Monday 30 November 2015

November Wrap-Up.

Okay, at first I was a bit disappointed in my reading progress this month, but actually two of the books that I read were pretty long and so after much deliberation, I'm pretty pleased! I managed 5 of the 7 I chose and I enjoyed most of them. November has been a blast!

  1. 'The Historian'; Elizabeth Kostova. This book arrested me in a way that no other has for a while. Not only was it incredibly detailed, well-crafted and gorgeously written but it ended up creeping me out quite a bit more than I imagined it would. The amount of research that must have gone into this is breath-taking. However, what made it so great also hindered it's appeal in a number of ways. It's size makes it an intimidating book to read and for good reason. This book does a heck of a lot of info-dumping and takes a while to get to the parts where the plot actually progresses. 3.5/5 Stars.
  2. 'Bitter Greens'; Kate Forsyth. Another big book (though not quite so scary) that I really enjoyed. There were three main plot-lines and I enjoyed each of them, as they all brought something new to the table in terms of plot and characterisation. Forsyth is obviously big on world-building too and I was impressed by her vast knowledge and historical accuracy. That intertwined with fantastical elements made this a fresh take on the well-known Fairy Tale 'Rapunzel'. In all the jumping around characters and time periods, minor character names did get a little confusing but I was deeply impressed with Forsyth's novel. 4.5/5 Stars.
  3. 'The Butterfly & The Violin'; Kristy Cambron. While reading this book, I felt like I was reading from two completely different authors, not just a past and present back-and-forth. One tale was a haunting, emotional historical piece on the life of an Austrian Violinist sent to Auschwitz and forced to endure unbearable cruelty. The other tale was a rather tacky, loosely connected insta-love in modern day America following two people trying to track down a painting of the aforementioned Violinist in a way which made little sense and became almost unbelievable. I believe that Cambron had really good intentions with the message of this story, but in the end it drowned any chance of a real plot out. 1.5/5 Stars.
  4. 'A Thousand Nights'; E.K. Johnston. This was my favourite read of the month and I still get excited when thinking about this book. Johnston's writing blew me away because it felt like a Fairy Tale in it's style. The imagery in particular really let Johnston's talent shine through. What I enjoyed most about this novel though was it's clever, subtle message about where power truly lies and I appreciated the diverse nature of the characters in this book. 5/5 Stars.
  5. 'The Sin Eater's Daughter'; Melinda Salisbury. I was extremely excited to read this book and came out of it feeling a little disappointed. I honestly felt like Salisbury got the plot progression spot on, the story was well-written and she had put a fair amount of thought and effort into the world-building. Unfortunately Twylla (the main character) really didn't strike me as a great heroine, and the ending coupled with some inconsistencies along the way really frustrated me. Perhaps it could have done with a little more development in order to earn a higher rating. 2.5/5 Stars.
This month I have read three physical books:

- The Historian
- Bitter Greens
- The Sin Eater's Daughter

This month I have read two Netgalley/Edelweiss reads:
- The Butterfly & The Violin
- A Thousand Nights

Here are my Bookish Bingo & Story Sprites cards!

Horror: The Other Lamb; Kate Young. REVIEW.
Reread: The Historian; Elizabeth Kostova. REVIEW.
LGBTQIA: More Than This; Patrick Ness. REVIEW.
Sparkly Cover: Horns; Joe Hill. REVIEW.
Mental Illness: Mary Hades; Sarah Dalton. REVIEW.
Religious Minority MC: A Thousand Nights; E.K. Johnston. REVIEW.
Over 400 Pages: Bitter Greens; Kate Forsyth. REVIEW.
Science Fiction: Spinning Starlight; R.C. Lewis. REVIEW.
Water On The Cover: The Sin Eater's Daughter; Melinda Salisbury. REVIEW.
New To You Author: Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children; Ransom Riggs. REVIEW.
On Your Shelf For Over A Year: Life After Life; Kate Atkinson. REVIEW.
Set In Another Country: Etta & Otto & Russell & James; Emma Hooper. REVIEW.
Animal On The Cover: Station Eleven; Emily St. John Mandel. REVIEW.
Mystery: Vengeance Road; Erin Bowman. REVIEW.
Black Cover: Witch Hunter; Virginia Boecker. REVIEW.
Historical Fiction: The Butterfly & The Violin; Kristy Cambron. REVIEW.

A Character Death: More Than This; Patrick Ness.
Male MC: Horns; Joe Hill.
POC MC: A Thousand Nights; E.K. Johnston.
Witches Or Wizards: Bitter Greens; Kate Forsyth.
Photograph On The Cover: Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children; Ransom Riggs.
A Book With A Mountain: The Historian; Elizabeth Kostova.
A Halloween Read: Mary Hades; Sarah Dalton.
Set In The Southern USA: Vengeance Road; Erin Bowman.
Character Centred Novel: The Sin Eater's Daughter; Melinda Salisbury.
Supernatural Race In Modern Times: The Other Lamb; Katie Young.
A Character Who Is a Musician: The Butterfly & The Violin; Kristy Cambron.

Book Review: The Sin Eater's Daughter; Melinda Salisbury.

I'm pretty excited about the fact that I got through this book so quickly! It took me a little while to decide exactly how to rate it because as I progressed, I became more and more unsure of how I felt about it.

TYPE: Paperback

TITLE: The Sin Eater's Daughter
AUTHOR: Melinda Salisbury
SERIES: The Sin Eater's Daughter (#1)
PUBLISHER: Scholastic Press
PAGES: 336
GENRE: Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance

RATING: 2.5/5 Stars

Twylla is blessed. The Gods have chosen her to marry a prince, and rule the kingdom. But the favour of the Gods has it's price. A deadly poison infuses her skin. Those who anger the queen must die under Twylla's fatal touch.

Only Lief, an outspoken new guard, can see past Twylla's chilling role to the girls she truly is.

Yet in a court as dangerous and the queen's, some truths should not be told...

What I Liked:
  • One of the elements of this book that I really enjoyed was Salisbury's mastery of plot progression. So many twists and turns! A few of them I did predict, or at least have a sneaking suspicion about, but some of them were a complete shock to me and very nicely dropped into the story. What Salisbury really did a great job of was making sure that things that seemed minor actually turned out to be worth remembering in the long run.
  • Salisbury also did a really great job with the world-building. I loved the religion that underpinned the Kingdom's actions and the way in which the tyrannical Queen chose to rule. The sin-eating was pretty interesting, and Twylla's role in court I really liked. If there had been more pages in the book, perhaps a little more of a look into the surrounding Kingdoms that put more stock in logic and reason would have been cool!
What I Disliked:
  • I'm afraid to say that Twylla was not a hugely inspiring main character, and her inability to leave the castle walls also made for a fairly dull viewpoint. She whined a lot. She moped a lot. She delivered hundreds of inner monologues on how torn she was, how unfair her life was, how she probably deserved it because she was such a terrible person and in the end it became a little repetitive. I would have liked to see a heroine with a bit more personality and the desire to stand up for herself every once in a while.
  • The ending really made me angry. The huge twist with Lief I sort of saw coming (though not completely) and it really made me angry. What made me angrier was her response to it and the epilogue in which, it would seem, she is willing to forgive and forget. I'm not going to spoil anything here but I'm not the biggest fan of love triangles and though Salisbury handled the trope pretty well, the conclusion left me feeling disappointed in Twylla's already dubious decision making skills.
  • This issue is minor really, but I felt there were a few character and plot inconsistencies along the way in this book, especially and at times I felt like Salisbury didn't have a complete idea on how she wanted her characters to come across. Merek is the biggest example of this. Everything he did, in my eyes, seemed fairly nice and affectionate but Twylla seemed to only see the opposite most of the time. Was he supposed to be a likeable character? Was Lief? Because most of the time he kind of got on my nerves!
Overall Conclusion:
Perhaps I'm being a little harsh and overly analytical with this book. After all there were some really great features that I would love to see Salisbury bring to the next book (that's right, I would like to actually read the next book). Salisbury's brilliant use of cliffhangers has really won me over and I'm intrigued to see more of the world she's started to build. However I can't ignore the obvious flaws with this book: lack of characters to really root for, an annoying ending and inconsistencies. I hope that Salisbury will fix this in the next book, which I hear is from a different perspective that isn't Twylla. Fingers crossed!

Last Week's Shenanigans (23rd November - 29th November)...

My week has been quite a bit busier and I'm glad about that! To start with, on Monday, Mat and I went to watch The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part II! I was thrilled to finally be getting round to seeing the long-awaited conclusion of this trilogy and I thought it was really well done! I predicted I'd like this half better after reading 'Mockingjay' and I was right. It was so much more interesting and action packed! I thought they did a really great job with the visuals, and I cried quite while I watched at particular scenes (I won't spoil for those who haven't read the books or seen the films yet). All in all, a very enjoyable Monday evening!

Work ended up being fairly busy for me over the week, particularly on Black Friday (things got a little bit crazy on the shop floor). Luckily I had a couple of fun events throughout the week to keep me less stressed. On Wednesday it was my sister's Birthday! Though I didn't get to see her until Sunday, it was still nice t keep track of her day and presents: thank you Social Media! Thursday was Thanksgiving as my American readers will know. I'm not American but as my flat mates and boyfriend lived with Americans a couple of years ago, they still like to have a nice Thanksgiving dinner to mark the event! There was so much food and we had a really fun evening playing games and watching films.

On Sunday, as I mentioned, I popped down to Ashford to visit my family and spend time with my Sister as it was her Birthday earlier in the week. She seemed pretty content with the things she had received and had a whole host of funny stories to tell me about things that had been happening since I last saw her. It was nice to catch up with everyone and I'll soon be seeing them again at Christmas time (though I left my bracelet behind: gutted!).

I Read:


Top Ten Tuesday: Things I Am Thankful For

Sunday 29 November 2015

Book Review: A Thousand Nights; E.K. Johnston.

In comparison to my last few reads, I think I've raced through this one much more impressively. That can only be put down to how much I enjoyed it though, in fact I stayed up rather late last night so I could finish it! It was fantastic, I can't wait to review it for you guys!

SOURCE: Netgalley
TYPE: E-Read

TITLE: A Thousand Nights
AUTHOR: E.K. Johnston
PUBLISHER: Disney Hyperion
PAGES: 336
GENRE: Fantasy, Retelling, Young Adult

RATING: 5/5 Stars

Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to her village, looking for a wife. When she sees the dust cloud on the horizon she knows he has arrived. She knows he will want the loveliest girl: her sister. She vows she will not let her be next. And so she is taken in her sister's place, and she believes death will soon follow. But back in their village her sister is mourning. Through her pain, she calls upon the desert winds, conjuring a subtle unseen magic, and something besides death stirs the air in it's place. 

Lo-Melkhiin's court is a dangerous palace filled with pretty things: intricate statues with wretched eyes, exquisite threads to weave the most beautiful garments. She sees everything as if for the last time. But the first sun sets and rises, and she is not dead. Night after night Lo-Melkhiin comes to her, and listens to the stories she tells and day after day she is awoken by the sunrise. Exploring the palace, she begins to unlock years of fear that have tormented and silenced a kingdom. 

Lo-Melkhiin was not always a cruel ruler. Something went wrong. The words she speaks to him every night are given strange life of their own. She makes things appear. Little things, at first: a dress from home, a vision of her sister. With each tale she spins, her power grows. Soon she dreams of bigger, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king, if she can put an end to rule of a monster.

What I Liked:
  • Wow where do I begin?! The writing really blew me away. It is both lyrical and poetic, and written in a truly enchanting style that really conveys the tone of the novel well. It felt like a Fairy Tale, but with much more detail. I felt like Johnston's talent really shone through her gorgeous imagery. I could really see the Desert, the Palace, the dresses and the gardens that she described. It gave the whole piece a magical feel that I've previously found hard to find in other books.
  • There were a lot of clever subtleties in this book which I thoroughly enjoyed because they highlighted a very clear message for me. Most of the characters (women and poorer classes) were unnamed. Indeed, only three characters that I recall are actually named: the King, a Stone Carver and Skeptic (the latter two are given false names and receive their power unwittingly from the former). The reason why this is so important? Because the book is about the unnamed heroine of the story and the other anonymous women who work together with her to overcome their situations and show far more ingenuity and selflessness than the named characters. This book teaches that through unity we can achieve, and that we should not overlook the power that the supposedly weak and helpless can have. It's a powerful and inspirational message.
  • There is a huge amount of diversity found in this book, especially when it comes to customs and beliefs. I liked that these were handled so respectfully and through debate, rather than fighting. Johnston cleverly argued a preference for science, logic and reason but chose to inject magic and the supernatural in order to suggest higher powers at work also. Cultural differences are present throughout the story, but are not in any way white-washed which is often found in stories like this. It made for a very refreshing read.
What I Disliked:
  • It's hard for me to choose anything to go here as I really did enjoy this book a lot. At times I suppose it felt like things were placed a little too conveniently in the heroine's favour, but thus is the nature of Fairy Tales. The transition between the heroine's present, and her visions of home and/or the past became confusing at times too but this was only really a very minor annoyance.
Overall Conclusion:
This is a beautiful book with some very well written imagery and a strong message behind it. It's more of a re-imagining of the framing story of 'One Thousand & One Nights' rather than a retelling, as it is far richer and more complex than it's predecessor. It's not a romantic story either, though there are powerful bonds of love that become central to the plot-line. The characters were well-rounded and strong. Johnston wrote sensitively and cleverly and it is a strong contender to be one of my favourite reads of the year.

Wednesday 25 November 2015

Book Review: The Butterfly &The Violin; Kristy Cambron.

It didn't take me a huge amount of time to get through this one, it was definitely a book I would describe as an easy read. I've been reading a lot of Historical Fiction over the course of November, I'm looking forward to moving onto my next book. I'll be entering this book into the 'Key Words' challenge and 'Monthly Motif' challenge.

SOURCE: Netgalley
TYPE: E-Read

TITLE: The Butterfly & The Violin
AUTHOR: Kristy Cambron
SERIES: Hidden Masterpiece (#1)
PUBLISHER: Thomas Nelson
PAGES: 335
GENRE: Contemporary, Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction, Romance

RATING: 1.5/5 Stars

A Mysterious painting breathes hope and beauty into the darkest corners of Auschwitz--and the loneliest hearts of Manhattan.

Manhattan art dealer Sera James watched her world crumble at the altar two years ago, and her heart is still fragile. Her desire for distraction reignites a passion for a mysterious portrait she first saw as a young girl--a painting of a young violinist with piercing blue eyes.

In her search for the painting, Sera crosses paths with William Hanover--the grandson of a wealthy California real estate mogul--who may be the key to uncovering the hidden masterpiece. Together Sera and William slowly unravel the story behind the painting's subject: Austrian violinist Adele Von Bron.

A darling of the Austrian aristocracy of 1942, talented violinist, and daughter to a high-ranking member of the Third Reich, Adele risks everything when she begins smuggling Jews out of Vienna. In a heartbeat, her life of prosperity and privilege dissolves into a world of starvation and barbed wire.

As Sera untangles the secrets behind the painting, she finds beauty in the most unlikely of places: the grim camps of Auschwitz and the inner recesses of her own troubled heart.

What I Liked:
  • This was very much a story divided into two parts. Both had a fairly strong start, however I particularly enjoyed the Historical setting of Adele's story. Cambron's writing in this era flourished and drew me in with it's poetic touches and heart-wrenchingly emotional moments. The message that Cambron purveyed was a lovely one which warmed the heart, and it was clear that she had done a lot of research before writing this book. My favourite moments in the book were spent with Adele and Vladimir and watching them try to find faith and hope in a world filled with cruelty.
What I Disliked:
  • Unfortunately as I said, there were two story-lines in this book and whenever Cambron wrote from the POV of Sera, a modern-day Art Collector from Manhattan, my opinion completely changed. Here Cambron's writing failed her: dialogue between characters was too wordy, important moments unfinished or simply not written about at all, characters remained underdeveloped and the Soap Opera style felt far-fetched and tacky. All in all, I think Cambron would have done better to focus on Adele's story as Sera's was only very loosely connected and wasn't a necessary addition.
  • I had no idea that this book was Christian Fiction which is not a genre that I really read or enjoy, as I am not religious myself. I can appreciate that a lot of people do enjoy that kind of story and it's mostly just a matter of personal taste. In this case I'm mentioning it however because I felt like a lot of the plot was a little lost in the message that Cambron was trying to convey. While it was a lovely one with real meaning and great intentions I felt that it was a little inexcusable to sacrifice important plot aspects in favour of it.
Overall Conclusion:
This book was an easy read that also confused me in a lot of ways. In one story-line I found a lovely story that contained truly heartfelt moments of grief and horror. It was so well-researched too that I commend Cambron for her knowledge on the Holocaust era, it's effects on Austria in particular and a detailed understanding of what went on in Auschwitz and camps like it. It's hard to believe that the same Author wrote from Sera's point of view too, which displayed far less talent and ability. Overall I think the novel had real potential but I never felt truly engaged in the story. Perhaps an increase in length would have given Cambron the room she needed to pull off such loosely connected plot-lines, and would have meant her message didn't dominate and exclude the necessary components of the actual story.

Tuesday 24 November 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: My picks for 'Things I Am Thankful For'.

I'm not actually American and feel a little odd getting in on the whole Thanksgiving thing, but then I am having a lovely dinner on Thursday in honour of it so I can hardly deny a themed Top Ten Tuesday can I? Besides, it gives me a chance to talk about things other than books for once in these posts. I have a lot in life to be thankful for and it's time to appreciate that!

1) My family. I don't get to talk about my family or say how thankful I am often enough in my life, so this is the perfect opportunity. I'm thankful that I have a Dad who watches the same kind of movies as me, and keeps a cool head when I'm freaking out about things, and is willing to be fair and firm in all situations and respects my privacy. I'm thankful to have a Mum who listens to my problems and tries her best to give me good advice, who knows when I need a cup of tea or a natter and laughs at all of my not very funny jokes. I'm also thankful for a beautiful sister who takes me as I am, brightens up my day when I see her and whom I am very proud of.

2) My boyfriend. This is an obvious next choice, because Mat is the man who has to do all of those things I've just listed and absolutely manages it plus more! I honestly feel so lucky to have had a whole six years with him (almost) and know we have plenty of years ahead of us. After such a long time he still makes me laugh, tells me he loves me every day, surprises me with spontaneous romance, supports my big decisions and wants to spend time with me. I love and adore him with all my heart and am thankful every day that I found and have him in my life.

3) My friends. I'm lucky because I have a few really close friends whom I have known for a number of years now. I don't get to see them much now of course, but when I do it's like we never parted. Of course I have newer friends who I've got to know in a shorter space of time and really enjoy their company, but I'll always be thankful for the fact that the friends I spent so much time with while growing up didn't just drift away.

4) My job. I know I complain about it a lot, but there are plenty of people that don't have a job and a source of income like I do. It's hard work of course but I enjoy it too, which makes me even more thankful because I think unless people are fully pursuing their dreams, it's hard to find a job that you love. Whenever I feel stressed at work, I always remind myself that things could be so much worse and instantly I feel so much better!

5) That I am comfortable and happy. Following up my previous statement, I'm in a fairly good position to live a good and happy life and I'm thankful for that. I'm not rich of course but I am certainly not poor, starving or destitute like other people in the world are and it's important I appreciate what I do have.

6) Tea, Chocolate & Biscuits. I guess after so many deep answers, I wanted to be a little silly, so I included three of my favourite snacks. I'm actually indulging in all three while writing this post (oops). I genuinely am thankful that these wonderful things exist because there have certainly been times where I think they've saved me from the brink of a mental breakdown.

7) Books. Okay. I couldn't resist.

8) My health? I know what you're all thinking: "But're always ill?". While that may be true (my immune system just doesn't seem to know how to stave off coughs, colds and the flu) I still think it's worth being thankful that I don't have to live with something far worse. There are people out there with life-altering conditions and terminal illnesses fighting very brave battles and every day I am glad that I'm not one of them.

9) My education. Not many people feel enthused at the idea of school, but I think most past students can agree that it changed their lives for the better and they appreciate everything they were taught once they are more adult. My secondary education was very important to me and I am prod of my achievements at University too.

10) My life. This may seem a bit of an obvious one, but thank goodness that I'm still alive? While that's true, I still have a future that I can be excited about and plan for, and of course that's something that not everyone gets to do. 

Monday 23 November 2015

Last Week's Shenanigans (16th November - 22nd November)...

Once again, I have been hit with a pretty uneventful week I'm afraid. I'm finding it harder to do exciting things because I have work and my days off are mostly filled with other things, particularly as Mat and my flat mates are both back at Uni so have little time themselves. Nevertheless, I'll hopefully have more to say as Christmas draws closer! I did manage to squeeze in a bit of shopping on Sunday which was a lot of fun. I'm particularly loving how festive everything feels at the moment and Christmas Lights are everywhere now! I met Mat from work after shopping and we spent the evening watching Jessica Jones, my brand new favourite current TV series. We're about five episodes in ad absolutely loving it! I thoroughly recommend it to anyone that hasn't watched it yet!

I Read:


Thursday 19 November 2015

Book Review: Bitter Greens; Kate Forsyth.

I received this book as a gift on my 22nd Birthday and I was so glad because I'd been after it for quite a while! You all know how I love Fairy Tale retellings, and this Rapunzel adaptation looked a little different to usual because it had a huge dose of Historical Fiction in it! This is also a Monthly Motif entrant!

TYPE: Paperback

TITLE: Bitter Greens
AUTHOR: Kate Forsyth
PUBLISHER: Walker Books Ltd
PAGES: 480
GENRE: Adult, Historical Fiction, Fairy Tale Retelling, Fantasy

RATING: 4.5/5 Stars

Charlotte-Rose de la Force, exiled from the court of the Sun King Louis XIV, has always been a great teller of tales.

Selena Leonelli, once the exquisite muse of the great Venetian artist Titian, is terrified of time.

Margherita, trapped in a doorless tower and burdened by tangles of her red-gold hair, must find a way to escape.

Three women, three lives, three stories, braided together in a compelling tale of desire, obsession and the redemptive power of love.

What I Liked:
  • The three main plot-lines that Forsyth chose to write were very well intertwined and each one brought something totally new to the table which kept me engaged throughout the novel. Each tale was told by three women with distinct personalities: I loved Charlotte's wit and intelligence, Margherita's sincerity and sweetness and Selena's sharpness and ability to handle herself. Only one truly felt like a Rapunzel retelling and yet they all had a Fairy Tale like quality.
  • I was impressed by Forsyth's academic resume so I had high expectations for her ability to build a believable world, especially in terms of Historical accuracy. I was not disappointed. My own knowledge of the period is limited but I felt very educated on court life in various parts of Europe and it seamlessly weaved with magical and fantastical elements that gave it a Fairy Tale feel.
What I Disliked:
  • There were moments that I feel the plots jumped about a little too much and the structure felt a little random and unplanned. I also got a little lost because there were so many characters, all with similar titles. Some were only mentioned once and others were far more important. That mixed with nicknames meant that things became even more confusing. These are only small things that slightly irritated me, and they didn't in any way ruin my reading experience.
Overall Conclusion:
This book took me a long time to get through, but I really did adore it. Likeable characters, a gorgeously spun Fairy Tale and riddled with Historical accuracies that showed a vast amount of research. At times the structure felt a little bizarre but it was only a minor issue for the most part. This is a beautiful retelling of Rapunzel and the woman who first wrote down the tale. I thoroughly recommend this read!

Tuesday 17 November 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: My picks for 'Quotes I Love From Books I Read In The Last Year'.

Oh my, I love book quotes! This is going to be hard in terms of choosing, but I'm excited to choose relive some of my favourite books again!

1) 'Child 44'; Tom Rob Smith.
"Sentimentality could blind a man to the truth. Those who appear the most trustworthy deserve the most suspicion."
 2) 'The Rosie Project'; Graeme Simsion.
“And how could I be sure that other people were not doing the same—playing the game to be accepted but suspecting all the time that they were different?” 
3) 'The Storied Life Of A.J. Fikry'; Gabrielle Zevin.
 “Why is any one book different from any other book? They are different, A.J. decides, because they are. We have to look inside many. We have to believe. We agree to be disappointed sometimes so that we can be exhilarated every now and again.” 
4) 'Sunbolt'; Intisar Khanani.
 “Their laughter hides their loss, their smiles hide their grief, their eyes hide a pain that will not be eased.” 
5) 'Neverland'; Shari Arnold.
 “There are subtle truths buried in every make-believe. You never know where you might find one.”
6) 'Station Eleven'; Emily St. John Mandel.
“She had never entirely let go of the notion that if she reached far enough with her thoughts she might find someone waiting, that if two people were to cast their thoughts outward at the same moment they might somehow meet in the middle.”
7) 'Vengeance Road'; Erin Bowman.
 “For some reason, this is the moment I know I’m gonna be all right; that the hurt might never fade, and my heart might always long for a stubborn cowboy with squinty eyes, but I’ll make do. Sure as the sun will rise.” 
8) 'Life After Life'; Kate Atkinson.
 “No point in thinking, you just have to get on with life. We only have one after all, we should try and do our best. We can never get it right, but we must try.” 
9) 'More Than This'; Patrick Ness.
 “Real life is only ever just real life. Messy. What it means depends on how you look at it. The only thing you've got to do is find a way to live there.” 
10) 'Dracula'; Bram Stoker.
“No man knows till he has suffered from the night how sweet and dear to his heart and eye the morning can be.” 

Monday 16 November 2015

Last Week's Shenanigans (9th November - 15th November)...

Honestly, this week hasn't been wholly exciting either! I've organised with friends and family to do a whole bunch of exciting things over the upcoming weeks and even into 2016, but most of my week has been working. The most poignant thing that has happened this week of course were the awful attacks not just in Paris but in Lebanon and Baghdad, and the terrible Earthquakes in Japan and Mexico that amounted to the loss of over 115,000 lives in a 24 hour period. I think it's important to support victims of horrific events all around the world, and having barely taken my Poppy off from Remembrance Day, remember the lives lost and promote peace and kindness in our everyday lives rather than spread fear and incite hatred, particularly towards groups of people that are merely running from and don't in any way agree with those atrocities. My thought are with the friends and family of all those lost and may those that have passed rest in peace.

On an unrelated note, a couple of nice things did happen this week, mostly towards the end of it. Firstly, Mat and I had the flat to ourselves from Friday Evening until Sunday night and chose to make the most of it with a night in on Friday, cooked breakfast on Saturday and going out for dinner in Westfield at Stratford on Sunday. We went to Giraffe and had a really lovely time and gorgeous food. IT has been nice to do something other than just sit around on my days off, though it meant I could do a lot of reading too!

I Read:


Top Ten Tuesday: Book To Movie Adaptations I'm Looking Forward To/Have Yet To See
Six Degrees Of Separation: All The Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr

I Posted:

Illumicrate Unboxing!

Sunday 15 November 2015

Illumicrate Unboxing! (Box 1)

I can not express to you in mere words how excited I have been about the arrival of my new Monthly Subscription Box, and about how much I've been looking forward to sharing all of my lovely goodies with you all!

Firstly, for those of you who don't have a clue what I am on about, I'll explain a little about Illumicrate and what it does. It is a UK based YA Book Subscription Box, sent every quarter and containing a brand new YA release alongside an abundance of goodies for subscribers to enjoy. It is run by the lovely Daphne at Winged Reviews and I'm so glad that she set it up because although I've seen a ton of US Book Subscription services (which due to shipping costs are far too expensive), there are very few decent ones in the UK and none as decently priced as Illumicrate.

This is the first ever Unboxing post I've ever done so I'll try and be thorough because I really want to give everyone an idea of exactly what they'll be receiving and promote Daphne's amazing new service. I subscribed (after much deliberation because I'd never done anything like it before) early October for the November Box. When the beginning of November finally came round you can imagine that I was very excited. I received an email telling me my box had been sent on the 12th, and was absolutely flabbergasted by the surprisingly speedy shipping time because I then received it just two days later, on Saturday 14th November!

My first impression of the box was also a good one: it had a very minimalistic yet effective design which caught the eye and got me overly enthusiastic about that morning's post because I instantly knew what it was. In terms of packaging, I think Daphne did a great job! Not only was the box design great, but she'd gone to a lot of trouble to pad it out properly with yellow paper shred (to match the colour scheme) and pretty coloured bit's of tape and ribbon where needed to keep everything secure and neat. I loved that the box was divided into two layers, with the book being the last thing to be revealed. It certainly heightened the suspense and made the unboxing all the more of a great experience for me!

So what was inside you ask? Well I'll start with the items written on the official packing list because they are really good ones and then I'll briefly cover some of the little extras that Daphne threw in for good measure.

THE BOOK: 'Wolf By Wolf'; Ryan Graudin (Paperback). Thank you, thank you and a thousand times thank you! I read 'The Walled City' earlier this year and was very impressed by it. As soon as I saw that Ryan Graudin was releasing another book I wanted so desperately to get my hands on it and thanks to Daphne, I did! It was released on October 20th so is relatively new, which I'm pleased to see. The Book came with a signed Book Plate from Graudin herself, and a link & password to watch an exclusive video also recorded by Graudin which was a lot of fun to watch and a nice surprise.

Wolf Tattoo Bookmark. In keeping with the book itself, Daphne also included a beautiful bookmark that is inspired by the wolf tattoos on Yael's (the MC of 'Wolf By Wolf') arm. It's a beautiful bookmark designed and hand-painted exclusively by Skinny Hues who have created many gorgeous designs inspired by other great reads in the past.

Mockingjay Necklace. The items included in this book weren't all related just to Graudin's book, Daphne decided to include quite a bit of Bookish variety! This necklace, simple in it's design, was another exclusive piece in order to celebrate the upcoming release of Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part II. It features a famous movie quote and I'll certainly be wearing it when I go to watch the film! It was designed and crafted by My Clockwork Castle who feature some really gorgeous theme-punk inspired jewellry on there website.

Harry Potter Series Poster. There aren't that many people who don't love Harry Potter. I for one adore those books and so I was very happy to see this gorgeously designed exclusive A3 Poster that features all seven of Abbie Imagine's beautifully rendered cover redesigns. I've put it up on our fridge using the aptly coloured fridge magnets and there it shall be displayed proudly for a while to come! It was all wrapped up like a scroll when I opened this box and I even joked (not knowing what it was) that my Hogwarts letter had finally arrived!

Books Before Looks Pocket Mirror. I've actually been in need of a pocket mirror so this little gift left me pleased as Punch! It has a really great quote too, which should really be everyone's mantra (in my opinion) but I really loved it's sense of irony. This gift had an exclusive colour scheme which is very pretty and I have to say I'm pretty impressed with all the exclusive items that Daphne has managed. Head on over to Raspberry Finch to see a ton of other pretty illustrations and gift ideas!

And those are the five main inclusions for the book, well worth the £29.99 a quarter cost (especially as it's free shipping for the UK)! Alongside these wonderful inclusions, Daphne managed to secure some very generous discounts from the above mentioned shops which I'll certainly be making great use of. I'm a big believer in supporting small and indie businesses and Daphne's picked some really good ones for this first box! I can't wait to see what else she manages in later boxes!

There were also a couple of little fun extras which I'll briefly mention:

The first was a badge for Leigh Bardugo's 'Six Of Crows'. I recently won this book as a prize for winning a challenge and I'm really excited to read it! This badge is very cute and I shall be pinning it to my bag ASAP.

The second is a cute little postcard advertising an upcoming YA release, 'This Raging Light' by Estelle Laure. I want to draw particular attention to the message on the back which, in light of recent events in Paris and Lebanon among other places in the world who are suffering, I really feel is important to highlight:

'Nominate someone you know who has done a kind deed. Nominations can be posted to #RagingKindness on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr or Instagram. Each week, from now until publication, we will pick one nominated person to receive a #RagingKindness gift package through the post.

'No Act Of Kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.' -- Aesop.'

What a lovely message to end such a fun post on! As humans, we have a job to try and make the world a better place and we can do that by supporting each other, being kind and showing those who want to make the world bad that we will not be miserable and scared just because they want us to be. Please do spread this idea on in honour of all those that were victims of those terrible tragedies and to remind everyone that kindness does still exist.

This post ended up getting a little more serious at the end, but I hope everyone enjoyed this post and you are all inspired to grab Daphne's next box as soon as it's released (February 2016 I think). Thank you so much Illumicrate for such a great selection of items and a wonderful book for me to enjoy!

Thursday 12 November 2015

Six Degrees Of Separation (All The Light We Cannot See; Anthony Doerr)

This month's post is a little late (not my fault, the hosts posted late and I had no idea what the book was until they'd done it!). Despite this, I'm still excited to be doing it and seeing what I come up with.

So this month's book is Anthony Doerr's 'All The Light We Cannot See' and I can already tell you this is going to be a hard one because I've thought of so many books for it and I've used them all before. I'm determined never to use the same book twice so I'll just have to put my thinking cap on.

My first choice is Jane Elson's 'How To Fly With Broken Wings', a book I read earlier this year and in truth, didn't enjoy a whole lot. The reason I linked it is because of the slightly tentative similarity in terms of two children, one boy and one girl, with very different upbringings meeting and becoming friends. There are links in Elson's book to their neighbour's WWII past also, which is when 'All The Light We Cannot See' is set. This choice feels a little bit desperate but the links are there.

Elson's novel is very much a coming of age novel set around three children and their decision to band together. I thought I'd pick a much better one with a similar idea: Patrick Ness' 'More Than This'. A little philosophical in nature, the three children that are forced to help each other also come from very different upbringing's but find they share similarities that make them inseparable. Both stories are very much coming-of-age stories though I connected a whole lot more with Ness' characters than with Elson's.

'More Than This' is a slightly bizarre read because it's genre is not easily defined. What seems to start off as a Literary Fiction, philosophical read quickly twists into a Sci-Fi, Dystopian thriller and it's done masterfully. 'Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children' by Ransom Riggs also did something of the sort. It started out as a Horror with great atmosphere and creepy happenings, and then without warning seemed to turn into a Middle Grade Fantasy. Not only that, but these are the first books I've read by both retrospective Male authors.

I have to say, the first thing that caught my eye about Ferrett Steinmetz's 'Flex' was it's similar front cover to Riggs' book. Weird, creepy little girls: one floating and one burning. My thoughts on both of these books were a little mixed too and I have to say that in both cases I started off liking it, but didn't enjoy the second half of each novel quite so much. There are characters in each book that have strange powers too, though the plot-lines are very different.

The main character Paul in 'Flex' is definitely a Detective type (though that isn't technically his job, he used to work for the force. Peter Grant in 'Rivers Of London' (Ben Aaronovitch) also works for the police force, though in a very special department that hunts supernatural disturbances rather than creatures. I like that both main characters are diverse: one with an artificial leg and the other an ethnic minority. It certainly makes a change from the stereotypical raincoat wearing, cigar smoking Caucasians I'm used to seeing in Thrillers. Both characters certainly have the tragic past/women and booze thing going though!

'Moon Over Soho' by the same Author has a pretty obvious link. Same characters, same setting and same Supernatural problems. I liked this second installment better though and thought the 'villains' of the story were really interestingly portrayed, unlike the disaster of a bad guy in 'Rivers Of London'. I have high hopes for the rest of this series!

I ended up going in a bit of a crazy direction with this week's picks, because I seriously struggled to think of really good links. I will do better next time!

Monday 9 November 2015

Last Week's Shenanigans (2nd November - 8th November)...

This week has been pretty boring and uneventful, so I'll keep this part brief. I really spent most of my week working and reading, with very little time for anything else. Sometimes it's nice to have weeks where not an awful lot happens, purely because that means nothing too stressful is going on. I'm waiting with baited breath for every bit of post that comes through the door because I'm currently waiting for a Giveway win of my choice (Leigh Bardugo's 'Six Of Crows') and also my very first Illumicrate subscription box (in fact, it's the first ever box being sent out), of which I will definitely be doing an un-boxing post! Not only that but a pre-order will be out in the next couple of days so I'm excited to get hold of it, and the book I have ordered to arrive with it!


Top Ten Tuesday: Debut Authors Whose Sophomore Novels I'd Love To Read

Book Review: The Historian; Elizabeth Kostova.

This book took me a pretty long time to get through, and it's 700+ page length was not something to be mocked I can tell you. I want to get better at facing some of the more intimidating books in my TBR pile though, so I'm glad that I bested it in the end. I took a while to think about my rating for this but I got there in the end. I'm entering this into the Monthly Motif Challenge too.

SOURCE: Bought
TYPE: Paperback

TITLE: The Historian
AUTHOR: Elizabeth Kostova
PUBLISHER: Time Warner Books
PAGES: 704
GENRE: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Gothic, Adult

RATING: 3.5/5 Stars

"To you, perceptive reader, I bequeath my history..."

Late one night, exploring her father’s library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters addressed ominously to ‘My dear and unfortunate successor’. Her discovery plunges her into a world she never dreamed of – a labyrinth where the secrets of her father’s past and her mother’s mysterious fate connect to an evil hidden in the depths of history.

What I Liked:
  • Kostova's writing is nothing short of gorgeous. It was so mature in it's composition, yet showed great skill in building atmosphere and imagery, and had a poetic quality to it that made me smile as I read. In some ways, it impressed me more than the writing which I praised in Stoker's classic 'Dracula' (on which this book is based) and I was certainly not expecting that. The inclusion of three different plot perspectives made it exciting and fresh to read, and I loved that the story itself was rooted in horror and a chilling tone, but interwoven with threads of romance and mystery for a change of pace.
  • You all know I appreciate good world-building but the sheer amount of research that must have gone into this book truly astounded me. I have always been a big fan of the subject of history and there was so much detail of a large number of time periods, which made me feel like I was learning while reading.
What I Disliked:
  • Unfortunately, the things that made this book fantastic also in some ways let it down. It is challenging to get through due to it's size and the depth of detail that Kostova explores. In order to purvey to the reader Historical fact, Kostova had to use a tremendous amount of info-dumping and characters were rarely allowed to get straight to the point. There were often long speeches filled with background information which got in the way of both plot and character development. I respected her knowledge deeply, but ended up skimming at times to get to the crux of what was being said.
Overall Conclusion:
I admire this book a heck of a lot for the simple fact that it's intricacies never bored me and it's length didn't completely scare me off. The plot, though complex, is well thought-out and structured in an exciting way. The extent of research that Kostova had indulged in when writing this monster was undeniably impressive. The characters I did care for, though I would have liked to see more of them on an emotional level and less academically. My favourite moments were the free and easy interactions that didn't involve a three paragraph long speech on more of Dracula's history. If you don't like info-dumping in a book then stay well away, but if you can look past that then you will find this a gorgeous, mature read with a complex quality that can only impress.

Tuesday 3 November 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: My picks for 'Debut Authors Whose Sophomore Novels I Would Love To Read'.

This week's topic turned out to be one of the trickiest because I'm not very good at starting with an Author's debut, I'm always late to the bandwagon anyway (I start reading when the Author has already had a huge head start book-wise) and the only reason that I actually managed ten is because I'm so behind with a lot of series. Oops!

1) Jack Wolf.

Debut novel: The Tale Of Raw Head & Bloody Bones.

I seriously adored this book for so many reasons. It was unique, chilling and a captivating read that ended up being the first book I reviewed on this blog. He wrote it way back in 2013 and there has been no sign of any other releases from this man since which is greatly distressing to me as I'm desperate to read more! If he ever chose to write a Sophomore Novel, I would snatch it up immediately!

2) Eowyn Ivey.

Debut Novel: The Snow Child.

What a gorgeous debut this lovely lady turned out! I actually didn't read it until a while after it was released, but still Miss Ivey has not turned out any other novels since. She's got a small novella out that I would be interested to read (Last Days In Hunting Camp) as well as two novels on the way, looking to be released in 2016 (Shadows On The Wolverine and To The Bright Edge Of The World) so there's plenty to be excited about! 

3) Jessie Burton.

Debut Novel: The Miniaturist.

Her first ever novel came out pretty recently, I remember reading it December 2014/January 2015ish. I was pretty shocked that I enjoyed it so much and I really loved some of the themes that it touched upon, as well as the small dose of unexplainable to keep me interested. No new releases as of yet, but she's listed two other novels in the works: The Muse and Belonging. I eagerly await them both!

4) S.C. Green.

Debut Novel: The Sunken.

Writing about this author breaks my heart a little because I've heard so little in the way of news about a sequel to her first book. She as released a tiny novella, The Court Of The Litterfey which I would love to give a read but what I'm really waiting for is the next installment of the Engine Ward series, The Gauge War. Perhaps I should start another Steampunk series while I wait?

5) Danielle L. Jensen.

Debut Novel: Stolen Songbird.

This one is entirely my fault. Her sequel, Hidden Huntress has been out for a fair few months now and I simply haven't got round to picking it up yet. I want to more than anything because I miss all of the characters that I met in Book One! It's just a matter of catching up, as it always seems to be in my case.

6) Ilka Tampke.

Debut Novel: Skin.

I still haven't quite got over the buzz and events I attended regarding her debut novel. I've read a lot of Historical fiction but very few authors tackle so far back as Celtic Britain and I must congratulate Tampke on doing such a cracking job with the era. As far as I can tell the next release will be the second book, but very little news has reached me yet I'm afraid!

7) Graeme Simsion.

Debut Novel: The Rosie Project.

Again, this is all my fault. I've read he first book, and The Rosie Effect has been out for such a long time now. I even have a copy sitting on my Kindle waiting for me! Alas, I've been absolutely rubbish and haven't read it yet. I hope to soon as I have high hopes for another hilarious read with a good splodge of romance for good measure.

8) Susan Nussbaum.

Debut Novel: Good Kings, Bad Kings.

Regarding the topic of Mental Illness and Diversity, this was one of the most innovative works I've read about the US Mental Health System I've read. Told by a whole host of different voices, Nussbaum does a gorgeous job with this material. I want so badly to read another book by her but I've not even heard whispers...yet.

9) Patrick Rothfuss.

Debut Novel: The Name Of The Wind.

I promise that this is the last one that is my fault! Before I get round to reading the Sophomore novel The Wise Man's Fear I probably ought to reread his first book in the series because it's been so long between books! Of course I want to read The Slow Regard Of Silent Things after that too. Rothfuss' writing astounds me but I'm just a terrible procrastinator who is a little intimidated by the size of the books.

10) Katja Millay.

Debut Novel: The Sea Of Tranquility.

Romance is not often a genre I fall for, but this book was flipping gorgeous! It is one of the few novels in the genre that I have enjoyed, and I desperately hope that Millay writes something else in her lifetime. I've not really heard anything and her Goodreads page remains upsettingly blank. Still...I have my fingers and toes crossed because I loved this book!