Hero at the Fall (Rebel of the Sands #3) Review or sand, sand everywhere, but not a drop to- yuck.

When gunslinging Amani Al’Hiza escaped her dead-end town, she never imagined she’d join a revolution, let alone lead one. But after the bloodthirsty Sultan of Miraji imprisoned the Rebel Prince Ahmed in the mythical city of Eremot, she doesn’t have a choice. Armed with only her revolver, her wits, and her untameable Demdji powers, Amani must rally her skeleton crew of rebels for a rescue mission through the unforgiving desert to a place that, according to maps, doesn’t exist. As she watches those she loves most lay their lives on the line against ghouls and enemy soldiers, Amani questions whether she can be the leader they need or if she is leading them all to their deaths.

[SPOILERS] potentially if you haven’t read the first two in the Rebel of the Sands series.

I usually find that the final book in a series is a risk. What if they don’t end like you want them to? What if they leave you wanting too much more that you just end up resenting the series for being over rather than enjoying it?

So when I started Hero I was both excited to finally read more about Armani’s universe and life, but also nervous that I’d built it up too much in my head and it wouldn’t live up to that.

But really, there was only one thing that I didn’t like about it, and so that’s why I’m dropping off half a star in my rating to 4.5 stars: the beginning was a tiny bit too slow for me.

And that’s it. That’s all I could find to dislike about Hero.

The rest was fast-paced and interesting and heartbreaking and all the feelings you’re supposed to feel when you read a good book.

People died, and others survived, and plenty of people were different at the end. And that was so good to read.

I also think the storytelling feel of these stories really adds so much to them and gives them a whole new level. You get to step back from the plot for a second and unravel a character and how they got to that point, then jump right back in. You get to read about how everything turns out in a fast pace but while also feeling like you’re still there with the characters.

It gives it a homeliness that I don’t usually get with the books I read. Like someone is reading it to me instead of me reading it in my own head.

Though I do remember struggling with Traitor to the Throne to get back into the characters and remember who was who, I can’t really say if this book would have had that issue too because I read it so much sooner after finishing the previous one. However, I think the characters were all so individual and clear that I don’t think I’d have struggled for long.

It was also nice to have a change of pace and scenery. From Traitor where Amani spends most of the book in one location to Hero where she roams almost the entire way across the desert again, it was an extreme shift that I loved. Both got to show a different side to Amani and the map in the front of the book helped so much in keeping track of her and the other members of the rebellion.

Overall, I loved this story and the characters, and I’ll miss them all so much. This book made me actually cry at points, which takes a lot for me, and at other times I found myself smiling just because of one particular paragraph.

It was a rollercoaster of emotions and a lovely read. I’ve never been more satisfied at the end of a trilogy before. Alwyn Hamilton has an amazing and unique voice and I hope to read a lot more from her in the future.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

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Determined to read my TBR – a promise to myself

I’ve spent far too long recently thinking “oh god I can’t wait to read that book, and that book, and that book…”

Well finally, I’m actually going to do it! And to show myself that I will, I’m going to list some books that I’ve been saying I’ll read for far too long. I’m going to make a promise to myself to actually get around to reading them.

To be fair, one or two of these are more modern releases that I put on this list just so they don’t become one of those “oh I meant to read that!” books and thus continue my cycle.

Anywhoo, without further ado, here is my list: (click on the titles to go to the goodreads page for each book.)

Invictus – Ryan Graudin

This will be a common theme in this TBR list, but I actually started reading this book and then just…never finished it. I only reached around page 100 and then couldn’t go any further and honestly, I couldn’t say why.

I was in a book slump and a not so happy period of my life, so just couldn’t get in to much, but then I never picked the books I dropped during that time back up afterwards and I’ve been meaning to for so long.

Besides, a book about time travel?? That just sounds like something I’d love!

Before She Ignites – Jodi Meadows

You’ve guessed it, this is another book that I started during a book slump and never went back to.

Now seems like a great time to pick this on back up, especially since I read The Last Namsara recently and it got me into such a dragon obsession for a while. What better to keep that going than another book about dragons?

I loved the Incarnate series by Jodi Meadows, so I’m sure that I’ll love this book just as much. Now I just need to read the thing!

Golden Son – Pierce Brown

This is the first book on my list that isn’t one I gave up on! Instead, this book is the second in a series that I’ve been “meaning to buy” for a while after completely loving Red Rising, the first in the series.

I do this a fair bit, but with this series I actually managed to find the next two books after Red Rising in a charity book sale recently, so of course I bought them!

Therefore, I’ve got no excuse to finally continue this awesome series. Bring it on!

Daughter of the Burning City – Amanda Foody

This book is one I got in a book subscription box, FairyLoot’s July 2017 box, thought sounded so cool, and then just never picked up.

I mean, I love circus or carnival based books so much, and this has that and powers and mystery and so much more, why wouldn’t I love it?

So I’m finally going to get to this, and then Amanda Foody has a new book coming out this year called Ace of Shades so I’ll be looking forward to that even more I’m sure!

Solitaire – Alice Oseman

Alice Oseman is one of my sister’s absolute favourite authors. Not only because her writing is so good, but also because she has so much representation in her books, races, sexualities, personalities, they’re so full!

So of course, since she’s bringing out another book this year that sounds so great, I can’t let myself stay so behind on her books!

To be honest though, this book sort of scared me when it first came out. I struggle with anxiety and depression, so reading about someone having so much stress/depression around the same time I was having the same felt a bit too much for me at the time. And ever since then that residual fear has kind of stuck to this book and made me hesitate when picking it up.

Well I refuse to be scared any more, and I’m putting it on my list!

The Cruel Prince – Holly Black

This is slightly unique in this list. I recently got The Cruel Prince in my January Fairyloot box and also from a Goodreads giveaway so… I have two copies! But also, it’s a much newer book than any other one on the list, not one I’ve been meaning to get to.

Even so, I think this deserves to be on here just so it doesn’t get left behind, because it’s a faerie book and by Holly Black who I absolutely love. Besides, it’s my list, I can do what I want! (So there.)

I’m looking forward to this.

Crown of Midnight – Sarah J. Maas

And finally! Drumroll… Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas.

I read Throne of Glass, the first in this series, a while ago and re-read it recently with the sole purpose of starting Crown of Midnight.

Unfortunately I was in a bad book slump at the time and I just couldn’t get past around page 90 before I admitted defeat and put it back on the shelf.

Well now I’m trying again! Out of my book slump and determined to finish this and get on to the later books in this series.

I’ve heard so much about this series and the characters in it that I can’t wait to get to know them all and understand everything I see on the internet about this series finally!

And that wraps up my TBR list. I’m thinking I’ll give myself a couple of months to get through these to really make sure I have time, barring anything dramatic happening it should be fine.

So… wish me luck! Let me know if you’ll be reading any of these alongside me, I might need fellow people to obsess with.

The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson Review or Not-as-much-kissing-as-expected

A princess must find her place in a reborn world.

She flees on her wedding day.

She steals ancient documents from the Chancellor’s secret collection.

She is pursued by bounty hunters sent by her own father.

She is Princess Lia, seventeen, First Daughter of the House of Morrighan.

The Kingdom of Morrighan is steeped in tradition and the stories of a bygone world, but some traditions Lia can’t abide. Like having to marry someone she’s never met to secure a political alliance.

Fed up and ready for a new life, Lia flees to a distant village on the morning of her wedding. She settles in among the common folk, intrigued when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive—and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assassin sent to kill her. Deceptions swirl and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets—secrets that may unravel her world—even as she feels herself falling in love.

I’m generally bad at being mean about things, especially books. I like to imagine the author writing them and then get sad if I don’t like the writing because my imaginary (and I’m sure the real) author worked so hard to get it out to people!

But that only explains my three star rating for a fairly meh book overall.

It had so much promise: the first daughters with ‘the gift’, the running away from an arranged marriage, the assassin and prince both arriving on her doorstep and her not knowing who is who! That all sounds pretty exciting, and a lot of the things I like reading about when I want a comfort read.

But it wasn’t executed particularly well for me. There were lots of times when things were told and not shown, especially when new chapters started. A lot of ‘I turned up there because this happened and then this did, and so here I am.’ Like, I want to see all of that, to feel the reactions of the characters and to know more about how they handle every situation. To bond, basically.

In saying that, this book somehow also managed to overstay its welcome in certain scenes. It’s not like I want daring sword fights to the death in every chapter, but almost half a book being just ‘I settled into this town and then two guys show up’ was a bit much. I think I was 300 pages in when something really happened to drive the plot forward.

I did however love the main character, Lia was so nice and exactly how I thought a rebelling princess would be. Unfortunately I wanted to see even more of this too. Just a bit more in the palace showing her rebelling in little ways leading up to her wedding day would have really rounded her out I think, and shown the contrast between how she was expected to be and who she wanted to be in the town she escaped to much more.

Only once the plot starts moving forward in the last third did I really get what I wanted to see in her. More fire and emotions and her really coming into her own.

Oh, also, there was one scene that I almost laughed at. *Minor spoilers* here for those trying to avoid them.

There’s a scene where the Prince and his crew are talking about Lia and finding out more about her through the Prince and his description. This, to me, sounded much more like a stereotypical ‘girl chat’ than any conversation I’ve heard before. He goes all mushy all of a sudden, out of character, and then literally goes ‘and the kiss…’ *deep sigh* And his friends go ‘It was that good??’

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had that level of stereotypical girl talk with all of my best friends, even when we’re being especially gossipy! It threw me out of the story a little and seemed jarring in terms of the Prince’s character.

Overall, I still think this book is a good easy read, if you don’t mind ignoring a lot of plot issues and being flexible with your character development, and I might even read the second book in the series in future if I run out of books I can just read for fun and turn my brain off during. (You need those every now and again, to escape daily stresses.) But, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to all of my friends.

P.S. Though look at that gorgeous cover! If anything, it’ll look good on your shelves.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Gemina (Illuminae Files #2) Review or why space rules!

[[SPOILERS]] If you haven’t read Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff then look away now! Or not, I suppose, I’ve made sure not to include any spoilers in my review. It’s up to you!

Gemina is book two of The Illuminae Files series and the blurb is as follows:

Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminae continues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault.

Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.

But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.

It’s a hard ask for a book to follow Illuminae, especially given how much attention this series has had by book-lovers and bloggers alike. So to be able to live up to the hype, this book easily deserves its five stars from me.

The format is so clever, being documents and messages, that you actually don’t get to see the characters as you usually would. Normally you’d get little body language quirks to get to know someone and see how they feel in a scene and know more of their personality. With messages, all of the character development is in their language and how they speak. It’s so limited but somehow every character has their own voice so well.The drama and intrigue was so exciting, and I think started even faster than in Illuminae, which was nice since the mystery was a little less creepy than the first book so this helped to balance it out.

One minor point, so minor I haven’t removed any fraction of a star for it, was that the ending was a teeny bit rushed for me. Having the drama and explanation of the big issue built up so much and so slowly, the ending then felt a little quick and easy in comparison. But really, this wasn’t as big an issue as it usually is in other books for me, given how overall amazing I thought this book was.Hanna and Nik are also more flawed than Kady and Ezra were in Illuminae, but I think I like them just as much because of that. Anti-heroes are my kryptonite so sue me!

In general, this book and its format are going to be one of my favourites of 2018 and I am on the absolute edge of my seat waiting for Obsidio! (Third in the series) I have no idea how I’ll manage the wait.

Star rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Anxiety paranoia or reality?

I had an extremely anxious day yesterday. Something happened that just set me off and I had periodic anxiety attacks through the whole day on and off. It wasn’t fun.

I thought it would fade with a nice night in and a good night’s sleep, but I woke up today with an overarching feeling of dread and just general ‘bleh’ness.

No major anxiety attacks but a general black cloud of meh.

As my anxiety is very socially focused and tends to make me feel like I’m not good enough in every aspect you can think of, obviously this has had some affect on how I’ve been interacting with people today.

Everything I say seems to fall flat, people even remotely avoiding eye contact with me makes me think they hate me, the world is a little greyer.

That feeling of ‘am I really paranoid today or did my colleague just avoid eye contact with me when I spoke?’, ‘Was that laugh a pity laugh?’, ‘They’re just not telling me but I hurt their feelings somehow and now they don’t want to be my friend.’ ‘Yep, that must be it. I just think it’s my anxiety paranoia, when it’s really all my fault. Totally.’

It’s exhausting on these sorts of days, but what’s more annoying is the feeling that if people knew more about what you were going through, it wouldn’t even help. It would just make you look weak, or risk some sort of promotion you were going for, or make people think you were faking it. Any of the above and many more damaging thoughts alongside them.

Mental health is a tough topic, and it still hasn’t been properly understood in the general public enough to help people think they can be more open and honest about needing any kind of help.

That fear, mixed with the fear that this isn’t even just a blip. It isn’t just a couple of anxious days you’re going to have to go through till you come out the other side. It’s just how you are now. That’s what scares me the most.

That one of these days I’ll stop being able to pull myself out of it.

But today isn’t going to be that day, I just refuse.

I’ll keep feeling like I’ve done something horrible to people to make them want to avoid eye contact with me, sure. But I’ll also grab a slice of cake or a giant sandwich, something that makes me feel just that minute amount better. I’ll throw myself into work or reading or something that distracts the bad thoughts, even temporarily. And I’ll hold on to that tiny bit of progress through my own personal storm of a day.

It gets better, I’m sure of that. But in the meantime, let them eat cake.

The little things make a big difference

Sometimes something happens in a conversation that makes you really notice the difference between “banter” friends and friends that will last the test of time. 

One thing that really makes me notice this is the “just a joke” conversations. 

For example: one person is the butt of one of the many jokes in a particular day. In a group of friends that tend to joke a lot this isn’t particularly different in itself, but it’s the reaction that makes all the difference. 

The butt of the joke person is quieter than normal, and maybe even responds with “guys that’s not funny/that’s not fair/stop it” etc. This is when the moment arrives.

“Oh it was just a joke!”

Doesn’t seem like much at first right?

But this is a darker statement than it seems at first thought. 

It’s supposed to be a defence for the joker’s actions, a way to lessen the seriousness of the situation. But a persons feelings were hurt in this situation, and “it was just a joke” isn’t a defence for that. 

No matter the intentions, you still hurt someone, and you haven’t even apologised for it. 

What “it’s just a joke!” does is it puts the pressure on the offended person to justify their offence in spite of this statement. You’ve put the responsibility on them, and that’s not fair. 

I think everyone can agree that someone should apologise when they’ve hurt someone, no matter the scenario. A better way of phrasing this would possibly be:

“That hurt my feelings”

“I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings, I only intended it as a joke. Are you alright?” 

You still get to state the fact you were joking, but also acknowledge how the other person was hurt. That’s the important part. 

On Traditions, Role Models, and Moving Forward

So Doctor Who is going to be a woman. I’m sure everyone’s heard already, and if you didn’t you’re clearly very good at hiding under your rock!

Of course, as is the norm when something suddenly becomes more female-friendly, some people were incredibly pissed off. Now, I’m not one to fight people in comment threads on this (though if you said it to my face I’d have a few words to say), but in this case the particular comments got me thinking about why this sort of thing bothers some people so much.

I’m going to cover some of my thoughts in points below. I’m paraphrasing and amalgamating various comments I’ve seen so if you haven’t seen this exact wording that would be why.

 

1 – “Where are all the role models for men/boys going?”

Because women getting role models automatically means men have to give up some of theirs? With how much media and people’s online lives are expanding, there’s so much more room out there in films and comic books and novels for representation of all kinds. I never want men to have to give up the wonderful variety and strength in the male role models they have growing up, I just want to give women the same thing. A Wonder Woman film having huge numbers of badass Amazonian women doesn’t negate the numerous male superheroes and supporting cast that we can also see.

And this doesn’t just stop with women, there should be more representation for everyone, of all races, sexualities, genders. Why put a limit on how much there is, and then hoard it for men only?

 

2 – “But it’s a tradition for the Doctor to be male!”

Okay… but why? I get that traditions are great sometimes, especially when they’re good ones. Christmas traditions about what you eat during the holidays or where you go on your summer holidays are great examples.

But we need to keep re-examining traditions. Ask why it’s still a tradition? Is it important that it doesn’t change? Is this an inherently discriminatory tradition?

Many bad things were traditional at one time of another. Women not owning property, being married off to much older men at a young age, you could even make an argument that slavery was a tradition. Just because something has been done, even if it was for a long time, that doesn’t mean it should keep being done. Positive change is much better than hoarding traditions in my opinion. And at the end of the day, why does The Doctor need to be a man? Is it really such an important part of who they are? The Master changed, why not The Doctor also?

 

 

3 – “It’s unrealistic!”

Seriously?? It’s a show about aliens, time travel, and the main character has two hearts. The epitome of realism right there.

 

I suppose in the end it’s just about thinking about whether the change is for the best, and if we can let go of our prejudices long enough to actually examine the changes we need to make and see if we can let go of our damaging traditions.

I hope we can, and I hope that little girls watching this show will be inspired to take charge and be confident themselves in the future. And I hope that people can look past the trolls on the internet and see the positives out there that come when we include more representation in our media. I also hope to see much more of this expansion of representation in the future.

Finally, good luck to Jodie Whittaker.

The Self Doubt Spiral

See, I read that title and it seems like I know what I’m talking about, like it’s a ‘thing’ and I’m just quoting the peer-reviewed hypothesis about people with generalised anxiety and the self doubt that comes with that.

But honestly, I’m just a person stating their own experiences and wondering about how they fit in in the world. True, there is evidence that people with Generalised Anxiety Disorder do have big issues with self-doubt. This just comes with it, and can even get worse once you start to deal with the anxiety.

Your coping mechanisms for anxiety can be based around a lot of double checks:

– Do I really feel validly stressed or am I OVER stressing a small problem?

– Should this situation make me feel this bad or am I over analysing it?

– Was that conversation good or bad or hell, just neutral, and I’m overthinking it for no reason?

So even realising you’re becoming anxious when not necessary involves you doubting your own thoughts and feelings and checking whether they’re valid or not. This adds up to a lot of self-doubt, and sometimes self-doubting your own self-doubt.

Hence the word ‘spiral’.

This can be tricky to get yourself out of and if someone’s come up with a foolproof way of doing so, please, let me know. The only thing that can help me when I’m deep in one of these spirals is lots of happy TV, comfort food, and just letting myself feel whatever I’m feeling. It could be really strong or worrying or angry but if I feel it completely for even a short period of time, it lets me work it through and allows me to let it go just that little bit.

I think it also helps for others to be understanding about how much you can doubt yourself, and try not to pile on when they can and help you deal with it when it happens.

Even coping mechanisms can get you down, even if they are helping you cope at the same time. Dealing with Mental health issues is often a double edged sword, and I’ve never been great with swordplay.

I guess in the end you have to find coping mechanisms to deal with your coping mechanisms and hopefully find a way back to wherever you need to be to feel like yourself again. Good luck.

The minefield of being social

I’ve never been amazing at being social, just ask my very small number of friends, very few of which originate from before University.

But recently I’ve been noticing it more and more. I almost dread being invited on a night out when I feel socially drained (but possibly dread not being invited even more) and try to come up with some plausible excuse when I just can’t handle it on a particular day. You know some people can take the ‘I’m just not up for it’ tonight as a valid reason, but those people who are more extroverted almost see that as an invite to convince you that your reason isn’t good enough and “come on, it’ll be fun!” in its various forms always seems to come out.

It’s not like I don’t understand that it’s said from a good place, and they genuinely are looking out for your best interests and do want you to have fun. It’s not a mean thing, it’s just another thing to combat without having to explain the difference between introverts and extroverts from a chemical level or the psychological ‘spoons’ theory each time. (Look it up)

The again, I’m used to that, and it’s a thing a lot of people have to go through so that’s fine.

The really annoying thing is when you say something that gets an explosive reaction, and have absolutely no clue why it did so. The introverts of the world will probably empathise with this more than most.

Example:

Person A: *says something they think is innocuous*

Person B: Whoa, that’s harsh/gross/what the hell??

Person A: *confused* sorry, what did I say?

Person B (usually): *remains shocked but doesn’t explain what A actually did to get that reaction*

Therefore: Person A doesn’t understand what She/He did wrong and doesn’t learn and cannot avoid doing so again. This causes a lot of stress.

 

Personally, I’ve had this happen to me a few times. Once I even made someone genuinely upset and to this day I have no idea how or why what I said did this. I felt terrible about it yes, but couldn’t say honestly ‘It’ll never happen again’ or even apologise genuinely, since I only count an apology genuine when the person understands what they did that was wrong and I wasn’t able to.

This can be very scary for younger people, my dad for example has had this happen at school once and was extremely unnerved by the experience and still brings it up even now.

I don’t know if this is a side effect of introversion or anxiety and so not understanding the social cues enough or if it’s something that lies more on the sliding scale of Aspergers, but it’s always been something that has annoyed me, namely the lack of explanation on the other person’s part.

How is anyone meant to learn how to act socially if everyone is assumed to know everything instinctively and nothing is explained? I get learning from your mistakes, but part of that is understanding what the actual mistake was, right?

 

Of course there are nice social aspects, from all sides. I may not enjoy being around lots of people or ‘going out’ in any large dose, but I absolutely love chatting for hours and hours with a close friend, or watching a film with people I feel comfortable around, and even the small things like someone remembering something I enjoy without me having to remind them. (This for some reason affects me hugely, it’s a happy day when a colleague or friend/acquaintance says something like ‘oh, but Rebecca likes fantasy books’ and just genuinely cared enough to remember something about me. It’s the little things that matter the most.)

I just wish sometimes that more people would accommodate the people of the world who find this tricky, and make an effort to include rather than exclude. In the end, won’t this make the world a much nicer place to live in?

Moral of the day: Be kind, be inclusive, be helpful, and hopefully you’ll make someone’s day that little bit brighter.

P.s. It’s always a diary entry style rant that gets me back on this blog isn’t it? *sigh*

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