‘The Starless Sea’ spoiler-free review!

Hi everyone! Today, I have the very difficult task of reviewing an incredible book by one of my favourite authors. I genuinely don’t know where to start. The Starless Sea was a complete joy from start to finish and I know I won’t be able to do it justice in this review – but if I can make it coherent, I’ll count that as a win!

the starless sea


synopsis

Far beneath the surface of the earth, upon the shores of the Starless Sea, there is a labyrinthine collection of tunnels and rooms filled with stories. The entryways that lead to this sanctuary are often hidden, sometimes on forest floors, sometimes in private homes, sometimes in plain sight. But those who seek will find. Their doors have been waiting for them.

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is searching for his door, though he does not know it. He follows a silent siren song, an inexplicable knowledge that he is meant for another place. When he discovers a mysterious book in the stacks of his campus library he begins to read, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, lost cities, and nameless acolytes. Suddenly a turn of the page brings Zachary to a story from his own childhood impossibly written in this book that is older than he is.

A bee, a key, and a sword emblazoned on the book lead Zachary to two people who will change the course of his life: Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired painter, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances. These strangers guide Zachary through masquerade party dances and whispered back room stories to the headquarters of a secret society where doorknobs hang from ribbons, and finally through a door conjured from paint to the place he has always yearned for. Amid twisting tunnels filled with books, gilded ballrooms, and wine-dark shores Zachary falls into an intoxicating world soaked in romance and mystery. But a battle is raging over the fate of this place and though there are those who would willingly sacrifice everything to protect it, there are just as many intent on its destruction. As Zachary, Mirabel, and Dorian venture deeper into the space and its histories and myths, searching for answers and each other, a timeless love story unspools, casting a spell of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a Starless Sea.


my thoughts

“We are all stardust and stories…”

The Starless Sea is not just a book. It is an experience. Morgenstern is not afraid to divert away from her main plot and it felt wonderful as a reader to get lost in the conglomeration of stories she presented and to try and figure out how everything connected. Upon finishing, there were still things I was unsure of but the beauty is that this is a book which will only improve upon rereading; clues and connections that were missed the first time will fall into place and things will become even clearer.

I’ve never made a secret of the fact that I adore Morgenstern’s writing. The Night Circus is one of my favourite books and for years I thought it was going to be the only offering Morgenstern would bless us with. So you can imagine my excitement and soaring expectations when I heard about The Starless Sea. I can totally see why it won’t work for all readers; it’s flowery and perhaps a bit pretentious at times. It jumps around from one thing to another with seemingly no connection. But if you stick with it, you will be rewarded. The Starless Sea is a love letter to words and language, and the magic of stories. And when you realise how everything connects, it is nothing short of wondrous.

Morgenstern’s world building was exactly as I have come to expect: pure magic. I will take all of the purple prose, thank you, when this is the way it is used. I was enthralled while reading, ready to pack my bags and go off in search of a door to that wonderful underground library. I think any book lover will feel a connection to this story, even if they don’t necessarily gel with its style or execution.

Just like The Ten Thousand Doors of January which I read recently, this book filled me with that nostalgic feeling of childhood wonder, where you believe anything is possible and magic may be just around any corner. And that is all I ever want in a book. I cannot accurately convey how exquisite this book is and I hope you will all go and experience it for yourselves if you haven’t already!

the starless sea


Have you read The Starless Sea yet? Is it on your list? Let me know in the comments! xsignature (2)

 

‘Pine’ spoiler-free review!

Hi lovelies! It’s time for my first review of the year! And I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Pine, the debut novel by Francine Toon. If you’re a fan of the Gothic, you’re going to want to read this one…

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synopsis

They are driving home from the search party when they see her. The trees are coarse and tall in the winter light, standing like men.

Lauren and her father Niall live alone in the Highlands, in a small village surrounded by pine forest. When a woman stumbles out onto the road one Halloween night, Niall drives her back to their house in his pickup. In the morning, she’s gone. In a community where daughters rebel, men quietly rage, and drinking is a means of forgetting, mysteries like these are not out of the ordinary. The trapper found hanging with the dead animals for two weeks. Locked doors and stone circles. The disappearance of Lauren’s mother a decade ago. Lauren looks for answers in her tarot cards, hoping she might one day be able to read her father’s turbulent mind. Neighbours know more than they let on, but when local teenager Ann-Marie goes missing it’s no longer clear who she can trust… 

In spare, haunting prose, Francine Toon creates an unshakeable atmosphere of desolation and dread. In a place that feels like the end of the world, she unites the gloom of the modern gothic with the pulse of a thriller. It is the perfect novel for our haunted times.


my thoughts

This was a very enjoyable debut! Pine is instantly atmospheric; Toon does a wonderful job of conjuring the eerie, isolated setting and making her reader feel immediately unnerved. I genuinely loved the setting. Spooky forests with a hint of the mythical are my jam. But what makes Toon’s setting work so well is the combination of this folkloric style with more modern references. The story is so well-grounded in reality that it makes it very easy to suspend your disbelief and accept the possibility of supernatural elements. And this made it all the more unsettling.

The fact that the book is set in Scotland was another huge plus for me. I feel like Scotland is a country that just lends itself so well to this type of story. Toon’s use of Scottish dialect was very well done and I greatly appreciated it. There’s nothing worse than reading a book set in a particular country where the author makes no effort to truly capture the sense of that place. No worries here on that front!

As someone who is used to only reading about children in middle grade books, I really enjoyed reading an adult book that gave us a child’s perspective. I thought this was a smart choice on Toon’s part. It made me feel incredibly invested as well as adding to the uncertainty regarding what is actually going on at times.

The only thing I wasn’t fully sold on with Pine was the ending. I feel like things wrapped up very abruptly and I didn’t really understand the motivations of a certain character. I’m not sure enough clues were laid throughout the story to lead us to that conclusion.

On the whole though, this was a great debut and one that will definitely please fans of Gothic fiction like myself! Huge thanks to Doubleday for providing me with a free ARC!

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Pine is out on January 23rd! Will you be reading it? Check out the other stops on the blog tour for more information and reviews!

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‘The Ten Thousand Doors of January’ Buddy Read Discussion!

Hello lovely people! I recently participated in an extra special buddy read with the lovely Jenna @ Bookmark Your Thoughts (who you should definitely go follow if you aren’t already!) Jenna is one of the loveliest people I’ve ‘met’ through the blogging community and I’m so happy we finally did a buddy read together. I love that she has such a unique way of doing her buddy reads; I’ve never done one like this before but it was so much fun!

So basically, Jenna and I both read The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow and then exchanged a couple of questions about it – and you can read our answers below!


Question 1: Who was your favourite character in the novel?

Jenna: It’s a tie between Bad and Jane. As an animal lover, I feel as though loving Bad (January’s amazing canine companion) is an obvious one. But it’s not just because he’s a dog … he symbolizes the love and companionship and loyalty January was missing in her life until Bad came into her life. Then there’s Jane, this amazingly strong and independent woman who doesn’t let anymore push her around. She’s a pretty good role-model, showing to not let people get to you or dictate your life even though they think they can. She’s a black woman in the early 1900’s, so there’s a lot of garbage she has to deal with. But she doesn’t let if phase her … I just love it.

Alex: Is it cliché to say January? I just feel like she was such a great heroine. She faced so many obstacles and she always showed such courage and strength, never giving up in her quest. She’s definitely the kind of character I want to be reading about.

I also really liked Samuel; he was such a kind and pure soul, and he was always there when he was needed. He’s the good egg, cinnamon roll character I always love in a book.

 

Question 2: If you could find a door to a magical world, where would it go?

Jenna: Probably somewhere similar to Middle Earth, full of magic and mythical beings. I’d want to visit the Shire and the elven cities. OH! Okay … I don’t want to spoil it, but there’s a VERY important door in The Ten Thousand Doors of January (the blue door, I think … you’ll know what I mean) that leads to a place surrounded by water … I want to go there.

Alex: I could give numerous soppy answers for this question but I don’t want to get too deep haha. However, I would love to find some kind of mystical Tolkien-esque world where creatures like dragons exist and magic is real. This book filled me with that childish sense of wonder and reminded me what it’s like to believe in miracles; it would be amazing to actually find a world like that.

 

Question 3: Though this is predominantly a fantasy novel, Harrow’s story also falls under historical fiction. Did you find Harrow portrayed the time period accurately?

Jenna: As someone that has a BIT of a history background (but not overly extensive), I found her attention to detail regarding the time period was spot on! From the clothing to the way people were treated with regards to social standards, Harrow really brought to life our world in the early 1900’s. She even references certain events very matter-of-fact like from the MC’s point of view, showing that they don’t really know what’s to come in the next couple of years but alludes to what we know comes later on in the 1900’s. It was hard a times, since women and those of colour were treated so poorly. But I’m glad she depicted it accurately yet didn’t make it as though these characters would let the world degrade them.

Alex: I loved Harrow’s portrayal of the time period and thought she did really well at conveying the difficulties faced by women and people of colour. Harrow definitely elicited a range of emotions from me on the subject! I think that the choice of time period will make this book appeal to a wider audience; it has that wonderful old-world feel that many readers will love.

I thought it was really clever of Harrow to ground her book in reality, making the possibility of stumbling upon a Door seem even more magical; it didn’t feel far-fetched or impossible to believe because everything else was so realistic.

 

Question 4: From awards to reviews, The Ten Thousand Doors of January has been rising in popularity and has received a number of fans from a wide number of genre preferences. What do you think makes this book so much more different than other fantasy novels?

Jenna: I think it’s because she caters to a wide audience both in genre and in writing elements. In library school, we learned about the four main types of readers: character, setting, story and language oriented readers. Most books tend to focus on one of these elements, possibly two, more than the other ones. But Harrow managed to equally balance ALL of these elements in order to draw a larger number of readers in … which is quite the talent! There’s also a large part of me that believes, as much as we see the purpose and joy of technology, many of us have this affinity and love for the simplicity of non-technology days … with technology being able to prove and disprove so many things, it sometimes leaves little room for the beauty of believing in things like magic and parallel worlds. With Harrows story reflecting our world so accurately in the 1900’s but with the added touch of fantasy, it makes you feel as though magic really COULD exist … that Doors are a real thing.

Alex: It’s a book that defies boundaries. It isn’t just one thing. It isn’t written solely for one age group, it doesn’t fit neatly into one genre, and it doesn’t prioritise plot over characters or vice versa – everything is given equal weight. I think it’s rare that a book is able to accomplish something like that. Also, as I already mentioned, this book triggers that nostalgic feeling in its readers, that longing to chase adventure and find magic around every corner. It’s a special one, for sure.


If you’re still not convinced that this is a novel you need to read, check out my spoiler-free review here!

Also, if you’d ever like to buddy read anything with either myself or Jenna, don’t hesitate to ask – we both love it! I always find I get even more out of a book if I can discuss it in greater detail with someone 😀 

My 2019 Reading Resolutions: How Did I Do?

Hey lovelies! I thought I’d take a bit of a look back at the reading goals I made for myself last year and see how I did!

I already did a mid-year recap which you can read here if you’re interested 🙂


Resolution #1: Read more books with mental health rep

Why I made this resolution: “I make no secret of the fact that I have my own mental health struggles, as well as working in the mental health sector, so I’d love to explore how more authors represent mental health in their books.”

How I did: I read quite a few books with mental health themes (some unintentionally). However, at the start of 2019, I posted a picture on Instagram of some titles I was planning to read and by the end of the year I had read exactly… none of them. Very disappointed in myself. Turns out telling myself I have to read certain books kinda puts me off reading them?

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Resolution #2: Conquer my fear of big books

Why I made this resolution: “I didn’t read very many long books (over 500 pages) in 2018 but the ones I did read ended up being some of my favourite books of the year! I’ve got a few larger books sitting on my shelves that I’d really love to try in 2019; I’m definitely in the mood to immerse myself in a chunky tome.”

How I did: I did really well with this one! I picked up a lot of chunky books and really enjoyed them. So I’d call this one a success! And it’s definitely something I want to continue with in 2020.

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Resolution #3: Read more from favourite authors

Why I made this resolution: “I have a strange habit of discovering an author I love and subsequently avoiding their books because I don’t want to run out! So I’m going to try and stop being ridiculous in 2019 and read more of the books I’ve collected by favourite authors. Some examples include Leigh Bardugo, Patrick Ness, Susanna Kearsley and Christina Henry.”

How I did: Nope, failed spectacularly with this one. I don’t know what my issue is, I think it’s just fear. Which I know is irrational because most of my favourite authors are still writing and so will (hopefully) bring out more books! I need to wise up. I did read a couple more Christina Henry books but I definitely can’t count this as a success.

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Resolution #4: Try some non-fiction books

Why I made this resolution: “I’ve always had a fear of non-fiction but I know there are some fantastic titles out there. I’m looking to ease myself in with a few memoirs and book-related titles first, before tackling some heavier subjects that I’m interested in.”

How I did: I read a few non-fiction titles but nowhere near as many as I had planned. The issue here was that I would have had to actually acquire the books and I didn’t feel right doing that with so many fiction titles already filling my shelves. (Before anyone suggests the library, I live in Northern Ireland and our libraries are not the best!)

my age of anxiety


Resolution #5: Read some of my backlist books

Why I made this resolution: “Of course, my main goal in 2019 is to read some of my backlist titles. I may need the help of a challenge such as ‘Beat the Backlist’ or ‘The Unread Shelf Project’, but I’m determined to get my TBR under control!”

How I did: It wasn’t amazing but I feel like I did better than the previous year? I’ve come to realise that us bookworms tend to make this same resolution every year and then struggle to resist all the shiny new releases coming out every month. It’s something I’m trying to be self-aware about going forward. And I hope in 2020 to find more of a balance between the new releases and the backlist titles.

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My Goodreads Goal: Read 50 Books

Why I made this resolution: In 2018, I set my Goodreads goal at 100 books and managed to beat it quite significantly. This year, I set it at a lower number in order to allow myself to read some of those tomes I talked about. And I want to get back to reading for fun, not just to beat a number!

How I did: I upped my goal about halfway through the year as I realised I was going to smash it! I ended up reading 112 books in 2019.



The 12 Books I Must Read In 2019!

As I previously mentioned, I came to realise that telling myself I HAVE to read a book means I’m far less likely to do so. The ones I read from this list I picked up when I was genuinely in the mood for them but the timing never felt right for the others and I didn’t want to force myself to read them just to tick them off a list. So most of them are still waiting patiently on my shelves for the day I’m in the mood for them 😉


Overall, I don’t feel I did very well with my reading goals for 2019. But I do feel as if they taught me a lot about myself and that’s why I’m not making ANY resolutions for 2020. I want to just read things when the time feels right and hopefully discover lots more favourites that way ❤

Have you made any bookish goals for this year? Let me know in the comments! x

January 2020 Anticipated Releases!

Happy new year everyone! I hope 2020 brings you everything you’re dreaming of 🙂

This time last year, I posted the first of my monthly anticipated releases posts and they consistently remained some of my favourites to compile throughout the year. So I’m definitely continuing them! And if January is anything to go by, 2020 is going to destroy all of our bank accounts once again 😀

[As always, all covers and synopses are taken from Goodreads, and I have used UK release dates that are correct as far as I’m aware.]

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Every Other Weekend by Abigail Johnson

Release date: January 7th

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Adam Moynihan’s life used to be awesome. Straight As, close friends and a home life so perfect that it could have been a TV show straight out of the 50s. Then his oldest brother died. Now his fun-loving mom cries constantly, he and his remaining brother can’t talk without fighting, and the father he always admired proved himself a coward by moving out when they needed him most.

Jolene Timber’s life is nothing like the movies she loves—not the happy ones anyway. As an aspiring director, she should know, because she’s been reimagining her life as a film ever since she was a kid. With her divorced parents at each other’s throats and using her as a pawn, no amount of mental reediting will give her the love she’s starving for.

Forced to spend every other weekend in the same apartment building, the boy who thinks forgiveness makes him weak and the girl who thinks love is for fools begin an unlikely friendship. The weekends he dreaded and she endured soon become the best part of their lives. But when one’s life begins to mend while the other’s spirals out of control, they realize that falling in love while surrounded by its demise means nothing is ever guaranteed.

Why I’m interested: This sounds like it could be an important mental health read. I just hope that it’s not one of these books that posits romance as a cure-all. Fingers crossed!


The Night Country by Melissa Albert

Release date: January 9th

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In the sequel to her New York Times bestselling, literary/commercial breakout, The Hazel Wood, Melissa Albert dives back into the menacing, mesmerizing world that captivated readers of the first book. Follow Alice Proserpine and Ellery Finch as they come to learn that The Hazel Wood was just the beginning of worlds beyond, “a place where stories and real life convene, where magic contains truth, and the world as it appears false, and where just about anything can happen, particularly in the pages of a good book”.

Why I’m interested: I’m a terrible person and still haven’t read The Hazel Wood even though one of my best friends gifted it to me ages ago. But I’m determined to read it soon with this sequel coming out!


The Unforgetting by Rose Black

Release date: January 9th

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Her fate was decided. Her death was foretold. Her past is about to be unforgotten…

1851. When Lily Bell is sold by her father to a ‘Professor of Ghosts’ to settle a bad debt, she dreams of finding fame on the London stage. But Erasmus Salt wants Lily not as an actress, but as his very own ghost – the heart of his elaborate illusion for those desperate for a glimpse of the spirit world…

Obsessed with perfection, Erasmus goes to extreme lengths to ensure his illusion is realistic. When Lily comes across her own obituary in the paper, and then her headstones in the cemetery, she realises that she is trapped, her own parents think she is dead, and that her fate is soon to become even darker…

Why I’m interested: This sounds SO cool! A professor of ghosts? Illusions? Sign me up for this Gothic goodness.


Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore

Release date: January 14th

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Summer, 1518. A strange sickness sweeps through Strasbourg: women dance in the streets, some until they fall down dead. As rumors of witchcraft spread, suspicion turns toward Lavinia and her family, and Lavinia may have to do the unimaginable to save herself and everyone she loves.

Five centuries later, a pair of red shoes seal to Rosella Oliva’s feet, making her dance uncontrollably. They draw her toward a boy who knows the dancing fever’s history better than anyone: Emil, whose family was blamed for the fever five hundred years ago. But there’s more to what happened in 1518 than even Emil knows, and discovering the truth may decide whether Rosella survives the red shoes.

With McLemore’s signature lush prose, Dark and Deepest Red pairs the forbidding magic of a fairy tale with a modern story of passion and betrayal.

Why I’m interested: I read my first Anna-Marie McLemore book last year and thought her writing was gorgeous! This sounds like a wonderful retelling of a lesser known fairytale and I’m excited for it!


Lucky Caller by Emma Mills

Release date: January 14th

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When Nina decides to take a radio broadcasting class her senior year, she expects it to be a walk in the park. Instead, it’s a complete disaster.

The members of Nina’s haphazardly formed radio team have approximately nothing in common. And to maximize the awkwardness her group includes Jamie, a childhood friend she’d hoped to basically avoid for the rest of her life.

The show is a mess, internet rumours threaten to bring the wrath of two fandoms down on their heads, and to top it all off Nina’s family is on the brink of some major upheaval.

Everything feels like it’s spiralling out of control―but maybe control is overrated?

Why I’m interested: I’m ashamed to say I haven’t read any Emma Mills books but they’ve always interested me and I’m hoping to read more contemporaries this year so who knows? I’m just sad that this book doesn’t match her other pretty covers!


Saving Savannah by Tonya Bolden

Release date: January 14th

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The story of an African-American girl becoming a woman on her own terms against the backdrop of widespread social change in the early 1900s America. As a daughter of an upper class African American family in Washington D.C., Savannah is lucky. Feeling suffocated by the structure of society, Savannah meets a working-class girl named Nell who introduces her to the suffragette and socialist movements, inspiring her to fight for change.

Why I’m interested: I have no doubt this will be a poignant and important read.


Spellhacker by M. K. England

Release date: January 21st

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In Kyrkarta, magic—known as maz—was once a freely available natural resource. Then an earthquake released a magical plague, killing thousands and opening the door for a greedy corporation to make maz a commodity that’s tightly controlled—and, of course, outrageously expensive.

Which is why Diz and her three best friends run a highly lucrative, highly illegal maz siphoning gig on the side. Their next job is supposed to be their last heist ever.

But when their plan turns up a powerful new strain of maz that (literally) blows up in their faces, they’re driven to unravel a conspiracy at the very center of the spellplague—and possibly save the world.

No pressure.

Why I’m interested: If I’m being completely honest, I’m slightly intimidated by this one. It sounds like it lands of the sci-fi side of SFF and that’s sometimes hit or miss for me. But I have an ARC of this from the lovely people at Harper 360 and I’m hoping to be pleasantly surprised!


The Circus Rose by Betsy Cornwell

Release date: January 21st

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Twins Rosie and Ivory have grown up at their ringmaster mother’s knee, and after years on the road, they’re returning to Port End, the closest place to home they know. Yet something has changed in the bustling city: fundamentalist flyers paper the walls and preachers fill the squares, warning of shadows falling over the land. The circus prepares a triumphant homecoming show, full of lights and spectacle that could chase away even the darkest shadow. But during Rosie’s tightrope act, disaster strikes.

In this lush, sensuous novel interwoven with themes of social justice and found family, it’s up to Ivory and her magician love—with the help of a dancing bear—to track down an evil priest and save their circus family before it’s too late.

Why I’m interested: It has ‘circus’ in the title. That’s all I need to know. On top of that though, this is a retelling of Snow White and Rose Red and it sounds downright magical.


Not So Pure And Simple by Lamar Giles

Release date: January 21st

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Del has had a crush on Kiera Westing since kindergarten. And now, during their junior year, she’s finally available. So when Kiera volunteers for an opportunity at their church, Del’s right behind her. Though he quickly realizes he’s inadvertently signed up for a Purity Pledge.

His dad thinks his wires are crossed, and his best friend, Qwan, doesn’t believe any girl is worth the long game. But Del’s not about to lose his dream girl, and that’s where fellow pledger Jameer comes in. He can put in the good word. In exchange, Del just has to get answers to the Pledgers’ questions…about sex ed.

With other boys circling Kiera like sharks, Del needs to make his move fast. But as he plots and plans, he neglects to ask the most important question: What does Kiera want? He can’t think about that too much, though, because once he gets the girl, it’ll all sort itself out. Right?

Why I’m interested: This is another book that I have an ARC of from Harper 360 and I’m very excited for this one! It sounds like a really unique contemporary and I hope it lives up to my expectations!


Pine by Francine Toon

Release date: January 23rd

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They are driving home from the search party when they see her. The trees are coarse and tall in the winter light, standing like men. Lauren and her father Niall live alone in the Highlands, in a small village surrounded by pine forest. When a woman stumbles out onto the road one Halloween night, Niall drives her back to their house in his pickup. In the morning, she’s gone. In a community where daughters rebel, men quietly rage, and drinking is a means of forgetting, mysteries like these are not out of the ordinary. The trapper found hanging with the dead animals for two weeks. Locked doors and stone circles. The disappearance of Lauren’s mother a decade ago. Lauren looks for answers in her tarot cards, hoping she might one day be able to read her father’s turbulent mind. Neighbours know more than they let on, but when local teenager Ann-Marie goes missing it’s no longer clear who she can trust. In spare, haunting prose, Francine Toon creates an unshakeable atmosphere of desolation and dread. In a place that feels like the end of the world, she unites the gloom of the modern gothic with the pulse of a thriller. It is the perfect novel for our haunted times.

Why I’m interested: I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for this one! It sounds perfectly Gothic and definitely hits some of my buzzwords.


The Frost Eater by Carol Beth Anderson

Release date: January 28th

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Seventeen-year-old Princess Nora is a frost eater who creates magical ice. Her royal life is luxurious but stifling.

Krey West has a rare magical talent: when he eats feathers, he can fly. His one goal is to find his missing girlfriend, Zeisha. He thinks someone in power abducted her.

Krey’s daring feats of magic earn him an invitation to the palace. Craving adventure and friendship, Nora offers to help him find Zeisha. He’s desperate enough to accept—though he hates the monarchy.

The truth is more terrible than they could imagine.

Every night, Zeisha wakes in a dark room full of sleeping people, unable to remember what she did in the light. Her dreams provide violent glimpses into her forgotten days.

If Krey and Nora can’t save her, Zeisha may lose herself forever.

Why I’m interested: I love the sound of the magic in this book. And it sounds like it could get quite dark, which I’m always here for.


The Island Child by Molly Aitken

Release date: January 30th

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Twenty years ago, Oona left the island of Inis for the very first time. A wind-blasted rock of fishing boats and sheep’s wool, where the only book was the Bible and girls stayed in their homes until mothers themselves, the island was a gift for some, a prison for others. Oona was barely more than a girl, but promised herself she would leave the tall tales behind and never return.

The Island Child tells two stories: of the child who grew up watching births and betrayals, storms and secrets, and of the adult Oona, desperate to find a second chance, only to discover she can never completely escape. As the strands of Oona’s life come together, in blood and marriage and motherhood, she must accept the price we pay when we love what is never truly ours…

Rich, haunting and rooted in Irish folklore, The Island Child is spellbinding debut novel about identity and motherhood, freedom and fate and the healing power of stories.

Why I’m interested: I’m sold on ‘Irish folklore’. This sounds like such a wonderful story. Thank you Rachel for alerting me to this one!



What books are you looking forward to this month? Let me know in the comments! xsignature (2)

My favourite books of 2019 and some end-of-year stats!

Hello lovely bookish people! Can you believe it’s the end of not only another year, but a decade?! I’m rounding of 2019 in the classic way by sharing my favourite books of the year and a few stats 😀

As usual, these are not ranked but merely listed in the order I read them. And there’s a mix of 2019 releases and backlist titles 🙂


Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

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What I loved about it

  • Lovely writing style
  • Excellent characterisation and character development
  • Raw beauty
  • Gentle and poignant

The Binding by Bridget Collins

the binding

What I loved about it

  • Beautiful prose
  • Immersive storytelling
  • Fully realised characters
  • Great romance

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

radio silence

What I loved about it

  • Wonderfully relatable characters
  • Made me feel SEEN
  • Realistic portrayal of teenage life in Britain
  • Fantastic platonic relationship
  • Great message

Let’s Call It A Doomsday by Katie Henry

let's call it a doomsday

What I loved about it

  • Incredible anxiety rep
  • Wonderful protagonist
  • Realistic dialogue
  • Nice, easy flow to the writing

The Quiet at the End of the World by Lauren James

quiet at the end of the world

What I loved about it

  • Vividly imagined ‘soft apocalypse’
  • Likeable characters
  • Casual diversity
  • Jaw-dropping twists

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

nevernight

What I loved about it

  • Intelligently written
  • Awesome world building
  • Fantastic story
  • Funny!

Foxfire, Wolfskin by Sharon Blackie

foxfire wolfskin

What I loved about it

  • Not a single weak story
  • Phenomenal writing
  • Stunning illustrations
  • Great folklore underlying each story

We Are Lost And Found by Helene Dunbar

we are lost and found

What I loved about it

  • Cinnamon roll characters
  • Wonderful friendship dynamics
  • Raw and heart-wrenching
  • An interesting historical period
  • Respectful storytelling

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

ten thousand doors of january

What I loved about it

  • Gorgeous, magical writing
  • Effortless word choice and sentence structure
  • Book-within-a-book
  • Plucky heroine
  • Wonderful imagery

I feel like I didn’t find as many new favourites this year as I did in 2018 but I’m still thankful for all the wonderful stories I had the privilege of reading and I can’t wait to see what the new year/decade brings!

And finally, some 2019 bookish stats for you because we all love them 😉

2019 Stats!

Total books read: 112

Total page count: 40,621

Average page count per day: 111.3

Shortest book: Joe Quinn’s Poltergeist (80 pages)

Longest book: Vanity Fair (912 pages)

Average book length: 360 pages

Average Goodreads rating: 4.0

Female authors: 81!

Male authors: 26

Multiple authors: 5

Audiobooks: 36

Books from my backlist: 28 (must do better!)

Rereads: 11


And that’s 2019 done! Here’s wishing you all a safe, healthy and happy new year ❤

2019 Smashing & Dashing Character Awards!

Last year, I posted my choices for the smashing and dashing character awards (created by Cait @ Paper Fury) so I couldn’t let 2019 end without doing it again with this year’s books!

(Images in this post link to my reviews if I wrote one!)


Most Relatable Character

you asked for perfect

Ariel, my poor soft bean. I related so much to this anxious boy pushing himself to his limit that I shed actual tears for us both. I found this book very triggering but it made me feel so seen and I’ll be forever grateful to Laura Silverman for that. Self-care is important, friends!


Most Pure Animal Companion

Solovey, Vasya’s faithful steed. I’ve never been much of a horse person but I love Solovey; he is just so pure. Every hero needs a companion like him ❤


Fiercest Fighter

nevernight

It has to be Mia Corvere from The Nevernight Chronicle. I finally binged this trilogy this year and fell headfirst into the Jay Kristoff fandom. This is one of the best revenge stories I’ve ever read.


Am Surprised That I Loved You??

the forgotten girl

The Forgotten Girl by Rio Youers. I took a chance on this book in a genre that is way out of my comfort zone and ended up rating it extremely highly and recommending it to numerous people! Youers is definitely an author I’ll be watching out for.


Best Sass-Master

in bloom

Definitely Rhiannon from In Bloom. This was a brilliant sequel to Sweet Pea and Rhiannon’s cutting sarcasm on every page gave me LIFE.


Best Antihero

finale

Literally any character from Stephanie Garber’s series could be considered an antihero! Even though I was slightly disappointed by this series conclusion, I still appreciate the abundance of Slytherin characters and their questionable moral choices throughout the trilogy.


The Best Friends Of All

deepest roots

I loved the themes of friendship and sisterhood in The Deepest Roots and really appreciated its story of female empowerment and magic. Rome, Lux and Mercy were such a close-knit trio.


Best Villain To HATE

one flew over the cuckoo's nest

This year, I re-read One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest for the first time in many years and no villain can beat Nurse Ratched. She is vile.


Award For Best vs Worst YA Parents

radio silence

Frances’ mum in Radio Silence is an absolute gem. I love her. As for the worst parent, this is the only time I’ll repeat an answer in this post and it’s We Are Lost And Found. Michael’s father had the most disgusting attitude towards his children and it was painful to read.


Ship Of All Ships In 2019

the binding

I adore the romance in this book and I will not hear a bad word said against it.


Most Precious Must Be Protected

we are lost and found

Literally everybody in We Are Lost And Found but especially Michael, my soft cinnamon roll. This story is so full of heart and I defy anyone to read it and not be moved.


Honestly Surprised You’re Still Alive

dry

This book was so stressful! I mean, I enjoyed it for how gripping it was but jeez, these characters and their choices gave me anxiety. I never want to find myself in this kind of post-apocalyptic situation!


Award For Making The Worst Decisions

the twisted tree

Aside from the aforementioned characters in Dry, I feel like Martha made some rather questionable decisions in The Twisted Tree.


Most In Need Of A Nap

let's call it a doomsday

I read about a lot of anxious characters this year. Ellis was another one I related to strongly. My heart ached for her and I definitely think she deserves a nap after everything she went through in this book!


Want To Read More About You

dead voices

Dead Voices was a fantastic follow-up to last year’s Small Spaces. I can’t wait to read more of Ollie, Coco and Brian’s escapades in the next instalment and I’m looking forward to seeing what Katherine Arden does with the Spring setting!


Well, those are my picks for the 2019 character awards! Do you agree with any of my choices? Who were you shipping in 2019? Which characters did you relate to the most? Let me know in the comments! x

My Life in Books [2019]

I’ve seen this tag on a few blogs recently, though it was Callum who first alerted me to it. I thought it would be a fun way to look back on my year’s reading!

The rules are simple: Using only books you have read this year, answer the questions. Try not to repeat a book title.


In high school I was On The Come Up (Angie Thomas)

People might be surprised by The Secrets We Kept (Lara Prescott)

I will never be Perfect (Cecilia Ahern)

My fantasy job is The Story Keeper (Anna Mazzola)

At the end of a long day I need The Den (Abi Maxwell)

I hate Radio Silence (Alice Oseman)

I Wish I had Somebody To Love (Matt Richards & Mark Langthorne) – Get the violins out lol

My family reunions are The Devouring Gray (Christine Lynn Herman)

At a party you’d find me with The Girl in Red (Christina Henry)/ Pumpkinheads (Rainbow Rowell & Faith Erin Hicks) – I couldn’t choose between these two!

I’ve never been to The Museum of Extraordinary Things (Alice Hoffman)

A happy day includes Bloodlust and Bonnets (Emily McGovern)

Motto I live by: Tell the Wolves I’m Home (Carol Rifka Brunt)

On my bucket list is The Scorpio Races (Maggie Stiefvater)

In my next life, I want to have The Quiet at the End of the World (Lauren James)


This was fun! There were a few answers I could have given for some of the prompts so I hope you like the ones I picked 😀

Let me know if you’ve done this tag, if I haven’t already checked it out!

‘The Ten Thousand Doors of January’ spoiler-free review!

Hello my dears 🙂 Time for another review! I can’t believe the speed with which this year (and decade) is coming to an end!

Today, I’m reviewing The Ten Thousand Doors of January which I recently buddy read with the lovely Jenna @ Bookmark Your Thoughts. I’m fairly certain this book is going to make my best of the year list! Read on to find out why…

ten thousand doors of january.png


synopsis

In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.

Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.


my thoughts

The first thing that captured me about The Ten Thousand Doors of January was the writing. Every word feels expertly chosen to convey that gorgeous, magical feel. This book easily stands alongside some of my all-time favourites and it’s easy to see why readers are comparing Alix E. Harrow to the likes of Laini Taylor and Erin Morgenstern.

No matter what the author was writing about, I am sure I would have loved it; the word choice and sentence structure all had that effortless feel to them. However, I loved this book even more for its concept. The idea of magical doors to other worlds is one that will surely capture the imagination of any book lover and I was no exception. This is the kind of story I have always loved but one that was also incredibly unique and special in its own right.

I also loved the book-within-a-book device which was used (although I must admit to being slightly confused when it was first introduced because I was being incredibly slow on the uptake). There was never a chapter where I didn’t feel 100% invested in what was happening.

January is a plucky heroine and a new favourite character of mine. I loved how she faced the challenges presented to her with courage and dignity and how she never gave up despite being faced with numerous obstacles.

I want to give further praise to the author for writing one of the best depictions of grief I have ever read. There are passages near the beginning of the novel that feature some wonderfully powerful imagery and I felt genuinely moved.

I could sing this novel’s praises all day. It is slow-burning and magical and suffused with a real sense of hope. I love it when a book makes me feel that way. The Ten Thousand Doors of January hits so many of my buzzwords with its stunning execution and I can see myself returning to it many more times in the future. I will definitely be watching out for more from this author.

ten thousand doors of january.jpg


Have you read this one? I’d love to discuss it with you! Or is it on your TBR list? Let me know in the comments! xsignature (2)