May Wrap-Up! (In which buying a house takes a serious toll on my reading productivity)

Hey guys! I find it unbelievable that it’s the end of May – I feel like it was January 2 weeks ago? Yet, at the same time, this has been a looong month. Moving into my house was way more stressful than I’d anticipated and my mental health took a real hit which meant I wasn’t reading as much as usual. However, I’m pleased to say I still managed to get through 8 books – and my mood is also improving so I’m hopeful for a great reading month in June!

 

Classics

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

I only read one classic this month (the audiobooks took one of the biggest hits because anytime I was in my car I was moving boxes and couldn’t concentrate on ‘reading’). Widely credited as the first detective mystery, there was a lot to enjoy in this novel. It’s wry humour had me laughing out loud at times and it rarely felt dull or long-winded like a lot of other literature of its time! I gave this one 4/5 stars.

 

Review Books/Books I was sent

Life Lessons from Remarkable Women

This anthology of mini essays from 25 female celebrities was sent to me by the lovely people at Penguin Life. It’s a really valuable resource that I can see myself dipping in and out of in years to come; there really is something for everyone in there. I found something personally relevant in many of the ‘lessons’. 4/5 stars.

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The House Swap by Rebecca Fleet

This was an enjoyable and compelling domestic drama with a really interesting mental health vein. You can read my full spoiler-free review here! A solid 4/5 stars.

 

Guilt by Amanda Robson

I had quite a few issues with this book but still found it an addictive read! It was super fast-paced and really gripping. If you’re interested to see exactly what I didn’t like about it, click here. 4/5 stars for enjoyment.

 

Ill Will by Michael Stewart

I requested this book due to its link with Wuthering Heights (one of my all-time favourites). There is a period in the original classic where Heathcliff disappears and returns having mysteriously educated himself and become a gentleman. This book is basically the story of what happens in the time he is away. I should have known that it couldn’t possibly live up to my adoration of Brontë’s masterpiece. There were some things I liked about it but it’s definitely not a new favourite. I’ll be reviewing this one in full soon but I gave it 3/5 stars.

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Books from my TBR

Scythe by Neal Schusterman

My book club’s pick this month was a novel that has been on my radar for a while now but that I might not have been inclined to pick up anytime soon. I’m really glad we chose this one as it has a really intriguing concept at its heart and will make for an amazing moral discussion! I’ll be reading the sequel Thunderhead soon too. Scythe was a strong 4/5 stars.

 

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

I won this book in a giveaway by Reading Between the Pages (thank you again!) and it ended up being my favourite of the month. It was full of sassy characters and amazing world-building, which are two things that almost always guarantee I will love a book. Check out my spoiler-free review here! 5/5 stars!

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Lips Touch by Laini Taylor

Everyone knows by now that I am Laini Taylor trash. The woman is a queen. I got the urge to try this short story collection and I’m pleased to say it’s just as gorgeous as everything else I’ve read from Laini so far. She continues to combine buckets of imagination with the most sumptuous writing, and it just blows me away every single time. All the stars for Laini!

 

 

Stats

Total pages: 2837

Average pages per day: 94.5

Longest book: The Moonstone (512 pages)

Shortest book: Life Lessons from Remarkable Women (188 pages)

Favourite read of the month: To Kill a Kingdom

Biggest disappointment of the month: Ill Will

Male authors: 4

Female authors: 5

Books read towards Pop Sugar Reading Challenge: 1 (oops!)

 

And that’s my wrap-up for May! My worst reading month of the year but I’m still well ahead on my Goodreads goal so I’m not worried.

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How did your month go? Leave me a comment telling me the best thing that happened to you in May! x

 

 

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‘Guilt’ spoiler-free review!

Hey guys! Long time no speak! I want to say a huge thank-you to you all for sticking around during my unplanned (but not altogether surprising) hiatus while I moved into my house. I’m hopeful that the major stuff is done now and I’ll be able to get back to blogging.

I’m easing myself in today with a review of Guilt, the second novel by Amanda Robson, which was sent to me by the lovely people at Avon Books.

 

What the book was about

 

There is no bond greater than blood . . .

When the body of a woman is found stabbed to death, the blame falls to her twin sister. But who killed who? And which one is now the woman behind bars?

Zara and Miranda have always supported each other. But then Zara meets Seb, and everything changes. Handsome, charismatic and dangerous, Seb threatens to tear the
sisters’ lives apart – but is he really the one to blame? Or are deeper resentments simmering beneath the surface that the sisters must face up to?

As the sisters’ relationship is stretched to the brink, a traumatic incident in Seb’s past begins to rear its head and soon all three are locked in a psychological battle that will leave someone dead. The question is, who?

 

What I thought of it

 

This was a gripping and addictive thriller. I was hooked from the first page – I needed to know who this mystery woman was and if she really had killed her sister! I mean, the author couldn’t possibly have come up with a more intriguing and clever way to keep her reader invested.

Guilt alternates between the points of view of the two sisters, Miranda and Zara, and male lead Sebastian. We are given all of their perspectives in the past as well as the unknown killer’s perspective in the present. I found the second person narrative a little bit of a struggle at first but I got used to it fairly quickly. Sebastian was a vile character whom I instantly loathed, and the two sisters both had strong and distinct personalities as well which really helped me to differentiate between the narrative voices.

There were lots of contemporary references which made this book feel very relevant and added extra realism. In fact, it felt so real that it made for slightly uncomfortable reading at times. I obviously can’t say directly how but those who have read the book will surely know what I’m talking about when I say that certain scenes made me uncomfortable with their realistic level of detail.

I liked the slow drip-feed of information; that and the short, snappy sentences really kept the pace fast and helped me to fly through the pages. There was an element of repetition which I felt worked in certain instances but then on other occasions felt slightly lazy and had me frustratedly wishing that the author could have reworded things rather than directly copying and pasting!

The book was quite littered with clichés (there was lots of ‘crying on the inside’ and other such things that I found irritating). I also thought the word ‘coagulates’ was used far too often! (Weirdest criticism of a book ever, I know).

Then, there were a couple of confusing moments where I felt like the wrong sister’s name had been used? I had to flick back a couple of pages to check who was speaking and it definitely seemed as though ‘Miranda’/’Zara’ had been written mistakenly. So the book was far from perfect.

I feel like I’ve complained about a lot of things but in spite of the issues I had with this book, I did find it an enjoyable read! Sometimes, you need to just let the flaws go and enjoy the ride. I’d recommend Guilt for fans of fast-paced psychological thrillers.

(As an aside, I flagged quite a few things in this book that I believe warrant trigger warnings but I’m very aware that to state them would be to spoil major plot points. If anyone feels they need to know the trigger warnings before reading the book, please do not hesitate to send me a message.)

 

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Thanks for reading, guys! Has anyone else read this book? Or Robson’s debut, Obsession

‘To Kill a Kingdom’ spoiler-free review!

Hi everyone! First of all, a quick thank you for your patience and support while my posts are a bit sporadic – I’m well and truly up to my neck with the house move but things are going well!

Today, I’m reviewing To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo – I’ve seen this book around a lot lately and I just had to read it!

 

What the book was about

Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most—a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever.

The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavoury hobby—it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of siren-kind for good—But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?

 

What I thought of it

This debut fantasy standalone is awesome. I absolutely loved the world building and the amount of detail the author provided about the different kingdoms on land and in the sea. Blue-lipped snow princes and queens who make any man they touch lose their minds with love? YES TO ALL OF IT. I would happily read more books set in this world and definitely think the potential is there for the author to expand.

It’s very impressive that the author was able to create such a vivid world in the limited pages she had. (You would think that such a well-developed world would cause the book to be much longer.) I do think the novel was the perfect length; it was action-packed and never once slowed down from it’s break-neck opening pace. I felt breathless reading it at times; the fact that every single chapter was action-based and focused on moving the plot forward made for an exhilarating read.

The characters are one of this debut’s major strengths. There is an incredible (diverse!) cast and I felt like I could picture every one of them clearly. I was also living for their banter. The sass levels are high with this one. The hate-to-love subplot was a delight and I loved it so much more than I thought I would.

Further points for character development. I loved following Lira’s journey and seeing her grow. There was a really REALLY interesting exploration of abuse in the guise of the Sea Queen and I am so impressed that the author tackled such an important topic in a debut fantasy (whether she intended to or not). This was such a strong debut and Christo is definitely one to watch!

 

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The publishing world seems to be treating us to a plethora of mermaid stories this year – have you read this one yet? Or any others that you would recommend? Let me know in the comments! x

 

 

If you liked that, try this!

Hey guys! The idea for this post came to me whilst I was lying awake on a recent overnight shift at work so I thought I’d give it a shot and see what you think of it! Basically, I love when someone reviews a book and then offers recommendations on similar things to read. It’s something I’d like to start doing but I’m not sure I can yet as I haven’t read hundreds and hundreds of books! So I thought I could do a post like this every now and then, offering some recommendations.

Without further ado, let’s recommend some books!

 

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If you liked…

practical magic

 

Try…

 

These books are all full of small-town charm, and are utterly delightful reads. They might look like ‘chick-lit’ but they are so much more than that; they have meaningful stories at their centres and make for heart-warming reads. The magical realism in all of them (excluding Slightly South of Simple) is one of my favourite aspects.

 

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If you liked…

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Try…

 

Norse Mythology is a natural progression from American Gods, though it is perhaps not quite so deep. If you’re intimidated by the size of American Gods, think of Norse Mythology as its easier-to-handle little brother. Pyramids is Terry Pratchett’s take on the gods and it features his trademark wit and satire. The Bone Clocks is similarly weird and wonderful to American Gods; it can be hard to get your head around at first but it’s so worth it.

 

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If you liked…

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Try…

 

Lush world-building and fantastic magic systems abound in these books about djinni and chimaera. I found the writing in The City of Brass particularly reminiscent of Laini Taylor’s books.

 

So there you have it! What do you guys think of my recommendations? Is this the kind of post you would like to see more often? I have a few more ideas in mind but didn’t want to overload you guys! Let me know your thoughts in the comments! x

 

‘The House Swap’ spoiler-free review!

Hello everyone! Today I’m reviewing The House Swap by Rebecca Fleet, which was very kindly sent to me by Penguin Random House UK!

 

What the book was about

When Caroline and Francis receive an offer to house swap, they jump at the chance for a week away from home. After the difficulties of the past few years, they’ve worked hard to rebuild their marriage for their son’s sake; now they want to reconnect as a couple.

On arrival, they find a house that is stark and sinister in its emptiness – it’s hard to imagine what kind of person lives here. Then, gradually, Caroline begins to uncover some signs of life – signs of her life. The flowers in the bathroom or the music in the CD player might seem innocent to her husband but to her they are anything but. It seems the person they have swapped with is someone she used to know; someone she’s desperate to leave in her past.

But that person is now in her home – and they want to make sure she’ll never forget . . .

 

What I thought of it

This was a very enjoyable and compelling domestic drama. I found myself immediately intrigued by the premise and the execution of it did not disappoint.

The book is mostly told in Caroline’s perspective, alternating between the present day and two years earlier. We are also occasionally given a glimpse into her husband’s point of view, and then there are snippets here and there told by the mystery person currently staying in Caroline’s house.

Despite the frequent switches in time period and POV, I was never confused as I initially thought I would be. I actually found the alternating chapters to be a clever technique by the author as it kept me racing through the book to find out what was happening in the present day or what drama had occurred in the past. I really liked how everything tied together in the end and thought it was a very realistic and plausible idea.

None of the characters are very likeable but they were genuinely fascinating. There was a really interesting mental health vein running through the story and I loved how everything played out.

My main complaint with this book is that I don’t think it was necessary to have quite so many sex scenes – they got a bit repetitive and I didn’t feel like they were adding much to the story. One or two would have been sufficient.

Overall, this was a very strong debut. I really liked the sinister undertone that pervaded the story and I could really picture the settings, finding it enjoyable that the author kept the action moving and didn’t have the plot stagnating in one location. I really felt myself swept along in all the drama between Caroline and Frances, and would recommend this book to fans of psychological/domestic dramas!

 

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The House Swap came out yesterday (May 3rd) in the UK.

Has anyone else read this one? What are some of your favourite domestic dramas? Let me know in the comments! x

‘Raven’s Cry’ spoiler-free review!

Happy book birthday to Dana Fraedrich and Raven’s Cry! A standalone set in the Broken Gears universe, this reimagining of Swan Lake is fab! Some of you may remember that I read the first book in Fraedrich’s series at the end of last year and then had the pleasure of interviewing her, so I was thrilled when she approached me again to ask if I would like to read an ARC of her latest book!

 

What the book is about…

A dark retelling of Swan Lake ~ Calandra is happiest when she’s surrounded by quiet, joined only by a book and a cup of tea, never around people and their insufferable need to make small talk. When Nicodemus, a magus with immense power, joins the royal court of Invarnis, Calandra’s life will change forever. As a terrible curse pursues her through the centuries, Calandra will have to overcome captivity, war, and loss.

In this standalone installment, set in Dana Fraedrich’s Broken Gears universe, readers will join Calandra in her battle for freedom, hope, and healing.

 

What I thought of it…

Having read Out of the Shadows at the end of last year, I was already familiar with the wonderful world Fraedrich has created. If possible, I loved it even more in this new standalone than in the first instalment. If you like fantasy creatures, then this is definitely a series to check out – filled to the brim with magi, dragons, vampyres and other magical beings, there is something for everyone here!

I’m delighted to say that the writing in this book is even BETTER than in Out of the Shadows (not that that was by any means bad!) I could really see an improvement! Fraedrich’s writing has become even more refined and it was an absolute pleasure to read. As I already mentioned, I loved the world-building in this book even more than the one I previously read and the descriptions were so cinematic!

I loved the protagonist Callandra’s character development; she starts out as a shy introvert but gradually gets a little bit more spice about her and ends up being a total badass. Her story is quite tragic but her handling of it felt realistic, and I really sympathised with her. I also really liked the supporting characters, though they didn’t always feel as fleshed-out as the MC.

It is important to emphasise that readers do not need to have tried the other books in the Broken Gears series; Raven’s Cry can be read as a standalone. However, I do think there is an extra level of depth that will be apparent to readers who have read Out of the Shadows. I had such an OMG moment when I worked out how the books were connected! It was very, very cool and really showed Fraedrich’s talent and the amount of work she has put into creating her fictional world.

My final word is a little bit of a fangirl moment… I’m mentioned in the acknowledgements!! I always make a point of reading the acknowledgements because it’s lovely to gain an insight into the author’s life – imagine my delight when Dana personally thanked me! Literally the coolest thing ever. It made my heart do a happy dance and reiterated what I already knew – which is that the author is not only a talented writer but a lovely human being.

Overall, I definitely recommend this one, even if you have never read Out of the Shadows. And you don’t need to know much about the plot of the original Swan Lake; while this is a retelling, the story stands up strongly in its own right.

 

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(All book covers taken from Goodreads)

 

Huge thanks to Dana Fraedrich for sending me an e-ARC of this one – happy book birthday Dana!