Our Dark Duet By Victoria Schwab

Publisher: Titan Books
Release Date: 13th June 2017
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Goodreads

Kate Harker is a girl who isn’t afraid of the dark. She’s a girl who hunts monsters. And she’s good at it. August Flynn is a monster who can never be human, no matter how much he once yearned for it. He’s a monster with a part to play. And he will play it, no matter the cost.

Nearly six months after Kate and August were first thrown together, the war between the monsters and the humans is terrifying reality. In Verity, August has become the leader he never wished to be, and in Prosperity, Kate has become the ruthless hunter she knew she could be. When a new monster emerges from the shadows—one who feeds on chaos and brings out its victim’s inner demons—it lures Kate home, where she finds more than she bargained for. She’ll face a monster she thought she killed, a boy she thought she knew, and a demon all her own. 

So now I’m sad that another V.E. Schwab series is over.

In the space of 3 months, two endings to two very popular series were released, and while I devoured them both in a matter of hours, I had forgotten that once I’d finished them, THAT WAS IT.

Our Dark Duet is the sequel to This Savage Song, about a monster boy who dreams of being human, and a human girl with the fate of becoming monstrous. While the feel of the setting and themes may seem familiar to very genre-specific stories, this series is dripping with that Schwab passion that makes it so much more special than just an apocalyptic monster-book.

I love Schwab’s female characters, and Kate Harker is no exception. I read somewhere that Schwab likes to make her female characters Slytherin’s and my gosh, as a Slytherin, does that make my heart sing. Kate is fearless but also afraid, 100% done but also 100% willing to fight for what is right (or at least her version of right), an icy character with soft gooey centre…somewhere in there.

I love August too. Schwab has a knack for writing what I like to call ‘Hufflepuff Boys’; they’re loving, will do anything for their family, and they ARE the soft gooey centre! While the warring parts of the cities have closed in however, August has changed; he’s closed off, with-holding, and jumps at the chance to fight. I liked his character development – war changes a person, but obviously I love him for who he is which is a soft monster with a knack for playing the violin.

A thrilling end to another V.E. Schwab starred series!

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Youtube Channels I’m Loving Right Now

So Youtube takes up a lot of my time. But hey, it’s a thing you can do while multi-tasking. I write a lot of my blog posts with Youtube in the background, and these are the channels I get most excited about when they upload!

Conan Gray

Conan has one of the most beautiful channels on Youtube. There, I said it. He uses his passion for art to make meaningful and creative content that is honestly what I love about Youtube itself. Plus, this boy is cute as a button.

Billy Maier

I’ve only just found Billy recently after the heartbreak that was SKAM ending. Thankfully, I can now live vicariously through a teenage boy somewhere in the United States. Billy is uploading videos almost daily of himself reacting to each episode of SKAM. Not only are his reactions hilarious and dramatic, he also just understands very easily what this show is about, and I love how he picks up on things quickly (because I certainly didn’t!) This video is by far my favourite because it was one of the things he got hilariously wrong.

 

Cheyenne Barton

Cheyenne has definitely been my inspiration for working on my bullet journal. While I’m trying to find my own style and ways I can make my bullet journal my own, Cheyenne’s flip through videos and monthly plan with me’s are great to stick on while you’re working, even just for background noise. I especially love the attention to detail to her doodles, and even just the chatty parts when she talks of memories she’s given spreads to.

 

Jenna Marbles

I have been subscribed to Jenna Marbles for years and I have always loved her videos, but in the last few months I have begun cry laughing at the videos she has been releasing, especially the ones that include her boyfriend, Julien. While they have slightly different senses of humour, they compliment each other so well to the point where they make each other laugh, which is the best kind of comedy.

 

DarkSquidge

Dark Squidge is the second channel of popular youtuber Tomska, a comedy filmmaker who is also known for animation (but refuses to call himself an animator). While his main channel videos take a considerably longer time to make what with budgets, production crews and sponsors, his side channel weekly vlogs are videos I get excited for every Monday/Tuesday and are hilarious and sad at the same time…depending on what type of week it is. He also just got a puppy!!

 

Share in the comments what channels you’re loving at the moment! I’m always welcome to recommendations!

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On the Kindness Of Strangers

Today, I had a bad day.

Bad days, over the last few months, have been common for me. There are bad days and there are non-days which, to me, are bad days. But recently, as I’ve gained support and understanding from friends, family, and professionals, my bad days are few. But sometimes, they still creep up on you, and they can make you feel a whole lotta things that just aren’t true.

Today it was that I wasn’t good enough.

After being unemployed for a long amount of time and working on my health, going full force back into a job was never the plan unless it was the job of a lifetime. Working in my local bakery was an idea of my dad’s to slowly get me back into working life, and they only wanted me for 2 days a week.

But by day two, I was already struggling with the pace, the pressure, and my anxiety flared and I cried in front of my boss (my 21 year old boss who has her life far more together than I ever did at 21). We had a chat and she had a smoke and we shared a lot about each other in the space of a few minutes. It was nice and strange; I tend to be an oversharer but not about things so personal to someone I barely know…let alone someone who is my employer.

But it was important. We talked about mental health, and she told me that almost everyone that passed through the bakery had some sort of struggle when it came to their mental health. And while I haven’t found stigma or prejudice of having mental health issues affect me, it was very eye-opening to see how not alone I am.

I was left to take a breather, given an orange juice, and sat outside in our British heatwave until the door to the lot next door opened. Oh God, the hairdressers next door were going to see a blubbering 24 year old sat with a sad carton of Capri Sun.

I was bullied for exactly one week at school, and then sporadically when I found myself alone without a fight in me. But I remember the people that did it, I remembered what they looked like and how they acted and it contributed to I feel what a lot of girls experience during that difficult time in life; internal misogyny. While I’ve definitely unlearned so many drilled in prejudice and discrimination even of my own gender, all I could think of when I saw these hairdressers, caked in fake tan and lashes on their fag break was shit, they’re going to make me feel pathetic.

It started with them all subtly trying to get a glance at me while trying to make it look like they were just making sure not to blow smoke into each other’s faces, swapping seats occasionally so they all had a turn at sitting where they could get a good look at me and my blotchy red face. I’ve never stared at a Capri Sun so intently. Every time their laughs got loud, I shrivelled into myself. Not only had I fucked up at work, I was also getting judged for it. I didn’t need this.

“Ummm, are you ok?”

I didn’t even see which girl said it, only that a few had left and all that remained were two. I glanced over and smiled and waved them off.

“Yeah, just first day at work stuff.”

And instead of anything shitty, they moved their chairs so they could talk to me. They spoke of their experiences of anxiety and stories of their first days, cut throat practicals while studying for a qualification in hair and beauty, and how sometimes you just gotta cry and that’s OK. They told me they knew my new colleagues very well and that they were lovely and understanding, and so I had nothing to worry about. They made me laugh, and offered space in their air conditioned salon whenever it got a bit too much in the stifling bakery.

And I just got this overwhelming feeling of aren’t girls just great? It’s not a new concept that girls are always there for each other. I’ve experienced it in so many other places; nightclub toilets, queues, on the bus, but there was something so incredible about female solidarity in a non drunk, non forced situation. These girls could have ignored me, mocked me, but instead they just did so something simple that perked me up for the rest of the day. I felt shit for assuming they would be awful based on what they looked like, it’s still something I have to unlearn and not flinch at. I always try and make space for women, always assume they’re good (whereas I always *eye emoji* at men I don’t know) but even now I’ll have subconscious feelings of unease and pre-judge people.

It’s become very important to me to try and be there for strangers, to not judge and just give a little support when someone’s in need. I’ve always been that way, but when it happens to you it you make sure you are aware of it.

The kindness of strangers is mighty, and I aspire to be like the hairdressers on their cigarette break.

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The Good Immigrant Edited By Nikesh Shukla

Publisher: Unbound
Release Date: 22nd September 2016
Rating:  ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Goodreads

How does it feel to be constantly regarded as a potential threat, strip-searched at every airport?

Or be told that, as an actress, the part you’re most fitted to play is ‘wife of a terrorist’? How does it feel to have words from your native language misused, misappropriated and used aggressively towards you? How does it feel to hear a child of colour say in a classroom that stories can only be about white people? How does it feel to go ‘home’ to India when your home is really London? What is it like to feel you always have to be an ambassador for your race? How does it feel to always tick ‘Other’?

Bringing together 21 exciting black, Asian and minority ethnic voices emerging in Britain today, The Good Immigrant explores why immigrants come to the UK, why they stay and what it means to be ‘other’ in a country that doesn’t seem to want you, doesn’t truly accept you – however many generations you’ve been here – but still needs you for its diversity monitoring forms.

Inspired by discussion around why society appears to deem people of colour as bad immigrants – job stealers, benefit scroungers, undeserving refugees – until, by winning Olympic races or baking good cakes, or being conscientious doctors, they cross over and become good immigrants, editor Nikesh Shukla has compiled a collection of essays that are poignant, challenging, angry, humorous, heartbreaking, polemic, weary and – most importantly – real.

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I have not read a non-fiction in such a long time. I have many, pretty daft excuses, ranging from I don’t like the subject matter to I’m just too damn excited about the fiction that’s coming out and I just don’t have time. But I didn’t want these excuses to make me stop picking up The Good Immigrant.

Crowdfunded and supported into being published, The Good Immigrant is a collection of essays written by people of BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic) background and talks about life in the UK while being BAME. The only reason I had heard about it was because some of the contributors I actually follow on Twitter who were promoting the heck out of it (of course!) and I got my hands on it as soon as I could.

While social media has definitely done the most part in making me more aware of institutionalized racism, diversity in entertainment, casual racism and so much more, The Good Immigrant made these topics much more personal, especially when every single essay is taken from memories of experiencing oppression from straight up racial bullying at school to micro-aggressions at the airport.

A lot of the reviews I’ve read are ‘this book was too sad’ and I feel that if that’s all you got from this book, then you kinda missed the point of it. Yes, of course there are many sad parts; these experiences weren’t written about to make you feel… I don’t know, entertained? I mean sure, there were some especially funny essays and jokes, but to me, it was about listening and understanding voices that barely get a chance to speak even in today’s ‘tolerant’ society. Yes, it certainly may be better in some aspects, but in others? In the parts that aren’t so explicit? That you can easily not see or notice or ignore because you’re a white person? That’s what’s in the book. And while you can easily say ‘everyone should read this book’, I think realistically it’s better to say ‘if you want to consider yourself a white ally or someone who doesn’t want to contribute to what you think isn’t racist and damaging, then read this book’.

But also, just read it for the voices. Read it for the understanding. Read it because it is GOOD AND GREAT.

 

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When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Release Date: 1st June 2017
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Goodreads

Meet Dimple.

Her main aim in life is to escape her traditional parents, get to university and begin her plan for tech world domination.

Meet Rishi.

He’s rich, good-looking and a hopeless romantic. His parents think Dimple is the perfect match for him, but she’s got other plans…

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Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

This book is damn cute.

When Dimple Met Rishi is, in many ways, a pretty standard contemporary YA novel, with hilarious hijinks, serious issues and scenarios, and sometimes dramatic but realistic portrayal of a heterosexual teen relationship. But it’s also so much more than that.

It’s not conventional, it’s not the standard, it’s actually telling a story that is not often told; the lives of two Indian-American teenagers, fighting for their place in a society which is fighting against them, whether it be the colour of their skin, their class, or their gender.

Dimple is a talented coder, whose dream is to win a competition that would have her present an app idea to a top revolutionary in the techie world, and we see her struggle in a world of rich white kids who get ahead of her for reasons that shouldn’t matter when it comes to succeeding in the industry.
Rishi comes from tradition, a religious family who only wants what’s best for him, and that’s an arranged marriage with a girl he barely knows. We see the difference in generations, especially on a topic that’s considered really controversial in the Western world and are offered a different perspective which I really enjoyed.

I loved Dimple and Rishi’s back and forth and the way they worked together despite their initial meeting and how caring and respectful they were of each other. And it was actually nice to see a contemporary love interest that wasn’t a dick disguised as an unobtainable mystery (nice one Rishi!).

This book comes out pretty soon, so if you’re looking out for a summery contemporary that’s not a complete U turn from the formula you already love, but still a turn into a new, diverse direction, then When Dimple Met Rishi should be on you TBR!

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Release by Patrick Ness

Publisher: Walker Books
Release Date: 4th May 2017
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Goodreads

Release is one day in the life of Adam Thorn, 17. It’s a big day. Things go wrong. It’s intense, and all the while, weirdness approaches…

Adam Thorn is having what will turn out to be the most unsettling, difficult day of his life, with relationships fracturing, a harrowing incident at work, and a showdown between this gay teen and his preacher father that changes everything. It’s a day of confrontation, running, sex, love, heartbreak, and maybe, just maybe, hope. He won’t come out of it unchanged. And all the while, lurking at the edges of the story, something extraordinary and unsettling is on a collision course.

IMG_20170531_192954_896With the events of just one day in a small town boy’s life, Release is definitely a story that speaks volumes as much as a trilogy might.

A Patrick Ness book is always one that can be eaten up in a day or two. With cliff hangars, plot twists and hilarious and realistic dialogue, I often struggle to put the book down. Release is no exception, and has firmly earned it’s placed in my little Patrick Ness collection that dominates my shelf.

Adam Thorn experiences a lot in one particular day in his life. Being gay while coming from a family of evangelical Christians, life hasn’t always been an open and honest conversation. But, he has friends, prospects, and a string of love interests that may or may not have lingered a bit longer than they should have. Seeing Adam grow in just one day is incredible; realising he is worth so much more than he thought and learning to love himself despite the subtle (but also explicit) disappointment that exudes from his family life. It was powerful see him go from a boy to a man in just one day, and carrying on into the next step of his life.

While all this good stuff was happening however, there was another plot running through at the same time. It had it’s own separate passages and was not directly linked (if at all) to Adam’s story. I didn’t really understand it’s significance, and I found it easy to skip those few pages to get back to Adam’s chapter. I assume it had something to do with the book’s overall theme but *shrug*, I dunno. It was also magical realism which threw me off a little, considering the rest of the novel was clearly contemporary. But again. I dunno.

MORE PATRICK NESS BOOKS PLEASE.

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Now I Rise (The Conqueror’s Saga #2) By Kiersten White

Publisher: Corgi Children’s (Penguin Random House)
Release Date: 6th July 2017
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Goodreads

Lada Dracul has no allies and no throne. After failing to seize the crown she believes is hers, Lada is out to punish anyone who dares to cross her. Filled with a white-hot rage, she storms the countryside terrorizing the land. But brute force isn’t getting her what she wants. And thinking of Mehmed, the sultan she might have been in love with, brings little comfort to her thorny heart. She left him before he could leave her.

Lada needs her brother Radu’s subtlety and skill. But Mehmed has sent him to Constantinople as his reluctant spy. Radu longs for his sister’s fierce confidence but for the first time in his life, he rejects her unexpected plea for help. Torn between loyalties to faith, to the Ottomans, and to Mehmed, he knows he owes Lada nothing. If she dies, he could never forgive himself, but if he fails in Constantinople, will Mehmed ever forgive him?

I received an eARC of Now I Rise from Penguin Random House via Netgalley in an exchange for an honest review.

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So when I first read And I Darken, I wasn’t really sure how to rate it. I could not put it down, I ate up every word, I loved all the characters. But at the same time, the story had infuriated me. This can be in any case where you find a character that makes bad decisions. I didn’t like where things were going, and even though I had fallen in love with everything else, I still gave it four stars out of bitterness.

But this time? This time I could not do it.

Who am I kidding? Giving this series four stars when it takes all of my attention and forces me to keep the book open? No, I don’t know why I was holding myself back just because the decisions of one character were pissing me off. To make the one star drop even more unnecessary, the character with the bad decisions is my favourite character, so he can make as many bad decisions as he wants; I’m still gonna love him. Even if I am suuuuper disappointed in his actions.

Now I Rise continues from And I Darken, the story of Lada and Radu Dracul, the children of a weak king whose land is taken from him as they are taken to be raised by Sultan Murad in the Ottoman Empire. In the second installation, they have parted ways as Radu become the right hand man of newly appointed Sultan Mehmed II and Lada gathers together an army to take back the kingdom that is rightfully hers.

coverI am in no way a history buff. I barely listened in history class and gave it up at fourteen as quickly as I could, but I’m definitely starting to find a new found love of historical fiction, especially ones that actually take from historical events rather that just have a court with women in pretty dresses and romance drama. While this story is not wholly accurate and still called fiction, it’s still really hard to not google ‘Constantinople’ and spoil myself. I had an idea of what would happen, but it’s nice to know that my lack of history knowledge is finally paying off.

I love Radu and Lada in so many different ways. First there’s Lada, a headstrong, rage-fueled solider who is mot definitely going to become a tyrant. She’s blood thirsty and cruel but also incredible. I would not cross her, and I want her to succeed so badly. Then there’s Radu, my sweet summer child, the softest man in the Ottoman Empire who just wants love and appreciation and honestly? Now I Rise we finally get to see him as a protector of people who love him just as much as he loves them. I’ve never been infatuated with someone before, and it’s clear that the events from the first novel are still deeply ingrained in Radu… hence earlier when I talked about a fave character making bad decisions. I love him, but sometimes I just wanna bang his head against the wall. YOU HAVE LOVE, RIGHT THERE READY FOR YOU. But what I do know that un-loving someone is hard, and I really hope book three turns out the way I want it to, without looking at Wikipedia impatiently.

I could never decide whose story I liked best because I loved them in different ways. I loved Lada’s story; her soldiers who are loyal but also have the best banter, her cruelness and determination, the way she does not understand other women and yet they are of utmost importance to her, her realization that allies may not be allies at all.

I loved Radu’s story; his loyalty slowly breaking away from Mehmed, his realization that good and evil are not black and white, his innocence shattering. NAZIRA AND CYRIAN TOO. What powerhouses.

If you’ve been umming and ahhhing about And I Darken, please give it a go. And if you’re still on the fence afterwards, then know that this will be the book that will get you utterly obsessed with this trilogy.

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