferences when it comes to writing style, I know a lot of people enjoy very descriptive, purple prose but personally, because of the type of reader I am, intensely descriptive prose is kind of lost on me, therefore those types of books tend not to be favourites for me (with some exceptions). It’s quite hard for me to describe the kind of writing style I do like, because it varies so much from book to book, and none of my favourite authors have very similar writing styles but generally the writing I like will do all of the things I’ve mentioned above, make me feel immersed in the world, connected to the characters and establish believable dynamics. That doesn’t always need to be done the same way, which is why I can’t say that there’s a specific kind of writing that I like and there are many ways for authors to convey the things that I have mentioned in this post.

Romance is also a big one for me in terms of whether I rate a book five stars, because I’m incredibly picky about the romances I like, I need the couple to feel believable and not just like the romance has been shoehorned in because it’s a YA book and therefore “must have romance”. I don’t think romance is needed in every book and a lacklustre romance is enough to ensure that I won’t rate a book 5 stars, even if it does have a strong plot. Though often I find that romance impinges on the plot, there is too much focus on that, and not on what’s happening in the book and that’s a surefire way to ensure that I won’t rate a book five stars. A convincing romance, that adds to the plot and drives the story forward however, can add to my enjoyment of book and push it further towards a five star rating, so it really depends.

Obviously being a plot driven reader, plot is really important to me, but obviously none of my favourite books have exactly the same plots, though they do share similar tropes that I love (and those tropes will also contribute to my rating a book five stars). No the most significant thing for me in terms of plot, is pacing. I need a book to capture my interest and hold it for however long the book is, which could be anything from 300-700 pages (and very rarely more than that) so pacing is vital. A poorly paced book will never get a 5 star rating from me. That doesn’t mean it has to be non stop action all the way through, it just means that I want the right balance between quieter moments and more exciting moments. I don’t want all of the action to be right at the end, and the rest of the book be slow build up because that’s very boring for me. Pacing is a really tricky thing to get right, and it’s quite subjective, so it’s difficult to explain what I mean, but all of my favourite books have kept me engaged throughout with both faster paced sequences, and slower, quieter moments.

Ultimately though, I can say that all of these things will make me more likely to give a book five stars, and they will, but it all comes back to what I said at that start: a feeling. A feeling of “Wow, I can’t get enough of this world”. A feeling of “I love these characters”. A feeling that when the book is over, I want to go back and pick up that book again. A book can be technically the best book in the world, but if I don’t get that feeling, it’s not a five star for me. Reading is such a subjective thing, and it’s hard to explain exactly what that feeling is for me, but I hope this post has given you at least a little insight into what contributes to it!

What makes a five star read for you? Any of the things I’ve mentioned here? Let me know in the comments!

I don’t think I’ll have another discussion post for you this month, since I’m super busy with work, but I will be back next month for another one, though I’m not sure what it will be about yet. In the meantime, I will have another Top Ten Tuesday for you tomorrow, so keep an eye out for that.

Top Ten Tuesday #219

TTT-Big2

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had good weeks this week, I am exhausted, my new job is a lot of hours and incredibly full on, so if my posting is a little bit more sporadic over the next few weeks, that will be why, though I am going to do my best to get as much done at weekends as possible. I’m going to Stratford and Warwick this weekend so that will hopefully be nice, since I’ve never been to either before!

Anyway, as it’s Tuesday, I have another Top Ten Tuesday for you all, courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week is a Character Freebie, so any topic revolving around characters. I’ve chosen, Character Names I Butchered Because I Learned Them By Reading, as there are many characters whose names I’ve got completely wrong when I said them because I’d only ever seen them written down. It’s going to be a little shorter than usual, since I had to do this late last night after I got back from work:

  1. Valkyrie Cain-Skulduggery Pleasant-Derek Landy

I always pronounced this like Val-ki-ri, with an i at the end, and I’d done this in my head for years until I was finally talking to someone about the books in a conversation, I can’t remember who, and they corrected me and said it was actually Val-ki-ree! I still occasionally read it the wrong way, but I do get it right most of the time now.

2. Paige Mahoney-The Bone Season-Samantha Shannon

It’s not Paige’s first name I have a problem with, that’s pretty self-explanatory, but her last name. I pronounced it like Ma-hoe-ney, but it’s apparently more like Mar-knee, and I’ll be honest, I still read this one wrong, all the time.

3. Rhy Maresh-Shades of Magic Trilogy-VE Schwab

Okay, so I know I’m not the only one who has got this one wrong, since she literally has in her bio that it’s RHY like WHY, but my brain refuses to read it that way and I immediately go to Ree, instead of Rye like the bread. To be honest with this one, my brain is stubborn and still reads it my way and I keep having to constantly correct myself whilst reading!

4. Chaol Westfall-Throne of Glass series-Sarah J Maas

I know I can’t be the only one who read this one wrong when they first read the book because it doesn’t sound anything like it looks! So I read it as Ch-owl for basically the entirety of the first book until I saw something online that said it was actually Kay-all. It’s supposed to be like Chaos which I suppose makes sense but that didn’t stop me from butchering it the first time I read it.

5. Celaena Sardothien-Throne of Glass series-Sarah J Maas

I instinctively thought this was meant to be pronounced like Selena when I first read the books, so I read it as that through much of the first book and then again, I saw somewhere online that her name was actually meant to be pronounced Se-lay-nah and it does make more sense but I think my brain just couldn’t quite make sense of the name when I first read it, so it went for the closest alternative.

6. Enne Salta-The Shadow Game Trilogy-Amanda Foody

I know this seems like such an easy name and how could I possibly butcher it? Well, since no one asked, I did Spanish at school and Enne’s name is spelt like the Spanish word for the letter n, En-ne, so I instinctively read it like that, when it’s actually just pronounced like the letter “n” in English.

7. Pressia Belze-Pure Trilogy-Julianna Baggott

To be honest, I’m still not sure exactly how this one is meant to be pronounced, I read it as Pres-ee-a the first time I read the books but I think it’s meant to be more like the word “pressure”. Her last name I honestly have no idea how you pronounce, I think it’s meant to be like “bells”? But I’m not sure!

8. Crepuscular Vies-Skulduggery Pleasant Series-Derek Landy

I’ve read this first name a thousand different ways, Crespucular, Crepsucular, basically any way but the way it’s actually spelt and I don’t know why because it sounds exactly the way that it’s spelt! The last name again, I’m not sure if it’s Vies with the emphasis on the i sound or more like Vees.

So there we go, all the character names I’ve completely butchered over the years and to be honest, there are probably way more than these! Have you ever completely mispronounced a character name? Let me know in the comments! Next week’s topic is Top Ten Auto-Buy Authors, so that should be a nice easy one.

I don’t know if I’ll have anything else for you this week, as I said at the top, I’m going to be very busy with work for the next few weeks, so bear with me, everything will be coming, just slower than usual!

Mid Year Check In (2019)

Hi all! We’re over halfway through the year, can you believe that because I can’t. I’ve had such a packed year already with Uni finishing and graduating, that’s it hard to believe we’re this far through 2019 already. Only six months to go till we’re in the 20’s guys! Anyway, at this point in the year, I like to check in on how I’m doing with the goals I made at the start of the year, it’s something I started doing about three years ago, just to help keep me accountable for the goals I’ve made and also it’s quite fun to see how I’ve done with them over the past six months. So here we go, here’s how my goals have been going:

  1. Complete my Goodreads Challenge

This is one of those goals that I have every year, I started off at 24 books at the start of the year, but I’ve already reached that and I put it up to my usual goal of 35 books. I reckon if I keep going at the pace I’m going, I should reach 37 books by the end of the year, but I’d quite like to push it and get to 40 if I can.

2. Complete my #RockMyTBR Challenge

This one is going really well as well, it’s another annual challenge. I have 12 books on this challenge list, and I’m right on target with them, having finished 6 of them so far and started my seventh. I’ve really enjoyed the books I’ve read for this so far this year (for the most part) and I’m really excited for the ones I have to come going into the second half of the year.

3. Become a 5 star writer for The National Student

I did this one! I actually completed it all the way back in January since I wasn’t far off it by the end of last year. I’ve now written over 100 articles and had over 100,000 views, which I’m really pleased with.

4. Continue working on revisions for This Is Not A Love Story in order to prepare it for querying

I’ve done this! I actually sent This Is Not A Love Story off for querying back in April, and then to more agents in May and although I haven’t had any requests on it yet, only rejections, I’m really proud of myself for actually doing it, I wrote a book and sent it to agents and that is no mean feat. I’ve also made a lot of headway on the sequel as well, which makes me happy.

5. Read more non-fiction

Of the 24 books I’ve read so far this year, 3 of them have been non-fiction, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but since I started at a base of 0 from last year, it’s definitely an improvement, and my shelves are largely fiction, so I only have a handful of non-fic to read anyway. I’ve really enjoyed the ones I have read, so it seems like this is a trend I need to keep up.

6. Catch up on 2018 releases I missed

I have so far this year, read 4 of the 16 2018 releases that I said I wanted to catch up on in a Top Ten Tuesday post at the beginning of the year, which isn’t as many as I would have liked, but it is something, and I plan to read more before the year is out. 16 is quite a lot of books, so I think if I finish half of that list I made, then I’ll be quite happy.

7. Unhaul some of my books in preparation for graduation

Yup, done! I used Marie Kondo’s method to decide which books to unhaul way back in April and then when I was up at Uni for graduation, I finally took them all to Oxfam books, so my book collection, whilst still huge and unwieldy, has been streamlined a little bit.

8. Start my Book/Movie comparison feature

I started this one last month, it’s under the Book Vs Movie tab in the menu bar. So far I’ve only done one, for The Perks of Being A Wallflower but I’m planning on doing another one this month, and every other month for the rest of the year.

9. Focus on backlist books 3 years old or more

Ha ha this was a well meaning goal, but I haven’t done very well on it! I’ve read a couple of books from 2015 & 2017 and even the rest of the Grisha trilogy books which were published in 2013 & 2014 but largely my reads this year have been either new releases or books that were released in 2018.

10. Get my Netgalley ratio up to 80%

I’m not quite there yet, but I’m doing really well, I’m at 75%, so I’m hoping I can get the other 5% before December, I’ve got a couple more books on my shelves to clear and then I probably will reach it.

11. Try more audiobooks

I’ll be honest, I’ve actually only just started with this one, it’s been hard to find the time when I’ve had so many Netgalley books to read throughout the year, but I’m reading Priory of The Orange Tree on Audible at the moment and really enjoying it. They’re really good for reading on the bus, as they’re divided into short 15-40 minute chapters which are quite easy to consume on my morning commute to work.

12. Have more guest posts on the blog

I’ve had a couple of these, author interviews with CG Drews and Amanda Foody, and a guest post from writer Madeline Dyer, but I’d really like more, so if you’re interested in doing a guest post for me, especially if you’re a writer, then please get in touch, either via Twitter (@iloveheartlandX) or via my email, jo.ell.x@hotmail.com.

So that’s how my year has been going so far. I’m pretty pleased with what I’ve done, I’ve done better on some goals than others, and I think I’m on track to complete most of them by the end of the year, which is good. How about you guys? Did you make any goals for your reading/blogging/writing life this year? If so, how are they going so far? Let me know in the comments!

I will be back with a new Top Ten Tuesday post on Tuesday, so stay tuned for that. I’ve started work, so my posting my be a little more sporadic over the next month or so, so please be patient, I will get around to doing all the posts I want to, it just might take a little longer than usual!

#RockMyTBR June Update (2019)

Hi everyone! I hope you all had a great June, I definitely did, although between graduation, grad ball and meeting up with various friends, I’m not exactly sure where the time went. It was definitely an incredibly memorable month, my graduation celebrations were just as great as I was hoping, especially Grad Ball, it was lovely to have one last night to celebrate with my friends, though I know we will be friends for a long time to come, it’s not going to be quite the same as when we were all at Uni.

Anyway, for those of you who have only started following the blog since I last did one of these, I’ll give you a quick roundup, #RockMyTBR is a challenge started by Sarah K at the YA Book Traveler and I’ve borrowed it for myself over the last few years, as I love that it’s a nice low pressure challenge, you essentially just pick a list of backlist books from your TBR that you want to read and read them over the course of a year, I always do 12, one for each month. June was a pretty average month in terms of quantity, I only read two books, they were both pretty long though (500+ pages each), and it was a great month in terms of quality as they were 4 & 5 star reads, so I’m still pretty pleased with that. Here’s what I read in June:

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue (Montague Siblings #1)

The Gentleman’s Guide To Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee:

Phew, this book must have one of the longest titles ever! Anyway, this was my #RockMyTBR book for June and I really enjoyed it. I loved the historical setting, the m/m romance, the characters, the humour, I just found it so much fun to read. I was very disappointed to see that her upcoming release, The Madness Blooms was so harmful to trans readers however, and I hope that she truly does make the changes that she has promised to. I read this one from 1st-12th June. Here is my review of it:

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2019/06/13/the-gentlemans-guide-to-vice-and-virtue-review-montague-siblings-1/

Bedlam (Skulduggery Pleasant, #12)

Bedlam (Skulduggery Pleasant #12) by Derek Landy:

I’ve been a bit unsure of the newest Skulduggery Pleasant books thus far, but I really enjoyed this one! It felt like a return to form for this series, more like the first “phase” of the series, with more humour, more Valkyrie and Skulduggery moments and just generally more exciting things happening. There’s a lot of setup for potentially exciting things going forward in the series and I look forward to seeing what happens next. I read this one from 13th-27th June. Here is my review of it:

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2019/07/01/bedlam-skulduggery-pleasant-12-review/

So that’s what I read in June, here’s what I have coming up for July:

Strange The Dreamer-Laini Taylor

My #RockMyTBR book for this month. I’m not quite sure what to think of this one yet, I’ve been reading it kind of sporadically over the past few days, I’m just not finding it all that easy to get into, but I’m hoping that changes? We’ll see how it goes for the next week.

The Priory of The Orange Tree-Samantha Shannon

Yes, I’ve finally dived into this beast! I’m reading it as part of the YA Addicted Book Group, a group I’m part of on Goodreads, as it’s our book of the month. This is my first audiobook (at least since I was a kid) and I’m actually really enjoying the format, I don’t think I could have faced this book any other way, the audio breaks it up into nice, manageable chunks and I’m nearly done with Book One, having only started on Monday.

Ever Alice-HJ Ramsay

This was my Netgalley read for last month, but I’ve carried it over, as I didn’t manage to finish it, due to being so busy at the end of the month with graduation. I’m nearly done though, I have about 8 chapters left, so I should be done by the end of the weekend, or Monday, at the latest.

Vengeful-VE Schwab

I’m not actually sure if I’ll get to this as I think Strange The Dreamer is probably going to take me the whole month to read, but if I finish it before the month is out, then this one will be my next read, otherwise, it will be my first read of August as I’m determined to read it before the end of the year.

I’m still doing pretty well on my reading progress this year, despite not reading as much as I would have liked to last month, I’ve read 24 books and am still ahead of my Goodreads Challenge, so I’m hoping it can stay that way, even though I’ve just started my summer job and am going to be very busy over the next six weeks! How did your June reading go? Let me know in the comments!

 

Top Ten Tuesday #218

TTT-Big2

Hi everyone! Thank you so much for all your well wishes on my graduation last week, I had a lovely day (even if the weather wasn’t great, though that actually turned out for the best because the other two grad days were scorching!), the ceremony was very nice, I had a great meal out with my family and then got to celebrate with my friends in style at grad ball on Friday, so all in all, it was a great week. I’ve started my new job this week as well, so that’s the next six weeks of my life accounted for.

Anyway, since it’s Tuesday, I have another Top Ten Tuesday for you all, courtesy of Jana over at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week we’re meant to be talking about our Childhood Favourite Reads, but since I did that topic a while back, and it’s not the kind of subject that changes over time, I’m going to be talking about another kind of childhood favourite, and share my Childhood Favourite Films. Fair warning, I’m a child of the early 00’s, so Disney was a staple!

  1. The Lion King

My favourite Disney film! I refuse to go see the live action version because I maintain that you cannot mess with perfection and I honestly don’t think there’s any reason to remake the live actions with animals that you cannot realistically film with? Like 101 Dalmatians, fair enough, but The Lion King? Nope.

2. Beauty and The Beast

Given that this is my favourite childhood films, I think it’s pretty obvious that I mean the animated version here (though I actually did like the live action too). I wanted to be Belle so much when I was a kid, and although as an adult, I realise the more iffy parts of the Beauty and The Beast story, I do still love this film and I REALLY WANT THAT LIBRARY.

3. 101/102 Dalmatians

I’m putting both of these here as I love both films, although I think 102 Dalmatians is actually my favourite of the two, I love Waddlesworth. If it’s not clear, I’m talking about the live action films here, one of the few cases where I think the live action films are better than the animated, because of course, here you get REAL DOGS. These films started my lifelong obsession with Dalmatians and whilst I’d still like one, I don’t think I’ll have 101!

4. Wallace and Gromit (all, but particularly the short films)

I was OBSESSED with Wallace and Gromit when I was a kid, I had multiple stuffed toys of Gromit, and I think a stuffed Wallace as well? I particularly loved The Wrong Trousers, in fact I think it’s still my favourite of the Wallace and Gromit adventures. I’m honestly still in awe of how much skill it must have taken to make these films, and the fact that it’s all Plasticine is seriously mind boggling to me!

5. Chicken Run

I mean you probably could have seen this one coming given what number 4 was! Chicken Run is funny, fabulous and surprisingly feminist (I read a thread on Twitter about it and it blew my mind!) and it’s definitely one of my favourite childhood films, I think Mrs Tweedy was one of the first fictional characters I was truly afraid of! I cannot wait for the sequel, I was so happy when they announced that.

6. Shrek 2

One of very few instances where the sequel surpasses the first film (though 3 & 4 were really not necessary!), and I feel like most people would probably agree? Shrek 2 has a killer soundtrack, a great story and all in all is just a really fun film and was definitely one of my childhood favourites (tbh, still is now).

7. Monsters Inc.

Sully and Mike! An endearing friendship for the ages. Monsters Inc is just brilliant, funny, heartwarming and one of those films that you can just come back to again and again.

8. Spirit: Stallion of The Cimarron

I mean I am nothing if not a massive horse girl at heart, so of course this film was one of my favourites growing up and yes, I had a toy Spirit, because of course I did. It’s such a beautifully done film, has a brilliant soundtrack, it’s very sad at times, but ultimately hopeful.

9. Harry Potter and The Philsopher’s Stone

Would I be a child who grew up in the Harry Potter era if I didn’t have at least one Harry Potter film on here? I think not. I actually don’t remember when I first saw the first Harry Potter film, I was definitely young, but I can’t imagine I saw it when it first came out, since I was about 4 then! I remember seeing the second one but that’s because I was traumatised by the spiders!

10. The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride

I actually saw this one more as a child than I did the first one, because we had the video of it (yes, I grew up when videos where still a thing. Only just though, I think DVDs were starting to become more popular when I was a kid), and I watched it constantly. It’s one of the few Disney sequels that actually lives up to the first for me, with a great story and a great soundtrack.

So there we have it, my favourite childhood films. Have you seen any of these? What were your favourite films when you were a kid? Let me know in the comments! Next week’s topic is a character freebie, so I’m going with Character Names I Butchered Because I Learned Them By Reading, which should be fun.

I’m going to be quite busy with work this week, so I’m not sure how much I will be posting, I know I want to get up my June #RockMyTBR Challenge Update, and my Mid Year Check In, but those will probably both be at the weekend, so stay tuned over Saturday and Sunday.

Bedlam (Skulduggery Pleasant #12) Review

Bedlam (Skulduggery Pleasant, #12)

Book: Bedlam (Skulduggery Pleasant #12)

Author: Derek Landy

Bechdel Test: PASS-Valkyrie has several conversations with China, Tanith and Kes that are not about men.

I actually don’t have many books to read to prep for YALC this year, as there are very few authors I want to see, but this was one of them. I went to a signing with Derek back at the beginning of June and said that it usually took me two weeks to finish his books, which in fairness, it did, I started this one on the 13th June and finished it on the 27th! I have to admit, it’s taken a while for the latest phase of Skulduggery Pleasant books to really settle in for me, the first two books were very so-so for me, they didn’t feel much like the first phase of the series, but this book feels like a return to form for Derek Landy, now that the messy set up phase of this half of the series is over, we can dive back in at full speed ahead with many exciting reveals that I can’t wait for the rest of the series to explore. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

The 12th explosive novel in the internationally bestselling Skulduggery Pleasant series, BEDLAM will blow your mind – and change everything…

On a desperate journey to recover her sister’s lost soul, Valkyrie Cain goes up against the High Sanctuary itself, and there’s nothing Skulduggery Pleasant can do to stop her.
 
With Abyssinia’s grand plan about to kick off in a night of magic, terror, and bloodshed, it falls to Omen Darkly to save the lives of thousands of innocent people. 

And as the madness unfolds around him, as hidden enemies step into the light, and as Valkyrie is sucked into a desperate, lawless quest of her own, he has no choice but to become the hero he never really wanted to be — or die in the attempt.

So this book marks the end of the Abyssinia arc, as it seems this series will follow the same pattern of a mini arc per trilogy of books and I have to say, I’m not all that sorry to see the back of Abyssinia. This book couldn’t decide whether Val and Skulduggery were meant to be helping Abyssinia or fighting her and honestly, I just still don’t find her a convincing villain, I’m far more intrigued as to what Crepuscular might do, as we don’t quite know what his motives are yet and he seems to have more potential as a villain. It’s a shame because I feel like Abyssinia could have had potential, but Landy just couldn’t decide what to do with her.

The pacing was much better in this one than in Midnight, I will say that I did still find elements confusing, there’s a lot of switching between different character POVs and a lot of different plotlines, but overall, the plot felt far more coherent in this one than it did in Midnight and despite being a much longer book, the pacing was far better, though it probably still could have used a bit being trimmed of the page length! The chapters were also a nice length as well, I love that Derek Landy tends to stick to quite short chapters as that’s what I tend to prefer! The ending chapters in particular felt incredibly rushed and I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on.

I appreciate that Derek Landy is making an attempt to make this phase of the series more diverse than the last phase, with success more in some areas than others. The mental health representation with Valkyrie is wonderful, her PTSD definitely isn’t glossed over and it’s something that she acknowledges that she needs help with, which I hope we get to see in later books.

The LGBTQ+ rep is decent and the conversations Val has about her sexuality felt realistic, and I really enjoyed her coming out to her parents. I will say that there were some phrasings that I felt were ill advised (particularly a bit where one of the characters says “all sorcerers turn bi eventually”) and could potentially have used some sensitivity reading? I don’t know if this book had sensitivity readers or not, but there were a couple of sentences about LGBTQ+ people that made me a little uncomfortable (bear in mind that I am an allocishet woman so I don’t know if what made me feel uncomfortable would be the same for LGBTQ+ readers, I just wanted to point it out in case it did) and could have used some tweaking.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t actually realise that Miltisa and Val were dating before this book, it came off as kind of sudden for me. I mean I’m happy because I think Miltisa is great and there were definitely hints of the two getting closer in the first two books, but I just think the transition to them being girlfriends could have been handled a little less clunkily?

It was nice to see Skulduggery and Valkyrie somewhat back to their old partnership in this book. There’s still some awkwardness and it’s clear that they’re still learning to be around each other again, after a while away, but their classic banter comes more to the fore in this book, which was lovely to see, the humour in this book felt much more akin to phase one that the previous two, which I loved. I will say that Skulduggery still seems to be being under-utilised in this series, and I hope we get to see more of him in the next book.

I still don’t really understand the point of Flanery, I don’t think that this series needed a Trump-a-like, and although his storyline serves more of a purpose in this book than it has done previously, I still feel like he’s not really needed? I’m only really interested in Flanery in terms of what Crepuscular is using him for as I feel like there’s still a greater story to be explored there. I also don’t really get the whole point of the Sebastian finding Darquesse plot is because I don’t feel that she needs to come back and of all the plots in this book, that one is the one that really doesn’t fit and I think the book would have been stronger without it.

I liked Omen’s plotline a lot more in this book than I have in the previous two, his storyline felt more tied into the narrative this time than it has done in the past and I feel like he became much more a part of the team in this book which I liked. It is nice to have a sorcerer in these books that’s just kind of average, rather than super-powered as so many of the others seem to be. He has quite an awkward relationship with both Val and Skulduggery, which is quite humourous and he and Skulduggery have a particularly great conversation in this which shows some potential for mentorship later on in the series.

It was really great to see Tanith back, Val doesn’t have all that many female friends, so it’s nice to see her interact with other women and I definitely think her, Tanith and Militsa have the potential to be a great group from their few interactions in this book.

The actual asylum portions of the book that the book gets it’s title from were incredibly difficult to read. I get the point of showing Val’s increasing guilt, but I’m not sure that asylum was the way to do that, having her confronted by the ghosts of people whose deaths she feels responsible for is a good idea, but I don’t think it needed to take place in the asylum setting. I also didn’t like some of the weird formatting that crept into these chapters.

Val’s new skills are interesting but I feel like it’s getting kind of overkill, she can see auras, throw lightning, heal herself, manipulate auras, the list goes on and whilst it’s cool that she can do all of these things, I feel like it makes it too easy sometimes, like whatever tough spot she’s in, oh it’s cool, she has the exact right power to get out of it? It is explained in the book why (though I can’t say due to spoilery reasons) and it makes sense, but making her have so many different types of powers, just seems like a lazy fix to get her out of whatever dangerous situation she’s been thrown in and I kind of preferred it in the first phase of the series, when she didn’t always have the exact right skills for the situation.

There are A LOT of great reveals in this book that could make for some really interesting plots in future books, most of which I can’t talk about because SPOILERS, but for the first time, I’m feeling really excited about what’s going to happen in the next book, especially because the spark from Phase One seems to have finally returned.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, it felt like a return to form for Skulduggery and co., with lots of exciting adventures, interesting reveals and great character development for both old and new characters and I really think the next couple of books could be absolute standouts taking the plot from this one forward….if they’re done well that is.

My Rating: 4/5

My next review will probably be an e-ARC review, of Ever Alice, by HJ Ramsay which will be around the book’s publication at the end of July.