Friday, 30 October 2015

Arrow 4x01 and 4x02 Review

So I totally meant to have these up earlier and separately but unfortunately job searching and personal commitments got in the way, as they always do. Nonetheless, here are my reviews for the first two episodes of the new season of DC's Arrow.

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October means that Team Arrow is back in action, but after the events in Nanda Parbat and Starling City at the end of the last season, where do we go from here?

To the countryside it seems, the episode starting with Oliver running through a suburban neighbourhood to the house where he and Felicity now live. Lamenting over her cooking skills, Felicity reminds Oliver that they have guests coming. It seems Ollie really meant it when he said he was giving up the Arrow mantle, and it turns out he even has plans to propose!

But the happiness doesn't last long. New villain Damien Dhark has been terrorising newly renamed Star City, causing Laurel and Thea to come for Oliver's help. When Felicity reveals she's been helping the team behind Oliver's back, Ollie agrees to stay. Clearly Ollicity has a way to go before their happy ending!

Diggle isn't the only one unimpressed by this choice however. Captain Lance continues to believe Oliver can't change, while Thea is hiding some deep rooted anger caused by the Lazarus Pit. Much angst abounds.

As far as season openers go, this wasn't Arrow's best, but I still really enjoyed it. It was a great introduction to Dhark and had one or two 'What the hell?' moments. I loved Oliver and Felicity's continued chemistry and the line 'Felicity Smoak, you have failed this omelette' was one of the funniest the show has had. Perhaps they're learning a little from Flash? I was also truly intrigued by Thea's outpouring of anger, especially towards Oliver himself. That said, a few of the scenes fell flat, specifically revolving around Diggle's continued anger towards Oliver. The fact of the matter is Oliver did what he had to do to get Ra's to trust him, so that he could save the entire city. Having worked with Amanda Waller, Diggle should understand that. Oliver did not, and would not have, let any harm come to Lila.

The final five minutes clawed back some points for Team Arrow though. I'd noticed Grant Gustin labelled as a guest star at the beginning of the episode and had been expecting him to show up for 35 minutes. So by the last scene I was asking 'Where's Flash?'. What I didn't expect was a graveyard scene titled 6 months later to appear, depicting Barry arriving to see an angry, distraught Oliver beside a fresh grave. Clearly one of our beloved characters is going to meet their maker but the question is 'who?'. Only time - and the rest of the season - will tell.

Going into episode two, I was disappointed to find Dhark taking a back seat as the series villain, allowing 'monster of the week' lackies to take their turns in trying to kill Team Arrow. This week's lackie, so unimpressive that I can't even remember his name, brought the episode down a few pegs. Flash uses the same 'monster of the week' format but maybe by now I'm so intrigued by and invested in the idea of meta-humans that a plain-jane lackie just isn't going to cut it for me with regards to excitement levels.

That said, the main characters are the stars of the show and they did not disappoint. Thea's unresolved anger continued to be an issue in the field and led to a fist fight between her and Oliver, while Diggle - when not pointlessly still being angry at Oliver - dug further into his brother's murder. The highlight for me though was Laurel, who seemed unusually interested in what Oliver had to say about the Lazarus Pit.

We were also given a secondary storyline which involved

Flash forward to the end of the episode and we're given some clear direction as to where this season is headed. Oliver makes the decision to run for Mayor while - more importantly - Laurel and Thea sneak off to Nanda Parbat to try and help the latter's bloodlust. That's not Laurel's only intention however, the episode ending with her digging up Sara's grave. It's pretty clear over the next few episodes that we're going to find out how the White Canary ends up in Legends of Tomorrow; something I am very excited to see.

Extra points also for Felicity being a kick-ass CEO.

Both episodes get a 3.5 star rating.

Did you watch the episodes? Have any thoughts? Let me know in the comments below, or on Twitter!

Holly @TheArtsShelf

Thursday, 22 October 2015

ARC Review - Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

How do I review a book that weighs in at 600 pages and tells such a fantastic story in such an innovative, unique way? This is a question I've asked so many times over the past few weeks. I usually try to keep some semblance of coherency in my reviews with regards to actually 'reviewing' the book; its plot, characters, etc. With Illuminae I'm afraid the review is mostly going to be semi-coherent rambling about how amazing this book is and that you should buy it.

Many thanks to Oneworld/Rock the Boat for the fabulous proof copy!

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The year is 2575 and two mega-corporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice covered speck.  Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it.  With enemy fire raining down on them Ezra and Kady have to make their escape on the evacuating fleet.  But their troubles are just beginning.  A deadly plague has broken out on one of the space ships and it is mutating with terrifying results.  Their ships protection is seriously flawed.   No one will say what is going on. 
As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth its clear only one person can help her. Ezra. And the only problem with that is they split up before all this trouble started and she isn’t supposed to be talking to him.
A fantastically original, heart-stopping adventure where everything is definitely more dangerous than it seems.

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I absolutely loved Kady and Ezra. Kaufman and Kristoff somehow managed to create two characters that are inherently loveable despite the fact that their story is told completely through text/IM conversation, documentation, and third party commentary. In fact what I loved the most about Illuminae was the way the authors managed to spin a story of war, deceit and love (A strange but fabulous combination) in a way I've never seen done before. When I first heard about the book I was all 'Oh my goodness I need it!' but upon starting was worried the story might end up lost in the aesthetics.

As it stands, I had no need to be worried at all. The story is flawless - perfect in every way - and the aesthetics only enhance it. The detail in the documents, from hundreds of faces acting as a casualty list to fake blood spatters, make the book so visually compelling that it's like you're reading an actual army dossier. Or watching a film. Maybe both. It's stunning. Poetic and tense, gripping and moving, all in one. I simply cannot fault Illuminae in any way. The plot is impossible to predict, the characters sharp yet sensitive, and the pages themselves are works of art.

When you buy Illuminae you're not just buying a novel. You're buying 600 pages of pure adrenaline and excitement. Simply put, you're buying an adventure. In space.

Oh, did I forget to mention that its in space? Yes. Interstellar ships, complete with deck plans, and a mutagenic zombie-esque virus are just two of the things you'll find in this fabulous new release. I'd tell you more but... spoilers.

So go forth and conquer the bookshops in search of this orange gold! Future-you will thank present-you, I'm sure. It's a definite 5 star read, and I'd give it much more if I could.

Illuminae was released in the UK today (October 22nd 2015) by Oneworld Publications/Rock the Boat.

Thanks for reading!

Holly @TheArtsShelf

Top Time-Travel

As today is Back to the Future today I thought it would be nice to post my favourite time-travel film, tv and novel, as well as some novels I'm hoping to read very soon.


I think it would count as being a bad book nerd if I didn't give Prisoner of Azkaban its dutifully earned time-travel praise. This book is fantastically 'wibbly-wobbly' on all fronts and a fabulously enjoyable read for any fan of time-travel. Pictured is my well-read copy that I actually got from a book vending machine (Which was pretty cool and the only one I ever saw).

My favourite film meanwhile (excluding BTTF itself) is The Time Machine. I first saw the film when I was about 11-ish and it blew me away. Almost poetic in its conception The Time Machine is a film I can easily watch again and again. I simply adore it. I mean just listen to 'Eloi' from the soundtrack; it makes me cry every time.

If you've been keeping up with my tweets you'll know what my favourite TV show for time-travel is right now; The Flash. While the show may not make the most obvious uses of time-travel, the entire first season was based in and surrounded by the notion of it. One of the things I love is how transparent it seems at times. The whole conflict between Wells and Barry is based, during season one anyway, in Wells' desire to get back to his own time and yet it was never overly pushed onto the audience. Then, when time-travel was used as a plot device, it was done so brilliantly that it created some of the most memorable episodes (and my personal favourites) such as the two-parter Out of Time and Rogue Time.


As for books I'm super excited to read, here we go. Outlander was received at Christmas and I still haven't gotten around to delving into it. Time-travel mixed with Scotland and a sexy highlander is certainly my cup of tea and I am really hoping to get around to reading it very soon.  


Landline was also received at Christmas, and being a huge Rainbow Rowell fan I am very excited to finally getting around to reading it. A time-travelling telephone line sounds completely original to me and knowing how Rowell puts her own unique spin on everything it is a book I anxious to delve into.


I bought TimeBomb last month in Liverpool after the premise hooked me. Two people drawn from the past and future respectively team up with someone from the present to battle the villainous Lord Sweetclover. Yep, that is definitely a book I am interested in reading!


Finally, the Rub Red Trilogy. This saga is one I have been wanting to read for months, and I finally treated myself to the boxed set a few weeks ago. I'm hoping to have a weekend to myself soon to be able to simply curl up and read all three. Fingers crossed, but I'm probably just going to have to snatch time where I can.

So those are my picks for 'Top Time-Travel'. What are yours? Feel free to share them in the comments below, or on Twitter!

Thanks for reading!

Holly @TheArtsShelf

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Waiting on Wednesday: Burning Glass by Kathryn Purdie

A weekly feature created at Breaking the Spine, Waiting on Wednesday features upcoming releases that bloggers are excited about.  You can find out more here.

My pick this week is the fantastic-sounding Burning Glass by Kathryn Purdie.

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Image and description from Goodreads:

Sonya was born with the rare gift to feel what those around her feel—both physically and emotionally—a gift she’s kept hidden from the empire for seventeen long years. After a reckless mistake wipes out all the other girls with similar abilities, Sonya is hauled off to the palace and forced to serve the emperor as his sovereign Auraseer.

Tasked with sensing the intentions of would-be assassins, Sonya is under constant pressure to protect the emperor. One mistake, one small failure, will cost her own life and the lives of the few people left in the world who still trust her.

But Sonya’s power is untamed and reckless, her feelings easily usurped, and she sometimes can’t decipher when other people’s impulses end and her own begin. In a palace full of warring emotions and looming darkness, Sonya fears that the biggest danger to the empire may be herself.

As she struggles to wrangle her abilities, Sonya seeks refuge in her tenuous alliances with the volatile Emperor Valko and his idealistic younger brother, Anton, the crown prince. But when threats of revolution pit the two brothers against each other, Sonya must choose which brother to trust—and which to betray.

BURNING GLASS is debut author Kathryn Purdie’s stunning tale of dangerous magic, heart-rending romance, and the hard-won courage it takes to let go.


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To me this book is very reminiscent of The Sin Eater's Daughter which is a story I absolutely adored. I know some people may call it cliche but I absolutely adore royal love triangles, and  I will always read a book described as including betrayal because how many 'feels' does that single word conjure? A lot. So just think about how many the book itself may contain. Anyone who knows me knows I much prefer scenes revolving around grief and anger, betrayal and hurt, as opposed to mushy romance scenes. Yes I adore love triangles, but mostly because of the angst they bring (Why do you think The Infernal Devices is one of my favourite trilogies?).

Add in a strong heroine with the weight of the world on her shoulders who must learn to trust in herself, 'threats of revolution', and awesome otherworldly powers and you have conjured yourself a book that I will most definitely read. Not to mention the cover which is just gorgeous in so many ways!

Burning Glass sadly doesn't publish until March 1st 2016 by the fabulous Harper Collins, but as you can see I am very much counting down the hours until I can get a copy of this epic fantasy.

Thanks for reading!

Holly @TheArtsShelf

Thursday, 15 October 2015

TV Thursday – Review: Flash, Season One

If you love Dr Who’s ‘wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff’ then you’re going to love Flash. Debuting on our screens last autumn, the show expands and enriches the DC universe already brought about by Arrow. Seen first as a clutzy but brilliant CSI on Arrow, Grant Gustin reprises his role as Barry Allan, the show depicting the character’s change from human to hero after a freak accident.

That being said, Flash doesn’t share all that many similarities with its parent show. Where as Arrow utilises a multi-stranded plotline of past and present, Flash tends to stick to a single timeline, with exception of a few flashbacks (No pun intended). That doesn’t mean however that Flash doesn’t tinker with time and I think if you’re a fan of figuring out the complete Arrow timeline you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the temporal twists and turns Flash throws at its audience. Things aren’t always how they at first seem to be. Minor comic book and series spoilers/hype ahead.

Twenty three episodes of heroic action packed fun await anyone who has not yet delved into season one, depicting life in Central City after a particle accelerator explosion alters the DNA structure not only of Barry but of others as well. Faced with newly developed super-speed and an array of meta-humans that the police force – including Barry’s foster father – are no match for, Barry must become The Flash and save the city he loves. That being said, he isn’t without help.

The incredible Tom Cavanagh plays Dr Harrison Wells, the scientist who invented the particle accelerator and who feels responsible for what has now befallen the city. After saving Barry’s life, Dr Wells dedicates himself to helping Barry control his powers and defend the city. But Dr Wells isn’t all he seems to be and one of the most interesting aspects of the first season is figuring out where exactly his loyalties and motives lie.

My personal favourite characters however were Cisco Ramon and Dr Caitlyn Snow, portrayed by Carlos Valdes and Danielle Panabaker respectively. Barry may be the heart and Dr Wells the mind, but Cisco and Caitlyn are the soul of the show. From tough emotional scenes to injecting moments of light humor, the two not only aid Barry technologically in being The Flash, they also push him forward and pick him up when he falls.

Other fabulous characters include Joe West, Barry’s adoptive father who facilitates many highly charged, emotional scenes, and Firestorm, a meta-human who has explosive ties to the Star Labs team. Almost every character in the series is intriguing in their own way and brings something exciting to the episodes they appear in. Flash truly has an amazingly diverse and talented cast.

Grant Gustin portrays a wonderfully multi-faceted character that always wants to do the right thing but is sometimes swayed by his own feelings, beliefs and motives. To me though it is the characters that surround him and his world that make the show, filling it with diversity, humor and emotion and making every episode feel truly alive. Tension runs rampant in every episode because of these characters, each with their own story and all afflicted by mortality. The Flash may be safe from inescapable peril, being the titular character, but that doesn’t mean his friends and family are. Excitement and energy abound with every new character introduced, each one bringing a new and intriguing element to the show, regardless of whether you’re a die hard comic book fan or not. There are plenty of heart-wrenching, tear-jerking moments that make this series a true delight to watch. There is not a boring scene nor a moment wasted to be found; it is truly electrifying (Pun intended).

I personally think this is a series that can be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of whether you hoard comic books like there’s no tomorrow or have never picked one up before. If you are a hard core fan however there will be many elements and characters that will gain extra interest, and knowing some of the comic origins and plots makes me even more excited for the recently launched season two. Spoilers ahead.

It’s already been revealed that multi-universes are going to play a huge part in this season, and that the original Flash – Jay Garrick – is going to be assisting the Star Labs team with some new villains released by the singularity in last season’s finale. Personally I’m more interested with how this is going to affect and help develop Cisco. In the later half of last season it was revealed that Cisco is also a meta-human, with the ability to detect the vibrations between multiple timelines and universes. Simply put he could, with the right training, receive visions stretching between his own Central City and the earth Jay originates from, perhaps even further. Given Cisco’s reaction when he received the news, I’m interested to see how this knowledge plays out with the character and whether or not he embraces his new heroic destiny. Given everything seen in season one, I doubt it will be simple.

If you look closely enough, a flash of Killer Frost was also seen in last season’s finale when Barry was traveling through the speed-force. For those who don’t know, Killer Frost is the villainous alter-ego of Dr Caitlyn Snow. While Caitlyn has shown no signs of being meta-human and there have been no other hints to the fact – unlike with Cisco – I am very excited to see what may happen that could potentially activate any dormant powers in Caitlyn and turn her into the villain. It may not happen, but it is doubtful that the creators would put such an easter egg into the footage without it having any further meaning.

Those are just two of the many reasons why I will most avidly be tuning into Flash season two, airing at 8pm every Tuesday on Sky 1 in the UK. The first episode has just aired on October 13th.

Do you have any thoughts about Flash? Feel free to share them in the comments below, or on Twitter!


Holly @TheArtsShelf

Waiting on Wednesday: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

A weekly feature created at Breaking the Spine, Waiting on Wednesday features upcoming releases that bloggers are excited about.  You can find out more here.

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Description from Amazon.co.uk, and image from UK Tor:

In a continent on the edge of war, two witches hold its fate in their hands.
Young witches Safiya and Iseult have a habit of finding trouble. After clashing with a powerful Guildmaster and his ruthless Bloodwitch bodyguard, the friends are forced to flee their home. 
Safi must avoid capture at all costs as she's a rare Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lies. Many would kill for her magic, so Safi must keep it hidden - lest she be used in the struggle between empires. And Iseult's true powers are hidden even from herself. 
In a chance encounter at Court, Safi meets Prince Merik and makes him a reluctant ally. However, his help may not slow down the Bloodwitch now hot on the girls' heels. All Safi and Iseult want is their freedom, but danger lies ahead. With war coming, treaties breaking and a magical contagion sweeping the land, the friends will have to fight emperors and mercenaries alike. For some will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

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It's no secret that I am a huge fan of epic fantasy. From Tolkien to Hobb I am obsessed with magic, other realms and mystical powers. It is therefore easy to guess why I am so excited for Truthwitch. I love the idea that there are different types of witches and that they all have different types of powers; different attributes. The idea of a race with differing powers isn't unusual, nor is the idea of the main character meeting and befriending a prince. However I have heard a lot of good things about this book which, with the fact that I not only love fantasy but royal love interests, means that I am interested to see Susan Dennard's spin on these elements and how she makes them her own.

I've heard quite a bit about the book's different clans, predominantly via the Truthwitch Twitter account, and that's something that I'm specifically excited about. The possibility of warring clans is always interesting and - just as we all do with Harry Potter - it's always fun to pick which side you yourself belong to.

All in all I think that this book is going to be a fun, exciting read and I personally cannot wait to get my hands on a copy.

Truthwitch will be available in both the UK and the US on January 5th 2016!

Holly @TheArtsShelf


Tuesday, 6 October 2015

ARC Review - Ice Like Fire by Sara Raasch

Ice Like Fire officially broke me. After everything that happened in Snow Like Ashes I didn't think my heart could be broken any more. I was wrong. Sara Raasch is an evil writer; protect your hearts and be prepared. Spoiler warning for very vague details.

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Image and description from Amazon.co.uk:

It's been three months since the Winterians were freed and Spring's king, Angra, disappeared—thanks largely to the help of Cordell.
Meira just wants her people to be safe. When Cordellan debt forces the Winterians to dig their mines for payment, they unearth something powerful and possibly dangerous: Primoria's lost chasm of magic. Theron sees this find as an opportunity—with this much magic, the world can finally stand against threats like Angra. But Meira fears the danger the chasm poses—the last time the world had access to so much magic, it spawned the Decay. So when the king of Cordell orders the two on a mission across the kingdoms of Primoria to discover the chasm's secrets, Meira plans on using the trip to garner support to keep the chasm shut and Winter safe—even if it means clashing with Theron. But can she do so without endangering the people she loves?
Mather just wants to be free. The horrors inflicted on the Winterians hang fresh and raw in Jannuari—leaving Winter vulnerable to Cordell's growing oppression. When Meira leaves to search for allies, he decides to take Winter's security into his own hands. Can he rebuild his broken Kingdom and protect them from new threats?
As the web of power and deception is woven tighter, Theron fights for magic, Mather fights for freedom—and Meira starts to wonder if she should be fighting not just for Winter but for the world.

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It's a given fact that after the events of Snow Like Ashes our characters were far from okay. Secrets were uncovered, truths were told, and trust was broken, perhaps irreparably. The Children of the Thaw (It's a phrase you'll hear often) may have their freedom, but they don't have their lives. The kingdom of Winter is in disrepair, the crown indebted to Cordell, and its Queen is torn by two lives.

Meira doesn't know who she should be. Her instincts scream Meira the orphan soldier, but Winter needs Queen Meira, leader, diplomat and conduit. Cordell's grip is slowly tightening, more so when the magic chasm of Primoria is uncovered, and Meira knows if she doesn't act all could be lost. The best case is Noam takes Angra's place as Winter's dictator; though at least with less psychosis and magic. Worst case, the decay spawns again. So despite her own reservations, a deep down wish for everything to go back as it was, Meira sets off across Primoria to gather allies and search for a way to keep the chasm shut for good.

But she's not the only one hurting. She's not the only one hiding behind a facade with secrets to keep buried. Mather doesn't know who he is. King? Son? Soldier? The one thing he does know is that he'll do anything to keep Winter safe, even if it means defying Cordell, and his father. Theron believes the chasm could ensure safety and unity across all of Primoria. But securing peace is easier said than done, and the Prince is far more broken from his time with Angra than even he knows.

It is impossible for your heart not to ache for the characters. Every one of them is struggling with some sort of nightmare, both visible and not. Bonds have been shattered, identities ripped away, and the picture Sara Raasch paints is not simple, nor easy. That's what I loved about Ice Like Fire though. It's real. Raasch doesn't mollycoddle or glance over anything. Primoria is real, its landscapes harsh and its wars harsher. Good and evil. Life and death. The balance is an ever fraying tightrope for the characters, where every step could be their last, and any action can irrevocably change their relationships for better or for worse. Life is tough, that's a fact, and as much as I read to escape from reality I also enjoy books that give the sense of real, impending danger. Dark and gritty, Ice Like Fire is no comfort read. It is the story of a broken nation who are trying to fix their home when they can't even fix themselves. It is tense, heart-wrenching, and unrelenting. 

Though the story begins slowly with the pace increasing in increments it is still wholly captivating. A good portion deals with travelling to other kingdoms and diplomacy with them, but Raasch's strength - at least in my opinion - is in characters and dialogue. It doesn't matter that a lot of Meira and Theron's journey is dignitary because the pace intensifies, tension building, because of their actions. Their words. The characters push the story forward rather than the plot, which I enjoyed to no end. The characters are so fleshed out, personable, that it's hard not to get attached, and makes any consequences and casualties a much more bitter pill to swallow.

The numerous twists and turns left me shocked, breathless, and teary eyed, so I caution you to watch where and when you read this book. 1am before a job interview or work? Not good. On a crowded train? That's no better. Keep tissues and chocolate to hand, trust me. This book physically hurt.

Betrayal abounds in so many forms, for no-one is safe as darkness threatens all of Primoria. In the fight for power there will always be consequence and sacrifice.

Ice Like Fire is the second book in Sara Raasch's Snow Like Ashes trilogy, and - though I'd give it more if I could - receives a glittering FIVE STARS! Released on October 13th in the US and November 19th in the UK, this riveting series is one not to be missed.


Thanks for reading!

Holly @TheArtsShelf

Reading Song Choice: Hurricane by 30 Seconds to Mars