Review: Wicked Lovely (Wicked Lovely #1) by Melissa Marr

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Title: Wicked Lovely (Wicked Lovely #1)
Author: Melissa Marr
Publication Date: July 2008 (HarperCollins)
Pages: 328
Genre: Fantasy
Format: Paperback

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

Rule 3: Never stare at invisible faeries.

Aislinn has always seen faeries. Powerful and dangerous, they walk hidden in the mortal world.

Rule 2: Never speak to invisible faeries.

One of them, a beautiful faerie boy named Keenan, is trying to talk to her, asking questions Aislinn is afraid to answer.

Rule 1: Don’t ever attract their attention.

Now it’s too late. Keenan is the Summer King and is determined that Aislinn will become the Summer Queen at any cost. Without her, summer itself will perish… [Goodreads]

I don’t read enough fantasy novels, but I’ve always found myself instantly sold when I read a blurb about faes.

Aislinn has always been able to see fairies but they never bothered her so they were easy to avoid. But then she crosses paths with Keenan, a king searching for his Summer Queen, who’s a mortal who can overthrow the Winter Queen. Keenan has been searching for centuries and convinced that Aislinn is the queen so won’t leave her alone. It’s quite an uncomfortable read to be honest. Seeing this guy obsess over a female because of what he ‘thinks’ is right. He becomes a huge stalker, which is apparently okay because he’s the king. I absolutely hated Keenan because of this. He constantly spoke like he was superior to everyone and it was so horrible.

The narration jumps from three character’s: Aislinn, Keenan and Donia, a fae under the chill of the Winter Queen and the previous mortal that Keenan pursued thinking she was the queen. Through the different narrations we are able to learn everyones intentions and their ‘role’ in the story, which made it easier to differentiate the characters from one another. The narration jumps were smooth and easy to follow.

Seth, Aislinn’s best friend, was probably the only person I really loved. He was the only one who made sense to me. It is astounding that he didn’t freak out or laugh when Aislinn told him the truth but I thought the actions after were adorable. Seth was constantly trying to think about things logically and give Aislinn as much help as possible. His living situation is a little confusing (a train carriage??) but it adds to a quirk in his character right? A single male character gives whole book a higher rating. I’m too easy to please…

I will admit that by the end of the book I was confused. Still a little confused. I am definitely missing something. Because although it was a pleasing ending, the pieces didn’t click properly and the emotions on Keenan’s side felt very forced.

My rating:

It was okay

2 cups

Review: Before We Were Strangers by Renée Carlino

Title: Before We Were Strangers
Author: Renée Carlino
Publication Date: August 2015 (Atria)
Pages: 320
Genre: Romance
Format: Paperback

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

To the Green-eyed Lovebird:
We met fifteen years ago, almost to the day, when I moved my stuff into the NYU dorm room next to yours at Senior House. You called us fast friends. I like to think it was more.

We lived on nothing but the excitement of finding ourselves through music (you were obsessed with Jeff Buckley), photography (I couldn’t stop taking pictures of you), hanging out in Washington Square Park, and all the weird things we did to make money. I learned more about myself that year than any other.

Yet, somehow, it all fell apart. We lost touch the summer after graduation when I went to South America to work for National Geographic. When I came back, you were gone. A part of me still wonders if I pushed you too hard after the wedding…

I didn’t see you again until a month ago. It was a Wednesday. You were rocking back on your heels, balancing on that thick yellow line that runs along the subway platform, waiting for the F train. I didn’t know it was you until it was too late, and then you were gone. Again. You said my name; I saw it on your lips. I tried to will the train to stop, just so I could say hello.

After seeing you, all of the youthful feelings and memories came flooding back to me, and now I’ve spent the better part of a month wondering what your life is like. I might be totally out of my mind, but would you like to get a drink with me and catch up on the last decade and a half? – M

[Goodreads]

I saw this book back in 2015 when I was interning. There was a small stack of review copied on the side but I was too shy to ask about them.

Now skip two years and I have finally got my hands on it – having no idea what the story was about and only remembering the cover and the title.

Matt is painfully dragging himself through work everyday. Not only does he have to work with his ex-wife but is reminded that she had an affair with someone else everyday as they all work in the same office. He’s exhausted of life. But then, whilst waiting at a train station, he spots Grace – someone he used to love and he fell out of touch with. It’s fate! His ‘angel’ is back. But she’s gone in a blink as the doors shut and the train leaves and he’s left on the platform. Luckily they have that important eye lock and the story can progress…. Matt craves to be reconnected with Grace and so posts it online, hoping she’d find it, and hoping they can find the closure that they never got before.

So this story is split into Four Movements, jumping backwards and forwards in Matt and Grace’s relationship, seeing them fall in and out of love. Matt is miserable. But can you blame his lack of enthusiasm when he has to witness his wife have a successful relationship with a close colleague? Even worse is that his boss is a total sleaze. But when he spots Grace, all the memories of their youthful times together floods back and he needs to know what went wrong all those years ago.

It was really easy to enjoy Matt and Grace together. They click so quickly. Their friendship is easy and simple. But it’s Grace who doesn’t feel adequate with her lack of money and Matt has to ‘come to the rescue’. This is only one of the clichés in this book, among this is the ‘virgin’ trait. What makes up for these are the flaws that both Matt and Grace have. They moved on and found what’s best for themselves. It was a relief to know they don’t become static. It’s a huge part of what I love about Matt and Grace. Romances typically dwell on the one that got away and actually end up at a dead end. Grace and Matt carved the best lives they could for themselves despite their fall out. And a fifteen year gap is definitely not the biggest break I’ve read about **Where Rainbows Ends by Cecelia Ahern.

Their journey was very predictable, and does fall very classically into the romance and NA genre, but that doesn’t take back from my enjoyment of the novel. I found it very entertaining and fun to read. It’s amazing what they made for themselves and I always love reading about those in the Arts.

The final ending was anti-climatic and felt rushed. After the majority of the book covering how they met and their time at university, there wasn’t much time to show their reconnection. It relied a lot on the past feelings. The defining theme at the end of the novel makes the conclusion somewhat pleasing.

My rating
I really liked it

4 cup

TV Review: Confess

As a huge fan of Colleen Hoover’s work, I was excited to see the TV adaptation of her ninth novel, Confess.

For a refresh, and for those who haven’t read the book, here’s the summary:

Auburn Reed is determined to rebuild her shattered life and she has no room for mistakes. But when she walks into a Dallas art studio in search of a job, she doesn’t expect to become deeply attracted to the studio’s enigmatic artist, Owen Gentry.

For once, Auburn takes a chance and puts her heart in control, only to discover that Owen is hiding a huge secret. The magnitude of his past threatens to destroy everything Auburn loves most, and the only way to get her life back on track is to cut Owen out of it—but can she do it? [Goodreads]

I tend to tread lightly into adaptations of books, mostly because they are a disappointment. Confess wasn’t my favourite Hoover novel, so I was less worried about them ‘ruining’ the book and more excited to see how it’s adapted.

The series is made up of seven episodes, each lasting 20 minutes. I am super impressed that Elissa Down, the writer and director, managed to jam the major events in the book into the series. So of course, that’s great and the story arc remains very much the same. The actors also did a fabulous job with the script.

I really didn’t like the book version of Auburn. She was a bit flat and nothing made her stick. What Katie Leclerc, who plays Auburn Reed in the show, brought forward was better than in the book. She’s awkward and unsure about herself, especially when it comes to Owen. She is also always with food, which I love more than I should but awkarward+food is also me. Auburn’s always being told what she needs to do and you can really feel how alone she is  because of this. She’s got the pressure of everyone around her but seeking the company of Owen Gentry is her first personal choice.

But of course, this creates conflict in what she’s really moved for and her internal battle is shown through unsent text messages. This was a very awkward, especially when it came to the end of the first episode when AJ is introduced. It made the end of that episode anticlimactic and wasn’t as a big moment as I would have liked.

It was still very true to the book in the case of Trey and Linda. Once a villain, always a villain. I don’t think there is anything that could make me feel anything but hate for the duo. Rock Myers plays the bastard cop, Trey, pretending he’s doing Auburn favours when he’s disturbingly creepy and greedy with his social power as a police officer. Linda (Sherilynn Fenn), acts coolly as she brushes Auburn off several times, refusing to let her see AJ, and scorning Auburn throughout. I do feel like Auburn should have been a bit more sassier with Linda, just because I found many of Auburn’s reactions to Linda annoying and like a child. Though maybe this was to show her helplessness with their relationship.

Ryan Cooper, or as I like to call him ‘fifty shades look alike guy’, also exceeded my expectations. The whole looks thing bugs me, although I’ve read many trailer comments and no one else seems to have a problem with the similarity. I honestly just don’t want people to buy into the TV series as another Fifty Shades! Owen is one of the more complex main characters in the book and although there were touches of his relationship with his father (played by Kyle Secor,), I wish there was more, especially when it comes to his gallery. Secor was a brilliant as Callahan Gentry, calm collected in the presence of other people and nothing like a father when with Owen alone. Even though Callahan pulls through at the end, it isn’t enough to redeem himself from being a shitty father.

I would have liked to seen and hear about Owen’s past relationships. In the book, Owen has always had relationship problems because he’s so focused on his work. But his art doesn’t seem to be too time consuming… we hardly see him do any work!

Inevitably, due to the short series, there are some things that had to be compromised. The most disjointing thing about the series was the time frame that it was given.  It goes from Auburn and Owen meeting to three months later.

Auburn and Owen’s romance becomes an insta-love story instead of the slow build in the book. It was definitely up several notches, including too many ‘steamy’ scenes that just felt like a bit too much. The bar scene after the gallery show was cut. I loved that scene because it was the part of the book where we first read about Owen trying to impress Auburn, as she tries to keep him at arms length. Compromising, they did however they include the ten seconds of dancing, which I did appreciate and found super cute.

Sadly, no shell soaps but they have a variation of the blue tent.

They also seemed to have a really odd backing music throughout many of the scenes and music transitions that were noticeably awkward. Sometimes I felt like the scenes could have done with no music in the background as it took away the moments that were happening on screen.

Overall, I really enjoyed it – I think the first episode is my favourite!

My rating
I really liked it

4 cup

 

There’s a bunch of things that I’ve definitely left out so I’d love to hear what everyone else’s thoughts are about the series!

Even more interesting, I’d love to hear anyone’s thoughts about it if you haven’t read the book.

Comment below and leave your thoughts about the series! Let’s discuss!

Watch the Confess trailer below!

All seven episodes are streamable on Go90. They are also slowly releasing the series on YouTube for those who can’t watch it on Go90!

Read my review of the novel Confess here.

Review: On The Fence by Kasie West

Title: On The Fence
Author: Kasie West
Publication Date: 2014 (HarperTeen)
Pages: 296
Genre: Romance
Format: Paperback

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

For sixteen-year-old Charlotte Reynolds, aka Charlie, being raised by a single dad and three older brothers has its perks. She can outrun, outscore, and outwit every boy she knows—including her longtime neighbor and honorary fourth brother, Braden. But when it comes to being a girl, Charlie doesn’t know the first thing about anything. So when she starts working at chichi boutique to pay off a speeding ticket, she finds herself in a strange new world of makeup, lacy skirts, and BeDazzlers. Even stranger, she’s spending time with a boy who has never seen her tear it up in a pickup game.

To cope with the stress of faking her way through this new reality, Charlie seeks late-night refuge in her backyard, talking out her problems with Braden by the fence that separates them. But their Fence Chats can’t solve Charlie’s biggest problem: she’s falling for Braden. Hard. She knows what it means to go for the win, but if spilling her secret means losing him for good, the stakes just got too high. [Goodreads]

Charlie is the only female in the Reynolds household. The family is chaotic, but only in a normal family way, and I loved the dynamic between them. They look out for one another and annoy each other and have silly jokey dares. It’s nice yet amazing that they bonded so well, though there wasn’t anything remarkably rememberable about them individually. They were  a gang to hang out with and I wish there was a bit more to them. There’s also a point where Charlie says she’s closest to her eldest brother… didn’t really get those vibes and what was his name again?

With her new job at the boutique, tom-boy Charlie is dragged down into the world of fashion and make-up, something she has never touched before. Linda and Skye become Charlie’s outside family, people who she can discuss ‘girly’ things with. She keeps it hidden from her family, not wanting her brothers to tease her about her fashion choices. But it’s also a time where her father realises that Charlie has a lack of female inspiration, and bless him, he starts trying to get Charlie to open up. Although he only has a small part in the novel, you can tell Charlie’s father tries so hard to steer the family in the right direction.

With different people in her life expecting certain things from her, Charlie finds comfort in the longtime family friend and boy-next-door, Braden. Making nightly visits to the fence that separates their houses, they gather their thoughts in the quiet of the evening. And if this book has taught me anything about Wests’ writing, it is she can ace awkward scenes. It’s easy to jump to conclusions and make assumptions when you’re caught up in your own head and it’s exactly what Charlie does…. It plays out so so so well and I felt it all. It was totally relatable for me at my age and I am way beyond Charlie’s youthful sixteen year old age.

A fish out of water when it comes to adulting and trying to find her place, this is a coming-of-age-esque novel, this books sees through first romances, mistakes and mending of old wounds. Worth checking out and adding to your summer reading list!

I can’t wait to get through all her books – I wish I picked them up earlier!!

My rating
I really liked it

4 cup

Short Story: Grains of Rice

It’s five o’clock and I make my way down to the kitchen. I take out the vegetables that will accompany my rice. I cut my garlic into small cubes before moving onto the rest of the ingredients. The onion in slices, the leek cut diagonally and the peppers into strips. I slowly sweat down the onions, add the garlic before throwing in the leeks and peppers.

“That smells really good,” says my housemate as he opens the fridge door and takes out a ready meal, “I swear you’re the only one who cooks nice things, Karen.” He’s wearing a grey hoodie, the hood up, and a pair of long shorts. Apparently the cold doesn’t get to him, which is odd because why would you wear a hoodie if you weren’t cold? I’m dressed in so many layers, I look like a human marshmallow.

“Thanks,” I say.

He stabs the plastic cover of his ready meal several times with a pair of scissors and I jump twice at the first two stabs. The microwave-hum choruses with the sizzling of my stir-fry, his lasagne starting its time. He grabs a small handful of salad before carefully counting five tomatoes and placing the remaining packet of salad and tomatoes in the fridge. A rustling sound destroys the kitchen symphonies as he starts to devour a packet of crisps. He shakes the packet towards me. No thanks I say, poking my stir-fry. He shrugs, sucking his flavoured fingertips and going in for more.

He pushes his hood off his head and runs his seasoned hand through his wet hair. He’s come back from the gym, he’s starving, he tells me. I tell him I am too.

I throw in cubes of tofu and black bean sauce into my vegetables and toss. A home comfort I typically enjoy making without the pollution of the tomato sauce floating in the air.

The microwave dings and my housemate pops the door open. I try not to analyse his eating habits but I can’t help it when it’s right in front of me. So much effort cooking, he says, who can be asked?

Yeah… totally.

I can imagine my mum telling him how little vegetables he has on his plate. She used to tell me when I was younger that vegetables never fill up your stomach. I think it was a way to make me eat the last piece of broccoli that remained at dinner.

“You have one and I will have one,” my mum would say.

I would agree and go to the rice cooker to scoop more jasmine rice into my bowl. I’d grab the piece of broccoli with my ivory chopsticks, my Chinese name engraved at the top. A slice of garlic would attach itself to my broccoli floret and I’d shake off onto the white disposable table cover that gets laid out every evening. Taking a bite, I’d put it down and place the bowl to my lip, pushing the rice into my mouth with my chopsticks.

“Make sure you eat the last mouthful of rice,” my mum would say.

Any rice that would remain meant a spot on my husband’s face. That’s what she told me and my big sister. Sometimes I’d leave half a bowl of rice, defeated by the need to eat the dishes in the centre. Home-roasted duck with plum sauce, pork pulled out of the pot of soup with goji berries and black-eyed beans and a plate of steamed Chinese cabbage. What we didn’t eat would be put into bowls and covered with cling film.

“We have so much to eat for the rest of the week!” my mum would beam, “only need to cook more vegetables.”

Every dinner was a family feast with leftovers to last at least two days, sometimes three.

For my housemate, back at home, it was a new meal every day. What he doesn’t eat is fed to the bin because eating it again the next day is unappealing. He’d learnt that at home. Everyone in his family had individual plates that they had to eat off of. Thursday was take-out evening, usually Chinese. Spring rolls, satay chicken and egg fried rice. It was the only meal where everyone sat together to eat. As they shovelled the food in their mouths, the plate balancing on their laps, the television would talk for them. That was not what I called a family meal.

My mum used to tell me about how it was back in Hong Kong. Her mother’s dining room table only big enough to fit half the family. So they would have to feed everyone in batches. As one half ate, the other half sat in front of the television and watched an Asian drama full of slapstick action. Ones where someone would dramatically hanging from the ledge of a tall building shouting whilst their saviour would trip over wide-eyed as they run over. My grandpa would laugh out loud in his reclined chair, whilst everyone else sat on the sofa, a mahogany bench with a cushioned seat.

My mum would be positioned by the sink. As the first dinner came to an end, she would be at the sink cleaning the white porcelain bowls and chopsticks. Her mother would be cooking another round of vegetables for the next lot of people in the wok.

A family feeding the family, an evening filled with nonverbal words of satisfaction. Pointing to a plate, this one is good, eat, eat, very good.

I sometimes wish we had more family members in the UK. But we’re just a table of four. My dad, my mum, my sister and me. My mum is the chef in our house, so it leaves me and my sister to set up the dinner table, dish out the rice and place a small dish of soy sauce in between the meat and the soup contents. Then we’d sit and wait. My sister would bounce in her seat, she hardly cooks Chinese food at her home. My dad would have his chopsticks poised, ready to pick at my mum’s homemade char-sui pork.

“Eat, eat,” my mum would say as she’d scurry to the table, holding the final centre dish in her hands and placing it down when she sits.

As we eat we’d make loud non-verbal sounds of enjoyment to ensure our mum would know we’d eat well tonight.

“Mmmmm, so good!”

In between those sounds, my dad would discuss his day at work and we’d all chime in. School was a drag, I need to study tonight, the supermarket was busy. Every small detail important like how the mangos are only seventy-nine pence instead of one pound. Our discussion switching between English and Cantonese.

*

Last week, my housemate had just come back from buying more ready meals and was stacking them up on his shelf. He found a carrot tucked away at the back of his shelf.

“I’m not going to eat it,” he said, waving the carrot around, “Do you want it?”

I did. It was perfectly fine in my eyes but would he find that disgusting? Am I disgusting to want to eat it? It had shrunk in size and was soft and squishy.

I shook my head and he tossed it into the bin.

“Well, if you really want it you can reach in and get it,” my mum told me on the phone, “just wash it off.”

And so I did. He started throwing away his spotty bananas, after he told us he only ate green ones. Six bananas only just starting to form black dots, no bruising in sight. When the kitchen was empty, I counted to twenty to make sure no one would come out of their rooms. Then I reached in and grabbed the goods.

His pickiness with food is in my favour. It’s like those bargain hours at the supermarket except is free and I didn’t need to leave the house.

My family typically made their way to the supermarket every Sunday, buying all the discount goods that lined the shelves. Sometimes we go wild and go during a weekday, it really depended on our cravings. People have their vouchers for discounts, we have our love for the yellow sticker discount barcodes.

It was like a weekly family trip, circling the aisles, waiting for the workers to discount the New York onion bagels, for my dad to take to work. Sometimes we’d manage to beat people to the out-of-date spinach and bags of disregarded bashed up bananas for sixty pence. My mum would hover by the chilled fish counter, ready to buy the rainbow trout as soon the price drops. We’d steam it and top it with fried ginger, spring onion strips and soy sauce.

As I turn the heat off of my pan, I scoop my tofu dish into one of my pasta bowls. I go to the fridge and scoop some left over rice into my bowl and microwave it, heating it until the cling film creates a dome over the bowl from the heat.

I can hear my housemate slurping his food down before I reach the table. His tomatoes have probably rolled an inch round his plate but they all still remain there. All five of them, there for the aesthetics, along with the leafy greens that bring brightness to the plate.

I am envious that he can eat ready meals and seem visibly okay. His shopping bags normally also contain three packets of large chocolate bars and two big bags of crisps, contrasting with the amount of greens found in my bags.

I have tried eating his way. My dad has bought a discounted ready meal before, it was too much sauce not enough pasta. We ended up dipping pieces of bread in the sauce to not waste it.

My housemate told me that the Thai curry and the meatball spaghetti were the best ones. The chicken roast and raviolis are not good, he had tasted them and was disappointed. I gleefully took his advice since I was a newbie in this area. He’s made his way through enough so he’s got to know what’s worth his money. The rich tomato sauce with basil filled the kitchen and it coaxed out my housemate. He had the meatball spaghetti that evening too.

My first bite was exciting and flavoursome. Then the slimy and sloppy texture, the dull browny-red colours and the overexposure to salt bored me. I felt my body absorbing more oil than nutrition. I felt like a lump of mash potato after the week of ready meals had come to an end. So I celebrated by spending more than two hours in the kitchen making a homemade falafel burger with sweet potato French fries and a side salad. I happily ate all of it. I am a slave for food.

He doesn’t change his posture as I take my seat opposite him. In one hand he holds his phone, scrolling through it with his thumb, and in the other is his fork. He’s not here for conversation. Doesn’t care for green tea that is one pound rather than two pound fifty.

He’s hunched over, his legs spread around a small coffee table that the landlord thought was a good alternative for a dining table.

Apart from the stubble that covers the lower half of his oblong-shaped face, there isn’t a blemish in sight. So I guess I don’t need to worry about him making an impacted on my life.