June 2019 Wrap-Up!

Well, that’s us. Halfway through the year! I can’t believe how quickly time is moving. This was a super busy month for me as I made more progress towards my new job, travelled to London for the Harry Potter studio tour (photos coming soon!) and said goodbye to my work colleagues at my leaving party. It’s been an emotional one! I’m really pleased with all that I managed to read while all that was going on. Let’s take a look, shall we?

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review books wrapup divider.pngThe Missing Years by Lexie Elliott

My first read of the month was for a blog tour and I really enjoyed it. The setting of this story was almost a character in itself, something I always love in books, and the author created a superbly creeping Gothic atmosphere. I’d definitely recommend this if you like slow-burning thrillers!

I Will Not Be Erased by gal-dem

Walker Books very kindly sent me this collection of essays by marginalised voices. It’s such a valuable book, as well as being extremely readable. A very important read.

The Girl in Red by Christina Henry

I love Christina Henry’s dark fairytale retellings and this one was no exception. Reimagining the tale of Little Red Riding Hood in a post-apocalyptic world, this story was exactly the high quality I’ve come to expect from this author.

The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone by Felicity McClean

This was an entertaining summer thriller with a very strong setting. Slow-burning and sinister, now is the perfect time to pick this one up!

Horizontal Collaboration by Navie & Carole Maurel

I took a chance on this graphic novel and I’m so glad I did as both the story and the art were beautiful. It was a refreshing take on WWII fiction.

The Record Keeper by Agnes Gomillion

Titan Books sent me this one for their Instagram tour and it was so compelling! Set after WWIII and exploring past and present racial perceptions, this is an excellent debut. Full review coming soon!


books from my tbr wrapup dividerThe Pearl Sister by Lucinda Riley

This is the fourth book in the Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley, which I’ve raved about a number of times in the past. I’d say I enjoyed this one ever so slightly less than the previous three as the setting didn’t appeal to me as much. However, I’m really impressed with how much the author made me feel for what I’d previously viewed as an unlikable character!

Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moira Fowley-Doyle

I was highly disappointed with this one. I expected an atmospheric witchy read and got something rather boring and forgettable instead.


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Somebody To Love: The Life, Death & Legacy of Freddie Mercury by Matt Richards & Mark Longthorne

Feeding into my Queen obsession, I read this biography about Freddie. I found it very informative, particularly about the AIDS epidemic, and it was very readable for non-fiction. I did find it slightly judgemental at times though.

somebody to love


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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling

I finished off my reread of the Harry Potter series just in time to go to the Warner Bros studio tour in London! It was every bit as magical as I remembered and I don’t know why I waited so long to reread them or why I worried that I wouldn’t love it as much.

harry potter and the deathly hallows


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Total pages: 3974

Average pages per day: 132.5

Longest book: The Pearl Sister (682 pages)

Shortest book: Horizontal Collaboration (144 pages)

Favourite read of the month: The Girl in Red/Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Biggest disappointment of the month: Spellbook of the Lost and Found

Male authors: 1

Female authors: 9

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Wow, a very female-heavy month! How many books did you read this month? Let me know your favourite in the comments below (I have a giftcard to spend so I’m looking for recommendations!) xsignature (2)

‘Spellbook of the Lost and Found’ spoiler-free review!

Hey everyone! Well I’m back from my trip to London and working to catch up with blogging – expect a lot of posts coming your way in the next week or so! Today, I’m reviewing Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moira Fowley-Doyle, a book which sadly wasn’t what I expected.

spellbook of the lost and found


synopsis

One stormy summer night, Olive and her best friend, Rose, begin to lose things. It starts with simple items like hair clips and jewellery, but soon it’s clear that Rose has lost something bigger; something she won’t talk about.

Then Olive meets three wild, mysterious strangers: Ivy, Hazel and Rowan. Like Rose, they’re mourning losses – and holding tight to secrets.

When they discover the ancient spellbook, full of hand-inked charms to conjure back lost things, they realise it might be their chance to set everything right. Unless it’s leading them towards secrets that were never meant to be found…


my thoughtsI had such high hopes for this book. What could have been a richly atmospheric, magical read ended up falling far short.

This book is set in Ireland during the summer and if that doesn’t immediately scream atmosphere then I don’t know what to say. The author could have made so much of this setting! Unfortunately, it was not used to its full potential; in fact, the book could have been set anywhere. There was nothing really to make it stand out as being set in Ireland. Consider me disappointed.

The setting is not the only thing in this book that I felt was underutilised. One of the characters, Olive, wears a hearing aid and I was looking forward to reading a book with deaf rep as it’s not something I’ve seen before. However, like the Irish setting, this detail was seemingly forgotten about after being introduced. It felt completely inconsequential to the story and came across as a fairly weak plot device to shoehorn in a couple of ‘misheard’ statements.

Speaking of characters, there were far too many in my opinion. In fact, no, that’s not quite right. I can handle stories with lots of characters if they have distinct voices and I can tell them apart. In this book, there were 3 perspectives, each of which talked about numerous characters. Every time the perspective changed, it took real effort on my part to remember who was talking. There was nothing to distinguish one character from another. Oh wait. One of them had blue hair, I think? And one had that unnecessary hearing aid. Seriously, I am not going to remember these people.

I did appreciate the slightly dark undercurrent running throughout parts of the novel, however even this wasn’t exploited as it could have been. It wasn’t hard-hitting and there was no hint of resolution. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a reader that needs everything tied up neatly with a bow, but at least give me a clue as to where things could go? I felt no emotional investment whatsoever; I honestly didn’t care by the end.

The final point I want to make is that there were some awful grammatically incorrect words used in this book and I don’t know what editor gave them a pass to the final publication. Maybe they were meant to be part of the Irish dialect? But seriously, words like “amn’t” and “usen’t” (yes, that’s actually what was written) are awkward to read and just feel WRONG.

Overall, I was looking forward to a magical witchy read with a lot of atmosphere. Instead, I got a rather dull story that had no distinct setting or characters and that I will probably forget reasonably quickly. A real shame.

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Have you read this one? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Have you ever been disappointed by a book that wasn’t what you expected? xsignature (2)

Music Monday: A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square

Happy Monday everyone! I hope you’re all having a great start to your week.

I’ve had this song in my head ever since watching Good Omens recently so, of course, I had to play it 😉

A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square is another one of those songs that has been covered so many times that it’s difficult to know who had the original! It is a British classic.

The song was written by Manning Sherwin, with lyrics by Eric Maschwitz.

Harry Potter 10 Years On: The Deathly Hallows

The journey is over! I have completed my first reread of the Harry Potter series in a decade. And it was every bit as magical as I hoped it would be. You know when you reread an old favourite after a really long time and it doesn’t hold up to the memory you have? Thank goodness that didn’t happen here.

If you’ve missed my reaction posts to the first six books, 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

Harry Potter 10 Years On: The Order of the Phoenix

Harry Potter 10 Years On: The Half-Blood Prince

And now it’s time to take a look at my reactions to rereading this final book!


Initial Thoughts…

It’s nearly over 😦

I know they add to the story but I can’t help getting a bit bored by the newspaper articles at the start – I just want to get back to the action!

Actually crying already.

I can’t cope, this book is brutal.

Hermione is bloody brilliant.

The trio sassing the minister is hilarious.

Every family has an Auntie Muriel.

I love the magical wedding! Such a nice scene.

Harry reading his mum’s letter hits me way too hard in the feels.

The argument between Harry and Remus never fails to make me uncomfortable.

The change in Kreacher is too cute.

This book is STRESSFUL.

Ron’s attitude is so upsetting.

Chapter 16, oh my heart.

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Bathilda freaks me out!

I love the Tale of the Three Brothers. It’s such a great addition to the story.

The radio show is very cool too.

The whole chapter at Malfoy Manor destroys me.

BRB, crying again.

Reading about Gringotts makes me so excited for the studio tour!!

Neville’s gran, what a badass.

Ghostly backstory, yasss.

Shit is going DOWN.

No no no no no no

“Not my daughter, you bitch!”

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Thoughts Upon Finishing…

Honestly, I’m not surprised they had to make two movies out of this book because SO much happens. I feel breathless even typing out those reactions. This book is an exhilarating ride from start to finish (apart from those newspaper articles!)

I was worried that some of the emotion would have been lost in the ten years since I last read this book. But I needn’t have feared. I cried at least 3 times rereading this. The losses were still just as painful and the emotions still so raw, even with knowing what the outcomes would be. This was one of the first ‘proper’ books I read where significant characters were killed off and, to this day, it feels like those of us who grew up with Harry, Ron and Hermione lost real friends in the Battle of Hogwarts.

Seriously, this story still blows my mind all these years later. The way Rowling ties everything together, the big reveal after all the clues she has been dropping for the last six books – it’s truly masterful. Yes, some of the magic is being steadily worn away these days as she goes back and tries to add in extra things but let’s ignore that, shall we? Taking the original seven-book series as a separate entity, I can honestly say that Harry Potter is a masterpiece and deserves to become ‘classic’ literature in the years to come. So many people have had their lives shaped by this story, myself included. I have no doubt that if I were to reread these books in another ten years, I would still find them just as magical.

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Well, I hope you’ve all enjoyed reading my posts detailing my Harry Potter reread! I’ve had such fun putting them together. And now I’m so excited to be heading over to Watford on Monday for the studio tour!! I will post about my trip when I get back and share some pictures! x

‘Horizontal Collaboration’ spoiler-free review!

Hey everyone! I’m delighted to be on the blog tour today for Horizontal Collaboration, a graphic novel originally published in French, written by Navie and illustrated by Carole Maurel. I haven’t read a lot of graphic novels but they’ve been catching my eye lately (particularly thanks to bloggers with great recommendations, such as the lovely Sara!) So I took a chance on this one when I was offered a copy for review and I’m really glad I did.

horizontal collaboration


synopsis

“Horizontal Collaboration” is a term used to describe the sexual and romantic relationships that some French women had with members of the occupying German forces during World War II. In this poignant, female-centered graphic novel created by writer/artist duo Carole Maurel and Mademoiselle Navie, the taboo of “sleeping with the enemy” is explored through the story of a passionate, and forbidden, affair.

In June 1942, married Rose (whose husband is a prisoner of war) intervenes in the detainment of her Jewish friend and then accidentally embarks on a secret relationship with the investigating German officer, Mark. There is only one step between heroism and treason, and it’s often a dangerous one. Inside an apartment building on Paris’s 11th arrondissement, little escapes the notice of the blind husband of the concierge. Through his sightless but all-knowing eyes, we learn of Rose and Mark’s hidden relationship, and also of the intertwined stories and problems of the other tenants, largely women and children, who face such complex issues as domestic violence, incest, and prostitution.

This fascinating graphic novel tackles the still-sensitive topic of who it is acceptable to love, and how, and the story’s drama is brought vividly to life by intimate and atmospheric illustrations.


my thoughtsAs I mentioned in my introduction, I haven’t read many graphic novels but I’m going to do my best to review this one well because it deserves it. I’ll start by talking about the art itself since obviously that is a large percentage of the story.

Before I even started reading, I flicked through the pages and I was struck by the beauty of the colour scheme. The neutrals and muted tones really added to the book and allowed the story to shine. There were, however, pops of brighter citrus colours at appropriate moments, which I loved because they added emphasis to important plot points.

The illustrations were also really beautiful. I’ve photographed a couple of my favourite spreads for you to see!

Now in terms of the story, I thought this was a very unique take on a period of history that has been written about often. I have a soft spot for WWII fiction but I acknowledge that the market is somewhat saturated. However, this is the first time I have read about that era from this perspective. Navie captures the innocence of children, the hardships of war and the complexities of loveless marriages with nuance.

I will admit that I would occasionally lose my bearings while reading, as the scenes would change very quickly and without warning. I don’t think it helped that I was tired while reading though! I was able to sort things out in my mind without too much difficulty and didn’t have any problems understanding what was going on.

Finally, I enjoyed how the characters’ stories all interlinked and I was impressed with the amount of empathy the author and illustrator were able to evoke from me in such a short amount of pages. The ending was very poignant.

I definitely recommend this one to fans of WWII fiction! Thank you to the publisher and Anne Cater/Random Things Tours for providing me with a free copy!

horizontal collab


If you’re interested in this one, keep an eye open for the rest of the stops on the tour!

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Can you recommend some more graphic novels that I should try? I think I’ve got the bug now! xsignature (2)

Alex’s Alphabeticals: F

Ok, ok. You don’t need to say it. I’m ashamed of myself for how this blog series is going. I want to give a special shoutout to those of you who are doing much better than me at regularly posting 😀 You are motivating me to do better!

If anyone else wants to jump on board, here’s how to participate!

  1. Credit/link back to me so I can see your posts!
  2. List your favourite Authors, Books and Characters beginning with a certain letter of the alphabet
  3. Do as many or as few letters as you want

Simple as that! Some people also add on Series, which you are welcome to do if you wish 🙂 The point is to have fun!


Authors beginning with ‘F’

perfect crimeHelen Fields

Helen Fields is the author of my favourite thriller series; she blows me away with each instalment. I recently received book five from the publisher and I’m planning to read it soon!

hell's teeth.jpgJames Fahy

I discovered James Fahy over on Instagram and he’s always stimulating interesting conversations. He also writes seriously badass female characters in his Phoebe Harkness series.

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Dana Fraedrich

Dana is an American indie author whom I had the pleasure of interviewing right here on the blog! She is the author of the brilliant Broken Gears series, which I definitely recommend if you like steampunk. Feel free to check out my reviews of Out of the Shadows and Raven’s Cry.

daughter of the burning city.jpgAmanda Foody

So I’ve only read one book by Amanda Foody but I absolutely adored it. It was 100% my aesthetic. I’ve got Ace of Shades on my TBR shelf and since the sequel came out recently, I’m thinking of bumping it up the list!


Books beginning with ‘F’

five children and it

Five Children and It

I never read this children’s classic when I was a youngster but I loved it when I finally discovered it. Obviously, there are a couple of problematic moments that are an unavoidable by-product of the era but overall, this is a wholesome and charming story with an endearing cast of characters.

frozen charlotte.jpgFrozen Charlotte

A surprisingly creepy YA horror! I enjoyed getting immersed in this one on a stormy afternoon; definitely recommend reading it in October!

fangirlFangirl

Would you believe, it’s been so long since I read this that I don’t even have a review up on Goodreads?! I’m due a reread very soon. But I do remember really relating to Cath and loving the whole autumn college aesthetic.

the forgotten girlThe Forgotten Girl

A recent favourite! I took part in the blog tour for this one last month, pushing myself out of my comfort zone in the process. And I really really enjoyed it!


Characters beginning with ‘F’

bone gapFinn

You better believe that I will take every possible opportunity to shout about Bone Gap, because it is one of my all-time favourites. Finn is such a sweet and special character.

scorpioFinn

Speaking of Finns, this one is pretty good too. He adds so much to this already-amazing book.


So those are my favourite authors, books and characters beginning with ‘F’! Hopefully it won’t take me as long to get my ‘G’ post done!! xsignature (2)

Music Monday: Your Song (Elton John)

With the recent release of the Elton John biopic, Rocketman, I’ve had a lot of requests for his songs! So I thought I would start with one of his most well-known and well-loved songs.

The song was composed by Elton, with lyrics written by Bernie Taupin. The song was originally released in 1970 by American band, Three Dog Night, a band that Elton John used to open for. Elton then released it himself and it charted in the top ten in both America and the UK.

In 1998, the song was inducted into the Grammy hall of fame and in 2004, it was included on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest songs of all time. It has been covered many times.

Have a great week everyone! 🙂

‘The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone’ spoiler-free review!

Hey everyone, hope you’re all having a great week 🙂 Today is my stop on the blog tour for The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone by Felicity McClean. Thank you Anne Cater/Point Blank Books for providing me with an ARC!

van apfel girls are gone


synopsis

‘We lost all three girls that summer. Let them slip away like the words of some half-remembered song and when one came back, she wasn’t the one we were trying to recall to begin with.’

So begins Tikka Molloy’s recount of the summer of 1992 – the summer the Van Apfel sisters, Hannah, the beautiful Cordelia and Ruth – disappear.

Eleven and one-sixth years old, Tikka is the precocious narrator of this fabulously endearing coming-of-age story, set in an eerie Australian river valley suburb with an unexplained stench. The Van Apfel girls vanish from the valley during the school’s ‘Showstopper’ concert, held at the outdoor amphitheatre by the river. While the search for the sisters unites the small community on Sydney’s urban fringe, the mystery of their disappearance remains unsolved forever.


my thoughts

One of my favourite things about this book is the setting. I could picture it so vividly from the very first page. The stifling heat almost seems to radiate from the pages, which definitely adds to the tension. I always think of atmospheric books as being cold or gloomy but this is definitely an atmospheric book if ever I read one. Admittedly, some of the Australian words and phrases would throw me off occasionally – but it’s always good to learn some new lingo when reading, right? 😉

This is a slow-burning but sinister thriller, with some real jaw-dropping moments. Honestly, things would be going along quite nicely and something would happen out of the blue that would truly shock me. Yet at the book’s heart is an endearing coming-of-age story. In that sense, it’s quite difficult to categorise this book; at times it almost felt like YA due to the narrator recounting her childhood, but there are definitely a lot of dark adult themes throughout.

I will say that the book is very open-ended and doesn’t wrap everything up neatly in a bow. So if you are a reader who likes to have all of your questions answered, you might not be satisfied with how this one concludes. But I think the point is not to reach a conclusive answer; it is to make the journey with the protagonist as she deals with her emotions surrounding what happened.

It’s hard to say much more about this one without giving away spoilers. So I’ll just end by saying I think this would be a great summer read for anyone who enjoys slow-burning thrillers with a bit of a twist!

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If you’re interested in this book, check out the other stops on the tour! x

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‘The Girl in Red’ spoiler-free review!

 

the girl in red

Hello lovely people! Today is my stop on the social media tour for The Girl in Red by Christina Henry! I’ve mentioned in the past that I’m a huge fan of Henry’s dark fairytale retellings so when Titan Books offered me a copy of her latest book to review, I jumped at the chance.


synopsis

It’s not safe for anyone alone in the woods. There are predators that come out at night: critters and coyotes, snakes and wolves. But the woman in the red jacket has no choice. Not since the Crisis came, decimated the population, and sent those who survived fleeing into quarantine camps that serve as breeding grounds for death, destruction, and disease. She is just a woman trying not to get killed in a world that doesn’t look anything like the one she grew up in, the one that was perfectly sane and normal and boring until three months ago.

There are worse threats in the woods than the things that stalk their prey at night. Sometimes, there are men. Men with dark desires, weak wills, and evil intents. Men in uniform with classified information, deadly secrets, and unforgiving orders. And sometimes, just sometimes, there’s something worse than all of the horrible people and vicious beasts combined.

Red doesn’t like to think of herself as a killer, but she isn’t about to let herself get eaten up just because she is a woman alone in the woods…


my thoughtsSo I’ve already mentioned that I’m a huge fan of this author. Which means my expectations for this book were HIGH. And I’m delighted to say that I wasn’t disappointed.

The protagonist, Red, is FIERCE. She is one of my favourite characters that Henry has written to date. Red is a woman of colour with a brilliant mind and she is definitely someone I would want on my team in a crisis. I was really pleased that Henry didn’t just tell us how great Red was, but actually showed it through her choices and actions throughout the book. She is not the typical badass female we have come to expect in stories these days; instead, she is competent and level-headed, and she makes lots of nerdy movie references, all of which adds to her ‘realness’. She’s just a normal woman trying her best to deal with the rotten hand she has been dealt. To be honest, if I was the kind of person who had feelings towards fictional characters, I would have a bit of a girl crush on her.

Of course, it would be remiss of me not to mention the disability rep. It is fabulous. I loved that Henry portrayed something we don’t often see represented and did it in a way that totally normalised it. This is exactly what we need from our books!

Henry’s writing throughout this book was the high quality that I have come to expect from her in her previous works. I will say that there were a lot of brackets used and some disjointed sentences that weren’t always the easiest to read in terms of flow, but they made sense in that they represented Red’s conscious stream of thinking and this enabled the reader to really empathise with her.

The chapters were also rather long but I didn’t have an issue with this as it enabled me to become immersed in the story. I only mention it as I know some readers prefer shorter chapters 😉

Overall, this is another great offering from Christina Henry that takes a fairytale we are all familiar with and twists it into something even more awesome. Henry never shies away from the gory details and darker themes such as mental health and racism. I love what this author is doing and hope that she continues long into the future!

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Have you read any of Christina Henry’s dark fairytales? Which is your favourite? Are you planning to read this one? Let me know in the comments! xsignature (2)

 

Music Monday: In the Mood (Glenn Miller)

Hey everyone! I hope you’re all feeling positive about the week ahead. I’ve got something a bit more upbeat for you this week so if you’re feeling the Monday blues, crank up the volume and have a boogie haha.

I recently watched the episode of Gilmore Girls where they have a 24-hour danceathon and all the music was this type of stuff, so I knew I needed to post this one 😉

In the Mood is a popular big-band hit, arranged by Joe Garland based on a pre-existing melody. Andy Razaf wrote the lyrics. The tune was made popular by Glenn Miller and his band, topping the American charts for 13 weeks in 1940. It is included in the list of 100 most important American musical works of the 20th century.

Have a great week everyone! x