February 2019 Wrap-Up!

Well this is going to be a shorter wrap-up than usual because February was ROUGH. I completely burnt myself out this month, trying to do far too much. And on top of that, I had my birthday to celebrate and I’ve been fighting off a yucky cold for most of the month. But let’s see what I managed to read in spite of everything!

February 2019 wrapup


Review Books

The Last by Hanna Jameson

My first read of the month was this dystopian murder-mystery, which I found highly original and compelling. It was quite ambiguous at times and very open-ended but I was gripped for the entirety and I would definitely recommend this one!

 

A Version of the Truth by B. P. Walter

I really struggled with this one. I was intrigued to start with but then the subject matter became more and more unpalatable as the book went on and I just felt disgusted. The characters were unlikeable and the ending was one of the most dissatisfying I’ve ever read.

 

The Sewing Machine by Natalie Fergie

An enjoyable historical fiction based on the 1911 strike at the Singer sewing machine factory. Fergie has a nice writing style and I felt invested in the many characters’ lives. A well-researched novel that I would recommend to fans of family sagas!

 

The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders

My final read of the month and the one that has caused me the most difficulty! I liked the sound of this sci-fi novel, even though the genre intimidates me at times. Unfortunately, my horrendous reading slump started not long after I’d begun reading this so I feel like that might have affected my opinion of it. I enjoyed it but probably not as much as I could have. Full review coming soon!


Books from my TBR

alice christina henry

Alice by Christina Henry

I only read one book from my TBR shelf all month?! Poor effort, Alex. I did enjoy this one though I think I prefer Henry’s more recent books; I can clearly see an improvement in her writing. Although I found this one a little meandering and anticlimactic, I’m still glad to have read it.


Rereads

harry potter and the prisoner of azkaban

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling

I continued my reread of the Harry Potter series 10 years on by picking up the third book in the series – which also happens to be my favourite. I adored revisiting this one and remembering what I love so much about it.


Stats

Total pages: 2229

Average pages per day: 79.6

Longest book: The City in the Middle of the Night (482 pages)

Shortest book: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (320 pages)

Favourite read of the month: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Biggest disappointment of the month: A Version of the Truth

Male authors: 1

Female authors: 5

february 2019


I feel like I should also point out that I listened to 100 pages of the Vanity Fair audiobook – but considering that’s not even a quarter of the book, can it really count?! Here’s hoping March is a better reading month! xsignature (2)

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My favourite blog posts of February 2019!

Hey everyone! It’s time for me to share some blog posts I’ve loved this month! Apologies for the shorter-than-usual list, I’ve been in the worst slump!

favourite blog posts of the month


favourite reviewsBeth wrote an eloquent review of The Luminaries, which sounds so good!

Rae reviewed the audiobook of Ghost Wall, another interesting-sounding read!

Jenna gave a stellar review of Autoboyography, a book which truly has my heart.

Aweng reviewed Leigh Bardugo’s The Language of Thorns, which was one of my favourite reads of 2018!

Beth wrote a great review of You Asked For Perfect, one of my most anticipated releases of the year!


favourite discussionsKelly talked about the value of teen voices in the blogging community and announced an exciting new project!

The Quiet Pond featured an amazing series of posts where book bloggers talked about their experiences balancing life and blogging. This was such a valuable thing to read, especially with how much I’ve felt myself struggling recently, so I highly recommend taking the time to check it out!

Drew raised a fascinating discussion about trigger warnings.

Rita discussed the wonder of BIG books and I am totally vibing with her.

Marie wrote a post about how to stay positive while book blogging and it was a golden ray of sunshine in the depths of my slump.

Wendy eloquently discussed why she doesn’t use the Goodreads star rating system.


other fun postsSamantha gave some practical advice on how to go about unhauling books.

Nandini highlighted 5 diverse anthologies coming out in 2019. These look awesome!

Ellyn shared some tips for growing your blog, from which I’m sure we could all learn something!

Ayunda wrote another ‘Behind the Blog’ post, this time interviewing the lovely Callum! You should all be following both of these bloggers.

Rachel wrote a great post full of Irish literature recommendations.

Aurora shared her original OTPs for Valentine’s Day and I was living for it. You should also check out her book recommendations for Pisces – the best of the star signs 😉

Kat shared a series of insanely helpful posts on how to make your blog look prettier. Definitely need to try some of her tips for myself!


I hope that you enjoy these posts and maybe connect with some bloggers you don’t currently know! Thanks, as always, for reading xsignature (2)

‘Alice’ spoiler-free review!

Hey everyone! You may have noticed I’ve not posted a lot of book reviews this month. That’s because I have been in the worst reading slump of my LIFE. It was so hard to pick up a book, even though I desperately wanted to be reading. But I think I’m finally dragging myself out of it and bringing you a review today!

alice christina henry


synopsisIn a warren of crumbling buildings and desperate people called the Old City, there stands a hospital with cinderblock walls which echo with the screams of the poor souls inside. In the hospital, there is a woman. Her hair, once blonde, hangs in tangles down her back. She doesn’t remember why she’s in such a terrible place-just a tea party long ago, and long ears, and blood… Then, one night, a fire at the hospital gives the woman a chance to escape, tumbling out of the hole that imprisoned her, leaving her free to uncover the truth about what happened to her all those years ago. Only something else has escaped with her. Something dark. Something powerful. And to find the truth, she will have to track this beast to the very heart of the Old City, where the rabbit waits for his Alice.


my thoughtsThis is the third book I’ve read by Christina Henry and, as I’ve come to expect, I really enjoyed it. I love Henry’s writing style, there is just something very easy about it. Her words flow nicely and sweep you up into the story.

That said, with this being an earlier work, I can see how Henry has honed her craft in recent years. There were elements of this one that irritated me slightly, like the infamous line “she exhaled a breath she hadn’t realised she’d been holding”! There were also moments when I felt a little confused and didn’t know if I was reading about people or magical creatures (though perhaps this was the author’s intention, to never have things fully explained?)

I found the plot to be compelling from the very start, though there were times as the book progressed that it felt a little aimless. There was a lot of walking and fighting, followed by more walking and fighting – the protagonist herself even comments on this at one point so at least Henry was aware of it, I suppose. After the meandering plot, the ending felt quite abrupt and anticlimactic, and I’m still not sure whether I’m happy with it or not. I guess you’ll have to read it for yourselves and make up your own mind 😉

I feel like this review is coming across as quite negative but I did genuinely enjoy the book. Considering I’m not a huge fan of the original Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Henry did a great job keeping me interested in the source material. I particularly liked the story of the Jabberwocky’s origin.

This book is extremely dark, even more so than Lost Boy, Henry’s Peter Pan retelling, so it won’t be for everyone. But since Henry’s fairytale reimaginings are now auto-buys for me, I’m glad to have read this one.

alice.jpg

Have you read any of Christina Henry’s books? Which fairytale would you like to see reimagined next? Let me know in the comments! And thanks for reading xsignature (2)

Music Monday: Never Enough (The Greatest Showman)

Hey everyone! It’s Music Monday time again 🙂 Thank you all for the positive feedback last week, it meant a lot to me.

This week, I’m bringing you a song from one of the most popular movies/soundtracks of recent years – The Greatest Showman! I could have picked any of the songs from the movie but I decided to go with the very first one I ever heard, which was ‘Never Enough’.

The song is performed in the movie by actress Rebecca Ferguson, though it is actually sung by Loren Allred. It was written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.

Apologies for the clunky key sounds at the start – they’re hard to disguise when playing at a high octave!

Any ‘Greatest Showman’ fans out there? What do you think of the news that there is going to be a sequel?! Let me know in the comments! x

Harry Potter 10 Years On: The Prisoner of Azkaban

Hi everyone! You may remember that towards the end of last year, I began a reread of the Harry Potter series, my first in 10 years in fact! I thought it would be fun to do a series of posts reacting to the books from an adult perspective. As always, I’ve tried to keep this as spoiler-free as possible but do proceed with caution as your idea of spoilers might be different from mine.

If you missed the first two posts, you can find my reactions to Philosopher’s Stone here and Chamber of Secrets here.


Initial Thoughts…

So bloody excited. This is my favourite book in the series. I used to take it EVERYWHERE with me.

When Harry feels like he is being watched, it’s actually a little bit creepy.

The world-building in this book is phenomenal.

I really love the darker feel to this book.

The dementors are honestly one of the creepiest monster creations in any book EVER.

I love Hermione’s reaction to divination classes. LOL

Lupin’s Defence Against the Dark Arts lessons sounds absolutely amazing. Also, I forgot how much I love him.

Can you imagine if every case of depression in our world was caused by dementors that we’re unable to see?!

The twists towards the end of this book are WILD, I just love where Rowling takes this story.

firebolt.gif


Thoughts Upon Finishing…

Wow. I always talk about this as my favourite book in the Harry Potter series and one of my favourite books EVER but I had forgotten just how flipping amazing it is. You know when you call something a favourite for so long that you start to take it for granted? That’s what happened to me with this book.

I seriously love that this is the point when the series starts to get WAY darker and acquires a much more mature feel. The new characters introduced are some of my absolute favourites; I had forgotten how much love I have for Sirius and Remus.

Even the more mundane stuff in this book, like the descriptions of lessons or Quidditch matches, is so much more exciting to read than it was in the first two books. This is the book that made my childhood self lament not getting a Hogwarts letter.

It was fantastic to revisit this book and remember what I love about it, and I cannot wait to carry on with my series reread!

harry potter and the prisoner of azkaban

Which is your favourite Harry Potter book and why? Let me know in the comments! 

Mental Health Musings: The Link Between Physical & Mental Health

Hey everyone! It’s time for another mental health post! Thank you so much for the support on my last one – I’m hoping to make this a regular feature on the blog and it means so much to know that it will be well-received ❤

My little disclaimer before we start: I am not currently a qualified mental health professional so any topics I raise are merely my own thoughts. That being said, you are welcome to get in touch with me if you would like to discuss further anything mentioned in this blog series.

Mental Health Musings

Today, I want to talk about the link between physical and mental health. The reason this topic is on my mind is because I’ve had a yucky cold recently and I’ve felt my mental health dipping a little with it. It’s got me wondering whether there is any kind of relationship between the health of the body and the health of the mind (spoiler alert: I think there is).

 

Does being physically ill affect your mental health?

I don’t know about you but I always feel more anxious and depressed when I’m physically ill. When my body feels drained of energy and everything aches, I feel less emotionally resilient. I take everything more personally and my patience feels thin. Often, if I ever I have to take a sick day from work, it’s not necessarily because I can’t physically work – it’s because my mental health has dropped so low that I just can’t deal with the emotional side of things. I have quite a stressful job that requires a lot of emotional input and I really need to be on top of my game to cope with it properly. So when I’m tired and feeling grotty, I sometimes can’t handle those pressures.

 

Can poor mental health affect you physically?

On the flip side, there are times when I wonder if poor mental health can itself lead to physical illness. I am a strong advocate for self-care but sometimes it can be difficult to make time for it and I know that when I’m not taking care of myself mentally, I often end up coming down with colds or bugs.

Lately, I have been stretching myself very thin, trying to balance my difficult full-time job, studying for my diploma, blogging, bookstagram, and various other responsibilities. I’ve been committed to a lot of blog tours this month and I’ve also been making plans to implement more new features on the blog (one of which you might have seen yesterday) and it’s all taking its toll on me a little. Part of me wonders if getting myself so stressed is what led to me getting sick in the first place. I’ve definitely been slacking when it comes to self-care. Anytime I’ve had a day off work, it’s been filled with other tasks and I’ve never taken any time to just chill.

 

I definitely think it can work both ways. Feeling poorly can diminish our ability to cope with mental challenges and can lead us into episodes of greater anxiety or depression. I also believe that not having adequate tools in place to keep our mental health under control can cause us to feel physical effects.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Have you noticed that when you’re ill, your mental health also feels worse? Have you ever stressed yourself out to the point of physical illness? Let’s chat in the comments! xsignature (2)

Music Monday: Beauty & the Beast

Hey everyone! I’m excited and terrified to be bringing you a new blog feature today. I’ve often talked over on Instagram about my dream of sharing my music, since it has been such a huge part of my life for a very long time. My creative well has been feeling a little dry recently but the thought of this blog series is reviving me a little. I really hope that you’ll all enjoy it!

I must give credit to Drew for the term ‘Music Monday’ – every week, he shares a song on his blog that means something to him. I’m just doing things a little differently and physically playing the songs for you 😉

I thought I’d start off with a little Disney (because if you don’t like Disney, you have no soul haha). The main theme song from the 1991 Disney film Beauty and the Beast was written by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, and originally performed by Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson. I, of course, do not own any rights to the song or movie.

Also, a little disclaimer: this blog series is not a way for me to be big-headed. I am not someone who can ever sing their own praises and I’m not posting this to fish for compliments. Playing the piano is something that brings me joy and it’s just another aspect of my personality that I have decided to share with you here. That being said, I realise this won’t be everyone’s kind of thing but please remember that I’m a human being and I have feelings. You are not obliged to watch this if you don’t want to and you certainly don’t need to leave any nasty comments.

So without further ado, here’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’! ❤

 

‘The Sewing Machine’ spoiler-free review!

 

The Sewing Machine

Hi everyone! Today is my stop on the blog tour for The Sewing Machine by Natalie Fergie. Huge thanks to Anne Cater/Unbound for sending me a free copy to review!


synopsisIt is 1911, and Jean is about to join the mass strike at the Singer factory. For her, nothing will be the same again.

Decades later, in Edinburgh, Connie sews coded moments of her life into a notebook, as her mother did before her.

More than 100 years after his grandmother’s sewing machine was made, Fred discovers a treasure trove of documents. His family history is laid out before him in a patchwork of unfamiliar handwriting and colourful seams.

He starts to unpick the secrets of four generations, one stitch at a time.


my thoughtsThis was a really enjoyable historical fiction! Fergie has a nice writing style, not too flowery but captivating enough to sweep you up into another period in time. I found it difficult to put the book down, constantly telling myself “just one more chapter”.

There are a LOT of characters to get to grips with in this story and I will admit to being confused at times as to how everyone was linked. This is in part due to the incorrect assumptions I made from reading the blurb, as well as the fact that the actual point of the story was to not reveal the links until the very end! So I recommend just going with the flow and not trying too hard to figure things out before their time; you’ll only give yourself a headache 😉

Even though there are a lot of characters, they are, on the whole, incredibly likeable. I felt invested in every individual storyline and there were no characters that made me feel bored or want to rush through to get to a different perspective (which we all know can sometimes happen with multiple POVs!) Every single narrative voice and time period was compelling.

I really loved the idea of the sewing projects being recorded in notebooks and how these were passed down through the generations. I’m sentimental at heart so I love things like that, real pieces of the past that you can tangibly experience.

This is clearly a very well-researched novel, into which has been poured a lot of love. I would recommend it to fans of multi-generational family sagas!

the sewing machine.jpg

A final rating of 4 musical notes!

4 notesMake sure you check out the other stops on the tour if you’re interested! And thanks, as always, for reading x


Sewing Machine Blog Tour Poster.jpg

 

‘A Version of the Truth’ spoiler-free review!

 
a version of the truth

Hey everyone! Today is release day for A Version of the Truth by B. P. Walter which was very kindly sent to me by Avon Books. Sadly, I didn’t enjoy this one as much as I’d hoped to. Read on to find out why!


synopsis

We all see what we want to see…

2019: Julianne is preparing a family dinner when her son comes to her and says he’s found something on his iPad. Something so terrible, it will turn Julianne’s world into a nightmare and make her question everything about her marriage and what type of man her husband is or is pretending to be.

1990: Holly is a fresher student at Oxford University. Out of her depth and nervous about her surroundings, she falls into an uneasy friendship with a group of older students from the upper echelons of society and begins to develop feelings for one in particular. He’s confident, quiet, attractive and seems to like her too. But as the year progresses, her friends’ behaviour grows steadily more disconcerting and Holly begins to realise she might just be a disposable pawn in a very sinister game.

A devastating secret has simmered beneath the surface for over twenty-five years. Now it’s time to discover the truth. But what if you’re afraid of what you might find?


my thoughts

This is a really hard one for me to rate. I so wanted to give a glowing review for release date but unfortunately, I found this one quite hard to swallow.

I was quite intrigued by the opening of this one but things quickly went downhill from that awful cliché hated by bookworms everywhere: “I let out a breath I only now realised I’ve been holding”. Later on, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was incorrectly referenced as being written by Emily Brontë. I know this is nit-picking but the fact that little things like that grated on me so much shows how frustrated I was feeling for the duration of the book.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I was liking the book at first. I enjoyed the Oxford University vibes and I was suitably intrigued. However, the subject matter become more and more disgusting as the book progressed. I feel like the whole purpose was just to shock the reader.

This book features some of the most unlikeable characters I have ever had the misfortune of reading about. Unlikeable characters in themselves would not normally be enough to lower my opinion of a novel quite so much but, in this case, I just couldn’t bear reading about them. Not one of them had any redeeming qualities; even the Mary-Sue heroine annoyed me and I really struggled to feel any sympathy towards her despite the horrible ordeal she is put through.

Now I’m no prude but the amount of sex in this book was a little much for me. And it wasn’t even the fact that it was there, it was the way things were described. Every chapter got progressively more disgusting. Add to that some very questionable comments about gay men, bisexuals and AIDS and I was losing interest fast.

I pushed through A Version of the Truth since it had been gifted to me by a publisher but the ending was honestly the biggest cop-out I’ve ever read. I have never been so dissatisfied.

Wow, I had hoped I could give this review a slightly more positive spin but I guess writing it has made me realise just how much I disliked this book! It’s a real shame to have to give a negative review on release day. But hey, other readers might enjoy this one. I feel like it will certainly be divisive and, unfortunately, due to the subject material, I landed firmly in the negative camp.

a version of the truth

Are there any books that have made you have such a strong reaction whilst reading? Let me know in the comments! And thank you for reading x signature (2)

‘The Last’ spoiler-free review!

 

The Last book review

Hey everyone! Today I’m reviewing The Last by Hanna Jameson, which was very kindly sent to me for free in exchange for an honest review by Viking Books UK! You may remember me mentioning this in my list of January anticipated reads so I’m hugely grateful that I was able to get a copy! The book released in the UK on January 31st so definitely check it out if you’re interested.


synopsis

Breaking: Nuclear weapon detonates over Washington

Breaking: London hit, thousands feared dead

Breaking: Munich and Scotland hit. World leaders call for calm

Historian Jon Keller is on a trip to Switzerland when the world ends. As the lights go out on civilization, he wishes he had a way of knowing whether his wife, Nadia, and their two daughters are still alive. More than anything, Jon wishes he hadn’t ignored Nadia’s last message.

Twenty people remain in Jon’s hotel. Far from the nearest city and walled in by towering trees, they wait, they survive.

Then one day, the body of a young girl is found. It’s clear she has been murdered. Which means that someone in the hotel is a killer.

As paranoia descends, Jon decides to investigate. But how far is he willing to go in pursuit of justice? And what kind of justice can he hope for, when society as he knows it no longer exists?


my thoughts

This was a very unique book. The concept of an apocalyptic murder mystery is highly original (or at least it’s not something I’ve ever come across before). It’s like Cluedo at the end of the world! The plot was hugely compelling; I genuinely could not stop reading. I must have read over 100 pages in a single sitting. If you like gripping reads, this is definitely one to try.

I will admit that the book jumped in very quickly and that it took me a minute to feel invested. The narrative does go back eventually and fill in the gaps but readers should bear in mind that everything kicks off before you even know where you’re at. With hindsight, I can see why this was done but it can feel a little disconcerting when you’re just starting the book.

The concept of nuclear war is terrifyingly plausible and the author definitely highlights current world issues to lend her story a frightening level of believability. Let’s hope we never get to this point!!

The novel is ambiguous in moments (something which I don’t mind but that might annoy other readers). I did find the ending slightly too open-ended for my tastes but, equally, I don’t think there’s any other way the author could have wrapped it up.

Overall, this was a scarily fascinating book that I would definitely recommend for fans of apocalypse stories. It’s tense and creepy at times and grips the reader from start to finish. I really enjoyed it!

the last

A final rating of 4 musical notes!

4 notes


Have you read this one? Are you a fan of apocalypse stories? Let me know some of your favourites in the comments! And thank you for reading xsignature (2)