Wednesday, 27 September 2017

This Week in Books | 27/09/17

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

Now: If you saw my Autumn TBR you'll know autumn always puts me in the mood for books set in the 19th century, the gloomier the better, so I'm about to start this 2017 release based on the murder of Charlotte Dymond in Cornwall in 1844. I'm also planning to pick up Gail Carriger's Heartless and Sarah Schmidt's See What I Have Done very soon, and to continue reading Miranda Kaufmann's Black Tudors which I began at the end of last week.

Then: I recently re-read Jane Austen's Persuasion, the book that first introduced me to Austen when I was 18 and subsequently made me hate her, but now that I'm older and my tastes have changed (and my appreciation for Austen has grown) I decided to give it another try and, this time around, I really enjoyed it. I know Natalie @ A Sea Change will be proud. Look out for my review coming soon!

Next: I'm so behind on my NetGalley reads this year and Silvia Moreno-Garcia's third novel, The Beautiful Ones, is one of my most anticipated reads of 2017, so I want to get to it soon and hopefully read and review it before its release. I'm also planning to pick up The Tenant of Wildfell Hall soon to get started on this year's Victober!

What have you been reading recently?

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Top Ten Tuesday | They #$@&%*! you up, your mum and dad...

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 'Ten Books That Feature Characters...' and I've decided to talk about books with protagonists who are parents, because so often parenthood is the end of someone's story and I've never been entirely satisfied with the idea that a person's life comes to an end as soon as they have a baby. You're still you, you just have an extra responsibility and that doesn't mean your life and your interests have to come to a stand still. Isn't it much more interesting for children to be raised by parents that actually have personalities?

Five of these books I've read and five are on my TBR!

The title is a line from This Be the Verse by Philip Larkin.

Books I've Read

The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin: I think Essun is the most bad-ass mother I've come across in fiction. There's not much I can say about this book, and this series, without giving too much away, all I will say is that you should read it.

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples: The main conflict of this series is that a child has been born to two people who should be on opposing sides of an intergalactic war. That the series is narrated by that child is a lovely touch, I think.

Knife Edge by Malorie Blackman: Noughts & Crosses is one of my favourite books and the series continues to get darker and darker. Again there's not much I can say about Knife Edge without spoiling the series, but its honest depiction of early motherhood has always stayed with me.

The Death Maze by Ariana Franklin: I don't love this series but, when I'm in the mood for an easy to read historical thriller, I do find myself turning to it. Set in the middle ages, protagonist Adelia is one of the earliest working single mothers I've come across in fiction!

The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney: One of the driving forces behind this novel is protagonist Mrs. Ross's search for her teenage son who is suspected of murdering one of their neighbours. Really the book is about the town as a whole but it's an interesting read and one I'd recommend for the winter months!

Books on My TBR

The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss: I've heard nothing but amazing things about this novel, told from the point of view of a stay-at-home dad which isn't a perspective you see often in fiction.

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry: Cora, recently widowed and glad to be rid of a husband who wasn't particularly nice, decides to use her widowhood to pursue her love of science, with her lady's maid and young son in tow. I'm determined to get to this one soon.

Timeless by Gail Carriger: Another one I'm aiming to read by the end of this year so I can finally finish the series and move on to Carriger's other books set in this world. I'm just about to start Heartless, in which Alexia is heavily pregnant, so by Timeless she'll have a mini-Alexia to keep her eye on. It's a nice change to come across a series that doesn't leave the characters behind as soon as they 'settle down' - Alexia's married and pregnant, but she's certainly not ready to settle!

The Untold by Courtney Collins: I'm not 100% sure but I believe this one is based on a true story. I've realised this year just how little I read about Australia and it's something I want to rectify, starting with this book!

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë: I've read bits of this book but still need to sit down and read it from beginning to end. I really should get to it soon. Like Cora in The Essex Serpent, the heroine of this novel also has a young son to think of and, considering the time in which she lives, it's pretty damn admirable what she does to keep him safe.

What did you talk about this week?

Thursday, 21 September 2017

#Victober TBR!

Ange @ Beyond the Pages, Katie @ Books and Things, Kate @ Kate Howe and Lucy @ Lucy the Reader are back for the second year in a row with #Victober - a read-a-thon focused on British and Irish literature written during the reign of Queen Victoria from 1837-1901.

Victorian literature was always my favourite era of literature to study when I was a student, I studied Victorian Popular Fiction and Victorian Gothic in the final year of my undergraduate degree and loved it, but I don't read much of it now that I'm no longer a student. There are so many more contemporary writers, particularly non-British, LGBT+ and poc writers, whom I'd rather devote my reading time to.

Having said that, I do still enjoy classics when I pick them up so I thought I'd join in and try to read a bit of Victorian literature this October alongside all of the other books I want to read this autumn!

There are five challenges:
  • Read a Victorian book by a Irish, Scottish or Welsh author
  • Read a Victorian book that was recommended to you 
  • Read a supernatural Victorian book
  • Read a lesser known Victorian book
  • Read a Victorian book by a female author
I'm only going to attempt three of them, because I don't want Victorian literature to completely take over my reading month, so the challenges I've crossed through are the ones I won't be tackling.

Read a Victorian book by an Irish, Scottish or Welsh author // I'm going to re-read The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen, because I think I need to read it again to appreciate it. It's described as one of the best horror stories ever written but I remember being left a bit disappointed with it, so I'd like to give it another try. Arthur Machen was a Welsh author who focused on supernatural/horror stories, so he's worth checking out if you're into Victorian Gothic.

Read a supernatural Victorian book // Another re-read, this time of one of my favourite pieces of Victorian literature: Carmilla. Carmilla is a vampire story that pre-dates Dracula and I really, really enjoyed it when I had to study it for university. It'd be nice to read it again just for the pure enjoyment of it.

Read a Victorian book by a female author // I love Anne Brontë, but I've never read her masterpiece the whole way through. I've read bits of it here and there and I understand the social importance of it, but I want to read it properly so I can appreciate the often forgotten Brontë's genius. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is the book I'd like to focus my attention on for this read-a-thon.

Are you taking part in #Victober? What are some of your favourite Victorian novels?

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Top Ten Tuesday | My Autumn 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 all about our Autumn TBRs, and if you've been following my blog for a while you'll know I love me a seasonal TBR. Even if I don't get around to all of the books on my TBR, and I often don't because I'm very much a mood reader, I really enjoy making themed lists because I'm that sad.

As I'm sure a lot of readers do, I love to read spooky books in the autumn close to Halloween, but something about the autumn also always puts me in the mood for books set in the 19th century. I don't know what it is; I guess it's rare to come across a summery 19th century book, most historical fiction set in this era likes to portray it as cold and gloomy and it makes for ideal autumn reading.

The Good People by Hannah Kent: Considering how much I loved Kent's debut, Burial Rites (reviewed here), I definitely should have read this one by now but I haven't been in the mood to pick it up yet. It sounds like it'll make for a great autumn read, though!

Things Half in Shadow by Alan Finn: Set in 19th century Philadelphia, this novel follows a crime reporter who sets out to expose the spiritualists of the city as frauds, but when the city's only supposedly genuine medium is murdered mid-séance he sets out to catch the killer. This sounds like the perfect book to read around Halloween.

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood: I've been meaning to read this one for years and still haven't, but I'd love to read it this year - especially as there's a new adaptation, starring Anna Paquin, coming to Netflix in September!

Falling Creatures by Katherine Stansfield: This 2017 release is right up my alley: it's historical, it's based on a true murder and it's set in Cornwall. The paperback is being released in October and I'd like to get my hands on a copy, unless the kindle edition becomes a little cheaper beforehand...

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt: This one sounds fairly similar to Alias Grace, again focusing on a 19th century murderess, but in See What I Have Done Sarah Schmidt has chosen to explore the famous Lizzie Borden. I've received an eARC from NetGalley that I really want to read and review, but I haven't been in the mood for a book this dark yet - the sun's shining too brightly!

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry: I've owned a copy of this since its publication and have heard amazing things about it, and I think it's the hype that's made me hesitant to read it thus far but it sounds like it'll be a great autumnal read!

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho: I've owned this one for a while now and still haven't read it because, unfortunately, I haven't seen great reviews so far - I'm still very interested in it, though!

The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: Moreno-Garcia's debut, Signal to Noise, is one of my favourite novels and I really enjoyed her sophomore novel, Certain Dark Things, too. Now Moreno-Garcia's third novel is a Fantasy of Manners and I can't wait to dive into it!

A Murder in Time by Julie McElwain: I haven't seen the best reviews of this one, but it's about an FBI agent who finds herself in the 19th century after stumbling into a stairwell. Forced to adapt to the time period until she can work out how to get back to her own time, she can put her skills to good use when a young woman is murdered. I'm really intrigued by the idea of a modern day FBI agent dealing with a historical murder case.

Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng: Firstly, that cover is gorgeous, and secondly, this novel is about missionaries in the land of fae. Why wouldn't I want to read it?

Which books made your list this week?

Monday, 18 September 2017

Books I Want to Re-Read

We all have a different relationship to re-reading, whether it's something we love to do and do often or something we never do. I'm a reader who's gone from one extreme to the other as I've grown; when I was younger I read and re-read my favourite books time and time and time again and was never any less delighted by them, and was recently reminded of this when I talked about Jacqueline Wilson last week.

I re-read Wilson's books an extortionate amount as a child, as well as my favourite Roald Dahls, such as The Magic Finger and Fantastic Mr. Fox, and my extensive Horrible Histories collection, but as I got older I began to devour more and more books until I didn't have the time to re-read if I wanted to keep reading new things. I fell in love with discovering new stories and characters and worlds and authors, just as I'd fallen in love with that safety net of familiarity in my childhood, and in doing so my love for re-reading was forgotten.

Then recently, having read Kirsty Logan's A Portable Shelter (reviewed here) and craving more short stories, I re-read Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories (reviewed here) and really enjoyed the experience - especially as I didn't actually like the book the first time I read it about seven years ago. Now I'm keen to make more time for re-reading, and below are four books from my shelves I'd like to re-read, all for various reasons!

I first read Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus when it came out. Everyone was talking about it and I was certainly intrigued, which was unusual for me because I generally tend to be wary of hyped books since the dark reading years of my teens when every YA book was the same. I ended up enjoying the book, but not as much as I'd hoped and definitely not as much as what felt like every other reader. Morgenstern's descriptions and her world-building were stunning, I loved the idea of her circus, but I need characters to grab hold of me and make me care and something about Celia and Marco prevented me from doing that. Individually I quite liked them - Celia, in particular, and her relationship with her father intrigued me - but I didn't understand why the two of them liked each other and when I reached the end I realised I hadn't really cared what happened, I was just ready for it to end. My reading tastes have changed a lot since then, and I'd like to re-read this book at some point to see if I've grown to appreciate it more or if I feel just as 'meh' about the whole thing as I did then.

Sadly, you can only read Rebecca for the first time once, and I loved it when I did. If you haven't read it yet I can't recommend it enough, it's du Maurier's masterpiece and such a brilliantly written and plotted novel - it's all the more enjoyable the less you know going into it. Knowing what happens in the story and how it ends, I'd love to re-read it and see if du Maurier left any little nuggets of premonition for her re-readers.

The Goblin Emperor is one I've already re-read twice (once as an audiobook, so I guess that was more of a re-listen) and was the first book I re-read in a long, long time when I picked it up for a second time last year having loved it in 2015. If someone put a gun to my head and forced me to choose one all-time favourite book, I think I'd have to say this one - Maia is certainly one of my favourite protagonists of all time and I love how, more than anything, this book is hopeful, decent fantasy and such a soothing antidote to Games of Thrones' brutality. I can't get enough of this book, and I think it'll be one I continue to re-read until Katherine Addison gives me another book set in this world.

Persuasion was Jane Austen's final novel, published posthumously, and while Pride and Prejudice is a firm favourite it's actually Persuasion that's considered to be her masterpiece by many Austen fans. Until the past year or so, I definitely wouldn't have described myself as one such fan. Like The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories I was introduced to Austen through education when I was given this book to read during sixth form and it woke a hatred of Austen in me that it's taken me a long time to shake off. My reading tastes hadn't developed enough at the time for me to appreciate that Austen was writing a very tongue-in-cheek form of societal critique, and I was so frustrated that a woman I was constantly being told was an early feminist writer had written novel after novel about love and marriage. Why couldn't any of her heroines just stay single? Then I did that thing that most of us we all do: I grew up. As a twenty-something I understand Austen far more than eighteen year old me ever did, something I'm sure my English teacher would be incredibly proud of, and now I'd like to give Persuasion a second chance. I've actually started my re-read of this one and, while it hasn't completely grabbed me, I'm not hating it...

Do you re-read books? Is it something you'd like to do more of or less? Which books would you like to re-read one day?

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Top Ten Tuesday | Throwback Tuesday

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 throwback freebie, so I thought I'd talk about one of my absolute favourite childhood authors: Jacqueline Wilson. I'm not sure how well-known she is outside the UK, but Wilson's a prolific children's writer here and I read anything and everything she wrote and spent a lot of my childhood re-reading my favourites.

Vicky Angel: This was one of the very first Jacqueline Wilson books I can remember reading, and one of the first books I ever read to talk about death without being patronising. I have a red-haired sister called Vickie and this book has a red-haired character called Vicky so I couldn't resist picking it up - if I remember correctly my mum and I originally got it to give to someone else as a birthday present, but then I ended up reading it instead and my mum let me keep it.

Best Friends: I ended up moving four times as a child due to my dad's job, and leaving friends behind never got any easier, so this book spoke to me in a way a lot of Wilson's other books didn't. There are other books of hers I love more than this one, but this one will always have a special place in my heart all the same.

The Illustrated Mum: I re-read this book so many times when I was little. If I had to choose I'd probably say this one is my favourite of all her books.

How to Survive Summer Camp: I remember this book really surprising me by how much I ended up enjoying it. I borrowed it from the library because I needed something new to read and I knew I loved Jacqueline Wilson but I wasn't sure if this one would be for me. I ended up re-reading it several times.

The Diamond Girls: Another of my all-time favourites and another that I re-read a lot as a child. As one of three sisters myself, I've always loved reading stories about families with multiple daughters.

Take a Good Look: One of Wilson's darker stories, Take a Good Look follows a visually impaired girl after she's kidnapped. I remember feeling so nervous reading this as a child, and this was another one I re-read a few times because it got me thinking about what I would do if something like that had happened to me.

Midnight: This one's probably one of Wilson's most sinister stories, it's the one novel of hers I remember making me feel really uneasy, yet it's still another one I know I read more than once.

Girls Under Pressure: I loved the Girls series growing up, featuring probably the first overweight protagonist I ever encountered in fiction which meant a lot to a young girl whose journey into puberty involved gaining weight. This book in the series, in particular, stuck with me because protagonist Ellie becomes so obsessed with comparing her body type to that of her friend's that she tries all these crazy diets that make her unwell. It made me feel a little less alone in my strange new body.

Lola Rose: My third favourite alongside The Illustrated Mum and The Diamond Girls, and one that I can still vividly remember re-reading time and time again. I just couldn't get enough of this one.

Glubbslyme: This is probably my least favourite of the ten books here, and the one I read the least amount of times, but it has to have a mention because it features a witch and I remember it being a lot of fun to read. I loved saying the title when I was little, too.

What did you talk about this week?

Monday, 11 September 2017

Has IT reignited my love of horror?

I've never liked clowns. If someone has to paint a smile on then I can't quite bring myself to trust them - even Ronald McDonald has always had me a bit suspicious. My true fear of clowns began, however, when I was very young - around five or six, I think? - when my parents took my sisters and I to the circus. The clowns didn't freak me out until my dad was picked for a trick - you know the one, where the 'victim' has to stand up against a dartboard, surrounded by inflated balloons, and the clowns throw knives - and, being only around five or six, I didn't understand that this was a trick. I genuinely thought there was a chance my dad was going to be injured and it upset me a lot.

'Please don't hurt my daddy!' I cried, and one of the clowns turned on me and shouted at me, 'comically', to shut up. I've hated them ever since and I don't think my parents ever took me to the circus again.

Like many people then, Stephen King's IT has always scared the living crap out of me. I tried reading the book and didn't get past the prologue, the adaptation starring Tim Curry scared me for a long time because he looked so, well, clownish, and then a remake, directed by Andrés Muschietti and starring Bill Skarsgård as the titular character, was announced and, like the glutton for punishment that I am, I decided to go and see it.

The result? I loved it. In fact I think IT is my new favourite horror film.

That's a weird thing for me to admit for several reasons: firstly, I'm not sure I really have a previous favourite horror film - The Silence of the Lambs would have been my previous answer if I had to think of one, but I think of The Silence of the Lambs as more of a thriller than a horror - because I don't tend to watch many of them, which leads me on to my second reason which is that I don't actually like horror films that much. I'm a big, big wuss. Every now and then I like scaring myself, all while knowing I'm probably not going to sleep properly for a couple of weeks.

I've always liked spooky things, though, even though I've always been such a scaredy-cat. I was obsessed with ghost stories as a child and there are plenty of horror films I've seen which have scared me because, like I said, I am a massive wuss, but they've always left me a little disappointed, too. So many horror movies, especially the teen slashers that spawn sequel after sequel, churn out the jump scares and the gore without any real substance, and for so long I've been yearning for a horror movie with characters I genuinely care about and worry for. Enter IT.

That all of IT's cast, aside from the titular monster himself, are children certainly doesn't guarantee the film's success. There are so many fantastic child actors out there, but unfortunately there are just as many films starring children who can't really act. This isn't the case here, I loved the kids and the chemistry between all of them is superb.

I haven't watched the show yet myself, but I have it on good authority that if you're a fan of Stranger Things you'll love this movie and these kids. Bill Skarsgård is brilliant as Pennywise but the kids, their relationship and their personal stories, are what makes this film and that's why I loved it as much as I did.

This is horror how I like horror, with the emphasis on the people having to deal with a terrifying place or scenario or person or entity rather than on that terrifying thing itself. IT has helped me realise that I don't stay away from reading horror because I don't like horror, but because years and years of bad movies have made me suspicious of the genre. Is that fair when books and films are completely different mediums? No, not at all, but life isn't fair.

So I'd like to read some more horror, because I think I'm going to find more books like IT than movies - though, ironically, not the original IT as I'm not the biggest fan of Stephen King's writing style. I want character-driven, character-focused horror, and if it happens to involve ghosts or witches and female leads I'll be even more inclined to read it.

Do you have any recommendations? Are you a fan of horror or is it a genre you stay away from? Are you planning to see IT? I can't recommend it enough, go and check it out!

You'll float, too.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Review | The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter

by Angela Carter

My Rating: 

From familiar fairy tales and legends--Little Red Riding Hood, Bluebeard, Puss-in-Boots, Beauty and the Beast, vampires, and werewolves--Angela Carter has created an absorbing collection of dark, sensual, fantastic stories.

I wasn't introduced to Angela Carter in the best way. I was pretty bright at school and I loved English Literature, but at 17 and 18 I wasn't as sophisticated as many other people my age out there were - writers like Angela Carter and Jane Austen baffled me rather than amazed me. I just didn't 'get' them, and because I didn't get them I translated that confusion into contempt and decided I didn't like them.

I was first introduced to Angela Carter in sixth form when we had to read Wise Children and it wasn't a good way for me to be introduced to her as a writer. Some of the students loved it, but I wasn't a fan of bizarre fiction then and that novel was way too weird for my tastes. It still is, to be honest. Foolishly, however, I let that novel taint my view of Carter's other work, so when I was introduced to The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories I decided I didn't like it before I'd even read it.

This is basically a very long-winded way of me saying that I finally decided to give Carter another chance - I've grown as a reader and my tastes are very different to what they were at 18 - and this time around, when I read The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories, I bloody loved it. I finally 'got' her.

I often see this collection referred to as a collection of retellings, but I'm not sure if I'd describe them that way. Are these the original fairy tales? No, but to me they feel more like updated versions of the originals than complete retellings. After all, there are so many different versions of fairy tales all around the world; the Grimm Brothers collected their tales, they didn't write them themselves. I mention this because, to me, The Bloody Chamber is always what I think of when I think of the Bluebeard tale - even when I read this collection before and didn't really care for it that story stuck in my head, and I now know it, and love it, far better than any other version.

The first three stories in this collection were definitely my favourite, but there weren't any that I disliked. Even the stories that I still found just plain weird were a joy to read because the way Carter uses language is such a treat; after The Bloody Chamber are two versions of Beauty and the Beast back-to-back, my other two favourite stories in the collection, and even though they were the same story at their core I wasn't bored reading them so close together. In fact those two stories in particular are testament to Carter's talent as a writer; that she can tell the same story in two such different ways, without repeating herself, shows true skill.

This collection is strange and vulgar and sometimes enigmatic, but I had so much fun reading it and it's definitely a book I'm going to re-read in future as I think I'm going to take something new from it each time. I'm so glad I gave Carter (and myself) a second chance.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Welcome to Jessticulates!

For several years now you'll have known me as Jess @ Curiouser and Curiouser, over at, but I've been thinking of changing that for a while now and, today, I decided to just go ahead and do it!

My content will be exactly the same, I'm still a nerdy book blogger who should be reading more than she is, I just wanted to give my blog a new name, something a little more original to me and something that meant my blog title and my blog URL are the same. That's been bugging me for a while, I can tell you that much.

Anyway, this is just a head's up to let you know that I didn't spontaneously delete my blog, I just spontaneously renamed it instead.

Speak to you all soon!

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Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Top Ten Tuesday | Books I Struggled to Finish

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 'Ten Books I Struggled to Get Into But Ended Up Loving or Ten Books That Were A Chore To Get Through or Ten Books I've Most Recently Put Down', so I decided to talk about some of the books I struggled to get through. Some of them I ended up enjoying, some of them I really didn't, and the first five are all books I had to read for school/university.

Hamlet by William Shakespeare: I had to read this at school and at university and I can't stand it. I know Hamlet's a masterpiece, I know it's many people's favourite Shakespeare play, but I loathe it; Hamlet's so whiny and useless and I can't believe I kept having to study it over and over again.

Regeneration by Pat Barker: I didn't completely hate this novel, set during the First World War, but I was 17 when I read it and I definitely found it pretty dull. Having said that, I do remember quite a lot about it so maybe it had more of an impact on me than I realise.

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins: I made myself read this over the summer before my third year of university, knowing I would be studying it for my module in Victorian Popular Fiction, and I'm really glad I forced myself through it; not only was I well prepared to talk about it for my classes, but it also ended up becoming one of my favourite classics.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: I know this book is beloved by a lot of people, and I completely understand why, but I had to read it during sixth form and I hated it. All of the characters are pretty awful and I just didn't like it.

Persuasion by Jane Austen: This is one of the classics I had to read for school that I'd like to revisit, because it's thanks to this book that, at 18, I convinced myself I hated everything Austen. The older I get the more I understand Austen and I'd like to try reading this again because, as beloved as Pride and Prejudice is, a lot of people consider this novel to be her true masterpiece.

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler: This is a retelling of The Taming of the Shrew in the Hogarth Shakespeare series and I was really excited for it. I ended up hating it, but I forced my way through it because it's fairly short. Check out my review here.

Requiem by Lauren Oliver: I really, really liked Delirium, the first book in this series, but both Pandemonium and Requiem were such disappointments for me and Requiem in particular I really had to force myself through, only to be given the most disappointing ending I've ever come across in a series. I could see what Oliver was trying to do, but I think she should have wrapped the story up just a little more.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: Undoubtedly this is a beautiful book, but I didn't love this one as much as I thought I would because it took me so long to get through it. Morgenstern's writing and her descriptions were beautiful, but I found Celia and Marco's relationship a bit too dull to really be invested in and, looking back, I don't think I ever really cared how the book was going to end.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik: I had a similar problem with this novel, I loved the ideas behind it but something about Novik's writing meant I didn't completely get on with it and it ended up taking me a while to finish it. I enjoyed it, but when I put it down I didn't feel compelled to pick it back up. Check out my review here.

Diving Belles by Lucy Wood: Unfortunately this one is probably my most disappointing read of this year because I so wanted to love it, but I realised fairly early on it wasn't what I was hoping it would be and that meant that, like Uprooted, I just didn't feel compelled to pick it up and read it and I ended up having to force my way through the end just to cross it off my TBR. Check out my review here if you want to know more about why I wasn't a big fan!

Which books made your list this week?

Monday, 4 September 2017

Review | A Portable Shelter by Kirsty Logan

by Kirsty Logan

My Rating:

In their tiny, sea-beaten cottage on the north coast of Scotland, Liska and Ruth await the birth of their first child.

Each passes the time by telling the baby stories, trying to pass on the lessons they’ve learned: tales of circuses and stargazing, selkie fishermen and domestic werewolves, child-eating witches and broken-toothed dragons.

But they must keep their storytelling a secret from one another, as they’ve agreed to only ever tell the plain truth. So to cloak their tales, Ruth tells her stories when Liska is at work, to a background of shrieking seabirds; Liska tells hers when Ruth is asleep, with the lighthouse sweeping its steady beam through the window.

My appreciation and yearning for short story collections has been growing and growing over recent years, and after sadly being disappointed by Lucy Wood's Diving Belles earlier this year, a collection centered around Cornish folklore, I had hopes that A Portable Shelter, a collection this time centered around Scottish folklore, would satisfy my short story needs. Thankfully, it did!

As with all short story collections, there were some stories I liked a lot more than others, though there weren't any I disliked, but what I loved about this collection was how the stories were all stories within one over-arching story of two women, Liska and Ruth, who are expecting their first child and are telling the unborn baby stories that seem to have some kind of basis in reality as they feature people the women know or know of through other people. It's such a clever way to help one story flow into the next, and it really pulled me through the book from story to story.

There are tales of selkies, bears, dragons and people, each one playing with the blurred line between the mundane and the magical, how our lives are influenced by our stories and our stories are influenced by our lives. While the stories are true to an extent, I really enjoyed that we couldn't be sure how true they are - it was never clear if selkies and dragons actually exist in Ruth and Liska's Scotland or if they're metaphors for something else and I loved being able to decide that for myself.

Logan's writing is lyrical and melancholic, yet hopeful. Some of the stories were heart-wrenchingly sad, but many more of them left me with the feeling that things can, and do, get better - not necessarily straight away, in fact never, really, straight away, but eventually they do, and eventually is enough. I'm really looking forward to reading more of Logan's work, particularly her debut collection, The Rental Heart and Other Fairytales.

If you're a fan of fairy tales and folklore, or you're simply in the mood for a good short story collection, I definitely recommend picking this one up!

Friday, 1 September 2017

Review | The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

by Mackenzi Lee

My Rating: 

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his grand tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

This is one of those books that somehow passed me by until about a month before it was due to be published, and once I was aware of it I saw it everywhere. I saw so many rave reviews from readers who'd managed to get hold of a review copy that I knew I had to have it and, once I had it, I had so much fun reading it.

This easily could have been a frustrating, infuriating book. It takes a very good author to write a character who grows significantly as a person throughout a story, and boy does Lee do that well with Monty. Monty is privileged in many ways; he's white, male and wealthy and has been able to get away with his reckless behaviour because he's white, male and wealthy. He's been privileged since birth and, as such, he doesn't comprehend how life isn't as easy for his sister, Felicity, and his mixed race best friend, Percy.

Could it be frustrating to be reading a story from the point of view of someone who's had so much handed to him on a plate and taken it for granted? Yes, but Lee writes Monty so well that he is a sympathetic character. What's important about Monty's story is that he does grow as a person, at a natural pace, and we can see how he changes and why he changes which, as a reader, is very rewarding. When all Monty has known is the privilege he was born with we can't punish him for that privilege, instead he has to learn for himself to be aware of that privilege, and it was so refreshing to follow a protagonist in historical fiction who isn't 'ahead of their time'. So often in historical fiction protagonists feel like 21st century people in costume because authors don't want their characters to be so unrelatable that they're unlikeable, but Lee isn't afraid to make Monty a product of his time and his upbringing and still, ultimately, a good person, and I love this book because of it.

I was also a huge fan of the romance. It can be difficult to write a relationship that goes from friendship to romance well, but the chemistry between Monty and Percy is delicious and believable and I couldn't stop grinning whenever the two of them were together. Percy might well be my favourite character in the novel, I adored him.

Lee gets bonus points from me, too, for not shying away from the racism and homophobia that was rampant in the 18th century; Monty himself is completely aware that, were his sexuality known by the wrong people, he could be executed for sodomy, but that doesn't stop him from pursuing relationships with other men because that's part of who he is. Poor Percy, on the other hand, faces discrimination from all angles being both mixed race and non-heterosexual, but Lee still writes him as a fleshed-out young man who just so happens to be these things and not a metaphoric victim.

The only small issue I had with this novel was the fantastical element which, to me, seemed to pop up out of nowhere and jarred me a little. It wasn't bad by any means, and it certainly didn't spoil what is a brilliant book, but I wasn't expecting it and I'm not sure it needed to be there. It's difficult to discuss without spoilers but the idea of a magical (for lack of a better word) panacea certainly gave the plot some direction, I just wasn't expecting this supernatural cure-all to be real within the story. If you've read it then hopefully you'll know what I mean, because I'm fairly sure I'm not making any sense. The review skills are strong with this one.

All in all this was a fun, entertaining and fast-paced read that also packed an emotional punch, fantastic character development and a whole lot of historical context. I really enjoyed the experience of reading it and I'm eagerly anticipating The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy!