Wednesday, 7 October 2015


It seemed like a lifetime ago that I giddily and slightly apprehensively booked my holiday to Japan. 6 months have slipped away in the blink of an eye and in 4 short days I will be heading to Gatwick airport and starting my journey to Tokyo, via Istanbul. 
This is not only my first trip to Japan but also my first visit to Asia, a continent that has fascinated me for years. I am embarrassingly excited but also a little scared. I have booked everything independently, I am going on my own and I don't speak a word of Japanese. I am scared that I will be unable to do anything, that the language barrier will be impossible to get over and that I will get lonely doing this all alone. But there is a bigger part of me that is excited and exhilarated. I imagine myself staring wide eyes around a city that will quite simply blow my mind. I imagine meeting interesting people and going to magical places. Which one will turn out to be the reality we will soon find out. 
I hope that going on this big adventure will be good for me. I have let my confidence slip over the years, I used to be carefree and I travelled around the world without fear or trepidation. In the years since I let someone take the confidence from me, I let myself become unsure and skittish. This is my attempt to re-find myself. Am I nervous? Absolutely but I am also excited, inspired and proud that I have taken this step.
To be honest I haven't helped myself by leaving everything until the last moment. Unfortunately this is the person I am. I am terrible at planning and great at convincing myself I have all the time in the world when I don't. I haven't planned what I am going to do when I get to Tokyo. I want to see the sites and would like to visit Nico and Kyoto but I haven't planned anything. To be honest most of my thinking so far has revolved around eating Japan's world famous cuisine. I have been abroad before and have had everything planned and I have been abroad and winged it. Every time winging it had been better so I plan to take it easy and see when fate takes me.
Hopefully this post will be the start of my travel journal. If I have the time and the internet connection I will blog my experience as I go, if not then I guess I will have to share it all when I get back. Either way I cannot wait to share my experiences with all of you.

Image courtesy of GoBoiano

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Movie Review: Gone Girl

“What are you thinking? How are you feeling? What have we done to each other?”

If you have a partner, have you ever thought of these questions? If you do, do you have any answers to any of these? In fact, these questions were asked twice by Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck), once at the beginning of the movie, and once again at the end. But despite his “double identity” as both the victimizer and the victim, I don’t think he had the puzzle figured out at all – because he never knew that he was the source of everything, the seed of the tragedy.

Five years into their marriage, the former New York-based writers Amy (Rosamund Pike) and Nick were festering in Missouri after being hit by the cruel waves of economic recession, redundancy and the sickness of Nick’s mother. The initial romance, sweetness and attraction had been worn out by distrust, suspicion and, Nick’s infidelity. Yes, infidelity, the most sinful of all sins in the book of marriage’s vices – one day when Amy was on the street, she saw her husband and his mistress, kissing, hugging, with Nick doing all those little sweet traits that should only belong to her to the other woman. This unleashed the darkest thoughts of a typical “Type A” person: catastrophe, cruelty, and revenge. We didn’t know how and where did Nick hooked up with the twenty-something sexy student in the first place – it might be OKCupid, Bazoocam or even Snapchat – but that didn’t really matter, because what awaited the betrayer was a severe punishment from the icy and villainous goddess whom he had sworn a vow to. She framed a perfect disappearance, a nearly perfect crime scene in their house, and a well-planned fake pregnancy to draw all public attention and hatred towards the man. She manipulated everything as she knew that her fame as the writer of the popular “Amazing Amy” book series would be handy enough. And there she was, driving to a remote area on her own, while her husband was suffering from her vengeance and being accused as the ruthless murderer of his “pregnant” wife…

You might wonder, did the punishment gone too far? Did a disloyal husband have to be suffocated by the harsh accusations from the neighborhood, the media and even the entire America? Well I couldn’t help but believe that was, though a bit out of control, justice be done. I am a woman, and I have no sympathy towards an infidel guy, especially a guy who could even have sex with his mistress in his sister’s house after his wife had gone missing. As what we know from the Game of Thrones, “There is a beast in every man (and woman) and it stirs when you put a sword in his (or her) hand.” If you’re scared, you might want to give yourself and your partner a Type A Personality Test before you plan to tie the knot. And don’t ever attempt to go infidel.

By Jessica Olsen

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Book Review: Even in Paradise by Chelsey Philpot

When Julia Buchanan enrolls at St. Anne’s at the beginning of junior year, Charlotte Ryder already knows all about the former senator’s daughter. Most people do... or think they do.

Charlotte certainly never expects she’ll be Julia’s friend. But almost immediately, she is drawn into the larger than-life-new girl’s world—a world of midnight rendezvous, dazzling parties, palatial vacation homes, and fizzy champagne cocktails. And then Charlotte meets, and begins falling for, Julia’s handsome older brother Sebastian.

But behind her self-assured smiles and toasts to the future, Charlotte soon realizes that Julia is still suffering from a tragedy. A tragedy that the Buchanan family has kept hidden … until now.

Retellings appear to be the in fashion genre for YA authors at the moment.  I have come across many of them and have only liked a few.  If I am honest I wasn’t all that fussed about reading Even in Paradise.  It is a reboot of Brideshead Revisited which I didn’t think would work as YA.  It is also about rich and entitled people which again is not really my thing and didn’t really appeal to me.  I requested a review copy of this book on a whim and then was faced with the reality of having to read it when I didn’t really want to.  It was a silly thing to do and I shouldn’t have done it but I am sure glad I did because Even in Paradise ended up being the best contemporary YA book I have read in a really long time.

In terms of writing Even in Paradise is simply gorgeous.  Everything about this book is just beautiful and of such a high standard.  It is hard to believe that this is a debut as the quality is so high.  Every description, conversation and character is just bursting with life.  The world was built exceptionally well and it took me no time at all to get completely lost in the pages every time I picked this book up.

The story itself was everything I could have wished for.  It was funny and emotional and most importantly realistic.  Philpot could have filled the pages with angst and drama but instead decided to stick with some realism.  Growing up is both wonderful and difficult.  Most of the first loves and best friends made in our teens are lost to us at some point.  That lose is undeniably painful but it is a part of growing up and is unavoidable.  I truly applaud Chelsey Philpot for giving this book the ending it deserved not the ending more readers would love to read.  That’s not to say this book doesn’t have a happy ending, it does, but perhaps not the ending you are expecting. 

What really makes this book work is the characters.  Even in Paradise is told (in pretty amazing past tense) by Charlotte who is quite literally your average teenage girl.  She doesn’t have a huge personality and she isn’t going to blow you away with her awesomeness but that it ok, that job falls to Julia, Charlotte’s best friend.  In reality this is Julia Buchanan’s book she is full of bubbly personality and charm, yet under all that is a vulnerable and unstable young woman who needs some help.  It is easy to see how Charlotte fell in love with Julia and the rest of the Buchanan’s because in my own way I did too, despite the pomp and lavish lifestyle they led.

The romantic element of this book is between Charlotte and Sebastian, Julia’s brother.  It is pure and beautiful but is never really the focus of the book.  Again Philpot moves away from the norm and makes the main relationship between two friends instead of lovers.  This worked for me and I found it balanced the story nicely. 

There were a couple of negatives (the French got a little annoying) but for the most part I found little to complain about.  Even in Paradise is a great read that I really hope will get the attention it deserves when it is released in October.  Chelsey Philpot is a fantastic new talent in YA literature and I hope to read more from her soon.

4 stars 

Find out more:

Genre: Contemporary Romance, YA

Release Date: 14th October 2014

Published by: Harper Collins

368 Pages

A free copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Book Review: Firelight by Kristen Callihan

Miranda Ellis is a woman tormented. Plagued since birth by a strange and powerful gift, she has spent her entire life struggling to control her exceptional abilities. Yet one innocent but irreversible mistake has left her family's fortune decimated and forced her to wed London's most nefarious nobleman.

Lord Benjamin Archer is no ordinary man. Doomed to hide his disfigured face behind masks, Archer knows it's selfish to take Miranda as his bride. Yet he can't help being drawn to the flame-haired beauty whose touch sparks a passion he hasn't felt in a lifetime. When Archer is accused of a series of gruesome murders, he gives in to the beastly nature he has fought so hard to hide from the world. But the curse that haunts him cannot be denied. Now, to save his soul, Miranda will enter a world of dark magic and darker intrigue. For only she can see the man hiding behind the mask.

Romance novels are insanely popular and millions of readers’ worldwide pick up romance books every single day.  So if they are in such high demand and sell so well why are they not taken seriously? Is it because they appeal mainly to female readers? Is it because they focus on the romance instead of the serious subjects and flowery prose of literary fiction? It seems crazy to me that we should belittle a genre that gets millions picking up books every day.  A lot of people think romance isn’t a ‘real’ genre and they brush it aside with a roll of the eyes.  But I think that romance is one of the harder genres to write because its authors can’t just rely on great writing, detailed descriptions, fully rounded characters and exciting story telling.  A romance on paper only works if the reader can believe in it and that belief stems from the author managing to inject chemistry into the characters relationship and chemistry isn’t the easiest thing to write.

I really hate to put Firelight by Kristen Callihan into the romance category purely because I feel like once I put it there you might not take it seriously, and I think that would be a real shame because Firelight was actually very, very good.  I liked everything about it from Callihan’s writing to the romance between the characters it all worked for me. 

Kristen Callihan’s writes very well.  She manages to bring the Victorian streets of London alive with her vivid descriptions and atmospheric writing.  It was dark and gothic which really suited me as I like that in my books.  There was a supernatural element to the book but Callihan managed to produce the gothic feeling by using the time period, some brilliant world building and description instead of falling back onto the paranormal.  The story itself was very enjoyable and easy to follow, it never dragged and I found myself losing hours to it without even realising.  There was plenty of action, humour and romance that kept me entertained from start to finish.  My only problem came at the end of the book, the big show down felt rushed and I never truly understood the supernatural part of the story.  As a murder mystery I thought this book was fantastic but as a paranormal novel this didn’t quite work.

The main reason I liked this book was the characters.  I really loved both Miranda and Benjamin which is rare for me.  Often in books where there are two dominant characters I find one of the main characters is lacking something, often because the author put more into one character leaving the other feeling only half created.  I didn’t have that problem here, both were well rounded and created and I managed to relate to them both.  I really liked Miranda she is an independent and strong woman living in a world that expects woman to shut up and sit down.  She doesn’t and I admire that, she was strong, feisty and she wasn’t about to let anyone tell her what to do, especially her moody new husband Benjamin.

Before I explain my utter adoration for Benjamin I should probably tell you that I am a massive Phantom of the Opera fan and that I generally have a lot of emotional feelings for the Phantom himself.  In a lot of ways Benjamin was like The Phantom they both wear masks, they are both capable of terrible things whilst being vulnerable and emotionally unstable.  Unlike the Phantom Benjamin carried a softer side, he was capable of being terrifying and selfish but in the end chose not to be because Miranda was able to bring him some sort of peace from all the violence and fear he had been living with.  Benjamin finally came across someone who not only wasn’t scared to put him in his place but was willing to face the darkness with him and that is why the romance worked so well between them.  The chemistry and equality between them made their romance believable and beautiful.

Firelight is full of gothic descriptions, loveable characters and nail biting action.  It is a great romance but more than that it is a great book.  

4 stars

Find out more

Published 30th September 2014 by piatkus (originally published January 31st 2012 by Forever)

Darkest London book 1

A free copy of this book was provided in exchange for an honest review.