I was kindly given an ARC of this novel by Strange Chemistry, a division of Angry Robot, a publishing company which I adore, in exchange for a review.

Below there be spoilers…if you can call them spoilers.

The cover for THE HOLDERS

A kind of bland cover…kind of fitting, actually.

I’m aware that this novel is still in the process of being edited, so I won’t judge it by the fact that, during the last chapter, some of the characters play an “evening round of Scrabble” when it is, apparently, “the morning”. But anyways…

So, a potentially great story ruined by the same ol’ tropes in YA fantasy. Oh joy. Didn’t see that coming. *cough* The characters were really cool (and could have been even cooler), but the dialogue was stilted beyond belief, and things didn’t really start picking up until the third chapter at least, and then they fell off again for far too long. To be honest, I only continued reading because I was planning to review it. The twists were visible a mile off (or at least three chapters beforehand), and, to have careened off the edge of creativity to conform to such lazy, unintelligent plot movement is shameful. Maybe, though I don’t think so, the novel was aimed for younger readers? I find that hard to believe however, as the protagonist is a seventeen-year-old, who graduated early (due to her “intelligence”) at age fifteen.

We’ve seen these stories before, Ms. Scott, and to think you showed such promise at the beginning…I was so excited to be involved with someone who wasn’t endowed with special abilities, wasn’t ‘the chosen one’, wasn’t ‘fated to be with her one true love’, buuuuttt…oh well.

Worth a read if you’re looking for something quick and easy: no concentration required.


PS. I was sorely disappointed with this foray into YA from Angry Robot (Strange Chemistry, whatever). I love Angry Robot, so please don’t let this deter you from some excellent reads…maybe, if you’re like me, steer away from Strange Chemistry?


Quick Lit Reviews — Part One

QUICK LIT REVIEWS – Reviews in less than twenty-five words!

Dash and Lily’s Book of Daresby David Levithan and Rachel Cohn (2010).

(I received this book as an ARC just the other day, although it’s been in publication for over two years now. Huh, go figure.)

A solid, fun read. I especially liked the melodrama towards the end of being kind-of-famous. A light-hearted look at the heart.

★★★★☆ 4/5

Book cover for 'Dash and Lily's Book of Dares'

The book cover for ‘Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares’.

Double Post: In Which I Review a Film, and an Album

I haven’t written anything for what feels like a while, so I decided it was high time to write another post. And then I realised that I actually have quite a lot to talk about, so: DOUBLE POST! These might become a regular thing what with Uni starting up soon (enrolment day is soon! So excited!), but we’ll see how we go!

The Film: I Give it a Year

(Directed and written by Dan Mazer; 2013.)


What the screen showed for the excessively long time before the film started.

So, I won a double pass to see the world premiere of this British rom-com, from the producers of Love, Actually and Bridget Jones’ Diary, two of my very most favourite films. It was kind of cool that we were watching it in Sydney even before the premiere in London (where it was filmed!) was taking place, but putting me – a country bumpkin – into the City with a person equally as clueless about its unspoken rules and as unaccustomed to JUST HOW BUSY it actually is (a.k.a. my mother), maybe wasn’t such a great idea. However: we managed to buy dinner from a pizzeria (with extremely steep prices and greasy food) after spending close to an hour looking for a Thai restaurant that my phone was convinced lived inside a pub (an hour which involved two last minute retreats from a seedy Chinese restaurant-cum-potential-brothel, and an overpriced French café with a woman who practically whispered what the specials were).

We finally got our food, but, as there was nowhere to sit, we went to Event Cinemas George Street, and ate our couple of slices of pizza while sitting at a Subway. It was so frigging busy that there was barely room to move, but we managed to get a table, next to two women who (graciously) offered to block our subversion of Subway rules from view. After we’d finished eating, our ticket told us to go on the red (read: pink) carpet BEFORE the recommended time (which was 6:45), so we got there at 6:30, thinking that was what they meant. They weren’t quite ready, so Mum spent a few minutes talking to an awkward security guard (guardess?) who was pretty much clueless about what was going on. Except that Rosa Byrne would be in appearance (It’s actually Rose Byrne, dear, not Rosa. And she’s been in more than Bridesmaids.) So, at about 6:40, we were allowed onto the red (again, read: pink) carpet.

Stupid, stupid us.

We thought we would be able to wait at the sides until Rose “Rosa” Byrne came onto the scene, but we were hustled along until we had walked off the carpet (there were caged pigeons and bouquets of flowers on pedestals, made to look like a wedding aisle…so kind of MEGA-AWKWARD walking down it with my mother) and mounted the single-file elevators, at the top of which we used the toilets and nearly walked into a session of Hitchcock. We eventually found the right cinema (again, heavily guarded) and got comfortable seats. Except it was one of those love-seats, you know, without the armrest in the middle? Yeah, it was me and my mother — on a love-seat. Ahem, I digress. (It was actually okay. There was plenty of room.)


See? It was fine.

And then we waited for about forty-five minutes, for others to file in and find their seats. Forty-five minutes. Needless to say, it dragged on. There were twenty free double-passes in the competition that I entered, but apart from those people and perhaps employees of Hopscotch Films, I had no idea who the rest were. Probably high-falutin lawyers and doctors and maybe review columnists or something. But they were ALL FRIENDS. “Oh hey Bill, we saved you a seat.” “Thanks Nancy, room for three more?” Eugh. I felt so…uncultured. Even though I was wearing a frigging suit. And it was HOT.

Then the CEO or whatever of Hopscotch films said a few words, and welcomed Rose Byrne to introduce the film (the first time, and only time, I saw her in real life: about fifty metres away…maybe even more) and she literally said, as close to verbatim as possible:

“It’s so hard to walk in these shoes! Uh, anyway, thanks for coming guys, and a special thanks to my friends and family in those rows there [motions towards said rows]. Hope you enjoy the film!”

Yeah. I know, right? Bit of a let down. I was hoping to maybe kind of see her a little bit closer. Perhaps even shake her hand? (I’m not one for autographs, although, if I was, I would’ve hoped for at least an autograph seeing as I won the tickets and all.) But no.

The film itself? Well, I’m afraid to say, my story about BEFORE the film was more exciting than the film. Sure, there were some pretty funny parts, but they were sporadic, and the humour was badly timed. I honestly think whoever edited the trailer should have edited the film. The timing for punchlines and stuff was atrocious. And the storyline was mediocre.

What I believe happened was that the film had too wide a target audience, too generic an idea of who they wanted to please. And we all know you can’t please everybody. But they tried. And so they pleased hardly anybody. (Well, not me or a few other reviews I’ve read, at any rate.)  The attempt at shock they tried ended up just being crude (What more did I expect from the creator of Borat?). But there were a few good points, Rose Byrne was excellent, as was Rafe Spall and Simon Baker, and Anna Faris wasn’t too bad either. The relationship between Rose Byrne’s character and Minnie Driver’s was a bit confusing. It took me FAR too long to realise they were sisters. Maybe I’m just slow? But I love Minnie Driver, so even if I didn’t know exactly who her character was, it was nice to see her in there. Oh, and there were a few parts that were funny, but I’m struggling to remember those right now.

WARNING: Below there be spoilers.

[Spoiler Alert.]

All in all, the ending was yuck and awkward, but that may be because of my beliefs as a Christian. I thought they would’ve at least tried to persevere with their marriage.

[End Spoiler Alert.]

Warning: Above there be spoilers.

So, it was a night out, at least (which I don’t have many of), and the film was okay. At least I know I won’t be wasting money seeing it because the trailer looked good (that’s probably the point of trailers, hey?) and I give it a grand total of 6/10. Watch it at your own discretion.

The Album: +

(Artist: Ed Sheeran; 2011.)


The [appropriately ginger-themed] cover of Ed Sheeran’s album, +.

I’ve never reviewed a song before, let alone a whole album, but may as well start big, eh? Anyway, so I’m going to do each song individually, with my impressions on the song, and a few of my favourite lines, whether it’s because I connected with them, appreciated their poetry, thought they were particularly clever, or any of the usual reasons people like song lyrics. And, just to protect myself, I know songs are very subjective, so what I think they mean, may not be at ALL what they mean, so any comments are more than welcome. Without further ado…

‘The A Team’ — Such an amazingly well-written insight into life on the streets: drug addiction, prostitution and depression. It’s one of my favourite songs, with pretty much every line resonating within me, BUT, a few standout lines are:

“And they scream

The worst things in life come free to us

‘Cause we’re just under the upper hand

And go mad for a couple grammes,

And she don’t want to go outside tonight,

And in a pipe she flies to the Motherland”

‘Drunk’ — A more upbeat song than ‘The A Team’, but still, it seems to me, tinged with regret and longing for the past. I’m not sure what the lyrics really mean to Ed Sheeran, but, in my opinion, it seems as if he’s singing about a typical night out, where people get drunk to drown their sorrows. But, again, I don’t know. Worth a listen, though.

“I want to hold your heart in both hands

Not watch it fizzle at the bottom of a Coke can…

On cold days cold plays out like the band’s name

I know I can’t heal things with a handshake”

‘U.N.I.’ — Interspersing [almost] rap with actual singing creates an unusual effect, which is probably appropriate for this break-up song. It might sound angsty, but it’s actually executed really well, with the rapped sections said quickly to emphasise the passing of time as “Weeks pass in the blink of an eye”.

“That’s why you and I ended over U.N.I.

And I said that’s fine, but you’re the only one that knows I lied…

Pain is only relevant if it still hurts”

‘Grade 8’ — A fast-paced, edgier song than anything previous. Shortest song on the album (by five seconds), but it really does whiz by. I think the Grade 8 is in reference to a musical level or something…?

“My eyes are a river filler,

This drink is a liver killer,

My chest is a pillow for your weary head to lay to rest again,

Your body is my ballpoint pen,

And your mind is my new best friend”

‘Wake Me Up’ — I think this song is about the blossoming of a relationship. It’s kind of beautiful, with just the keys and vocals, and the juxtaposition of the slow, peaceful music, and conversational tone just makes this stronger.

“And I know you love Shrek,

‘Cause we’ve watched it twelve times,

But maybe you’re hoping for a fairytale too…

So I’ll take you to the beach

And walk along the sand

And I’ll make you a heart pendant

With a pebble held in my hand

And I’ll carve it like a necklace,

So the heart falls where your chest is

And now a piece of me is a piece of the beach

And it falls just where it needs to be

And rests peacefully

So you just need to breathe

To feel my heart against yours now, against yours now”

‘Small Bump’ — One of the saddest songs I’ve heard in a long while. Apparently it’s based off true events, but I may be wrong; a friend of Ed Sheeran’s had a miscarriage. It epitomises that search for meaning amidst despair. It’s beautifully, heart-wrenchingly tragic, especially the last two lines:

“‘Cause you were just a small bump unborn for four months then torn from life.

Maybe you were needed up there, but we’re still unaware as why.”

‘This’ — A smooth, acoustic exploration of that moment when a person realises that they’re falling in love.

“You are the earth that I will stand upon,

You are the words that I will sing”

‘The City’ — This one seems to be about the experience of living in London for the first time, about all the unfamiliarity keeping you up, “And if the City never sleeps | Then that makes two.” It as a dark, noir feel to it…I can’t really describe it. There’s some beat-boxing in the background, which I normally don’t like, but it really adds to this track.

“Sirens bleed through my windowsill…

Sleep fills my mind…

The traffic stops and starts

But I need to move along”

‘Lego House’ — I don’t really know what to say about this piece. The videoclip on YouTube is really quite eerie. I don’t know if it reflects the song in anyway, because it totally threw my prior interpretation of it out the window.

“I’m going to paint you by numbers

 And colour you in

If things go right, we can frame it and put you on a wall.

And it’s so hard to say it, but I’ve been here before

Now I’ll surrender up my heart

And swap it for yours”

‘You Need Me, I Don’t Need You’ — Wow. A full on explanation (complete with expletives) of why somebody is not needed by Ed Sheeran. I don’t know the story behind the song, but I love how Ed puts all this personal stuff into the lyrics. There’s too much to put here, as the whole song is pretty much rapped (one of the only songs in rap that I can even bear to tolerate — but I actually kind of like this one), but a few lines are as follows:

“I can’t last if I’m smoking on a crack pipe.

And I won’t be a product of my genre,

My mind will always be stronger than my songs are…

I’m still the same as a year ago but more people hear me though

According to the MySpace and YouTube videos…

They say I’m up-and-coming like I’m f***ing in an elevator”

‘Kiss Me’ — Never having kissed anyone romantically before (no judgement required, thanks all the same), I’m no expert on the matter, but I think the title is particularly helpful in ascertaining that this song is in fact, about kissing. I do believe that physical contact in a relationship is important, and that it doesn’t necessarily have to lead to sex, and I think this song really focusses on just the simple romanticism in kissing and being held, and I love that it can remain simple and true, without becoming pretentious.

“Settle down with me,

And I’ll be your safety,

You’ll be my lady…

My heart’s against your chest, your lips pressed to my neck”

‘Give Me Love’ [with ‘The Parting Glass’] — Humanity’s yearning to be loved; is there anything more fundamental? Ed Sheeran, I feel, truly expresses the desperation and intense longing that drives us, in this track. Also, there’s a HIDDEN TRACK inside this one!! Mega-surprise!! (I did wonder, though, why it went for nearly nine minutes, when the radio version went for less than five — all is revealed!)

“Give a little time to me, or burn this out,

We’ll play hide and seek to turn this around

All I want is the taste that your lips allow…”

‘The Parting Glass’ [from ‘Give Me Love’] — Reminiscent of a Christmas carol, this song is about death. The slow melodiousness of the track makes it appear almost holy, sacred, and is perfectly fitting for a funeral song. It uses the parting glass as a symbol for remembrance, but not for despair. I really like this song, despite the subject matter, and if I had a choice in my own funeral song, this would be it. (Sombre, I know…blame Ed Sheeran!)

“A man may drink and not be drunk,

A man may fight and not be slain,

A man may court a pretty girl,

And perhaps be welcomed back again,

But since it has so ought to be,

By a time to rise and a time to fall,

Come fill to me the parting glass,

Good night and joy be with you all,

Good night and joy be with you all.

[All lyrics in this post © Ed Sheeran, 2011.]

OVERALL: I absolutely love these songs — they each seem to speak to a different part of me. And I especially love how poetically inclined Sheeran is; I’m sick of hearing songs about junk (I’m sure you can think of plenty that are making the rounds these days), but Sheeran uses words meticulously, and certainly has a talent in songwriting, as well as (obviously) in singing. I expect to see great things from him in the future!

Any thoughts? Comments? Feel free to make yourself heard below!


[Random Side-note:] Why do people insist on spelling “God” without a capital? Even if you don’t believe there is a god (“god” being used here without a capital, as it signifies a common noun), when referencing God without a capital…I mean, it’s just incorrect grammar. Proper nouns have capitals – Paris, Yolanda, the Harbour Bridge – so why is God any exception? Seriously, I’m genuinely curious why people insist on spelling “God” without a capital. Any ideas?

Ender’s Game

I recently read a fantastic novel by the name of Ender’s Game. It’s science-fiction, something that I don’t read much of (if anything, I’d read more fantasy than sci-fi), by a Mormon man named Orson Scott Card. I’d previously read a book by him on how to better your writing skills, and his easy-to-read conversational tone and interesting examples made me curious to see what else he had out there.

The rather cool (I think) book cover.

He states in the introduction to this novel that he wanted the story to be just that: a story for story’s sake. Sure, you could play the literary criticism game if you wanted to, but he wanted it to be enjoyed primarily for the story it presented. I loved it. I also couldn’t help but take note of the various themes and issues he brought up, such as the meaning of family, leadership, war, invasion and free will.

To sum up the plot without any spoilers, it’s about a boy, Andrew ‘Ender’ Wiggin, who is selected at an early age to train in space to become part of the Earth’s fighting force (in preparation for the Third Invasion of the buggers, an insect-like alien race). It’s about his journey into adulthood well before his years, but also about how this backfires, and his subsequent reticence into revealing his true self. It is clear he is exceptional, but is he being pushed too far because of it?

There were a few not-so-exciting chapters, or, at least, they did not speak to me as strongly as Ender’s parts did. They were the ones describing his brother’s and sister’s lives back on Earth, and got rather political. However, I did find them somewhat necessary to enjoy later parts of the story, and overall, they did not ruin the flow of the tale much, if at all.

AND THE ENDING. Sublime, in my opinion. It was almost too fitting – there’s five more books in the series, but I’m content with ending it there. But then again, I’m eager to go on another journey with Ender Wiggin.

There’s also a film version coming out sometime this year, and, needless to say, I’m quite excited about that. But maybe my high expectations will ruin my cinematic experience. What say you?

A showdown between Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) and Ender (Asa Butterfield).