Tuesday, 28 February 2017

The Crow Box

Hi there, everyone! It's Shani and today I am very much eager to discuss the novel The Crow Box by Nikki Rae.

Title: The Crow Box (The Shadow and Ink series)
Author: Nikki Rae
Publisher: Self-published
Published: January 14th 2016
Length: 234 pages
My Rating: 4.5/5

I recall when I was younger, perhaps thirteen or fourteen, when Twilight was the biggest craze and dark, romantic novels were the forefront of my mind. Since then, my choice of genre has changed drastically, so I was slightly concerned I wasn't going to enjoy this book. However, The Crow Box was truly beautiful. From the very first line I was intrigued about the mysterious voice whispering in the protagonist's mind, and Rae's language was complex yet somehow fragile.

Corbin Greene, a Fine Arts college student, is teetering on the edge of a mental breakdown. What with her mother suffering from Schizophrenia, Borderline Personality Disorder, and OCD, Corbin's only solace is in her art. From the beginning of the novel, Corbin is able to hear a voice which speaks to her - mostly during the night - and appears to be in love with her. However, when Corbin's mother buys Corbin a box to hold her painting supplies in, the voice and hallucinations begin to grow worse for Corbin. For the majority of the novel, Corbin is convinced that like her mother she has developed a mental illness and is hallucinating the voice, who claims to be called 'Six', and even goes so far as to check herself into a mental hospital.

What I loved so much about this book was Rae's take on mental illness. The description of Corbin's mother's illness is extremely realistic, and the way she depicts Corbin's mother going through periods of blankness due to her mental state I found was extremely realistic. I have personally known people with mental illnesses, and Rae has done an excellent job on portraying this.

Onto the character of 'Six'. I have so many thoughts regarding the mysterious voice in Corbin's mind, who may or may not be real. Six really interested me, the entire time I was sat reading The Crow Box I was questioning his motives. Six is deeply attached to Corbin, even going so far as to attack a man who attempts to sexually assault her, and his adoration of Corbin is clear from the beginning of the novel until the very end. Six is fascinating because the reader can't quite figure him out. Corbin's wariness of him makes us, the reader, wary of him and it made me question whether he truly loved Corbin, or was simply using her for her energy. Corbin's energy makes Six stronger, it makes him more than a voice and can allow him to form a body from time to time, but due to his lack of strength he cannot maintain a body for long and doesn't like Corbin seeing him when he doesn't have a proper body.  Though I am certain that Six is very affection towards Corbin, due to his constant terms of endearment towards her like 'little crow' and 'my love', I question the capacity of his love and if it is true. Furthermore, I really did enjoy Six's characterisation, especially when the reader was allowed into his mind through a short P.O.V chapter towards the end of the novel.

Corbin was a character I truly loved. She stood so far apart from some protagonist's that I've read, who immediately fall into the trap of believing the supernatural force which is seducing them. She was far from a 'Bella Swan' character, she was incredibly strong willed, even going so far as to check herself into a mental hospital and endure it for a few weeks before she was deemed healthy enough to leave. There aren't many characters that I've read who have the mental strength which Corbin appears to have, and it gives me confidence that if Six is manipulating her she won't back down from a fight. I also adored Rae's language that she used when describing Corbin's urge to paint and draw, it reminded me so much of myself when I was younger and when I was invested in drawing.

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel and I would definitely recommend it to others who are interested in the New Adult and Romance genre. Rae also includes her own illustrations in the novel, which are absolutely beautiful and really add character to the rest of the story. The only issue I had with the book was the lack of  explanation from Six at times, there are so many unanswered questions about him that I'm very curious to know, and I hope that certain situations can be explained from Six in the next novel in the series, The Snake Den.

If you would like to read The Crow Box, which I highly suggest you do, I have left a link so that you can purchase the novel on Amazon for Kindle or in paper back edition: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Crow-Box-Shadow-Ink/dp/1530298385/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1488297060&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Crow+Box

Friday, 17 February 2017

Wucaii - Author Interview

Wucaii is an urban fantasy/post-apocalyptic book. We were afforded the opportunity to have an email-interview with the author, Pembroke Sinclair. This is completely spoiler free.

It has been 500 years since Aelana has been home, and a lot has changed in that time--including her.  
As a half-dragon, half-human hybrid, she has been traveling the universe destroying worlds.  Both anxious and excited to return, she wonders what she will find. Her memories of home are filled with pain and loss, especially for her first and only love.  She knows he won't be there, but will his memory?  Will her anguish remain? 
What waits for Aelana on her home world?  Find out in this exciting urban fantasy novel by Pembroke Sinclair.

What genre would you place Wucaii in?
I would say urban fantasy. To be honest, finding a genre for this story was a bit difficult.

Could you briefly summarise Wucaii?
It is the story of Aelana, who is trying to come to terms with who she is and finding her place in the universe.

A half-dragon, half-human hybrid sounds quite eccentric! What personality qualities did you give Aelana, and how would she vary from a standard human?
Well, the most apparent difference would be in how she looks—she has scales and wings.  However, she still retains a lot of human qualities, including emotions and uncertainty.  Part of her has the dragon’s logical side and magical power, so she has to figure out how to balance those two sides.

What was your inspiration in writing this? 
I am fascinated with hybrids and what it means to be human, so it just came together.

Which character in Wucaii was your favourite to write about?
Aelana.  I like her flaws and uncertainty, but it was also a blast writing about her strengths.

What is your favourite quote in Wucaii?
“Saving everyone was impossible, but not everyone was worth saving.”

Are there any authors or books in particular that influenced your writing?
Not really.  I love to read, and I try to read a lot, so I find inspiration and influences in various places.

You've written in a fantastic range of genres; which is your preferred?
Zombies and young adult. 

What is your favourite book? 
I have multiple favorite books, but the one I read over and over is Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

Once we're all cleared from exams, we'll hopefully get a chance to read Wucaii ourselves and put up a full review of the novel, let us know your thoughts on the book below. If you, like us, are tempted to read this then the Amazon link is below;

Monday, 13 February 2017

The Power of Death

Hey guys, sorry I haven't posted anything in a while. I have just finished practicing some creative writing for my exam next week. I hope you enjoy it. If you did or have any helpful ideas on how it can be improved further, just leave me a comment below.

I welcome your hatred and I strengthen on your fears. For I have existed for centuries in a tomb on pain, grief and tears.

There is no set date of my birth and I have no remembrance of a mother. My creation came when man and living things were constructed. There is no form or body I take, I do not know if I resemble a gender, I have not seen my reflection in a mirror to know of any flesh.

In this existence I was given one task, to be the presence of human demise, to crush what is left of their infected and aging souls, to watch the life drain out of their eyes. I take pleasure in ending their lives; enjoy eating the pain and cry’s.

In the minutes they have left, after they have said goodbye. I reach into their chest and grasp their soul, feel its weightless wonder and behold its milky cloudy complexion. Each human soul smells differently, some fill the air with roses and some with pine, but after that I squeeze and crush them and they are now mine. But they do not crack or splinter into thin pieces, they change to black misty presences, where they are kept and pocketed, down into the velvet cage with the others. I think her name was Lily, but I cannot truly say, for after many years they all have the same resemblance. That pink, soft and squishy flesh the same blue or brown eyes. Of course what does it matter to me if she was an adult or child?

I appeared in a rather full room; one with men, women and children huddled around a bed. I have to weave and walk through many to get to the dying man in the center. He spluttered and jerked up blood from his lungs in to a clean tissue. I wouldn’t have to wait very long; he had minutes left on his clock. I sat in the chair next to the bed, and looked on the faces of his family, their grave and despairing faces, water ebbing from each socket drenching their cheeks. I looked to the woman nearest too me, she wasn’t crying or groaning into anyone’s shoulder. She held the wrinkled and purpled old mans hand, and stroked it carefully.

“You can leave now John. There will be no more pain, you are free my sweetheart.” She said

His time was up.

I hand went through her body into his chest; the body exhaled as I moved past his lungs and heart, and finally felt his soul. Something different happened, I my soul was flooded with a collage of images. The first at this man’s birth, all wet and covered in blood, crying to be loved. Next staring at a teenager slowly moving towards the face of a girl, hoping to have that first kiss. The final image was a screen shot of the present.

I started into the whirling soul. The voice of the name rippled along the silence.
“What do you see?” he asked

“You can see me?” I hissed

“Indeed I do.”

“What do I look like?”

“Why, you look like death?” he said


“I’m in so much pain. Could you get this over with, I think I’ve waited long enough.”

All that came from my lips was a high-pitched scream. My chest seared with hot blinding pain, like thousands of boiling needles being plunged into my skin. The heat began to move along my arms and legs, weakening me and making my body collapse and double over. Then it all went still, and I felt warm. I panicked as a low thud thud, thud thud sounded inside me.

The old man stared at me curiously.

“Please.” was all he said   

I quickly crushed his soul, and retreated back into my home of greyness and nothing.

The same images flooded in my mind again, and my form seemed to explode with sounds, voices, and emotions. Tears rolled down my face, and laughter erupted from my mouth, and neither one I could cease and control. Then I was shivering with terror and fear. What is happening to me? I seemed to be experiencing everything and anything.

A human has made death feel, a human has made me tremble. I huffed a laugh. what powerful creatures these human beings truly are. They have bestowed passion, humanity and love on a heart that I have never heard beat. 

Friday, 10 February 2017

Didn't get Frazzled

Hello, it’s Heather with another book review!

Author: David Z Hirsch
Published: April 2016
Publisher: Self-published
Length: 284 pages (this varies depending on the copy you get I think)
Rating out of 10: ★★★★★★★

Didn’t get frazzled is a fictional medical-comedy told through the sarcastic narrative of Seth Levine; it pans over the years he is working hard to get his degree. With exams coming up and stress blooming like steam coming out of a kettle, I felt pretty fortunate to get such a fun book to read. Seth narrates the story in such a light-hearted manner that between cringing at his misfortunes in sympathy, you have to laugh. The plot itself is easy to follow, the reader checks in at him during several parts of his life, gaining an insight as to how the American medical schooling system works but more importantly understanding how his relationships with friends and his girlfriend develop. There is some medical jargon, but it’s in no way confusing to the reader, simply adding a sense of realism.
Seth’s interactions with the other characters mimicked those on comedy shows beautifully, making nearly every conversation an excellent read. The medical twist to it provides plenty of chances for these comedic moments, several gross stories being shared with the reader and the first chapter being literally called: A beautiful slice of dead penis (he performs a transection on this area of a cadaver). And yet the humour did not squash out the morality – you can’t help but love Seth, he stands up for what he believes in, even if it may lower his popularity from other doctors. He’s also a human. Lots of comedy authors forget that their characters have other emotions aside from happy and laughing at their life; Seth goes through a troubling time, battling with a bad-relationship that he struggles to maintain but also does not want to leave, on top of all his studying and witnessing some patients in severe pain. His empathetic attitude makes him thrive in his work, as does his ability to not get ‘frazzled’. Though if the book were to improve, I think it would have been insightful to see how he dealt with more pain through his profession, since those involved in medical careers will often cross paths with death usually by no fault of their own. The other characters accompany the story brilliantly, and the author managed to juggle between his different friends without any confusion.
“I saw a mom last week who brought her daughter to the ER because she thought her kid had chicken pops.”
Jeff cracked up, and I joined in. I always called Jeff when I needed to cheer up.
“I knew she meant chicken pox, but each time she said chicken pops I thought, did Kellogg’s come out with a new chicken-flavored Pops cereal?”
I finally found the skills gained from watching Casualty – do not eat or think about eating whilst the characters are inspecting a patient. Anyone squeamish will need to skim through these parts to avoid anything too unsettling. Personally, I was fine with it, to be honest if you are troubled by surgical shenanigans then perhaps not reading a book set around a medical student is better. In fact, the only parts I was less keen on were the more sexual, intimate scenes, which is purely my personal preference in books. Like the medical parts, this was not overly explicit, and these only popped up a few times, so did not make the read bad by any means.
Targeted at an adult audience that appreciate comedy, I really enjoyed this one. Any students will find they can relate to the multitude of awkward situations and quantity of studying as well as the need for friends in such frantic time to retain ‘unfrazzled’; if you’re a medical student then this is a must-read. If you’ve read this or are considering doing so, please do leave me a comment!

Saturday, 4 February 2017

The Man in the Brown Suit

Hi, this is Heather here (these intro bits always feel awkward to write). It’s been a while since I’ve written a review on a book that hasn’t been recently published, so I’m back with some Agatha Christie. I initially read this when I was about eight or nine and I was hiding from some party downstairs with the first book I could seize without getting caught, but heard a rather brilliant audio book version of it a few weeks back that made the memories flood back. This should avoid spoilers.

Author: Agatha Christie
Published: August 1924
Publisher: The Bodley Head
Length: 238 or 312 pages depending on the one you get
Rating out of 10 (I keep forgetting to do this): ★★★★★★

In Christie’s world of Poirot and Miss Marple and Tommy and Tuppence, The Man in the Brown Suit rather stands out because there is no ‘detective’ as such. The little chunk at the start sets the scene for the orphan Anne, who has a quenching desire to seek out adventure (hence she calls herself Anne the Adventurer a few times)! I believe people would now call her spur of the moment idea to use whatever money she can muster to fulfil this excitement ‘yolo’ – as she travels with very little aside from the reputation of her deceased father, professor Beddingfield across the ocean. It doesn’t take long for an adventure to come along as some commotion over which cabin she’ll be sleeping in leads her to being involved in a dangerous position as she becomes suspected of being allied with the ominous ‘Man in the Brown Suit’ that ‘The Colonel’ is after.
Christie switches the narrative from Anne to Sir Eustace Pedlar, now I know that many people dislike the idea of points of view changing but in this instance, it really works. Anne is sweet, young and na├»ve, very likable – and that’s great – but you really need Sir Eustace to make this book worthy of reading. You can tell that Christie had a wonderful time writing his part, with his selfish soul, taunting his dear secretary, Pagett, Sir Eustace is that jolly old chap that has no filter and bluntly announces every thought to enter his head, however rude it may come across.
“To begin with, it appears he caught sight of a man behaving suspiciously. Those are Pagett’s words. He has taken them straight from the pages of a German spy story.”
Oh Pagett. Pagett is hard to put into words… He works tirelessly for his employer and seems to suspect a good many people of being guilty. Yet despite the mocking he receives, he always means well. Anyway, another main character who I feel I should mention is Suzanne, who craves a little excitement, but not too much, nothing that would take away the fun or dampen her hair. She gets on brilliantly with Anne and they form a strong friendship, both of them splashing out on lots of little wooden animals and having a lovely time of it between the more serious scenes. I’ve rambled again. You get the picture, Christie is yet again amazing at bringing to light some extraordinary characters. In fact, the only character I wasn't too fond of was the man in the brown suit ironically enough.
The plot and pacing of the novel is quite good. Personally, I found the last bit a little rushed and the last quarter seemed perhaps a tad too random for me. I won’t spoiler it because it isn’t necessarily a bad ending; the book is most certainly still worthy of a read – I think from a modern perspective, everything seems less romantic, but it’s critical to remember that this book, whilst by no means old in terms of literature, is also not exactly modern. This means that some of the ideas do reflect the time it was written in as Anne becomes a little less independent. It’s also good to remember that Christie is not an emotional writer in the way of writing deep, philosophical or mournful pieces, in this novel it’s all fairly light-hearted. Aside from the last bit, the pace is excellent, and the switching of narrators makes it an enticing read. Though I did find the structure a little on the annoying side – the prologue is so entirely different to the majority of the book and only really links in at the end. This means the story first appears confusing as it switches rather hurriedly from a Russian dancer and some diamond scandal to an introduction on Anne before the story really starts happening. Had the prologue been the penultimate chapter, it would have been far clearer in this sense.
Since I still have some time left to write, I thought I’d add a little section on the context of the novel and how that altered its reception. This book was preceded by a Poirot book, which meant that Christie had some fans that were anticipating a similar style – according to Wikipedia (I know, not very reliable, but it’s the best I can do), one reviewer noted that Christie regrettably had dispensed of the Sherlock-Holmes-like Poirot, which is what had caused the success of her prior books. This review kind of annoyed me for suggesting that Poirot was the pure reason Christie was so successful; I’d like to see them write as many different plots with such powerful characters! I rather liked having a protagonist who had no knowledge of how to solve crime except that of the works of fiction, it means the reader can relate more to the protagonist. Don’t get me wrong, Poirot is a masterpiece, but by no means is he the only detective that Christie came up with worthy of her success.
As a stand-alone novel to get yourself into Christie’s work, this is a good choice! The characters are, as usual, spectacular, giving this book a light, funny kind of style. If anyone did get the audio version, I must add in that the voice of Sir Eustace and Pagett is hilarious and really brings the book to life.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

The Magician's Workshop Review

Hi everyone, it's Shani here today and I'm back with a book review!

Title: The Magician's Workshop
Author: Hansen Fehr
Publisher: Wondertale
Published: November 8th 2016
My rating: 4/5

When my colleagues asked if I wanted to review The Magician's Workshop, a fantasy YA novel, I was extremely excited to read it. I love reading fantasy novels. They've always been a major part of my reading, and I tend to lean towards the fantasy side of fiction more than anything. Fehr's novel had all the magical elements I was looking for and actually reminded me a lot of Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series - which is one of my favourite children's fiction series, and I am unashamed to say I still read when I'm feeling down.

The plot was interesting. It focuses around a young girl named Layauna, who's characterisation I adored, who is aspiring to become a great magician. Her magic - or projections as they are known - is very high in skill, and she, like many other sixteen year old people, is attempting to win her colour which allows her to become a magician. Many people are born without colour, which is what sets the magician's and the regular people apart. It was intriguing to see this social hierarchy that Fehr had set up, with the magician's being deemed as 'better' than the regular people who could also create strong projections. Layauna was a character I connected strongly with, she had a very sarcastic attitude throughout the novel, despite working extremely hard for what she wants. She reminded me of myself, when I was sixteen and it was nice to be able to connect with her so strongly.

Another aspect of the novel which I thoroughly enjoyed was introducing Kai as another main protagonist. Kai is deemed as an outcast through out the novel. He is one of the strongest projectors on his island, but people stay away from him because of his father's legacy. Kai was another character I grew to like a lot, and his band of friends Talia, Weston, Luge and Snap. Their dynamics as friends was sweet and I enjoyed watching how their friendship shifted throughout the novel as well.

Whilst I really enjoyed the plot of this novel, and the numerous characters it presented, what did irk me slightly was the multiple P.O.V. chapters. The reader first starts from Layauna, and then jumps to Kai, Talia, Kai's grandmother Jade, and numerous other characters which I felt were at times completely irrelevant to the story. This made me lose some connection with my favourite characters. I also felt that the novel should be aimed at children rather than YA fiction.

Overall, I really enjoyed the novel and I would definitely consider reading the next volume in the series at a later date! If you're interested in reading The Magician's Workshop the link for it is here: https://www.amazon.com/Magicians-Workshop-One-Christopher-Hansen-ebook/dp/B01MQGHGBH

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Memoirs Of A Lab Rat

Hey guys, I finished reading this book a few weeks ago but I've been super busy with revision for mocks I kept on getting side tracked.

Title: Memoirs Of A Lab Rat
Authors: Stephen Colson and Cynthia Colson (brother and sister)
Publishers: Neptune Books
Published: 15th June 2016
Pages: 158
Rating: 6/10

This book was quite interesting I have to say, I don't have extensive knowledge about memoirs, the only other one I have previously read was The Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain. Although I have not read many memoirs I was very entertained by this book, but also quite concerned and terrified.

At first I saw the title and initially thoughts that the word 'memoir' was in a metaphorical sense, but it wasn't until I started to read that I realised that the story was about a real life experience. After finishing the book I was in shock.

The memoir is about how the writers were being used and experimented on with secret internal weapons, and how they had to change every aspect of they're lives in survival. Both brother and sister, are brought under the same roof to oppose and defend themselves from the dangers they both faced.

I'm going to try and keep this review without as many spoilers as possible.

The book is split with different chapters from both Stephen and Cynthia, whereby they give an account from what happened to them from their point of view, until they come together in Stephen's apartment in London. I enjoyed reading the different accounts and stories, hearing what happened to them first separately, then letting the two separate point of views merge into one. However there were some repetition of information that wasn't so necessary as the reader already knew what they were describing. I really liked the light hearted and sarcastic language that they authors used, it was simple but effective in keeping the tone humorous and not too tense for long periods.

When finishing the last page I had profound sense of clarification of how dangerous and unknown the world around us is. Before reading the book I had no idea what internal weapons had even been developed, and thought it was something that would be released long after I would be dead, it's quite frightening to think that people who are practically mercenaries have ahold of such weapons. They were from the authors description to look like guns, but pointed rays that would take over the subconscious part of the brain, and they would have surrendered completely in the power of this stranger, and they didn't realise before there bodies started to act strangely. - However I did have some arising questions when reading over how the writers were experimented on daily, which were - Why would normal people, living normal lives be selected out of the millions to be the experiments to such weapons? What made them so different to other people? They must have done something to provoke such inhuman torture...  - But I didn't find any answers to my questions, there are some holes within the story, things that future readers would like to know. But perhaps the authors had a good reason to leave the readers with these questions, and maybe it's not safe to give the  identity and reason behind what those awful people did to them.I am in no such way accusing the writers that the story is in anyway untrue, but there had to be some rational explanation to why a simple artist and translator were being isolated from the world.

I liked that they seemed to discover a kind of spirituality, not in a religious sense, but in a second-sense sort. Cynthia said often in the book that before her brother and her where about to be poisoned she would get a warning from her guardian angel, which is amazing to think that amongst all the danger she and her brother were in, they found some hope and strength to that she see a peaceful future, where they were left un-harrassed and living normal lives.

If you would like to read a true life story and another more terrifying revelation of the society we live in, then I defiantly recommend Memoirs Of A Lab Rat.