Tuesday, 25 October 2016

#BLOGTOBER DAY 25: 'Queen of Hearts' (Queens of Hearts saga #1) by Colleen Oakes

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*This review will contain spoilers!*
'It was said that once you sat in the king's throne, magic funneled down through the open hearts and made you wise. 
Looking at her father, she knew that wasn't true.'

"Oh, my future queen, you're late!" Harris hopped from one foot to the other, his plump face soaked with a cold sweat. He pulled off his thick-rimmed glasses and wiped them on his white checkered ascot. "Dinah! Walk faster, Your Highness! We are late, late, late!" He looked down at his pocket watch with an exaggerated sigh.
Dinah, Princess of Wonderland and future Queen of Hearts, rolled her eyes. 
"Harris, I'm walking as swiftly as I can."
Reading this opening exchange I was both confused and exasperated. Why does it sound like the White Rabbit is being described as a panicking human man? And why is the future Queen of Hearts acting like such a spoiled brat?

Dinah's in for a nasty surprise when her father admits that he cheated on her late mother, and that one night stand resulted in him fathering a child with a commoner. Within minutes she's meeting her half-sister, the brand new Duchess of Wonderland, Vittiore. 
Dinah's pissed off - how dare this bastard appear out of nowhere and become second in line to the throne? It's bad enough that her brother, Charles, was deemed unable to be king after dissolving into madness and spending all of his days creating hats. 
Dinah's father has never loved his children, so when he starts acting affection towards Vittiore it really hurts. But as soon as Dinah turns 18 she'll ascend to rule beside him as Queen of Wonderland, so she needs to be on best behaviour for the next few months. No more temper tantrums, no more childish complaining. 
Dinah hopes that she'll be able to marry Wardley Ghane when she becomes queen. She's been in love with him for as long as she can remember, as they were the only two children who grew up in the palace. He's a stablehand and he's in training to become the next Knave of Hearts, but she's certain that he'd be a brilliant king, ruling alongside her and making Wonderland a better place free from her father's selfish rule. 
But it's not long before strange things are happening in the palace, and Dinah starts wondering if there might be a plot afoot to keep her from ever sitting on the throne. Just how far will her father go to remain King of Wonderland?

Nothing happened.
Okay, I'm lying about that. A couple of things did, but they were either completely unexplained or unnecessary. This book doesn't make a lick of sense without the context of the series around it, so I guess I'm going to have to read the second book - 'Blood of Wonderland' - when it releases in February.
The story actually begins in the last fifty pages, which are rushed and incoherent. The first half of the book is pure set-up: Vittiore is Dinah's half-sister, Dinah isn't happy about this, her father's a bit of a dick. It shouldn't take over 200 pages for that information to be communicated.
But none of it makes sense. Why has Dinah's father hated her since birth? Why does he seem happy to share the throne with Vittiore and not Dinah? Why is the Cheshire cat called Cheshire, and how did he become the king's very human adviser? Why is the White Rabbit a human?
Where is the whimsy?
This would work much better if it was an original story of a girl whose father is trying to kill her to keep his crown. It doesn't need to be an Alice in Wonderland prequel, because it has none of the aspects that make Lewis Carroll's work so intriguing and unusual. The Ninth Sea is the only thing that comes close, and that's a sea of flowers that gently shift from dark blue to nearly lavender, making them appear to be a real ocean from a distance. That's the reason this book received a second star.
Then there's the Black Towers aka the most disturbing thing I've ever read in YA. There are seven tree-like towers that house criminals by crime, and when Dinah is covertly given the name of one of the prisoners she needs to visit her. Faina Baker is in the top of the tower that holds the criminals accused of treason, and when Dinah manages to sneak in to visit her she finds Faina secured to the tower by roots and vines. According to one of the guards, the roots "love an opening", and the description of the vines slithering across Faina's face and down her throat made me feel physically sick. Needless torture isn't great, but describing it in erotic terms is nausea-inducing.
Soon it's Execution Day and - in a completely unpredictable twist of events! - Faina is chosen as one of the criminals that will be beheaded. Faina - who babbled about a missing daughter to Dinah - gets her head chopped off, and Vittiore - the girl who appeared out of nowhere - faints. It's so obvious that Faina was Vittiore's mother, and even though it's completely plain to see it's still not being resolved until the next book. Groan.
At the end of the novel, Charles is murdered. So unless the folks of Wonderland learn how to revive people, it looks as though this version of Wonderland doesn't have a Mad Hatter! Dinah blames her father (I've got my eye on the super sneaky Cheshire) but she's framed and has to go on the run. But not before she tells Wardley she loves him, and he completely ignores her! She deserves that: she's just stabbed him and if she hangs around she could get them both killed, but she still thinks it's the perfect romantic moment to declare her love. I'm rolling my eyes so hard I'm surprised they aren't stuck in my head.
The book ends with Dinah about to journey into the Twisted Woods towards the Yurkie Mountains (home of an as-yet-unseen tribe of murderers), her father and the Card Guards on her tale and Wardley promising that he will find her.
There's so much potential with the characters and the story - the duplicious Cheshire, the unemotional Wardley, the mysterious Vittiore - but based off of how much of a non-starter this first installment was, I'm not sure I trust Colleen Oakes to be able to do any of their stories justice. Hopefully I'll be wrong, but I'm not getting my hopes up.

This is a reissuing of a series that Colleen Oakes wrote and released back in 2014, so the entire trilogy will be released by September of next year. I'm going to carry on with it, because I'm hoping that eventually some of the elements of Wonderland that I'm familiar with will seep through: maybe rather than just being a retelling of the beginning of the Queen of Hearts reign, it could also be an explanation as to how Wonderland became so weird and wonderful.
For a first installment, this is utterly disappointing. It would have been much better if this had been a prequel novella, trimmed down and released as an eBook only, to allowed the end of the novel to be properly developed and not left at such an inopportune moment.

#BLOGTOBER DAY 25: So you want to write a concert review?

I review a lot of live shows, and I have a very specific routine that I go through each and every time I settle down to write.
Last night I saw VANT and You Me At Six for the second time in two weeks, and because the shows were practically identical I didn't want to write a standard review.
So instead, here is my step by step guide to writing a concert review.

Step 1: Buy tickets

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Oh, you've already bought tickets? In that case I guess I should start a little further along in the procedure...

Step 1: Make notes
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I'm not expecting you to take a notebook and pen into the show. The lighting in concerts is not usually the best, so physically writing notes would be difficult. I open up the calendar on my phone and create a new event, and I put all of my thoughts and observations in there stream of consciousness style, with a simple forward slash to separate things about different songs. 

What kind of notes should I take?
  • Direct quotes. If the lead singer of a band says something inspirational, jot it down as quickly as you can.
    I'm lucky, because I can type extremely fast on my trusty Blackberry, so I can normally get very accurate quotes. If you can't type as fast, just get a couple of words and write around it - it gives the gist of what was said, but you won't be putting words into someone's mouth.
  • Setlists. Getting a complete setlist is invaluable.
    If you're attending a show that's early in a tour, getting a setlist helps people who are going to a later date, especially if you upload them somewhere like But it's also good for your personal records: you can compare and contrast setlists from different tours, and because you made it you know it's 100% accurate.
What if I don't know the song that's being played?
We all go to shows where we don't know every single song, and this is where step 2 begins...

Step 2: Google lyrics
I pay very close attention and jot down some lyrics during the show, then Google them when I get home.
For example, last night during VANT's set I wrote:
'The Answer / Man on the moon shot JFK / Peace and Love / immigration laws / everybody's gone baby / twisted heartache surrounds me / wait a minute cause your heart's not in it / alien / get this feeling that I'm all alone'  
So, when I open up a new post to start my review, I automatically input:

The Answer
Peace and Love

The hyphens are the songs that I need to search.
Typing in 'VANT Man on the moon shot JFK lyrics' into Google automatically fetches the song 'Welcome To The Wonderful World of Berners Lee'. Ding, we have a winner! So in it goes.
Repeat this for the rest of the setlist, and by the end of your searching you have:

The Answer
Welcome To The Wonderful World of Berners Lee
Peace and Love
Birth Certificate
Karma Seeker
Parking Lot
Fly-By Alien
Do You Know Me?

Easy as that!

It's even easier if you already know the band well. During You Me At Six, I jotted down:
'wwwy / bite / fsf / Loverboy / safer / Stay With Me / Little Death / Plus One / Reckless (snip) / forgive / lived / Swear / win some / Underdog / too young / no one / Room / night'
And that ends up being:

When We Were Younger
Bite My Tongue
Fresh Start Fever
Safer To Hate Her
Stay With Me
Little Death
Plus One
Reckless (When You Were Young snippet)
Forgive and Forget
Lived a Lie
Win Some, Lose Some
Too Young To Feel This Old
No One Does It Better
Room To Breathe
Night People

In this case the hyphen indicates the split between the main set at the encore.
If you know the band you're reviewing very well, taking notes is even faster. You can properly enjoy the show, and still have enough material for a review afterwards!

Some advice on getting setlists:

  • It's harder if the band is local, because they're likely to be too small to have their lyrics on Google. I find that sometimes just asking them helps, which is how I got a full setlist when A Way With Words supported Fort Hope: I mentioned that I was writing a review, and they gave me a setlist so that I'd have the song titles!
    In the past I've had to spend two or three hours trawling through a local artist's back catalogue on Soundcloud to get a full setlist. It paid off, but it was very time-consuming.
  • It's also tricky if they're a hardcore band with screaming vocals, as it can be very difficult to decipher lyrics. I don't normally attempt to get setlists for bands performing in this style, as it's frustrating and detracts from the enjoyment of the show.
  • The biggest problem is when a band is performing a brand new song. The majority of artists introduce songs that are new, so you might be able to get the name of the track that way, but if they don't just grab a lyric and refer to it using that phrase. When it gets released officially, you can edit it in!

Step 3: Begin procrastinating
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There's a reason my concert reviews are always uploaded in the late hours of the day, and that's because I am brilliant at procrastinating.
If you can skip this step, good for you! Celebrate your productivity and get on with step 4! But if you're anything like me, you'll need some time to get your thoughts in order about the show, so that your review isn't a flailing stream of OH MY GOD IT WAS SO AMAZING THE BAND WAS GREAT I LOVE THE SINGER THE BASSIST IS BEAUTIFUL OH JEEZ OH WOW.

Step 4: Choose an image
I wish I was better at concert photography so that I could use my own images on my reviews, but instead I run back to Google and scroll through until I find a recent photograph of the band that I like. This could also be step 3.1, because it definitely helps with the procrastinating - especially when the image I like links to a tumblr dedicated to the band...
(One day I'll learn how to link this blog with Instagram, and then I might upload more of my own live shots!)

Step 5: Decide what's important
Before you start writing, read through your notes and decide exactly which bits you'd like to talk about. You don't need to go into detail about every single thing that happened, so some of your notes are going to be obsolete, but it's better to have more than you need than not enough.
Image result for better to have it and not need it
Honestly, I normally forget about this step!
I sit down after my many hours of procrastinating, start typing, think I've finished the review, check my notes at the end... and realise I've missed a load of really awesome stuff.
I start editing. I put in all of the stuff that I've finished, then I'm definitely 100% finished, fingers cramping and eyes burning because I forget to blink a lot when I'm writing. (Should that be one of the steps?!) I sit back, relax, press publish... And my review is a mile long, coming in at almost 10,000 words.
(Okay, I'm exaggerating! ...a bit. My worst was my review of Funeral For a Friend's last ever show, which was near 4,500 words.)

Step 6: Rein in your inner fanboy or girl
If you like a band enough to go and see them live, they mean a lot to you. You wouldn't buy tickets to go and see a band you hated, because that would be a huge waste of money!
But you can't be biased when you're writing a review. It's not possible to just say "I loved this show because I love this band". That wouldn't be a review.
Even your favourite band can play a bad show. I've had to write critical reviews for You Me At Six, All Time Low and Bring Me The Horizon in the past, and while it's difficult, constructive criticism helps everyone grow.
(There's an exception to every rule, and in this case mine is Waterparks. I can never say a bad thing about Geoff Wigington.)
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Step 7: Find some good in everything
In the same way that your favourite bands can play a bad live show, the bands you hate can always surprise you in a live environment. If a band you really don't like are announced as a support act, don't just skip their set - go along and see if they'll surprise you.
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I've been pleasantly surprised by Marmozets, Milk Teeth and Ashestoangels in the past: all bands that I'd completely written off, and was irritated to be seeing live. 
Reviews need to be balanced, and I'm sure it'll be easier than you think to find some good and bad things to say in every post.

Step 8: Re-read and publish
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I'm normally tired when I write my concert reviews, because the excitement from the night before wears off and I feel drained for a couple of days. But I push myself through it, and that sometimes results in some terrible grammar and abandoned sentences that I've started before my brain jumps off to another point.
You always need to re-read your work before you publish it. It's possible to edit it afterwards, but it's a lot easier to get it completely polished in the first place. 
Then click 'Publish' and you're done!

Step 9: Spread the word
Tweet your review, post your link in a caption on Instagram, upload it to Tumblr... Whatever you want to do, get your post out there!
But there is some etiquette with this. 
Tag the venue, and tag the bands that you've said good things about, but if a review is more negative than positive DO NOT SEND IT TO THEM
It sounds like common sense, but a lot of people forget this in their excitement. My Fort Hope review yesterday was quite critical. Did I tweet it to them? NO! It's not worth it, even if putting their @ name in the post might get a few more pageviews on your post. 

Step 10: Sit back, relax, and get ready for the next show
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I like to have some downtime between concerts, because it gives me a chance to write a review and then get into a good headspace for the next show. 
You wouldn't think it based on how many I write and how frequently I post them, but I find reviewing shows very stressful! It's difficult to find new things to say, particularly when you've seen a band multiple times before, and I don't want to repeat myself. 
So after I've written a concert review, I'll watch TV or films for a little bit before I go back to reading and writing my book reviews. It's always good to treat yourself to some downtime. 

That's my step by step guide to gig reviewing. I hope it helps!

#BLOGTOBER DAY 25: TOP TEN TUESDAY: Ten creepiest covers

(Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and The Bookish!)

Because it's Halloween next week, this week's Top Ten Tuesday is a scary freebie. I've decided to talk about the creepiest book covers in the world, because that way I can show them to you and terrify you as well...

10) 'Slasher Girls and Monster Boys'
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When you first look at this cover it's actually sort of adorable! But then you look longer, into those dead eyes, with those huge teeth just waiting to bite your face of- RUN! RUN AS FAST AS YOU CAN! FLEE THIS PLACE.

9) 'Girl of Nightmares' by Kendare Blake
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'Anna Dressed In Blood' is a little scary, but then you see the cover to the sequel and she's almost on fire BECKONING YOU TOWARDS HELL. What the heck. Oh god. Oh why.

8) 'Monstrumologist' by Rick Yancey
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I'm disturbed by this unidentified thing in a jar because it reminds me so much of the pickled babies on the title sequence for season one of 'American Horror Story'. Urgh. 

7) 'A Madness So Discreet' by Mindy McGinnis
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At first glance this cover looks so beautiful, and then you realise she's BEING DRAGGED TO HELL. OH JEEZ. WHAT THE WHAT. 

6) 'Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children' by Ransom Riggs
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Creepy children = BIG no no. 

5) 'Horrorstor' by Grady Hendrix
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This is no ordinary IKEA magazine! It looks so comfortable with the bright colours and fake foliage, and then OH MY GOD THAT'S A FACE THERE'S A FACE IN THE WALL WHAT THE F-

4) 'Asylum' by Madeline Roux
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Looking at the cover of 'Asylum', I genuinely believe it could be one of my favourite books of all time. I'm just not ready to pick it up just yet...

3) 'Shutter' by Courtney Alameda
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*uncontrollable screaming and sobbing*

2) 'The Trees Crept In' by Dawn Kurtagich
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Woods are scary enough, without their trees coming to life and hunting people down. (I don't know if that's actually the plot of this book, I'm too scared to read it). 

1) 'Daughters Unto Devils' by Amy Lukavics
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There is a house in her face, blood dripping everywhere and the word KNOCK scraped repetitively all over the cover. What about this doesn't incite fear?! The US cover is also disgracefully scary:
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Shudder shudder. This is two spooky covers for the price of one!

I hope you enjoyed this Top Ten Tuesday! What are the scariest book covers that you've ever seen?

Monday, 24 October 2016

#BLOGTOBER DAY 24: Fort Hope - The Cellar, Oxford, 22/10/16

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Openers A Way With Words are from Swindon, same as me, but I hadn't heard of them until they were added as the local act at this show which was a nice surprise.
With a sound that verges on nu-metal at times - most noticeably on the currently unreleased 'Somewhere' - they wouldn't have been out of place among bands like Papa Roach and Limp Bizkit back in the early '00s. Combining that with their technical guitar work and repetitive lyrics (sometimes almost unbearably so) means that they do seem a little dated: it feels like you're listening to a band who've been touring for over ten years, not one who released their debut EP merely two years ago.
But reviving a sound that's not currently getting much recognition isn't a bad thing, and A Way With Words are standing out from other local bands by choosing to explore this side of the genre. They certainly know what music they want to make and are dedicating themselves to perfecting a style that is difficult to master.
A good chunk of the songs in this set haven't been officially released yet (you can explore their current releases on Soundcloud) but I can tell you that they're the sounds of a band who're going to go on to do bigger things. 'Days Get Darker' was certainly a memorable moment of their set, which, along with the rifftastic closer 'Paper Thin', are songs you won't be able to get out of your head once you've heard them.
I'm going to keep an eye on these four and hopefully go along next time they play a show in Swindon, because they have a lot of promise.

Mr Anger
Over The Top
Days Get Darker
Paper Thin

Ashestoangels blew me away at Download, and it was the first time I left one of their shows feeling utterly impressed. Losing bassist Nico Veneré was the best thing that could have happened to them: it gave the band a new lease of life when they'd started to flag.
Their set was used to promote their newer material, performing a whopping six songs from brand new album 'How To Bleed', released back in April, and three songs from 2014's 'Horror Cult'. It was my tenth time seeing the band (thanks to festival sets and support slots) but it felt like a completely different show thanks to the removal of older songs like 'Dorian' and 'Wintervention', both of which have been constant staples in their set.
This change wasn't disappointing: it was refreshing.
Vocalist Adam Crilly always throws himself around the stage, but his energy seems to have been refuelled by getting to perform this new material. I was five rows from the front and was still getting splattered by the sweat flicking off of his newly red-streaked hair - that's an impressive feat! Compared to the tension that plagued their live shows twelve months ago, this is a band that have never been happier, and their sets are now a joy to watch. The new members elevate the songs to the next level, with synths and backing vocals adding layers to songs that were previously rather basic, and I think these new additions might be all that was needed to properly launch Ashestoangels from a DIY underground band to more mainstream realms.
They've been constantly supported by the scene for the past few years, with articles in Kerrang! and support slots from William Control and Aiden to the soon-to-be finished FVK, and that combined with their hard work seems to be allowing them to finally get the recognition they deserve. If the professionalism of the lyrics and the polished nature of the new songs is anything to go by, Ashestoangels next album could be their most successful to date.
If you want to see an energetic live performance, I'd highly suggest you attend an Ashestoangels show. 

Not In My Name
The Wake
I Could Never Miss You
Bound and Broken
Something To Believe
Down We Go
The Ghost in the Machine

It's been a long time since I've actively listened to Fort Hope.
I sheltered from the rain in their tent at Download and found myself unimpressed, but there was no reaction from the crowd (the majority of who were also only in there to keep dry) so I wondered if that might have been the source of the disconnect.
Now I'm thinking it might be the band themselves.
The reaction at the Cellar was electric. A large chunk of the audience were wearing Ashestoangels shirts so I'd worried that the place was going to empty before Fort Hope could start, but more people crammed in and filled the floor almost to bursting. When the band took to the stage, the dubstep-esque intro seguing into new single 'Say No', the room exploded with movement despite the song only being released earlier in the week.
The thing about Fort Hope is, they're not unique.
With riffs that could be straight out of Don Broco songs, and drum beats that are almost carbon copies of You Me At Six tunes, Fort Hope are an amalgamation of the best parts of the current UK rock scene, but they don't have a USP.
Vocalist Jon Gaskin has an insane range, but with their formulaic writing style he performs the same tricks multiple times in an evening. Instead of being consistently impressive they quickly become predictable. With high notes that almost - but don't quite - rival those of Kellin Quinn from Sleeping With Sirens, and roaring low notes that wouldn't sound out of place in a hardcore band, it feels as though Fort Hope are trying to cultivate a mass appeal by using multiple techniques... but they don't know what music they want to create yet.
You can feel it in the contrast between the boringly repetitive 'That's The Way The River Flows' and the upbeat 'Sick'. The band seem to get more serious with every song they put out, but two years ago ('Sick' being a track on their self-titled second EP) they were having fun, and it was coming across in the music they were making. Jon introduced 'Sick' by dedicating it to someone in the crowd called Ben, saying "it's a funny song really, because it's about telling someone... Actually, no! I'm not gonna say it, it's too rude!". Proof that they have good senses of humour and could get the crowd laughing if they would just interact with them a little bit more, something that would make their set more memorable.
I wonder whether the departure of founding member Andé D'Mello has anything to do with this shift, because it all seems to have gotten very introspective and brooding since he left.
It also doesn't help that they aren't committing themselves to releasing a full-length album. They released mini-album 'Courage' back in 2014, but since then it's been EP after EP, with 'A R m U R E', - their third consecutive EP - being released on December 2nd. When Jon mentioned this there were groans from the crowd, with someone stood behind me shouting "Not another EP!".
I wish I was exaggerating. If the band don't feel comfortable releasing a more cohesive collection of songs, I think they're going to find themselves alienating fans quicker than they can attract them.
It's a crying shame, because they're brilliant at performing live. All three members are insanely talented, and if they weren't releasing songs that sounded so much like already successful tracks, they'd quickly become a force to be reckoned with in a scene that's crying out for 'New Life'.
I think Fort Hope need to take a break to re-evaluate what they want to do with this band, because at the moment it feels as though they're struggling to stay afloat.

Say No
That's The Way The River Flows
Start Again
Run Fast
New Life
Crosses (*)
The Rapture (*)
Plans (*)

(*) Thanks to Oxford Gigbot for the end of the setlist - I had to leave early!

Sunday, 23 October 2016

#BLOGTOBER DAY 23: WTF Did I Miss This Week? #3 (w/c 17/10/16)

The YA world:

I couldn't find many new releases this week, but the ones I did find were all exciting:
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I'm particularly excited about Laurie Penny's new novel, as 'Unspeakable Things' is one of the best pieces of feminist discourse I've ever read. 

This was another great week for cover reveals, featuring one of my favourites from next year so far...
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Can you guess which my favourite is?

In other news this week:
The music world:

New releases this week include:
Image result for joanne lady gaga album coverImage result for jimmy eat world integrity bluesImage result for korn 2016 album
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Definitely a mixed bag this week. I haven't ordered any of these yet, but I'm most excited about the new Jimmy Eat World release.

Not out just yet, but Deaf Havana unveiled the album artwork for 'All These Countless Nights', and she's beautiful:
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Pre-orders are now available.

The new blink-182 video pays homage to the classic 'What's My Age Again?':

While the new Eminem song is a tirade against all things Trump:

While we're on the topic of new things, want to meet two brand new bands with members you'll already know?

  • First up, we have Kill It With Fire, a new pop-punk band featuring Matt Good (From First To Last, ex-D.R.U.G.S), Ben Bruce (Asking Alexandria) and Zack Hansen (The Word Alive). Matt announced the news on Monday, claiming that they were going to be "pretty pop punk, but not too pop punk. Just the right amount".
    Oh, and talking of Ben Bruce, did you hear that Danny Worsnop has reunited with Asking Alexandria a year and a half after their separation, following the departure of Denis Stoff? There's no confirmation that they'll be working on new music, but the original vocalist will be performing with the band during the '10 Years In The Black' tour over the next month and a half. 
  • We also have the arrival of Speak The Truth... Even If Your Voice Shakes, a new project from three ex-members of Finch, fronted by Buddy Nielsen from Senses Fail. The group was announced back in May but premiered their debut track earlier this week.
    This release was quickly followed by Nate Barcalow announcing that Finch have split up again and releasing the demos for what would have been their fourth album. The other members responded, claiming that his statement was actually Nate's way of quitting the band... Awkward. 
After all of the tour announcements last week, you'd think it might have quietened down a bit, but there's been just as many in the last seven days:
  • Cage The Elephant are returning to Europe in January and February.
  • Frank Turner's going to America in January and February, taking Will Varley with him.
  • While August Burns Red are treating America to a 10-year anniversary tour of 'Messengers', supported by In Hearts Wake, Protest The Hero and '68, also in January and February. 
  • Kings of Leon are back in the UK in February - surprisingly without a London date on the cards.
  • Pinegrove are also returning early next year, with dates in February and March.
  • All Time Low announced a full UK run in March, just as I expected.
In other news:
  • I Prevail's bus caught fire, they lost all of their belongings and they STILL played the show that night.
  • But Frank Iero and the Patience cancelled all upcoming 2016 tour dates after members were injured in an accident in Australia. 
  • Neck Deep finished the Made To Destroy tour in style, with guest appearances from two members of State Champs and a certain Mr. Vic Fuentes
  • Neil Milan, violinist of Clean Bandit, announced via Twitter that he'd quit the band.
  • New Found Glory were announced as main support for A Day To Remember's January arena tour.
  • AFI have disappeared. Yawn. When will this trend die?
  • Black Veil Brides finished their new album.
  • And Melanie Martinez was announced as this month's AltPress cover star?
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On that rather confusing note, I'll leave you for another week. See you next Sunday! 

Saturday, 22 October 2016

#BLOGTOBER DAY 22: 'Runners and Riders' (Treasure Chronicles #2.5) by Jordan Elizabeth

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*This review will contain spoilers!*

First things first, I need to say a huge thank you to Curiosity Quills publishing for allowing me access to this title in exchange for an honest review. 

'Runner beware, for the mark of the Rider will shine.'

'A figure ducked behind the work shed where the glow of the back porch gas lamp didn't reach.'
Ooh, what an ominous opener! This moment changes young Jonathan Montgomery's life, starting the novel with a bang.

Don't worry if you haven't read any of the books in the Treasure Chronicles series so far, as 'Runners and Riders' follows a completely new set of characters.

At the start of the novel, Jonathan Montgomery's family is cruelly slaughtered by Runners. His parents are inventors, and they've created something that the Runners want to get their hands on, so they take it with force. But Runners don't harm children, so Jonathan and his sister Rosamund escape unscathed, and Jonathan's quest for revenge begins.
Juliet lives by the seaside with her mother, waiting for her seaman father to return. Juliet's family aren't poor but they have no money at all compared to Anna Plaidy, a girl Juliet makes friends with when her family go to the seaside to stay at their holiday home. Anna teaches Juliet all about the Runners, because her brother and cousin are both members of the organisation. When Anna leaves and returns to the glamorous New Addison City, taking her illicit lifestyle with her, Juliet is bored and lonely.
So when her father returns and tells them he's received a large inheritance from a distant relative, Juliet is over the moon. They're going to be moving to New Addison City, and they're going to be rich just like Anna!
It doesn't take long for Jonathan and Juliet's paths to cross. He's trying to hunt the Runners, and she's on a mission to get close to him to gather intel for the Runners. The problem is that the leader of the Runners suspects she's trying to betray them, and soon enough her life is in grave danger... And she's falling in love with Jonathan, even though she swore that would never happen!

As this is listed as book #2.5 in the Treasure Chronicles, I'd been expecting to receive a novella. Discovering that this was a full-length novel was a brilliant surprise!
It takes a while for Juliet to accept that Runners are bad people, because she's grown up with them and they act as her extended family. The fight between good and evil isn't clear cut in this novel, because even when Juliet starts working with Jonathan to take down the Runners, she still calls herself one of them. It's filled with internal conflict as well as overt violence, making it tension filled and very gripping.
I loved the introduction of Princess Arlene, the original founder of New Addison City, who is over 400 thanks to her brain being implanted into a mechanical body when she died. It was brilliant to see a greater focus on the steampunk aspects that make this series unique.
The romance between Jonathan and Juliet is both obvious and underwhelming. Juliet believes she's madly in love with Anna's brother Arthur, telling her friend how much she wants to have sex with him, but when Arthur makes a move she protests that she's not that kind of girl and flees. I'm not saying he was allowed to have his way with her because she'd previously said she wanted to sleep with him, but it seemed out of character for her to have such a complete 180.
Then there's Jonathan. She kisses him and within minutes is asking him to sleep with her - despite saying she wasn't that kind of girl. Something about that doesn't sit right with me. Juliet wants to sleep with someone, anyone, and isn't fussed about who. I felt uncomfortable when they spontaneously married at the end of the book, as it seemed like it was just a way for her to get what she wanted.
The plot also hinges on one too many conveniences. It just so happens that Jonathan was adopted by a local family when he was orphaned, and that couple are Juliet's grandparents. What are the chances!
Despite these irritating aspects, I really enjoyed the majority of 'Runners and Riders'. Juliet's character development was inspiring, and the twists and turns throughout kept me guessing and gasping with shock. There was a lot more murder than I'm used to reading in YA, which had me on the edge of my seat: Jordan Elizabeth isn't afraid of being brutal when she needs to be!

I'd forgotten how much I enjoy Jordan Elizabeth's writing, because it's been over a year since I read the first two books in the series. This book has reignited my interest in this world, and because of the short story at the end - 'Treasured Hope' - I'm now very excited for the release of 'Wicked Treasure', the third book following Clark and Amethyst who are now embarking on new lives as parents to Jolene.
If you're a fan of steampunk, mystery and the star-crossed lovers and family rivalries that fill 'Romeo and Juliet', this is definitely the book for you.