February Wrap-Up! (In which Girl Power rules)

February was a slightly slower reading month for me. I started the month with an incredible read but I then had such a hangover from it that I struggled to keep up the pace for the rest of the month. I also worked more shifts in recent weeks which took away from my reading time. However, I’m still thrilled with what I managed to read! (I don’t know why I’m trying to justify ‘only’ reading 10 books – I guess I’m feeling insecure today haha).

This month, I took part in the #readforwomen initiative which is run by Sara’s Reading Diary over on Instagram. The idea is to read only female authors in February and March to celebrate 100 years of some women getting the vote in the UK and International Women’s Day! I don’t know if I’ll participate again in March but I enjoyed getting involved this month and reading some amazing books by female authors.

Classics

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read this book. It’s incredible. Mary Shelley created a masterpiece of a story that is just as powerful 200 years on. If you haven’t read it yet, please do so.

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

The fourth Austen book I’ve read, I was actually a little disappointed by this one. Don’t get me wrong, it was still good but I found it lacked the humour I’ve come to expect from Austen’s writing. Maybe I just wasn’t in the right headspace for this one? Or maybe I should have read her works in chronological order so that I could see the progression towards the superb quality I’ve come to expect from her.

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Selected Poems by Emily Dickinson

I’m glad to have finally read some Emily Dickinson, though I won’t deny that there were some of her poems that went over my head. I wish I had got the opportunity to study her in school because I feel like I would love her work if I only understood it more. I’m pleased to say I tried and will definitely return for another attempt in the future, as I found some real gems in this collection.

 

Review Books

Perfect Remains by Helen Fields

The first in the D.I. Callanach series, I really enjoyed this gritty thriller set in Scotland. The book’s chapters alternate between the viewpoints of the detective and the killer, which I found morbidly fascinating. I’d like to continue the series and see where the author takes the characters. Check out my spoiler-free review here!

The Light Over Broken Tide by Holly Ducarte

I’m proud to say I was a member of Holly’s ARC tribe so I got to read an early copy of her debut novel, publishing soon! I loved the raw beauty of her writing and the small-town Canadian setting. I’ll be reviewing this one soon (I’m so behind, oops). Holly has also been kind enough to agree to an interview so look out for that in the near future too!

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Books from my TBR

The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley

This was my first read of the month and it SLAYED me. I spent 6 days completely immersed in the world of this novel and really struggled to let it go after it ended. I can’t wait to read the second book. My full spoiler-free review of The Seven Sisters is here.

A Shining in the Shadows by Beverly Lee

After reading and loving The Making of Gabriel Davenport, I took far too long to get round to this sequel! However, I’m pleased to say that I really enjoyed it and loved the direction Lee took the story in. You can check out my review here.

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Lost Boy by Christina Henry

This reimagining of Peter Pan is the darkest fairytale retelling I’ve ever read and I loved it. Gritty and fast-paced, I definitely recommend this one for fans of the tv show Once Upon a Time and those who like their fairytales a little darker.

Even the Darkest Stars by Heather Fawcett

I picked this up on a whim one night and ended up reading 100 pages in a single sitting! (This rarely happens.) The world building was absolutely incredible, with witches, shamans and a whole mythology inspired by Tibetan culture. While the story itself was slightly predictable, it didn’t diminish my enjoyment of it and I will definitely be picking up the sequel when it comes out!

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

My final read of the month was my book club’s pick, this Gothic novel set in the Victorian times which was voted Waterstone’s Book of the Year in 2016. I loved the writing style and, while some readers have complained that it is too slow in pace, I found it enjoyable and immersive with some very interesting points for discussion raised.

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Monthly Stats

Books read: 10

Total pages: 3836

Average pages per day: 137

Longest book: The Seven Sisters (626 pages)

Shortest book: The Light Over Broken Tide (250 pages)

Favourite read of the month: The Seven Sisters

Biggest disappointment of the month: Tie between Sense and Sensibility and Dickinson poems (though they were by no means bad!)

Male authors: 0

Female authors: 10 – all of them!

Books read towards Pop Sugar Reading Challenge: 6

 

I need to read more review books next month as I focused a bit too heavily on mood reading this month! But I’m pleased with the books I read and already have some great picks lined up for March!

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How many books did you read in February? What was your favourite read of the month? And did anyone else take part in #readforwomen? 

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‘Perfect Remains’ spoiler-free review!

Hi everyone! Today, I’m reviewing Perfect Remains by Helen Fields which was sent me by the lovely people at Avon Books. This is the first book in the D.I. Callanach series and after enjoying this one, I’m definitely interested in continuing the series! Before I jump into my review, here’s the Goodreads blurb…

 

What the book is about…

On a remote Highland mountain, the body of Elaine Buxton is burning. All that will be left to identify the respected lawyer are her teeth and a fragment of clothing.

In the concealed back room of a house in Edinburgh, the real Elaine Buxton screams into the darkness.

Detective Inspector Luc Callanach has barely set foot in his new office when Elaine’s missing persons case is escalated to a murder investigation. Having left behind a promising career at Interpol, he’s eager to prove himself to his new team. But Edinburgh, he discovers, is a long way from Lyon, and Elaine’s killer has covered his tracks with meticulous care.

It’s not long before another successful woman is abducted from her doorstep, and Callanach finds himself in a race against the clock. Or so he believes … The real fate of the women will prove more twisted than he could have ever imagined.

 

What I thought of it…

This was an enjoyable, gritty thriller that was a great start to the series. Fields created a really creepy villain and I actually couldn’t read this book before bed because it was freaking me out!

The book had a strong, multi-layered plot that is perfectly placed in its Scottish setting. I’ve noticed that Scotland is becoming a more popular setting for recent thrillers and I’m absolutely loving it; reading about places you recognise always adds an extra level of enjoyment to the process, I find.

There are some great characters in this first book and I’m looking forward to reading more about Callanach and Turner. Callanach was an enjoyable main character and I liked that he was flawed. He has a past and it definitely haunts him. Perhaps morbidly, I did find myself slightly more gripped by the chapters that focused on the killer; getting a glimpse into his mind was fascinating and genuinely scary. I really enjoyed alternating between the two perspectives.

This is a clever story that definitely caught my interest. I look forward to seeing where the author takes these characters in the next books.

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Has anyone else read this one? Or the sequels? What are some of your favourite thrillers set in Scotland?

‘My Birthday’ tag!

Hi everyone! It’s a rather special day today… it’s my birthday! I’m turning 25 (a quarter of a century, oh my word). I’ve had this tag saved for months since I saw it on Zuky’s blog and I knew I would want to do my own version when the time came. So without further ado, here are some fun bits of trivia about my birthday!

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*My kind of birthday cake*

 

Can you name celebrities who celebrate their birthday on the same day?

Dakota Fanning, Emily Blunt and Josh Gad (yaasss Olaf) were all born on the same day as me. A popular day for actors, it seems.

 

Is your birthday a (national) holiday?

Not a national holiday but still a pretty cool day. It’s the start of the Hong Kong Arts Festival, Girl Scout Cookie Weekend and – wait for it – International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day. Ahahaha.

 

Somewhat less fun, who died on your birthday?

John Quincy Adams, 6th president of the United States of America, died of a stroke.

John Keats, poet, died of tuberculosis.

Stan Laurel, British comedian, died of a heart attack.

 

What’s your star sign?

My birthday falls at the beginning of the Pisces sign (February 20th-March 20th).

According to Google, a Pisces will go out of their way to help a friend. They are extremely sensitive and loyal. They will take a friend’s problem and make it their own and suffer with them. That all sounds accurate for me. However, apparently, Pisces also like adventure, new situations and social events, which could not be further from the truth for me!

The internet also says that Pisces have an intuitive and psychic ability more than any other zodiac signs. They trust their gut feelings and their hunches are usually correct. Again, I would say this is true about me. I’m always joking about my ‘sixth sense’.

Pisces do not like rejection and they try to treat others the way they want to be treated so they will rarely say no to a person for fear of hurting their feelings. Again, yes. I hate rejection! However, Pisces are not the pushovers that they may seem, in fact they have strength of character and will stand up for what they believe in. I pride myself on my strong morals and opinions (though I don’t push them on people because of aforementioned fear of rejection!)

Pisces strengths: Compassionate, adaptable, accepting, devoted, imaginative

Pisces weaknesses: Oversensitive, indecisive, self-pitying, lazy

Pisces likes: creativity and artistry, daydreaming, variety, helping others, being spontaneous (erm no? I’m a planner all the way!)

Pisces dislikes: rules and restrictions, being under pressure, hard work, criticism, being forced to face reality

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What’s your Chinese sign?

I’m a rooster! Also, there are apparently different versions of each Chinese sign based on the natural elements and I am a water rooster. This means I am smart, sensitive and keen on art. My lucky numbers are 5 and 7 (though I can’t say they’ve ever brought me much luck? I’m more keen on even numbers!) My lucky colours are gold, brown and yellow (my bedroom is yellow so I guess that’s a bit more accurate).

People born in the Year of Rooster according to Chinese zodiac have many excellent characteristics, such as being honest, bright, communicative and ambitious. Most of them are born pretty or handsome (why thank you) and prefer to dress up. In daily life, they seldom rely on others. I’d say this is all quite accurate (apart from the pretty bit, I’m not that vain!), as I am very self-reliant and I do love dressing up.

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Rooster strengths: Independent, capable, warm-hearted

Rooster weaknesses: Impatient, critical, eccentric, selfish

 

On which weekday were you born?

I was born on a Tuesday. And ‘Tuesday’s child is full of grace’.

 

Which song was at number 1 in the charts when you were born?

‘I will always love you’ by Whitney Houston, which was at number one for nine weeks.

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Also on this day in 2003, Norah Jones won five Grammies including song of the year for ‘Don’t Know Why’ and Simon and Garfunkel won a lifetime achievement Grammy, singing together for the first time in ten years.

 

How was the weather when you were born?

According to the weather forecast archives, it was quite grey and cloudy but temperatures were actually decent. Not freezing like it is today then. Brrrr.

 

Anything important ever happen on your birthday?

1836 – the battle of the Alamo began in San Antonio, Texas

1896 – the Tootsie Roll was invented

1940 – Disney’s Pinocchio released

1997 – scientists in Scotland announce that they have successfully cloned an adult sheep named Dolly

 

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Well, that was actually really fun! I always find it interesting looking back through history to see what happened on certain days and the fact that it’s my birthday just makes it even more fascinating. I hope you all enjoyed this post and feel free to save the tag for when your own birthdays come round!

(All pictures in this post are my own, except those of celebrities which came from a standard Internet search.)  Thanks for reading!

‘A Shining in the Shadows’ review!

“The things to fear don’t always scream the loudest…”

Beverly Lee, A Shining in the Shadows

 

A Shining in the Shadows is the second book in Beverly Lee’s Gabriel Davenport series. I will try to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible for both books but please be aware that minor details about book one may crop up so proceed with caution if you haven’t read that one yet!

‘Shadows’ picks up a year after the final events of The Making of Gabriel Davenport, with Gabriel trying to adjust to his new life. Something new and dark is brewing though, that has master vampire Clove worried for the safety of his fledglings. Will he be able to keep Gabriel, Moth and Teal safe? And what of those left behind at the manor?

This second book once again showcases Beverly Lee’s fantastic talent for writing – she truly has a way with words. I loved the combination of old-world mythology with fun pop culture references; other writers wouldn’t be able to make this work but it was excellent in this case.

The story is perfectly paced. Even though the book opens a year after the events of its predecessor, the reader is thrown straight back into the action and not made to wait for a single second. It was so much fun to see Gabriel adjusting to his new life and how everyone is coping in the aftermath of the events that took place at the manor. The dark new twists were all very exciting and I found myself racing through the pages towards the end!

One of my favourite aspects of this novel was the character development. We see the return of old favourites but not necessarily as we knew them before. Certain new relationships form in this book that I have to say, I was very happy to see 😉 There are also some fantastic new characters introduced and I sincerely hope we will be seeing more of Emron D’Grey (isn’t that the most amazing name ever?!) and the White Witch in book three, The Purity of Crimson!

Another great read from a very talented lady!

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Has anyone else read these books? Who is excited for the final book in the trilogy?!

 

‘The Seven Sisters’ spoiler-free review!

Guys, I have a new favourite series. This book completely captivated me and I absolutely adored living in Lucinda Riley’s world for the last few days. Before I start raving about it, here’s the blurb from Goodreads…

 

Maia D’Apliese and her five sisters gather together at their childhood home, “Atlantis”—a fabulous, secluded castle situated on the shores of Lake Geneva—having been told that their beloved father, who adopted them all as babies, has died. Each of them is handed a tantalizing clue to her true heritage—a clue which takes Maia across the world to a crumbling mansion in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Once there, she begins to put together the pieces of her story and its beginnings.

Eighty years earlier in Rio’s Belle Epoque of the 1920s, Izabela Bonifacio’s father has aspirations for his daughter to marry into the aristocracy. Meanwhile, architect Heitor da Silva Costa is devising plans for an enormous statue, to be called Christ the Redeemer, and will soon travel to Paris to find the right sculptor to complete his vision. Izabela—passionate and longing to see the world—convinces her father to allow her to accompany him and his family to Europe before she is married. There, at Paul Landowski’s studio and in the heady, vibrant cafes of Montparnasse, she meets ambitious young sculptor Laurent Brouilly, and knows at once that her life will never be the same again.

In this sweeping, epic tale of love and loss—the first in a unique, spellbinding series of seven novels—Lucinda Riley showcases her storytelling talent like never before.

 

I have to admit, even after that blurb, I wasn’t too sure what to expect from this one. I didn’t really know what genre the book was and went in pretty blind. And I LOVED it. It was glamorous and romantic but also fascinating, and I can tell that the overarching story is going to be extremely clever.

As the blurb states, this is the first in a series of seven books and, as you may have deduced, each book focuses on a different sister. This one followed Maia, the oldest sister, who has been living a rather isolated life and decides to investigate her past after her adoptive father dies.  I really loved following Maia’s story for the duration of this book; her character development was superb. The story is split between Maia in the present day and her ancestor in the past, and each character, no matter which time period, has a distinct personality. Nobody felt superfluous; even minor characters made valuable contributions to the story. It was great to see the connections between past and present forming and I’m now really excited to learn more about the other sisters in the later books.

Now I have to talk about the world building. This is one of the most important aspects of a book for me, given that I read to escape the ‘real world’ (if you missed my recent post about this, you can find it here). Obviously, we’re not talking about fantasy novels here, which have to create whole worlds from scratch, but a more real world. Even so, Riley’s world building was INCREDIBLE. Both Brazil and Paris were richly evoked and I wanted to jump on a plane and travel halfway around the world! The sights and smells were absolutely leaping off the page and the whole thing was just divinely sumptuous. I thought the parallel story of the ‘Christ the Redeemer’ statue was a really fascinating addition, and Brazil is now much higher on my travel wishlist! I can’t wait to see where the next books in the series will take me (apparently book two is set in Norway!)

This book has given me a serious hangover. Every time I had to put it down, I couldn’t get it out of my head and even now that I’ve finished, I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s such an intricate and clever plot; I cannot WAIT to delve into it further!

 

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Has anyone read this series? Or are you interested in doing so after my review?! I’ve got the next two books on my shelf and the fourth one comes out in paperback in April!