Tuesday 30 January 2018

Book Club Picks #10 The Girl from Everywhere

Nix Song has lived aboard her father's ship, The Temptation for as long as she can remember. However, The Temptation is no ordinary ship. As long as Captain Slate has an accurate hand drawn map of the location and time he wishes to travel to, he can guide his ship there. Captain Slate's dreams lay in Hawaii in 1868, when Nix's mother was still alive. He is determined to go back and save her life with modern medicine. Nix however, has other plans. She loves her life aboard The Temptation, and is reluctant to give it up. There's also the risk that saving her mother will rewrite her whole history, causing her to lose everything. Nix must decide if she is willing to take the risk, or if she should leave her father behind.

 The Girl From Everywhere is the first book in a duology by Heidi Helig. It follows Nix, a girl who has spent her life on her father's ship, The Temptation, which Captain Slate is able to navigate through time and space. Basically this is what it would be like if the TARDIS was an awesome sailing ship instead of a police box. Captain Slate only needs two things to make this happen. An accurate and detailed map of the location, and the belief that it could exist. I was excited when I discovered it was possible to travel to fictional places too! The possibilities are endless, and if I was in Nix's position, I would constantly be creating my own worlds to travel to, along with commissioning JK Rowling to draw me a detailed map of Hogwarts. You can probably imagine my disappointment when I discovered that the majority of the book takes place in one location, and it's not even a fictional one!

Although this was the biggest disappointment in the book for me, I did actually love the location. The majority of the book is set in Honolulu in 1884, and it is a beautiful location. I adored Heidi's gorgeous descriptions, and it made me wish that I could visit Honolulu before it became the huge city that it is today. I loved that everything was historically accurate, as I pretty much knew nothing about the history of Honolulu before reading this book, so I loved that I was constantly learning. There were several times when I stopped reading to research more on a certain subject, particularly on the subject of the monarchy. As Heidi grew up in Hawaii, she was aware of local legends from her childhood, and I loved how she incorporated them into the book, particuarly the Hu'akai Po.

I felt as if I wasn't interested enough in the characters themselves, particularly Nix. She seemed a little two dimensional to me, and I just couldn't make myself become emotionally invested in her. I felt the same way about Blake, and felt as if his main purpose was to be a barrier between a romantic relationship happening between Nix and Kashmir, essentially creating an unnecessary love triangle. Although I loved that Blake was full of local legends, and showed up to save the day, I felt as if he was mostly there to give Nix and the reader information that would later be important to the plot. Blake was pretty much a background character, like the NPC in a video game that conveniently appears to guide the player in the right direction, only to fade back into the background. Everything that Blake did seemed to be for Nix's benefit, and he seemed more like a catalyst than a character.

The one character that I did actually like was Kashmir, and I was happy that he was central to the plot. I was worried that his main role would be to act as the love interest, so I was happy that there was more to him than that. I loved how kind he was, and that he was extremely loyal to Nix and Captain Slate. However, I did roll my eyes over the typical hostility between Kash and Blake, as it's such a cliché for the two men to hate each other in a love triangle. Although I didn't care much for the majority of the characters, I did love that they were wonderfully diverse, and I particularly loved that one of the female crew members had a wife.

The plot overall was a little too slow for me. I initially thought I was going to love it, as they travelled from 1774 India to 2016 New York, and then onto 1884 Honolulu in a short space of time. As the book is marketed as time travel, I expected the book to go on as it started, so I became a little bored towards the middle, as all that seemed to be happening was planning on how to rob the treasurey. I did however love when they travelled to a fictional version of China, as this was the only time we personally experienced something like this, rather than Nix just telling us about something that had happened in the past. Although I loved this part, I was also extremely confused in regards to Joss, the woman who had given Nix the map. I feel as if I didn't understand something shomewhere, and I got extremely confused over her timeline. I'm not sure if this was just me being stupid, or if it just wasn't explained well enough.

Although I did enjoy various parts of the book, I unfortunately didn't enjoy it as a whole as much as I thought I would. I am interested in Nix's story enough to read the sequel, but I think I will take a little break and read some other books before I jump back into Nix's world. I think that in order for me to enjoy the sequel more than I enjoyed this one, there would have to be character development, a more action packed plot, and a lot more time travel

The Girl from Everywhere is now available to purchase!

  | Amazon Book Depository

Wednesday 17 January 2018

2018 Blog Goals

Something that I never do is New Year's Resolutions. I know I'll never actually start running every day or give up chocolate, but I thought something I could do was set some blog goals! A couple of these goals will be related to other bookish things outside my blog, but as they're still related to books, I'm going to add them anyway.

1. Have more of a variety of posts

So I've realised that probably 90% of my blog is book reviews on YA books. I have incorporated my reviewing the classics segment in the last two years, but I want to branch out into different bookish posts this year. I would love the opportunity to engage with authors more and have a variety of author Q&A's and guest posts. I would also love to be able to collaborate with some of my favourite bloggers on a topic we are both passionate about. This year I want to be more creative with my posts, and show that despite it's title, there is more to my blog than just reviews.

2. Start taking review requests from indie authors again

So 2017 kicked my ass for various reasons that I will go into detail about a little later, but something that I felt I had to do about halfway through the year was close review request submissions to self published authors. Now as I've probably mentioned hundreds of times, I love self published authors. My blog would probably not exist today if it wasn't for self published authors approaching me to ask if I will review their book. I didn't' read nearly as many books last year as I usually do, and this is the
firs year that I didn't actually reach my initial Goodreads goal. I got to a point where I was getting multiple review requests per day and I just couldn't keep up. My blog is something I do as a hobby, and when that hobby is causing me stress and anxiety, it's time to take a step back, which is exactly what I did last year. I hope this year will be less of a strain on my mental health, and I hope to reopen submissions to self published authors by the end of the month.

3. Understand that it's okay to take a break from blogging for mental health reasons.

This is something I really need to get my head around for my own well-being. Last November, I decided I was going to take part in NaNoWriMo. A dream I have had since I was around seven is to write my own book. I lack confidence in my writing abilities, and currently have three WIP's in various stages of completion that probably won't see the light of day. Now I have taken part in NaNoWriMo twice before, so I knew what I was getting myself into, but as I was averaging around 2K words a day and dealing with life outside my writing cave, I barely had time to read. After spending so much time working on my novel, I was always too drained to write blog posts too, but me being me, this made me anxious and worried. I know that posting nothing for a month doesn't look good. I worried that people would stop visiting my blog. I worried that people would forget about me. I worried that publishers would think my blog was inactive and drop me off their mailing lists. As I rarely get book mail from publishers these days, a lot of these worries remain, and even if my mental health has taken a turn for the worst, I often still feel obligated to make blog posts. I need to always remind myself that this is a hobby not a job. I don't get paid for my time, so I should let myself take breaks when I need them.

4. Continue writing my book

So I have a problem. Every time I decide to do NaNoWriMo, I stop writing when the calendar hits December. Finding the time to write 2K words every day becomes draining after a while, and every year I do NaNo, I tell myself I will take December off from writing and continue in January. The problem is that that never happens, and my half finished first draft remains that way indefinitely, doing nothing but taking up space on my laptop. I don't want that to happen again. I want to at least finish the first draft before I decide it's unsalvageable. It's unlikely I will ever try to get this piece of work published, but I think completing a first draft is the first step to my dream of one day becoming a published author.

5. Make booktube videos

Every year I tell myself that this will be the year I start to properly make booktube videos, and every year it doesn't happen. I always make a video to sum up my favourite books of the year (I'll be filming that soon I promise!) but then I will only make one or two videos for the rest of the year. I'm not going to become a daily vlogger, or even a weekly vlogger, but I hope to make a video at least once a month.

6. Read other peoples blogs more often

This is something I don't do nearly as much as I should, and this year I want to take the time to read and appreciate all the time and effort my fellow bloggers put into their posts. There are so many amazing bloggers who put their heart and soul into what they do. I want to engage with other bloggers who, like me, don't have thousands of followers, and can sometimes be overlooked in favour of the more popular bloggers. Small bloggers put just as much time and effort into their blog as the popular bloggers do, and I would love to give them a small portion of the recognition they deserve.

7. Read the books that have been gathering dust on my shelves

It is so easy to get a new book and dive right into it, ignoring the books that have been patiently waiting on my shelf for months (and occasionally years!) for me to pick them up. When I get sent an ARC, I feel obligated to review it before it's publication date, and often several books will be published in the same month, giving me no time to read anything else. There are a few (hundred) books on my shelf that I've been meaning to get round to for ages, and this is the year where I want to find the time to make a dent in my ever growing book collection, and find the time to read some of those books that I have so carelessly abandoned.

There are plenty more things I want to achieve with my blog this year, but as I'm in danger of making this post too long, I'm going to stop here. I would like to thank all the amazing bloggers who interacted with me last year, and all of you who have ever taken the time to read one of m blog posts. You are all totally awesome!

I hope you all have an amazing year!

Thursday 4 January 2018

Review on The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily

It has been a year since Dash found a mysterious red notebook in his favourite book shop. A year since he started dating Lily, who changed his views on Christmas forever. However, as Christmas approaches once more, Lily is not in her usual festive spirit. Lily's grandfather is still recovering from a heart attack, and even though there are only twelve days left until Christmas Day, Lily still doesn't have a Christmas tree. Dash decides to try to get Lily's excitement for Christmas back by doing a kind gesture for her every day in the twelve days leading up to Christmas, but will it be enough to regain Lily's Christmas spirit?

It's no secret that I adored Dash and Lily's Book of Dares, so I was excited to dive right into the sequel! The book starts a year after the events of Dash and Lily's Book of dares, with Christmas fast approaching. However, Lily is far too worried about her Grandfather's ill health to throw herself into the holiday spirit this year. Dash puts it upon himself to change this, and make this the best Christmas ever.

I was so happy to get back into the festive world of Dash and Lily! I loved these characters in the first book, and was looking forward to seeing what Christmassy adventures they would get up to in this one. I did say in my review on Dash and Lily's Book of Dares that Dash hadn't gone through much character development, but in this book it is clear that he has. A year of being Lily's boyfriend has taught him to not only tolerate, but actually enjoy Christmas. The tables have turned in this book, as this time it is Dash trying to get Lily into a festive mood, something he definitely hadn't had to do in the previous year. I found Dash more likeable in this book, as he wasn't as stuck up and selfish as he used to be.

Something that I usually hate is miscommunication as a plot device to create drama between characters, but it worked surprisingly well. Although Dash does what he thinks is right, Lily often takes Dash's good intentions the wrong way and jumps to conclusions. I think it's natural to have doubts in a new relationship, and I think plenty of people have worried if their romantic partner really does love them. With the stress she was already going through with family issues, I could see why she was seeing everything negatively. It almost feels like David Levithan is taking all the tropes I usually hate and proving they're not always awful if they're written well.

I loved that Langston had a bigger role in this book, and that he had to put his grudge against Dash aside for Lily's sake. I love when characters who dislike each other have to unwillingly team up, and I loved that Dash and Langston slowly got to know each other, and were able to reach a point where they could be allies. I felt as if Langston grew up a lot in the space of a year, as he seemed quite immature in the first book, but this time he stepped up to help Lily, and had plans to move out.

I continued to adore Dash's friendship with Boomer. I remember one of the big dramas in my school was that a boy had broken up with his girlfriend only for his best friend to start dating her a while later. The boys stopped being friends, and although they still had to sit with each other in class, they refused to even talk to each other. Even though this does seem childish, these boys were actually not much younger than Dash. I loved that there was absolutely no drama between Dash and Boomer, and Dash handled the situation well. I loved how supportive he was, and seemed to be genuinely happy for his friend. Boomer's one liners continued to make me laugh out loud, and I particularly loved the addition of Oscar the Christmas tree.

Like the first book, this one had an important message, this time on the subject of change. I loved that this subject was brought up, as it is something we all go through. Nothing ever stays exactly the same. Things are changing constantly, and often these things are something that we have no control over. We can't stop the cherry blossom from blowing off the branches as Spring slips into Summer, or stop our loved ones from ageing. Lily is surrounded by changes she doesn't want to happen, from her brother planning on moving out, to her grandfathers health not being what it once was, and her parents wanting to move out of the one home she has lived in her whole life. Lily has no control over these changes, and although she initially tries to stop them, she eventually realises that these changes are inevitable, and although she may be able to stall them for a little while, they will happen eventually, and she will have to accept them. Change can be scary, but it can also be exciting and give us something to look forward to. I loved that Lily eventually realised that things changing is just a part of life, and something we often have no control over. Sometimes we have no choice but to adapt to change, even if we would prefer for things to stay the same.

There were so many brilliant and funny moments packed into this short book, but the one that really stood out for me was the ice skating scene, as it really couldn't have gone more wrong! It was both hilarious and relatable, as although non of us have landed several librarians in A&E (I hope!) I think we have all tried to do something nice for someone only for it to backfire horribly. I also loved that despite being injured, Dash kept his positivity and didn't blame Lily for what had happened.

This was a fantastic sequel to Dash and Lily's Book of Dares, and I thought it was just as good, if not better. Reading these two books in December really put me in a Christmassy mood! Even though I usually avoid sappy romance stories, there's just something about sappy Christmas romance stories that makes me occasionally make an exception. David Levithan and Rachel Cohn make the perfect writing duo, and I hope they continue to work together in the future!