Reviews

Review: Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

#CosmereConquest

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

Rating: ★★★★

Brandon Sanderson is a giant of Fantasy Fiction. Having read The Final Empire around a year ago, I know I liked his writing and, just like everyone, was wowed by his inventive and extremely clever magic systems (there is a reason everyone talks about them, they’re amazing).

So when Benedict (@BensBlurb on Twitter, check him out) launched the Cosmere Conquest for 2021 – a read through of Brandon’s Cosmere Universe books – I was ready and confident enough that I liked his writing to take part in my first EVER readathon!

I’m having a lot of fun so far, if you’d like to take part, take a look at the original post here, there’s even a discord group to chat about the books!

We’ve kicked January off with Elantris, a standalone book in the Cosmere series but widely considered to be the best starting place…for a reason I don’t think I know yet!

Elantris was once a powerful city with magical and etheral beings as it’s inhabitants, but is now considered cursed. Since the fall of Elantris the Shoad (a mysteries power with physcial effects on random people, regardless of status or rank) has been sweeping the nation – then it takes the crown prince of Kae, a neighbouring city. Meanwhile a priest arrives in Kae tasked with converting the entire population of Arelon to a new religion, with only a new princess in his way. Elantris has an important part to play in this religious war.

I really enjoyed Elantris. I think you can tell that it’s Sanderson’s debut – it doesn’t feel as well paced as his other writing, but this is still nonetheless brilliant. I loved the magic system (no spoilers) which as always felt brilliantly original and different, and was one of the things that kept me reading. I enjoyed the contrasts in the way each character lived and made their way through the book and have to say that some characters really surprised me.

Raoden’s chapters were my favourite, but I found Sarene to be delightful as well, and greatly enjoyed the way both of them were written – I actually forgot that they’re both royalty most of the time. Hrathen’s chapters for me were a little bit dry, and the reason I gave the book 4 stars is because had I known that the book was quite so steeped in religion I probably wouldn’t have picked it up. I have to say though, I ended up liking Hrathen’s moral compass and his role in the book. There were a few things that went unexplained – though I admit this may happen in later books – but that if they don’t I’ll be a little disappointed.

I found the familial elements for each of the characters interesting, especially interactions with secondary characters and the relationships they built with other people or had already established were something that stood out to me during my read through.

I’m incredibly glad I carried on, I persevered and was slowly pulled into the universe Sanderson has started to create, and I’m really excited to see how the later books tie in with this one. Overall, Elantris felt a little disjointed but was engaging and is definitely worth persevering with as it is a great fantasy book with the beginnings of a fascinating universe within its pages.

Sanderson writes extremely well, it’s easy to see why his books are so popular – you never feel like there is too much of anything in the things he writes, it’s all so well rounded, and you can really focus on taking the story in without stumbling around clumsy sentences and the like. I’m looking forwarding to reading more of his work.

Have you read Elantris? Are you taking part in the Cosmere Conquest? Let me know!

Reviews

Review: Shadowless by Randall McNally

Shadowless by Randall McNally

Rating: ★★★★

Amazon

A huge thank you to the author, Randall, for contacting me and sending me this book!

Welcome to a land of gods and monsters, magical beings and us mere mortals – where you never quite know who’s on which side.
‘Shadowless’ is a behemoth of a book, a continuously twisting narrative guides us through the world of the Shadowless, beings fathered by gods, unwittingly granted powers, and without a shadow. But also, hunted. The gods would like their power back, and the only way to do that is by killing their children, unleashing more power than they original gave, making them stronger and everlasting.

I really enjoyed reading Shadowless, learning about all the different characters, what they can do (turning invisible, shapeshifting to name a few) and how their lives come together. The world of the Shadowless is vast and exciting, but also dangerous.
I liked that although the differing powers of the Shadowless might at first seem like the cliché superhero powers, the author put their own spin on each one. For example, one can be invisible but can only do so at great speed. I thought this was a clever way of introducing something new to the genre and avoiding run of the mill stuff.

I will admit to being slightly overwhelmed by the number of characters and trying to keep up with them all, some I had clean forgotten their backstories when the conclusion came around, but others were vibrant and demanded attention which helped. Characters are well written and rounded with believable backstories and motivations, even the evil ones! They blend well with their surroundings, and world building which is very effective. I enjoyed learning about all the different places and their landscapes, the inhabitants (dragons!) and flora and fauna. I thought the world as a whole sounded vibrant and real, which was excellent, but I found the writing a little too descriptive in some minor areas, particularly the beginning, though I stopped noticing it the further I got into the book.

I liked the changing viewpoints, though might have benefitted from revisiting a few of the characters after their introduction and before the end. I wonder if the author is setting up for more books, as there was one character I thought we would come across in the end but never did. On the whole I found each person to be unique and interesting and made me want to keep reading.
The lore, too, seems well done, I loved the inclusion of dragons (exceptionally well done) and contrasting cast of characters.

Overall I think this is a good debut – engaging and intriguing – and it was a book I kept wanting to read more of which is always a positive.
Though it could benefit from a few small refinements I believe it stands well on its own and is great for anyone looking to get into fantasy – as the switching viewpoints makes it easy to dip in an out of.

Reviews

Review: The Cousins by Karen M. McManus

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The Cousins by Karen M. McManus

Rating: ★★★

Bookshop.org

Determined to uncover the truth of their parents’ estrangement from their grandmother, three cousins set out to an island resort for work, and sleuthing – finding a family along the way and bonding in ways they never thought possible. It’s Death in Paradise for teenagers.

Although this was no Agatha Christie, I found the plot very readable, light (as far as murder mysteries go), twisty (though I find, increasingly guessable) and with a solid plotline. It was engaging and a welcome escape to a sunny paradise (albeit dangerous) – a far cry from the reality of 2020. I found the characters well written and fleshed out, I can only assume they are relatable as well, though my ever advancing age means that the relatability of characters in Karen’s books has declined somewhat. I did find myself sighing at various intervals at how very little sense these characters, particularly Milly, seem to have.

I find every mystery written by Karen M. McManus to be well thought out, although as with her previous books I did find the resolution to be a little weak when compared to the earlier twists in the novel…I often find these to be much stronger and more capable of shock, though admittedly the final paragraph was a good ending. I did enjoy the split narrative, I find this is something which when done well makes me want to keep reading, and it is done well in The Cousins. Nicely balanced throughout and very well paced. I found Alison to be…well frankly not needed, in the sense that her parts of the story didn’t seem to do much for the plot apart from create a break between anything exciting happening.

Karen M. McManus us just about the only YA mystery author I will read nowadays, purely because I’ve outgrown a lot of them. The sad truth is that I’m beginning to outgrow these too. They’re books I will read if I find them, but I’m not going to go seeking them out.

Have you read The Cousins? What did you think?

Reviews

Ten Words or Less: A Reading Year in Review

Welcome everyone, to the end of the shit show year. As we cross the mighty threshold of January and all of our problems magically vanish and 2020 is the-year-that-will-not-be-named (because that’s going to happen right?) I’m feeling reminiscent. Most of us have had a brilliant reading year, because we’ve had heck all else to do, and so many have discovered some firm favourites, I’m no different!

But here’s the thing. Fancy wrap ups…not my thing, SO I’m going to post a ten-word-or-less* review of every book I read this year, and lucky ‘ole you gets to come along for the, admittedly shorter than it should be, ride.

Let’s dive right in! (there are a lot here, just…be warned. It’s a long one).

Good, murdery, intriguing and readable – high praise for murder mysteries.
Not for me. A bit unpleasant.
Poignant, moving, worth it.
A highlight of this year – very well done.
I do not…remember reading this book.
Good, solid book, a little young for me perhaps.
Yeah. No thanks.
Perhaps my favourite of the year. Brilliant, engaging, constant guessing.
Let’s…not go there.
I READ ALL OF THEM. READ THEM. PLEASE!!!!! SO GOOD.
A decent book from a consistent writer.
Good first half, super boring second half.
Cliché but readable.
Love this series, ambivalent about this installment.
Read a few from this series. Meh. all the same.
Did not enjoy the narrator (audiobook)
Did not laugh once.
Important, own voices, personal and happy to see!
AMAZING. AWESOME, CAN’T WAIT FOR ‘DELICATES’.
A little disappointing. Over hyped but not bad.
Read two of these. Run of mill well written romance.
A childhood favourite. Re-read.
Enjoyable, pleasantly surprising!
A short classic. Can’t go wrong with Christie.
Not revolutionary, but a nice getaway.
Debut of the year. Wholesome, awesome – more please. Lots more.
Overhyped, average mystery. Short and okay.
I’ll never get those hours back.
Another standout of this year. Read some good mysteries!!
Consistently good series, looking forward to more.
Errrrr…..it’s a thing I guess.
Solid, but not my favourite of Matt’s
Wonderful. Loved this story and didn’t guess the ending.
Highly anticipated, didn’t disappoint. READ IT.
Brilliant! Unexpected favourite – came out of nowhere.
A classic. Imaginative, enthralling, unique.
Witty, fun, loveable and warm.
Run of mill romance with own voices rep. Not bad.
Enjoyed the mid story twist more than the ending.

Phew. There are a lot there. I hope you had a great reading year, are any of your favourites on this list? Let me know!

*…and yes, I know it should be ‘Ten Words or Fewer’ 😉

Reviews

Review: Seven Kinds of People You Find in Bookshops by Shaun Bythell

Seven Kinds of People You Find in Bookshops by Shaun Bythell

Rating: ★★★★

Bookshop.org

Shaun Bythell quickly established himself as one of my go-to authors with his first two books, The Diary of a Bookseller and Confessions of a Bookseller. Owner of a beautiful second-hand bookshop in Scotland’s Wigtown, Shaun’s acerbic wit and hilarious observations about the day to day running of his shop have produced some of my favourite books of the last few years. So much so that I’m planning a trip to Wigtown myself…just as soon as…all this craziness is over…and I can travel again. We’ll be able to that again right?

So, when Seven Kinds was announced, I was understandably very excited. I was not disappointed, although be warned, if you can’t take a joke, best not read this. Shaun’s continuously funny observations on the patrons of his shop (seriously his writing really does make me laugh out loud), are something I could continue to read for a long time.

I spent most of the book wondering when the ‘Kind of Person’ I fit into would show up -I wasn’t an ‘Expert’ (unless you count an unhealthy amount of knowledge of Harry Potter, Doctor Who, or The Book Thief as expert), nor do I (mercifully) have a ‘Young Family’ or identify as an ‘Occultist’. I’ve been known to be a ‘Loiterer’ though not in the sense described here, I certainly hope I’m not a ‘Bearded Pensioner’ at my tender age, and sadly I have not yet reached the level of bookshop ‘Staff’. Spoiler alert, turns out I’m boringly normal (at least I like to think so!). But nevertheless, being boring did not distract from my enjoyment of this wonderful book, through which once again arise a vibrant cast of characters and one slightly grumpy (though I’m finding evermore identifiable) bookseller.

There’s no doubt that Shaun loves what he does, I doubt he’d be able to get away with this good natured needling of his patrons if he didn’t, but it has to be said that he hides it very well, through layers of intelligent sarcasm and a sprinkling of vitriol for the truly heinous customers.

So, if you’re in need of a break from your current read, or just a break in general – I’d say definitely give this a go. We all need a laugh at the moment, and Seven Kinds of People You Meet in Bookshops truly delivers. Not only that, but this is one of the cutest little hardbacks I’ve ever seen (it’s not a large or long book – perfect for a book lover’s stocking filler!).

Reviews

Review: The Sandman Vol. 1 – Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman et al.

The Sandman Volume 1: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman et al.

Rating: ★★★★

Bookshop.org|Amazon

Finally. I’ve hopped on board The Sandman train – perused this seminal ‘grand oak’ of a comic book series – dabbled in, what was and continues to be for many, the gateway drug to a graphic novel addiction – examined this godlike and holy text….you get the picture. I read The Sandman Volume 1. Here’s what I thought.

The Sandman Volume 1 (hereafter referred to as Sandman, cos I love you all but I’m not writing that out every single time I mention it) serves as an introduction to Neil Gaiman’s much loved universe. We traverse the plains of hell, dreams and death with our protagonist, the reserved yet quietly fierce Morpheus. Wrongly captured in place of Death herself (his sister, incidentally), imprisoned and sapped of strength, when freedom finally calls, Morpheus must track down his prized power-giving possessions – The Helm, The Ruby, The Sand Pouch – before he can get back to being the dream maker.

Look, you don’t need me to tell you that Sandman is brilliant. But I’m going to. Because it is. Neil Gaiman has always been a genius writer, and writing a graphic novel series where the main character is the lord of Dreams. Yes please. Be warned, it’s not for the squeamish, but if you can put aside any mild aversions to what I will technically refer to as ‘yuck’ then you’ll be drawn in just as much as the rest of us have been.

The Sandman give us the reader just enough to leave us wanting more in the way that Neil Gaiman does so brilliantly well. Featuring a vibrant cast of characters – I loved Death and can’t wait to read more about her – with a gorgeous and extremely fitting art style, I’m already hankering to start Volume 2.

The plot line is a little jagged in my opinion, scenes do not run smoothly from one to the next in a nice linear fashion. This is Neil Gaiman, he’s not just going to hand us the story on a plate, and I have to admit to having read the Wikipedia article in order give a little order and sense to what I was reading, but once I did…oh boy. Once you get used to the way it’s structured, the story gains a very particular sort of flow – almost dreamlike (ha ha). The concept is beautifully original and a stark examination of what it means to be human, balanced with the supernatural in a superb and masterful way.

I feel like sometimes I get fed up of reading books with similar plotlines and the lack of originality in some of the books I’ve read is just mind numbing, I get sick of reading the same old tropes. Well let me assure you, that isn’t present here.

Quite literally, I’ve never read anything like it.

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Let me know what you thought if you’ve read The Sandman! I’m also now an affiliate of TheBookshop.org a place for independent bookshops to sell their books online! So, if you see something you like (or indeed if you would like to purchase The Sandman) maybe buy through my affiliate link – no extra cost to you and something small for me! 🙂 Plus, you’ll be giving a hand to our country’s indies, who need our help more than ever!

Reviews

Review: The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis

The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis

Rating: ★★★★

Book Depository|Amazon

Upcoming Netflix drama The Queen’s Gambit had my attention as soon as I watched the opening scene of the trailer. Released in October, when watching the trailer I saw the words ‘Based on the book by Walter Tevis’ flash across the screen. Okay Netflix. You got me.

I’ve always had an interest in Chess. I’m an entirely average player with little experience and only a rudimentary knowledge of the World Chess scene, yet for some reason films about Chess are something I really love. I honestly can’t explain it – I think it may be something to do with Chess being something everything can play, but takes a really incredibly brain to properly master. Plus, to be honest, I’ve always wanted the title of Grandmaster – it’s so…grand.

Following orphan and Chess prodigy Beth, The Queen’s Gambit is an elegant tale of self discovery and a very particular kind of life. I won’t lie – you’re not going to enjoy this book if you don’t know at least a little bit about chess. That’s not in anyway meant to be a patronising statement from me – but there is A LOT of chess notation, move narration and explanation of the game is heavy, so I’m not saying you can’t read it, I’m just saying you may not enjoy it if they are not your thing.

A cautionary tale of the fine line between ‘genius’ and ‘madness’ (in my eyes two completely subjective statements but the best fitting here) The Queen’s Gambit is slightly quirky, but it’s a book I also found to be incredibly engaging. Watching Beth navigate adoption, the transition from an all girl’s school to mixing with males, not only that but doing so in a male dominated sport, as well as growing up in the public eye, was a thoroughly enjoyable and emotional ride.

Quite aside from the main theme of Chess, the other theme which stood out to me was that of what friendship is and the many forms it can take. I thought the way Tevis wrote Beth’s relationships with the people in her life was delicately and really well done – it made the book believable and made it into somewhat of a page turner. It made the book starkly human.

If you pick up this book, be prepared for a deeply emotional and introspective book, steeped in tension and expectation surrounding a male dominated game in which a young girl takes the world by storm.

I also highly recommend checking out the Netflix show which is beautifully true to the book and amazingly well done, Anya Taylor Joy is PERFECT as Beth, I promise you’ll enjoy it!

Uncategorized

The Sunshine Blogger Award

Thank you so much to Trin for my nomination, it means a great deal to me! You can find their fantastic blog here! 

How does it work?

· Thank the blogger(s) who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog.

· Answer the 11 questions prompted by the person who nominated you.

· Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.

· List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog.

Questions: 

  • What is your backup genre? Not the one you always read but the one that pulls you in anyway?

I’m an absolute sucker for good romance at times. I don’t tend to actively seek it out, but if several people mention a really cute one I can’t help myself :3

  • How did you discover your love for reading?

This is just something I’ve done my whole life. I was brought up having a bedtime story every night and often couldn’t wait for the next night so would read ahead. I was also religiously taken to the library every Saturday which was where I got most of my books. Use your libraries folks, they’re indispensable.

  • Are audiobooks inferior?

Absolutely not. Both accessibility-wise and apart from that they definitely have a place in the book world. Some of my favourite bookish memories are of me sat in my room doing a jigsaw and listening to my story tapes. 

  • If you could have your favourite authors come together to write the perfect book, who would they be and why?

I think Markus Zusak, the late Carlos Ruiz Zafon and Stuart Turton would write an absolutely brilliant novel. The team would of course be captained by Agatha Christie though. She’s an absolute queen.

  • Are you a sucker for a good cover?

Honestly no. I can appreciate a good cover when I see one, but I’ve read some terrible books with great covers and vice versa…the cover isn’t usually why I buy books…unless it’s a special edition of one of my favourites. 

  • What do you do when you aren’t reading or blogging?

I spend my days working in a job I love, hanging out with my dog and playing video games either by myself or with my brother. I’m a huge Nintendo fan. 

  • Music, ASMR or silence while reading?

Silence! For various reasons I don’t get on well is ASMR and I find music distracting. 

  • What makes you rate something a 5-star, god-tier read?

Usually they’re really ultra special books that I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life. They have to have that little bit extra something. I can’t really define it but I know it when I see it, or feel it. 

  • What could potentially cause you to DNF a book?

Bad writing, insensitive handling of sensitive topics, or a book not delivering what was promised. 

  • Plot, characters, writing or other? What makes you love a novel?

A combination of things I think. Usually it will be in a genre I enjoy, with beautiful unique writing, memorable characters and an engaging plot. I love reading unique writing voices especially when people bring something new to the Murder Mystery genre as I think it’s hard to do in that particular genre. 

  • What goals do you have, aside from seeing your blog succeed?

I’m almost ready to buy my first house and I’d love to carry on working in the team I currently do as well. I’ve always been told that to find a job you love and is viable is a rare thing so I’m grateful to have just that. I’d like to have several dogs and be in a position where my opinion matters to someone I think.

Questions for the people I tag:

  1. What is your favourite book from your childhood?
  2. Paperback, Hardback or E-Book?
  3. Favourite publisher?
  4. In your opinion, what makes a good book review?
  5. List your three favourite books. Now choose which you would burn if it was the only source of fuel on a desert island. 
  6. When writing, do you think good writing is inherent within a person, or do you think it is something which can be practiced and improved?
  7. What is your go-to comfort read?
  8. Which book cover would you re-design if you were given the chance, and what would it look like?
  9. Do you like to share your favourite books with the people around you or keep quiet and savour it?
  10. Do you eat snacks whilst reading or do you have a strict no snacks policy around those precious pages?
  11. What book was has been your biggest disappointment in your life?

Once again, thank you so much to Trin and check out my twitter to see if you’ve been tagged! 

Reviews

Review: The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

Rating: ★★★★★

Book Depository|Amazon

I received an e-arc of this book from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Raven Books!

Stuart Turton returns with the much anticipated The Devil and the Dark Water. It is essentially, as Hannah Gadsby would say, his ‘difficult second album’- released on a tidal wave of expectation due to the amazing success of his debut novel The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.

So, can genius strike twice? Yes. Apparently it very definitely can.

Stuart Turton has definitely lived up to the hype and is quickly establishing himself as not only one of my go-to authors, but also a commanding voice in the ‘murder mystery’ ‘sci-fi’ ‘historical fiction’…wait. What genre is this exactly? *flips to author’s note* ‘historical fiction. where the history is the fiction’ ah. ok. Well as I was saying, Turton is rapidly carving a space for himself on my bookshelves and as an authority in his particular type of writing.

It is a very particular type too. His books are effortlessly woven mysteries with engaging characters who can captivate you regardless of how much time they actually get at the forefront of the story. Coupled with settings which are so atmospheric it’s almost magical – seriously I swear I felt seasick at certain points – his books make for some of the most original we’ve seen in the last 5 years.

The Devil and the Dark Water follows the ‘Saardam’ a ship sailing from Batavia to Amsterdam and it reportedly doomed from the outset.

Prisoner and sleuth Samuel Pipps, together with his bodyguard and friend Arent Hayes are travelling on the ship, Samuel having being arrested for reasons unbeknownst to him. Alongside them travel a large cast of characters including the Governor General – Jan Haan – his wife Sara, and their daughter Lia. Captain Crauwells and his mish mash crew are charged with making sure the Saardam makes port in Amsterdam, but there may or may not be a devil on board and whispers follow them through the waters from the minute they leave Batavia.

I found Arent to be a most intriguing character, with a quiet humility about him Turton made me want to know more about his character and motivations. Smaller characters like Lia, Dorothea, and Crauwells were no less vibrant, Lia actually quickly became one of my favourite characters in the book. I absolutely loved the entire thing, I think it’s a masterful piece of work – but in particular what stood out to me was the overall atmosphere. At times I could feel the old creaking ship around me, smells and all, and the way Turton does this is just unlike anything else I’ve ever read. As the reader you are so completely caught in the net of the story that at times it’s a shock to return to ‘normal life’. Fellow blogger Ollie said some similar things in his review, which you can find here!

Furthermore, another of Turton’s talents is on effortless display once again with a number of subplots woven intricately – yet perfectly – into the story. These subplots are just as, if not more, engaging than the actual plot and serve to prove that Turton is easily one of the most talented writers around at the moment. You can just tell that this book has been so carefully and meticulously crafted and has been done with someone who cares a great deal about his writing, something which really stands out in both of Turton’s books.

Another favourite was the representation of women in the novel, once again carefully crafted and done delicately and accurately without it feeling like the writing was performative, it was done incredibly well. I don’t know if you can tell but I very quickly lost my heart to this book.

To be completely transparent, if I were asked to pick my favourite of Turton’s books, I would pick Seven Deaths purely because where Seven Deaths was absolute genius, this book for me erred on the side of slightly far-fetched at times, not necessarily in a bad way, but in a way I personally like a little less. Do not let that put you off though, this is still one of the best most engaging books I’ve read and truly was a joy to finally get my hands on. In fact, one thing I would say this book does slightly better than Seven Deaths is the characters – I cared about them all and wanted to read more about them all. There was not one point where I found myself wanting to skip interactions or felt I was getting bored – whereas if I recall correctly Seven Deaths did have a bit of that.

The Devil and the Dark Water was an absolute pleasure to read, I count myself lucky to be around at the same time as these books, they’re just that good. Needless to say I would never have seen that ending coming, which for someone like me, who reads a tonne of murder mystery and can see a cliché ending from several miles away, is deeply and satisfyingly refreshing.

If you have any hesitations about reading this and my review hasn’t swayed you either way, check out some other reviews – you’ll see that we’re pretty much all singing from the same hymn sheet – you won’t regret reading it. When you read that last page, you’ll close it with a sigh of satisfaction, safe in the knowledge that this book is in your life forever. And, like me, you’ll begin your vigil, patiently stalking social media for news of the next book by the genius that is Stuart Turton.

My Top 5...

My Top 5: Bookish Quotes!

“Sometimes you read a book so special that you want to carry it around with you for months after you’ve finished just to stay near it.” – Markus Zusak

Markus Zusak is a very wise man, his writing appears in this list and to be perfectly honest, I could have filled this whole top 5 with quotes from The Book Thief alone…

Whether a mantra for life, a sentence to hit you right in the feels, or just a piece of beautiful writing, quotes are something we all love about books. Some books just keep on giving with endlessly quotable prose, some have one amazingly insightful sentence to underline the whole book. The brilliant thing about them being that they’ll never mean the same thing to another person as they do to you.

It was ambitious of me to believe that I could fit all of my favourite quotes into 5 bullet points, I have tried, though the list is a bit of a moveable feast and will undoubtedly be different if you ask me in a years’ time.

Anyway, in no particular order let’s get this show on the road! Let me know in the comments what your favourite quotes are, do we have any the same?

5.“Paper has more patience than people.” – Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank

In one of the most poignant books of the century, Anne Frank hits the nail right on the head here. I’ve never been much of a people person to be quite honest, and this quote has enabled me to seek out the patience of paper rather than people at troubling times in my life.

Perhaps one of the most striking things is the level of insight which goes along with this quote, especially considering it comes from such a young teenager. It goes to show that teenagers think and feel just as complexly as adults and their value should not be underrated.

4. “Humans, if nothing else, have the good sense to die.” – Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

This book is for me, the most quotable thing on my bookshelves. There is something about the writing that really spoke to me when I read this 10 years ago, and still resonates acutely with my now.

This quote, whilst slightly macabre, serves to remind me that not only does nothing last forever, but that our impact on the planet and the world around us has not, overall, been a good one.

Not to get all existential, but despite being a human, I don’t think we’re good for the world. But, we do have to good sense to die, and eventually nature will prevail.

3. “There is some good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for.” – J. R. R. Tolkein, The Two Towers

Ah, our most quotable friend Tolkein serves up a quote, in direct contradiction to the previous, but I think they go quite well together. Because whilst humans as a whole may not be good for the planet, we can seek and fight for the good amongst us with the time we have, and that is not to be underestimated.

2. “An Angel who did not so much Fall as Saunter Vaguely Downwards.” – Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman, Good Omens

This is a fun one. I’m not sure what exactly it is about this line that gets to me, but I think it’s purely brilliant. It really represents everything I love about Pratchett and Gaiman, silly and insanely clever – this whole book has a gentle genius-ness about it which immediately secured it as one of my favourites of all time. I just love it.

I like to think that Terry wrote this line. We’ll never know for sure of course, but I think it perfectly encapsulates him as a writer for me.

Funny what a specific combination of words can do eh?

1.”Books are a uniquely portable magic.” – Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Is anyone surprised? I’m not.

This quote I think encapsulates everything we all love about this hobby of ours. Books can take us anywhere, through anything, and away from everything in a way so unexplainable that it must be magic. Never has a quote been more accurate.

Gaming · My Top 5...

My Top 5: Nintendo Switch Edition

I’ve been a huge Nintendo fan for as long as I can remember – and for most of my life my one true gaming love has been Pokémon. I’ve journeyed through Kanto, Johto, Hoenn, Sinnoh and more – and I’ve loved every single second. With my trusty Oddish’s by my side I’ve stopped bad guys, beaten rivals and become the Champion countless times. It still is my favourite thing to play…but you won’t see it on this list.

I’ve been lucky enough in my life to have owned a version of pretty much every Nintendo console and now that I’m lucky enough to have a job, I can carry on spending extortionate amounts of my income on Nintendo consoles and Pokémon games. So when the Switch was announced I was understandably very excited. I was also in the middle of my MA.

I knew that if I bought the Switch there was no way I would concentrate on work. And so, I put away money each month to save up for the day I finished my MA and could go out and buy it – my own Nintendo Switch. And let me tell you…it was beautiful.

I’m a huge fan of the design, the ergonomics, and most of all the impressive games library.

So, why no Pokémon? They’ve been some of the most successful games on Switch, and yes, I love them a lot. But for me the Switch signalled a new era in my gaming life. I wanted to branch out and try new things – indie games, other people’s favourites, and of course, some classics.

So here are my top 5 Switch games. They have each brought me tremendous amounts of joy and I will likely continue to love the Switch until its dying day. I highly recommend checking these out if you haven’t already.

5. Fortnite

This free to play game boggled my mind with how quickly it became popular, and just how bad I was at it. I’ve managed to improve over the years – and whilst the concept is simple, it’s highly effective and immensely fun. Fortnite is on this list for one main reason though, and that’s the multiplayer option.

My brother and I have spent countless hours playing duos and it is some of the most fun I’ve had in a game with him for a while. Purely for the memories, Fortnite is at number 5.

4. Hollow Knight

I was pretty late to the party with Hollow Knight, I also had no idea what ‘metroidvania’ meant. However, I was looking for something fun, not too expensive, with a big world to explore. I was not disappointed.

Hollow Knight is a beautiful game. The art style alone should be enough to sell you on it, but Team Cherry have done an amazing job with characterisation, art styles, combat, mechanics and music!

Hollow Knight is atmospheric, a little frustrating (in a good way) and can provide hours of entertainment. I love this little game so much, and can’t wait to see what else Team Cherry will produce.

3. Super Mario Odyssey

Next to Pokémon, Super Mario is my most played game franchise, I have travelled across literal galaxies just to save Peach from Bowser only for her to be snatched up again. Honestly I’m beginning to think she actually just likes Bowser.

Super Mario Odyssey was the first game I picked up for the Switch, and when I went to buy it the guy behind the counter looked at me wistfully and said ‘You are going to have so much fun with that’ – he wasn’t wrong. Super Mario Odyssey is an excellent addition to the Mario family. Its huge storyline, imaginative level design and just downright playability means I have sunk hours into it, and still have a fair way to go – those moons just keep eluding me.

You can never go wrong with a classic Mario game. And you can’t get much more right than Super Mario Odyssey.

2. Witcher III: Wild Hunt

I have never played a big, open-world fantasy game. As far as I knew all the good ones were on PC and I have only ever had a laptop and certainly not a strong enough one to play games like this. Having never been into Xbox or PlayStation either, it was with delight that I saw reviews of Witcher III:Wild Hunt praising the Switch port.

I was recommended this by a friend of mine who has spent well over 200 hours in game, we’ve really enjoyed chatting about the world, the characters and discovering the book series!

It’s by far my most expensive game purchase ever, but hands down worth it. The world is HUGE, detailed and vibrant. The story is nuanced and impactful and the gameplay altogether is an absolute masterpiece. I’m glad this was my introduction to large RPG fantasy games because oh boy is it fantastic. I honestly can’t believe the size of the game every time I turn it on, and the reviews are right- we are so lucky to have it on Switch. Never have I been so absorbed, so completely in a gaming world – I nearly cried the first time I failed a challenge because I hadn’t learnt about time based ones yet, so badly did I want that perfect score sheet.

I can tell I’m going to be playing this one for YEARS to come, the difficulty levels mean that there’s so much replay-ability potential. Not only that but I’ve made friends because of it and have explored the world of The Witcher to my heart’s content. I’ve also played too much Gwent. I see those cards in my sleep now.

I love everything about this world, and really I’m only just beginning. You can expect much more raving about The Witcher from me in the future. I can’t wait.

1. Stardew Valley

Back in the days of Facebook gaming, I was a bit of a FarmVille fiend. I was obsessed with it.

Then I grew up and discovered Stardew Valley on my laptop. I played over 150 hours and had never before lost track of time in the way that I did when playing Stardew. The meticulous detail and impressive gameplay was my go-to for relaxation. The music lulled me and slowly, I lost my heart to this gentle farming simulator, in a way that I never could with the likes of Animal Crossing.

It continued onto the Nintendo Switch, only now it was portable. No longer stuck for something to do on the train to work, I set about catching fish, chopping trees and generally building an amazing life – whilst simultaneously escaping my actual life. It’s ideal.

I’m joking of course, I actually do love my job, but there is something inordinately charming about this game which makes it difficult to put down. In addition, when I learnt it was all done by one person, from the art style, to the music to the gameplay – I was gobsmacked. This game is a huge achievement, and I look forward to the future of the game – Concerned Ape is already teasing loads of new features in the next update so you can bet I’ve got many more hours to put in on Stardew Valley.

That’s it! I hope you like my list, and if you haven’t tried any of these games I hope I’ve inspired you to at least take a look at them.

Have you played any of these? What are your favourites? Do you have any favourites that aren’t on this list? Let me know!

Disclaimer: All images used in this post are property of Nintendo, I am merely using them for illustrative purposes.

Reviews

Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Rating: ★★★★☆

Book Depository|Amazon

This…is a really great book.

I’m a little bit late to this party, mostly because I tried once before to read it, and made it to the end of the second chapter before I put it down. I think sometimes it’s just a case of wrong book, wrong time. I’m never going to enjoy a book if there are others I’d rather be reading.

However, I’m immensely glad I finally woke up to how good Seven Husbands is. So, why the 4 stars?

Perhaps a little unfairly, the book lost a star through no fault of its own. Unfortunately, being late to a book party often means that spoilers are very hard to avoid and have kind of entered social discourse (i.e. book twitter) with no spoiler warning. And rightly so; comparatively speaking this book is old. Especially in the world of blogging and book reviews. This meant that I went into the book knowing what was going to happen, there was almost no mystery, and therefore lacked suspense – absolutely not the book’s fault, but nevertheless had an impact on my enjoyment. I’m a murder mystery lover, suspense often means a lot for me.

Having said all of that, I absolutely loved almost everything else.

The pacing, the characters, the story, the writing, even the format of the book – I loved it all. The book being split into parts pertaining to each husband worked really really well for the story, the pacing was amazing – it sometimes took a little while to get a grip on where exactly we were in Evelyn’s life but it didn’t detract from the book. Evelyn’s character is just superbly written. Complex, caustic, yet so completely human – you get a sense of feeling how those around Evelyn must have felt had she been real. She has flaws – major ones sometimes – but as the reader you fall completely for her and are rooting for her from the first page, regardless of how she acts. She’s brilliantly written.

I have to say that I felt very little for Monique, I know the book isn’t technically about her, I felt like a little bit more of her character could have been explored – there was comparatively little and not enough for me to really connect.

Spoilers commence from here———————————-

Celia and Evelyn’s relationship was heart wrenching, with the husbands as secondary yet no less real characters I felt that the over all way the book was handled was masterful. The ending – ouch. Gosh it hurt me, yet felt completely right in a way, and it was something I did see coming from about halfway in.

For me, this is a really refreshing approach to a book and is unlike most other things I’ve read…I love that it makes me feel that way as sometimes I see too many books whose plots are basically just a copy and paste. Not for Evelyn Hugo though – she only gets the best treatment.

This is a book I would highly recommend to pretty much anyone who enjoys the ‘old Hollywood’ vibe, mystery, intrigue, romance and beautifully written characters – it won’t disappoint you.

Yes, going into The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo I knew what to expect – I was not, however, prepared for how it would make me feel. Sometimes, that’s the best part.

Where to Start With...

Where to Start With…NetGalley

Free books. Doesn’t that sound AMAZING.

Did you know, with a little work, you can get free books – sometimes highly anticipated releases – before they are formally published!?

In all likelihood, if you are reading this, you have some knowledge of the book blogging world, perhaps you run a blog and read reviews of people receiving these mythical ARCs, getting their hands on books you can’t find yet!

Well I’m here to give an introduction to the wonderful world of NetGalley. Be warned though. This is a cautionary tale.

  1. ARCs – what the heck are they?

The term ‘ARCs’ is actually an acronym – it stands for Advanced Readers’ Copy. These can be physical books, audiobooks or EBooks, though NetGalley is primarily EBooks and, more recently, audiobooks.

Be warned though. Often these books have not been through their final edit, sometimes the formatting and spelling is all over the place. It’s usually pretty easy to contend with but I’ve had a few books that were almost unreadable.

NetGalley is first and foremost built on reviews. Make sure you’re willing to review books after you’ve read them before you join up. If you’re not, it will affect your chances of getting other ARCs you might want.

2. Sign Up!

Yep, before you can do anything you need to sell your soul to the site, i.e. give them your email address and a password (which you will almost certainly forget after a week, don’t worry, we’ve all done it).

Head to either UK NetGalley or US NetGalley depending on where you are in the world. I think there are more links, but if you head to either of these, NetGalley will give you a link to your local site!

Then, you’re in!

3. The Home Page

Welcome to NetGalley’s home page. you will have a taskbar, which looks something like this:

It might be tempting to jump in straight away, but we need to sort some things first. So head to the top left of the page, and next to the ‘Sign Out’ and ‘Help’ buttons, will be your name. Click on this – we’re going to set up your profile and sort out where to send your ARCs!

I’ll leave you to set up your profile yourself, but on the right will be a menu. We need to head to ‘Reading Preferences’:

Once there, scroll right to the bottom,and read the instructions. You can add your kindle email (to find this, go to your devices on Amazon, they have a whole tutorial on how to find it) or you can download the NetGalley app.

4. You’re Ready to Read!

You’re all set up, now to get to the good bit, the books. Head back to the dashboard, you will see a search bar, and a drop down menu:

You don’t have any books yet, so it’s time to find one you like, if you know what you want, go head and search for it, otherwise you can just browse through the recommended books on the homepage.

Once you find a book you’re interested in, make sure to check that it’s available in your country. Then, hit request!

5. The Waiting Game

Now, we wait.

Publishers can take a long time to approve requests, so don’t get disheartened if it doesn’t happen quickly. Sometimes I don’t get approved until after the book has released.

6. So, You Got Approved?

Congratulations, you got your email! You’ve been approved for an ARC of the book you wanted.

Make sure to read the email carefully, it will mostly likely to have instructions on what to do with your review on the book. BE CAREFUL! Sometime the publisher will want the review at a specific time, so make sure to take extra care with this.

Next, head to ‘Your Shelf’ to send/download your book to the platform you registered with.

And now, read the book! But, once you’ve finished, don’t forget to head back to NetGalley and click ‘Give Feedback’ next to the book to let the publishers know what you thought.

It’s important to do this, it’s the primary use of NetGalley, and the reason we are allowed ARCs. Don’t be afraid to say what you thought though, it won’t affect your chances of getting other books.

Then, repeat the process over again, and enjoy your books!

Before you start though, here are some things to bear in mind.

7. Some Things to Bear in Mind

  • Take note of the publishing date of the books you’re requesting and don’t request too many all at once, although believe me, I know it’s hard. You can very easily get overwhelmed by the number of books to read all at one time, in my experience it leads to procrastination. so just start with one, and build up from there!
  • Keep an eye on your feedback rate – this has a direct impact on whether you get approved for some ARCs – general thought is that around 80% is the optimum feedback rate, so try to always give feedback on the books you’re reading in order to increase your chances of being able to carry one.
  • You don’t always hve to finish the book before release date. It’s good if you can, but don’t stress over it. Read it when you can and make sure to give feedback. That’s the most important thing.
  • Badges! NetGalley gives you badges for certain achievements. they are displayed on your dashboard and look like this:
  • Enjoy the experience – it’s cool to be able to read unreleased books, but make sure the THANK THE PUBLISHERS in your reviews, they have, after all, trusted you with an unreleased book. Whatever you think, be polite and say thank you. Manners don’t cost a thing.

8. Freedom

We’ve reached the end young padawan, and now I set you free. Have a play around with the website and familiarise yourself with the interface and search functions.

Don’t be afraid to ask me or any of the lovely bloggers online for help, we’re always happy to assist someone!

Comment any questions below, I’ll be happy to help! And why not try the NetGalley app, it takes a lot of the stress out of reading!

Enjoy!

Credits: The NetGalley logo is the sole property of NetGalley.com, all images used here, though generated by myself, are from the NetGalley website.

Reviews

Review: The Midnight Library by Matt Haigh

The Midnight Library by Matt Haigh

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Book Depository|Amazon

Unfortunately for Matt Haigh, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, I’m a huge fan of How to Stop Time. It has become the standard by which I judge all of Matt’s books, rightly or wrongly.

The Midnight Library is, in my mind, a good book, but fell short of the things I really loved from How to Stop Time. I keep seeing this book called a sci-fi novel…in my opinion it’s not really, there is a small element yes, I’ll agree with that, but not enough for me to class it as sci-fi.

Nora Seed is dissatisfied with life. Everything is going wrong, and she’s having her worst days, everyday. Exhausting. When Nora gets the chance to live some other lives, she finds The Midnight Library and thus begins a complicated collection of living and dying..at the same time.

The main problem with The Midnight Library is that to be honest, I didn’t really care about any of the characters. I wasn’t really rooting for Nora, and even though we have shared experiences, I found it really difficult to connect with her. It fell a little flat for me.

I was also expecting more from the ending. The middle third of the book originally had the rating at 4 stars, it was ramping up, there were some interesting things going on, my attention was grabbed…and then swiftly released by a little bit of a flat ending. Not a bad one, just not a great one. And a good ending is sometimes half the battle.

All in all, if you like Matt Haigh’s work, don’t be afraid to pick this up. You’ll probably enjoy it. Just, in my opinion, don’t be expecting something on the level of How to Stop Time.

Reviews

Review: Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer

Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Book Depository|Amazon

Well. Where to start with this. The review and rating are a little different to my usual parameters.

I approached Midnight Sun in full knowledge that I was not to expect a different story to one I’d already heard, or to expect great literature, because we know that’s not what these books are. 13 year old me though? Absolutely ecstatic I’d imagine.

Unsurprisingly teenager-ish, Midnight Sun transported me right back to Forks in a way I enjoyed in a nostalgic way, but in other ways not so much. For one thing, this book could have been a minimum of 200 pages shorter. We do not need that much Edward angst. It’s the whole first half of the book and gets boring real fast.

HOWEVER, once we get past all of that…it has to be said, there is some interesting stuff in here. For one thing, I actually enjoyed learning more of the Cullens’ back story. I rediscovered my love for Alice and Jasper, and the last half of the book was as fast paced and yes, was quite enjoyable as I remember.

I think the secret to reading this book is not to approach it with expectations, don’t expect the writing to be different 10 years on, it isn’t. But if you can put all that aside, you might just find a little enjoyment within those 800 pages.

Is it a good book? No. Did I enjoy parts? Yes.

Am I okay with that?

Absolutely.

Reviews

Review: The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

The Thursday Murder Club – By Richard Osman

Rating: ★★★★☆

Book Depository|Amazon

See my review on Goodreads

I received this free from Penguin UK in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Penguin!

Mild Spoilers – Character Names only.

I’d like to start off by saying I am SO happy that this book is good, it was one of my most highly anticipated book this year and it didn’t disappoint. Having been bought for an amazingly high figure by the publishers I would have been seriously disappointed if this hadn’t been good.

First things first, the mark of a good murder mystery in my book…I didn’t guess who did it, which honestly is refreshing.

This is a ‘cosy’ murder mystery with wonderful characters, an engaging plot and good writing.
It has most of the charm of an Agatha Christie (quite without her edge, and not quite on her level hence the 4 stars) set in a retirement village. The characters are infiniately likeable, Ron and Ibrahim especially, both of whom made me laugh on several occasions. I also cried at the ending which for me does not happen often.
I found Joyce to be frustratingly passive which I forgave on account of the fact that she’s supposed to represent the reader (I think) and Elizabeth was downright annoying at times if I’m perfectly honest. Though one thing I did like about the group as a whole is that they buck the ‘trend’ of old people becoming useless once past a certain age, this book goes to show they aren’t!

At times there were too many unknown elements for me, I felt that it distracted a little from the story, but having said all of that, these are minor issues.

The book is full of warm, REAL characters and I will not hestiate to join them on another enjoyable adventure. What’s more, you can tell that Osman has poured his love of similar books into this, it’s full of his recognisable humour and is a real success for him.

I laughed, cried, and liked this book a lot, as I knew I would, and would recommend it to Agatha Christie fans who need a good mystery to distract from life for a while.

Reviews

Review: The Eighth Detective by Alex Pavesi

The Eighth Detective – By Alex Pavesi

Rating: ★★★★☆

Book Depository|Amazon

See my review on Goodreads

I received an e-arc of this book free from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Penguin Michael Joseph UK.

Described as an ‘original love letter to detective fiction’ I had incredibly high hopes for this book, further buoyed by the continuing stream of excellent reviews. Although this book IS by all account very clever, intricately woven and, yes, very good…I’d hardly call it original.

Whilst it can be certainly said that the ‘stories with a story’ element is fairly new to this genre, it’s been done before, and with books like The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, this book’s type is definitely out there. A lot of the plots were very clearly directly inspired by Agatha Christie’s works, one of them almost an absolute copy, and the ambiguous-ness of whether this was intentional means that I’m slight put off by the fact that the plots themselves are nothing new.

That said however I did immensely enjoy this book. It was fast paced and twisty, with some real brain work involved which is something I really enjoy about good books in the genre.

Whilst it can definitely be said that some of the end twists were wholly unnecessary, the book as a whole was an enjoyable ride through detective fiction tropes with intriguing and beguiling puzzles throughout.

Pavesi has done an amazingly good job of keeping a complicated plot together in a coherent way without causing the reader to lose their way. I really enjoyed his prose and structure, it made for a quick but engaging read.

Reviews

Review: Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng

Reviews

Everything I Never Told You – By Celeste Ng

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Book Depository | Amazon

The first chapter of this book was so so promising, and even until around 3/4 of the way through I was confident I would love it.

I’ve heard a LOT about Celeste Ng in the last few months. It’s mainly been discourse about Little Fires Everywhere, but every so often this book comes up too, and since it was her debut (and for some reason seemed slightly more appealing to me than Little Fires) I picked this one up.
I’m glad I did. It wasn’t an awful book, and in the grand scheme of things its probably one of the better written ones I’ve read this year. I was just left with an overall feeling of….meh.

When I’ve finished a book I always look at it and think about whether I will keep it or donate it. And I’m not interested in coming back to this one.

Celeste Ng’s writing is really nice in places. There were some beautiful analogies which just felt different and showed a spark of ingenuity in my opinion, and something else I really liked were the sentences which indicated the future of the character. That was something else which felt fresh about her writing.

MILD SPOILERS FROM HERE————————————-

On to what I didn’t like. Firstly, WHY is a family tragedy ALWAYS an excuse for the husband to cheat???????!!! I really hate this trope which seems to be emerging. Like really really hate it.
Secondly, and finally, this ENTIRE book is on one level the whole way through…there is ZERO dynamic, which is fine in some cases but in a book like this where you’re expecting a big culmination of the plot with some sort of emotional explosion and there is NOTHING, it’s somewhat of a let down, and the reason it lost two stars in my mind. It just did not vary in tone at all.

Overall, I was a little disappointed with how this played out, and although Ng’s writing I think has sparks of something different, the story itself ended up feeling a little flat.