Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Top Ten Tuesday | Anticipated 2018 Reads

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 most anticipated releases for 2018, so below are the 2018 releases that I'm really looking forward to!


The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor: I'm looking forward to seeing how Okorafor is going to conclude Binti's story.

Lullaby by Leïla Slimani: This sounds so dark but so good, and is giving me The Hand That Rocks the Cradle vibes (a really good film if you haven't seen it). Set in Paris, a woman goes back to work after the birth of her second child with tragic consequences when the nanny she and her husband hire murders their children.

Red Clocks by Leni Zumas: Set in an America where abortion is illegal and in-vitro fertilization is banned, this novel sounds like it explores motherhood and a woman's right to her own body in a really interesting way and I'm looking forward to reading it.

The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar: I keep hearing about this one and I do love my historical fiction, so I have to check it out.


The Unbinding of Mary Reade by Miriam McNamara: This is LGBT+ historical fiction featuring pirates and girls kissing. Why wouldn't I want to read it?

All Out ed. by Saundra Mitchell: An anthology of LGBT+ historical fiction. Gimme.

The Sealwoman's Gift by Sally Magnusson: More historical fiction! The only novel I've read based on Icelandic history is Hannah Kent's fantastic Burial Rites, but this novel also sounds fascinating and is also based on true events about a woman who, along with her husband and their three children, are among a large number of Icelandic people who are captured and sold into slavery in Algiers.


The Radical Element ed. by Jessica Spotswood: I'm fairly certain this is an anthology of marginalised heroines, so I'm all over this one.

The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton: I ended up DNFing Walton's debut, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, it just wasn't my cup of tea, but this book has witches in it and as soon as a book has witches in it I want it badly.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi: That cover is gorgeous and this book sounds so fun; I love a good 'magic is banned' fantasy story. I'm pretty sure this is African-inspired fantasy and I want to read African and Asian-inspired fantasy after years of being familiar with fantasy settings inspired by Europe.


Leah On the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli: I loved Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and then I loved The Upside of Unrequited even more, so naturally I can't wait to get my hands on Albertalli's third novel.

Macbeth by Jo Nesbø: I haven't been blown away by the Hogarth Shakespeare series, but Macbeth is my favourite Shakespeare play and I will devour any retelling I can. I haven't read any Nesbø before so this'll be interesting!

Not So Stories ed. by David Thomas Moore: Many of us grew up with Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories but, to a modern reader, they can be a little uncomfortable as Kipling was such a staunch supporter of the British Empire. This anthology is giving Kipling's stories to BAME authors to rewrite and celebrate the cultures from which they came. It sounds brilliant.

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland: Women of colour fighting zombies in post-Civil War America. YES PLEASE.

On a Cold Dark Sea by Elizabeth Blackwell: This tells the story of three women who survive the Titanic, and reunite twenty years later after a sudden death. I'm very intrigued by this one.

Circe by Madeline Miller: Madeline Miller is probably best known for The Song of Achilles, which I read last earlier this year and fell in love with, and in her new novel she's returning to Ancient Greek myth to retell the story of Circe. I love stories about witches, as you all know, and Circe is one of the oldest witches around so I can't wait to see what Miller does with her. I'm really, really looking forward to this one - in fact this one might just be my most anticipated read of 2018.

Devils Unto Dust by Emma Berquist: I must thank Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight for bringing my attention this book. It's giving me Blood Red Road vibes so, naturally, I want to read the hell out of it. Also I genuinely have a soft spot for characters called Daisy and Ben, so this one's right up my alley.

Grey Sister by Mark Lawrence: I haven't actually finished Red Sister yet, but I love stories set in nunneries and I want to read more high fantasy so I'll be grabbing a copy of this if I do enjoy Red Sister!


Between Earth and Sky by Amanda Skenandore: A historical murder mystery that delves into America's dark history of its boarding schools set up to 'civilise' the First Nations children. I love historical murder mysteries and I'm fascinated by First Nations history, so this book sounds right up my street.

The Surface Breaks by Louise O'Neill: This is a retelling of The Little Mermaid set off the Irish coast and I'm very excited for it. I've yet to read any of O'Neill's work but I've heard such amazing things about it, and I'm hoping she gives this tale a fantastically feminist slant.

MEM by Bethany C. Morrow: This sounds amazing! It's giving me The Island vibes, another movie I'd recommend if you haven't seen it, and Unnamed Press is a publisher I'm keeping my eye on - they seem to publish really individual books.

The Magpie Tree by Katherine Stansfield: The blurb mentions witches and Cornwall, two of my favourite things, and I'm interested in reading more of Stansfield's work. Like Red Sister, I haven't finished Falling Creatures yet but so far I think I'm going to enjoy it enough to want to read more.


Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers: I will read all of Chambers' sci-fi until the end of time. I love the universe she introduced us to in The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and I will read anything and everything I can set in that universe.


The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager: I enjoyed Sager's Final Girls earlier this year, so I'm interested in checking out their next book!


Toil & Trouble: 16 Tales of Women & Witchcraft ed. by Jessica Spotswood and Tess Sharpe: A whole anthology about witches is right up my alley - I'm really looking forward to this one!


The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee: I loved The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue, so naturally I can't wait to read about the adventures of Monty's sister, Felicity.

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James: I've slotted this one into October because it doesn't have an official release date so I'm hoping it doesn't get pushed back to 2019 because it sounds amazing! It's the first book in a high fantasy trilogy which is being described as African Game of Thrones. As I mentioned before, I'm desperate to read African and Asian-inspired high fantasy so I'm very eager to read this one.

Which books made your list this week?

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Top Ten Tuesday | Santa Claus is Coming to Town (With Books)

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 Hope Santa Brings'! To be honest I'm not really sure what I want for Christmas this year, although there'll always be books I'd like to get my hands on, so this week I've mentioned some of the books I've included on a wishlist for my bookish secret santa as well as a couple of books I hinted at my parents that I wouldn't mind owning. Whatever I get this year, though, I know I'm going to love it!

And as this is the last TTT before Christmas - MERRY CHRISTMAS! I hope you all have a wonderful day, whether you celebrate Christmas or not, and, if you do, I hope Father Christmas brings you everything you wish for.

Prudence by Gail Carriger: I own all of the Parasol Protectorate books, with only Heartless and Timeless left to go, so it'd be nice to have the first book in the follow-up series to hand.

New World Fairy Tales by Cassandra Parkin: I love short story collections based on fairy tales, so I definitely wouldn't complain if I found this book under my tree.

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor: All I've read of Okorafor's so far are her Binti books, but Akata Witch has intrigued me for a long while. It's the first book in a duology (I think?) and recently had a makeover with this stunning cover.

The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu: I haven't read any Asian-inspired high fantasy and that's something I'd like to change, especially as I've heard great things about Ken Liu's work.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azakaban by J. K. Rowling, illustrated by Jim Kay: I've been collecting these illustrated editions, they're beautiful, and I think this one in particular will be gorgeous - I can't wait to see Jim Kay's versions of Lupin and Sirius!

Pages for You by Sylvia Brownrigg: I've heard lots of very good things about this one, so I certainly wouldn't be disappointed to get a copy this year.

Elizabeth of York: The First Tudor Queen by Alison Weir: I've always been fascinated by Elizabeth of York but I feel like she gets forgotten quite a lot. Whenever I come across a history documentary featuring Alison Weir I'm always interested in what she has to say, so this book is the perfect pairing of two lovely things.

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen: This year is the year I discovered I like Jane Austen and Mansfield Park is the novel I know the least about, so I'm very interested in checking it out.

Unicorns: The Myths, Legends, & Lore by Skye Alexander: This book's about unicorns. What else needs to be said?

The Stuart Princesses by Alison Plowden: I read Plowden's Women All On Fire: The Women of the English Civil War recently and enjoyed it, and it's made me want to learn more about the women of the Stuart era. I know very little about the Stuart royal family so I think this will be the perfect book to widen my knowledge.

Which books made your list this week?

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Review | Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal

by Mary Robinette Kowal

My Rating: 

Shades of Milk and Honey is an intimate portrait of Jane Ellsworth, a woman ahead of her time in a version of Regency England where the manipulation of glamour is considered an essential skill for a lady of quality. But despite the prevalence of magic in everyday life, other aspects of Dorchester’s society are not that different: Jane and her sister Melody’s lives still revolve around vying for the attentions of eligible men.

Jane resists this fate, and rightly so: while her skill with glamour is remarkable, it is her sister who is fair of face, and therefore wins the lion’s share of the attention. At the ripe old age of twenty-eight, Jane has resigned herself to being invisible forever. But when her family’s honor is threatened, she finds that she must push her skills to the limit in order to set things right–and, in the process, accidentally wanders into a love story of her own.

I suppose it's rather fitting, considering 2017 marks 200 years since her death, that this year has been the year I discovered that I like Jane Austen. This year has also been the year that I started showing a real interest in the Georgian and Regency eras in terms of its history, so I've found myself seeking out more fiction and non-fiction set during this time. If you've been following my blog for a while you'll know that I love historical fiction and especially speculative historical fiction so, described as Jane Austen with magic, Shades of Milk and Honey has been on my radar for a while now.

Firstly, if you're looking for something quick and easy to read, this book is for you. I started reading it during an hour-long train journey and by the time I'd reached my destination I'd read a quarter of the book. The beginning moves so quickly without feeling at all rushed, and it's so much fun to read. While reading this book it was so easy to tell that Mary Robinette Kowal had lovingly crafted it from her adoration of Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility in particular felt like real influences here, yet the book didn't feel like a rip-off and it easily could have.

The most interesting part of the book for me was the 'glamour'. The manipulation of glamour is seen as yet another skill that an accomplished young lady should master to help her be even more eligible, but they have to get the balance right - as with most things for women in history, too little or too much of anything is something they can be criticised for. For example, some women might use glamour to give themselves straighter teeth or a less crooked nose, but too much glamour will make them look unnatural and will make it obvious that they are using glamour.

Our heroine, Jane, is exceptionally talented at the manipulation of glamour but, not traditionally beautiful like her younger sister Melody, has failed to attract a husband. Now in her late twenties, Jane has resolved herself to spinsterhood and instead tries to help her sister find a husband. There was something very Elinor and Marianne about their relationship, and I liked that Kowal didn't do what I was expecting in regards to Melody; while Jane envies Melody her beauty, we also discover that Melody also admires Jane for her skills with glamour. Melody is pretty, but she's genuinely afraid that she might only attract a husband with her pretty face and have nothing else to offer him, or that she might attract the wrong kind of husband when she believes she has only her appearance to offer.

Having said that, I did grow a little tired of the amount of times Jane and Melody seemed to bicker about the same thing. I didn't expect them to resolve their issues instantly, but I would have liked to have seen them supporting each other a little more throughout the story, particularly as Melody seemed to become a little silly as the story wore on and I thought it was a shame she was reduced to that kind of stereotype.

What I liked most about the novel was how Kowal fit glamour into the Regency era. Magic is a power that comes from within and, such as in Harry Potter (for the most part), it can act as an equalizer between men and women. Women who are exceptionally talented at glamour shouldn't have to prescribe to the gender politics of Regency England, I wouldn't want to mess with someone who can literally alter the folds of the environment around me, but society has made women believe that they use these skills to attract a husband and thus take that agency away from them. Similarly, men who can use glamour well, such as Jane's Darcy-esque love interest Vincent, are praised as geniuses while women are dutiful and desirable. It reminded me of this scene from English Vinglish:

Speaking of Vincent, while I did like him and Jane together I was hoping for something more. For me they seemed to fall in love very quickly, and I would have enjoyed something more drawn out. There were hints of some sizzling chemistry there but there wasn't quite enough there to make the romance anything but nice.

In fact I felt like the entire end of the book was rushed and a little too sickly sweet, but, ultimately, this book is a fun, harmless read. Is it outstanding? No. Do I want to carry on with the series? Yes, I think it's the glamour that really shines in this book rather than the characters and the plot, but as there are four more books in this series I have a feeling they'll both continue to develop. In fact I'm hoping that Kowal will also include more people in this series that Austen excluded from her own work, such as the working class, the LGBT+ community and ethnic minorities - especially as the Slavery Abolition Act wasn't passed in the UK until 1833.

Whether you're an Austen fan, a historical fiction fan or a fan of magic in books, I think this is a story that's worth checking out. I'm planning to pick up the second book in the series, Glamour in Glass, fairly soon!

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Top Ten Tuesday | Best Books of 2017

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 Favourite Books of 2017', and it's a topic I'm not quite comfortable with this year. Out of all the books I've read this year not many have wowed me, in fact most of them have left me feeling a bit 'meh, and in all honesty I don't really like choosing the best books of a year before the year is over, just in case I read something amazing in the last few weeks of December, so look out for another post at the end of this month/beginning of next month in which I'll make myself choose my Top 3 books of 2017!

While most books did leave me feeling a bit cold, the more I thought about it the more I realised that, actually, I did read some really fun, really well-written books this year, and I think it'd be doing the books and their authors a disservice not to mention them. So, in the order I read them, here are my top ten books of 2017:

The Good Immigrant ed. by Nikesh Shukla: An essay collection that really opened my eyes to the kind of racism I have contributed to and not noticed in Britain because of my white privilege. That makes this book sound so preachy, and it really isn't, but it made me think a lot of thoughts and, frankly, I think it should be required reading in schools alongside Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's We Should All Be Feminists.

The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Speaking of Adichie, I decided to finally explore some of her fiction with her short story collection this year and loved it. It was so different from everything else I've read and it's made me really excited to read her novels.

The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin: One of the most original fantasy stories I've ever read, told in one of the most interesting ways I've ever seen a story told. 

Final Girls by Riley Sager: This twisty and twisted thriller plays around with the 'final girl' trope in horror films and that made it so much fun to read.

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli: Be still my beating heart! I didn't think it would be possible to love this book after I enjoyed Albertalli's debut, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, so much, but I think I loved it even more. I found Molly to be such a relatable heroine, something that rarely happens for me when I read Contemporary YA, and the whole story is lovely. This book is like a warm hug.

Stay With Me by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀: After reading The Thing Around Your Neck, this debut confirmed that I really enjoy fiction set in Nigeria and I'm eager to check out more. Whatever Adébáyọ̀ releases next, I'll definitely be getting my hands on a copy; this debut is a fantastic page-turner, so much so that I read it in one sitting, and full of twists and turns. I highly recommend it!

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee: Another really fun read with such a charming protagonist and a romance brimming with chemistry. This novel was so full of character and Lee didn't tone down on the historical accuracy for the sake of romanticising the past and, as a history nerd, I really appreciated that.

All the Truth That's in Me by Julie Berry: This one took me by surprise. I was expecting it to be more of a thriller than it was, but the story turned out to be quieter than the blurb made it out to be and I really, really enjoyed it. I loved the way it was written and I loved the way the story unfolded - this is a great one to read in the winter!

Persuasion by Jane Austen: Can you believe it? The book that turned me against Austen when I was eighteen has appeared on my best books of the year list eight years later. Pride and Prejudice is fun but, having reread this one, I think I agree with the many other Austen fans who regard this one as her masterpiece. I also watched the 1995 adaptation this year and thought it was brilliant, so I recommend it if you haven't watched it.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller: Last, but definitely not least - this one isn't only one of my favourite books of 2017, but has become one of my favourite books of all time. It's a masterpiece. I adored it, and I can't wait to read Circe.

Which books made your list this week?