Sunday, October 7, 2018

Book Review: The Governess Game by Tessa Dare


Title: The Governess Game
Author: Tessa Dare
Publication date: 23rd August 2018
Publisher: Mills & Boon
Genre: Historical Romance
Source: Review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

Description: The accidental governess…

After her livelihood slips through her fingers, Alexandra Mountbatten takes on an impossible post: transforming a pair of wild orphans into proper young ladies. However, the girls don’t need discipline. They need a loving home. Try telling that to their guardian, Chase Reynaud. The ladies of London have tried—and failed—to make him settle down. Somehow, Alexandra must reach his heart... without risking her own.

The infamous rake... 

Like any self-respecting libertine, Chase lives by one rule: no attachments. When a stubborn little governess tries to reform him, he decides to prove he can’t be tamed. But Alexandra is more than he bargained for: clever, perceptive, passionate. She refuses to see him as a lost cause. Soon the walls around Chase’s heart are crumbling . . . and he’s in danger of falling, hard.

My thoughts: I'll start by saying that this is the best historical romance I've read in a long while. The writing is very smooth, the plot flows along at a good pace, and the characters are very likeable and fun to read about, with the secondary characters seeming just as well developed as the main pair. Beyond that, it does a few particular things which I enjoyed reading about.

Alexandra, or Alex as she's known to her friends, works for a living and is lucky enough to know a trade: she maintains clocks for wealthy customers in London. She's very practical, but that hasn't stopped her from daydreaming about the man who literally bumped into her in a bookshop several months ago. When they meet again, he thinks she's there to fill the vacancy of Governess to his two wards. The encounter leaves her flustered, and she ends up losing the mechanical piece she needs for her clock-setting business. Instead of accepting help from her close friends, she returns to Chase and takes up his offer of the governess position.

Right from the start, there is a lot of sexiness between them. She's very attracted to him, and he to her, and all of their interactions sizzle. In the last few years, I've become much more aware of the significance it can have on a 'relationship' when one person has power over another. Although Chase is employing Alex, none of their kisses (or beyond, and there is *plenty* of beyond-kissing) felt like Alex was in an uncomfortable position. She can leave this job if she wants to; her reputation isn't watched as closely as it would be if she was on his social level.

That ties in nicely to one of my other favourite things in The Governess Game: consent. There is a lot of emphasis on her consenting to things. Chase even says "I need to hear you say it" at one point, when Alex has just nodded. I love that Tessa Dare included things like that, and made it sexy in itself.

The final aspect I want to mention is Alex's friendship group. I gather that there may have been a previous book with one of these women as the main character, who is married in this book, and I'll be looking out for that to read it as well. The women are from slightly different societal backgrounds, but they haven't let that get in the way of their friendship. There is a hugely deep loyalty between them all, and they're very protective of each other. They are slightly unconventional for their time, without it ever coming across as there being a 'you're not like other girls' aspect to it in Chase's relationship with Alex.

The Governess Game was a really lovely, sexy book, and a perfect example of Regency romance. Beyond the romance, the importance of family, and building a found-family, is such a key theme and brought me to tears several times as it looked at the bonds being built between the wards and Alex and Chase. I highly recommend this to all fans of the genre, and will be looking for more Tessa Dare books to read soon. I'm giving it 9 out of 10.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Book Review: Lady Olivia and the Infamous Rake by Janice Preston


Title: Lady Olivia and the Infamous Rake
Author: Janice Preston
Publication date: 23rd August 2018
Publisher: Mills & Boon
Genre: Historical Romance
Source: Review copy via NetGalley

Description: 'He’s completely unsuitable… he’s a rake.'

After being plucked from peril by resolute bachelor Lord Hugo Alastair, Lady Olivia Beauchamp is secretly outraged that he doesn’t even try to steal a kiss! He’s a notorious rake amongst the ton and as a result, utterly forbidden to an innocent debutante like her. But their attraction is magnetic. Will she risk her reputation for a passionate encounter?

My thoughts: Lady Olivia Beauchamp has had a very fortunate life. Her family are high in British society, she has two older brothers to secure the future of the family, they're well off financially and her father is able to provide a good dowry for her so she needn't worry too much about her future husband being wealthy himself. She knows how to behave in public to appear as a proper young lady, but in private she's a little more rebellious. Her brothers have always overshadowed her, and she feels like her sex has held her back from a lot of opportunities in life. That leads her to the situation at the beginning of the book where she has disguised herself and persuaded her brother to take her to Vauxhall Gardens one night while their father is away. Unfortunately, things go wrong, and Lord Hugo steps in to rescue her.

They then meet several times through various circumstances and despite knowing he has a reputation as a rake, Lady Olivia finds herself very attracted to him. I liked Olivia for her daring, and the way she balanced the lady she needed to appear as to society against the person she was inside. There are a couple of times in the book where she makes very silly decisions, without really thinking about possible consequences, which was a bit frustrating but I think that's an accurate reflection of the fact that she's eighteen and just doesn't have a clear picture of the harsh realities of the world yet.

While you don't get to see much of what the secondary characters are up to, there are references to some adventures which I think must play out in the other books in this sequence, called 'The Beauchamp Heirs'. I'd be interested to read more, I think, but I'm not necessarily going to seek them out over other historical romance books that might be available to me when I'm next choosing something.

Lady Olivia and the Infamous Rake was a light, easy read and that was exactly what I was looking for. It's nicely written Regency romance, and I'd read other books by Janice Preston in future. I'm giving this book 6 out of 10.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Book Review: Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett


Title: Foundryside
Author: Robert Jackson Bennett
Publication Date: 23rd August 2018
Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Divine Cities trilogy #1
Source: Review copy from publisher

Description: The city of Tevanne runs on scrivings, industrialised magical inscriptions that make inanimate objects sentient; they power everything, from walls to wheels to weapons. Scrivings have brought enormous progress and enormous wealth - but only to the four merchant Houses who control them. Everyone else is a servant or slave, or they eke a precarious living in the hellhole called the Commons.

There's not much in the way of work for an escaped slave like Sancia Grado, but she has an unnatural talent that makes her one of the best thieves in the city. When she's offered a lucrative job to steal an ancient artefact from a heavily guarded warehouse, Sancia agrees, dreaming of leaving the Commons - but instead, she finds herself the target of a murderous conspiracy. Someone powerful in Tevanne wants the artefact, and Sancia dead - and whoever it is already wields power beyond imagining.

Sancia will need every ally, and every ounce of wits at her disposal, if she is to survive - because if her enemy gets the artefact and unlocks its secrets, thousands will die, and, even worse, it will allow ancient evils back into the world and turn their city into a devastated battleground.

My thoughts: I haven't read anything by Robert Jackson Bennett before, but I thought the blurb sounded interesting, so I was excited to give Foundryside a go. It starts with a young woman called Sancia stealing a mysterious object for her unnamed client. She wouldn't normally take a job this big and complex, because the consequences if she gets caught could be death or the painful loss of a limb, but this time the money was so good she couldn't say no. She duly gets hold of the box, but she can't resist the urge to look inside - despite having been told specifically not to by the client - and see what someone would go to all this trouble for. It turns out to be a magical object that's totally different from anything else, and Sancia realises her client wont let her live with any knowledge of it.

The book hooked me quickly, with Sancia's street-smart attitude and a lot of action that painted a good picture of the city and how the magic in this world works. Be warned, it's not a short book. I found the 10-20% section dragged a bit, but then things picked up again and I got sucked right back in. The last 30% flew by, and where part way through there had been moments where I wasn't sure if I'd continue with the series after Foundryside, by the time I finished reading it last night I knew I need to read the next book!

The majority of the book is focussed on Sancia, but there are occasional short paragraphs from some of the other key characters. There are a variety of narrators, and I think Robert Jackson Bennett did a really good job at giving the main characters distinct personalities and motivations. I liked the character development of all the key players over the course of the book, and I'm interested to see what happens to them in the sequel.

With Foundryside, Robert Jackson Bennett has created an exciting, believable world and a plot full of twists. It picks up momentum as it goes along, and I'm looking forward to seeing what the second book in the series has in store for readers. Overall, I'm giving Foundryside 7 out of 10.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Mini Book Review: Big Bones by Laura Dockrill


Title: Big Bones
Author: Laura Dockrill
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Publication date: March 2018
Genre: YA Contemporary
Source: Borrowed

Description: The latest teen novel from the sparkling Laura Dockrill, introducing Bluebelle, and her moving, hilarious take on food, body image and how we look after ourselves and others

A heart-warming teen story from the unique voice of Laura Dockrill, about Bluebelle, aka BB, aka Big Bones - a sixteen-year-old girl encouraged to tackle her weight even though she's perfectly happy, thank you, and getting on with her life and in love with food. Then a tragedy in the family forces BB to find a new relationship with her body and herself. Moving, memorable and hilarious. 

My thoughts: Big Bones opens with Bluebelle at the doctor's, being told she should keep a food diary because of her weight. At first she refuses, but then makes a bargain with her mum: if she keeps the diary all summer, her mum will let her start an apprenticeship in the autumn rather than going back to school. Each chapter is named for a food, usually something BB eats during that chapter. But rather than just a list of foods, she also brings in memories of that food in her childhood, feelings associated with particular comfort foods, people associated with certain things, etc etc. It's a lovely look at the importance of food in a life beyond just sustenance.

It's very body positive, which is great to see in a young adult book. BB's attitude and thoughts are shaken a bit after an accident in the family. I found it interesting to read about how her opinions developed over the course of the book. Overall, it's a nice, upbeat book with a good message but it's not going to be something which stands out to me in December when I think back over what I've read this year. I'm giving Big Bones 6 out of 10.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Book Review: Snakewood by Adrian Selby


Title: Snakewood
Author: Adrian Selby
Publication date: 19th January 2017
Publisher: Orbit
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Traded with a friend

Description: A LIFETIME OF ENEMIES HAS ITS OWN PRICE

Mercenaries who gave no quarter, they shook the pillars of the world through cunning, chemical brews, and cold steel.

Whoever met their price won.

Now, their glory days are behind them. Scattered to the wind and their genius leader in hiding, they are being hunted down and eliminated.

One by one.

My thoughts: I heard Adrian Selby read from this book last year at Super Relaxed Fantasy Club in London, and thought the concept mercenaries who drank potions to help them in battle, then suffered various side effects from those potions, was really interesting. It sat on my wishlist until a friend was giving away his copy earlier this year, and I snapped it up. At the beginning of the book, two friends who used to be part of an elite group of mercenaries are going into a fight, and one of them gets shot, leaving him with a wound which they both know will be slowly fatal. They start to make the long journey across the country so that he can die at home, but quickly discover that they might have bigger things to worry about when the leader of their old band sends them a message to say that members of the group are slowly but surely being killed off.

For a fairly simple core concept, this book is full of drama, twists, and huge fight scenes. It's brilliantly executed, and had me absolutely gripped from the early chapters all the way through to the end. It's a fantasy novel which sprawls across a continent, with multiple narrators, including the 'baddie', flashbacks to the glory days of the mercenary band, and past events which shaped the motivations of some of the key players.

It's hard to find a uniquely new idea within the fantasy genre, but I think Adrian Selby has pulled that off with Snakewood. The tension stays high through the whole book, and I was really rooting for the characters. I laughed, I cried, and at the end of the book I was recommending it to anyone within earshot. It's one of the best books I've read this year, and I think all fantasy fans should pick up a copy if they get the chance. I'm giving this one 10 out of 10.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Book review: Ravencry by Ed McDonald


Today I'm taking part in the blog tour for Ravencry by Ed McDonald!

Title: Ravencry
Author: Ed McDonald
Publication date: 28th June 2018
Publisher: Gollancz
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Raven's Mark #2
Source: Review copy from publisher

Description: For Ryhalt Galharrow, working for Crowfoot as a Blackwing captain is about as bad as it gets - especially when his orders are garbled, or incoherent, or impossible to carry out.

The Deep Kings are hurling fire from the sky, a ghost in the light known only as the Bright Lady has begun to manifest in visions across the city, and the cult that worship her grasp for power while the city burns around them.

Galharrow may not be able to do much about the cult - or about strange orders from the Nameless - but when Crowfoot's arcane vault is breached and an object of terrible power is stolen, he's propelled into a race against time to recover it. Only to do that, he needs answers, and finding them means travelling into nightmare: to the very heart of the Misery.

My thoughts: Blackwing, book 1 in the series, was one of my favourite books I read last year. I was eager to hear more about the world, and what might have happened following the events at the end of book one. It's four years on from the end of Blackwing, and fortunes have changed a bit for Ryhalt and his companions: they've got a large office building, their rank is acknowledged across the city, and there's not been too much trouble from the Misery recently. But when Ryhalt goes to meet an old acquaintance and ends up almost shot, it leads to a horrifying discovery.

Favourite characters from Blackwing play an important part, including Nenn and Tnota, and I enjoyed reading the insult-strewn camaraderie between them. There are also some new faces, including a 14-year-old orphan who does odd jobs around the office, and a smart woman who looks after all the accounts, and tries to look after the team as well. They're all interesting, three-dimensional people and I'll love to read more stories about each of them, which I think is a good test for how well built a character is.

One of the best bits about Blackwing was the pull-the-rug-out-from-under-you plot twists, which would send the characters scrabbling to adjust their plans. Ravencry was just as capable of surprising me, although I was a lot more on the lookout for twists, and was a bit more nervous than Ryhalt when he thought he had everything figured out a couple of times. There's a lot of action at the begining and end of the book, but there's a bit maybe three quarters in set in the Misery which I found a lot slower, and not as interesting, although it did feel very appropriate to be reading about people slogging through a desert while I was crammed into a hot commuter train.

Overall, I really enjoyed Ravencry. Ed McDonald has produced another fantasy novel packed with action, foul-mouthed characters and enough twists and turns to keep you constantly on your toes. I'll definitely be recommending it to other fantasy fans, particularly if you enjoyed book one in the series, and I'm now anxiously waiting for the next book in the series. I'm giving Ravencry 8 out of 10.

Have a look at the banner below to see the other stops in the Ravencry blog tour.


Sunday, June 24, 2018

Book Review: Ocean Light by Nalini Singh


Title: Ocean Light
Author: Nalini Singh
Publication date: 14th June 2018
Publisher: Gollancz
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance
Series: Psy-Changeling Trinity
Source: Review copy from publisher

Description: New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh dives beneath the surface of her Psy-Changeling world into a story of passionate devotion and selfless love...

Security specialist Bowen Knight has come back from the dead. But there's a ticking time bomb in his head: a chip implanted to block telepathic interference that could fail at any moment - taking his brain along with it. With no time to waste, he should be back on land helping the Human Alliance. Instead, he's at the bottom of the ocean, consumed with an enigmatic changeling...

Kaia Luna may have traded in science for being a chef, but she won't hide the facts of Bo's condition from him or herself. She's suffered too much loss in her life to fall prey to the dangerous charm of a human who is a dead man walking. And she carries a devastating secret that Bo could never imagine...

My thoughts: I look forward to each new Nalini Singh novel, but there were a couple of things making Ocean Light one which I was particularly eager to read. Firstly, it's only the second book in her new 'Psy-Changeling Trinity' series arc. We're still very much setting up the big conflicts and establishing the focus on the main players involved in the Trinity Accord and the new ruling council. There were some parts in Silver Silence which I didn't think were as strongly written as Singh's previous books, but Ocean Light is a return to force, which was a relief. The other big thing drawing me to this book was its focus on the BlackSea clan, who we knew very little about until now. They're a group of sea-based shapeshifters who largely keep to themselves, and there had only been tantalising glimpses of them in the earlier books set in this world. I've always been intrigued to learn more about them, so I was excited to get stuck in.

Bo wakes up from a coma to find himself on board a BlackSea station anchored deep beneath the surface of the sea. Before the accident at the end of the last book, the chip in his head which stops anyone reading his mind had been rapidly deteriorating, and a scientist on the station thinks she has a possible solution. If it's successful, the deterioration of the chip will stop but if it's not, Bo could be left with his mind badly damaged. The process will take a few weeks, and in that time he falls in love with the station chef, Kaia. Kaia is deeply distrustful of all humans due to events in her past and the recent kidnapping of some of the most vulnerable BlackSea changelings. One of the most recent to go missing was a good friend of hers, and before he did, he shared evidence that pointed to the Human Alliance being firmly involved in the kidnappings. Bo and Kaia have a lot of problems to work through in order to set their relationship on the right tracks, with the impending horrible consequences if the experiment on Bo's chip goes wrong, and Kaia's difficulties in trusting him.

On top of that there are the problems of a new human being accepted on the station, or not, given the tension between BlackSea and humans. Bo is trying to investigate allegations against the Human Alliance and get to the bottom of a serious betrayal, all while stuck underwater on the station. I think Ocean Light is a true return to force for Nalini Singh. She strikes the perfect balance between the romance and a tense, twisting but still believable politically-anchored plot. It harks back to the early Psy-Changling books: a newcomer tries to adjust to a Changeling society which has good reason to be hostile towards him; a tight-nit, intriguing cast are introduced; and ultimately, working together and love are a key part of the solution. There's still a whole lot to learn about BlackSea in future books, but there were some particularly memorable characters in Ocean Light, such as Kaia's host of cousins, who I'd love to see staring in future books.

Ocean Light had all my favourite things about the Psy-Changeling world, and I'm relieved that Nalini Singh certainly isn't running out of steam with the world. I'm giving it 9/10, and as ever, I'm left eager to read the next one.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Book review: What Fresh Hell by Lucy Vine


Title: What Fresh Hell
Author: Lucy Vine
Publication date: 8th March 2018
Publisher: Orion
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: Review copy from publisher via NetGalley

Description: Lilah Fox has just returned from the hen party from hell, vowing to actually spend time with her boyfriend and focus more on herself. Then she gets the whatsapp from her best friend Lauren to say she's just got engaged. And as maid of honour, Lilah just signed up for weekend wedding fairs and weekly planning meetings for the next year.

Just when she thinks things can't get any worse, she's about to discover a new fresh hell.

My thoughts: What Fresh Hell is a contemporary fiction book about Lilah, who comes home from a horrible hen do, sick of weddings, only to be asked to be a bridesmaid for one of her best friends. In fact, her whole coming year seems to be full of people getting married. It's all putting a lot of strain on her relationship with her boyfriend, and her finances. Add to this some problems at work and with the old folks social group she helps to run, and Lilah really isn't having a great time.

I have to say, I didn't love this book. A lot of the so called 'friends' who Lilah goes to hen parties with, or sits with at weddings, seem completely horrible and I couldn't understand why she was willing to keep putting effort in to those friendships when the other people were treating her horribly. I also got frustrated with Lilah herself over how much she's neglecting her boyfriend. He clearly really loves her, and is trying to do nice things for her and carve out some alone time for the two of them together, but Lilah is completely oblivious to that. She consistently puts him last, and I didn't like that.

It's a relatively light story, about the ups and downs of friendships, the importance of friends, and how the wedding industry can affect some people so much that they seem to turn into a completely different person. I think a lot of people will enjoy this as a light, funny, read-on-the-beach book. Perhaps in a couple of years when more people I know are getting married, I'll find it a bit funnier, but at the moment I like to think that if anyone in my friendship groups was treating others the way some people in this book do, they would be called out on their nonsense. 'Friends' who treat you like crap and take advantage of you are not friends. Despite my problems with the book, though, it was well written, and I will keep an eye out for more of Lucy Vine's books. I'm giving What Fresh Hell 6 out of 10.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Book Review: Flying Tips for Flightless Birds by Kelly McCaughrain


Title: Flying Tips for Flightless Birds
Author: Kelly McCaughrain
Publication date: 1st March 2018
Publisher: Walker Books
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult
Source: Review copy from publisher

Description: Twins Finch and Birdie Franconi are stars of the flying trapeze. But when Birdie suffers a terrifying accident, Finch must team up with the geeky new kid, Hector Hazzard, to form an all-boys double act and save the family circus school.

Together they learn to walk the high-wire of teen life and juggle the demands of friends, family, first love and facing up to who they are – all served up with a dash of circus-showbiz magic.

My thoughts: Flying Tips for Flightless Birds is a lovely coming of age story set in rural Ireland. The book is narrated by Finch, but you also get blog post from Birdie, which give a bit more insight into how she's seeing the world differently from her brother. Finch lives and breathes the circus school, it's his favourite place to be. This is partly because the twins are very much odd ones out at their school, wearing flamboyant clothing and generally attracting the attention of the class bullies. The circus is his safe haven, and he can't imagine not having it in his life. Due to past events (which are eventually revealed, but not for a while), Finch doesn't really trust other people very much, and I liked how that really emphasised how much trust he puts in Birdie when they're on the trapeze. It also means that he's very reluctant to let Hector hang out with them, despite Birdie wanting to make friends.

Then a few chapters in, Birdie has her accident, and suddenly Finch has to figure out who he is when he isn't half of Birdie-and-Finch. So much of his life has revolved around his twin, and now there are huge questions that make it seem like maybe she wasn't always as open and honest with him as he thought. I loved the focus on the twins' relationship in this book. Finch really struggles in a lot of ways without her, and at times it made him a not very likeable character, but even so, I felt like that was very realistic: his actions made sense given his past experiences and current uncertainty. Even when I was a bit frustrated and annoyed with him and the choices he was making, I hoped he would figure things out.

I also liked the fact that while Finch is gay, and that's a fairly central thing, it's not a book about him coming to terms with his sexuality. I'm sure you'll be pleased to hear that there's a romantic plotline, too, but again it's a subplot, not a main focus of the story.

Flying Tips for Flightless Birds was a really fun book to read. It tackles some deeper topics, and in my opinion does them well, but overall it was a happy book which made me smile a lot. It's a great portrayal of life in a small town, where everybody knows you and you've all been at the same school together since you were five, which is absolutely something I could relate to. If you're looking for an entertaining, uplifting coming of age story with memorable characters, Flying Tips for Flightless Birds is definitely it. I'm giving it 8 out of 10.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Book Review: Eat, Drink, Run. by Bryony Gordon


Title: Eat, Drink, Run.
Author: Bryony Gordon
Publication date: 31st May 2018
Publisher: Headline
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Source: Review copy from publisher

Description: Bryony Gordon was not a runner. A loafer, a dawdler, a drinker, a smoker, yes. A runner, no. But, as she recovered from the emotional rollercoaster of opening up her life in her mental health memoir MAD GIRL, she realised that there were things that might actually help her: getting outside, moving her body and talking to others who found life occasionally challenging. As she ran, she started to shake off the limitations that had always held her back and she saw she had actually imposed them on herself. Why couldn't she be a runner?

In April 2017, Bryony Gordon ran all 26.2 miles of the London Marathon. In Eat, Drink, Run., we join her as she trains for this daunting task and rises to the challenge one step at the time. Of course, on top of the aching muscles and blistered feet, there's also the small matter of getting a certain royal to open up about his mental health. Through it all, Bryony shows us that extraordinary things can happen to everyone, no matter what life throws our way.

My thoughts: I read Mad Girl, Bryony Gordon's previous book, in the autumn. To say I enjoyed it is not quite the right sentiment; it's mostly not a happy book, as it documents Bryony's life living with OCD and the frequent lows that the condition brought her to. It was a very moving book that had a lot of effect on me, though, so I was very interested to see what direction her next book would take. While I enjoyed Eat, Drink, Run., it's a very different book to Mad Girl. The book begins by setting up how she decided to run the London Marathon in the first place. It talks a bit about her OCD and how that led to her setting up a support group, beginning to write a lot more about her mental health in her Telegraph column and working on writing Mad Girl itself. She's invited to an event about mental health hosted by Price William, Princess Catherine and Prince Harry, where one thing leads to another and she tells them she'll run the marathon.

While it's just as readable as her previous book, there were places where I felt like Eat, Drink, Run. was an extended column. There are a lot of anecdotes that, while funny, don't necessarily tie in to the rest of the book very well. That aside, it manages to be a very entertaining book while looking at the serious subject of mental health, and how we can all tackle something big by taking it in small steps. It doesn't focus much on Bryony's particular marathon training plan (except to say that for a while there really wasn't one). You get a general picture of how training is progress, but it's more of a background, framing how the increased exercise is changing her habits for the better, and how the journey to running the marathon lead to her crossing paths with the royals on several occasions.

The book is light, entertaining and inspiring, while still drawing attention to what it can be like to live with a variety of mental health problems and how we can do better to help people living with them. It's a very accessible book for those who want to learn a little bit more about OCD without getting into something too emotional or draining, and I think that's who I'd most recommend this book to. If you've enjoyed reading Bryony's columns, but didn't feel like Mad Girl was right for you, I'd suggest picking up Eat, Drink, Run. I'd still very much recommend it to people who did enjoy her other books, but just caution that it is quite different from Mad Girl. Overall, I'm giving Eat, Drink, Run. 7 out of 10.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Mini Book Review: The Lost Plot by Genevieve Cogman


Title: The Lost Plot
Author: Genevieve Cogman
Publisher: Pan MacMillan
Publication date: 14th December 2017
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Borrowed

Description: In a 1930s-esque New York, Prohibition is in force, fedoras, flapper dresses and tommy guns are in fashion, and intrigue is afoot. Intrepid Librarians Irene and Kai find themselves caught in the middle of a dragon vs dragon contest. It seems a young librarian has become tangled in this conflict, and if they can't extricate him there could be serious political repercussions for the mysterious Library. And, as the balance of power across mighty factions hangs in the balance, this could even trigger war.

Irene and Kai find themselves trapped in a race against time (and dragons) to procure a rare book. They'll face gangsters, blackmail and fiendish security systems. And if this doesn't end well, it could have dire consequences for Irene's job. And, incidentally, for her life... 

My thoughts: First of all, this is book four of the series. I knew that, but my boyfriend who bought it didn't. However, it stands alone very well, and there are only vague references to the events of the previous books, so I don't feel like it spoiled them. The book kicks off with Irene trying to trade a book with some vampires, and getting into more difficulty than she'd hoped. While making her escape, she's approached by a dragon who asks for her help in retrieving a book, a task that's been set as part of a question of succession. When Irene points out that the Library and it's employees remain neutral in such issues, as this dragon should know, the dragon hints that another librarian is already involved.

Irene and Kai head back to the Library to report their suspicions of librarian involvement, and from there end up in the alternate universe New York. It's a very fast paced book with a lot of twists, and I really enjoyed it. I love Irene's sense of humour and the spark between her and Kai. I'd recommend the series in particular to those who have been missing Gail Carriger's books, with their humour, whimsy and excellent plots. I'm definitely going to hunt down the rest of the series. Overall this gets 8 stars from me.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Book Review: Planetfall by Emma Newman


Title: Planetfall
Author: Emma Newman
Publication Date: 22nd February 2018
Publisher: Gollancz
Genre: Science fiction
Source: Review copy from publisher

Description: Renata Ghali believed in Lee Suh-Mi’s vision of a world far beyond Earth, calling to humanity. A planet promising to reveal the truth about our place in the cosmos, untainted by overpopulation, pollution, and war. Ren believed in that vision enough to give up everything to follow Suh-Mi into the unknown. 

More than twenty-two years have passed since Ren and the rest of the faithful braved the starry abyss and established a colony at the base of an enigmatic alien structure where Suh-Mi has since resided, alone. All that time, Ren has worked hard as the colony's 3-D printer engineer, creating the tools necessary for human survival in an alien environment, and harboring a devastating secret.

Ren continues to perpetuate the lie forming the foundation of the colony for the good of her fellow colonists, despite the personal cost. Then a stranger appears, far too young to have been part of the first planetfall, a man who bears a remarkable resemblance to Suh-Mi. 

The truth Ren has concealed since planetfall can no longer be hidden. And its revelation might tear the colony apart…

My thoughts: This book has been out for a couple of years in the USA, and I've heard good things about it, and that it represents mental illness well. So, I was really pleased to hear that Gollancz were going to publish it in the UK, and I jumped at the chance to review it.

The book switches between what's happening in the present, and flashbacks to both life on earth and to when they were first arriving at the new planet. Although it's science fiction, I felt like the book was really an examining of society, what a society is built on, and what people might choose to do to maintain that society. You get little snippets of what Earth is like, what society and politics have descended to on earth that prompted this group of people to try to build a very idealistic culture on this new planet.

Each of the characters you meet throughout the book has a very distinct personality and different motivations for why they came to the new planet. They were all so well built, and I would have enjoyed getting to hear more about any of them. I think that's a good example of how well written this book is. Although you really don't see much of the planet they're living on, you still get a very clear picture of the area that they are in.

Ren has some anxiety problems, which manifests into certain other behaviours, and she keeps this hidden from the other colonists. Given what I'd heard about Emma Newman's handling of mental health problems in her writing, I was expecting it to be a little more prominent than it is in the story. While aspects of it play a big part, it just didn't come in to Planetfall the way I'd anticipated it might. But that's a good thing, that I was surprised in a lot of places in this story. It really didn't do what I expected from what I'd read on the back, or what I imagined in the early pages of the book.

Planetfall was a really interesting read, and such an interesting look at the consequences of our choices, regardless of what the intentions behind those choices might be. The ending also surprised me a lot, although I was content with it. That said, I'm really keen to read more set on this planet. I'll definitely be looking in to other things which Emma Newman has written. Overall, I'm giving Planetfall 8 out of 10.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Book Review: Make Me Want by Katee Robert


Title: Make Me Want
Author: Katee Robert
Publication date: 22nd February 2018
Publisher: Mills & Boon
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Source: Review copy via NetGalley

Description:
Lucy Baudin’s ex dented her self-esteem and it’s time to regain control. In her job as a lawyer she’s bold, confident. But in the bedroom…she needs inspiration to reawaken her inner seductress. Asking her friend Gideon Novak for help seems wrong, yet so deliciously right!

My thoughts: 
Lucy split up with her ex a couple of years ago, and her confidence has yet to recover from the damage he did. Although she's a successful lawyer, she feels like she needs a partner to be taken seriously for further promotion at work, so she hires Gideon to help her find a husband. He's known as a good head-hunter, but finding a husband is quite different. Then there's the fact that his former best friend is Lucy's former boyfriend, and he hasn't seen her since the break up. On top of everything, Lucy doesn't just want him to find her a husband, she's also asked him to teach her how to get better with physical relationships.

The entire set up sounded fun, and the book jumps right in to the action, with Lucy negotiating with Gideon over her proposal that he find her a husband and give her sexual lessons. You can feel the tension between them straight away, and once it flips to Gideon's point of view, we learn that he has always found Lucy attractive. The main issues which the couple face over the course of the story are Gideon's guilt over how badly his former friend treated Lucy; Lucy's damaged confidence from her last relationship; and how determined each of them is to stick to their initial agreement of the rules of their interactions.

It was a fun and fast read, frustrating at times when the characters chose not to talk about certain things with each other, or jumped to (wrong) conclusions. Of course they ultimately end up together, and I enjoyed the way that was worked out. For all that there is a fair amount of sex in the book, it was actually quite a sweet romance. Which brings me to another point: although this is part of the new Mills & Boon range 'Dare', which is meant to be their sexiest books yet, it didn't stand out to me as particularly more sexy that other things I've read. It's perhaps more detailed than some of the others in the Mills & Boon stable, and it was steamy & well written, but nothing out of the ordinary really.

Overall, Make Me Want is a fun, sexy romance novel, perfect to cheer up a gloomy spring weekend. I'm giving it 7/10.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Book review: Because We Are Bad by Lily Bailey


Title: Because We Are Bad
Author: Lily Bailey
Publication date: March 2018 (paperback)
Publisher: Canbury
Genre: Non fiction: Memoir
Source: Review copy via publicist

Description: 
As a child, Lily Bailey knew she was bad. 

By the age of 13, she had killed someone with a thought, spread untold disease, and spied upon her classmates.

Only by performing a series of secret routines could she correct her wrongdoing. But it was never enough. She had a severe case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and it came with a bizarre twist.

This true story is from a startling new voice in non-fiction. It lights up the workings of the mind like Mark Haddon or Matt Haig.

Anyone who wants to know about OCD, and how to fight back, should read this book. Immerse yourself in a new world.

My thoughts: 
I've read a few books (fiction and non-fiction) which look at OCD, but Lily Bailey highlights a whole new angle of the illness in Because We Are Bad. The book flows as though it were fiction, following Lily's life chronologically from when she is a young girl through to her early twenties. And for most of that period, she has a second voice in her head, telling her what to do. This other person in her head gives voice to the OCD thoughts - you should wash your hands again to make sure you don't spread that disease. You're horrible, you need to do this thing to make up for it. 

It was quite hard to read in places, because the reader can see how much harm Lily was doing to herself, and how much she needed help. Even once she starts seeing a therapist, the OCD remains severe. I found it really interesting to read about the therapy sessions, what people tried to do to help, and the effects (or sometimes lack of them) on Lily and her illness.

It's a very different sort of book than Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon, which I read in the autumn & is about her journey with OCD. Lily's experience with OCD, with the voice in her head being a distinct, separate, constant presence, is not something I've read about before. But because it's so different, I think it's very worth talking about. The more people talk about what their experience with a particular issue is, the higher the likelihood that someone reading these books will be able to identify themselves in one of them.

Overall, it was a very well written book. I found it very readable, which isn't always the case with memoir, or non-fiction more broadly. I admire Lily Bailey for how open she has been with this book, and I hope that it will help people living with OCD. Overall, I'm giving it 7 out of 10.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Book Review: A Conspiracy of Alchemists by Liesel Schwarz


Title: A Conspiracy of Alchemists
Author: Liesel Schwarz
Publisher: Del Rey
Publication date: August 2013
Genre: Steampunk/Fantasy
Source: Bought

Description: In a Golden Age where spark reactors power the airways, and creatures of Light and Shadow walk openly among us, a deadly game of Alchemists and Warlocks has begun.

When an unusual cargo drags airship-pilot Elle Chance into the affairs of the mysterious Mr Marsh, she must confront her destiny and do everything in her power to stop the Alchemists from unleashing a magical apocalypse.

My thoughts: I love this sort of fantasy novel: a slightly historical setting, lots of steampunk creations, and a female lead who knows what she wants from life and won't let the fact that she's a woman stop her. The book begins with Elle in Paris, meeting a contact who gives her a mysterious package to take back to England. Unfortunately, she's attacked before she can leave Paris, and this kicks off a journey where she and the enigmatic Mr Marsh are chased to her Cambridge home, then across Europe, to Constantinople.

The chase added a sense of urgency to the book, which I think might have lacked a little otherwise. Although there is a deadline driving the bad guys, our good guys are just trying to keep one step ahead of the danger. In a lot of places, then, Elle is forced into action because of outside factors, rather than her own drive. The events of A Conspiracy of Alchemists affect her a lot, however, so I'm optimistic that she'll be different in the rest of the trilogy.

The descriptions of the settings and scenery around our main characters are very well done. Liesel Schwarz brings Paris, Venice and Constantinople to life. I hope book two has as much traveling for Elle, because I'd really like to see what else Ms Schwarz can conjure up for the reader.

Overall, this was a great book. The plot carried me along, I feared for the characters' safety, despaired over some of their decisions, and cheered at their successes. I love the world Liesel Schwarz has created, and I found it a lot of fun to read this book as well. It's not written to be funny, as Gail Carriger's books are, but there is a certain sarcasm to some of the interactions which made it very entertaining. I really enjoyed the book, and I'm looking forward to the sequel when I can get a copy. I'm giving this one 7/10.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Book Review: Doing It by Hannah Witton


 Title: Doing It
Author: Hannah Witton
Publication date: 6 April 2017
Publisher: Wren & Rook
Genre: Non-fiction
Source: Swapped with a friend

Description: Sexting. Virginity. Consent. The Big O ... Let's face it, doing it can be tricksy. I don't know anyone (including myself) who has sex all figured out. So I've written a book full of honest, hilarious (and sometimes awkward) anecdotes, confessions and revelations. And because none of us have all the answers, I've invited some friends and fellow YouTubers to talk about their sexuality, too. My book is for everyone, no matter what gender you identify as or who you fancy.

We talk about doing it safely. Doing it joyfully. Doing it when you're ready. Not doing it. Basically, doing it the way you want, when you want. So. Let's do this ...

-------

Doing It candidly and openly explores topics like masturbation, slut-shaming, pornography and consent, as well as how to maintain healthy relationships in a digital age.

My thoughts: Doing It is a guide to all things relating to sex, relationships, and bodies. It's broken down by topic, and I found it to be very accessible easy reading. What made it particularly interesting to me was that it's full of personal stories from Hannah Witton and her friends about their experiences with a certain thing. It's very frank and open, which I think is important in a book dealing with these subjects.

I did find that a lot of it wasn't so relevant to me, because it was things I'd learned in high school or already experienced and learned how to handle. So from that point of view, I'd say it's a book for people in their tweens or early teens, and definitely a good one to have in high school libraries. That said, with the personal anecdotes I found some bits particularly interesting because they were about experiences very different from my own.

Overall, the book really does what it says in the blurb. It's hard to rate, because it wasn't so relevant to me but still interesting, and still a very useful book for many people. So, I'm giving it 6/10. I liked it, it was interesting.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Book Review: Ivan by Kit Rocha


Title: Ivan
Author: Kit Rocha
Publication date: 31st March 2018
Series: Gideon's Riders, book 3
Genre: Post-apocalyptic Romance
Source: Review copy

Description:
As the sheltered princess of Sector One, Maricela’s life is defined by duty: to her people and to her family. Her wealth and influence have allowed her to build a better world, but they come with a price—the responsibility to secure political stability with a practical marriage. Maricela cherishes the idea of marrying for love, but there’s not much romance in the endless line of suitors interested only in prestige and power.
And her handsome, brooding new bodyguard isn’t helping the situation.
Ivan is the perfect, deadly warrior, a man trained from childhood to be the ultimate protector to the Rios family. His focus on keeping her safe is intense–and a little intoxicating. When the threat of danger cracks his icy control, Maricela realizes she’s not the only one fighting against temptation.
Ivan knows that the blood on his hands makes him unworthy of the pure-hearted princess. But from the first kiss, their forbidden affair feels inevitable. He can give her a glimpse of life outside her gilded cage and a lover who wants the woman instead of the crown. The only thing he can never do is promise her forever.
Because spurning her noble suitors to marry her bodyguard wouldn’t just be a scandal. It could set off a political firestorm that would tear Sector One apart.

My thoughts:
This is the third book in the Gideon's Riders series, and I feel like we're really starting to get stuck in to things now. The lay of the land has been set, the political landscape painted, and now Kit Rocha is starting to poke at those foundations and show us where the weak spots are. Is it all going to tumble down around the ears of the Riders, our main focus in the series? Or will they manage to build something better in place of it? Let's be honest, this series, and each individual book in the series, is a romance, so I know there will be a satisfying conclusion, but it's all about the journey, isn't it? And Kit Rocha writes the journey very well.

There have been hints of the romance between Ivan and Maricela brewing so far in the series, and of the boxes Maricela is being pushed into by her family and the role she was born into. Now we get to explore how she feels about aspects of the role, and what's going on behind the dutiful front which the public see. She's a princess, she's beautiful, she's the perfect role model, and she does 'her duty', including being expected to make a marriage which will be helpful to the stability of the area they live in.

I loved the simmering tension between Ivan and Maricela. She wants some kind of fling, and overcomes her shyness to try to pursue it, but Ivan is determined that it's a bad idea - he knows he would care too much. Lots of the fun in this book was seeing them each fighting to hold out against what they wanted, especially when the other was encouraging that want!

As usual with a Kit Rocha book, there's a lot of sexual tension and a lot of steamy scenes. A new aspect of society, expectation, and loyalty is examined in each book, and with Ivan, it's really demonstrated that the series is going to be just as good as the 'Beyond' series (which is set in the same world). Overall, I'm giving this 8 out of 10.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Book Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik


Title: Uprooted
Author: Naomi Novik
Release date: May 2016
Publisher: Pan
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Gift

Description: Agnieszka loves her village, set deep in a peaceful valley. But the nearby enchanted forest casts a shadow over her home. Many have been lost to the Wood and none return unchanged. The villagers depend on an ageless wizard, the Dragon, to protect them from the forest's dark magic. However, his help comes at a terrible price. One young village woman must serve him for ten years, leaving all they value behind.

Agnieszka fears her dearest friend Kasia will be picked at the next choosing, for she's everything Agnieszka is not - beautiful, graceful and brave. Yet when the Dragon comes, it's not Kasia he takes.

My thoughts: This book has been on my wishlist for a while, and I'm so pleased to say that it lived up to my expectations. The opening couple of chapters set the scene: Agnieszka growing up in her quiet little village, spending time with her best friend who live a couple of hours cart-ride away in the same valley. Their friendship is only tainted by the knowledge that when they're seventeen, the magician who protects the valley from the magical, mysterious Wood will pick a girl from their year-group to come and help him in his tower. Since he chooses the girl who has something special about her, everyone knows it will be Kasia.

It's one of those books where I can't say much about the actual plot for risk of spoiling things. It was very satisfying to experience each twist and turn and added layer as they came along, with no idea of where the story was heading. I love that it incorporates so many aspects of fairytales: a 'dragon', a scary forrest, a girl trapped in a tower, a missing royal, magic, castles, saving something/someone, the importance of friendship, and of course, how we change as we get older. Each time I came across another little nod to the traditional stories, it made me smile.

The writing itself is beautiful too. Agnieszka is telling it in first person, and it reminded me of Robin McKinley's Sunshine. Her voice is very compelling, and I was drawn completely in to the story from the very beginning. I also thought that, like a classic fairytale, it could be simplified to tell to a younger child. I know I'll reread this book again, and I hope that one day I'll be able to share it with my children, too.

Uprooted might be a brand new fairytale, but it has everything you'd expect from a classic. Beautiful storytelling, full of twists, and I could hardly put it down. Overall I'm giving it 9 stars.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Book Review: The Unmumsy Mum by Sarah Turner


Title: The Unmumsy Mum
Author: Sarah Turner
Publisher: Bantam Press
Release date: 11th February 2016
Genre: Non-fiction, advice/memoir

Description: The Unmumsy Mum is a blogging and Facebook sensation! Her posts are adored by thousands of fans for delivering a hilarious, unapologeticaly honest account of motherhood. From the soaring highs of life as a parent to the emotional lows of feeling like you might not be cut out for the job, this uncensored portrayal of what it's really like to be a mum has won a place in the hearts of parents everywhere. 
No subject is off limits for the Unmumsy Mum - from distinctly unglowing pregnancies to seemingly endless night feeds; from finding your feet at baby group to the reality of returning to work; from dealing with toddler tantrums to navigating around soft-play hellholes. 
This book won't tell you how to parent, what to buy or how you should feel. Its refreshing frankness is guaranteed to make you laugh, may well make you cry, and will no doubt leave you breathing a sigh of relief that it is definitely not just you...

My thoughts:
I picked this book up from someone who was rehoming it because I thought it would be full of funny, honest stories. It sat on my bookshelf for a little while, than I started it earlier this month, looking for some light reading and a change from fiction.

While the book does have some amusing anecdotes from Sarah's life as a mother, and some short funny things that some of her blog readers have written to her about, the book is much more like an honest look at all aspects of being a mother to very young children. She writes about the miserable side to being pregnant, giving birth, and not getting enough sleep. She talks about deciding to have a second child, and the adjustment needed to cope with having two children rather than one.

It's an incredibly informative book, and I think it would be a very reassuring read for mothers of young children. However, although I might have kids sometime in the next few years, I'm not at that point yet. While it was very educational to read as it went into aspects of parenthood that I didn't know anything about before, or had never even considered, I didn't find it as engaging to read as I think I will in a few years time when I'm expecting a child. I'll definitely be keeping this on the shelf until then, though, because I do think it will be very reassuring and useful when I reach that stage in my life. 7/10.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

January Book Haul


My goal to read two books from my TBR shelf for every one that I add to it (and read those two before I add a new one) is off to a terrible start. Here's my video of the books I've received so far this year. 


Books mentioned:
The Night Lies Bleeding by M. D. Lachlan (Gollancz, 22/2/2018)
What Fresh Hell by Lucy Vine (Orion, 8/3/2018)
Doing It by Hannah Witton (out now)
Snakewood by Adrian Selby (out now)
Flying Tips for Flightless Birds by Kelly McCaughrain (Walker Books, 1/3/2018)
The Goose Road by Rowena House (Walker Books, 5/4/2018)
White Rabbit Red Wolf: This Story Is A Lie by Tom Pollock (Walker Books, 7/6/2018)

What books have you received recently? Have you read any of these or got them in your TBR pile?
-Ailsa

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Book Review: Paris Adrift by E. J. Swift


Title: Paris Adrift
Author: E. J. Swift
Release date: February 2018
Publisher: Rebellion
Genre: Science-fiction/fantasy
Source: Review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

Description: Determined to escape her old life, misfit and student geologist Hallie packs up her life in England and heads to Paris. She falls in with the eclectic expat community as a bartender at the notorious Millie’s, located next to the Moulin Rouge.

Here she meets Gabriela, a bartender who guides her through this strange nocturnal world, and begins to find a new family. But Millie’s is not all that it seems: a bird warns Hallie to get her feathers in order, a mysterious woman shows up claiming to be a chronometrist, and Gabriela is inexplicably unable to leave Paris.

Then Hallie discovers a time portal located in the keg room. Over the next nine months, irate customers will be the least of her concerns, as she navigates time-faring through the city’s turbulent past and future, falling in love, and coming to terms with her own precarious sense of self. 

My thoughts: I first noticed this book because of the cover, and when I read the description I thought it sounded like the sort of thing I would enjoy. I pictured a fairly typical urban fantasy novel, where a main character discovers there's actually magic of some kind in the world, and with the cool setting of Paris as a bonus. In fact, it's not that sort of story at all. In the opening pages, you learn that this book is about time travel. In the not-too-distant future, the world is ending, and a group of time travellers think they've identified some key points in history where events could be steered a different way, with the help of a young woman who doesn't yet know that she's also a time traveller: Hallie.

Jump back to present day Paris, and Hallie is recently arrived in the city. In many ways, this is a contemporary novel about figuring out who you want to be, and dealing with things from your past. Hallie has basically run away from home instead of starting university. Her job at a popular bar brings her into a friend group of other people who have left something, are looking for something, or just want to have fun and not think about anything for a while. They are racially and culturally diverse, but again and again you see that they have so much in common despite their varied backgrounds.

The other aspect of the book that I particularly enjoyed was that it brings in real-world politics. The bar staff in Summer 2018 are discussing the US president, the refugee crisis, racism. As Halliee starts to visit different periods of time, she sees the effects of different political strategies played out: people starving in the wake of the siege of Paris; occupied Paris during the Second World War; 2040 when tensions between a peaceful party and a fascist one are coming to a head. It seeps quietly in to the story, not overpowering it, but becoming a central part of the book.

Paris Adrift is a fun, clever and moving book, and I definitely recommend it. It's particularly good if you don't usually like fantasy. I love that Hallie evolves over the course of the story, as do many of the staff she works with. My one little niggle about the book is that there are some tiny set up details about how the time travel works which seemed like they were going to be bigger in the story - like they're setting up a series, rather than a single book. It makes me wonder if this is the start of a series, although the book very much wrapped up tidily. Overall, I'm giving Paris Adrift by E. J. Swift 8 out of 10.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Book Review: How to Hang A Witch by Adriana Mather


Title: How to Hang A Witch
Author: Adriana Mather
Publication date: January 4th 2018
Publisher: Walker Books
Genre: YA Contemporary/Fantasy
Source: Won

Description: The trials of high school start to feel like a modern-day witch hunt for a teen with all the wrong connections to Salem's past in this thrilling, creepy and romantic New York Times bestseller.

After Sam's father is hospitalised, she has to move from New York to Salem with her stepmother, Vivian. Unfortunately, Sam is related to Cotton Mather, one of the men responsible for the Salem Witch Trials, and to say she feels unwelcome in Salem is an understatement... She is particularly unnerved by The Descendants, a mysterious and tight-knit group of girls related to those persecuted in the Trials. At the same time, she must deal with Elijah, the handsome but angry ghost who has appeared in her house, and her new neighbour Jaxon only complicates things further.

When a centuries-old curse is rekindled, Sam finds herself at the centre of it. Can she stop history repeating itself? 

My thoughts: I've noticed on my last few YA reads that I was really struggling to enjoy them, and had started to think I should skip reading any for a while. Then I picked up this one: YA, contemporary, high school setting: everything I thought I was bored of reading, and yet I got sucked in to the story right away. The story opens as Sam and her step-mother arrive at the large, spooky house that will be their new home in Salem, and in fact is the house her father grew up in. Sam never had any contact with her grandmother, the last person to live in the house, and has never been to the town before. Even so, everyone seems to have it in for her.

The house and town come to life immediately as very atmospheric places - let's just say it's not somewhere you want to be telling ghost stories after dark. As people from the old Salem families start dying, everyone at school points the blame at Sam. She must race to solve the clues in her grandmother's diary and prove her innocence before someone decides to get rid of her for good.

The characters were engaging, and the landscape of Salem is as much a character itself as the people. I've always loved stories about houses with secret rooms, so Sam's house was a treat to read about. It's a very tense story, and although the escalation of the bullying seemed a bit unrealistic at first, I could understand as the story went on why people had such strong reactions.

It's an exciting story that had me whizzing through the pages - I felt a little bit like the way I did when I first read 'Twilight'. I was totally sucked into the world, and the town was brought to life perfectly. I highly recommend it for fans of contemporary YA, especially if you like a fantasy twist in books. 8/10.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

2018 Bookish and Blogging Goals


It's that time of year for making goals and planning ahead, so this is a quick post about some of my bookish, blogging, and vlogging-related goals which you might be interested in.

1) Post 52 reviews over the course of the year.
I tried this in 2017 and didn't quite make it, but now I've fully settled in to a new flat and job, I'm much more able to plan my time, and I'm giving it another shot this year.

On a related note:
2) Post 3 times a week on the blog. 
I'd like at least two of these posts to be reviews. Others might be tags, or memes like Stacking the Shelves, and I'm also planning to cross-post more of my booktube videos. I'm thinking of occasionally doing some life updates, too; I work in publishing so I figure some people might be quite interested in hearing about that.

3) Upload one video a week to my YouTube account (which you can find here). 
This is very much going to depend on managing my time. I'm thinking I'll film on Sunday afternoons while I've got the flat to myself, then either post the video that afternoon, or hold it for the following weekend. YouTube is SUPER slow at uploading my videos and tends to choke out the rest of the internet while it's doing it, so I don't think it's something I can really do on weekday evenings... but I will test that and see how it goes.

4) Read some 'classic' science fiction and fantasy books. 
By this I mean books that are sort of the foundations of the genre, and key books that followed. Authors like Isaac Asimov, David Gemel, Ursula le Guin, and people like that. I'm looking for recommendations in this category, especially for female authors, so let me know any suggestions!

And the final, possibly toughest one:
5) Read two books off the TBR shelves for every one that's added. 
And I have to read two before I can add another one! This is going to be tough to stick to, but we got a new bookshelf recently so my shelves aren't double-stacked anymore and it really highlighted how many books I own that I haven't read yet, and how many of those I'm really looking forward to reading. I need to catch up on my TBR shelves, and continue to get better at culling books I'm never going to get round to reading.

How about you? What are your reading/blogging/etc goals and resolutions for the year? I'd love to hear about them in the comments.
-Ailsa
 

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