Warcross by Marie Lu

Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: October 2017
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Goodreads

For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

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I love cyberpunk.

I barely see it in YA. Maybe I’m not looking in the right places? Maybe it’s just not trendy right now, but I hope that the release of Warcross (and hopefully the success of it) will make it trendy.

Warcross is set in a…what I would say is an alternative present or maybe the not-so-distant future, where everyone can plug into the Neurolink, a fancy kind of VR created by young hot shot Hideo Tanaka who also created the game Warcross. The Neurolink is actually a lot more than just Warcross, and overlays a virtual world over the real world and is actually something that would be really beneficial to our world. You’re not completely disconnected from the real world yet hooray for technological advancement that helps peoples’ lives!

However, this part of the story is not supposed to be more interesting than Warcross, the actual title of the story.

While I loved the characters, the subtle world building that was a mix of a world from Black Mirror and Ready Player One, I was a little disappointed by the game itself, Warcross, which wasn’t as immersive as I thought it would be. I had trouble picturing the game as something that the players were going into, that they got lost in. I was very aware that they were just sat in chairs and waving their arms about.

But I think the weaknesses of this book are overshadowed by it’s strengths. There was political intrigue, dark pasts, and a strong cliffhanger for the sequel that’ll have me reading right through until the very end.

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Nanowrimo 2017: A Reflection (Week 4)

And lo, Nanowrimo ended once again.

I always feel a little low and creatively exhausted after November, and it usually means that I stop writing for the rest of December and don’t pick it up again until the new year. A part of me think that’s ok; it’s perfectly fine to step back from your work for a bit and come back to it with fresh eyes, but another part just wishes I could keep going because reaching 50,000 words doesn’t necessarily mean finishing the story. In fact, I’m far from it.

However, I’m so proud of myself that I reached 50,000 five days before the 30th! That wasn’t the plan, but I was 5000 words off before my work experience started, which meant I did no writing during the week because I couldn’t physically make myself while I was living on trains in the mornings and evenings and working all day. But, I did it. It’s there, 50,000 words of something that I want to turn into a manuscript and eventually, after many edits, send off to potential agents!

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For visuals, I liked the idea of hitting my 2250 daily word goal each time so it looked like clean steps. But a boss lady ain’t got time for that.

As per usual, after every Nano I always question my story and lose faith in it. I think that’s normal – I think after working on something so intensely for so long makes you slightly sick of it, and I know deep down that I love this story and I love these characters, they just need molding into something phenomenal. And next year is gonna be their time.

For now, all my writing will be focused on blog posts and bullet journalling. But I’ll never stop myself if I ever feel the urge to write. Getting that feeling organically is so magical that I could never turn it down, so you never know, another 50,000 words might be on the cards this December?

But probably not.

If anyone’s interested in what I’ve been writing, I wrote a little blurb in my introductory post, and if you’re really interested in my work, I also have a Spotify playlist that I’ve been listening to while writing in November.

Let me know how you’ve done this year. Did you finish Nanowrimo completely? Did you meet your own personal goal? Let’s chat about writing in the comments!

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AN AMATEUR’S GUIDE TO STOCKHOLM

Stretched across fourteen islands on the east ‘bum’ of Sweden lies the capital Stockholm, a vibrant, friendly city buzzing with tourists and residents alike wrapped in hats, scarves, and drinking expensive coffee. Welcome to an amateur’s guide, where I, an amateur traveller, talk about my experiences as I set off to new, exciting places in the world carrying not enough money and a too heavy suitcase.

This chapter, I’m off to Scandinavia again to a new capital. Earlier this month, I fell in love with Copenhagen, a quiet city with palaces, parks, and cycle roads scattered across this small haven. I knew once I had left, that I would be returning to Scandinavia within the year, and Stockholm was a place I’d always wanted to visit. It’s a vibrant city filled with culture, history, and lots and lots of food.

In & Around

Getting to Stockholm was actually one of the worst travelling experiences I’ve ever had, but don’t worry, it was all to do with me and not airlines or transport provided. So I doubt your experience would be the same. Missed trains in the middle of the night meant an expensive taxi from London Paddington to Gatwick Airport, meaning 24 hours of no sleep. I don’t think I’ve ever understood the term ‘dead man walking’ until now.

Getting around Stockholm is the opposite of a problem. There are many ways to get from the airport to the city centre. The best by far is the Arlanda Express, a quick, luxurious train that takes 20 minutes and takes you straight into Stockholm. It isn’t the cheapest option, but if you’ve been awake for too long, been stressed and had a break down while back in England, a smooth, beautiful train that takes you through Sweden’s autumnal countryside is just what you need. The trains are about every twenty minutes and run all day and almost all night. It looks like a long way, but the speed you’re going at and the comfort you’re feeling, you’ll think you weren’t riding that train long enough.

arlandamap

After that, just like in Copenhagen, you’re walking. And it’s so worth it. There is a metro line you can take if you’re planning on going into the suburbs outside of the centre, but I wouldn’t use it to get to tourist attractions as they’re all so close to one another. Stockholm is also super safe and, while busier than Copenhagen, still not overcrowded and unsafe. I felt completely comfortable and safe walking around the city late after dinner out, even down quiet streets where I wasn’t too sure where I was. So don’t worry about walking to and from places at night, and people will be more than happy to stop and help you. Scandinavia on the whole is very good at cracking on with their English lessons, and even speaking to older people we found that they spoke fluent English. But, if you still want to be polite (like I was), just ask “Pratar du Engelska?”, but usually they figure it out even before you speak to them. I asked a lady in a store once if she spoke English, but I only knew how to say it in Norwegian (Snakker du Engelsk?) and she still understood. Trust me, you’ll be fine.

Doing Stuff

One of the things I loved about Copenhagen was whenever you turned a corner, you were standing in front of a beautiful, archaic palace. It’s wrong to assume that all Scandinavian capitals are the same, especially when you’ve literally only been to one, but I was quite surprised with the lack of large palaces in Stockholm. There is, of course, beautiful architecture and I could walk around the city all day, but there was nothing spectacular like The Marble Church.

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Djurgården Park from the bridge that connects Djurgården to Östermalm

One of the best things, however, was the Vasa Museum on the island of Djurgården, which is also home to many other museums and even an amusement park for young kids. Not only is the island beautiful with a walk along the harbour looking over at the rest of Stockholm, the Vasa museum is an affordable, really interesting trip that houses a real life and preserved 17th Century warship that sank on her maiden voyage. I loved it, and I’m not usually crazy about museums; it was an interesting look at Swedish maritime as well as how they preserve such a huge, practically intact ship. Also great for kids, or if you’re looking for something to do on a rainy day!

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The jewel of Stockholm is of course, Gamla Stan, one of the smaller islands but also the most touristy and dubbed Stockholm’s ‘old town’ because of it’s narrow passages and beautiful and sometimes tiny buildings. It’s almost completely pedestrianized save a road or two that go around the outside of the island, but everything is walkable so don’t worry about getting there on trains/buses/taxis. Obviously, however, if you’re disabled or have mobility issues or you’ve had a super long day and you just can’t walk around the whole of Gamla Stan, the island has it’s own stop on the metro on the green and red lines.

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It’s important to know that there are many places and public transport that are cashless, meaning that they only take credit/debit cards. I was a little concerned about this, but we were only caught out once at the front of the queue at a coffee shop. Everywhere else has taken cash no problem; sometimes that meant going to a cashier in a store instead of self-service or having to join a different queue for people not paying by card, but Stockholm does cater to people with cash. If you were just thinking of taking your card, or even a travelcard with Swedish Kronor loaded onto it, then you’re trip maybe that little bit easier.

Good Views

This is always my favourite part of going away. I absolutely adore finding the highest points in the city and taking some amazing shots with my heavy camera that I’ve been carrying around all day.

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Gamla Stan from Mariaberget

I knew of one place that would be a fantastic place to get shots of the colourful buildings of Gamla Stan, and it was free, quiet, and easy to get to. Mariaberget is an observation point on the hillside walking deck called Monteliusvagen, which boasts incredible views of Stockholm and the river. It’s a fair walk away from any stations or bus stops and isn’t very easily sign-posted, so make sure you have google maps at the ready! It was one of my favourite places to go, and I found it was the best, maybe even the only place to go and take pictures of the whole of the city. Unfortunately, there was nowhere within the city itself to get a shot that would be completely 360, as a lot of the taller buildings weren’t accessible to the public.

Where To Stay

Gosh, each time I write one of these guides, I can never decide what to call this part of it. If you have any suggestions, let me know!

As I’m still very much an amateur and always that little bit anxious when it comes to hostels, I went for the safe option and stayed in a hostel chain that I’d stayed in in the past. Generator Hostels are, by far, not the best hostels in the world, but they’re safe, clean and easily accessible. Like always, they won top marks on location, price, and rooms. The Stockholm one was different in some ways than Copenhagen, and I would argue that Copenhagen is in fact better.

The room was much smaller, but still tried to pack in everything the 6 bed female room Copenhagen had. It meant moving around the room was difficult, and we were often in other girls’ ways. The shower and the toilet were also not separate, and the sink was inside the the bathroom, which meant if someone was in there, no one could do anything else. In Copenhagen the sink was in the room with us, which meant washing your face/brushing teeth etc could be done without locking people out of the shower and toilet. In Stockholm, if you were bursting for the loo and someone was in the shower, you were screwed (or you could just navigate your way around the hostel looking for the communal toilets, but you’ve paid for the ensuite so really, you should have access to them).

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Once again, there were no kitchens to set yourself up in, which I think is just normal for a Generator Hostel and I expected as much. What I didn’t expect was literally nowhere to eat save for the very pretentious bar/club that seemed to only sell one type of dish a day. It was always busy, with people drinking in the middle of the day with very loud music thumping overhead. There were no couches, nothing like a pool table or a place to set up camp if you needed to work on a laptop. It felt a lot more hostile unlike in Copenhagen, where there was an open space with lots of recreational places to hang out and even an all day menu which meant we could order nachos at 3 in the afternoon. We never once ate here apart from taking food back to our room that we’d bought from 7-Eleven. This also means I don’t know what the breakfast situation is like, but if it’s anything like Copenhagen, then it would be great with lots of offer. But remember to pay, as in Copenhagen we didn’t realise the breakfast wasn’t paid for until after we’d eaten it and left. I know that wherever I go next, it will not be a Generator Hostel just so I can try something new!

And that’s me done for the year. I’ve been so fortunate to have had the time and the funds to go on three trips in 2017, and it’s certainly made my year that much brighter than what was a very negative 2016. I’ve overcome so much and battled anxiety and it’s meant that I’ve been able to do stuff like this. Last year, going away with friends to a new place that I’d never been before felt like something impossible. But, if you suffer from anxiety or anything that stops you from travelling, I would definitely start off with Scandinavia. It’s safe, not busy, and not far from home (if you’re from the UK like me). Next year? I’ve plans to go to Prague, Budapest, maybe even Lisbon. Harder languages, countries further away. It’s all about taking small steps, only to then turn around and see you’ve climbed a mountain.

To next year, amateur travellers!

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Nanowrimo Week Three (16-23)

AND WHAT A WEEK IT HAS BEEN.

Welcome to the third week of Nanowrimo, where things have gone a little bit pear shaped.

So by 19th November, I wanted to have completely finished Nano. Because on the 20th, I was starting work experience. Well, it’s a week later, I’m half way through the work experience, and I haven’t written a single thing. Just look at that straight line of bars. No progress whatsoever.

nanothree

Commuting to London is hard, finding the time to write when I’m on a packed train, then in an office, then back on a packed train, then tired and hungry and going to bed ready for the next day. If you have a long commute, work 9-5, Monday to Friday, and still find the time to write, then you’re a bit of a hero, actually a lot of a hero. I salute you!

This weekend, I plan on finishing. I’ve got under 3000 words left to write and two full days to do it. I CAN DO THIS.

This is my musical inspiration for the weekend, which has nothing to do with my story but it actually goes with everything and I love it. Songs, regardless of whether they fit your story or not, are an excellent way to dig for inspiration. I listen to it when I’m lacking creativity and when I’m bursting with it. If you’re new to writing and don’t know how to get in the zone, start a playlist and add to it as you go along. The songs I’ve discovered because I’ve been trawling through Spotify have been immensely helpful!

Roll on 50,000!

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Nanowrimo 2017 – Week Two (09-15)

Good evening, welcome to week two of Nanowrimo.

Each week of Nanowrimo, I have been giving you updates on my progress, where my inspiration has been coming from, and my plans for the next week.

My plans for next week are; have my 50,000 words already completed. And it’s looking pretty good.

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I’ve been working so hard to keep up with my 2,250 word daily goal. but it’s a steep incline to what I’m used to. I feel so guilty when I don’t reach it, and usually add it to the next day, which usually causes more stress. But hey, I love adding unnecessary stress! I’m still on track to reach 50,000 by the end of this week, and today I should be able to reach 40,000, so I’m thinking about the positives.

Week two has also been the week of doubting myself, I barely slept last night wondering what was the point of even finishing the novel. But, it’s normal and have those anxious thoughts with almost every story I think of and begin; sometimes it kills the novel, sometimes it spurs me on. I’m hoping that this time it will be the latter.

Depending on the scene I’m writing, my music inspiration changes. This week, while also still listening to Stranger Things mashups, I’ve also been listening to a lot of fun, upbeat songs that I like to use during my fight scenes. Because come on, what a duo!

How are you doing? Writing-wise but also in life?

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MOVIE REVIEW: Call Me By Your Name (2017)

Welcome to my FIRST EVER MOVIE REVIEW ON HOLLIEBLOG.COM!

*double checks*

Ok, I’ve reviewed some TV shows but they don’t count.

A loooong time ago, I used to run a Tumblr called ‘Hollie Reviews’ (which is still there), where I posted a review of every film that I watched. Whether that was in the cinema or even just at home on Netflix. Nobody read them, and I left it like an abandoned theme park to work on my booklr and, eventually, this blog right here.

But today, while not making a habit of reviewing movies, I wanted to talk about a recent book to movie adaptation that has left me feeling a little…strange.

Strange because I never prefer a film to the book.

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I read Call Me By Your Name back in February, falling in and out of love with passages that were either beautiful, intimate and making me yearn for the summer, or so purple that I lost track of what was happening (a thing that happens to me a lot when reading text that’s too flowery). You can read the whole review on Goodreads, where I compete with the two sides of my brain; one side that wanted more of the book, and one side that thought the whole thing laughable.

But the film was different.

Firstly, this year I’ve started going to the cinema alone. At first it was to combat my monstrous anxiety that I was battling at the beginning of the year, where the thought of going outside was horrifying. I thought to myself if I can go to the cinema and then eat lunch, alone, with no one to distract me, I can do anything. I usually pick films that I want to go see that I don’t think anyone else would want to see with me; films that maybe only get a few showings and are screened in the smallest room in the multiplex. Call Me By Your Name wasn’t even in the multiplex, and I had to go to the local indie/arthouse theatre which I knew wouldn’t accept my 3 years out of date student card and would also be a lot more intimate.

But hey, intimacy is what Call Me By Your Name is all about, so the atmosphere was spot on.

So I sat there, in a plush red chair with only a smattering of people, most of them on their own too (this always helps). Turns out Friday at 1pm is not prime time indie film watching. I’d decided that I was going to be really excited for this film because, let’s be honest, a film adaptation of a queer book deserves money thrown at it. It needs success because through success brings more LGBT focused films. Plus I’d seen the trailer and it looked precious af. So, despite having mixed feelings about the book, I was sat there in a small cinema on a Friday afternoon with a bag of 80 calorie popcorn, and I was READY.

[MINOR SPOILER AHEAD]

I was actually surprised about how much I remembered the book, and was super disappointed about the scenes set in Rome not in the final cut of the film. Those were my favourite scenes from the book, but it felt like the adaptation was a lot more focused on the build up to their relationship, rather than the part where they were free from hiding from Elio’s parents and their friends and could just be themselves.

But, I liked how their dynamic was a little different from the book.

As I stated in my book review, Elio meets Oliver and that’s it, he straight up worships him, and while it’s harder to express so much thought in a film without having a voice-over (which honestly, can be awful), I definitely found that Elio was a lot more pissed off by Oliver. He was here, taking over his space, winning over his friends,  and talking over his parents like some ‘loud American’. I loved it a lot; they talked quickly, moved around each other but never collided until they did and WOW. WOW. I forgot I was alone in a cinema full of strangers because beauty? What is it? It’s this film.

So, better dynamic? CHECK!

Beautiful music (Sufjan Stevens baby!) CHECK!

Cinematography which makes me nostalgic for Italy and the 80s despite being born in 1993? CHECK!

There were definitely scenes that were a bit strange and made me cringe a little. And no, not the peach scene, but just some hammy scenes that I don’t know if they were improvisations from Timothée Chalamet (who plays Elio) or directions from the director but hey, it’s an arthouse/indie film, a little weirdness is expected.

If this film is showing near you, go see it! Have a little day to yourself, grab some food! Read a book, then go watch this!

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Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Release Date: March 2017
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ .5
Goodreads

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

1509457980918Welcome to Weep. 

I honestly loved this so much.

About a librarian who devours stories of adventure, Lazlo Strange is the puppy protagonist you always want to read about. He’s a humble hero, with dreams far beyond his life inside the library, carrying the dreams of others on his back. Instead, Lazlo dreams of the lost city of Weep, shrouded in mystery where no one remembers it’s name or it’s face.

I have Laini Taylor’s other trilogy, The Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, in hardback, maybe in not so pristine condition, and they just do not read as well as Strange the Dreamer does. I had trouble with the writing, and I could never remember what I had just read, or picture what was happening. But here I got the whole thing; I could easily imagine myself dropped right into the centre of Weep and see before me white buildings and blue tiles, with blue people living above me in a citadel that shielded the sun.

So, maybe not so picturesque, but still magical.

This feels a lot like a fantasy mixed with fairy tales and historical fiction, which I’m getting a kick out of at the moment. The magic was beautiful and delicate and particular, and I loved how Sarai struggled to deal with a gruesome past that her parents’ left her with while trying to deal with the people who hate her and her friends for it. It was definitely reminiscent of how people pass the burden onto younger generations in order to find a place to put their prejudice.

Beautiful, dreamy and a whole lotta strange.

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