Monthly Archives: September 2014

Teens Can Write, Too! September Blog Chain

What are your favourite book beginnings and/or endings?

I’ve thought long and hard about what I consider to be a book with a great beginning, and although there are the obvious choices like Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (I mean, who doesn’t know the start of that?!) and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, there are three books whose opening have amazed me for very different reasons.

So, in 3rd place I have Gone by Michael Grant; the first time I read that, I was hooked from the opening paragraph:

“One minute the teacher was talking about the Civil War. And the next minute he was gone.



No ‘poof’. No flash of light. No explosion”

It immediately grabs your attention, which is something I feel is particularly important in a book for teens. It can be so difficult to encourage teenagers to read, in particular boys (I’m speaking through experience with my brother and some friends here, I’m not just totally making things up!), so something with such a sharp and engaging opening leaves you with little choice but to read on! Although the rest of the book is a great read, I’m afraid the same can’t be said for the next five books in the series; they just go more and more downhill – though the fourth book, Plague, is amazing – and just lacks the enjoyment of the first book.

The second book is one I’ve previously reviewed here and I briefly mentioned the beginning, but it’s such a good one that it really deserves to be written about again. The first line of Quarantine: The Loners by Lex Thomas caught me so off–guard and I had to re–read it many times to ensure I wasn’t imagining it. And really, when that line is “Someone must have bitten off her nose.”, do you blame me?! As with Gone, it makes you curious as to what has happened, and entices you to read on – but unlike Gone, it doesn’t tell you straight away what peculiar thing has occurred. Gone at least lets you know that, somehow, a teacher has disappeared; in Quarantine you’re left thinking “Did I really just read that?” It’s certainly a unique way to start a book, and I’ve still never read anything like it.

However, my favourite beginning isn’t one which catches me so unaware, or makes me curious to find out how it happened. No, this is one which, every time I read it, just breaks my heart a little more. Annabel Pitcher’s My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece is an altogether beautifully written book (and is again reviewed here), but the beginning of it is just so emotional. I can’t really narrow it down to any particular sentence or paragraph, but the first four pages just have me in tears every single time. If I absolutely had to pick a segment, then it would be the first four sentences:

“My sister Rose lives on the mantelpiece. Well, some of her does. Three of her fingers, her right elbow and her kneecap are buried in a graveyard in London. Mum and Dad had a big argument when the police found ten bits of her body.”

Even just typing it out makes me sad! It’s hard to decide whether I prefer books which immediately catch my interest, or which make me feel something right from the very beginning, but I think that My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece does both at the same time. And of course you want to read a book which sounds interesting and doesn’t look like it will drag, such as Gone and Quarantine: The Loners, but I suppose it’s better to have an equal mix of both rather than reading a book which does occasionally make you feel some form of emotion but lacks in interest and character – even worse (in my opinion) would be a book which is an enjoyable read, but you don’t feel anything or care about any of the characters. And books which are both uninteresting and lack any form of character – hello The Dream Thieves! – are just the bane of a book lover’s existence. Luckily, these three books have such great openings and I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of reading them.

Want to follow our blog chain? Here are the participating parties, day by day:

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and (We’ll announce the topic for October’s chain!)


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Victim To Villain by New Years Day Album Review

New Years Day

I start listening to bands for the strangest of reasons – I first heard of New Years Day because I got a poster of the singer, Ash Costello, in an issue of Kerrang! magazine, and thought that she looked really cool with her read and black hair. Then, when I saw that they had a song featuring Chris Motionless (singer of Motionless in White), it was practically set in stone that I was going to love them – and I did. I’d like to point out that I generally can’t stand female singers. To me, they mostly sound the same and they often seem to stick with slower songs, which I don’t have the patience for. Out of the CDs that I physically own, 30 of those bands/artists are male, whereas only 5 are female – likewise, my bedroom walls are covered with posters of male–fronted bands, with only a few being of female singers. I think the fact that these female singers are Taylor Momsen, Lzzie Hale, Emilie Autumn, and Amy Lee probably gives you a bit of a clue as to the kind of music, and indeed the voices, that I’m into.

So I was all prepared to not be a fan of New Years Day, but then I started listening to Angel Eyes, their song with Chris Motionless, and I was captivated. Not only is it such a great video, but Ash’s voice is amazing. I fell in love instantly, and replayed that one song for a very long time, until I finally bought the album Victim to Villain. I was a little worried that, what with loving Angel Eyes so much, I’d be rather let down by some of the other songs, but it turns out that many of them are just as good – and some are certainly catchier.

There are three tracks that I absolutely love, one of which is of course Angel Eyes. My second favourite track is most definitely Bloody Mary, even though it’s definitely one of those somewhat predictable ones. The legend of Bloody Mary is that she’ll appear to you in the mirror if you say her name three times, so of course the song repeats the line “bloody Mary” at least three times, if not more, which even as soon as seeing the title, you know they’ll do – but it’s a really enjoyable song, with some great lyrics, my favourites being: It’s imitation but I’m not flattered, and the chorus

It’s not right standing in my spotlight,
you can just lay in my shadow if it burns too bright.
Don’t trip following my footsteps
Or you’ll be up to your neck in regrets.

My final favourite song from this album is Any Last Words?, which is again an extremely catchy one. One of the main thoughts I’ve had whilst listening to the entire album is how much Ash’s voice reminds me of that of Hayley Williams. I know that’s the clichéd singer to compare any female to these days, but the similarities really come across in this song. I used to be a big fan of Paramore, with Riot! being my favourite album, and it’s that era of Paramore that I’m reminded of when I hear Ash sing. I don’t like to compare singers, especially not to Hayley Williams as she appears to be who EVERY female singer is compared to, but if you listen to any songs on this album, in particular this one, I hope you’ll know what I mean. Regardless, I love the song and it’s just really good fun to listen to. I mean, the lyrics are pretty morbid, but it’s such a cheery–sounding song that you can’t help but smile.

Although I’ve listened to the whole album quite a few times since I got it, none of the other tracks stick in my mind as much as the aforementioned ones do – that’s not to say they’re bad, because I do like them, but I don’t yet feel they’re the kind of songs that I’d have a lot to write about each one of them. I do, however, recommend giving the band a try, as their music is great and it’s another female singer I can add to the list that I actually like! I’ve also just heard that they have a new EP out in November, and one of the songs has just recently been released, so I’m away to listen to that (and probably fangirl over it too), but I’ll leave you with the video for the spectacular Angel Eyes.

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Flash Fiction Friday: The Bank Robbery

You are a customer lying face down on the floor during a bank robbery. Describe the robbery from this vantage point.

Right now, all I can think about is how this floor needs a right good clean – perhaps I ought to mention it to the manager? The sudden sound of a single gun shot, followed by screams, instantly jolts me back to the current situation, and I remember why I’m so close to the floor in the first place. I had just been about to leave the bank when the masked men burst in, brandishing guns. One had pushed me aside, which is partly how I ended up on the ground (they were yelling at everyone to get down too), and my shopping went everywhere – there’s a tin of custard still rolling along the floor.

So far the men haven’t hurt anyone (at least, not that I can see), but even I can tell that the manager is taking too long to get the money from the safe, and the men are getting impatient. In fact, they’re threatening him – us – again now, saying if he doesn’t hurry up they’re going to start shooting randomly. I can hear the sound of footsteps clacking off the floor; they’re getting closer to me, and oh god someone has grabbed my arm. They’re pulling me to my feet and I can’t do anything, and nobody is helping they’re too scared they don’t want to get hurt, I don’t blame them but I’m so scared and now I can feel the fun pressed to my temple oh god I’m –

Yep, I think it’s safe to say I have a habit of killing people off! I’m hoping next week’s will be a little more cheerful, and possibly even without a death! :O

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Fairy Tail: Phoenix Priestess Film Review

Fairy Tail Phoenixx Priestess

I remember being so excited when I realised there was a newly released Fairy Tail film – for the first time, I could watch Natsu & co. for over an hour uninterrupted instead of having to watch episode after episode (not that that’s a bad thing!). Perhaps even more importantly, I would be buying it on DVD so I could watch it on a bigger screen than my computer; that was a very exciting realisation for me. Of course, there was also the worry that they might not manage to pull off an hour and 20-minute long Fairy Tail story which was entirely unrelated to the rest of the series (so far, of course), but why I had such doubts I’m not quite sure. The film was brilliant.

I personally think that part of the reason for Fairy Tail’s success is not only the characters, but also the humour throughout it. Whether it’s due to a quick one–liner, or a whole scene, this anime is undoubtedly the funniest I’ve seen. I was slightly concerned that the humour in the film wouldn’t be as good as it is in the anime, but I ended up laughing out loud more times than I can count. It’s been a while since I’ve genuinely laughed at a Fairy Tail episode (that’s not to say they’ve not been funny, they’ve just been too busy breaking my heart for me to do much else than cry), but Fairy Tail: Phoenix Priestess has some utterly brilliant moments in it. Sure, there are a few predictable moments – one scene in particular springs to mind – but they’re still pretty funny. Although there are some recurring jokes and things from the episodes, they’re not over–used, and nor do they spoil anything for anyone who may not have seen all the current episodes, which is good – I had waited until I caught up with the series before I watched the film, because I didn’t want to risk spoiling anything for myself, but I don’t think there’s anything that would ruin it (at least, nothing obvious or important).

My intention had been to watch the film with the subtitles, because the site I use for watching the anime hasn’t yet dubbed all the episodes so I’m now more used to the original voices than I am to the English voices. When I first watched the trailer for the film, I genuinely recoiled hearing the English voices because they just didn’t sound right at all – I hadn’t heard the characters sound like that in such a long time, and I was totally convinced I wouldn’t watch the dubbed version of the film. However, when the film first started, it was the dubbed version, so I turned up my nose at it and was just about to try and change it to the subbed one, when Gray spoke. Ever since I started Fairy Tail, Gray has been my favourite character, and when he first spoke in the film I was immediately brought back to when I first started it about 5 months ago, and so I thought “Hey, I could get used to this again!” and decided to keep the dubbed version going. And honestly, the voices are nowhere near as bad as I was expecting them; it didn’t take too long for me to get used to them again and it was nice just being able to concentrate on what was going on without having to quickly read the subtitles too.

I must admit, I was a little unsure of Éclair at first; a character just introduced in the film. She was quite stand–offish, though to be fair that was part of her character, and I just didn’t like the way she treated Lucy and the others – but again, that was part of her character. It took me a wee while until I found myself liking her, but in the end I did like her a lot more, and I certainly felt sorry for her too – that’s the thing with Fairy Tail; no matter what, they can just tug on your heart–strings in an instant and leave you a crying wreck, mere seconds after you’ve been laughing your head off. It’s brilliantly done, as I’ve yet to see another anime – or indeed, see anything – so good at playing with your emotions.

I only have one very slight complaint about the film, and that’s the music. Normally I love the music of Fairy Tail, and I could listen to it for hours, but the score for the film just wasn’t quite as up to scratch as some of the other pieces. Don’t get me wrong, it was good and it did tie in with the film, but having tried to listen to it whilst writing this, I found I wasn’t interested and each piece just blended together. With the “regular” Fairy Tail soundtracks, each piece is beautiful and great to listen to – they also accurately represent the anime. Some pieces you listen to and can picture the battles unfolding in your mind, others make you want to cry with how emotive they are. The music in Phoenix Priestess is just lacking something, and it’s unlikely I’ll listen to it again other than when watching the film.

As a whole, however, the film was great, and I imagine it’s something I’ll watch a lot as I wait for new episodes to be released each week! The characters are just as good in this as they are in the anime, and the longer running time than that of an ordinary episode don’t have any negative effects on them. It was entirely possible that they may be a little duller or not as funny in something that’s at least 3 times longer than an episode, but that didn’t happen; if anything they were almost better, though I’m probably only saying that because I got to see them for so much longer!

Although I do recommend watching Fairy Tail: Phoenix Priestess, I would say that you at least watch some of the anime – or read the manga! – first, as that way you’ll get a better feel for the characters and more things will make sense.

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Flash Fiction Friday: The Wedding

A few weeks ago I bought a book called 642 Things To Write About , which is filled with prompts, opening lines, and suggestions of things to write about. I’ve decided that, instead of leaving them locked up in the book with nobody to read them, I would post them here. And, as they’re generally extremely short, I’ve come up with Flash Fiction Friday, where my intention is to post one of these stories every week (for those who don’t know, “flash fiction” is a term given to very short stories, usually between 300 and 1000 words).

My first prompt was: You are looking down through the skylight as chefs prepare dinner for your ex-fiance’s wedding , and this was my result!

The wedding cake was sitting right there. Right there below him in all its three-tiered glory. Slowly he pushed the window open further, hardly daring to breathe lest the chefs below noticed him. Fortunately they were all too busy rushing around adding the final touches to the main course to notice anything out of the ordinary, so with great trepidation he carefully lowered himself through the skylight towards the floor. There was a heart-stopping moment where he thought he’d totally misjudged the distances, but then he felt the tips of his strainers touch the floor and he relaxed as he let go of the windowsill.

He was now standing at the back of the kitchens, mere metres from the cake. Although he’d got this far without being seen, he couldn’t risk being discovered at this crucial point, so he grabbed a white jackets from a peg on the wall, slipping it on and instantly blending in with the rest of the staff. With his back to the rest of the kitchen, he removed the packet of arsenic from his inner pocket – he was pleased to notice its similarity to the cake decorations – and delicately sprinkled it all over the cake.

He smiled slowly to himself as he finished. That would teach her for running off with his brother.

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