‘Finale’ spoiler-free review!

Hey everyone! Two posts in one day, you lucky ducks 😉

Here’s my spoiler-free review of the last instalment in Stephanie Garber’s Caraval series.

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synopsis

It’s been two months since the last Caraval concluded, two months since the Fates have been freed from an enchanted deck of cards, two months since Tella has seen Legend, and two months since Legend claimed the empire’s throne as his own. Now, Legend is preparing for his official coronation and Tella is determined to stop it. She believes her own mother, who still remains in an enchanted sleep, is the rightful heir to the throne.

Meanwhile, Scarlett has started a game of her own. She’s challenged Julian and her former fiancé, Count Nicolas d’Arcy, to a competition where the winner will receive her hand in marriage. Finally, Scarlett feels as if she is in complete control over her life and future. She is unaware that her mother’s past has put her in the greatest danger of all.

Caraval is over, but perhaps the greatest game of all has begun―with lives, empires, and hearts all at stake. There are no spectators this time: only those who will win…and those who will lose everything.


my thoughtsIt devastates me to say it, but I’m a little disappointed by this one 😦 I adored the first book and really liked the second one (though it didn’t top the beginning of the series for me). However, this one really didn’t have the same magic in my opinion.

Before I get into what I thought was wrong with this one, I’ll talk about what I liked. The purple prose was once again divine and totally recognisable as Garber; I was giving it heart eyes by the end of page one. So I definitely can’t fault it in that respect. The flowery writing that I loved from the first two books was still present in abundance.

I also love the magic in these books. It’s mysterious and a little bit dark, and I just think it’s divine. I want a wardrobe full of magical dresses please and thank you.

However. I struggled with this book because it honestly felt a bit plotless? I would find it quite difficult to describe this book to someone as it didn’t seem to have a proper structure. For the final instalment in a trilogy, it definitely felt a bit weak.

There were also a LOT of characters to keep track of in this book, and not just those we met in the previous two books but newly introduced characters as well. I thought it was a brave choice on Garber’s part to introduce these new characters, in particular a new big bad villain, in the last third of her series – and sadly, I don’t think it paid off. I didn’t feel quite invested because the story was going off in a different direction to what I had been used to in the previous two books. I hadn’t had time to get to know this villain so I wasn’t feeling the high stakes tension that I should have been while reading a concluding book.

I also have to say that I didn’t mind Scarlett too much as a character in the first book (I know a lot of readers had issues with her). Unfortunately, as the trilogy has progressed, she has seriously gone down in my estimations. Her behaviour in this book was childish and quite honestly baffled me. She came across as very self-centred much of the time.

I’m genuinely so sad about how this trilogy has wrapped up. None of the big ‘shocks’ really impacted me, I didn’t feel as emotionally invested, it just didn’t do it for me. I feel bereft.

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If you have read this series, please comment down below so we can discuss it! x

My favourite blog posts of May 2019!

If you’ve noticed a slew of likes recently, it’s because I once again fell behind with life commitments and I wasn’t able to keep up with the all the posts popping up in my WordPress reader. However, I have been trying to catch up and I still wanted to share some of the quality content that you guys have been putting out there this month!

favourite blog posts of the month


favourite reviewsAngelica reviewed Don’t Date Rosa Santos and made me genuinely interested in this book for the first time!

Tina wrote a great review of Miracle Creek, which I’d really like to read.

Marija reviewed Burial Rites and bumped this one much higher up my TBR list!

Sara wrote a great review of The Unhoneymooners, which I’m getting a little desperate to read!

Callum wrote an informative review of Transformation, a collection of short stories by Mary Shelley.

Sissi reviewed Toffee, which you might remember was one of my May anticipated releases.

Jules drew my attention to Stone Mothers, a book I hadn’t heard of but which sounds really interesting.


favourite discussionsJulianna weighed up the pros and cons of reading challenges/readathons.

Kelly asked if engagement equals success as a blogger, in another eloquent discussion post.

Rachel shared her insightful reflections on the Women’s Prize longlist.

Marie told us why she keeps writing book reviews even though they don’t get as much love in the blogging world.

Michael opened up a fantastic discussion on why people feel compelled to spoil things.

Rita asked if historical fiction always needs to be accurate.


other fun postsSamantha and Aurora both offered up suggestions of books to fill the Game of Thrones-shaped hole in your life.

Kristin shared some books she loves that are under 200 pages, a number of which are on my TBR list!

Annemieke wrote a great introductory post to Grimdark, for those of you (like me) who aren’t quite sure what it is!

The Orangutan Librarian recommended some fluffy fun books for Spring.

Melanie announced herself as one of the co-hosts of the Summerathon, which sounds like it will be a fun reading challenge!


I hope you’ll find something here that you’re interested in reading! xsignature (2)

Music Monday: Stardust (Hoagy Carmichael)

Hello everyone! Happy Monday – and happy bank holiday if you’re lucky enough to have one!

Today, I’m showcasing something a little different to what I usually do. This type of song is what I grew up playing; I’m much more jazz-trained than classically. So I hope you enjoy this!

Stardust was written in 1927 by Hoagy Carmichael and the lyrics were added in 1929 by Mitchell Parish. The song is regarded as an American standard and is one of the most recorded songs of the 20th century. One of the most well-known versions was recorded by Nat King Cole.

Harry Potter 10 Years On: The Order of the Phoenix

I’m powering towards the end of the Harry Potter series, in preparation for my visit to the studio tour at the end of June! I’m getting really excited to go there now that the story is fresh in my mind!

In case you’ve missed my previous posts documenting my first reread of Harry Potter in a decade, you can find them here:-

Harry Potter 10 Years On: The Philosopher’s Stone

Harry Potter 10 Years On: The Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter 10 Years On: The Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter 10 Years On: The Goblet of Fire

And now, onto book five! As always, I’ve tried to avoid major spoilers but beware of minor ones… 😉


Initial Thoughts…

I have to admit, this is one of my least favourites of the series.

So nice to see Lupin again!

Tonks is very cool. I vibe with her look a lot 😉

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I bloody love Sirius. He looks out for Harry so well.

Molly and Sirius arguing makes me so uncomfortable.

Dumbledore saying he doesn’t want to be taken off the chocolate frog cards cracks me up.

I forgot Sirius and Tonks were related!

The old junk when they’re clearing out the house!! The foreshadowing here!!

Ron and Hermione being made prefects – LOL

Mrs Weasley facing the boggart is just so sad.

As if we’re only just meeting Luna?!

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And bowtruckles! I love seeing all of these fantastic beasts!

Hermione is actually quite mean to Luna and I don’t like it.

What Umbridge does to Harry is legit TORTURE. What a hag.

Percy is a d**k.

Dobby wearing a million hats, omg, he’s too funny

I have a lot of angry feelings about people in this book!

I could have cried when Umbridge inspected Hagrid’s lesson.

The scene in St Mungo’s is heartbreaking!

Exam stress is a MOOD.

Chapter 35 is so stressful and devastating, what an emotional rollercoaster.

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Thoughts Upon Finishing…

As you can see from my initial reading reactions, I had a lot of strong emotional responses to this book! Rereading this one has reminded me why it is one of my least favourites in the series; significant plot events notwithstanding, I have a lot of negative feelings towards a lot of characters in this book. I just didn’t really like the way it made me feel at times.

Don’t get me wrong, though. It’s Harry Potter, so I still love it. It just ranks less highly when I put the books in order of preference!

J. K. Rowling is a master of her craft when it comes to plot arcs and foreshadowing, and I just adore the development of this series even if this instalment upsets me at times. I honestly can’t cope with that ending!

Moving straight on to book six, which I’m very excited to reread!

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What are your thoughts on the fifth Harry Potter? Let me know in the comments x

Mental Health Musings: Things Your Anxious Loved One Wants You To Know

Hey everyone 🙂 May is mental health awareness month and the irony is, I’ve been having a few mental health struggles of my own. This has prevented me from getting up the MH-related posts I had planned but I’ll hopefully still put them up at some point. My confidence is quite low these days so I’ve not been brave enough to start these kinds of discussions – but it’s something I’m trying to work on!

I often find it easier to put my feelings down in writing rather than speaking them out loud. It’s one of my biggest flaws, in that it can cause problems with family and friends when I keep things bottled up inside. So just in case any of you are the same, I wanted to compile a post that you might find useful for summing up your own struggles. You could even show this post to your loved ones in order to help them understand what you are going through ❤ It can also be really difficult to support someone with anxiety when you don’t know how they’re feeling, so I hope this post can help those of you in that position as well.

Anxiety is a tricky beast, often sneaking up on us at the most unexpected times. It can invade our minds for no reason we can see. It can wake us from sleep, clammy and shaking. It can hold off until we’re ready to leave the house and then cripple us. It can also present itself in ways you might not expect.

So without further ado, let’s look at some things your anxious loved one might want you to know…

things your anxious loved one wants you to know


Some days are better than others.

Starting with one that might seem obvious, but I think it’s important to remind people occasionally. Anxiety is a condition that has to be managed constantly and there are days when the energy to do so just isn’t there.  Any number of factors can contribute to having a bad day. When these happen, I just have to ride it out as best I can and hope that tomorrow will be better.

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There is no miracle ‘cure’.

As I just said, anxiety is something that has to be managed. It doesn’t go away. Even if I seem like I’ve been fine for days, weeks, even months, my anxiety can flare up at ANY time. Something that didn’t bother me yesterday could reduce me to tears tomorrow. I describe my anxiety as a series of waves, or peaks and troughs; sometimes the waves can be long and I can have a period of feeling great that seems like it will last forever. “Yes!” I think. “I’m better! My anxiety is gone!” Sadly, no. Something always happens to bring me back down. The best I can hope for is that my anxiety management skills will improve with each setback.

 

I need plenty of warning.

It can take me time to psyche myself up for things. When my anxiety was at its worst and I was becoming housebound with agoraphobia, I needed days and days of warning to prepare myself. I couldn’t do anything without being told well in advance. I planned everything to the tiniest detail. These days, I’m still a huge planner and I can’t function without my to-do lists, but if I’m having a good day I can cope more with unplanned happenings.

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If I could ‘snap out of it’, I would.

This is one of my pet peeves. Just because you can’t see my suffering does not make it any less real. And I don’t WANT to have anxiety! I hate that my brain imposes these limits on what I can do. I want to experience the things life has to offer, I want to travel and push myself out of my comfort zone. I am not wallowing. I am coping the best way I can with a debilitating mental health issue.

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Sometimes when I seem moody or irritable, I’m actually anxious.

A lot of people don’t know that anxiety can actually present itself as irritability. There have been times when I’ve felt seriously grumpy and only realised later in the day that what I was actually feeling was anxiety. I then have the added guilt of having been short with people I love and the stress of having to try and make them understand that I’m not just a moody cow.

 

Anxiety can make me really quiet… or really loud.

My usual response to anxiety is to retreat into myself. But very occasionally, it’s like I go completely the opposite way and become this person I don’t even recognise. I can become silly and over-the-top in an attempt to compensate for the anxious little bean I am. But ultimately, I know that this isn’t me and I’m just left feeling embarrassed. I can only hope that other people realise that too.

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Obviously, everyone’s experience of anxiety is different but these are some things that I have personally experienced and which can be difficult to talk about with other people. I hope, if any of you have had similar experiences, that this post helps you to feel a little less alone.

Also, I may have used some gifs throughout this post to try and lighten the mood a little but I am in no way making fun of this issue. I, of all people, know how seriously horrible anxiety can be. Even posting this is giving me anxiety! So please do reach out if you’d like to chat more about this topic ❤

Music Monday: Chasing Cars (Snow Patrol)

Happy Monday everyone 🙂 I’ve been in the wars a bit this week, with both finger and back pain, hence the relatively simple piece today. Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy it! Simple is not always a bad thing, after all.

I also thought this one was timely as many of my work colleagues are gearing up to see Snow Patrol perform this weekend! ‘Chasing Cars’ is the band’s biggest-selling single to date, having been released in 2006 as the second single from ‘Eyes Open’, Snow Patrol’s fourth album.

Relax and enjoy ❤

The ‘Pancake’ Book Tag!

Hey everyone! The lovely Marie tagged me recently for the ‘pancake’ book tag, which is super fun! Who doesn’t love pancakes? 😉

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Here are the rules as originally posted:-

  • Link back to the original creator in your post.
  • Feel free to use any of my pancake graphics in your post, or create your own!
  • Tag 5 other people at the end of your post, and let them know you’ve tagged them.

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Beautiful prose is my jam. These three books are some of my absolute favourites.


pancake-book-tag-2I live for the sass. Both Lira and Rhiannon serve it in spades.


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Not sure why this kind of story is comforting to me?! But I love them both. Apparently WWII fiction with a focus on children and stories is my MOOD.


pancake-book-tag-4These books, oh my gosh. I couldn’t stop thinking about them for days afterwards, and they still haunt me to this day.


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These three books all took me on an emotional rollercoaster and I loved it.


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Selina Kyle really surprised me; I loved this interpretation of her character and her motivations. Kate ‘Puck’ Connolly is another character that I’d say presents a feisty front but is really a complete cinnamon roll deep down and fiercely loyal to her family.


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A thriller and a dystopian that both kept me on the edge of my seat with their twisty plots!


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I wasn’t wholly convinced by either Cath/Levi or Daenerys/Drogo at first but now I totally ship them! I think both pairings bring out the best in each other.


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Since I’ve just finished my reread of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, it seems appropriate to mention the absolute grotbag that is Dolores Umbridge. I stand by the opinion that she is worse than Voldemort. I also despise the mayor in the Chaos Walking trilogy. Though I do not despise peanut butter. Yum.


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Most recently, I loved the diverse cast of characters in Laura Silverman’s You Asked For Perfect. But another book that comes to mind is Scott Reintgen’s Nyxia; I remember being so impressed by the diversity levels when I read this one!


Well, those are my answers for the Pancake’ book tag! I recommend every single book that I’ve mentioned in this post.

I’m going to tag the following people but no pressure if you’ve already done the tag or just don’t fancy it!

Callum // Kelly // Rita // Jenna // Ayunda

And if you haven’t been tagged but want to do it, go for it! x

‘The Den’ spoiler-free review!

Hello all 🙂 Today is my stop on the blog tour for Abi Maxwell’s The Den, published by Tinder Press. Thank you to Anne Cater and the publisher for sending me a free ARC!

the den review


synopsis

For readers of THE VIRGIN SUICIDES or THE GIRLS, a story of two extraordinary, magnetic women and their disappearances – a hundred years apart – from the small New England town they call home.

Henrietta and Jane are growing up in a farmhouse on the outskirts of town, their mother a remote artist, their father in thrall to the folklore and legend of their corner of New England. When Henrietta falls under the spell of Kaus, an outsider and petty criminal, Jane takes to trailing the couple, spying on their trysts, until one night, Henrietta vanishes into the woods.

Elspeth and Claire are sisters separated by an ocean. Elspeth’s pregnancy at seventeen meant she was quickly married and sent away from her Scottish village to make a new life in America. When she comes to the attention of the local mill owner, a series of wrenching and violent events unfolds, culminating in her disappearance.

As Jane and Claire search in their own times for their missing sisters, each uncovers the strange legend of Cold Friday, and of a family apparently transformed into coyotes. But what does his myth really mean? Are their sisters dead, destroyed by the men who desired them? Or have they made new lives, elsewhere, beyond the watchful eyes of the community they longed to escape?


my thoughtsWhile this wasn’t exactly what I expected, it was still an enjoyable read. I was immediately drawn into the atmospheric setting. I remember reading a quote somewhere once about the exceptionally short time an author has to grab a reader’s attention (I tried to find it to include here but I have no idea who said it or where I saw it!) My point is, this author succeeded in hooking me in from the very first page.

I always enjoy stories that bounce between two time periods; I love seeing how an author can link these two eras together. Maxwell did a good job of showing how the present can mirror the past, and kept me suitably intrigued by both timelines. There was a clear difference between the two, particularly in the dialogue, but also thematic similarities.

As I mentioned, this book wasn’t wholly what I expected it to be. I think I was expecting more of an emphasis on the supernatural elements – the myth surrounding Cold Friday and the coyotes. Instead, this was much more of a feminist story; I was pleasantly surprised by the book’s focus on the treatment of women throughout history and society’s expectations of female roles and behaviour. I did, however, appreciate the ambiguity that the coyote subplot provided; it made for a very interesting reading experience.

I would recommend this book to fans of historical fiction, feminist literature and small-town American settings!

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I don’t know why this picture has come out so pale?! It looked fine when I took it! *sobs*


If you’re interested, you can check out the other stops on the tour. The Den releases tomorrow, May 16th! 

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‘The Forgotten Girl’ spoiler-free review & GIVEAWAY!

Hey everyone! I’m delighted to be taking part in the Titan Books blog tour for The Forgotten Girl by Rio Youers! I pushed myself out of my comfort zone with this book and I’m so glad I did, as I ended up loving it! And I’m thrilled to be partnering with Titan to offer one lucky reader in the UK/ROI the chance to win a copy!

As always, I’ll include the book’s synopsis before my review but I do recommend going into this one blind if at all possible, so feel free to skip over it 😉

the forgotten girl review


synopsis

A dark mystery unfolds in Rio Youers’s riveting tale, for fans of Paul Tremblay and Joe Hill.

Harvey Anderson is a twenty-six-year-old busker who enjoys his peaceful life, but everything is turned upside down when he is abducted and beaten by a group of nondescript thugs. Working for a sinister man known as “the spider”, these goons have spent nine years searching for Harvey’s girlfriend, Sally Starling. Now they think they know where she lives. There’s only one problem: Sally is gone and Harvey has no memory of her. Which makes no sense to him, until he discovers that Sally has the unique ability to selectively erase a person’s memories. An ability she has used to delete herself from Harvey’s mind. But emotion runs deeper than memory, and so he goes looking for a girl he loves but can’t remember… and encounters a danger beyond anything he could ever imagine.

Political corruption and manipulation. A serial killer’s dark secrets. An appetite for absolute, terrible power… For Harvey Anderson, finding the forgotten girl comes at quite a cost.


my thoughtsThis was a seriously enjoyable read! The writing style is enthralling and I found myself swept along very easily from beginning to end. The writing is actually highly cinematic; I could easily picture everything in great detail and I think that this book would translate really well to screen!

The concept is so original and unique. As I previously said, I think it’s best to go into this one knowing as little as possible, to allow yourself to experience the shocks and thrills! In saying that, even though I had an idea of what the book was about, I still found myself glued to the pages and feeling breathless with excitement while reading. The concept intrigues continuously and builds to a very satisfying conclusion.

This is such a clever, multi-layered story. The ‘brain’ talk was completely fascinating, obviously, but there is also a nuance to the other plot elements that I really enjoyed. There’s also plenty of violence but not enough to put me off. If ever there was a book that contained something for everyone, this is it!

I’m so glad I pushed myself to try this one and I will definitely be recommending it to a few people!

the forgotten girl


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a Rafflecopter giveaway

Titan Books will be sending the book directly to the winner’s UK/ROI address. Good luck! 

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Music Monday: Into the West (Lord of the Rings)

Hello my dears, and happy Monday! I hope you’ve all got lovely plans for the week ahead 🙂

‘Into the West’ is the end-credit song from the 2003 movie The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. It was composed and co-written by Howard Shore, movie producer Fran Walsh, and Annie Lennox, who also performs the song. Instrumental snippets of the song can be heard at points throughout the movie.

The Lord of the Rings has one of my favourite movie soundtracks so I really hope you all love this one ❤