‘Out of the Shadows’ spoiler-free review!

When author Dana Fraedrich approached me recently and asked if I would be interested in reading her debut novel Out of the Shadows, I was thrilled! I had been looking for more steampunk reads after falling in love with Gail Carriger’s books a few years ago and, I have to say, this is the perfect book for readers who are slightly nervous of this genre; the attention-to-detail is meticulous but not overwhelming! Before I start reviewing, here’s what the book is about:

 

When the Allens rescue Lenore from certain torment, she’s offered a new life, a life that can save her from the underworld of crime in which she’s forced to live. The universe is keeping score, however, and Lenore isn’t the only one caught in this web of debt. Can she truly escape her past when it comes to find her or will she be drawn back into the darkness?

Homeless, orphaned, living in secret as a thief–Lenore Crowley just wants to survive, but the city of Springhaven has no sympathy for cases such as hers. She chose her path, and the consequences are hers alone. Being caught would mean certain death; her odds of survival are beginning to look bleak. When she meets the Allens, she’s offered a new life. In a world where debts and oaths carry very real weight, however, this second chance comes at a price. Lives entangle, and Lenore soon find that her secrets aren’t so secret. Someone is looking for her, someone who knows who she really is. One wrong move and everything around her might fall.

Fans of Gail Carriger, Garth Nix, and Marie Brennan will delight as this new world unfolds for them. A multi-layered realm of history, subterfuge, colorful characters, potential, and lost magic and technology promises to entrance readers of all ages.

 

First of all, I want to clarify that the length of time it took me to read this book is by no means a reflection of its quality! Out of the Shadows is a very enjoyable read and, as I said, provides the perfect entrance into the world of steampunk. Dana’s writing style works perfectly for the genre and I really liked her attention to detail. The book was clearly very well-researched and I was often impressed by the level of knowledge displayed on certain topics. I was also really happy to see Dana correctly use the phrase “couldn’t care less” – (a minor point, I know, but I hate seeing “could care less”; it makes no sense!!)

Lenore is a feisty heroine with lots of sass, so obviously that means I loved her. I wanted to join in her adventures! She is a strong-willed woman who fights for her rights and doesn’t let anyone belittle her, which I think is a fantastic message for the book to convey. We might not be living in the Victorian times but there are definitely still some men out there who act like pigs!!

The reason I refrained from giving this book a 5-star rating is because, as other reviewers on Goodreads have pointed out, the book does take a while to get going. However, I think this was due to the fantastic world-building! Dana has created a highly detailed world that feels completely believable and really drew me in. I did feel that Lenore was a little too accepting of certain things at first (I can’t really say which things without spoilers!) But maybe that’s me being naïve or showing my lack of familiarity with the steampunk genre?

Overall, this was a very enjoyable read and the ending has me really looking forward to reading the second book, Into the Fire.

Also, I will be interviewing Dana Fraedrich in the near future so keep yours eyes open for that!

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Has anyone else read this one? What other steampunk books can you recommend to me? 

 

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‘The Scorpio Races’ spoiler-free review!

“It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die.” – Maggie Stiefvater, The Scorpio Races

 

I’m sure everyone is aware of The Scorpio Races as it has recently been making the rounds again in the bookish community. With it’s iconic first line and typical November weather pervading every page, this is the perfect time of year for it. I decided 2017 was the year to finally see what all the fuss was about. So when my lovely friend Jen on Instagram told me it was her favourite book and she was rereading it, we decided to make it a buddy read!

In case you’ve been living under a rock and have absolutely NO CLUE what this book is about, here’s the blurb from Goodreads:-

 

Every year, the Scorpio Races are run on the beaches of Skarmouth. Every year, the sea washes blood from the sand. To race the savage water horses can mean death, but the danger is irresistible.

When Puck enters the races to save her family, she is drawn to the mysterious Sean, the only person on the island capable of taming the beasts.

Even if they stay together, can they stay alive?

A breathtaking ride that will make your heart race.

 

Ok, first things first. Parts of that blurb are actually a little lame. It makes it sound as though the book is all about romance but it is SO much more than that. In fact, the romance side of things is only one small element of the story. There is so much more focus on courage and friendship and family and belonging. So if the blurb makes you think it will be a soppy teen romance, please don’t be perturbed! Give it a chance.

I honestly did not expect to love this book as much as I did. I first heard of Maggie Stiefvater around the time of Twilight and I’m afraid I might have unwittingly tarred her with the same brush. Admittedly, the Shiver trilogy still doesn’t really appeal to me but The Scorpio Races really demonstrates Stiefvater’s talent as a writer. I loved EVERYTHING about this book. The writing was both simple and powerful. It wasn’t flowery but the author still managed to create some really powerful images and pack a punch in just a few choice words.

The setting of The Scorpio Races was incredible. Thisby was so vividly created that I actually felt like I was there. The sea was a character in itself and I just adored it. SO MUCH PATHETIC FALLACY. And the basis of the story in the water horse mythology was fantastic! Stiefvater has taken old faerie legends and revamped them in the most amazing way.

I found this to be a very character-driven book and I adored them all. Puck was feisty and spirited, Sean was brooding and quiet, Finn was a hoot (and I’m pretty sure he is canon OCD which is awesome!), and George Holly was intriguing and charm itself. I felt genuine loathing towards the villains and even minor characters felt fully realised; I felt like I knew every single one of them. Plus the chemistry! The heat between Puck and Sean was REAL. I ship it. (But again, don’t let the romance element put you off; it was very well done.)

Finally, the ending!! Oh my word, I was a little bit of a mess. It was beautiful and heart-rending, and it confirmed The Scorpio Races as a new favourite of mine. I already know that I will be rereading this book in future.

Hopefully you actually got some sense from this review and it didn’t just read as incoherent flailing! This book gave me all the emotions. Just wow. Go read this if you haven’t already!!

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Anyone else a fan of The Scorpio Races? Which is your favourite Stiefvater book besides this one? Has anyone read her newest book, All the Crooked Saints?

 

The Candy Book Tag!

I was recently tagged by Jenna @ Bookmark Your Thoughts for the candy book tag! I think this one was actually a Halloween tag but I have zero cares about that and I’m doing it anyway. Thanks Jenna, this one was fun!

APPLES

Ah. Healthy food. It is deep, meaningful, and probably won a lot of awards but, um, it really isn’t your thing.

Sadly, I’ve had a bit of a run of these recently. I’m doing the Around the World in 80 Books challenge, which (you guessed it) involves reading a book representing the 80 most populated countries in the world. Unfortunately, a few of my most recent picks have been a little bit heavy and too difficult for me! Many have great concepts but disappoint me in the execution. Namely: The Dinner by Herman Koch and My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk. I can definitely see the merit in both books but they just weren’t for me!

MILK CHOCOLATE

This is a book you’d recommend to absolutely EVERYONE.

I have a few of these. It really depends on what genre of recommendation you’re looking for. If you like dystopian, it’s Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel. For historical fiction with an original twist, it’s The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. And for something more contemporary with an endearing narrator, I recommend The Universe vs Alex Woods by Gavin Extence. But honestly, please just read them all.

BLACK JELLYBEANS

Why do these exist??

I’m all for lyrical prose and weird imagery but I need a little plot to balance it out. Books where NOTHING happens? Please don’t waste my time. One such book was Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke. I kept waiting for the magical moment where it would all make sense but it never came. Oh well. At least the cover is pretty.

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CHOCOLATE KISSES

Awww This Novel had the Best Romance.

I’m not one for soppy romance but Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch and Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson were both super cute and not too in-your-face with it. Both books involved travel which maybe had something to do with my enjoyment of them; Amy and Roger take a roadtrip across America while Love and Gelato is set in Italy. I’m really looking forward to the next offering from Welch which is called Love and Luck; it’s set in Ireland!

GUMMY SPIDERS

Eek! You made sure to check under your bed every night for a week after reading this scary one.

I discovered some great spooky reads during October this year and last year. Last year, my favourite was The Haunting of Hill House which cemented Shirley Jackson as the queen of horror in my eyes (yes, it only took one book). The creeping tension was phenomenal. This year, I particularly enjoyed The Woman in Black by Susan Hill and YA offering Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell. You can read more about my spooky October reads here.

JUMBO LOLLIPOP

This took you forever to get through, but hey! You did it!

I’m cheating a little with this prompt because… I’m currently reading Anna Karenina! I’ve finally taken the plunge. I’m not feeling too overwhelmed at the moment because I’m listening to the audiobook on my daily commutes, so I’m not actually holding the brick of a book in my hands. But I know that it’s still going to feel like a huge achievement when I finish it.

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COTTON CANDY

Admit it, you loved this when you were younger (you probably still do). Think children’s or MG fiction.

All Roald Dahl. Milly Molly Mandy. A Series of Unfortunate Events. All of these were pivotal pieces of literature in my youth. And of course the Harry Potter series. My love for HP will never die so that always gets a mention. And as C. S. Lewis says, “a children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest”. Totally agree, Clive.

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Thanks for reading lovelies! Feel free to grab the tag and come back here to link me up to your posts so I can read them! 

 

 

October FairyLoot Unboxing!

The theme for October’s FairyLoot box was ‘Villainous’! As soon as this theme was announced and the social media hints were dropped, I knew what the book would be – another one that I was super excited to read! FairyLoot consistently bring their ‘A game’ with their book choices and make me glad to be a loyal customer!

The featured book was Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao, an Evil Queen retelling set in East Asia (how amazing does that sound?!) I love a fairytale retelling so this one is high on my to-read list.

One of the best things about this month’s box is that it also included an exclusive edition of The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo! I was so close to preordering this book when it was announced that the box would include a copy, so I was thrilled! It’s utterly gorgeous inside and out, and I’m sure I will love it just like the rest of Leigh Bardugo’s books. Look at the beauty:-

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Now onto the rest of the items that were included in October’s box…

Maleficent candle by Meraki Candles

Maleficent is one of my favourite Disney villains so I was thrilled with this exclusive candle. It’s no secret that I love candles, especially bookish ones, but I try to limit the amount I buy because they always feel like an extravagant purchase! So I’m always happy to receive them in bookish boxes. This one smells like jade orchid and lotus blossom, and is a beautifully delicate shade of green with purple glitter.

Virgil’s Aeneid artwork by Evie Seo

We don’t often receive items in bookish boxes that are inspired by such classic literature as this but I’m really thrilled with this piece from EvieBookish! (Edit: apparently, this quote is featured in Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series but I’m going to pretend FairyLoot were just being super cultured this month by quoting a Roman poet.) I can’t wait to display this in my library.

Moriarty coaster by Evie Seo

We were treated to not one but TWO beautiful items designed by EvieBookish this month! I’ve always loved her work but can’t afford shipping from America (*cries*) so iit was a real treat to get not just an art print but this coaster too!

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Dark Mark pin by House of Wonderland

This might just be the cutest pin I’ve ever seen. I have a bit of an obsession with bookish pins (but again, I often restrain myself from buying them because I can’t justify it). This gorgeous dark mark pin is completely adorable (not something I ever thought I’d say!) I can’t wait to add it to my bookish pin collection and only hope that it doesn’t cause me to make some more impulse purchases!

Hidden Darkness mirror by Little Inkling Designs

I adore the bookmarks from Little Inkling Designs and her beautiful lettering translates perfectly to this pocket mirror. Featuring a quote from The Young Elites, this mirror will be super handy to keep in my handbag!

 

The October box featured some great extras including some Language of Thorns postcards and a gorgeous Night of Cake and Puppets art print (which I had been drooling over for ages on Laini Taylor’s Instagram account!) Plus, there was the usual signed bookplate, letter from the author and monthly FairyLoot bookmark.

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Here’s my full unboxing!

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The November theme is ‘Ladies That Slay’ and will feature an exclusive edition of a book featuring DRAGONS (either FairyLoot are picking super highly anticipated books this year or my guessing abilities have gotten REALLY good because once again, I have a good idea what the book is going to be). The box is also going to feature an ARC of a book that won’t be released until March 2018! The excitement is real.

December’s theme was released and it is ‘Oh So Regal’. The description of this box sounds amazing and I think it will be a fantastic one to end the year on! It sold out unbelievably quickly!

 

Did anyone else get this box? What was your favourite item? Has anyone read Forest of a Thousand Lanterns yet? What are some of your favourite fairytale retellings?!

‘A Skinful of Shadows’ spoiler-free review!

Hey everyone! Today, I’m reviewing A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge. Having loved The Lie Tree last year when I read it with my book club, I just had to get my hands on this latest offering. Before I tell you my thoughts, check out the blurb from Goodreads:-

 

This is the story of a bear-hearted girl . . .

Sometimes, when a person dies, their spirit goes looking for somewhere to hide.
Some people have space within them, perfect for hiding.

Twelve-year-old Makepeace has learned to defend herself from the ghosts which try to possess her in the night, desperate for refuge, but one day a dreadful event causes her to drop her guard.

And now there’s a spirit inside her.

The spirit is wild, brutish and strong, and it may be her only defence when she is sent to live with her father’s rich and powerful ancestors. There is talk of civil war, and they need people like her to protect their dark and terrible family secret.

But as she plans her escape and heads out into a country torn apart by war, Makepeace must decide which is worse: possession – or death.

 

Well, what can I say? Frances Hardinge does it again.  The concept of this novel is so brilliantly original and the execution of it is just perfect. Like The Lie Tree, it is quite slow-burning and atmospheric, and blends historical fiction and magical realism (two of my favourite genres) seamlessly. The attention to detail is astonishing and it is clear that Hardinge really researches her material extensively.

I loved Makepeace as a character and her relationship with Bear was completely heart-warming. The Fellmottes were very creepy and I really felt for Makepeace not knowing who to trust. The plot has SO many levels and the progression is amazing from start to finish. I could never predict what would happen next. The ending was also extremely satisfying.

I don’t know who the target audience is for this book; it feels like younger YA but, at the same time, the themes are quite dark so I’m not sure. All I know is that I loved it! I’m struggling to say much more without spoilers so I’ll just leave it at this. A Skinful of Shadows was a great spooky read for October but I know I would adore it at any time of year, it is so well done. All of the stars from me!

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Has anyone else read this one? Or any of Hardinge’s other books? I must get my hands on more of them!

 

Spooky October Wrap-Up!

I managed to read 15 books in October. I’m really happy with this number as October is often a stressful month for me!

I like to read books with darker themes in October in the run-up to Halloween as I wouldn’t usually read much of the horror/thriller genre any other time. So I’m surprised that I found so many new favourites this month! Maybe my reading tastes are darker than I thought.

Classics

The Hound of Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

This was my first experience of Sherlock Holmes and I really liked it! The supernatural/Gothic elements mixed in with the traditional detective story made for a really interesting read. Holmes wasn’t exactly endearing but I loved Watson and it was nice to hear things from his perspective.

The Thing on the Doorstep and other weird tales by H. P. Lovecraft

There wasn’t a single story in this collection that I didn’t like! Obviously, some were better than others but I enjoyed the recurring themes; Lovecraft certainly knows how to write a monster! My favourite stories were The Dunwich Horror and Under the Pyramids – both were awesomely weird and the plot development was perfect.

The Raven: Tales and Poems by Edgar Allen Poe

It breaks my heart to say it but I didn’t love this as much as I’d hoped I would! I really liked Poe’s poetry but I struggled with some of his stories; the language was quite difficult and a lot went way over my head at times. I think trying to read so much of Poe’s work in one go was the wrong approach and that a better way to go about it would be to try it in small chunks at a time. However, there were some gems in there; I loved Hopfrog and obviously the titular poem is fabulous.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Another triumph from Queen Shirley! Last year, I read The Haunting of Hill House and loved it; this year, I picked her final work. I can see why this book is so famous and it is a fantastic exploration of the psyche.

 

Authors of Instagram

Hell’s Teeth and Crescent Moon by James Fahy

I finally got round to reading some of James Fahy’s work this month and I hate myself for waiting so long! This series is fantastic and contains loads of elements I love – I’m now desperate for the third instalment! You can read my double review of the first two books here.

Daughters of the Oak by Becky Wright

Becky’s spooky offering was perfect for this time of year and I really loved her take on the Manningtree witch trials and witchfinder Matthew Hopkins. My full review of her extended short story is here.

 

Recent Releases

The Beast is an Animal by Peternelle van Arsdale

I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway and I’m so glad because I had been really wanting to read it! And I’m pleased to say I wasn’t disappointed. It was my first read of the month and a great start to October. It reads like a traditional fairytale and has a great sinister atmosphere that had me hooked. You can read my full spoiler-free review here.

The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexandra Bracken

This was my book club’s pick for the month and it was an enjoyable middle-grade read. There were both comic and more poignant moments that I hadn’t expected, and I need the next book after that cliffhanger! My full spoiler-free review can be found here.

A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge

This was my last read of the month and one of my favourites. After reading The Lie Tree with my book club last year and loving it, I had to get my hands on Hardinge’s newest book when it was released at the end of September. I’ll be reviewing this one in full soon!

 

Other Books I Read

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

It’s no secret that I love circus books and while this one is a bit darker than I would normally read, I still really enjoyed it! There were some really creepy moments but overall this was an endearing coming-of-age story. And (shock horror) I preferred this one to Fahrenheit 451!

Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell

This one really surprised me! I hadn’t expected to enjoy it so much but it had some surprisingly creepy moments and I absolutely raced through it. I’d definitely be interested in reading the prequel Charlotte Says which came out earlier this year.

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

Having seen the movie of the same name a few years ago, I had some idea of what this book was about – but it still managed to surprise me! It’s a short read but it packs a punch (even if I was picturing the protagonist as Will Smith the entire time..) The blending of horror and science fiction was fantastic.

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

Another instance where I had seen the movie before reading the book (what is happening to me, normally I hate that!?) This was a fast and creepy read with a very unsettling ending and I’m looking forward to reading more Susan Hill in future.

Poems Dead and Undead from the Everyman’s Library collection

I collect the Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets and last year I read Poems Bewitched and Haunted. Poems Dead and Undead was the obvious choice this year. Who knew there were so many poems about zombies, vampires and ghosts?! A great little collection with some real gems.

 

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So tell me: what was your favourite read of October? Did you read any spookier books to get in the Halloween mood? What was your total? Link me to your wrap-up posts and I’ll check them out!