Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Authors I Want to Read More Of

I've been thinking lately about the authors I enjoy and those of whom I'd like to read more of. Some I feel like I haven't given enough of a chance to find out if I really enjoy their work, whereas others I know their writing will hook me no matter what. I've narrowed my choice of to four and I thought I'd write a post about the authors I've chosen and tell you more about why I want to pick up their books. So, here goes:


MARGARET ATWOOD

A reputable and prolific writer, Atwood had been on my radar for a good many years. I read The Handmaid's Tale back when I was at university and I won't lie, since watching the TV adaptation I've been itching to pick up another Atwood. I've also read Oryx and Crake which I really enjoyed but I've yet to pick up the rest of the books in the trilogy so I think I'll continue with those for my next Atwood pick. But I also want to try Alias Grace soon, and I have no shame in saying that it was it's upcoming adaptation that sparked my curiosity because it looks and sounds amazing. Reading more Atwood has been on my to-do list for the longest time and I'm eager to rectify this in the not too distant future.


SARAH WATERS

My relationship with Sarah Waters is an odd one because I've only read one of her books and I didn't enjoy it. I read Affinity way back in 2012 and I didn't really think much of it. It's always saddened me that my first venture in to her works wasn't a positive one because on paper Sarah Waters novels sound like the kind of books I should love. I'm eager to give her another chance and Fingersmith seems like a good one to pick up since it seems to be a firm favourite with lovers of her writing. I'll let you know how I get on once I've read it.


GILLIAN FLYNN

I won't deny it - Gone Girl is one of the best thrillers I've ever read. It may not count for much since I haven't read a ton of a thriller/crime books but GG definitely stands out for me among the rest. I find thrillers to be an easy genre to read, one that I know I can get my teeth in to an devour in just a few sittings. When I read Gillian Flynn's Sharp Objects earlier this year this was the exact outcome so I certainly plan on reading her other two published novels. 


ROSE TREMAIN

A fairly new one for me but Rose Tremain has quickly become an author of particular interest. She writes historical fiction but isn't set to writing in one era and since reading her most recent novel, The Gustav Sontana a few months ago, I'm eager to read more of her writing. The one that caught my eye is Restoration, which is set in the court of Charles II in seventeenth century England. This period is one I love to read about and it'll be interesting to see how her writing compares when reading a novel set in the 1600's rather than WWII Europe.

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Let me know, have you read any of these authors or want to read them? I'm hoping to get to at least a couple in the next few months so lets see how I get on! In the mean time if you'd like to check out some of my other reading goals you can find them here.

Until next time, happy reading!
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Wednesday, 20 September 2017

A Little Unhaul

I think I sometimes enjoy getting rid of books as much as I enjoy buying them. There's something about taking a book that you didn't enjoy off your shelves and passing in on to a new home. I have very limited shelf space and I'm picky with the books I choose to keep. It's my goal in life to one day have a room full of books and I want all of the books I put on my shelves to have been ones that I've enjoyed. If a book isn't for me then I pass it on, and that includes books that I've had on my TBR and no longer feel like picking up. So I thought I'd take you through some of the books that are destined to move on to a better home, where hopefully they can be more well-loved. 


THE WANDERERS BY MEG HOWREY (2017)
Simon and Schuster UK  384 pages

I read The Martian last year and it was one of my favourite books of 2016. Since then I've wanted to read another sci-fi novel that made me feel all the feels that Andy Weir's debut did. I thought I might have found it with The Wanderers because it screamed 'for readers who loved The Martian'. Sadly, this just didn't cut it for me. The story follows three astronauts as they take part in a simulation to prepare them for a journey to Mars, each of them having their own narrative as well as members of their individual families. 



To me it all felt very flat. The story never lifted off the ground (excuse the pun) and with so many characters getting their chance at telling the story I was left feeling confused and less and less interested. This was sent to me for review back in April and it was a very underwhelming experience. I'm surprised I still have my copy after all this time so it's well overdue to be sent to a new home. 



CLOUD ATLAS DAVID MITCHELL (2005)
Sceptre  531 pages


This book has been on my shelves for years. I bought it second hand around 5 years ago (no exaggeration) and it's been sat unread since. This was one of those books that I'd heard a lot of people talk about so I picked up because it was popular, but I've never once been inclined to actually read it. After several years of sitting on my shelves untouched I think it's about time that I finally let Cloud Atlas go. If I'm not going to read it after all this time I'm pretty sure I never will. 



LOOKING FOR ALASKA BY JOHN GREEN (2006)
Harper Collins • 263 pages


This is one of those "it's not you, it's me moments" because I think the time may have come where I finally say goodbye to John Green. The Fault in Our Stars is still on my shelves for the time being but I've been weighing up whether or not I should keep Looking For Alaska for a while now. I liked it at the time I read it, but I've slowly been reading less and less YA over the years and I doubt I'll read this one again. It never left a lasting impression on me so this is another one I'm putting on to my to-donate pile. 




THE BUTCHER'S HOOK BY JANET ELLIS (2016)
Two Roads • 349 pages

You might remember that I wrote about my reading progress with The Butcher's Hook in a recent post. Spoiler: I didn't get along with it. I made it about half way and decided to give up, and even now I still feel kind of sad about it because I really thought I was going to love it. Historical fiction set in eighteenth-century London with an anti-heroine at the centre of the story sounded exactly like my kind of read. I gave it a fair try but the writing style and the story failed to grab me. Sadly, I think this is one of my most disappointing reads of the year.

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There are several others that I've decided I know longer want to keep, but we could be here forever if I went through each book that I'm un-hauling. They'll be many more in the future too no doubt. If some books aren't for you it's best to pass them on in the hope they will find someone who can love them.

If you'd like to check out more of my reviews (some of which I most certainly won't be un-hauling) then you can check them out here. Until next time, happy reading fellow book lovers!

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Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Review: S.T.A.G.S. by M. A. Bennett



S.T.A.G.S. by M. A Bennett (2017)
Hot Key Books  304 pages

One weekend. Three deadly activities. Greer MacDonald is a new student at the prestigious St Aidan the Great Boarding School, known to its exclusive pupils as S.T.A.G.S. It is a school where technology is absent, the teachers are replaced by friars, and a group of elite students –known as the Medievals – run the school. When Greer inexplicably receives an invitation from the Medievals to spend a weekend at the stately home of Henry de Warlencourt, the most popular boy at school, she is too curious decline such an invitation. But little does Greer realise that there is more to the weekend than she initially understands. Ultimately, she and the other two students who have been invited must come together to uncover the truth about the infamous Medievals, and the blood sports they have been chosen to take part in.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable read from the start. S.T.A.G.S feels a little bit like a mash up of The Hunger Games and Downton Abbey, which sounds like a strange comparison but it really works. You're thrown in to the historical and prestigious boarding school, which feels overwhelming and daunting at the same time. From the opening line I was in Greer's shoes, suddenly in a world entirely cut off from modern society and feeling like I was transported in to the past, much like the aptly named Medievals who unofficially run the school. Then things take a dark turn and the seemingly ideal fa├žade of S.T.A.G.S is torn away to reveal a disturbing and rotten underbelly. I read this in one sitting, which for me is something that rarely happens.

M.A. Bennett (I later found out) is a pseudonym for writer Marina Fiorato, who as you may know I was already familiar with through her delightful historical novels. This is her first shot at YA but I doubt it'll be her last because she writes effortlessly. From the outset, you know something has gone wrong – you're told that on the first page. But the journey throughout is gripping and I was sucked in to Greer's story as she becomes swept up in a mysterious and dangerous game. The plot is fast but it doesn't hold back on fleshing out its characters and providing believable character arcs for a novel that feels slim, but one that ultimately packs a punch. And whilst a fun read, it sheds light on issues such as class and morality. It's entertaining but there's a deeper meaning to the story which shines through.

Although a YA novel, S.T.A.G.S has a thriller-mystery spark to it that makes it stand out from so many other Young Adult novels. It's contemporary but the tranquil English country setting gives it a unique edge that compliments the entire feel of the book. It's thrilling and despite the dark elements to the story, I enjoyed the fact that there was a strong friendship at the centre. I like to root for the characters I'm reading about and spur them on, and that's exactly what I did with Greer and her companions throughout. There's definitely potential for a sequel, but even as a standalone this works brilliantly. Definitely one of the best YA books I've read all year.

Overall rating: 4 stars

If you'd like to check out my other reviews you can see them here. Until next time, happy reading, fellow book lovers.

My arc copy of STAGS was sent to me by The Bookbag and my review originally appeared on their website.

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Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Book Haul ft. Marina Fiorato


So, I bought some books. My TBR shelf was looking a bit sparse so I thought I'd treat myself to a few new reads, in particular,  the novels of Marina Fiorato. I read The Double Life of Mistress Kit Kavannah last year and loved it, and since then I've been meaning to try out some more of her work. I'm keen to get to all of these soon because they all sound like great reads. I was also recently sent S.T.A.G.S by M. A. Bennett for review which I later found out is a pseudonym of Marina Fiorato and what re-sparked my interest in reading some more of her work. S.T.A.G.S is a brilliant YA thriller and my review is up on The Bookbag if you want to know more about it.

Anyway, on with the books:


THE BOTTICELLI SECRET (2010)
Hodder Books • 514 pages

An irrepressible young woman in 15th-century Italy must flee for her life after stumbling upon a deadly secret when she serves as a model for Botticelli... When part-time model and full-time prostitute Luciana Vetra is asked by one of her most exalted clients to pose for a painter friend, she doesn't mind serving as the model for the central figure of Flora in Sandro Botticelli's masterpiece "Primavera." But when the artist dismisses her without payment, Luciana impulsively steals an unfinished version of the painting--only to find that someone is ready to kill her to get it back. 

Fourteenth-century Italy was a rich and sumptuous era and one I'm always keen to read more of in historical novels.  Kate Quinn's The Borgia Chronicles sparked my interest in this particular place in history and The Botticelli Secret sounds like a lot of fun. A story about centred around art, mystery, and possibly murder? Count me in. It's a chunker of a book but if the premise is anything to live up to then I'll fly through it.




THE DAUGHTER OF SIENA (2011)
John Murray Publishers • 387 pages

Amid the intrigue and danger of 18th-century Italy, a young woman becomes embroiled in romance and treachery with a rider in the Palio, the breath-taking horse race set in Siena.... It's 1729, and the Palio, a white-knuckle horse race, is soon to be held in the heart of the peerless Tuscan city of Siena. But the beauty and pageantry masks the deadly rivalry that exists among the city's districts. Each ward, represented by an animal symbol, puts forth a rider to claim the winner's banner, but the contest turns citizens into tribes and men into beasts--and beautiful, headstrong, young Pia Tolomei is in love with a rider of an opposing ward, an outsider who threatens the shaky balance of intrigue and influence that rules the land.

The eighteenth-century is another historical era I'm keen to read more of, although to be honest, any historical novel set pre-1800 instantly grabs my attention. This one definitely sounds like more a romance which I don't usually go for, but the plot sounds different to any other historical novel I've read (a story centred around a horse race?). I think I'll save this one for when I'm feeling a bit soft at heart and in the mood for some love.



THE VENETIAN CONTRACT (2012)

John Murray Publishers • 407 pages

1576. Five years after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire at the Battle of Lepanto, a ship steals unnoticed into Venice bearing a deadly cargo. A man more dead than alive disembarks and staggers into Piazza San Marco. He brings a gift to Venice from Constantinople. Within days the city is infected with bubonic plague—and the Turkish Sultan has his revenge. But the ship also holds a secret stowaway—Feyra, a young and beautiful harem doctor fleeing a future as the Sultan's concubine. Only her wits and medical knowledge keep her alive as the plague ravages Venice.

Out of all three of the books in the haul, I think this is the one I have my eye on most at the moment. A story woven in to sixteenth-century Venice full of adventure, mystery, and a woman ahead of her time are all the things I look for in a historical novel. This has the potential to be amazing and I only hope it lives up to my expectations! The Venetian Contract is a high contender for being my next historical read.


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I don’t think three books is bad for a book haul. I’ve been tempted to buy a few more over the last month but I’ve held back and not let my TBR shelf become too crowded. Let’s see how I hold out throughout September…


Until next time, happy reading!

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