Wednesday 22 August 2018

My Literary House!

Anyone who knows me will know that I love my books, reading is one of my ultimate favourite past-times. But it isn't just the reading that I love, it is the world that each book creates, the feeling of belonging somewhere, of immersing yourself in a whole new universe. To me books come to life, the characters are my greatest friends or deadliest enemies, the worlds they create are places for me to escape to, to forget about my own troubles.
When I fall in love with a book, I fall completely, and as such love to enjoy that world to it's full extent.
Which is why I made my house a literary palace, a place where the walls reflected the worlds of books I loved, and why I was heartbroken to have to leave it.

That's right - I had to say goodbye to my literary house!!!  It was the worst moment ever, and I shed more than a few tears, but I took pictures before I left and I want to share them with you now.

So let me walk you through what was once my world.

As you entered the house you were in a narrow hallway, on the left hand wall I had funky photo frames where I displayed photos of my friends and family. Under these photos I had a tribute to 'Alice in Wonderland' with the simple saying - 'We're all Mad here!"

Next to the doorway I painted my own 'Sigil'.
I am a huge fan of a series called 'Skulduggery Pleasant' by Derek Landy, and in the book some of the characters have hidden symbols either on themselves or in their homes, these hold powers that when touched activate. So right next to my front door, I painted the Skulduggery Pleasant logo.
I joked that in order to gain freedom from the house you must touch the sigil to activate the door! Even if it didn't work - it looked pretty cool.
Took me hours to get it right with all the twisty bits at the bottom!

As you walked through the hallway, you came to the dining room, on the left hand wall I painted another quote from Alice In Wonderland with some illustrations of the Hatter's hat, a tea cup and the Cheshire Cat's smiling face.

On the opposite wall to that I painted the five Faction symbols from Divergent - I absolutely love those books and the faction symbols were what I thought represented the books the best. They are probably one of the things that took me the longest to get right, especially the sign for 'Erudite' and 'Abnegation' but I was so pleased with how they turned out. My plan was to write the faction names around each symbol but I never got round to it.

Then on the back wall in the Dining room that lead to the kitchen, I drew a Gruffalo and his child. I am a massive fan of these books and the film version and definitely wanted him on my wall.
It took me a couple of days to finish them both, getting them in proportion and colouring them with the fur effect, but they came out so well.
The Gruffalo did start to peel and was due some repair work when I left, but overall he looked awesome, and he was pointing at the kitchen, as though he was getting ready to sneak in and steal our food.
The final picture I had in my Dining room, fit perfectly between two doorframes. It is from 'The Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy' which is one of my husband's favourite books. And he is a character that you can't help but love.
It is of course, Marvin the Paranoid Android
 He came up with the answer to the most important question - 'What is the meaning of Life' and the answer is of course '42' which is made up of 'Life, the Universe and Everything' - hence the Venn diagram above his head. (My husband is also a Maths genius so the Venn diagram was for his benefit)

I always say that my husband is my 42, so I had to have Marvin on the walls somewhere. Although made of what looks like simple shapes, he was harder to draw than you would expect! But he made me smile everytime I walked past him.

The next part of the tour takes you upstairs, on the wall at the bottom of the staircase, I had the following quote:
This then lead you to the top of the stairs where you really did enter Narnia. I had the famous Lamppost landmark surrounded by snowy fir trees.
This was the full height of the wall, from floor to ceiling, and involved balancing on chairs at the top of the stairs (fully safe of course).
I loved being able to have the feeling of Narnia in my house, the stories always held a feeling of magic and wonder to me and it felt very homely and comforting.

On the wall opposite I had a quote from my all time favourite series - Harry Potter! Anyone who knows me, will tell you that I am a total Harry Potter obsessive. I have t-shirts, socks, bags, phone cases, pictures, merchandise, bracelets - you name it, I probably have it. So right by my upstairs light switch, I had the following quote:
And yes, I even had 'Nox' and 'Lumos' on the light switch. This was one of my favourite quotes from Harry Potter and a good message to remind you of each day.

The next wall decoration was actually the first one I did and the biggest. My friend Loushae and I spent an entire day in the study (which is actually a pretty small room), painting this masterpiece, and it was one of the most enjoyable and frustrating days of my life, but I loved every minute.
We created a wall size version of 'The Marauders Map'

Apart from 'Solemnly' being spelt wrong and there only being 3 Tables in the Great Hall instead of 4, I think we did an amazing job, and although I lived with those mistakes for over 2 years, I could never bring myself to change them - it was our little quirk and a point of laughter whenever we showed it off to anyone. We measured each line, each gap, each corridor and placed each set of footprints within it. The Whomping Willow in the middle probably took the most work, and trying to scale it so that we could fit in as much of Hogwarts as possible, this is merely a fraction of rooms and corridors, but it was our masterpiece and something that I will always be proud of.

That just leaves me with 2 more pictures. The next one is my absolute favourite and the one I was most proud of. I wanted to show this off to anyone and everyone that came round my house, and think it is the one that actually looks the best.
I became a huge fan of 'The Hunger Games' when the series came out, I have read the books multiple times and seen the films countless times. I only have to hear the music and I feel all emotional. They are incredible books and something that really made me feel like part of a world.
The most obvious symbol of Panem and more importantly the Rebellion that Katniss was part of, was of course - The Mockingjay, so above my staircase I created this:
It took me hours, I did every detail and every bit of shading by hand, leaning across my staircase, stretching up but it was worth every minute.
Everytime I went down my stairs or across my hallway I would see this and get the same warm feeling, it made me happy everyday and this is the painting i will miss the most.

So that leaves me with my final picture, as you head back down the stairs and out of the front door, I bid you farewell with a quote from The Hitch-hikers guide, complete with dolphins at either side, we say 'So long... and thanks for all the fish'

For anyone coming round our house who didn't know the series, it was funny to see the confused looks on their faces, it was always a topic for conversation. And what better way to say goodbye.

So that was my literary house, I was lucky because I was renting the property from family and I had permission to draw whatever I wanted on the walls and make the house my own. I had so many more plans for other pictures and designs.
But then both my husband and I got jobs in Milton Keynes and after commuting back and forth for a year we decided to move to MK, to save petrol and reduce the stress of traveling back and forth on a by-pass in peak traffic everyday.
So now we have moved house and we are renting the traditional way, from a proper landlord which of course means that the walls are not to be drawn on. So I have left behind all my wonderful pictures, and hope that one day I will own my own home and be able to re-create all my masterpieces and add even more, but until then, I cry with the knowledge that my wonderful pictures have been painted over and forgotten by everyone else. But I will always have the pictures to remind me.

What did you think of my pictures? Which one was your favourite?
Who would you have painted if you had the chance?

-- All images copyrighted to their franchise, I don't claim to own any of the pictures or quotes, merely my drawings of them --

Book Review - The Uprising

Title: The Uprising
Author: Lisa M Stasse
Series: The Forsaken (Book 2)
Publisher: Orchard Books
Release Date: 7th November 2013
ISBN13: 9781408318812

In this dystopian sequel to The Forsaken, Alenna has survived the brutality of life on the wheel--but her fight is not over yet.
Alenna escaped. It was expected that she would die on the wheel, the island where would-be criminals are sent as directed by the UNA--the totalitarian supercountry that was once the United States, Mexico, and Canada. But Alenna and her boyfriend, Liam, made it to safety. Except safety, they will soon learn, is relative.
In order to bring down the UNA, they must first gain control of the wheel. If the mission succeeds, the wheel will become a base of revolution. But between betrayals, a new Monk leading a more organized army of Drones, and the discovery of a previously unknown contingent, Alenna, Liam, and their allies might be in over their heads. One thing Alenna knows for sure: There will be a reckoning. And not everyone she loves will make it out alive.

My Review
After finishing 'The Forsaken' I was desperate to know what would happen next, book 1 ended on such a cliffhanger that I was desperate to find out what becomes of Gadya, Alenna and Liam and if the Wheel ever gets defeated. I had to wait 2 days for the book to come in the library (actually very quick service, but feels longer when you are waiting to find out what happens next).
I did enjoy the first book but I wasn't blown away by it, I was just captivated enough that I have to know what happens next so I approached this book with eager hands but not expecting much.
After Alenna escaped from the wheel she wasn't sure what to expect from her life, with her boyfriend by her side but her closest friends left behind amidst the danger of the wheel she has some choices to make. Stay safe in the secret community or fight for freedom from the UNA. Making the choice to return to the wheel means sacrificing her life and being thrown back into a world of violence and uncertainty, but Alenna isn't a scared little girl anymore, she is a fighter and a survivor and she wants to stand up for herself and her friends, and the future of the world. Plus in some ways it seems like she doesn't really have a choice!
I honestly wasn't expecting much from this book, thought it would be like the first, I wanted to read it quickly and see what happened next but that was it. However when I started to read I found myself quickly pulled into the world and really enjoying it. The characters are so much more developed - not just Alenna and Liam but even characters we haven't met before like Dr Barrett and Alenna's mum. The world is really well set up and the imagery is amazing, I could visualize every tunnel, every room, every aspect of the wheel. It really came to life off the page. The storyline is good and well paced, there are a lot of twists and turns that will keep you on the edge of your seat and a few curveballs that I certainly didn't predict. 
Alenna and Liam put a lot of their trust into people they don't know, mainly scientists running the rebellion and also other rescued survivors. We meet Cass, a sassy girl with a streak of revenge in her blood, she wants to fight back to the ones who ruined her life on the wheel and her friend Emma, a rather meek and quiet young lady but with a fierce intelligence and hidden strength. 
When they return to the Wheel it is nothing like the place they have left, the Drones are organized and brutal, bloodthirsty and almost like zombies, but harder to kill. They have all been controlled and being led once more by the mysterious 'Monk' With all their plans going wrong, Alenna, Liam and Cass have a much tougher fight on their hands than they ever expected.
I got this book home and read it in 3 sittings over 3 days, I read it so quickly - I was desperate to find time to sit down and read, I just couldn't get enough, I had to know what happens. This book still has slower moments but they felt more needed and well placed, but overall the action carries you through the pages and I found myself really enjoying the story. It was so much better than book 1.
I am now desperate to know what happens in the third installment and can't wait to get stuck in. This book takes the premise of the first book and ramps it up about a hundred gears! Well worth a read.

Saturday 18 August 2018

Book Review - The Forsaken

Title: The Forsaken
Author: Lisa M Stasse
Series: The Forsaken (Book 1)
Publisher: Orchard Books (This Edition) Simon & Schuster
ISBN13: 9781408318805

Alenna Shawcross is a sixteen-year-old orphan growing up in a police state formed from the ashes of Canada, the US and Mexico after a global economic meltdown.
But when she unexpectedly fails ‘the test’ - a government initiative which supposedly identifies teens destined to be criminals - she wakes up alone on a remote island reserved for the criminally insane.
Terrified and confused, she soon encounters a group of other teen survivors battling to stay alive, including Liam, a boy who will become her love... and her lifeline.
Soon Alenna makes the terrifying discovery that there’s more to the island (and her past) than she could ever have guessed... But who can she trust? And can she ever escape?

My Review
This is another book that has sat on my shelves for years, I remember buying this one - seeing it in the shops with the tagline on it saying 'If you love the Hunger Games, you'll love this'! and of course I am a huge fan of HG, so I automatically wanted to read it. I don't remember why I didn't read it back then but either way it's still sat there.
Working my way through my shelves I was picking out books that were on their own, trying to get through as many as possible. Of course I didn't realise that this is now the first part of a trilogy!!!
I found the start of the story a bit slow, you meet Alenna and see a bit of the world inside the UNA, but from reading the blurb you know that she is going to be sent to the Island so I kind of wanted it to get a move on to that point and stop all the 'will she, won't she', stuff. Once she gets on the Island, it really did remind me of the Hunger Games, an island where kids run savage, kill each other and try to survive - the Island is divided into segments and each segment holds a different danger (remind anyone else of the clock island in Catching Fire!) The similarities for me were a bit too close at first and I nearly stopped reading a couple of times, but I decided to persevere and see if the author could take the book in her own direction. The more she sets up the Island the more it takes on it's own life. The world turns out to be very different and run in a rather alarming way. The characters are great, there is a good variety and a few little side stories but not too many so you don't get confused. 
Alenna starts off quite wimpy and rather pathetic but the more she lives through, the more she develops a back-bone, this is of course helped along by Gadya - a fierce and fiery Villager from the Blue Sector. She hasn't got time to babysit and she believes that everyone should fight equally. She's so sassy but also has a softer side. She's just trying to survive like everyone else, but wants to make sure she takes fate into her own hands.
You also meet David on the Island, a seemingly weak and wimpy guy who seems to have a hidden agenda, you are never quite sure who's side he is on and it's actually quite fun trying to work it out. 
Not knowing who to trust and how they will ever get off the Island I found myself reading quicker the more I got through the book. The book was written in a way that meant I could picture the Island and all the characters, the imagery was really good, but there were some occasions when I wished there was more detail on a situation, or that the story would develop a certain way but it would suddenly jump to something else, and likewise there were things that sometimes felt a bit forced and went on a bit too long. There were a couple of times where the pace slowed and I found myself maybe skimming the odd word but overall I actually enjoyed the book. At 426 pages it's quite chunky, but I read it in just 2 sittings.
I'm not sure I would ever re-read the book but I enjoyed it this time round, and was hooked in enough to want to know what happens next - after all it ends on quite a cliffhanger. I actually got to the end, growled and threw down the book, I was so frustrated that I didn't have a full conclusion - I jumped straight online and ordered book 2 and 3 from the library, but knowing I have to wait a couple of days to find out what happens to them is going to drive me mad!
Overall a surprisingly good read, glad I have read it.

My Rating

Thursday 16 August 2018

Book Review - The Carrier of the Mark

Title: The Carrier of the Mark
Author: Leigh Fallon
Series: Carrier (Book 1)
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
Release Date: 27 Oct. 2011
ISBN-13: 978-0007445950

When Megan Rosenberg moves to Ireland, everything in her life seems to fall into place. She makes close friends with the girls in her class, her relationship with her dad is better than ever, and she finds herself inexplicably drawn to gorgeous, mysterious Adam DeRis.
Adam is cold and aloof at first, but when Megan finally breaks down the icy barrier between them, she is amazed by the intensity of their connection. Then Adam reveals a secret about the magical destiny that will shape both of their lives but also threatens to tear them apart…

My Review
Now that I have finished my degree, I actually have time to read again! I have about 60+ books on my shelves that I have bought over the years but never got round to reading. Looking through the shelves this book caught my eye, I know it was popular when it came out and it sounded like a good read so I thought I would start with this one. 
I got into the book quite quickly, Megan is an instantly likeable character that you can relate too, she has moved to a new country and doesn't know anyone, she is nervous and a bit shy but doesn't let things hold her back, she is used to moving around and wants to make a fresh start in Ireland. She is quite quirky, a good sense of humour and a strange fear of water which makes you want to know more. She makes a friend really quick with a girl who is very bubbly and a bit mad - reminded me a bit of myself. 
Then Megan meets Adam DeRis, he's mysterious and a bit moody, there is an air of strangeness around him but Mega is drawn to him. I know - sounds like typical teen broodyness and lust, but it is actually written with more depth.
Adam also has a sister and a brother and they are all considered weird - as Megan starts to learn more about them she is pulled into a world that she never would have believed existed. 
I enjoyed reading about the 'Carriers' and their myths and history. Seeing how it affected each of the characters and how Megan fit in. Some of the information and descriptions seemed a little bit long, and the book did slow it's pace a little, but it's quite a short book and didn't affect it too much.
I enjoyed reading about the characters and really liked that there were little side stories involved with Megan's friends, but I kept waiting for it to really pick up the pace and kick off, the book was good and I am glad I have read it but I am not invested enough to read the next book or want to re-read it again in the future. It was well written and the characters well developed, but just didn't make me go WOW.
Overall a nice way to spend an afternoon and a good story but not my favourite. 

My Rating