My favourite books of 2018!

Hello bookies! I have been so excited about posting this – I love seeing everyone’s favourites of the year πŸ˜€

A note before we start: not all of these books were published in 2018, I just read them for the first time this year. Also, I’m listing them purely in the order I read them from earliest in the year to most recently; there’s absolutely no way I could rank these!


The Dollmaker of KrakΓ³w by R. M. Romero

the dollmaker of krakow

What I loved about it

  • Some of the most powerful imagery I’ve ever read
  • Characters that were precious and pure
  • Shattered my heart into a million pieces
  • Perfect for all ages
  • Magical and beautiful

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

strange the dreamer

What I loved about it

  • Absolutely STUNNING writing
  • Incredible immersive world-building
  • Complex and fascinating characters
  • Realistic dialogue and SNARK
  • One of the most original stories I’ve ever read

The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley

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What I loved about it

  • The start of my new favourite series!
  • Superb character development
  • Sumptuously evocative descriptions
  • Intricate and clever plot
  • Captivates you and doesn’t let go

The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty

city of brass

What I loved about it

  • Superb attention to detail, including religious and political history
  • Cinematic descriptions
  • Perfectly paced
  • Gorgeous writing that sweeps you off your feet
  • Morally grey characters

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

the winter sea

What I loved about it

  • Instantly likeable protagonist
  • Took me through the whole spectrum of emotions
  • Seamless blending of timelines
  • Scottish accents written perfectly
  • History, romance, even psychology – this book had everything!

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

bone gap

What I loved about it

  • Seriously brilliant cast of characters
  • Stunning writing with beautiful metaphors
  • SO many levels to the story
  • Reads like a fable
  • A genre-bending masterpiece

The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

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What I loved about it

  • GORGEOUS writing
  • Subverts every fairytale clichΓ©
  • Dark and twisty
  • Speaks up for women and minority groups
  • The physical book is an actual work of art

The Mermaid by Christina Henry

the mermaid

What I loved about it

  • Brilliant activist protagonist
  • Multi-layered plot that defies categorisation
  • Fast pace
  • Beautiful writing
  • Gorgeous message of acceptance

A Thousand Perfect Notes by C. G. Drews

a thousand perfect notes

What I loved about it

  • Cinnamon boys and sassy girls
  • Great sibling relationship
  • Brutally shredded my heart
  • Retells the life of a classical musician!
  • Cait’s voice was delightfully clear

More Than This by Patrick Ness

more than this

What I loved about it

  • So tender and sweet, it filled my whole heart
  • Brilliantly realistic characters
  • Romance, tragedy, drama – even a sci-fi element!
  • One of the best audiobooks I’ve ever listened to
  • Honestly, it spoke to my very soul

Autoboyography by Christina Lauren

autoboyography

What I loved about it

  • Amazing realistic banter
  • The sweetest and most heartfelt romance
  • Hottest first kiss I’ve ever read
  • Handles a controversial subject with tact and respect
  • Positive and uplifting message

Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor

muse of nightmares

What I loved about it

  • Phenomenal character development
  • Exploration of mental illness in a fantasy novel!
  • Such a satisfying sequel/conclusion
  • Stunning STUNNING writing
  • Potential for an extended Laini Taylor universe?! YESSS

Small Spaces by Katherine Arden

small spaces

What I loved about it

  • Such an intelligently crafted middle grade
  • Wonderful protagonist whom I connected with on a deep personal level
  • Fabulous exploration of childhood grief
  • Some genuinely creepy scenes!
  • The resolution is perfect

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

rebecca du maurier

What I loved about it

  • Creepy house setting
  • Symbolism EVERYWHERE
  • The characters are works of art
  • Unreliable narrator
  • A Gothic masterpiece!

The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton

the queens of innis lear

What I loved about it

  • Incredible world-building
  • Fantastic use of flashbacks and multiple POVs
  • Amazing levels of diversity
  • A setting that is almost a character in itself
  • A fantastic, faithful reimagining of King Lear

I genuinely found so many new all-time favourites this year and I urge you all to read any and all of the books on this list!

I was going to do some honourable mentions but it would honestly be like another 20 books so I’ll leave it hehe. But know that I am just so thankful for all the amazing stories I got to read this year and I can’t wait to see what 2019 holds!

Did any of these titles make it onto your favourites list this year? x

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My favourite blog posts of December 2018!

Hey everyone! My levels of busy this month have meant that I couldn’t really blog-hop as much as usual but I still wanted to feature a few favourite posts that I’ve seen around πŸ™‚ Everyone absolutely knocked it out of the park with all the wintery recommendations and festive blogmas posts so this list could have gone on forever! But here are a few December posts that I particularly enjoyed…


Reviews

Evelina wrote a great review of The Winter of the Witch, the final book in the Winternight trilogy by Katherine Arden. The Bear and the Nightingale was one of my favourite books of 2017 but I never got round to reading the second book; I’m hoping to remedy that next year and finish off the series!

The Orangutan Librarian wrote a super sweet and original review of Letters from Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkien! I’ve had my eye on this book for a long time; maybe Christmas 2019 will be when I finally get to it πŸ˜‰

Jaime reviewed The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke. This feminist reimagining of Beowulf sounds really cool and I’m super excited to read it since I got it for Christmas!

Rita gave a wonderfully detailed review of The Happiness Passport by Megan Hayes. One of my goals for 2019 is to read more nonfiction and this sounds like a wonderful addition to my list!

Kat wrote a fantastic review, talking about the mental illness rep in Laini Taylor’s Muse of Nightmares, something which I personally ADORED.

Melanie wrote a really interesting review of Every Tongue Got to Confess, a collection of short stories by Zora Neale Hurston.

Hayley reviewed Once Upon a River and got me really excited for this latest offering from Diane Setterfield, author of The Thirteenth Tale.


Discussions

Beth discussed the benefits of rereading, which you know is something I am all for. She raised some really great points.

Mandy started a great discussion about seasonal/holiday-themed books.

Kaleena discussed her fear of ‘sophomore’ novels, or the second book in a series, something which I definitely found relatable.

Kelly wrote an appropriately timed post about why Harry Potter is the perfect winter read.

Marie asked if book bloggers can ever avoid the hype, something I always struggle with!

Krysta talked about why The Hobbit is quite unusual for a children’s book. The Tolkien chat at Pages Unbound gives me life!


Other fun posts

Grace listed her favourite opening lines in literature, which I thought was a really cool idea for a post. Grace is a fairly new blogger so be sure to give her some support!

Charleigh talks about some scenes she wishes made it into the Harry Potter movies! As I’m currently rereading the series myself, it’s great to see someone voicing thoughts that align with my own.

Lily recommended some books with truly gorgeous writing! Three of her recommendations are on my all-time favourites list and I’m intrigued about the others, since Lily clearly has impeccable taste πŸ˜‰

Merline wrote a hugely relatable post about the things bookstagram has made her do. I feel you, girl!

Aurora had the great idea to get her mum to predict her next five-star reads! Visit her post to see if it was a success πŸ˜‰

Chloe took part in my ‘Alphabeticals’ meme! I promise I’m resurrecting this blog series in the new year ahaha.


Well, those were some posts I really enjoyed this December! I also have to say, I have been living for everyone’s posts recapping their 2018 reading and talking about their goals and anticipated reads for 2019. It’s all so exciting and I could have featured every single one of you! x

2018 Smashing & Dashing Character Awards!

I recently saw Cait posting this and just knew I had to do my own version! I promise I’ll try my best not to use Strange the Dreamer/Muse of Nightmares for every answer πŸ˜‰


Most Relatable Character

small spaces

Ollie. Arden’s portrayal of a girl grieving the loss of her mother is one of the most relatable things I’ve ever read.


Most Pure Animal Companion

pax

Pax. Even though I only rated this book 3 stars overall, Pax himself was precious.


Fiercest Fighter

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Even though I was disappointed by this sequel, I still hold that Nemesis is a badass.


Am Surprised That I Loved You??

the queens of innis lear

Ban. Just ask Melanie. What a treat.


Best Sass-Master

to kill a kingdom

Lira and Elian bring all the sass.


Best Antihero

catwoman soulstealer

Selina Kyle. Genuinely surprised by how much I enjoyed her origins story.


The Best Friends Of All

the halloween tree

I loved this coming-of-age story about a group of boys experiencing Halloween.


Best Villain To HATE

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Scythe Goddard. ‘Nuff said.


Award For Best vs Worst YA Parents

autoboyography

Both examples in the one book. Tanner’s parents are amazing, Sebastian’s… not so much.


Ship Of All Ships In 2018

strange the dreamer

I had to feature them somewhere. Lazlo and Sarai, my babies.


Most Precious Must Be Protected

a thousand perfect notes

Beck, sweet cinnamon roll that he is.


Honestly Surprised You’re Still Alive

her hidden life

Magda. My heart was in my mouth for most of this book.


Award For Making The Worst Decisions

the other side of lost

Mari. I really enjoyed this book but boy, did she make some terrible (and extremely unbelievable) choices.


Most In Need Of A Nap

muse of nightmares

Minya! She’s just really tired, ok?


Want To Read More About You

sweet pea

Rhiannon was hilarious and I can’t wait to read more about her escapades in 2019.


Well, those are my picks for the 2018 character awards! Do you agree with any of my choices? And is anyone else frantically trying to cram all of their last posts before the end of the year?! x

Harry Potter 10 Years On: The Chamber of Secrets

Hey everyone! I’m continuing my reread of the Harry Potter series and today, I’m bringing you my thoughts on book two: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets! Once again, please proceed with caution as there may be some spoilers in this post…


Initial Thoughts…

Oh wow. I was only 5 when this book came out!

The Dursleys are actually vile.

I forgot how much amazing stuff was in this book! Dobby, the flying car, the Whomping Willow, the mandrakes…

Love getting to see more of Mr and Mrs Weasley!

Aah I remember de-gnoming the garden in the playstation game, it was great fun!

Lockhart really is ridiculous.

Ugh the deathday party, I always found this bit boring.

I laughed far too hard when Lockhart said “I remember something very similar happening in Ouagadougou”!

Surely it would have made sense to find out the way to the Slytherin common room before taking the Polyjuice potion? Then they wouldn’t have wasted so much time?

Really though, I love Hogwarts but what kind of school would stay open when kids are being attacked left, right and centre?!

I didn’t find the spiders nearly as creepy when I was younger… *shudders*

Nothing will ever be as mind-blowing as that twist at the end.

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Thoughts Upon Finishing…

I always say that this is my least favourite book in the series. I think it’s because it’s in that in between stage of still setting up the world and not yet being into the full swing of the overarching plot. Even so, there are so many amazing things that are introduced in this book! Some seriously awesome details.

And it’s the start of the backstory! Rowling’s foreshadowing is sublime and her overarching plot is really so clever. I obviously never recognised it when I was younger but when you know what’s coming down the line, it’s fascinating to see the clues Rowling laid right back at this early stage. Like, she actually comes out and tells you what’s going to happen in the last book but you don’t recognise it because it’s hiding in plain sight.Β 

Plus, this is the book that gives us Dobby. So damn precious. I can’t wait for more of the house elves. I also love that this book continues to show Hermione’s worth; seriously, Harry would get nowhere without this girl. As amazing as her character is in the films, she is even better in the books. I love her character growth.Β 

I can’t wait to read book three (my favourite!)

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What are your thoughts on Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets? x

2018 Resolutions Recap and 2019 Bookish Goals!

Hello everyone! Hope you all had a lovely Christmas and are relaxing with some great books today πŸ™‚

Last year, I combined my favourite reads of the year with my review of my 2018 bookish goals. However, the post ended up miiiles long so this year I’m separating them – you can expect my top reads of 2018 soon! But for now, let’s see if I stuck to my 2018 bookish resolutions!


2018 Goals

Allow myself to reread

I’m pleased to say that I have reread 15 books this year, including starting my first reread of the Harry Potter series in ten years! I’m planning to continue with this in 2019 as I really love returning to old favourites and remembering what is so wonderful about them. I’ve already got a big list of books I want to reread.

 

Read more of the Discworld series

Ok, I majorly dropped the ball on this one. I only read one Discworld book all year! It was genuinely a case of ‘so many books, so little time’. I’m probably not going to have this as an official resolution again next year but I will keep it in the back of my mind when choosing my reads because I really do want to make progress through Pratchett’s epic series.

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Read predominantly from my own bookshelf

I knew I’d failed this one but I didn’t realise quite how spectacularly. I’m actually ashamed at how few books I read from my own shelves. The majority of the books I’ve read this year were either review books sent to me by publishers or books I was enticed into buying. I didn’t think I was doing too badly but it turns out even if you’re buying backlist titles, they still count as new additions to your shelf. Who knew?

 

In 2018, I participated in the Pop Sugar challenge for the third year in a row. Towards the end of this year, I actually decided to give up on the challenge because I just wasn’t interested in reading books purely to tick off challenge prompts. The decision caused me a lot of angst, as I am such a perfectionist and hate to quit on anything, but I think I made the right call. I won’t be doing the challenge in 2019; instead, I’ll be focusing on getting through some of the backlog of books I’ve acquired in the last 3 years.


Goals for 2019

Read more books with mental health rep

I make no secret of the fact that I have my own mental health struggles, as well as working in the mental health sector, so I’d love to explore how more authors represent mental health in their books.

 

Conquer my fear of big books

I didn’t read very many long books (over 500 pages) this year but the ones I did read ended up being some of my favourite books of the year! I’ve got a few larger books sitting on my shelves that I’d really love to try in 2019; I’m definitely in the mood to immerse myself in a chunky tome.

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Read more from favourite authors

I have a strange habit of discovering an author I love and subsequently avoiding their books because I don’t want to run out! So I’m going to try and stop being ridiculous in 2019 and read more of the books I’ve collected by favourite authors. Some examples include Leigh Bardugo, Patrick Ness, Susanna Kearsley and Christina Henry.

 

Try some non-fiction books

I’ve always had a fear of non-fiction but I know there are some fantastic titles out there. I’m looking to ease myself in with a few memoirs and book-related titles first, before tackling some heavier subjects that I’m interested in.

 

rainbow bookshelves home library

Of course, my main goal in 2019 is to read some of my backlist titles. I may need the help of a challenge such as ‘Beat the Backlist’ or ‘The Unread Shelf Project’, but I’m determined to get my TBR under control!

This year, I set my Goodreads goal at 100 books and managed to beat it quite significantly. Next year, I’m planning to set it at a lower number in order to allow myself to read some of those tomes I talked about. And I want to get back to reading for fun, not just to beat a number!

 

What were some of your reading resolutions this year? Did you manage to stay on track? Let me know in the comments! x

Harry Potter 10 Years On: The Philosopher’s Stone

Hey everyone! Since I’m currently rereading the Harry Potter series for the first time in a DECADE (!), I thought it would be fun to blog some of my thoughts now that I’m returning to the books with an adult perspective πŸ™‚

Obviously, these posts will potentially contain spoilers so please use caution if you haven’t read the series yet (though if you haven’t, where have you been?! Go read it and then come back!)


Initial Reactions…

Omg it’s actually happening. I’m rereading Harry Potter! Please let it be as good as I remember.

This is very young in tone… I’m scared this was a terrible idea.

Some of this dialogue is a bit stilted!

I hope it’s a warm night, baby Harry will freeze on that doorstep!

Ok, I never fully comprehended how vile the Dursleys are… surely making him sleep in a cupboard and not buying him new glasses or clothes of his own is child abuse?!

It’s so interesting to see the differences between the books and the movies.

How can Quirrell shake Harry’s hand in the Leaky Cauldron?!

Hermione bragging on the train about having tried a few simple spells… but they’re not allowed to do magic outside of Hogwarts?

Does Snape know the crack with Quirrell and his turban?

They got detention for being out of bed at night – but the detention is taking place at 11pm? LOL

harry potter and the philosophers stone.jpg


Thoughts Upon Finishing…

Ok, so it was a bit difficult at times to withhold my criticisms. I always praise Rowling on her foreshadowing but knowing that she’s so good at it causes me to question the tiniest inconsistencies! I don’t know if I’ve just forgotten things in the space of ten years.

I did feel like this book was very young in tone; but then, even reading the series in my younger years, I felt that this one was the most immature. Rowling’s writing becomes progressively more amazing and I can certainly make allowances for the quality of her debut.

I am just so thrilled to be back in this world. The amount of magical detail Rowling provides is truly stunning and her plots really are so clever. Knowing what is coming down the line, it is a joy to pick up on little hints that I missed as a child.

Rereading has also made me realise just how much is missed out of the movies (even the first one where you assume they got most of the details in). This book features some really great moments that I had forgotten about and which, sadly, are missing from the big screen.

Overall, while I am reading this more critically, I am trying hard to leave my reviewing hat OFF and just enjoy re-immersing myself in this magical world for the first time in ten years!

harry potter and the philosophers stone

When was the last time you read Harry Potter? Did you pick up on any of the inconsistencies I mentioned?! x

 

‘Naughty or Nice’ Book Tag!

Hello everyone! I figured I’d better do a festive tag before Christmas comes and goes! This one was created byΒ Jenn and I’ve been seeing it everywhere recently, so I thought I’d join in the fun πŸ™‚


Received an ARC and not reviewed it?

We’re off to a good start! I’m pleased to say that I always review my ARCs (not necessarily by the release date but I try my best!) I would just feel so guilty if a publisher or author sent me a book to review and I didn’t do it! Especially when so many international bloggers are not as fortunate in being able to get ARCs. I can’t take that for granted.

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Have less than 60% feedback on Netgalley?

I don’t use Netgalley so nope, this isn’t an issue I have!

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Rated a book on Goodreads and promised a full review was to come (but it never did)?

Nope! Whenever I’ve been unable to post my review and had to say ‘RTC’, it then gnaws away at the back of my mind until I get it done. I pride myself on the fact that I review every book I read on Goodreads, even if it’s just a few sentences.

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Folded down the page of a book?

I used to do this when I was a lot younger but now I always have a bookmark to hand.

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Accidentally spilled on a book?

Oh man, yes, and it was traumatic. When I was studying for my final exams at university, I accidentally knocked over a cup of tea and it spilled ALL OVER the book about autism that I was reading. I tried my best to dry the book and left it on the radiator for like 24 hours but it was wrinkly and ruined 😦

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DNF’d a book this year?

Not this year! I don’t like to give up on a book because I feel like my negative opinion of it isn’t wholly valid unless I’ve read the entire thing. I know it’s silly to waste time on a book I’m truly not enjoying but the perfectionist in me can’t get over it!

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Bought a book purely because it was pretty with no intention of reading it?

I may actually be a little guilty of this. I went through a phase where the bookstagram hype completely got to me and I was buying all the pretty editions I could get my hands on. I keep telling myself I intend to read them but honestly, it could take me years to get to some of them. I have managed to curb the habit though and now I’m only buying books I definitely want to read – sometimes I’ll spend a little more money on a particular edition though! πŸ˜‰

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Read whilst you were meant to be doing something else (like homework)?

Hasn’t everyone? I’d always rather be reading.

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Skim read a book?

Very very rarely. I don’t see the point of skimming because then I’m not really taking in the story. The only time I ever do it is when I’m hating a book so much that I want to DNF(but can’t because of aforementioned perfectionism). So I’m calling this one a no!

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Completely missed your Goodreads goal?

I joined Goodreads right at the end of 2015 and have managed to hit/exceed my goal every year since then! With each year that has passed, I’ve managed to read more and more books and I’m so thankful for all the wonderful stories I’ve been able to discover.

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Borrowed a book and never returned it?

I once forgot to return a library book when I was maybe 7 or 8 years old? I subsequently felt so guilty that I never went back to that library. It makes me sad to remember this because, looking back, I’m sure the librarian would have understood that a library book was not at the top of a grieving child’s list of priorities.

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Broke a book-buying ban?

Yeah… which is why I no longer bother with them! I tried to prevent myself from buying books at times in the past and ended up binge-buying. There’s just no point; by forbidding myself, I only want them more πŸ˜‰

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Started a review, left it for ages, then forgot what the book was about?

I’m pretty good at writing my reviews in a timely manner – namely because I don’t like to mark another book as ‘currently reading’ on Goodreads until I’ve checked off the previous one. And as I said above, I review every book I read. So there’s your answer!

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Wrote in a book you were reading?

I had to annotate my books in English literature classes at school but that’s the only time I’ve ever done it. I’m not totally outraged by the idea of annotating (I know some people think it’s the worst thing ever) but it’s not something I personally feel the need to do.
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Finished a book and not added it to Goodreads?

No?! What’s the point in setting a goal if I’m not going to log the books towards it?!

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Borrowed a book and not returned it to a friend?

Not for want of trying! I currently have a book in my possession that I borrowed from a friend back in August. I read the book within a week or two and have been trying to return it ever since but my friend is notorious for forgetting to reply to messages and we both work shifts, so trying to arrange a time to give it back to her is a nightmare! Otherwise though, I always return books so I’d count this as a point for the ‘nice’ side!

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Dodged someone asking if they can borrow a book?

Yeah, I hold my hands up to this one. I’ve had too many experiences in the past of lending out books and having them returned in terrible condition or not returned at all. So now, I dodge dodge dodge! I’d honestly rather buy someone their own copy of a book than let them borrow mine and potentially destroy it haha.

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Broke the spine of someone else’s book?

Based on my previous answer, do you really think I would do this? I don’t even break the spines of my own books so there’s no way I’d do it to someone else’s. Sometimes, when I donate books to the charity shop, they are so pristine that they look unread; books should always be returned to their owners in the condition you received them!

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Took the jacket off a book to protect it and ended up making it more damaged?

Not that I can remember? I usually leave the dust jacket on the book’s shelf and don’t touch it again until I’m finished the book so there’s no way for it to get damaged.

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Sat on a book accidentally?

Yeah… I’m pretty clumsy.

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Final score: 7 Naughty, 13 Nice!

Wow, I did a lot better than I thought! If you’ve done this tag, what did you score? x

‘The Dark Vault’ spoiler-free review!

“Treat all the bad things like dreams… that way, no matter how scary or dark they get, you just have to survive until you wake up.”Β 

~ V. E. Schwab, The Unbound

Hey everyone! I hope you’re all enjoying the festive season and not letting the pressure get to you!

I was incredibly lucky recently to receive an ARC of The Dark Vault by V. E. Schwab! This new bind-up features two of Schwab’s earliest novels, The Archived and The Unbound, released for the very first time in the UK. Huge thanks to Titan Books for providing me with a free copy!

This review will have ZERO spoilers for either The Archived or The Unbound.


What the book is about…

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive. Mackenzie Bishop’s grandfather first brought her here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now her grandfather is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was: a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often-violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.

Follow Mackenzie as she explores the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking, through these two timeless novels, now bound together in this thrilling collection. With stunning prose and a captivating mixture of action, romance, and horror, The Dark Vault delves into a richly imagined world where no choice is easy and love and loss feel like two sides of the same coin.


What I thought of it…

The Archived

I have to admit, I found this a little confusing at first. It took me nearly 60 pages to get certain characters straight in my head. However, I was certainly intrigued! The story was quite sad and a lot darker than I expected, with lots of tugging on the heartstrings.

Mackenzie was a likeable protagonist (though sometimes I was unsure of her exact age). And Wesley was certainly book boyfriend material. One of my favourite characters, though, was Roland. He was a precious Hufflepuff and I was really hopeful that we would get to see more from him as the story progressed.

It’s clear that Schwab’s writing has come a long way to reach the standard she is at today; however, while this did feel a bit repetitive at times, it’s still fantastic for an early work! Towards the end, Schwab wrote with absolute break-neck pace. I always think that she writes action really well and it was no different here; the tension was palpable.

This was a strong opening story and I rated it 4 stars.Β 

 

The Unbound

Schwab expanded the setting of The Dark Vault in book two and I really liked the way she built upon the world she had set up in The Archived. It was fascinating to see the parallels between Mackenzie’s school life and the drama occurring in the Archive.

The Unbound is much quicker to get going and never lets up from beginning to end. I really liked the story and the added exploration of mental health topics, such as PTSD. The family dynamics in relation to this were excellent; I have major respect for how realistic Schwab was able to make her portrayal.

Mackenzie’s character development was great to see and I have to say, Wes became an absolute dreamboat in this book. And there was more from the delightful Roland, though still nowhere near as much as I would have liked!

Another strong 4 stars, though book two might just have the edge over book one!

 

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Has anyone else read these ones? If you’re a Schwab fan, which of her books is your favourite? Leave me a comment below! x

2018 Most Anticipated Reads – Where Are We Now?

I recently enjoyedΒ Marie’s post about books she was anticipating in 2018 and whether or not she has read them yet. I thought it would be fun to do something similar myself and Marie very kindly said she didn’t mind! Make sure you check out her post after reading this one πŸ˜‰


As last year was the first year I became fully invested in keeping up with new releases, I was certainly anticipating a lot of books this year, particularly sequels/series finales. Let’s see whether or not I read my most anticipated books of 2018!

 

Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor

Hooray! The first book on my list is a hit! The conclusion to the Strange the Dreamer duology was my most anticipated book of the year; I had Muse of Nightmares preordered for months and there was no way I was going to let it linger on my shelf. And it was a complete masterpiece.

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Fierce like a Firestorm by Lana Popovic

Oops, I’m slipping already. Wicked like a Wildfire was one of my favourite reads of 2017 so I was eagerly awaiting this conclusion to the duology. Unfortunately, it didn’t come out until later in the year, by which point I was completely overwhelmed by the amount of books I had to get through. So this one is still waiting patiently on the shelf for me. I’m hoping to reread the first book in the new year, closely followed by this one.

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A Storm of Ice and Stars by Lisa Lueddecke

Another follow-up to one of my 2017 favourites (A Shiver of Snow and Sky), I was delighted when I found this in Waterstones a good two weeks before it was due to be released. I promptly bought it and then… didn’t read it. There’s still a chance I’ll get to it before December is over though, because I am living for those wintery vibes.

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Shadowsong by S. Jae Jones

Are you sensing a pattern here? I loved Wintersong last year so I was desperate for this sequel. However, negative reviews quickly started pouring in and some reviewers said that the Goblin King didn’t even feature prominently in the second book. So I keep putting it off. I really do want to give it a chance at some point though.

 

Hero at the Fall by Alwyn Hamilton

The conclusion to Hamilton’s Rebel of the Sands trilogy was way up on my list of anticipated reads. However, series finales scare me and I kept procrastinating on this one for fear that my precious children would all DIE. I am not ready for the pain.

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The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Ok, I am a terrible person. My bestie bought me this one for my birthday waaayyy back in February and I still haven’t got round to it. I genuinely have no reason why? So many books, so little time? I know, it’s feeble. Must. Do. Better. This one is definitely on my priority TBR.

 

The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty

Finally, one I’ve read! The same bestie who got me The Hazel Wood was also kind enough to send me an ARC of The City of Brass. I was fully on-board the hype train after hearing all the rave reviews about it. Of course, I completely adored it and I’m so thankful I got to read it. Book two, The Kingdom of Copper, is now one of my most anticipated reads for 2019!

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Legendary by Stephanie Garber

Yay, another one I’ve read! Caraval was definitely one of the most hyped releases of 2017 and I’m not ashamed to say that I totally rolled with it. Anything even vaguely to do with circuses/carnivals is my jam. I couldn’t wait to see where the story went next, with the release of the second book this year; I picked up Legendary this summer, fairly soon after it released.

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Love and Luck by Jenna Evans Welch

I’m sticking to my pattern – I don’t know, I guess I struggle to get excited about debut releases? Most of my anticipated reads tend to be follow-ups. After reading Love and Gelato with my book club in 2016, I was eagerly awaiting this second book from Jenna Evans Welch. I was dismayed when the original 2017 release date got pushed back to this year! But it was worth the wait and I really enjoyed breezing through this cute contemporary on a gorgeous sunny day at the seaside.

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The Empress by S. J. Kincaid

Another sequel to a bookclub read. I actually surprised myself with how much I enjoyed The Diabolic and I was looking forward to the second book; unfortunately, I feel like the characters were all totally different people in The Empress and I didn’t like the direction the plot took. I don’t think I’ll bother reading book three.


The final score: 5 read, 5 unread

I think we can conclude that I am ridiculously bad at reading my most anticipated books. Though actually, I expected the situation to be much worse. At least I’ve managed to read half of this list; let’s just hope I can get to the others soon before the 2019 releases start piling up!

What were some of your most anticipated releases this year? Did they live up to your expectations? Did we share any anticipated books? Let me know in the comments! x

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.
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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