Friday, 29 January 2016

Review | This Strange Way of Dying by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

My Rating: 

Spanning a variety of genres—fantasy, science fiction, horror—and time periods, Silvia Moreno-Garcia's exceptional debut collection features short stories infused with Mexican folklore yet firmly rooted in a reality that transforms as the fantastic erodes the rational. This speculative fiction compilation, lyrical and tender, quirky and cutting, weaves the fantastic and the horrific alongside the touchingly human. Perplexing and absorbing, the stories lift the veil of reality to expose the realms of what lies beyond with creatures that shed their skin and roam the night, vampires in Mexico City that struggle with disenchantment, an apocalypse with giant penguins, legends of magic scorpions, and tales of a ceiba tree surrounded by human skulls.

Check out my review of Signal to Noise here!

You should all know by now that I adored Silvia Moreno-Garcia's debut novel, Signal to Noise, and with her second novel, Certain Dark Things, not being released until October I turned to her short fiction for my next fix.

This Strange Way of Dying is a collection of speculative fiction, much of which incorporates Mexico and Mexican mythology; I loved the Mexican setting in Signal to Noise, so I was really excited to read more stories set in Mexico, especially as it's one of the countries on my Travelling Bucket List.

First of all: let's all marvel at that glorious cover. Isn't it beautiful? Something about short story collections really seems to attract pretty covers, which is great for shallow people like me who like to fill their shelves with aesthetically pleasing books. Even if this book were terrible I still wouldn't be able to fault that cover.

Luckily, This Strange Way of Dying isn't terrible at all. I'll happily admit straight away that I didn't enjoy it as much as I enjoyed Signal to Noise, but I wanted to make sure I didn't compare the two all that much anyway because novels and short story collections are two such different art forms. In fact the only complaint I could make about the stories in This Strange Way of Dying was that some of them weren't long enough; a few I happily would have read even more of because I was so interested in Moreno-Garcia's characters.

There are fifteen stories altogether in this collection, and there were five of them I particularly enjoyed; 'Bed of Scorpions' and 'Jaguar' were two of the stories I would have loved more of, particularly as they both featured women becoming empowered and gaining the upper hand in their respective situations. In fact women gaining the upper hand seemed to be a recurrent theme in many of the stories throughout the collection, such as in 'Shade of the Ceiba Tree', a dark and melancholic story steeped in folklore, and 'Bloodlines', which I especially loved because it featured witches.

My favourite story in the collection, however, was definitely 'The Doppelgängers'; it was so creepy, but so well-written.

I love Moreno-Garcia's imagination; she's one of those writers whose love for speculative fiction is clear, and now that I've read this collection I'm looking forward to reading her other collection, Love & Other Poisons, and her next novel. Basically I'm happy to read whatever this woman releases, and I'm so pleased I discovered her last year. If you haven't checked her out yet, you're missing out!

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

This Week in Books | 27/01/16

This week I'm joining in with Lipsy @ Lipsyy Lost & Found to talk about the books I've been reading recently!

NOW: I've started The Vanishing Throne, and I'd like to have it read and a review scheduled by the end of this month if I can - I'm trying to slowly but surely make my way through my eARCs!

THEN: I read my first short story collection of 2016 (one of quite a few I'd like to read this year!) and enjoyed it. I loved, loved, loved Silvia Moreno-Garcia's debut novel, Signal to Noise, and when I discovered I have to wait until October before her second novel I thought I might as well check out some of her short fiction. Look out for my review of This Strange Way of Dying on Friday!

NEXT: One of my most anticipated releases of this year is the A Tyranny of Petticoats anthology, which is coming out in March. Marissa Meyer and Robin Talley, two authors I love, have written stories for it, as have Leslye Walton, Lindsay Smith and Elizabeth Wein. I own novels by Walton, Smith and Wein but haven't read them yet, and I'd like to familiarise myself with their work before the anthology is released. I've heard nothing but amazing things about Code Name Verity, so I'm planning to read it first!

What are you reading?

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Top Ten Tuesday | Back to School

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week you compile a list of ten books which coincide with that week's theme. You can find everything you need to know about joining in here!

This week's theme is a freebie! I wasn't sure what I was going to talk about at first, and then I thought I'd talk about some of the books I really enjoyed that I had to read for school and university.

Books I Read for School

Skellig by David Almond: I don't know how well Skellig is known overseas, but it's become a bit of a children's classic here in Britain. Skellig was the very first book I had to read when I started secondary school and I loved it so much. It's enchanting and spooky and hopeful, and one that I recommend you read however old you are.

Holes by Louis Sachar: Pretty much everyone knows this book, right? It's another modern children's classic in my book, and another one I was given to read during my early years of secondary school. I don't actually own copies of Holes or Skellig, so I think I may have to treat myself soon...

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë: I was introduced to Jane Eyre when I was 14, and I've loved it ever since; in fact it's probably Jane Eyre I have to thank for my love of Victorian Literature today. It's a brilliant story, and personally I think Jane is one of the most fantastic heroines ever.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck: Sadly British schools now only look at British Literature when it comes to the GCSEs, which is a real shame and just plain wrong. There's a lot of fantastic British Literature out there, but there's also a great wealth of international work that I wouldn't have known about if I hadn't encountered them during my GCSEs. Anyway. Rant over. When I was in school we were always given a piece of American Lit to read, and we ended up with Of Mice and Men. I didn't have very high hopes for this when I was first given it, but despite its short length it's probably one of the few classics I find myself thinking about quite a lot, even now. It's not a particularly happy story, but it's a great place to start if you're a bit wary of classics!

Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare: Okay, okay, so I know Shakespeare's plays are really meant to be seen and heard rather than read, but I had so much fun reading this one during my A Levels. It certainly helped that I had an amazing English teacher.

Books I Read for University

Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie: And now we move onto the university books. I read this in my first year of university when we were studying postmodernism, and any fans of retellings really need to pick it up. It's such a fun story and there are so many references to old stories from 1001 Nights to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley: I did a course on Romanticism during my second year of university where I ended up studying Frankenstein. I now consider it one of my favourite classics, and I think Mary Shelley was a genius.

Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu: Carmilla is a pre-Dracula vampiric Victorian novella. Try saying that five times fast. I had to read it for my Victorian Gothic module and it's probably my favourite book from that module, and is now another of my favourite classics. It's so good, and great for anyone who's intimidated by classics!

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins: I had to read The Moonstone for my Victorian Popular Fiction module and I fell in love with it. I'm fascinated by imperialism in Victorian Literature, the representation of India and its people, and I ended up writing an essay about imperialism for this module which I got a first for! This is thought to be the very first detective novel, and it's brilliant.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett: This is the other classic I talked about in that essay. I loved the 1993 adaptation of this book growing up, but I'm ashamed to say I didn't actually read it until I studied it at university. I loved the book; it's become another favourite, and it's another book that's a great starting point for anyone intimidated by classics.

What did you talk about this week?

Monday, 25 January 2016

Review | The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney

by Stef Penney

My Rating: 

1867, Canada: as winter tightens its grip on the isolated settlement of Dove River, a man is brutally murdered and a 17-year old boy disappears. Tracks leaving the dead man's cabin head north towards the forest and the tundra beyond. In the wake of such violence, people are drawn to the township - journalists, Hudson's Bay Company men, trappers, traders - but do they want to solve the crime or exploit it? 

One-by-one the assembled searchers set out from Dove River, pursuing the tracks across a desolate landscape home only to wild animals, madmen and fugitives, variously seeking a murderer, a son, two sisters missing for 17 years, a Native American culture, and a fortune in stolen furs before the snows settle and cover the tracks of the past for good.

I closed this book with one main thought: it was alright. For a book that has quite a few five star reviews it wasn't the reaction I was expecting from myself, or the reaction I was particularly hoping for, but there you go. The Tenderness of Wolves is a difficult book for me to review because I didn't dislike it, but I'm not entirely sure if I liked it either.

First of all, this is a great read for January. The wintery Canadian setting is ideal for this time of year, which just so happens to be when Britain gets really bloody cold. It was nice to read a book set in Canada, too; I don't know how many books I've read that are set in Canada, but I'm pretty certain I've never read historical fiction set in Canada.

Though there's a crime in this book, I don't think I'd describe it as crime fiction, and despite its 19th century setting it felt more like literary fiction to me than anything else. This isn't a bad thing; some sections of this book were written beautifully, there was a lovely section towards the end that didn't make me cry but definitely touched me, but then there were others which felt overwritten. Sometimes I felt Stef Penney's presence too keenly, like I could see her there trying to pull the strings and saying 'look how deep and meaningful this bit is', and it felt forced.

The biggest problem with this book for me was simply that Penney tried to include too much. There are so many different characters and storylines in this book, and while they do all fit together, and parts of it are quite clever, there was just too much. I got about two thirds of the way through the book and I was starting to get bored because the story felt, to me, like it was dragging; with each new character Penney introduces we get their life story, and while I did get the sense Penney was really writing about a community of people rather than just one story, I felt like there were quite a few scenes that easily could have been cut. The problem with books like this is that there are always some characters in an ensemble cast that you don't like, so when it comes to reading their chapters, however small, it's boring.

I've seen quite a lot of reviews claiming that the ending is too abrupt, that there are characters we just don't see again, but I didn't get that feeling. Yes this book has a big cast and some of them you don't realise you won't see again until the book closes and you've yet to have another scene with them, but considering I'd already gotten everyone's backstories I didn't feel like I needed to know what happened to all of them afterwards, too. For most of the characters it's fairly obvious what will happen: life will go on, they don't need to spell that out for us.

Though the ending is probably realistic, I personally found it a little unsatisfying. In some respects it's a very quiet novel - it reminded me a little of Year of Wonders, in that they're both slow-moving stories about whole communities - so in hindsight I know I shouldn't have expected an 'unrealistic' ending, but because it begins with such a brutal murder and includes lots of other themes - from asylums to homosexuality to the possibility of an ancient Native American language - the ending wasn't what I'd hoped for. I wanted it to go out with a bit more of a bang, but instead it just... ends.

One thing I did love about this book was the inclusion of several Native American characters; I feel like I come across Native Americans in fiction, film and television far too rarely, so I always enjoy it when they appear. Parker, in particular, was a lovely character, and probably my favourite character in the book.

I don't think my thoughts have come out very coherently here at all, but I'm struggling to make sense of them myself. This is particularly frustrating considering I actually tried to read this book once before and ended up putting it down because I couldn't get into it; this time around I was really enjoying it, and then the more it dragged and the more characters who joined the cast, the less I began to care. 

Ultimately I think whether or not you like this book really does depend entirely on your tastes; if you like slow-moving, character-driven, bittersweet stories then there's a good chance you'll really enjoy this. I enjoyed reading it, but on the whole it's not something I could see myself reading again.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Review | Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

by Celeste Ng

My Rating: 

Lydia is the favourite child of Marilyn and James Lee; a girl who inherited her mother's bright blue eyes and her father's jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue - in Marilyn's case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James's case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the centre of every party. But Lydia is under pressures that have nothing to do with growing up in 1970s small town Ohio. Her father is an American born of first-generation Chinese immigrants, and his ethnicity, and hers, make them conspicuous in any setting. 

When Lydia's body is found in the local lake, James is consumed by guilt and sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to make someone accountable, no matter what the cost. Lydia's older brother, Nathan, is convinced that local bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it's the youngest in the family - Hannah - who observes far more than anyone realises and who may be the only one who knows what really happened. 

I must say a big thank you to Mallory @ The Local Muse for introducing me to this book; I don't tend to read family stories that often, but I'm always interested by mixed race families. As someone from an entirely white family I can't pretend to know what kind of experiences, either good or bad, someone from a mixed race family might have, but it's something I always want to learn more about.

Everything I Never Told You is one of the most devastatingly beautiful books I've ever read. It's also probably the best family story I've ever read, and it might well be one of the best books I read this year. For the past few years I've read something fantastic in January; last year it was Burial Rites, the year before it was American Gods, and now it's this.

Just as I was with The Miniaturist, I'm astounded that Everything I Never Told You is Celeste Ng's debut; her writing style is just stunning, and I will read whatever she publishes next. There's such attention to detail in the way she describes the members of this family, so even though the narration is fairly God-like (she sometimes alludes to things before they happen) we still get to know each character well. This book made me ache for all of them.

As the blurb says, Lydia Lee is the middle and favourite child of her parents, Marilyn and James, but when she's sixteen she goes missing, and her body is later found in the local lake. She appears to have committed suicide, but why would a girl who has it all do a thing like that? Only then do Lydia's family realise that they didn't really know her at all.

I have to be honest I don't tend to read many family stories because there's usually at least one person I don't really care that much about. This was the exception. Marilyn, James, Nath, Lydia, and Hannah are all so beautifully realised that I didn't care who I was reading about as long as I could keep reading and learn more. Even Marilyn and James who both do some pretty terrible things to their children (especially Lydia) and each other are understandable. You don't have to agree with them, you don't even have to sympathise with them, but it's hard not to understand why they are the way they are or why they do the things they do.

There are certain characters, such as neighbourhood boy Jack and even Lydia herself, who I thought were going to be one way and then turned out to be completely different people, which I loved. And then there's Hannah, the youngest child, whom I desperately wanted to cuddle; there's something about the blurb which kind of suggests Hannah has a very central role, but this story has an ensemble cast.

I loved this book. It's haunting and raw and honest. It's exquisitely written and exquisitely plotted. I highly recommend it!

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

This Week in Books | 20/01/16

This week I'm joining in with Lipsy @ Lipsyy Lost & Found to talk about the books I've been reading recently!

NOW: January is when Britain really gets its winter. It always makes me laugh when people start complaining about the cold in November, because January is freezing. I'm in the mood to read some wintery books, and you don't get much more wintery than the middle of the Canadian wilderness. I tried reading The Tenderness of Wolves before and couldn't get into it, but I'm enjoying it a lot more this time around.

THEN: I recently read and adored Celeste Ng's debut, Everything I Never Told You. It's a fantastic book - look out for my review on Friday!

NEXT: I've actually already started The Vanishing Throne, which I received from NetGalley, but I want to finish The Tenderness of Wolves before I continue with it. I'm aiming to have it read this month so I can review it soon, especially as it came out in November. You can check out my review of The Falconer here!

What are you reading?

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Top Ten Tuesday | New to my TBR!

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week you compile a list of ten books which coincide with that week's theme. You can find everything you need to know about joining in here!

This week's theme is 'Top Ten Books I've Recently Added to my TBR'.


Harrow County, Vol.1: Countless Haints by Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook: I want to keep reading more graphic novels, and this series sounds like a lot of fun. Ever since I started reading Shirley Jackson I've been a little bit in love with Southern Gothic so I'd love to check some out in graphic novel form!

The Big Lie by Julie Mayhew: I haven't read any dystopia in a long time, and this one sounds very unique. Although I always find it weird when the main character in a book or movie or tv show is also called Jess...

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E. K. Johnston: The author behind A Thousand Nights has turned her talents to a Shakespeare retelling. We can expect to see a lot of those this year, what with 2016 marking 400 years since Shakespeare's death. I'm not a big fan of The Winter's Tale, but I love the sound of this book; I really appreciate how much anti-rape culture we're seeing in YA lately.

The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson: I have an eARC of this novel from NetGalley, and it sounds like a quiet, charming little read. I plan to read and review it soon!

Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal: I still haven't read Mary Robinette Kowal's Glamourist Histories series, but this book sounds very cool; I love stories involving mediums.


Do It Like a Woman... and Change the World by Caroline Criado-Perez: I just love the sound of this one. I'm all for feminist non-fiction.

Female Gothic Histories: Gender, History and the Gothic by Diana Wallace: I started working at the University of Wales Press this month, and this is one of their books; they have a brilliant series of Gothic literary criticism and I'd love to read this one, as it's all about historical fiction and how female authors have used the Gothic to reclaim their place in history through historical fiction.

My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff: A memoir about a writer who works in publishing. I wonder why I want to read that... In all seriousness, though, this sounds like a really interesting read.

Science in Wonderland: The Scientific Fairy Tales of Victorian Britain by Melanie Keene: I love Victorian Literature, it was my favourite period of literature to study at university, and this book sounds so cool. Given that the 19th century was a period of such huge scientific change I've always been fascinated by the effect that had on the literature of the time, so I can't wait to read this one.

The View from the Cheap Seats: A Collection of Introductions, Essays, and Assorted Writings by Neil Gaiman: Neil Gaiman's one of my favourite authors, but other than his Make Good Art speech I don't think I've actually read any of his non-fiction - this sounds good!

Which books made your list this week?

Monday, 18 January 2016

My Most Anticipated Releases of 2016!

Okay so I already talked about some of my anticipated releases this year in one of my Top Ten Tuesday posts, but I'm not usually the kind of reader that has ten books I desperately want to read. Today I'm going to talk about the select few 2016 releases that I am dying to get my hands on right this very second. There are six in total, and I want all of them now.

The Muse by Jessie Burton

In at number six is Jessie Burton's second novel. I finally read her debut, The Miniaturist, last year and I thought it was exquisite, so I can't wait to see what her second novel is like. Mostly I'm just looking forward to more of her gorgeous writing style.

As I Descended by Robin Talley

At number five it's Robin Talley's third novel, As I Descended; a modern day lesbian retelling of Macbeth, which just so happens to be my favourite Shakespeare play. When I made the decision to number these (it was so much easier to put these in an order than my top three books of last year) I surprised myself when I realised Talley wasn't higher on the list. I think she's a brilliant voice in YA and I loved her debut, Lies We Tell Ourselves, but unfortunately I didn't like her second novel, What We Left Behind, all that much, so I'm hoping her third novel is much better!

Unicorn Tracks by Julia Ember

More LGBT+ YA at number four, and the only debut on my list. I've been eagerly anticipating this book ever since I first stumbled across it; I'm a little bit obsessed with unicorns so I'm really looking forward to reading this. 

A Tyranny of Petticoats ed. by Jessica Spotswood

Another dash of historical fiction on my list at number three with an anthology I'm so excited for. These are all historical fiction stories with leading ladies, featuring authors such as Marissa Meyer, Robin Talley, and Elizabeth Wein. I've already preordered this one and I can't wait!

Stars Above by Marissa Meyer

Yet another short story collection at number two, and another one I've already preordered. I love The Lunar Chronicles and I can't wait to complete my collection with this book, even though it's going to be difficult to say goodbye to these characters.

Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

We're finishing how we began: with a second novel. At number one, my most anticipated read of 2016, it's Silvia Moreno-Garcia's new novel, Certain Dark Things. Unless you happened to shut your eyes every time you clicked on my blog last year then you'll know I adored Moreno-Garcia's debut, Signal to Noise, and I've been keeping an eye on her to see what she'll release next. It's been a while since I last read a vampire book, and this sounds so good. I can't wait to sink my teeth into it (hurr hurr hurr). Needless to say I've preordered this one, but I have to wait until October before I can read it. How will I cope?

Which books are you most looking forward to this year?

Friday, 15 January 2016

The 'Boys Will Be Boys' Bullshit

I’m stepping away from books today to talk about something a little more personal, and something that I believe very strongly. 

I saw a quote the other day that got me thinking: ‘be who you needed when you were younger’, and looking back at my school days there are lots of things I wish I’d had the confidence to protest against. I wish someone had been there to tell me that my feelings that something was wrong were valid.

I used to think feminism was a dirty word. I used to think if I didn’t wear makeup I was somehow ‘better’ than the girls that did. As someone white and privileged who grew up in a small, mostly white country town I was very ignorant and I had a lot of internalised misogyny, but there were a lot of things I also fought against vehemently (and thankfully, I've learned a lot since then). Firstly, I hated the idea that because I was a girl I had to set an example in which it was kind to ‘let the boys win’. I wasn’t interested in that. I was a bright child - I knew I was a bright child - so when boys in school tried to tell me their way of incorrectly spelling something was right I wouldn’t back down. I’d even be that annoying child that went to the teacher for confirmation just to prove my point.

I’m still a stickler for spelling now.

I also refused to let boys at my school get away with making fun of the girls as we went through puberty. I developed early; at twelve years old I’d already started my period and begun to develop breasts, while many girls around me remained very slim. I envied their breastless chests. I couldn’t run without someone, sometimes several years my senior, making some sort of comment about my body and I didn’t know how to respond. I was twelve.

Us girls couldn’t win. My classmates who had yet to develop were teased for being ‘flat-chested’, and when I told the boys to sod off I was teased for having breasts. It’s no exaggeration: teenage girls can’t win.

What sticks in my mind most about these boys, however, is how they thought they had the right to touch me without my permission. When I turned fourteen it didn’t stop at teasing or inappropriate comments; I can vividly remember boys in my classes - particularly in classes such as Art and Design & Technology in which we weren’t sitting at desks where our teachers could see us - grabbing my breasts and then running off, giggling all the while. Boys would stroke my legs or pinch my bum, but for the most part it was my chest that fascinated them. I could almost pity them, in hindsight.

Telling them to leave me alone did nothing. If anything they seemed to take more enjoyment in touching me when they knew I didn’t like to be touched. The worst thing is most of these boys have probably grown into young men who either don’t remember touching girls without their permission, or feel no remorse about it if they do. I look back at that time and I wish I could go back and tell my teachers or even my parents. I don’t know what my teachers would have done - it’s no secret that young girls are encouraged not to wear short skirts or shorts for fear of 'distracting the boys', when in reality it’s the boys, and even the grown men, who should learn to stop sexualising girls’ thighs. The sad thing is that mentality doesn’t go away as we get older; the international SlutWalk was bred from a police officer’s statement that if young women don't want to be raped they shouldn't dress 'like sluts'.

In any case they didn’t have that pathetic excuse with me. Like many of my friends I wore trousers to school and I liked to wear shapeless sweaters; the fact that I had breasts made me uncomfortable because they were so often stared at. Basically, our clothes have nothing to do with it.

This idea that it’s our fault is poisonous. I didn’t tell any teachers or my parents about what boys at school did to me because it was happening to everyone; as girls we’re raised to expect this kind of behaviour, and to rise above it by ignoring it. And remember: never encourage it! I never saw any boy punished at school for his behaviour towards any of the girls, so it never occurred to me that he could be punished for it and, hopefully, learn from it.

I wish someone back then had told me that my feelings mattered. That I wasn’t a prude because I didn’t like it, but that my feeling that there had been an injustice - that someone had touched me without my permission and gotten away with it - wasn’t melodramatic or silly. I wish someone had told me my feelings were justified.

Worse things have happened, and are happening, to women all around the world. In the grand scheme of things I’ve been fairly lucky. I wish I could say these instances  didn’t affect me in the slightest, but I’m done with being the bigger person and staying quiet. What they did, whether they meant it maliciously or not, was not okay. It wasn’t okay when it happened to me, and it wasn’t okay when it happened to any of the other girls in my school. It’s not okay when it happens to any girl in any school.

So this is my letter to any young girls out there, whether someone’s touched you without your permission for the first time or the hundredth time: It’s not okay, and your feelings that it’s not okay are valid. Please tell your teacher, talk to your parents or your siblings or anyone you trust. Talk to your friends. Talk to your male friends who might not even realise there’s anything wrong. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and others. Your body is yours, and you are the only person who gets to dictate who touches it.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Review | And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

by Agatha Christie

My Rating: 

First, there were ten - a curious assortment of strangers summoned as weekend guests to a private island off the coast of Devon. Their host, an eccentric millionaire unknown to all of them, is nowhere to be found. All that the guests have in common is a wicked past they're unwilling to reveal - and a secret that will seal their fate. For each has been marked for murder. One by one they fall prey. Before the weekend is out, there will be none. And only the dead are above suspicion.

This was my first foray into Agatha Christie, and I was a little bit naughty; I watched the recent BBC mini series before I read the book, meaning I already knew who the murderer was going into it. I didn't mind that too much, though, because from a writer's perspective it was really interesting for me to see how she'd written clues into her prose which, if I were going into it blind, I wouldn't have picked up on.

I also noticed that Vera, one of the main characters out of the ensemble cast, had a lot more agency in the adaptation than she does in the book. Perhaps I'd think differently if I hadn't watched the adaptation first, but I actually preferred the mini series to the book.

That's not to say Agatha Christie wasn't a great writer. I'll admit her writing style was a lot simpler than I was expecting, but there's no denying that this woman was brimming with ideas and I can see why And Then There Were None is considered to be her masterpiece. It's completely separate to Poirot and Miss Marple, and a lot more sinister. She deserves all the praise she gets for creating this story.

However, I felt as though this book could have been truly great if she'd spent a little more time on it. I don't think she rushed it - I don't know how long she spent writing it at all, perhaps it was years - but there were times when it felt as though she'd thought of a story that she didn't quite know what to do with. The way events plan out is clever, it's only when she tries to explain how everything happened that, to me, it felt a bit weak.

It was a quick, easy read, though, and if you like your mysteries and whodunnits I recommend giving it a try!

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Top Ten Tuesday | If I Could Turn Back Time

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week you compile a list of ten books which coincide with that week's theme. You can find everything you need to know about joining in here!

This week's theme is 'Top Ten 2015 Releases I Meant To Get To But Didn't'. While I thought I did a lot better at reading books that were released in 2015 in 2015, there were still a few that managed to slip by me because I got distracted by other books or I simply wasn't in the mood to read them. Hopefully I can cross them off my TBR soon!

Mistress Firebrand by Donna Thorland: This is the one I'm most ashamed to have not yet read, as the author very kindly contacted me and sent me an ARC. I kept meaning to read it, and for whatever reason I didn't get around to it. I really want to cross it off my TBR soon, because it sounds so fun!

The Hourglass Factory by Lucy Ribchester: Yet more historical fiction that I didn't get around to, which is pretty bad considering I've owned my copy of this for almost a year. Hopefully I'll get to it soon, because I don't think I've ever actually read anything about suffragettes. That's something I need to change.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab: I know, I know. I'm pretty sure I'm the only person left in the world who hasn't read this yet. I've owned it since it came out, I just haven't gotten to it yet, but with the second book coming out next month I'm hoping to read it soon!

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho: I love historical fiction that includes magic, and as I've mentioned before the entire focus of my MA was on the representation of minorities in historical fiction, so the fact that the sorcerer at the centre of this book is a poc is pretty darn cool. I didn't discover this one until the last couple of months of 2015, so I didn't get around to it, but I do have a very pretty copy I'm hoping to read soon.

The Lake House by Kate Morton: I haven't read any Kate Morton, but after watching this interview with her I've been very interested in reading her most recent novel. Hopefully I'll read it soon!

The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan: I also haven't read Kirsty Logan's most recent short story collection, A Portable Shelter, and I'm hoping to read both books as soon as I can. I don't think I've read any books that incorporate Scottish folklore and this one sounds very magical.

Resistance Is Futile by Jenny Colgan: I enjoy Colgan's contemporary, so when I heard she'd written a book described as Bridget Jones's Diary meets Independence Day I had to have it. I just haven't read it yet...

A Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston: I received this gorgeous book from the lovely Mikayla @ Mikayla's Bookshelf for Christmas. It had been on my radar for a while, but it wasn't until I saw Natalie @ A Sea Change's review that I knew I wanted to read it. I can't wait to dive in - it sounds magical!

White Trash Zombie Gone Wild by Diana Rowland: Last year I read the first three books in the White Trash Zombie series and thoroughly enjoyed them, but I still have to read the fourth, How the White Trash Zombie Got Her Groove Back, and this, the fifth. I'm looking forward to them; they're such fun reads and I recommend them to anyone looking for a new urban fantasy series.

The Dinosaur Lords by Victor Milan: This is about dinosaurs. Obviously I was going to get it. I just haven't been in the mood for it yet, but with the second book coming out this summer I'm hoping to read it in the first few months of this year.

Which books made your list this week?

Monday, 11 January 2016

Monthly Wrap-Up | December 2015

This is going up a little later than I hoped it would, but this is everything I got up to in December!

by Lewis Carroll

by Rachel McMillan

by Barbara Jean Hicks and Brittney Lee

by Aaron Blabey

by Holly Martin

by Sarah Waters

by Susan Bordo

by Becky Chambers

by Holly Martin

by Noelle Stevenson

by Agatha Christie

December was quite a varied reading month! I was hoping to fill my December with festive, wintery reads, but the three Christmassy reads I read (two of which I DNF'd) I really, really didn't like, and it just bummed me out. So instead I read whatever I felt like reading, and I ended up reading some really brilliant books alongside the not so great ones. My highlight of the month was definitely The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, which now has a firm spot on my list of favourite books.

Unless you've been living under a rock, you'll know that the new film in the Star Wars franchise was released in December. In all honesty when I first heard they were making a new Star Wars film, I was just indifferent; I don't dislike the franchise, but I'm not obsessed with it either. I have gotten more interested in sci-fi over the years, but I'm still much more of a Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings girl.

Then I was weak for marketing ploys. I kept seeing the trailer and friends of mine kept saying it was a brilliant film, so in the end I figured I might as well go and see it - especially while it's still in the cinema. I have to admit I did really enjoy it! Will I buy it when it's released on DVD? I don't know, but probably. If nothing else it was pretty fantastic to see a leading lady in such a huge franchise; Rey's a brilliant heroine, and I loved Finn.

I also watched the three-part adaptation of And Then There Were None on the BBC, which had a wonderful cast including actors such as Charles Dance, Anna Maxwell Martin and Miranda Richardson. Aidan Turner was also in it, and spent one scene in nothing but a towel. It was a good scene.

As I also read And Then There Were None in December, I think I may do a Book vs. Adaptation post soon!

by Rachel McMillan

by Barbara Jean Hicks and Brittney Lee

by Sarah Waters

by Susan Bordo

by Becky Chambers

So it was Christmas and New Year in December. Obviously. Thanks for pointing that out, Jess.

I spent Christmas Day with my parents; it was a really nice day with a delicious dinner and lots of lovely presents. I was really pleased that my parents liked the things I gave them, and I got some amazing presents, too, including a pile of new books. I got some wonderful presents from Natalie @ A Sea Change and Mikayla @ Mikayla's Book Shelf, and I recommend checking out both of their blogs!

If you're interested, you can check out the books I got for Christmas here!

I spend every New Year with my best friend, Laura, who I've known since the two us were ten years old. Unfortunately Laura lives in York, which is a beautiful city but one of the cities that was hit by floods at the end of 2015. I spent New Year's with my family instead, which was nice, but it didn't feel like New Year without Laura. Hopefully I can visit her soon!

I also ended up getting offered a new job in December! I'm now a Sales and Marketing Assistant at the University of Wales Press, a temporary position until the beginning of April - I'm pleased to have another job, it means I can keep earning money (and the pay's actually better than my last job) but I'm still hoping to get a job in England as soon as I can. Wales is lovely, but it's not quite home to me.

Mallory @ The Local Muse's A list of Rejected Thesis Sentences

Rinn @ Rinn Reads' I Don't Get 'Book Boyfriends'

Mikayla @ Mikayla's Bookshelf's Things I've learned as a book blogger