‘Nevernight’ spoiler-free review!

Hello lovelies! I know, I know. I’m beyond late to this party. But let me tell you, I am now 1000% on the Jay Kristoff bandwagon! Read on for my glowing review of Nevernight

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synopsis

Destined to destroy empires, Mia Covere is only ten years old when she is given her first lesson in death.

Six years later, the child raised in shadows takes her first steps towards keeping the promise she made on the day that she lost everything.

But the chance to strike against such powerful enemies will be fleeting, so if she is to have her revenge, Mia must become a weapon without equal. She must prove herself against the deadliest of friends and enemies, and survive the tutelage of murderers, liars and demons at the heart of a murder cult.

The Red Church is no Hogwarts, but Mia is no ordinary student.

The shadows love her. And they drink her fear.


my thoughts

Ok, so yes. It took me a long time to cave in to the hype and finally pick this one up. But I am officially a Jay Kristoff fan. I binged this series back-to-back and can I just say how glad I am that I waited for all three to be released?! Kristoff knows how to write a cliffhanger. But forgive me, I’m getting off track. Back to book one.

Nevernight is very VERY adult. Like, right from the start. It was a little disconcerting at first. (It also made me significantly regret gifting a copy to my auntie before I’d read it, *cringe*). Kristoff is certainly not afraid to shock his readers. However, once I got used to the graphic sex and violence, I realised what a fantastic story this is.

Nevernight is SO intelligently written. I cannot sing Jay Kristoff’s praises high enough. The world-building is (excuse my language) fucking awesome – there are no other words I can use to convey how brilliant it is. There is not a single detail that Kristoff hasn’t considered. I know that a lot of readers have issues with the footnotes but they honestly didn’t bother me (I’m used to them from reading Terry Pratchett’s Discworld). Every added detail just made my heart happier.

There were certainly elements of this book that felt derivative but I don’t even care because they were derivative of stories that I already love. And even with that, there is so much about this story that is unique. This first book did feel like it was laying a lot of groundwork for the second and third instalments; there is a huge build-up to the events of the ending. However, none of this build-up ever felt irrelevant or boring; on the contrary, I enjoyed being given such a strong foundation. I did feel as if the book extended slightly beyond its natural ending but once I started reading book two, Godsgrave, I understood why Kristoff made the narrative choices he did.

There were some genuinely hilarious moments in this book. I honestly can’t remember the last time a book made me laugh out loud so heartily. There were also some moments of sadness, as well as frustration and jaw-dropping disbelief. And did I mention the cat made of shadows? I’m not a cat person but I want a Mr Kindly.

Jay Kristoff seriously ticked all of the boxes with this one and made me so excited to see how the story progressed and concluded in the following two books. (Spoiler: they were just as awesome.) I’m so glad I took a chance on The Nevernight Chronicle, despite being unsure if they were ‘my thing’. I can now say with certainty that they are most definitely my thing!

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Have you read this series? Or are you late to the party, like I was? Is it something you’re interested in reading? Let me know in the comments! x

 

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: My Favourite Fictional Witches!

Hello lovelies! I had planned to do a fun little Halloween-themed post and then I saw that the theme for today’s Top Ten Tuesday was a Halloween Freebie! So I’m linking up and sharing some of my favourite fictional witches! Let’s take a look, shall we? 😀

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish, now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.


Glinda and Elphaba from Wicked

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It is a dream of mine to see this show live – though I know it wouldn’t be the same as seeing these two original leading ladies. I love that Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth are such good friends in real life and I think they embody the wicked witch and the good witch so perfectly. And they’ve both got an incredible set of pipes.

 

Sabrina from Sabrina the Teenage Witch

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Sabrina was always an idol of mine. I just thought she was the coolest. I even subscribed to her magazine where you got make-up and accessories free with each issue! Honourable mention to Aunt Hilda who was also fabulous.

 

Mildred Hubble from The Worst Witch

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I feel like I’m showing my age here… Did anyone else watch The Worst Witch as a kid?! I used to love putting it on after school. Though of course, I read the books as well 😉

 

Frances and Jet Owens from Practical Magic

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Practical Magic is one of my absolute favourite witchy movies and while I love the main characters, it’s the two aunts that steal the show for me. Midnight Margaritas, anyone?

 

The Halliwell Sisters from Charmed

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Sorry any Prue fans but I wasn’t too bummed when she got replaced by Paige. I loved everything about this show: the 90s soundtrack, the sisterly bonds, the romances, the one-liners… And I’ll be totally honest, I have a girl-crush on all three of these women to this day. Please don’t even talk to me about the remake; they should have left well enough alone.

 

Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer

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Confession time: I was WAY late to the party with BTVS. I wasn’t introduced to the Buffy-verse until I was at university. But Willow was one of my favourite characters right from the start and I loved following her character arc. Plus, what Joss Whedon did for the LGBTQ+ community with this character was fantastic.

 

Rowena from Supernatural

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I thought Rowena was a great addition to Supernatural. A mad Scottish witch whose son is the King of Hell? That can only make for great tv! Rowena definitely provides some comic relief at times too.

 

The Sanderson Sisters from Hocus Pocus

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I watch this movie EVERY HALLOWEEN without fail. It is tradition. Sarah, Mary and Winifred are too fabulous.

 

Regina from Once Upon A Time

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The original wicked witch revamped! Regina was a key figure in Once Upon A Time from the very beginning and I loved her character development. Got to love a good anti-hero.

 

Minerva McGonagall from the Harry Potter series

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It took me a minute to decide who from Harry Potter should feature on this list (there are so many amazing witches in that series!) I finally decided on the original badass who was there from the very beginning and whom I was nicknamed after at my old job.


So those are some of my favourite fictional witches! Do we have any favourites in common? I’d love to know your favourite Charmed one or Sanderson sister! xsignature (2)

‘Angel Mage’ spoiler-free review!

Hey guys! First of all, I want to be real. I’m struggling right now. I’m approaching my course deadlines and the work is so intense. I’ve also just started a new job and while I’m really liking it so far, it’s been a full-on learning curve this week. I’ve not been sleeping well and I just really feel like my body and mind are taking a battering at the moment. So that’s why I’m having to step back from blogging a little. I hope you’ll bear with me while I get through this ❤

With all of that said, there’s no way I can let down the publishers who have been kind enough to send me review copies. So I’m going to keep on top of those as much as I’m able. It will just be slower than I would like.

Anyway! Today, I’m on the blog tour for Angel Mage, the new adult fantasy from Garth Nix! Thank you Gollancz for sending me an ARC 😀

angel mahe


synopsis

More than a century has passed since Liliath crept into the empty sarcophagus of Saint Marguerite, fleeing the Fall of Ystara. But she emerges from her magical sleep still beautiful, looking no more than nineteen, and once again renews her single-minded quest to be united with her lover, Palleniel, the archangel of Ystara.

A seemingly impossible quest, but Liliath is one of the greatest practitioners of angelic magic to have ever lived, summoning angels and forcing them to do her bidding.

Liliath knew that most of the inhabitants of Ystara died from the Ash Blood plague or were transformed into beastlings, and she herself led the survivors who fled into neighboring Sarance. Now she learns that angels shun the Ystaran’s descendants. If they are touched by angelic magic, their blood will turn to ash. They are known as Refusers, and can only live the most lowly lives.

But Liliath cares nothing for the descendants of her people, save how they can serve her. It is four young Sarancians who hold her interest: Simeon, a studious doctor-in-training; Henri, a dedicated fortune hunter; Agnez, an adventurous musketeer cadet; and Dorotea, an icon-maker and scholar of angelic magic. They are the key to her quest.

The four feel a strange kinship from the moment they meet, but do not know why, or suspect their importance. All become pawns in Liliath’s grand scheme to fulfill her destiny and be united with the love of her life. No matter the cost to everyone else…


my thoughts

I have to say, this is a difficult one for me to review. I recently binge-read two exceptional adult fantasy trilogies and I feel like my brain might be a bit over-saturated? So please take everything I say with a pinch of salt! Any issues I have with this book could be all me.

But let’s talk about what I enjoyed first, shall we? This book is billed as a reimagining of The Three Musketeers and although I haven’t read that, I really liked the premise of this. And the fact that it was so female-heavy was fantastic. I really liked the different portrayals of women, from Liliath to Rochefort to Agnez (my personal favourite) and Dorotea. It was wonderful to watch the interactions and power dynamics unfolding as the book progressed. Though I will admit, Liliath very much became a stereotype at times.

I also thought the magic system was very cool, with angels being called upon via icons to do a mortal’s bidding. I haven’t read many angel-based stories but I thought this was very unique and interesting.

Sadly, I did have some issues with the world building. I’ve seen a lot of reviewers saying that the world building was one of their favourite aspects so I’m almost convinced that this is a personal issue with me. I just found it so confusing and really difficult to picture? I couldn’t get my head around this world at all. I’d like to revisit it at a point in the future when I have less going on in my head because I just really struggled and I feel like I could appreciate it so much more.

There were so many names to try and keep track of and complicated hierarchies and rules, I just couldn’t keep it all straight in my head. And that made it difficult to feel invested in what was unfolding or to properly connect with it.

So to round off this extremely incoherent and unhelpful review, I would just say – it wasn’t really for me ON THIS OCCASION. At another time, I might have loved this. And I hope that if YOU decide to read it, you will find a new favourite!

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If you’re interested in finding out more about this book and what early readers are thinking of it, check out the other stops on the blog tour!

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Are you a Garth Nix fan? Is this one that you’ll be picking up? Let me know in the comments! xsignature (2)

 

‘The Girl The Sea Gave Back’ spoiler-free review!

Hello lovelies! Today, I’m reviewing The Girl The Sea Gave Back which was very kindly sent to me by Titan Books! I’m sad to say that I had a few issues with this one 😦 Read on to find out exactly what they were!

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synopsis

For as long as she can remember, Tova has lived among the Svell, the people who found her washed ashore as a child and use her for her gift as a Truthtongue. Her own home and clan are long-faded memories, but the sacred symbols and staves inked over every inch of her skin mark her as one who can cast the rune stones and see into the future. She has found a fragile place among those who fear her, but when two clans to the east bury their age-old blood feud and join together as one, her world is dangerously close to collapse.

For the first time in generations, the leaders of the Svell are divided. Should they maintain peace or go to war with the allied clans to protect their newfound power? And when their chieftain looks to Tova to cast the stones, she sets into motion a series of events that will not only change the landscape of the mainland forever but will give her something she believed she could never have again—a home.


my thoughts

I really liked how Adrienne Young chose to open The Girl The Sea Gave Back. Having not read Sky in the Deep, I was interested to see how the author would set up her world – and when I started reading, I was pleased by it. I felt immediately drawn into the Norse setting. The author was also able to elicit emotion from me towards the characters, even though I didn’t yet know much about them.

Unfortunately, any connection I felt with the characters did not last. The two narrative voices were not very distinctive in tone and I would sometimes have to check who was speaking. I never really felt any great investment in either of the two perspectives; there was just a flatness to every character.

The dual perspective also made things feel quite repetitive. Often, the author would relay scenes from both points of view but this didn’t really add anything to my enjoyment or understanding of what was taking place.

I’m struggling to voice my opinions on the world building. It was good, in the sense that the Norse connections were really well developed. I loved all the mentions of gods and goddesses. However, I will admit that I found it difficult to get to grips with all the Norse words and names. There was no pronunciation guide in the book and I found myself tripping over words on almost every page. While I appreciated the realness that these details added to the story, I found that I was having to concentrate really hard and I think that’s part of why I couldn’t connect with the characters.

If I’m being totally honest, this book read like a debut to me. It was very action-heavy and also overflowing with awkward clunky sentences and repeated words. It just didn’t feel as polished as I would have liked. I would be interested to compare the writing with Young’s first book, Sky in the Deep, to see if the editing was any better in that instance.

Overall, I don’t regret reading this book but it’s certainly not a new favourite. The whole thing had a sense of bleakness to it; I’m not sure what it was but I just felt quite hopeless when reading it. Maybe that’s what the author was going for? In which case, it was a success. However, I have seen other reviewers commenting that Young had a very difficult time writing this book; I don’t know where they sourced this information to check it out for myself but if it’s true, Young’s emotions have definitely bled into her writing.

I wouldn’t jump to recommend this one but you might enjoy it if you’re a fan of the author’s first book. It didn’t quite work for me but I haven’t written this author off just yet as I feel like there is some potential there.

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Have you read this one? Or Sky in the Deep? I’d be really interested to know your thoughts if you have! xsignature (2)

 

Recommendations from the Piano: Creepy Classics!

Hello lovely people! It’s been a while since I did my very first recommendations post but I want to thank you for responding to it so positively! It gave me a lovely confidence boost 😀

So I’m back with another one today! I wasn’t sure what to recommend first for the spooky season as there are honestly SO many books I love that are just perfect for this time of year. But I’ve seen bloggers such as The Orangutan Librarian and Pages Unbound talking so eloquently about classics so I thought I’d link up with them and recommend some of my favourite creepy classics that are perfect to read in Autumn!

recommendations - creepy classics


wuthering heights

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

This book is fairly divisive but I think a lot of the people who hate it tend to be the ones who go in thinking it’s a love story. It’s not! This is a story of two haunted young people, revenge plots, corruption, and the stormy Yorkshire moors. It’s one of my all-time favourites and I could read it at any time of year, but I think the rain and gloom of Autumn add particularly to its atmosphere.

 

jane eyre

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

I can’t mention Emily Brontë without giving a nod to her sister. Jane Eyre has so many great Gothic elements, including the absolutely fabulous setting and of course the legendary Bertha Mason. The time is definitely right to light a candle and read this one under a blanket.

 

rebecca du maurier

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

And I can’t talk about Jane Eyre without then mentioning a book heavily inspired by it! I’m fairly new to du Maurier having only read this one last year. But it’s easy to see why this is a classic. The symbolism alone makes this novel an absolute masterpiece but then you’ve got the characters, the house… everything is just fabulous. If you call yourself a fan of the Gothic, you need to read this one.

 

frankenstein penguin horror

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

I studied this one in school alongside Wuthering Heights and I’ll be totally honest: I wasn’t immediately enamoured with it. But the more I learned about it, the more I began to appreciate it. And I have since read it multiple times. Autumn is the perfect time to read this one as the titular character Victor embarks on his university education but decides to go down a rather unconventional path with disastrous consequences…

 

picture of dorian gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

First entry on the list written by a man! I have rather a love for Gothic queens. But this one is deserving of a place on a creepy classics recommendation list! A portrait that absorbs a persons sins and ages in their place? It doesn’t get much creepier than that!

 

turn of the screw

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

This is one of the original ghost stories! The ambiguity of this one makes it perfect for those of you who enjoy a good mystery in the darker months. I will say no more… 😉

 

haunting of hill house

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Another Autumn/Halloween queen! This book is brimming with a deliciously creepy atmosphere. I wasn’t sure whether to recommend this one or We Have Always Lived in the Castle – but I guess I’ve just mentioned both so 😉

 

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Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Yes, I’m recommending a play! It’s not very often I shout about Shakespeare here on the blog but he really is one of my first loves. This is one of his spookiest plays, being set in a Scottish castle and featuring plenty of witches and ghosties!

 

woman in black

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

This is definitely one of the creepiest classics on this list. There were some moments in this that genuinely freaked me out and I certainly wouldn’t recommend reading it in the dark before bed! This book also has one of the most memorable endings in all of literature. A must-read, for sure.

 

hound of the baskervilles

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sherlock Holmes

I’m sensing a lot of similarities between the settings of these books – old Gothic houses in isolated locations? I’m here for them all. This one is a cracking little murder mystery story about a hellhound roaming the moors; it’s perfect to read on a dark night while the rain lashes against the windows.

 

sleepy hollow

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

This one practically demands to be read near Halloween. While the prose is a little slow in pace, this story of the Headless Horseman is a good one. And it’s been adapted into graphic novel format if that’s your thing!

 

the raven

The Raven and Other Stories by Edgar Allen Poe

While you’re at it with the short stories, make sure you pick up some Poe! I can think of no better time to discover The Raven, The Pit and the Pendulum, and my personal favourite The Tell-Tale Heart. It’s all so deliciously macabre.

 

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Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

Finally (because you have to have 13 recommendations on a creepy classics list 😉 ) is a slightly more modern classic. While I love my Gothic queens, Bradbury is the king of Autumn. Something Wicked This Way Comes is about so much more than a Halloween carnival (though that alone would make me love it). It’s a wonderful coming-of-age story and features some absolutely stunning imagery. If you read any book on this list, make it this one ❤


So those are my recommendations for creepy classics to read this Autumn! How many have you read? Any that are on your list to read? Let me know in the comments! xsignature (2)

Down The TBR Hole [#1]

Hello lovelies! I’ve really been wanting to tidy up my Goodreads shelves recently so I’m finally diving into this meme! I’ve seen so many people doing ‘Down the TBR Hole’ and it always intrigues me, so hopefully you won’t mind me joining in with it 😀

I’m going to format these posts in the same way as I do my anticipated releases for the month because I really like that setup!

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‘Down The TBR Hole’ is a meme created by Lia @ Lost in a Story, though she now blogs @ Sunflowers and Wonder!

Here are the rules:-

  1. Go to your Goodreads want-to-read shelf.
  2. Order on ascending date added.
  3. Take the first 5 (or 10 (or even more!) if youre feeling adventurous) books. 
  4. Read the synopses of the books
  5. Decide: keep it or should it go?
  6. Keep track of where you left off so you can pick up there next time!

The Little Prince by Antoine de Sainte-Exupéry

little prince

Moral allegory and spiritual autobiography, The Little Prince is the most translated book in the French language. With a timeless charm it tells the story of a little boy who leaves the safety of his own tiny planet to travel the universe, learning the vagaries of adult behaviour through a series of extraordinary encounters. His personal odyssey culminates in a voyage to Earth and further adventures.

This is one of those classics that I feel like I should have read as a child. Sadly, that time is long-since past but I’d still like to read this book at some point and see what it’s all about.

Verdict: Keep


The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

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The Bell Jar chronicles the crack-up of Esther Greenwood: brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under—maybe for the last time. Sylvia Plath masterfully draws the reader into Esther’s breakdown with such intensity that Esther’s insanity becomes completely real and even rational, as probable and accessible an experience as going to the movies. Such deep penetration into the dark and harrowing corners of the psyche is an extraordinary accomplishment and has made The Bell Jar a haunting American classic.

This is another one of those classics that I absolutely want to read at some point – particularly as this is a mental-health related title. I feel like I’m the only person in the world that hasn’t read The Bell Jar and that’s something I want to remedy.

Verdict: Keep


Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman

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The distinctive storytelling genius of Neil Gaiman has been acclaimed by writers as diverse as Norman Mailer and Stephen King. Now in this new collection of stories–several of which have never before appeared in print and more than half that have never been collected–that will dazzle the senses and haunt the imagination.

Miraculous inventions and unforgettable characters inhabit these pages: an elderly widow who finds the Holy Grail in a second-hand store…a frightened little boy who bargains for his life with a troll living under a bridge by the railroad tracks…a stray cat who battles nightly against a recurring evil that threatens his unsuspecting adoptive family. In these stories, Gaiman displays the power, wit, insight and outrageous originality that has made him one of the most unique literary artists of our day.

I fully intend to read everything Neil Gaiman has written. It’s just a case of when. I’m taking part in a Gaiman readathon in November so maybe I’ll pick this one up if I’m in the mood for some short stories.

Verdict: Keep


Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire

wicked

When Dorothy triumphed over the Wicked Witch of the West in L. Frank Baum’s classic tale we heard only her side of the story. But what about her arch-nemesis, the mysterious Witch? Where did she come from? How did she become so wicked? And what is the true nature of evil?

Gregory Maguire creates a fantasy world so rich and vivid that we will never look at Oz the same way again. Wicked is about a land where animals talk and strive to be treated like first-class citizens, Munchkinlanders seek the comfort of middle-class stability, and the Tin Man becomes a victim of domestic violence. And then there is the little green-skinned girl named Elphaba, who will grow up to become the infamous Wicked Witch of the West, a smart, prickly, and misunderstood creature who challenges all our preconceived notions about the nature of good and evil.

An astonishingly rich re-creation of the land of Oz, this book retells the story of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, who wasn’t so wicked after all. Taking readers past the yellow brick road and into a phantasmagoric world rich with imagination and allegory, Gregory Maguire just might change the reputation of one of the most sinister characters in literature.

I pretty much know the story of this one thanks to the fabulous musical soundtrack. And I’ve heard that the book itself isn’t actually that great. I think I’d rather just go see the show.

Verdict: Remove


The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks

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Frank, no ordinary sixteen-year-old, lives with his father outside a remote Scottish village. Their life is, to say the least, unconventional. Frank’s mother abandoned them years ago: his elder brother Eric is confined to a psychiatric hospital; and his father measures out his eccentricities on an imperial scale. Frank has turned to strange acts of violence to vent his frustrations. In the bizarre daily rituals there is some solace. But when news comes of Eric’s escape from the hospital Frank has to prepare the ground for his brother’s inevitable return – an event that explodes the mysteries of the past and changes Frank utterly.

The Wasp Factory is a work of horrifying compulsion: horrifying, because it enters a mind whose realities are not our own, whose values of life and death are alien to our society; compulsive, because the humour and compassion of that mind reach out to us all. A novel of extraordinary originality, imagination and comic ferocity.

I don’t know why I ever added this. Maybe the mention of a psychiatric hospital? But honestly, it sounds kind of horrific. Add to that all the negative reviews and I don’t fancy it.

Verdict: Remove


Let The Right One In by John Adjvide Lindqvist

let the right one in

It is autumn 1981 when the inconceivable comes to Blackeberg, a suburb in Sweden. The body of a teenage boy is found, emptied of blood, the murder rumored to be part of a ritual killing. Twelve-year-old Oskar is personally hoping that revenge has come at long last—revenge for the bullying he endures at school, day after day.

But the murder is not the most important thing on his mind. A new girl has moved in next door—a girl who has never seen a Rubik’s Cube before, but who can solve it at once. There is something wrong with her, though, something odd. And she only comes out at night….

I’ve heard mixed things about this author but since this is a classic of the genre, I think I’ll let it stay (for now).

Verdict: Keep


The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister

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Water for Elephants meets The Night Circus in The Magician’s Lie, a debut novel in which the country’s most notorious female illusionist stands accused of her husband’s murder –and she has only one night to convince a small-town policeman of her innocence.

The Amazing Arden is the most famous female illusionist of her day, renowned for her notorious trick of sawing a man in half on stage. One night in Waterloo, Iowa, with young policeman Virgil Holt watching from the audience, she swaps her trademark saw for a fire ax. Is it a new version of the illusion, or an all-too-real murder? When Arden’s husband is found lifeless beneath the stage later that night, the answer seems clear.

But when Virgil happens upon the fleeing magician and takes her into custody, she has a very different story to tell. Even handcuffed and alone, Arden is far from powerless—and what she reveals is as unbelievable as it is spellbinding. Over the course of one eerie night, Virgil must decide whether to turn Arden in or set her free… and it will take all he has to see through the smoke and mirrors.

I don’t remember adding this one but I can tell from the first line of the synopsis why I did. Water for Elephants meets The Night Circus? Sounds made for me. This one can stay.

Verdict: Keep


I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak

i am the messenger

Ed Kennedy is an underage cabdriver without much of a future. He’s pathetic at playing cards, hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey, and utterly devoted to his coffee-drinking dog, the Doorman. His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery.

That’s when the first ace arrives in the mail.

That’s when Ed becomes the messenger.

Chosen to care, he makes his way through town helping and hurting (when necessary) until only one question remains: Who’s behind Ed’s mission?

The Book Thief is one of my all-time favourite books and I’ve always been intrigued by Zusak’s other books. Plus I own a copy of this one. I just need to get to it at some point.

Verdict: Keep


Collected Folk Tales by Alan Garner

collected folk tales

The definitive collection of traditional British folk tales, selected and retold by the renowned Alan Garner.

Following on from the fiftieth anniversary of Alan Garner’s seminal fantasy classic, THE WEIRDSTONE OF BRISINGAMEN, here are collected all of Alan’s folk tales, told with his unique storytelling skill and inimitably clear voice. Essential reading for young and old alike.

Among the stories collected here are:
• Kate Crackernuts
• Gold-Tree and Silver-Tree
• Yallery Brown

I don’t think I’d ever pick up a full collection like this and read it cover to cover. It’s probably more of a reference book that you would dip in and out of at times.

Verdict: Remove


Mental Health Matters: A Reader by Tom Heller

mental health matters

Mental Health Matters is an innovative, interdisciplinary collection of texts which challenge traditional understandings of mental health, emphasising the perspectives of mental health service-users. Combining classic writings about mental health practices and problems from psychiatry, sociology and psychology with specially commissioned new articles, it considers theories and debates in mental health and distress; the social and historical dimensions of mental health; involving users in mental health services and practically improving those services.

This is a book that I acquired during my psychology degree. I still own it and would use it for references at times but it’s not really the kind of book that needs a place on my TBR.

Verdict: Remove


Prudence by Gail Carriger

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When Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama (Rue to her friends) is given an unexpected dirigible, she does what any sensible female would under similar circumstances – names it the Spotted Custard and floats to India in pursuit of the perfect cup of tea. But India has more than just tea on offer. Rue stumbles upon a plot involving local dissidents, a kidnapped brigadier’s wife, and some awfully familiar Scottish werewolves. Faced with a dire crisis and an embarrassing lack of bloomers, what else is a young lady of good breeding to do but turn metanatural and find out everyone’s secrets, even thousand-year-old fuzzy ones?

I really enjoyed Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series and I would love to try this spin-off series about her daughter at some point.

Verdict: Keep


Imprudence by Gail Carriger

imprudence

Rue and the crew of the Spotted Custard return from India with revelations that shake the foundations of England’s scientific community. Queen Victoria is not amused, the vampires are tetchy, and something is wrong with the local werewolf pack. To top it all off, Rue’s best friend Primrose keeps getting engaged to the most unacceptable military types.

Rue has family problems as well. Her vampire father is angry, her werewolf father is crazy, and her obstreperous mother is both. Worst of all, Rue’s beginning to suspect what they really are… is frightened.

I’m making it a rule to only keep first books in series on my TBR shelf, as a placeholder for the series as a whole. If the time comes, I can add this back.

Verdict: Remove


Bellman and Black by Diane Setterfield

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A haunting Victorian ghost story of love, loss and the mystery of death from the bestselling author of THE THIRTEENTH TALE.

A childish act of cruelty with terrible consequences.

A father desperate to save his daughter.

A curious bargain with a stranger in black.

And Bellman & Black is born.

I read The Thirteenth Tale many many years ago and remember enjoying it. This one is languishing on my backlist but since I own it, I plan to get to it. One day.

Verdict: Keep


The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd

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Inside the abbey of a Benedictine monastery on tiny Egret Island, just off the coast of South Carolina, resides a beautiful and mysterious chair ornately carved with mermaids and dedicated to a saint who, legend claims, was a mermaid before her conversion.

Jessie Sullivan’s conventional life has been “molded to the smallest space possible.” So when she is called home to cope with her mother’s startling and enigmatic act of violence, Jessie finds herself relieved to be apart from her husband, Hugh. Jessie loves Hugh, but on Egret Island-amid the gorgeous marshlands and tidal creeks-she becomes drawn to Brother Thomas, a monk who is mere months from taking his final vows.

What transpires will unlock the roots of her mother’s tormented past, but most of all, as Jessie grapples with the tension of desire and the struggle to deny it, she will find a freedom that feels overwhelmingly right.

What inspires the yearning for a soul mate? Few writers have explored, as Kidd does, the lush, unknown region of the feminine soul where the thin line between the spiritual and the erotic exists.

The Mermaid Chair is a vividly imagined novel about the passions of the spirit and the ecstasies of the body; one that illuminates a woman’s self-awakening with the brilliance and power that only a writer of Kidd’s ability could conjure.

Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees is another of my all-time favourites. I also really enjoyed The Invention of Wings. I’m a completionist so I obviously want to read this one.

Verdict: Keep


The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri

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The Divine Comedy describes Dante’s descent into Hell with Virgil as a guide; his ascent of Mount Purgatory and encounter with his dead love, Beatrice; and finally, his arrival in Heaven. Examining questions of faith, desire and enlightenment, the poem is a brilliantly nuanced and moving allegory of human redemption.

I’m one of those people that loves epic poetry (Paradise Lost is a favourite). I’d love to get to this one day but I don’t currently own it and it’s a case of out of sight, out of mind. If I ever acquire a copy, I’ll add it back.

Verdict: Remove


The Gates by John Connolly

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Young Samuel Johnson and his dachshund, Boswell, are trying to show initiative by trick-or-treating a full three days before Halloween which is how they come to witness strange goings-on at 666 Crowley Road. The Abernathys don’t mean any harm by their flirtation with the underworld, but when they unknowingly call forth Satan himself, they create a gap in the universe. A gap in which a pair of enormous gates is visible. The gates to Hell. And there are some pretty terrifying beings just itching to get out…

Can one small boy defeat evil? Can he harness the power of science, faith, and love to save the world as we know it?

Bursting with imagination, The Gates is about the pull between good and evil, physics and fantasy. It is about a quirky and eccentric boy who is impossible not to love, and the unlikely cast of characters who give him the strength to stand up to a demonic power.

John Connolly manages to re-create the magical and scary world of childhood that we’ve all left behind but so love to visit. And for those of you who thought you knew everything you could about particle physics and the universe, think again. This novel makes anything seem possible.

I added this because I love The Book of Lost Things but I had forgotten about it. It sounds great though so I’m letting it stay. Anyone else get Good Omens vibes?

Verdict: Keep


The Book of Flying by Keith Miller

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In Keith Miller’s debut novel, our hero is Pico, a poet and librarian who is forbidden to pursue the girl of his dreams – for she has wings, and Pico does not. When he discovers an ancient letter in his library telling of the mythical Morning Town where the flightless may gain their wings, he sets off on a quest. It’s a magical journey and coming-of-age story in which he meets a robber queen, a lonely minotaur, a cannibal, an immortal beauty, and a dream seller. Each has a story, and a lesson, for Pico – about learning to love, to persevere, and, of course, to fly. A gorgeously poetic tale of fantasy for adults, The Book of Flying is a beautiful modern fable and daring new take on the quest narrative.

Another one that I can’t remember adding – I think it came up as a Goodreads recommendation? I’m honestly not sure what to do with it. It sounds decent so I’ll let it stay for now but I may remove it if anyone convinces me otherwise!

Verdict: Keep


Nocturnes by John Connolly

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From #1 internationally bestselling author John Connolly comes Nocturnes, a dark, daring, utterly haunting shot story anthology of lost lovers and missing children, predatory demons, and vengeful ghosts.

Connolly’s collection of supernatural novellas and stories echoes the work of some of the masters of the genre while never losing his own distinctive voice. In “The New Daughter,” a father comes to suspect that a burial mound on his land hides something very ancient, and very much alive; in “The Underbury Witches,” two London detectives find themselves battling a particularly female evil in a town culled of its menfolk. And finally, private detective Charlie Parker returns in the long novella “The Reflecting Eye,” in which the photograph of an unknown girl turns up in the mailbox of an abandoned house once occupied by an infamous killer. This discovery forces Parker to confront the possibility that the house is not as empty as it appears, and that something has been waiting in the darkness for its chance to kill again.

I love John Connolly’s writing and definitely want to read this one. I actually own a copy of the second part, Night Music, and I’ve been holding back on it until I get my hands on a copy of this one.

Verdict: Keep


The Wanderer in Unknown Realms by John Connolly

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Soter is a man who has been haunted by World War I. But when he’s sent to investigate the disappearance of Lionel Maudling, the owner of a grand country house whose heir may be accused for his death, he encounters a home that will lead him to nightmares he could have never imagined.

Maudling’s estate houses countless books of every sort—histories, dramas, scientific treatises. But none seems to offer Soter any hint to Maudling’s whereabouts, until he’s led to an arcane London bookseller where the reclusive scholar made his last purchase. What Soter finds at the end of a twisted maze of clues is a book like no other, with a legacy that will put everything he knows in danger…

An inventive horror novella from internationally bestselling author John Connolly, this is a story of madness, of obsession, and of books’ power to change the world.

Apparently, I just added everything John Connolly has ever written. But that second volume of short stories I mentioned? This novella is apparently featured in it. So I can remove this as a separate entry.

Verdict: Remove


The Caxton Private Lending Library and Book Depository by John Connolly

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Mr. Berger has spent thirty-four years keeping his life as empty as possible. His job title as a closed accounts registrar doesn’t spark much interest, and his cautious flirtation with a woman at his company was cut short upon her engagement to another man. This doesn’t bother him, however, as he much prefers the company of books to that of people. When a series of fortuitous events leads to an early retirement in the English countryside, Mr. Berger is content to spend the remainder of his years nestled comfortably between the pages of a book. But fate has other plans.

His serene life turns strange when he witnesses a tragedy chillingly reminiscent of Anna Karenina as a woman flings herself before a train. When he rushes to the scene, she has vanished, leaving no body on the tracks. Berger’s investigation into this event leads him to Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository, where the line between fiction and reality becomes blurred beyond comprehension.

Another one that can be found in a short story collection. Plus what on earth is that cover? Goodbye.

Verdict: Remove



Books removed: 8

New TBR shelf count: 369

Do you participate in ‘Down The TBR Hole’? What do you think of my decisions? Want to try and change my mind on any of them? 😀signature (2)

‘The Winter of the Witch’ spoiler-free review!

Hello lovelies! Today, I’m on the blog tour for The Winter of the Witch, the conclusion to Katherine Arden’s fabulous Winternight trilogy. I’m going to talk quite generally about the series as a whole so you don’t need to worry about spoilers! Read on to find out why this series/author is one of my forever favourites…

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synopsis

Following their adventures in The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower, Vasya and Morozko return in this stunning conclusion to the bestselling Winternight Trilogy, battling enemies mortal and magical to save both Russias, the seen and the unseen.

Now Moscow has been struck by disaster. Its people are searching for answers—and for someone to blame. Vasya finds herself alone, beset on all sides. The Grand Prince is in a rage, choosing allies that will lead him on a path to war and ruin. A wicked demon returns, stronger than ever and determined to spread chaos. Caught at the center of the conflict is Vasya, who finds the fate of two worlds resting on her shoulders. Her destiny uncertain, Vasya will uncover surprising truths about herself and her history as she desperately tries to save Russia, Morozko, and the magical world she treasures. But she may not be able to save them all.


my thoughts

This is genuinely one the most magical series I have ever read. Katherine Arden will be an auto-buy author for the rest of my life. Her prose is utterly beautiful. I completely adore the way she writes and builds her worlds. Seriously, it’s phenomenal. I was able to picture everything, right down to the smallest detail. It was all so cinematic.

I have always had a love of all things Russian but these books are on another level. The amount of historical detail that Arden is able to include without overwhelming her overarching fairytale story is staggering. I never knew much about this period in history but I feel inspired to go off and explore it more now.

But speaking more about the fairytale aspect: you guys know me by now, and you know that this is my JAM. I loved everything that Arden did with this trilogy. A significant portion of this third and final book actually gave me Alice in Wonderland vibes; it was all so whimsical! But don’t be fooled. This is a series that gets progressively darker and this third book definitely has some moments that had me gasping in horror. The Winter of the Witch shattered my heart into a million pieces.

I want to take a moment to talk about the characters. If you are a fan of twists on fairytale archetypes, then this is definitely a series for you. Nobody is a straight-up hero or villain; there are multiple shades of grey here. But watching these characters grow and develop over the course of the three books was an absolute delight. And seeing Vasya discover who she is and embracing her true self gave me such joy.

This is such a great story of female empowerment. I want every little girl to be introduced to Vasya, to know that girls can choose their own path in life and not be confined to what men tell them they should be.

There are just so many wonderful aspects to this story. The wintery Russian setting, the magic, the feminism, the sibling relationships, Solovey, Morozko… I can’t convey how much I love everything. Just please go and read it! ❤

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Have you read this series? Is it something that’s on your radar? Let me know in the comments! And check out the other stops on the tour for more reviews and exclusive content! x

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‘Foxfire, Wolfskin & Other Stories of Shapeshifting Women’ review and giveaway!

Hello my lovelies! I’m delighted to be on the blog tour today for Foxfire, Wolfskin and Other Stories of Shapeshifting Women. And I’m just going to come out and say it. This is the best short story collection I have EVER read. Strong claims, I know. So let’s see how I’m going to back it up, shall we? 😉

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synopsis

Drawing on myth and fairy tales found across Europe – from Croatia to Sweden, Ireland to Russia – Sharon Blackie brings to life women’s remarkable ability to transform themselves in the face of seemingly impossible circumstances. These stories are about coming to terms with our animal natures, exploring the ways in which we might renegotiate our fractured relationship with the natural world, and uncovering the wildness – and wilderness – within. Beautifully illustrated by Helen Nicholson, Foxfire, Wolfskin and Other Stories of Shapeshifting Women is her first collection of short stories. All are either reimaginings of older tales, or contain characters, beings and motifs which appear in older tales.


my thoughts

As soon as I heard about this collection, I knew I wanted to read it. And I had a feeling in my gut that I was going to love it. There is not a single weak story in this collection; I genuinely loved every last one. The writing is phenomenal throughout and I loved that the folklore inspirations for each story were explained at the end. The book also features stunning illustrations at the beginning of each story. I am seriously going to be pushing this book on everybody for the rest of my life.

I’m going to give you a few brief thoughts on each story, before letting you know how you can win a copy of this phenomenal book for yourself!

Wolfskin

This was the perfect story to open this collection. It really kicks things off with a bang! It is honestly such a powerful little story and it’s not even 4 pages long. The writing is completely gorgeous and has such a dreamlike quality. So empowering! An instant favourite.

The Last Man Standing

Again, the writing is utterly beguiling in this story. This is a sad and haunting tale. Any mild confusion I had was cleared up by the author’s explanation at the end.

The Bogman’s Wife

This story started to bring in sensual elements (though never explicit) and it worked so well. Once again, I adored the gorgeous writing. It felt like I was reading an old fairytale.

Foxfire

I love the mythology behind this one! Another favourite from the collection. The imagery was fantastic.

Meeting Baba Yaga

If any of the stories in the collection spoke to me slightly less, it would be this one. The narrative voice was more modern and the narrator wasn’t the most likeable. Plus it was slightly weird for my tastes. But even saying that, it was still an enjoyable read. And I loved the nod to Pratchett’s Granny Weatherwax 😉

The Water-Horse

This one returned to the old folktale feel that I so love and adore. This was another favourite of mine (in part, because it made me think of The Scorpio Races!)

Snow Queen

The writing!! I keep saying it but wow, heart eyes everywhere. This was so stark and beautiful and haunting.

The Saturday Diary of the Fairy Mélusine

The tone of this one felt very dark and scathing but wow, I still loved it. I’ve never heard of the mythology behind this one but it was absolutely fascinating to learn about.

The Madness of Mis

The second person narrative used throughout many of these stories is SO effective; it really makes you feel you are being told something ancient that has been passed down through the centuries. I don’t know how many times I can say I loved this. This story was another favourite, with its vivid descriptions and almost-poetic tone.

I Shall Go Into A Hare

I have to admit, it took me a minute to work out what has going on with this one! But I quickly got on board. I enjoyed the cyclical nature of this story, though there was something slightly disturbing about it too.

The Weight of a Human Heart

This story is written as a conversation between two women and both voices are so distinct. The emotion leaps off the page immediately. I could totally see this being performed in the theatre!

Flower Face

In my opinion, this is one of the darkest stories in the collection. I also thought it was one of the most unique; I’ve never read something based on flower lore before!

No Country For Old Women

This was a wonderful story to close the collection, bringing everything full circle. It was beautiful and uplifting.

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How amazing does all of that sound?! I know for a fact that this book will make my top ten list at the end of the year. If you’d like to read it for yourself, just leave me a comment below telling me your favourite short story (it’s not a requirement, I’m just curious lol) and confirm whether you’re in the UK or Ireland. And if you want to increase your chances of winning, head over to my Instagram account! Good luck!


If you want to see what other readers think of this one, check out the other stops on the tour! x

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‘The Quiet at the End of the World’ spoiler-free review!

Hey everyone! As promised in my monthly wrap-up earlier today, here’s a review for you!

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synopsis

How far would you go to save those you love?

Lowrie and Shen are the youngest people on the planet after a virus caused global infertility. Closeted in a pocket of London and doted upon by a small, ageing community, the pair spend their days mudlarking for artefacts from history and looking for treasure in their once-opulent mansion.

Their idyllic life is torn apart when a secret is uncovered that threatens not only their family but humanity’s entire existence. Lowrie and Shen face an impossible choice: in the quiet at the end of the world, they must decide who to save and who to sacrifice . . .


my thoughts

Huge thanks to Walker Books for sending me a free copy of The Quiet at the End of the World! I loved this book a LOT.

This is a ‘soft apocalypse’ book, where the end of the world has come about slowly and non-violently with humans no longer being able to reproduce. Yet I almost found it to be quite scary in its gentleness because it seemed like something that could actually happen. The dystopian stories that have a degree of plausibility are always the ones that hit me hardest.

The world Lauren James has crafted in this book is vividly imagined and pulled me in so completely. There was honestly such a huge level of believability here, while still delivering plenty of elements on the sci-fi front. (I never thought I’d find my dream library in a SFF novel!) The inclusion of social media accounts and messages lends a huge sense of realness to the story and had me feeling so SO invested.

The protagonists, Lowrie and Shen, were both likeable characters with believable flaws. And they have genuinely stayed with me long after finishing this book (usually, and to my shame, I’m very quick to forget characters). I felt equally invested in the characters of the past storyline which is given to the reader gradually. And it would be remiss of me not to mention Mitch. If you’ve read this one, you know who I’m talking about when I say – he is the cutest. If you haven’t read this one yet, you need to do it just to meet Mitch.

Lauren James has crafted an excellent novel here that has truly taken root in my heart. I originally rated this one 4.5 stars but I’m thinking I might up it to 5 because this story has refused to let me go. I love the casual diversity throughout and there were some seriously jaw-dropping twists which I did not expect. I will definitely be reading more from this author!

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Have you read anything by Lauren James? Does this sound like the kind of book you’d enjoy? Let me know in the comments! xsignature (2)

September 2019 Wrap-Up!

Hey everyone! It’s time for another wrap-up 😀 Let’s just get right into it!

september 2019 wrapup


Review Books

The Quiet at the End of the World by Lauren James

My first read of the month was gifted to me by Walker Books and my, oh my, did I love it! This is the first book I’ve read by Lauren James but I’m definitely going to check out her other work because this was such a gripping and clever story. Definitely recommend. (I’ll be reviewing it either later today or tomorrow so you’ll get to find out why!)

 

The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott

This was a very well-researched debut based on the publishing of Doctor Zhivago. I enjoyed reading it at the time but I’ve heard some negative things about it since so I’m not sure where I stand with it now.

 

The Girl The Sea Gave Back by Adrienne Young

I haven’t read Young’s debut, Sky in the Deep, but I was excited to try this book set in the same world. Sadly, I had a lot of issues with it. Full review coming soon.

 

Bloodlust and Bonnets by Emily McGovern

This graphic novel was great fun and I really vibed with the sense of humour. The artwork and colour scheme were also very appealing. A good quick read for the spooky season!

 

In The Absence of Miracles by Michael J. Malone

A book that ended up being much darker than I expected, I would be hesitant to recommend this one. But I’m thankful to the author for shining a light on a difficult and often-taboo subject.


Books from my TBR

Nevernight by Jay  Kristoff

I finally jumped onto the stabby bandwagon now that the full trilogy is released. And my goodness, I did not think I would love this so much. So much sass and bad-assery. Flailing review coming soon!

 

Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff

The plot development in this second book was outstanding and the twists and turns were absolutely killer (pun fully intended). I couldn’t devour this fast enough.

 

Darkdawn by Jay Kristoff

Obviously, after the ending of Godsgrave, I had to jump straight into the final book of the trilogy. Binge-reading this series was one of the best decisions I ever made. I can’t wait to shout about it with you all soon.

 

The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman

I read my first Alice Hoffman book this month, in a buddy read with my lovely Instagram friend, Brooke. We both adored it. It taught us about a period in history with which we were unfamiliar and made fantastic use of symbolism. I can’t wait to read more of Hoffman’s work.


Rereads

No rereads in September but I’ve got a few planned for October!


Non-Fiction

No non-fiction this month either.


Stats

Total pages: 3467

Average pages per day: 115.6

Longest book: Darkdawn (512 pages)

Shortest book: Bloodlust and Bonnets (216 pages)

Favourite read of the month: The Museum of Extraordinary Things

Biggest disappointment of the month: The Girl The Sea Gave Back

Male authors: 4 (though technically 3 of the books were by the same author)

Female authors: 5

Multiple authors: 0

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How many books did you read in September? Any new favourites? I’d love to chat with you in the comments! xsignature (2)