Birthday blues

Hello.
I am stealing an idea from Sophie, because plagerism is the best form of flattery.
It is nearing my birthday, which means that I am now only a year away from leaving my twenties and I’m not ready. Like, when you’re a kid, you can’t imagine anything past the age of twenty, it’s too much into the future but now I’m here and I just can’t deal with it. This is so different to my usual birthday blues, I have birthday blues every year, I think its because I’m naturally very nostalgic and existential, but when it comes to my birthday, I always add a dash of lonliness in there too and get a bit overwhelmed by the enormity of the universe and how insignificant my life is in comparison. So, yeah, birthday blues.

Anyway, Sophie does a post every year where she talks about the things she would like to achieve before her next birthday and considers the things she has achieved from her last birthday.
Now, I’m not one for resolutions, I tend to feel a bit too much pressure when it comes to resolutions and then I don’t end up doing them and feeling like a failure. But my next birthday is a bit of a milestone, so I think I should make more of an effort. And well. I like lists. Here’s a list of things I would like to do before I get to thirty and have to accept the fact that I am a proper grown up. You guys can hold me to this. I’m counting on you.

Before I reach my next birthday I would like…

  • To be fluent in another language
  • To see the Northern Lights
  • To go on a date (I’ve never been on one!)
  • To finish my next novel
  • To publish a novel… (We’ll see how we get on with that)
  • To join a band
  • To finally FINALLY do the thing I’ve been putting off for ten years and get a tattoo

Whether any of these things are doable is another thing entirely, but you know, it’s good to dream!

Advertisements

Vivian Versus America

Vivian Versus America – Katie Coyle

I finally FINALLY got around to reading the second Vivian Apple book! I say finally because I read the first one two years ago! I did review it, which you can read here but if you don’t have time for that, here is a brief recap: Vivian is a normal every day teen living a normal every day teen life in America who’s parents join the Church of America and get a bit too into it, Vivian remains a non believer up until the rapture is predicted and 3,000 Church of America supporters disappear, seemingly off to the promised land. Vivian and her best friend, Harp, go on an adventure to find out what happened to everyone, meet a cute boy along the way and discover the terrible truth of the rapture.
So, what happens to her next?

The predicted Rapture by Pastor Frick’s Church of America has come and gone, and three thousand Believers are now missing or dead. Seventeen-year-old Vivian Apple and her best friend, Harpreet, are revolutionaries, determined to expose the Church’s diabolical power grab…and to locate Viv’s missing heartthrob, Peter Ivey.

Oh – I should have said, this is also known as Vivian Apple needs a miracle. Just so you know.

This book picks up exactly where we left off with Vivian and Harp having escaped the Church of America and being separated from Peter, the pair of them join a militia group and the adventure begins yet again.

I find books about religion fascinating, there is something about the exploration of how people become believers, how they find solace in something that isn’t tangible, something I think Katie Coyle does really well with this duology is that they aren’t preachy or anti religion any more than they are pro atheism or pro religion. Though it does call out toxic fundamentalism and charlatans, there is nothing about these books that shames those with faith.
Honestly, the best things about these books are the characters, Vivian and Harp are brilliant and I love them and honestly, if you were going to be left behind after a rapture, these are the two you’d want to be stuck with. I think I preferred the first book but only because it was such an interesting premise and this one, though not unnecessary, didn’t need to be as long as it was and didn’t add anything new to the idea. Was still an enjoyable read and I kind of wish I’d read them both one after the other, that might have worked better! Next time, I won’t leave two years between sequels!

Come Sundown

Come Sundown – Nora Roberts

I was sent this by the publicist working on the book and I’ve FINALLY got around to picking it up. Sorry. I’ve had this sat in my inbox for far too long. Honestly, a book that begins with a girl relieving herself behind a tree has to be one met with intregue and from there it only got better, who doesn’t love a murder mystery set on a ranch in the south of the USA?

Bodine Longbow loves to rise with the dawn. As the manager of her family’s resort in Western Montana, there just aren’t enough hours in the day – for life, for work, for loved ones. She certainly doesn’t have time for love, not even in the gorgeous shape of her childhood crush Callen Skinner, all grown up and returned to the ranch. Then again, maybe Callen can change her mind, given time…
But when a young woman’s body is discovered on resort land, everything changes. Callen falls under the suspicion of a deputy sheriff with a grudge. And for Bodine’s family, the murder is a shocking reminder of an old loss. Twenty-five years ago, Bodine’s Aunt Alice vanished, never to be heard of again. Could this new tragedy be connected to Alice’s mysterious disappearance?
As events take a dramatic and deadly turn, Bodine and Callen must race to uncover the truth – before the sun sets on their future together.

I would say this was a mystery rather than a suspense novel and follows four generations of the same family, beginning in 91 with Alice Bodine and then going to her niece, Bodine, who has never met her thanks to a rather horrible thing that happens to her right before the book begins and features members of their extended family and community.

It reminded me a lot of American soap operas, kind of Dallas like but with elements of the The Room thrown in. It swung between being melodramatic and creepy, I was never really sure which was going to come next! So if that sounds like it might be up your street, give this a go, but do be warned, you know I like to give you trigger warnings, there is abduction, murder and sexual assault in this. Some of it is hinted at, mostly its not that subtle.
A great thing about this, if like me you’re new to Nora Roberts, is that this is a stand alone. Why is that good news? Well, the woman has written over 200 books, many of which are in a series. So, if you wanted somewhere to start, this is the perfect book for that.

Mirror Mirror

Mirror Mirror – Cara Delevingne (and Rowan Coleman)

She’s a model, an actor, a singer, she has the most impressive eyebrows in the western hemisphere and now she’s a novelist, is there a pie Cara Delevinge doesn’t have her fingers in?

Friend. Lover. Victim. Traitor.
When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
Sixteen-year-old friends Red, Leo, Rose, and Naomi are misfits; still figuring out who they are and who they want to be. Life isn’t perfect, but music brings them together, and they are excited about what the future holds for their band, Mirror, Mirror. That is until Naomi vanishes before being pulled unconscious out of the river.
She’s left fighting for her life in a coma. The police claim it was a failed suicide attempt, but her friends aren’t convinced. Will Naomi ever wake up? What -­ or perhaps who -­ led her to that hospital bed? And how did Red, the self-styled protector of the group, fail to spot the warning signs?While Rose turns to wild partying and Leo is shrouded by black moods, Red sets out to uncover the truth. It’s a journey that will cause Red’s world to crack, exposing the group’s darkest secrets. Nothing will ever be the same again, because once a mirror is shattered, it can’t be fixed.
Cara Delevingne, the voice of her generation, explores identity, friendship and betrayal in this gripping and powerful coming-of-age story. For fans of WE WERE LIARS, THIRTEEN REASONS WHY and THE GIRLS.

Most people say this is like Paper Towns, I think its more Pretty Little Liars set in London crossed with Paper Towns, if you mix those together, you have a Riverdale-esque teen mystery with actually a very impressive premise, a believably teenage narrator and is actually a fairly decent first novel full of twists and turns, which although had a few moments that felt a little contrived, kept me on my toes the whole way through. (Though, admittedly, I did figure out who the bad guy was fairly early on, but I was hoping that I was wrong!)
This is the story of a teenage band, Mirror Mirror, featuring Rose, Red, Leo and Naomi. Perhaps Cara Delevingne was inspired by her turn as Margot in the film version of Paper Towns, for we’re told that our missing student, Naomi begins life very much like Margot, forever running away and then reappearing, however, this time around, she was happy, had friends and unlike her previous disappearances, had a complete change of character beforehand. The four kids are pushed together and end up becoming best friends, who are then rocked by what happens to Naomi and our narrator, Red, teams up with Naomi’s sister to try and figure out what happened to her and why.

This features a diverse cast, enough twists and turns to keep you guessing even if it does get to PLL levels of ridiculous at times. IDK if you’ve seen PLL but seriously, how many underground bunkers are there in Rosewood? There were moments that were getting close to that in this book, but I still found it enjoyable. Much like PLL I guess.

Red can be read as trans or as androgynous and actually, their narration doesn’t lead you to believe in any particular gender until their identity reveal, which I really liked, their sexuality and gender identity weren’t made a big deal of and while I’m not trans or non binary myself, and someone who is might think differently, I think their character was great. Cara seems to be part of the write what you know club, as she acknowledges Red and Rose’s middle class privilege without letting it diminish or take over from other problems they experience during the book.

Its actually really teenage, which some books featuring teenagers seem to forget to allow the characters to be, while Red and co are dealing with their own individual issues and the mystery surrounding Naomi they also spend a lot of time concerning themselves with bullies and Instagram and all that kind of thing, I read the egalley of this but I think the paperback would be great because it includes Insta and Snapchat posts and text communications between the characters which is a little lost in the kindle edition.

While I don’t know how much of this CD wrote herself, I think it is a strong debut novel. Some reviews seem to really hate it, but I thought it was an enjoyable and gripping novel, if a little convoluted and rushed towards the end. There is a little q and a section with her at the end where she talks about the possibility of writing more and I certainly wouldn’t discourage it!

August round up

Another month another comic con – this time my local one (again I was very good and didn’t buy all the Spider Man merch, so I feel like I deserve some sort of prize). My friends and I came up with a new tradition of playing board games on a Friday night and I got to not only witness my niece’s first ever trip on a plane, but also her first trip to Disneyland and bloody hell, it was the cutest thing I have ever seen.

What I read this month:

Gather the daughters – Jennie Melamed
Dear God this book was amazing, Bookbridgr sent me a copy of this just as the Handmaid’s Tale was wrapping up on TV, its almost like they knew I’d need something to fill the Offred shaped void in my life. There is so much to say about this book, so head here to see my full review, it’s incredible and was written by a woman who owns three shiba inus. So you know she has to be awesome.

The Profession of Violence – John Pearson
Yes, I did buy this book because of the double Tom Hardy on the front. Fun fact, I am descended from cockneys, my grandparents are from the east end, my grandad’s older brother knew the Kray twin’s brother Charlie from boxing and you know, around. Yes, the Kray’s had a brother. Not that you’d know that if you read this book because Charlie is only mentioned about five times in the whole thing. Whenever I’ve spoken to my grandad and his family about life in the east end under the Krays, I’m always told though they weren’t the sort of people you’d want to introduce your mother to, they kept their streets clean and stopped any sort of bother. Which if you know the east end, is quite a feat because that place was dodgy af. So I wanted to find out more about these people and read the book that inspired the film. It was ok, but I don’t feel like I learned anything I didn’t already know.

The Big Lie – Julie Mayhew
I’ve read a couple of ‘alternate reality’ stories exploring what could have been if Nazi Germany had come to Britain before Russia and been successful, but none aimed at younger readers or specifically about young LGBTQA+ women. This is the story of Jess, living in what was Britain in 2013, but Britain is part of the Greater German Reich, everyone speaks a mixture of English and German, she attends a school where the curriculum is influenced by the rules of the Hitler youth, and all other aspects of Hitler’s rule are every day life. Only because of her friend questioning everything, Jess starts to see that life isn’t as it seems… It was such an interesting read though such a shame that actual Nazis started hanging around America while I was reading it.

Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo
Last month I was at YALC and got given some Six of Crows art print things from a stall there, and this month I found the book at the library and oh my, this quickly became one of my favourite books of the year! The world building was spot on, the characters were brilliant and the story was incredible! I need all the Grisha novels in my life now!

Films I watched this month:
You may have noticed if you follow me on twitter, have been keeping up with my Film reviews in 10 tweets or less posts or this video, that I really like films and that I spend a lot of time watching them, so here are all the films (some new, some rewatches) that graced my television/ cinema screen this month!

  • Dunkirk
    Yes, I saw it again.
  • Vampire Academy
  • Jurrasic World
  • Valerian and the city of a thousand planets

TV I watched his month:

  • Game of Thrones
  • House of Cards
  • Shadowhunters
  • Rick and Morty
  • Atypical
  • Defenders

My favourite Instagram posts this month:

successful first game night 📸 @krisskarnage79

A post shared by leah-marie smith (@leeeeeeeeah) on

whenever there is a star war, you'll find these folk guarding the galaxy

A post shared by leah-marie smith (@leeeeeeeeah) on

and we're off ✈️

A post shared by leah-marie smith (@leeeeeeeeah) on

💙

A post shared by leah-marie smith (@leeeeeeeeah) on

What I did on YouTube this month:

What I loved on YouTube this month:
Last month this section was just filled Dan Howell, this month we’re full of James Corden! Firstly, this he’s also killing it with the interviews, like this where Jaime Lanister picks up Alexander Hamilton  and this Crosswalk Musical We also got great new vids from Charlie and Emily this month. Sammy Paul gave us a video that was a year in the making and this from Elliot Gough for Last Week’s guest edition!

Great Bookish Bake off – Lemon Cake

The cakes I bake and the books I read while baking them.

So even though I spent most of the past year determined not to watch new bake off… Bake Off returned and I watched it. And I don’t know how I feel about it… like it feels wrong… But also… familiar and I don’t know! What does everyone one else think of it? Is it good? Is it not? I don’t know…!
Anyway, one simply doesn’t watch bake off without cake. So, I made a cake. And I cheated a bit and thought you guys might also like a cheaters recipe to cake.

You will need:
A mixing bowl
Two round cake tins
A box of cake mix (I chose Lemon cake)
Ready made icing (yes, that stuff is accidentally dairy free)
A can of Sprite.

And the book of your choice, I was reading Six of Crows which is one of my new favourite books.

This is a great cake hack if you hear the Bake Off theme and think, damn, I should have got some cake in. All you need is one of those cake mix boxes and a 320ml of lemonade, mix the two together, split the mix between the two cake tins and bake for twenty minutes. Which admitedly, doesn’t give you much time to read, especially when you’re working your way through something as exciting as Six of Crows, but there is also the cooling time, so you know.
Once they’re cooked, put them aside and let them cool and then crack into the ready made icing and assemble your cake. My packet mix came with drizzle for the top which I also stuck on because BAKE OFF.
As weird as it sounds, for some reason, adding fizzy drinks to cake mix makes a perfectly risen and moist (sorry) cake! It’s mad but true! Try it!

 

Also while we’re talking about Bake Off, Veronica Dearly posted this great image the other day and I can’t not!

Giving the #bakeoff a whirl. #gbbo

A post shared by Veronica Dearly (@veronicadearly) on

Gather the Daughters

Gather the Daughter – Jennie Melamed

The lovely people of Bookbridgr sent me a gorgeous hardcover of this (seriously the dust jacket is beautiful) right around the time that the Handmaid’s Tale was wrapping up, it’s almost like they knew I would be hunting for something to fill the Offred sized hole that was left behind and this book, dear God this book. It, as the kids say, left me SHOOK.

GATHER THE DAUGHTERS tells the story of an end-of-the-world cult founded years ago when ten men colonised an island. It’s a society in which men reign supreme, breeding is controlled, and knowledge of the outside world is kept to a minimum. Girls are wives-in-training: at the first sign of puberty, they must marry and have children. But until that point, every summer, island tradition dictates that the children live wildly: running free, making camps, sleeping on the beach. And it is at the end of one such summer that one of the youngest girls sees something so horrifying that life on the island can never be the same again.

Honestly, I’m a bit lost as to where to begin with this. It was as hard to read as it was to put down.
That doesn’t explain a lot, does it?
Sorry, let’s try again.

This book reminded me of lots of other things, but at the same time it was so original. What we have is a cult like community where the patriarchy rules, each family is given their own profession, couples are paired up and allowed two children and when they become too old to be useful, they are put out to pasture. They are confined to their island and are not told anything of the world outside, much like The Giver, which is one of my faves. The only freedom allowed is for those considered children, every summer they’re allowed to live as though feral, in an almost Lord of the Flies kind of way. The adults remain inside and those girls unfortunate enough to start menstruating have to do their summer of fruition, which, like in Only Ever Yours, is when they’re gathered up and presented to a group of single men to be picked and matched up. By winter they’re likely married and pregnant and the cycle continues. In this society the birth of a boy brings celebration, the birth of a girl brings sorrow for before the girls belong to their husbands they belong to their fathers. Yes that sentence is heaped with innuendo and here’s the part where I chuck you some trigger warnings. This is a society where child molestation and sexual assault are not only normal but are insisted upon. There is also a character with an eating disorder, just fyi.

The story is told from the point of view of four girls aged between 17 and 13 living in this society and one of them sees something they’re not supposed to which throws this whole community into turmoil. Now you can see why it was so hard to read, these girls’ lives are horrific but Jennie Melamed tells it with such subtlety that it creeps its way into your subconscious and haunts you. Her author profile tells me that she’s a psychologist that works with abused children and you can tell that she’s someone who understands the sensitivities and employs them with care. A lot of the incidents in this book are inferred, nothing is gratuitous. The bio also tells me that she owns three shiba inu’s and frankly, that’s brilliant.

Gather the Daughters is a wonderful and horrific book (can that be possible?) that should be a must for anyone who’s into their dystopians or is interested in reading more about cults.

Here’s another thing, this hasn’t been done in a while, but this was so good it gets a Nick Fury Seal of approval.