Heartless by Marissa Meyer: Review

HeartlessTitle: Heartless
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Fiewel & Friends 
Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into a secret courtship.

Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

Heartless was one of those books you seem to constantly see and hear about in the months leading up to its release. If I'm honest, I hate when that happens. I end up hearing far too much about the book and how incredible it is, the hype makes my expectations rise to ridiculous levels and then the book can't live up to them. It happened with Caraval and it happened here. Don't get me wrong, I still thoroughly enjoyed this book, I just feel I might have enjoyed it more if there had been less hype and I'd heard less about it before I got to read it. Plus all the warnings about this book and how it made people feel made it all so predictable, so it never packed the same emotional punch it would have if I'd gone in blind. There was so much I did enjoy about this book, especially the world and the characters. Not forgetting Meyer's fantastic writing, she definitely breathed new life into the world of Wonderland.

Image result for wonderland gifHeartless takes place in Wonderland, way before Alice found herself there. It is a Queen of Hearts origin story, as we see how she becomes the infamous villain we all know. Catherine Pinkerton is the daughter of the Marquess of Rock Turtle Cove, and one of the most coveted women in all of Wonderland. Even the King of Hearts himself wishes to make Catherine his wife. But Cath has always dreamed of being more than a wife. He dream is to own her own bakery, to share her delicious treats with all of Wonderland. That is not seen as an acceptable dream for a woman of her social standing, but Cath is determined to fight for it. Then she meets Jest, the King's new Joker and a mysterious new face ii Wonderland. Cath finds herself drawn to him, going behind the backs of her parents and the King to spend time with him. Cath is falling in love, dreaming of a future with Jest and her bakery. But there are forces in Wonderland beyond her control, forces that threaten to bring her dreams crumbling down.

Image result for dessert gifFirst, I must talk about the writing, it is utterly glorious! Meyer really brings the world of Wonderland to life, I could visualise it all so clearly in my mind. Her food descriptions are heavenly, she basically had my mouth watering almost the entire time I was reading. I feel she added her own style to Wonderland, one which I personally loved. This is where I have to admit something... I have never been an Alice in Wonderland fan. The Disney film was always one of my least favourites, and I didn't enjoy the book either and really didn't get all the fuss over the Tim Burton adaptation either. If I am honest, the whole story is just too strange for me. So I was happy to discover that Meyer could write a Wonderland that I'd absolutely love, craziness and all.

Meyer also does a fantastic job with the characters here, ones you will recognise from the Alice in Wonderland stories and also some completely new ones. I think the best way to do this is to look at my thoughts on some of the individual characters themselves.

Cath: Of course I must start with the Queen of Hearts-to-be herself. She is a really likeable character, especially in the beginning of this book. She's funny, kind, determined, a dreamer, plus she makes delicious desserts and that just instantly makes me want to be best friends with her. I had a lot of sympathy for Cath, she was stuck in a very tough situation. Meyer has created a kind of Victorian style Wonderland in terms of the society, with a woman's future being determined by who she marries and how that will benefit her family. Making decisions for yourself isn't something afforded to the women in Wonderland, unless you want to find yourself rejected by society and wind up destitute. So I did feel for Cath, especially in terms of the pressure put on her to enter into marriage with the King. However, she does also happen to be a truly frustrating character, I found myself wanting to reach into this book and shake her on multiple occasions. Having to watch her stay silent for so long really bothered me. You understand why she does it, but it is hard to read. It felt like she brought so much on herself, so much so that by the end of the book she had lost a lot of my sympathy.

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Me with Jest & Cath
Jest: Now Jest is the mysterious and alluring love interest, who enters Cath's life with a band and doesn't want to leave. He was like the perfect breath of fresh air for Cath, especially since he wasn't stuck up or prone to sticking to the societal standards expecting of him - go Jest! I adored his character because he was so much fun and he managed to push Cath out of her comfort zone. Plus he is the King's Jester, so he has the added bonus of being a forbidden romance and those are one of the best kinds.

The King: I absolutely hated the King, which is really the entire point of his character. He is just so passive and useless, the worst kind of person to be in charge of ruling a kingdom. I also found his character super creepy, as he unashamedly and doggedly pursues Cath, a young girl half his age. Not to mention that he comes across as a total idiot and at times talks like an exciting toddler. Yes, it is understandable why Cath doesn't want to marry that man.

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Cath's parents: Some more characters that it is very easy to hate. These two are people of their time, strict in sticking to what society expects of them. They're so certain of themselves and that they know what is best for Cath, what will maker her happy, even though they have absolutely no clue. It's really hard to read books with a Victorian style society, as it is so horribly sexist. Reading a book where you're basically watching parents pimp out their daughter to man half her age is uncomfortable at best. I did not like these two at all, I wanted the Jabberwock to swallow them both whole.

Image result for wonderland gifMad Hatter & The Cheshire Cat: I really like how Meyer decided to play with these classic Alice in Wonderland characters. Cheshire was basically perfect, so sarcastic and superior, he was so spot on and had the perfect cat personality. I am sure if my cat could taken then she'd basically act the exact same way. Hatta was less fun but I adored him as he was the only person willing to call Cath out on her bullshit, her complete inability to fight for what she wanted and for her unfair treatment of Jest. Honestly, he made me want to put the book down and applaud him as finally someone was saying what I was feeling.

Overall, I found Heartless was a really enjoyable read but I didn't completely love it. I actually really enjoyed Meyer's Wonderland and it worked so well for me. However, I did feel this book was much too long and with very little happening for most of the book. A lot of the story is Cath bemoaning her situation, but doing absolutely nothing to change it. It gets tiresome hearing her whine for hundreds of pages whilst taking no action. I did thoroughly enjoy watching Cath and Jest fall for each other though. Personally, I felt the end was a bit manic after so long of nothing happening, and a certain event felt so blink-and-you'll-miss-it that it didn't pack any kind of real emotional punch. There was a lot to like about this book, but aspects I wish were different and would have made it a much more enjoyable read.

3.5 Butterflies

The Inconceivable Life of Quinn by Marianne Baer: Review

The Inconceivable Life of QuinnTitle: The Inconceivable Life of Quinn
Author: Marianna Baer
Publisher: Amulet Books
Quinn Cutler is sixteen and the daughter of a high-profile Brooklyn politician. She’s also pregnant, a crisis made infinitely more shocking by the fact that she has no memory of ever having sex. Before Quinn can solve this deeply troubling mystery, her story becomes public. Rumors spread, jeopardizing her reputation, her relationship with a boyfriend she adores, and her father’s campaign for Congress. Religious fanatics gather at the Cutlers’ home, believing Quinn is a virgin, pregnant with the next messiah. Quinn’s desperate search for answers uncovers lies and family secrets—strange, possibly supernatural ones. Might she, in fact, be a virgin?

I have to start this review by saying that The Inconceivable Life of Quinn is one of the strangest books I have ever read, and I am completely unsure how I feel about it. It is such a weird and yet utterly compelling story. When I read the summary for this book I was instantly intrigued and knew I had to read it. Quinn Cutler is the sixteen year old daughter of  Brooklyn politician who is currently running for US Congress. The family is facing a ton of media scrutiny, so there couldn't actually be a worse time for Quinn to find out she is pregnant. The situation is made a whole lot worse because Quinn has no memory of ever having sex, as far as she is concerned she is a virgin and so is her long term boyfriend. It is a huge scandal for the family, and an alienating experience for Quinn as almost no one believes her. We follow Quinn as she tries to figure out how this happened, whether she has repressed the memory of a sexual assault or if something more supernatural is happening, or if she should believe those who think she is carrying the next messiah.

The best way to sum up reading this book:
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Going into this book, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. The summary hints to a supernatural element, whilst also making it seem like it could be a clean cut contemporary. The book makes for interesting, compelling and frustrating reading. You're so eager to get answers, whilst feeling like you can't trust Quinn as she is an unreliable narrator at times. I really loved the mystery of it all, it grabs you and you're desperate to find out what actually happened to Quinn. I just had to know how Quinn has found herself pregnant, whilst insisting she is still a virgin. I was so curious to see how the author would wrap it all up.

If you're looking for a book that will keep you guessing, this is definitely that book. Almost the entire book I couldn't decide what I thought was really going on and I never would have guessed either. Be warned that this is a slow paced book, where the plot revolves solely on finding out the truth to Quinn's pregnancy. I can tell this book will divide opinion, some won't be able to deal with the end as well as others will. Personally, I do wish that I had got more of a payoff. But then I also couldn't put this book down, there is just something so compelling about Baer's writing that grabs me. The book could definitely have committed to magical realism elements earlier on in the story and then the end would have worked better.

This book is just so hard to review, and that is because I have honestly never read anything else like it. It was a unique reading experience and those are rare to find the over saturated market of YA, where sometimes it feels like you have read the same story ten times over. So I have to applaud Baer for being able to grip me and then genuinely surprise me. She's someone to watch and I will be very curious to see what she comes up with next. If you're looking for something different, that will keep you guessing till the very end then this is definitely worth reading.

3.5 Butterflies

The Last Thing You Said by Sara Biren: Review

The Last Thing You SaidTitle: The Last Thing You Said
Author: Sara Biren
Publisher: Amulet Books
Last summer, Lucy’s and Ben’s lives changed in an instant. One moment, they were shyly flirting on a lake raft, finally about to admit their feelings to each other after years of yearning. In the next, Trixie—Lucy’s best friend and Ben’s sister—was gone, her heart giving out during a routine swim. And just like that, the idyllic world they knew turned upside down, and the would-be couple drifted apart, swallowed up by their grief. Now it’s a year later in their small lake town, and as the anniversary of Trixie’s death looms, Lucy and Ben’s undeniable connection pulls them back together. They can’t change what happened the day they lost Trixie, but the summer might finally bring them closer to healing—and to each other.

The Last Thing You Said turned out to be one of those books that I devoured in one sitting, as I needed to see how it would turn out for these characters. I foolishly started it just before bed, thinking I could read a couple of chapters and then put it down for the night, with the plan to return to it the next day. That did not happen, instead I ended up reading it in one go, staying up till the early am and paying for it dearly the next day at work. It was totally worth it though, there was just something about the story and the characters that made me unable to leave them until I knew how it all worked out for them.

Lucy and Trixie have been best friends for almost their entire lives, an inseparable pair, you wouldn't see one without the other. Lucy also just happens to be in love with Trixie's brother Ben, and she suspects that he might feel the same way. Just as it is seems that everything might work out for them, Trixie's heart gives out due to an undiagnosed heart condition. Ben hasn't really spoken to Lucy since, Lucy is struggling without Ben to lean or and without her best friend by her side. The anniversary of Trixie's death is looming closer, and Lucy and Ben keep finding themselves thrust together. The summer seems to be offering them a chance to heal and find their way back into each other's lives.

Recently I have read a ton of contemporary reads that deal with grief and I have enjoyed them all. What I particularly liked about this book was how it explore the uglier side to grief, how it can change us and turn us into people even we don't recognise. Every person copes with loss differently, some allow their own guilt and sadness to turn into anger that they aim at those who don't deserve it. It is horrible, it is also true to life and just how some people learn to cope. That is how Ben coped, by assigning blame to Lucy that she didn't deserve. It was hard to read and I will admit that sometimes I wanted to reach into the book and shake his character.

Sometimes I had to question myself and why I was so eager for these two to find their way back together. Ben could be a truly awful person and he was completely in the wrong, but I still felt for him. I am there, thinking he is a total asshole, whilst also really wanting it to work out for him and Lucy. Damn you, Sara Biren, you are good!

This was such a quick read for me as I couldn't leave it until I was done. It's a very enjoyable read and a great contemporary. It wasn't without its problems, mostly it had the over the top drama that usually bugs me in a book. I might have also totally hated the relationship that developed between Lucy and the renter next door, he came off far too creepy and clingy and I wish that was addressed more. This book just really worked for me though, it was such a great exploration of grief and how it can tear people apart but also bring them back together.

4/5 Butterflies

Building My Own Army of Fictional Characters + GIVEAWAY

It's World Book Day! The 20th World Book Day to be precise. And what a wonderful day it is. A day to promote my favourite thing: BOOKS! This is always such a fun day, especially when you work in libraries, that was especially true in public libraries. I love watching all the little kids running around in their costumes based off of fictional characters. I still remember the year where I dressed up at work as a Hogwarts students, with full robe and wand. It was a wonderful day! I just love watching children get excited about reading, and I hope that excitement and love of reading stays with them into adulthood.

I was actually lucky enough to be approached by Egmont to see if I wanted to help promote one of the wonderful £1 books coming out this World Book Day. Hmmmm, do I want to promote books that help instil a love of reading in the next generation? OF COURSE I DO! So I said yes. I quickly said yes because the book in question is by Michael Grant, the man behind the fantastic Gone series. The WBD book is called Dead of Night and links into his Front Lines series. The Front Lines series is a young adult alternate history book set in America. It proposes the question, what if women had been allowed to fight on the front lines during WWII. It sounded incredible and I can't wait to read it myself, I am a huge fan of alternate history books, they are some of my favourites.

I was lucky enough to get sent a copy of Front Lines, as well as the sequel Silver Stars and the WBD short story Dead of Night. I am very excited to read them all. Here is a little more information on the first book:

Front Lines (Soldier Girl, #1)1942. World War II. The most terrible war in human history. Millions are dead; millions more are still to die. The Nazis rampage across Europe and eye far-off America.

The green, untested American army is going up against the greatest fighting force ever assembled—the armed forces of Nazi Germany.

But something has changed. A court decision makes females subject to the draft and eligible for service. So in this World War II, women and girls fight, too.

As the fate of the world hangs in the balance, three girls sign up to fight. Rio Richlin, Frangie Marr, and Rainy Schulterman are average girls, girls with dreams and aspirations, at the start of their lives, at the start of their loves. Each has her own reasons for volunteering. Not one expects to see actual combat. Not one expects to be on the front lines.

Rio, Frangie, and Rainy will play their parts in the war to defeat evil and save the human race. They will fear and they will rage; they will suffer and they will inflict suffering; they will hate and they will love. They will fight the greatest war the world has ever known.

As a little something fun for this World Book Day, I thought I would pose myself a question: If I had to go into battle, what women from fiction would I want fighting by my side? I am also linking this up with Top Ten Tuesday, as there is no prompts for the last few weeks. A brilliant question and one I took some time to think of. I realised I don't just need those who can wield a weapon, or who would march bravely into battle, I also need those smart women who can help from behind the front line. So, without further ado, here are some of the wonderful women of fiction that I would want on my side:

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Artwork by Charle Bowater

Manon Blackbeach - Throne of Glass

I ADORE MANON!!! She is the best character in the Throne of Glass series now. Seriously, I just love her and Asterin. I don't just want Manon, I want her and her Thirteen. If I can get their Wyverns too then I would have an unstoppable force all of its own. But even if I could only have Manon, I would be happy. She has CLAWS! Giant nails that could slice my throat. She is loyal, she is brutal and she will fight till the death, and you can bet it won't be her death. She can be horrifyingly scary though, she would probably petrify me but I love her.

Celaena Sardothien - Throne of Glass

I think this one doesn't need too much explaining. Celaena Sardothien is an assassin, who seems rather unafraid to throw herself into battle. She is used to getting her hands dirty, watching her back and using the element of surprise to best her opponent. Of course I would want her to be on my team. Although I would spend the whole time worrying she might kill us all if she suddenly decided we weren't worthy or useful to her - the progression of that series proved to me that Celaena is either very forgetful, very fickle or very unloyal. But, hey, she can wield a blade and also has powers!

Image result for hermione granger fighting gifHermione Granger - Harry Potter

I want Hermione on my side for so many reasons. She's kind, she's smart, she is loyal and she is so very brave. I don't like that many people just associate a 'strong female character' as basically meaning someone who can fight or wield a weapon. It isn't. Don't get me wrong, I think Hermione is skilled in magic and I wouldn't want to face her on a battlefied. Plus we all know she can throw a punch. But she is also ridiculously clever, she always seems to be thinking faster than everyone around her. She would be brilliant in a war, she's already faced one and won.

A little something to make sure I can still paint after my week off!
I read ‘Not a Drop to Drink’ whilst I was away. I loved it and this is very much inspired by Lynn.
A couple of hours in PS :)
Artwork by Charlie Bowater
Lynn - Not a Drop to Drink

I really feel like the Not a Drop to Drink series is far too underrated and doesn't get nearly the love it deserves. This is such a beautifully written series, set in a dystopian future it is easy to imagine becoming possible. Lynn is such a fantastic character, she is such an emotionally strong person. The events she goes through and the things she endures would break me as a person, but she gets through it and helps others. She is skilled with a gun, she's also hilarious and someone I know I would love to spend time with. She also protects those she loves with everything she has, so she would be perfect.

Image result for katniss everdeen shooting gifKatniss Everdeen - The Hunger Games

Come on, of course I am not going to go into war without Katniss Everdeen. I LOVE that girl. I don't care what others say about her, I think she is a fantastic character. She is strong in so many ways, but she isn't indestructible. She does hurt, she does break, she forms emotional bonds but rarely, only to those she truly feels are worth her time. She can hunt with a bow and arrow, she has killed before. Sure, she is probably not going to provide the most small talk, you'd be lucky if she even spoke to you. I still want her on my team!

Artwork by PhantomRim

Mustang - Red Rising

Mustang is a pretty kickass character and I absolutely adore her. I didn't when she was first introduced, as I was still recovering from the events of the first half of Red Rising. She quickly grew on me, because she is just incredible. She is another wickedly smart character, who is actually has the brains and mind for politics, which could prove very useful. Plus if I befriended her during a war she might introduce me to my two favourite people: Darrow & Sevro! YES, PLEASE!

Image result for lisbeth salander gifLisbeth Salander - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I honestly don't talk about the awesome Lisbeth Salander enough!!!! I think it is because I concentrate so much on young adult on here, I just seem to forget about her. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was an amazing book and introduced me to one of my favourite characters of all time: Lisbeth Salander. Now this girl is smart, so smart that I can't even fathom it. She is also an expert in technology, she could probably hack into anything she sets her mind too. She doesn't take any crap from anyone, which I love about her.

So there are just some of the wonderful women I would want on my side during a war. Which women would you want fighting by your side?

Now time for a giveaway: