Mini reviews: ‘Love is Blind’ and ‘The Silence of the Girls’!

I was recently sent two books by the lovely people at Penguin Books and today, I’m sharing my thoughts on them!


Love is Blind

What the book is about…

Love is Blind is William Boyd’s sweeping, heart-stopping new novel. Set at the end of the 19th century, it follows the fortunes of Brodie Moncur, a young Scottish musician, about to embark on the story of his life.

When Brodie is offered a job in Paris, he seizes the chance to flee Edinburgh and his tyrannical clergyman father, and begin a wildly different new chapter in his life. In Paris, a fateful encounter with a famous pianist irrevocably changes his future – and sparks an obsessive love affair with a beautiful Russian soprano, Lika Blum. Moving from Paris to St Petersburg to Edinburgh and back again, Brodie’s love for Lika and its dangerous consequences pursue him around Europe and beyond, during an era of overwhelming change as the nineteenth century becomes the twentieth.

Love is Blind is a tale of dizzying passion and brutal revenge; of artistic endeavour and the illusions it creates; of all the possibilities that life can offer, and how cruelly they can be snatched away. At once an intimate portrait of one man’s life and an expansive exploration of the beginning of the twentieth century, Love is Blind is a masterly new novel from one of Britain’s best loved storytellers.

 

What I thought of it…

I struggled to summarise how I feel about this one. I neither loved it nor hated it. I felt apathetic towards both the protagonist and the love story. I didn’t mind the writing at first but it did become a bit too wordy as it went on. It took a lot of concentration, especially with the inclusion of all the French and Russian names and phrases.

Considering this is historical fiction, I was surprised by the amount of swearing and lude sexual descriptions that were included. Coupled with a few other minor things that felt inconsistent with the time period, I felt frustrated on a number of occasions.

Obviously, I loved all the talk of pianos but, sadly, this was really just a device to move the story between locations. It felt like a bit of a geography lesson at times. The plot itself was very weak and if I had to describe to someone what this book is about, I would struggle to think of much to say!

Overall, this was fairly bland and I feel like I will forget about it rather quickly.

I rated this book 3 stars.
love is blind


The Silence of the Girls

What the book is about…

The ancient city of Troy has withstood a decade under siege of the powerful Greek army, which continues to wage bloody war over a stolen woman: Helen. In the Greek camp, another woman watches and waits for the war’s outcome: Briseis. She was queen of one of Troy’s neighboring kingdoms until Achilles, Greece’s greatest warrior, sacked her city and murdered her husband and brothers. Briseis becomes Achilles’s concubine, a prize of battle, and must adjust quickly in order to survive a radically different life, as one of the many conquered women who serve the Greek army.

When Agamemnon, the brutal political leader of the Greek forces, demands Briseis for himself, she finds herself caught between the two most powerful of the Greeks. Achilles refuses to fight in protest, and the Greeks begin to lose ground to their Trojan opponents. Keenly observant and coolly unflinching about the daily horrors of war, Briseis finds herself in an unprecedented position to observe the two men driving the Greek forces in what will become their final confrontation, deciding the fate, not only of Briseis’s people, but also of the ancient world at large.

Briseis is just one among thousands of women living behind the scenes in this war–the slaves and prostitutes, the nurses, the women who lay out the dead–all of them erased by history. With breathtaking historical detail and luminous prose, Pat Barker brings the teeming world of the Greek camp to vivid life. She offers nuanced, complex portraits of characters and stories familiar from mythology, which, seen from Briseis’s perspective, are rife with newfound revelations. Barker’s latest builds on her decades-long study of war and its impact on individual lives–and it is nothing short of magnificent.

 

What I thought of it…

I initially picked this up to read a couple of months ago but found it hard to get into. I’m really glad that I put it down and came back to it at a later point because I found it much more accessible and gripping on my second try!

It feels strange to say I enjoyed this, when it really is about the atrocities of war, so instead I’ll say that I found it a powerful and visceral read. Barker created some really strong imagery and captured the harsh realities of these women in some truly harrowing scenes. Briseis had a very compelling narrative voice and I sympathised with her enormously.

I’ve never read The Iliad but I’m intrigued now after this excellent feminist reimagining.

I rated this book 4 stars.

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Have you read either of these books? Let me know your thoughts in the comments! x

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‘Catwoman: Soulstealer’ spoiler-free review!

Hey everyone! I’ve got a review of Catwoman: Soulstealer by Sarah J. Maas for you today! Thank you to Penguin Books UK for sending me a free copy. Let’s take a look at it!


What the book is about…

Two years after escaping Gotham City’s slums, Selina Kyle returns as the mysterious and wealthy Holly Vanderhees. She quickly discovers that with Batman off on a vital mission, Batwing is left to hold back the tide of notorious criminals. Gotham City is ripe for the taking.

Meanwhile, Luke Fox wants to prove he has what it takes to help people in his role as Batwing. He targets a new thief on the prowl who seems cleverer than most. She has teamed up with Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn, and together they are wreaking havoc. This Catwoman may be Batwing’s undoing.


What I thought of it…

This was a very cool origins story. I didn’t love it as much as Wonder Woman: Warbringer but I liked it more than Batman: Nightwalker.

At first, I wasn’t really feeling the whole ‘gangland’ vibe but Maas certainly created a strong opening atmosphere. I loved the explanation for Selina’s motives and found it highly believable. This was my main issue with the Batman retelling; it wasn’t realistic and I just couldn’t picture things panning out the way I was being told. But here, I could totally understand and accept Selina’s actions; even though Maas paints her as a real anti-hero, I found myself willing her to succeed.

In fact, all of the characters (not just Selina) had excellent backstories and I thought this was the book’s biggest strength. It was great to see Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn in there! Maas gave us believable reasons for their behaviour and really had me rooting for these anti-heroes. I also enjoyed the interactions between the three female characters; a bit of banter is always fun!

Maas has been slammed in the past for not making her books diverse enough but I think she did a good job here. It’s nice to see that she’s paying attention and adding persons of colour and gay characters that feel authentic and not shoehorned in. I was also pleasantly surprised to see some great mental health rep here. Mental health rep is something I always pay particular attention to and I liked how Maas handled it.

There were a few too many fight scenes in the book for my personal tastes but overall, I am pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this one! If you’re a fan of the DC universe or comic book heroes in general, I’d recommend this for a fun read!

 

catwoman soulstealer

Have you read any of the books in the DC Icons series? Which superhero would you like to see reimagined next? Let’s chat in the comments! x

‘The Lingering’ spoiler-free review!

Hi everyone! Today is my stop on the blog tour for The Lingering by S.J.I. Holiday! Huge thanks to Anne Cater/Orenda Books for sending me a copy to review 🙂


What the book is about…

Married couple Jack and Ali Gardiner move to a self-sufficient spiritual commune in the English Fens, desperate for fresh start. The local village is known for the witches who once resided there and Rosalind House, where the commune has been established, is a former psychiatric home, with a disturbing history.

When Jack and Ali arrive, a chain of unexpected and unexplained events is set off, and it becomes clear that they are not all that they seem. As the residents become twitchy, and the villagers suspicious, events from the past come back to haunt them, and someone is seeking retribution…

At once an unnerving mystery, a chilling thriller and a dark and superbly wrought ghost story, The Lingering is an exceptionally plotted, terrifying and tantalisingly twisted novel by one of the most exciting authors in the genre.


What I thought of it…

This was a great thriller! Right from the prologue, I was completely hooked and the book never lost my attention once. The short chapters made this an incredibly pacey read.

The Lingering is told in alternating POV chapters between Ali, who has just moved into the commune with her husband and is struggling to adjust, and Angela, a longer-term resident who is intrigued by the idea of paranormal activity in the building. We are also given glimpses into the mind of Smeaton, who runs the commune, as well as journal entries from a doctor in the 1950s who was investigating reports of mistreatment at the old asylum. These perspectives are all fascinating and each one adds something to the story. There is not a single superfluous word.

The thrills start very quickly in this one; in fact, it was creepy before anything even happened! You could not pay me to move into an old asylum! Holiday conjured the setting perfectly. Things were very vague at first, which added to the creeping sense of dread; it’s great to go into this book not knowing much about it because it will only add to the spooky atmosphere! There were some genuinely scary moments.

This felt like a book of two halves, with part one successfully building the tension and part two erupting into madness. Every piece of information that was slowly revealed had me on the edge of my seat; I couldn’t believe some of what I was reading. It was really exciting. However, it wasn’t all cheap thrills; there was real substance to the story as well.

I’m not going to say any more because I recommend going into this one blind. But I’d say this is the perfect read for a dark and gloomy night… just maybe leave the lights on!!

the lingering.jpg

 

You might also like…

 

If you’d like to find out more about this book and what other readers thought of it, check out the other stops on the blog tour! x

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‘The Queens of Innis Lear’ spoiler-free review!

the queens of innis learPeople. If you have not yet read this book, please do yourself a favour and pick it up. If you call yourself any kind of fan of fantasy or Shakespeare or just damn good writing, you NEED this book in your life.

I buddy read this book with Melanie, who is one of the most beautiful souls I’ve ever known, and I feel like it just increased my love for this book even more. If you ever get the opportunity to buddy read with this girl, do not hesitate!

And now, let’s talk about this awesome book!


What the book is about…

Tessa Gratton’s debut epic adult fantasy, The Queens of Innis Lear, brings to life a world that hums with ancient magic, and characters as ruthless as the tides.

The erratic decisions of a prophecy-obsessed king have drained Innis Lear of its wild magic, leaving behind a trail of barren crops and despondent subjects. Enemy nations circle the once-bountiful isle, sensing its growing vulnerability, hungry to control the ideal port for all trade routes.

The king’s three daughters – battle-hungry Gaela, master manipulator Reagan, and restrained, star-blessed Elia – know the realm’s only chance of resurrection is to crown a new sovereign, proving a strong hand can resurrect magic and defend itself. But their father will not choose an heir until the longest night of the year, when prophecies align and a poison ritual can be enacted.

Refusing to leave their future in the hands of blind faith, the daughters of Innis Lear prepare for war – but regardless of who wins the crown, the shores of Innis will weep the blood of a house divided.


What I thought of it…

I did not expect to adore this so much! Oh my gosh, it was fantastic. Gratton totally captured the timeless feel of Shakespeare, making this book feel both ancient and relevant to modern life at the same time.

At first, I was nervous because the writing felt very dense and almost Tolkien-esque in its description. Don’t get me wrong, it was gorgeous; I just felt like I really had to concentrate. However, I soon got into the flow and could NOT stop reading! It didn’t take me long at all to realise just how amazing this was going to be.

I really loved the multiple perspectives and the use of flashbacks; I feel like Gratton treated us to a wonderful level of detail that added so much to my understanding of the characters’ motivations. Everyone was so morally grey and I was LIVING for it.

I adored the way Gratton created these three unbelievably strong women who all showed this strength in different ways. Elia in particular was glorious. And I’m really impressed at the level of diversity Gratton managed to fit into her novel (without it feeling in any way forced). All three queens were POC and one of them was asexual, which was so refreshing to see.

Gratton’s writing is so sumptuously gorgeous. I have not read King Lear but I had an idea of what to expect and this seems to be quite a faithful reimagining. Obviously, any attempt to rework Shakespeare is ambitious but I really love what Gratton did here. The drama was REAL! There were times when the Shakespearean vibe really came through in the dialogue and action.

I love books where the setting is almost a character in itself, and that has never been more true than it is here. I was head-over-heels in love with the concept of sentient trees and the nature-based magic system! Honestly, the level of detail was stunning and it was clear that Gratton had done a lot of research to create such a rich world. World-building is always one of my key factors in giving a 5-star rating and this book is so deserving of it.

I genuinely could not have loved this book more. If you’ve been putting this one off because of its size (like I did), stop being silly and pick it up now!

the queens of innis lear

What are some of your favourite Shakespeare retellings? Or books with amazing settings? Let me know in the comments! x

‘The Promise’ spoiler-free review!

Hello lovely people! Today, I’m saying a big thank you to Avon Books for sending me a copy of The Promise to review. Let’s check it out!


What the book is about…

When troubled teen Connor moves to Exeter from the US to escape his past, he finds himself embroiled in a world of popular kids and easy girls. Everyone wants to be his friend, but they don’t know about what he did…and they don’t know about his father.

As Connor’s life in England begins to unravel, DS Adrian Miles and his partner Imogen Grey are working up against the clock to catch a serial killer who dates his victims before he kills them. Determined to uncover the truth, Imogen is forced to act as bait – but will she take it too far and risk her own life?


What I thought of it…

I really enjoyed this thriller! I was absolutely hooked from the first chapter and couldn’t put the book down thanks to its extreme pace.

At first, there appeared to be a lot of seemingly unconnected threads to this story but I felt equally invested in all of them, and I found the way that everything was eventually brought together very clever.

I haven’t read the previous books in this series but I don’t feel as though I was missing huge amounts of information. I don’t think reading this as a standalone did me any kind of disservice. I do have to say that the romance introduced in this one didn’t really do it for me – but maybe if I had been following the characters from book one, I might have been happier about it.

I found the ending of the book quite abrupt and didn’t get all the answers I wanted. The author didn’t tie everything up in a neat little bow.

Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot more I can say about this book without spoilers! But overall, it was a fun read!

the promise

Who else is a fan of thrillers? Are there any particular tropes in the genre that you like/dislike? Let’s chat in the comments! x

‘The Other Side of Lost’ spoiler-free review!

Hey everyone! Today, I’m reviewing The Other Side of Lost by Jessi Kirby, which was so kindly sent to me by Harper360YA. Thankfully, I liked this one much more than Damsel 😉 

What the book is about…

“Every day is a chance to be better than you were the day before”

Jessi Kirby, The Other Side of Lost

Girl Online meets Wild in this emotionally charged story of girl who takes to the wilderness to rediscover herself and escape the superficial persona she created on social media.

Mari Turner’s life is perfect. That is, at least to her thousands of followers who have helped her become an internet starlet. But when she breaks down and posts a video confessing she’s been living a lie—that she isn’t the happy, in-love, inspirational online personality she’s been trying so hard to portray—it goes viral and she receives major backlash. To get away from it all, she makes an impulsive decision: to hike the entire John Muir trail. Mari and her late cousin, Bri, were supposed to do it together, to celebrate their shared eighteenth birthday. But that was before Mari got so wrapped up in her online world that she shut anyone out who questioned its worth—like Bri.

With Bri’s boots and trail diary, a heart full of regret, and a group of strangers that she meets along the way, Mari tries to navigate the difficult terrain of the hike. But the true challenge lies within, as she searches for the way back to the girl she fears may be too lost to find: herself.

 

 

What I thought of it…

This was really quite lovely. I felt a real connection with the main character, Mari, who was trying to find her way in the world and stay true to herself while at the same time attempting to make genuine connections with people and distance herself from online negativity. The idea of presenting a certain persona to the world is one that I can relate to, thanks to my anxiety (though I like to think I still have my integrity in what I choose to show people, both on and offline). The whole thing just really spoke to me; I can’t quite find the words to explain how or why.

 I thought the author gave a very sensitive and believable portrayal of teenage grief; it wasn’t over-the-top with angst, it felt REAL. The anger and disappointment of expecting things to be a certain way and it not working out like that – I found this so so relatable. There were some truly poignant moments. 

Now, I do have to say that I found the concept of the book ever so slightly unbelievable. I could never imagine just going off on a whim and hiking 211 miles over the mountains, with no prior training or knowledge. Even for a non-anxious person, that would be super stressful and DANGEROUS. So in that respect, I did struggle to suspend my disbelief a tiny bit.

There was also a hint of insta-love here, which usually would irritate the heck out of me. Weirdly, it didn’t actually bother me too much in this case because it kind of made sense under the circumstances? The characters were in such a high intensity situation, it would have surprised me if a romance didn’t happen, to be honest. Thankfully, I found the story’s main focus to be much more of the found family aspect, which I completely loved. 

Overall, this book contained some beautiful imagery and I really enjoyed. I would certainly recommend it for fans of contemporary YA.

 

You might also enjoy…

Have you read this one? Let me know what you thought of it in the comments! Also, is anyone else struggling with the new WordPress editor?! x

‘Damsel’ spoiler-free review!

Hey everyone! I was recently sent an ARC of Damsel by the very kind people at Harper360YA. Sadly, I found it to be a very strange reading experience – read on to find out why!


What the book was about…

The rite has existed for as long as anyone can remember: when the prince-who-will-be-king comes of age, he must venture out into the gray lands, slay a fierce dragon, and rescue a damsel to be his bride. This is the way things have always been.

When Ama wakes in the arms of Prince Emory, however, she knows none of this. She has no memory of what came before she was captured by the dragon, or what horrors she has faced in its lair. She knows only this handsome prince, the story he tells of her rescue, and her destiny to sit on the throne beside him. Ama comes with Emory back to the kingdom of Harding, hailed as the new princess, welcomed to the court.

However, as soon as her first night falls, she begins to realize that not all is as it seems, that there is more to the legends of the dragons and the damsels than anyone knows–and that the greatest threats to her life may not be behind her, but here, in front of her.


What I thought of it…

Sadly, from the minute I started this one, I didn’t connect with the writing. What little world-building there was felt heavy-handed and clumsy, and the writing was very simplistic and repetitive. There was no showing, only the most basic telling – “he did this, then he did this.” It just wasn’t enjoyable to read.

I took an immediate dislike to Prince Emory. He was disgustingly arrogant and misogynistic. All the talk of women as property was awful enough but when a comment was made implying that a woman was to blame for a man not being able to restrain himself? Count me out. I would have DNFd right there if this wasn’t a review book.

In terms of plot, NOTHING HAPPENED. The whole book just revolved around waiting for a wedding day. Ama was annoyingly passive for most of the book and it was all fairly bland and boring. As for the twist, it was glaringly obvious to me from very early in the book. There was absolutely no subtlety in the clues.

There were also lots of spelling mistakes in the ARC. Hopefully these were caught in the final edit and I know they’re not necessarily a reflection of the book’s quality in themselves but it was just one more thing that put me off.

The absolute worst thing about this book, though, was that it contained some of the grossest, most disturbing imagery I have ever come across. I was genuinely open-mouthed reading some of the lines. I don’t know what the heck it was meant to achieve but, coupled with the misogynistic BS, it just sickened me.

I’m trying to desperately to find something positive to say but all I can come up with is that it was a fast read due to its simplicity and I did find myself weirdly compelled (if only to get to the end and discover if my theory was correct). It’s possible the author was trying to highlight issues that women in contemporary society are facing but, as with The Surface Breaks, the execution didn’t work for me.

I always say that, even when I personally haven’t enjoyed a book, you should still try it for yourself if you’re remotely interested. But I’m making an exception in this case. Do yourself a favour and just skip this one.

 

damsel

If anyone else has read this one, I’d love to hear your thoughts! Please leave me a comment below and let’s discuss! x

‘Toil and Trouble: 15 Tales of Women and Witchcraft’ spoiler-free review!

Hi everyone! Today, I’m reviewing Toil and Trouble, a collection of witchy stories! I started reading this in October but didn’t get it finished before the end of the month. But better late than never, right?!


What the book is about…

History tells us women accused of witchcraft were often outsiders: educated, independent, unmarried, unwilling to fall in line with traditional societal expectations.

Bold. Powerful. Rebellious.

A bruja’s traditional love spell has unexpected results. A witch’s healing hands begin to take life instead of giving it when she ignores her attraction to a fellow witch. In a terrifying future, women are captured by a cabal of men crying witchcraft and the one true witch among them must fight to free them all. In a desolate past, three orphaned sisters prophesize for a murderous king. Somewhere in the present, a teen girl just wants to kiss a boy without causing a hurricane.

From good witches to bad witches, to witches who are a bit of both, this is an anthology of diverse witchy tales from a collection of diverse, feminist authors. The collective strength of women working together—magically or mundanely–has long frightened society, to the point that women’s rights are challenged, legislated against, and denied all over the world. Toil & Trouble delves deep into the truly diverse mythology of witchcraft from many cultures and feminist points of view, to create modern and unique tales of witchery that have yet to be explored…


What I thought of it…

This was a really great anthology of witchy stories and just what I was looking for recently. As with all anthologies, there were some stories I enjoyed less than others so read on for some thoughts on each one!

 

Starsong by Tehlor Kay Mejia – 3.5 stars

I can’t deny that I was initially confused by this one but I soon got into it and enjoyed it. Luna’s old and new selves felt a little jarring and disconnected, which I thought was appropriate as she was trying to reconcile who she used to be with who she is now. This was a cute story overall, even if I did feel like the romance happened a little quickly (maybe I’m just a cynic haha). But I loved the idea of Luna’s very specific and unusual kind of magic, and how she used it.

 

Afterbirth by Andrea Cremer – 4 stars

I really liked the way this was written, with the trial excerpts interspersed throughout. It was a really interesting take on a sad phenomenon that unfortunately women have to go through too often. I seem to be in the minority with my enjoyment of this one but it appealed to my newfound love of historical fiction.

 

The Heart in her Hands by Tess Sharpe – 5 stars

Not only does this feature foodie magic which is my absolute favourite kind, it’s also about forging your own path and not letting yourself be put into a box or defined by ‘fate’ or ‘destiny’ or what other people want for you. It was so empowering. And the f/f romance was the best. The writing also felt reminiscent of Leigh Bardugo so that should be enough to tell you why I loved it!

 

Death in the Sawtooths by Lindsay Smith – 3 stars

I struggled slightly with this story as it was quite a bit darker in tone and it almost felt like I was jumping into a world that had already been fully established? There was so much going on and I felt like I really had to concentrate to follow things. A lot of the talk of bullying also made me feel a bit uncomfortable. I just didn’t enjoy this one as much.

 

The Truth about Queenie by Brandy Colbert – 3 stars

I didn’t really connect with this one the way I hoped I would. I was enjoying it at first but it didn’t really go anywhere, and the whole thing had a pretty miserable vibe to it. I did appreciate the themes the author tried to tackle, I just didn’t love the way it was done.

 

The Moonapple Menagerie by Shveta Thakrar – 3 stars

At first, I was absolutely living for this. The purple prose was divine and I loved the theatre vibes and the inclusion of a disabled character. However, things took a very strange turn and there were weird shifts in time that jarred me out of the story and confused me.

 

The Legend of Stone Mary by Robin Talley – 4 stars

This one vaguely reminded me of The Secret Life of Bees, with all it’s talk of ancestry and knowing where you come from. I really liked the concept and the way it read like a contemporary but also incorporated historical elements.

 

The One Who Stayed by Nova Ren Suma – 4 stars

Guys, this was DARK. It was so powerfully feminist but not really very witchy? I feel like the story deserves 5 stars for the themes alone, it just didn’t feel like a 5-star read to me? I know I’m in the minority with this and I honestly do feel bad, but there was just something missing for me that I can’t quite put my finger on.

 

Divine are the Stars by Zoraida Córdova – 4 stars

I loved the magical realism here. I’ve never read about bruja so it was nice to get a different cultural perspective on witchcraft than the ones I’m used to. Córdova’s writing was gorgeous and I’d love to try some of her full-length novels.

 

Daughters of Baba Yaga by Brenna Yovanoff – 3 stars

This one felt unfinished to me; it was like it just kind of dwindled to nothing? I wanted more. I feel like this story tried to tackle quite a few different issues and it was maybe too much, as there was no real resolution. And it was very angry! I did like the start though.

 

The Well Witch by Kate Hart – 4 stars

This was a cool Western-style story; this is a not a genre I’ve ever experienced and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I really liked the main character, Elsa (even before being told that she arranged her books in a rainbow!) This story went in a devastating direction and I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it; I was on the way to giving a 5-star rating but I had to drop it a little as I didn’t fully approve of where things went.

 

Beware of Girls with Crooked Mouths by Jessica Spotswood – 3 stars

So many of these stories felt unfinished to me?! I needed more answers from this one. I also couldn’t tell what time period this was meant to be set in; at times, it read like a contemporary but at other times it had a historical fiction vibe? It’s like it couldn’t decide what it wanted to be. I did like the elemental magic, I just wanted more from this story.

 

Love Spell by Anna-Marie McLemore – 5 stars

This was gorgeous! I’ve always had a feeling I would love Anna-Marie McLemore’s writing and I was completely right. I definitely need to get my hands on her full-length novels. This was just deliciously romantic and magical.

 

The Gherin Girls by Emery Lord – 5 stars

This was a really nice story of sisterly love and recovering from emotional abuse. At times, I forgot that I was reading a story in a witchy anthology because the magical elements were so effortlessly incorporated into the plot. Based on this story, I will definitely be picking up more from Emery Lord!

 

Why They Watch Us Burn by Elizabeth May – 5 stars

This story made the entire anthology. It deserves all the stars in the universe. It was so powerfully feminist and utterly devastating; it reads like a call to arms, like the whole #metoo movement in story form. Every line was perfection. Please give me everything this author has ever written.

 

On the whole, I really enjoyed this collection. There was a run of average-feeling stories that I didn’t quite connect with but the better ones I really loved. And I’m delighted that I didn’t rate any of the stories in this collection below 3 stars! That so rarely happens with an anthology.

 

toil and trouble 15 tales of women and witchcraft

If you’ve read this one, what was your favourite story? What are some other witchy books you’ve enjoyed? Do you read many anthologies? Leave me a comment below! x

‘Eclairs for Tea and Other Stories’ spoiler-free review!

Hello everyone! You may remember I included this book in my September wrap-up but I’m only just getting round to reviewing it because I wanted to only post spooky reviews in October 😉

Eclairs for Tea and Other Stories is written by indie author, Julia Blake, whom I discovered through Instagram. Julia has quite a selection of published books to choose from but I decided to pick up this collection in order to get a taste for her writing across a variety of genres. Before I begin dissecting, take a look at the Goodreads blurb!


What the book was about…

Eclairs for Tea and Other Stories is a wonderful, eclectic, mix of short stories, flash fiction and poetry, to be dipped in and out of, and enjoyed at your own pace.

Eclairs for Tea – There was something very important Kevin had told her not to forget. If only she could remember what it was…

Taproot – As war raged in the skies above, Meg fought her own battle against growing up, and her fears for her brother… 

Do You Believe? – Susan was never one for flights of fancy, so what is she to think, when her daughter tells her a fairy has taken up residence at the bottom of the garden..? 

Vicious Circle – As far as DI Cass Sawyer is concerned, the past should remain firmly in the past, but, it seems time may have a different idea…

Lifesong – If there is life on other worlds, what would it be like? What would they make of us?

Along with many other heart-warming, surprising tales, interspersed with the author’s quirky poems about modern life, this is a book you’ll want to read again and again…


What I thought of it…

This was a wonderful introduction to Julia Blake’s work and really accessible for anyone not sure where to start.

Blake here clearly demonstrates the meaning of the phrase ‘quality over quantity’. She manages such exquisite storytelling in so few pages; I am in awe. Taproot was really lovely and surprisingly powerful for a mere 11 pages. Then came the titular story Eclairs for Tea and WOW. Only 2 pages long but what an impact. It was really dark considering the fluffy-sounding title!

There really is something for everyone here. Dinner Party highlighted Blake’s ability to write superbly realistic dialogue and her talent for humour as well as the more hard-hitting stuff. Other stories were more sweet. Strange Kind of Love even had a Gaiman-esque vibe which I really enjoyed. Blake’s fiction ranges from romantic and ethereal to dark and gruesome, but it is always captivating.

The stories in the book are also interspersed with Blake’s unique poetry, which really captured an aspect of modern life that many authors steer clear of. I related to so many of them! I really appreciated the subtle links between each short story/poem. I would say my favourite poem in the collection was This is Heaven; I found it very evocative.

And of course, I have to mention the novella Lifesong which brings this collection to a close. Blake’s writing really shines in this longer tale and has ensured that I will be giving her full-length novels a try! I loved the whole concept and the ending blew me away.

My only *tiny* gripe is that occasionally commas would be used where I personally would have put semi-colons. However, this is genuinely the most nit-picky thing I could say and I thoroughly recommend this anthology!

 

eclairs for tea and other stories julia blake

If you are interested in trying Blake’s writing for yourself, her latest novel The Forest has just been released!

‘Sawkill Girls’ spoiler-free review!

Hello friends! Well, it’s my last spooky review of the Halloween season! I’m hugely grateful to Harper360YA for sending me a copy of Sawkill Girls to review – I’d heard such great things about it and was really excited to read it!


What the book is about…

Who are the Sawkill Girls?

Marion: the new girl. Awkward and plain, steady and dependable. Weighed down by tragedy and hungry for love she’s sure she’ll never find.

Zoey: the pariah. Luckless and lonely, hurting but hiding it. Aching with grief and dreaming of vanished girls. Maybe she’s broken—or maybe everyone else is.

Val: the queen bee. Gorgeous and privileged, ruthless and regal. Words like silk and eyes like knives, a heart made of secrets and a mouth full of lies.

Their stories come together on the island of Sawkill Rock, where gleaming horses graze in rolling pastures and cold waves crash against black cliffs. Where kids whisper the legend of an insidious monster at parties and around campfires.

Where girls have been disappearing for decades, stolen away by a ravenous evil no one has dared to fight… until now.


What I thought of it…

This was such a strange little story! But I found it so compelling and couldn’t stop thinking about it whenever I wasn’t reading.

The multiple perspectives were all great – though I didn’t necessarily like all three girls, I needed to know what was going on with them. The author really did a good job of showing the rawness of the girls’ grief and the struggles they were facing. And the character development was truly excellent for all of them.

I also liked the inclusion of a perspective from the island itself; I thought this was such a unique thing to include and it really added something extra to the story.

Sawkill Girls was actually very dark at times. There were some great creepy moments which made this a perfect October read, yet there was also some really gorgeous descriptive writing which I loved.

I also have to mention the rep, which was unbelievably awesome. We had all sorts of rep in here but what I particularly liked was the representation of asexuality which I feel we don’t see very often. Obviously, it is not my experience but I feel that it was sensitively done and I feel like this book will be so helpful to readers dealing with similar feelings.

And the feminism! It was practically dripping off the pages. I loved all the female positivity and the notion of girls helping each other up instead of knocking one another down! (I know, it’s practically unheard of.)

I very nearly gave this a 5-star rating but the pacing went a bit weird in the middle and it also felt very bleak at times. But I’d still recommend this one for a creepy and unusual read!

 

sawkill girls

What spooky books have you been reading this month? Have you ever read any books with a unique perspective? Leave me a comment below! x