Short Story: Her/Him

I remove my heels from my feet and welcome the cold pavement, relieving me of the pain from my feet contorting. Eight hours walking around serving drinks to clients seemed like easy work on paper.

I’ve walked down the Kingston suburban streets so many times I don’t need much light to guide me through the evening. Curtains cover windows, some only partially closed, allowing me to see what their evening TV watch. Eastenders is a favourite among the various households. The smell of bolognese warms me and I take clumsier steps trying to walk faster, my feet landing on sharp stones that have lost their way from the stony driveways.

I turn the corner and there is figure near the mouth of the street. He’s under a street-lamp, standing tall and with a black bicycle between his legs.

A high-pitched sneeze escapes him and he slumps forward. He shakes his head as the sneeze leaves him then straightens and stands tall once again.

“I can do this,” he says, “you’ve got this.” Every word uttered escapes with a small white puff that twirl into the cold evening.

With his feet firmly on the pedals, he slowly moves down the street towards me. His jacket parachutes out and the curls on his forehead part to reveal his acne covered forehead. He doesn’t register my presence and starts to speed up. Shadows form across his face, stretching and shrinking his features as moves between the street-lamps.

He breaks unexpectedly, the back wheel lifts from the ground but his feet are already on the floor, grounding him. Pumping his fists into the sky and he jiggles about, his bike sandwiched between his legs.

I tuck myself in between two cars, not wanting to frighten him. I doubt he’d want to know someone is watching him right now. His moves aren’t something I’d ever show off.

He hops off his bike and claps his trainers together like a soldier called for attention before turning his bike round to face where he came from. He almpst trips over his own feet. I can’t help put feel a smile form on my face, his happiness so easy.

Without hesitation he mounts and pushes off again, standing up as he pedals, the bike swinging between his legs. I fan my hands out in the cold, suddenly realising they had become clammy in my pockets, and a vibration goes off in my pocket.

Just a few more moments. Let me look. Let me see.

He grips the handlebars so tightly the whites of his knuckles show, he leans forward as he pedals, his ears have gone pink from the cold. He starts to twist his handles and there is a faint click after each turn. His legs awkwardly pedalling round at different speeds after every gear change. He does a small semi-circle with his bike to face towards me again.

When he stops, he ruffles his hair with his hands with short stubby fingers. His hair hangs over his forehead drawing my attention in to his hazelnut eyes. There was something innocent in them, a hint of rebelliousness, but mostly warmth.

I jump as a firework lights the sky. A flash of red towering above us. I watch it disappear before another shower of colour fills the sky. I turn back to him on the bike, wanting to know if he’s watching them too, but he’s on the ground examining his hands. His bike is lying on the floor. What happened? Is he hurt? I want to run to him. To help him up but it isn’t the right moment yet.

I stubbornly crouch behind the car, allowing him to recover from his injury alone. Is he okay? I could rub the pain away? Maybe he’ll pretend it never happened. Our secret to keep. Just me and him.

I peek round the car. He is standing, his jeans hanging lower than normal but hiding his arse, hidden but easy to imagine. His jacket slid up his back revealing his bony figure, his skin most likely untouched. Small bumps form, he feels the cold on his exposed skin. I wonder if he would like my touch? Would he like being wanted? Teased?

“Jack.”

It is a woman. She has the same hay coloured hair as him, the same arched nose. She wears a nightgown and a pair of slippers. She is holding a green helmet.

“You’ve already fallen over,” she says, looking at the bike then at him.

“I’m fine.”

“Don’t give me that.”

“Sorry,” he said, “thanks for the bike.”

She takes Jack into an embrace, “You’re so big now, seven years old. I love you.”

I start to increase the distance between us.

“I love you too,” Jack says.

I need to return home.

Review: Little White Lies by Katie Dale

17232924Title: Little White Lies
Author: Katie Dale
Publication Date: August 2013 (Simon & Schuster)
Pages: 394
Genre: Contemporary 
Format: Paperback

Links to buy: |Amazon UK| |Waterstones| |Book Depository|

The first time Lou meets mysterious Christian, she knows he is The One. But Christian is hiding a terrible secret. Why does he clam up every time Lou asks about his past? Why doesn’t he have any family photos, and why does he dye his blond hair black? When Christian’s house goes up in flames, his tires are slashed, and he flees for his life, Lou insists on going with him. But as Christian’s secret is unveiled in front of the whole world, it seems everything he’s ever told Lou is a lie. Can what the media are saying about him really be true? Should Lou trust him? Or is she in grave danger? And what if their accidental meeting wasn’t an accident at all…? [Goodreads]

I read Someone Else’s Life a few years back and loved it, so when I came across Dales’ second novel I knew I had to pick it up!

Lou is trying to run away from the past in London. She’s changed her identity and is starting at Sheffield University. But she’s still on edge and nervous that someone will figure out who she is. She meets Christian, who is also in Sheffield for a new beginning, hiding behind his own web of lies. The more time they spend together the more they try to hide, to spare one another the pain, but both their secrets are the thing that’s tying them together.

It’s so refreshing to read a YA novel that is set at a university. I think it’s something that makes this book quite British in a way. Going to university and finding this ‘new self’/creating a new identity was something I expected when I started. And with more mature characters, it is definitely nothing I’ve read about in a UKYA novel before!

I loved reading about Lou, each time learning more about her past and what she really ran away from. She’s constantly looking over her shoulder but when she meets Christian, she relaxes and build her new life.

The book is almost split into two sections, one half panning out like a contemporary romance and the second half speeding up with the crime and mystery elements. The change of pace does have a huge affect on the believability of the story and it only just keeps grounded enough for me to stick with it. It’s very mild and mellow at the beginning, which makes the jump really sudden and either you’re on the train or you’re not – I’m on it! It keeps you on your toes with character’s whipping off and around the page, their decisions frantic and panicked.

The only weak point about this novel was the last few pages, which seemed to keep to the fast pace, and lessened the satisfaction at the end.

But I was glued to the book til the very end!

My rating:

I really liked it

4 cup

My Best 2016 Discoveries: TV, Music, Film, Books and Theatre!

Whilst I have been quiet for the last few months, I cannot leave 2016 without doing a list of my favourites. Though some things have made it onto the list aren’t 2016 releases I want to share them because they are things that I have gotten round to watching/listening/reading this year.

Television:

I’ve been binge watching a lot of shows recently but I’ve been struggling to find something that I absolutely love. In the past two months I’ve watched: Outlander (Season 1 & 2), Crazy Ex Girlfriend (Season 1 & 2), Humans (Season 1 & 2), Westworld, Fleabag & Mr Robot (Season 1 Only). Out of the lot I would recommend…

  1. Westworld
    It’s about a Western-world theme park which is occupied by robotic “hosts” that roam the park for humans to enter and interact with. Westworld enables people to live in their fantasy world where they aren’t in real danger as hosts are not able to harm humans.
    It’s very cleverly done and everything is very tightly-knit. I feel like the network knew it’d be something big so it is an all star cast, with some new faces to give them some fame. Hopefully there will be another season.
    And also, James Marsden.
  2. Mr Robot
    I’m very behind when it comes to TV and I have only watched Season 1 of Mr Robot. And I’m completely mindblown by it.
    It follows Elliot who’s a cybersecurity computer programmer during the day and an hacker during the night. He’s sought out by a secret hacking group to help take down the conglomerate ECorp, but this is also where he is paid to work during the day. Told with a first person narration, you quickly become to know Elliot’s internal voice and his moral and personal struggles.
    The pacing for me is super slow and I was close to giving up, however I stuck through it does turn around.

Music:

Once I find a selection of albums I like, I tend to repeat them over for the rest of the year. My top albums for 2016 are:

  1. X Ambassadors – VHS
    Imagine Dragons discovered X Ambassadors and I think there are similarities in their first albums. They’re known for their single Renegades but their song Unsteady is featured in the Me Before You soundtrack.
  2. Chainsmokers – Bouquet & Collage EP & Major Lazer – Peace is the Mission
    Joint second are two electronic dance music albums. It’s a bit of a weird music choice when studying but it’s worked for me – the upbeat tempo and catchy words make it an easy escape. Though I don’t like to acknowledge the fact that the Chainsmokers created Selfie.
  3. Oh Wonder – Oh Wonder
    An electropop indie group from London, their music is quite soft and relaxing… A recommendation from my sister – she has great taste.
  4. Griffin Peterson – From All Sides
    Griffin Peterson is attached to Colleen Hoover’s novel Maybe Someday, which is where I first discovered him. His album is simple and easy, mostly led by guitar strumming and drum beats.

Films:

Watched films are lacking in 2016…

  1. You Before Me
    I managed to get early screening tickets for this film and I sobbed/ugly cried/completely broke down. That in itself is an amazing achievement because I’m not an emotional person when watching most things. I was not as emotional when reading the novel but the film tore me apart.
  2. The Prestige
    Directed by Christopher Nolan, this film is about two magicians who compete to outdo one another with their illusions. It’s a pretty intense competition as they become more and more obsessed with trying to top one another and it leads to tragic endings. Less intense than Inception but still a great watch.

Books:

I did manage to read a lot during the beginning half of 2016 but from that point onwards, I hardly touched a book of my choosing. The books that I did pick up more were cookbooks!

Fiction:

  1. Vendetta and Inferno by Catherine Doyle.
    I have reread this duo more than three times this year. It’s a great modern twist on the overused Romeo and Juliet retelling. People mess up, fall in love and fall out of love. It’s pretty darn perfect, but not in the fairytale kind of way, in the ‘it is realistic’ kind of way.
  2. Flawed by Cecelia Ahern
    I saw so many negative reviews attached to this novel and I approached this book with caution. I’ve read some of Ahern’s adult novels and enjoyed them but I didn’t know how to compare them since Flawed is a dystopia. Find my review of the book here.

Non-Fiction:

  1. Elly Pear’s Fast Days & Feast Days by Elly Curshen
    Perfect for quick and easy recipes!
  2. Twist by Martha Collison
    This is the first Bake Off contestant book that I’ve owned and it comes with beautiful drawings and plenty of sweet recipes to try!
  3. The Minimalist Baker Everyday Cooking by Dana Schutz
    Dana Schutz runs the blog The Minimalist Baker, which I have followed for a while now, and I bought the book as soon as it was released. A must for those plant-based eaters!
  4. Stirring Slowly by Georgina Hayden
    Stirring Slowly focuses on the hearty meals. It’s all about speed nowadays and it’s really lovely to have something on the stove brewing for a little longer than ten minutes. There is one one person serving recipe however most of them are for four servings, so definitely one for people who need to cook for a family or friends!

Theatre:

I made more trips to the theatre than usual at the end of this year. I’ve always loved going to the theatre but the trips lessened after finishing secondary school. Everything about the theatre is really exciting to me, I’ve always said that if I get a chance I’d love to work in one, even if it’s simply front of house!
Anyway after my birthday that included a trip to see The Phantom of the Opera, a musical I have wanted to see for so long, I booked three solo trips to see three musicals. They included: The Murder Ballad, The Last Five Years and The School of Rock. Only two of the four have made it into my highlights of 2016.

  1. Taking the number one highlight is The Phantom of the Opera. I have wanted to see it for so long and it really exceeded my expectations. It was dramatic in all the right ways and I found myself almost tearing up when the chandelier started to rise. I was more surprised about how quickly the action moved, getting chills when “The Mirror/Angel of Music” began.  The famous songs “The Phantom of the Opera” and “The Music of the Night” lacked in richness and power from the actors, though it didn’t ruin my enjoyment.  “Masquerade” was a delight to watch with the full company in dazzling costumes. It’s no surprise why it’s been running for as long as it has and I can imagine revisiting it. I would love to see the tech behind it as well. It’s really a feast for your eyes.
  2. The Last Five Years had a very short run at the St James Theatre. It’s a small and intimate performance with two actors, Samantha Barks known for playing Éponine in the film version of Les Mis and Johnathan Bailey, who played Olly in Broadchurch. I’d heard a lot about the musical before and knowing Barks was part of it made me really want to see it. The musical follows a five year relationship between Cathy, a struggling actress, and Jamie, a novelist. The whole structure of the musical was new to me as we follow Jamie’s side of the story in a chronological order (falling in/out of love with Cathy) and following Cathy in reverse. The most surprising part was hearing Bailey sing. Just completely blown by his voice as I only knew him from Broardchurch and I hate his character too. It was really nice to see in something completely different. The songs are upbeat and occasionally funny to other members of the audience, yet I was left put-down and heartbroken, I Can Do Better Than That being the worst of them all for me.
    I’ve listened to the soundtrack non-stop all in order. It’s become the music I listen to when I work!

And that’s it!

 

What’s if your 2016 discovery? Comment and share below – I would love to see what everyone else is watching/reading/listening to! Maybe I’ll check it out in 2017 😉

Review: Half-Blood (Covenant #1) by Jennifer L Armentrout

9680718 (1)Title: Half-Blood (Covenant #1)
Author: Jennifer L Armentrout
Publication Date: October 2011 (Spencer Hill Press)
Pages: 281
Genre: Fantasy
Format: Paperback

Links to buy: UK Edition (Hodder): |Waterstones| |Amazon UK| US Edition: |Book Depository|

The Hematoi descend from the unions of gods and mortals, and the children of two Hematoi pure bloods have godlike powers. Children of Hematoi and mortals–well, not so much. Half-bloods only have two options: become trained Sentinels who hunt and kill daimons or become servants in the homes of the pures.

Seventeen-year-old Alexandria would rather risk her life fighting than waste it scrubbing toilets, but she may end up slumming it anyway. There are several rules that students at the Covenant must follow. Alex has problems with them all, but especially rule #1:Relationships between pures and halfs are forbidden. Unfortunately, she’s crushing hard on the totally hot pure-blood Aiden. But falling for Aiden isn’t her biggest problem–staying alive long enough to graduate the Covenant and become a Sentinel is.

If she fails in her duty, she faces a future worse than death or slavery: being turned into a daimon, and being hunted by Aiden. And that would kind of suck. [Goodreads]

{Dug this review out from my drafts folder from a while back – not sure why it was never published! Hope you enjoy!}

I was super excited to start this book. Mostly because it’s a Jennifer L Armentrout book. And so far, everything I’ve read by her is awesome!

Alex’s mother took Alex and ran away from the Covenant. Three years later, after her mum and home have been taken from her, Alex finds herself back at the Covenant. But since it’s been three years since she’s been in training, she’s behind compared to the other students and catching up would take a long time. Luckily, Aiden steps in and offers to help her. She has to catch up with the other students by the end of summer, but the sudden thrust of training takes its toll on her body and when she discovers the truth about her destiny she is determined to be ready to prove everyone she’s not what history says.

I always feel a little out of the loop when I pick up novels based on greek gods. Even more so now that I’ve found myself picking countless of books about myths and legends. Luckily this book fills us in enough to ensure we can follow, although occasionally it get’s a bit too dense. It also became a little overwhelming sometimes, especially during the beginning where there are lots of character intros. Too many names and facts which didn’t sink in properly.

There is so much I love about Aiden and Alex. Firstly, they reminded me of Four and Tris from Divergent. It is obvious that the chemistry is there and it became a huge part of my focus when reading Half-Blood. 

Some phrases are repeats or/and similar to some of the other novels that Armentrout has written. Note, we will always get a sarcastic character in her novels – definitely not a negative! Seth not only brings a possible new love interest for Alex, we also find him shooting out the snarky one liners. Which is a nice lift from the serious build of the novel.

It’s a strong start. Would definitely recommend for those who want to dive into a series.

My rating
I really liked it

4 cup

 

Review: The Crown (The Selection #5) by Kiera Cass

30060836

Title: The Crown (The Selection #5)
Author: Kiera Cass
Publication Date: 19th May 2016 (HarperCollins)
Pages: 352
Genre: Dystopian/Romance
Format: Paperback

Links to buy: |Amazon UK| |Waterstones| |Book Depository|

When Eadlyn became the first princess of Illéa to hold her own Selection, she didn’t think she would fall in love with any of her thirty-five suitors. She spent the first few weeks of the competition counting down the days until she could send them all home. But as events at the palace force Eadlyn even further into the spotlight, she realizes that she might not be content remaining alone.

Eadlyn still isn’t sure she’ll find the fairytale ending her parents did twenty years ago. But sometimes the heart has a way of surprising you…and soon Eadlyn must make a choice that feels more impossible—and more important—than she ever imagined. [Goodreads]

If you’ve made it this far into The Selection series, you’ll know how literal the book titles are. The Crown is the last and final installment in The Selection series and where it should tie everything together, I felt like it gave an okay ending. I did not love it. At times, the novel got a bit boring.

After seeing the fun side of Eadlyn in The Heir, I was optimistic. I was excited to see her tone down her brattiness and generally become kinder. Sadly, this didn’t ease up that much as even if she listened to other problems that weren’t her own, her later thought was ‘it isn’t my concern right now’ and move on. It felt like a huge waste… Part of me wonders if Cass was trying to show Eadlyn as a strong female lead. She has the pressure but focus on her future role, which really pushes her forward in what she does, but there is really nothing that makes her relatable. I wonder if Eadlyn’s determination and drive overshadows everything else and maybe I’m reading her as a character wrong?

Admittedly, I was still sucked into this book. Cass delivers on the mixed emotions of frustration and happiness. However this only came down to the romance side of this book, which took a huge side-line. As her mother is still recovering and her father not leaving America’s side, Eadlyn steps up. It seemed a lot like child’s play here as we saw her go through meetings and do the reports for Illéa. Her control took over and her assertiveness just became both annoying and boring. She’s eighteen!! You don’t know anything at this age and she apparently thinks she knows better than everyone.

Although I could complain about too much perfectness in the ending, I was pleased… romantically and even surprised! An entertaining read… the ending was not as satisfying as it could have been.

My rating:
It was okay

2 cups