Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Authors to Check Out This Autumn

In light of my post on Autumn Reading Prep, I’ve being giving a lot of thought to which books I want to read over the coming months. I’m not one for set TBR’s as I’m most definitely much more of a mood reader, but lately I’ve found myself gravitating towards certain books. Historical fiction, crime thrillers – anything spooky and suspenseful. With that in mind (and instead of having an autumn TBR) I thought I’d discuss some authors I want to read over the next few months.


First up:

SHIRLEY JACKSON

For cosy autumnal reading, Shirley Jackson may come as no surprise to those of you familiar with her work. Her stories scream gothic horror and mystery and if that doesn’t make for an ideal read by the fire on a chilly September evening I don’t know what does. I’m going off how I’ve heard others describe her work because I’ve never read any of Jackson’s novels. Whoops. I feel like I should have gotten around to her by now, but with an ever growing TBR and an endless list of books vying for my attention, she’s slipped under my radar. However, over the past weeks she’s been brought to my attention and I’d love to finally get around to reading some of her work. I think The Haunting of Hill House will be the first novel I pick up, but first I'll try The Missing Girl to sample a bit of her writing style. 

SARAH WATERS

Last year I wrote a post titled Authors I Want to Read More Of, and Sarah Waters was one of them. Shamefully, I haven’t managed it yet but this autumn I plan to get stuck in to one of her big chunky novels and give her writing another shot. I read her novel Affinity whilst I was at university and I didn’t think much of it, but Sarah Waters writes the kind of books I should love and I’m determined not to write her off because of one mediocre experience six years ago. I have a copy of Fingersmith and The Little Stranger is high on my list (I confess, watching the trailer for the film got me all giddy) so I will be getting my hands on a copy ASAP.


DAPHNE DU MAURIER

To me, Daphne du Maurier is the QUEEN of autumnal reading. Gorgeous prose, historical settings, a sinister undertone – her books are exactly the kind of reads I want to snuggle up with and autumn is all about being cosy, am I right? I’ve a few of her books already on my physical TBR but my heart is drawing me back to Jamaica Inn so I might have to give that a re-read. Nothing like re-familiarising yourself with an old favourite. In regards the books I haven’t read by Daphne yet; The King’s General is high on my list.

DONNA TARTT

I feel like kicking myself over the fact that I haven’t read ANY Donna Tartt when she’s been on my radar for the longest time. The Secret History was on my summer TBR for this year and I didn’t manage to pick it up but I’m determined to read it before the year is out. I think because it’s been on my mind I’ve been seeing it everywhere (and by everywhere, I mean all over Bookstagram) and my curious little heart wants to see what all the fuss is about. Donna Tartt, your time has come.

Which authors are on your autumn reading list? Do you see any of your favourites here?

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Friday, 14 September 2018

Review: The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner



THE SISTERS OF THE WINTER WOOD BY RENA ROSSNER
2018  464 pages  Orbit Books

Raised in a small village surrounded by woodland, sisters Liba and Laya have lived a sheltered life -although there are whispers of troubling times ahead for Jews in surrounding communities. When their grandfather takes ill, their parents must leave the sisters behind while they travel to his sickbed, but life for Liba and Laya is about to drastically change. Before their parents leave, Liba discovers that the fairy tales she heard as a child are in fact true as she learns that their Tati can turn in to a bear and their Mami in to a swan. Liba must carry this secret in order to help protect her sister, but the arrival of a mysterious group of men in the village carries more danger as Laya is dragged under their spell. Both sisters must stick together if they are to survive what is happening around them as they soon realise that not all dangers lie in the woods…

I’m finding it hard to pinpoint what kind of book The Sisters of the Winter Wood is. It’s a blend of Jewish folklore, fairy tales, a splash of poetry, magical realism, all wrapped up in a series of historically inspired events. It’s jam packed with so many different ideas inspired by literature and history alike that I’m impressed by how Rena Rossner managed to pull it off, but she did.  If I was to use one word to describe this book, it would be rich – there’s so much within its pages it feels as though they’re fit to burst. It’s detailed, magical, and atmospheric.

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t completely sure at first. Magical realism is always something that takes me a minute to get my head around because you’re in a story that feels real and was inspired by real events, then suddenly you’ve got characters who can shapeshift. But I soon got used to the appearance of swans and bears and found I was actually enjoying the story. The characters and the sheltered community they live in felt well-constructed and the elements of magic and folklore were woven thoughtfully in to the narrative. The sisters learn that they too have inherited the ability to shape-shift but in the absence of their parents both Liba and Laya have to learn how to control their capabilities on their own, something which - as you can imagine - proves to be a bit of challenge.

Rossner’s narrative style was an interesting choice – both Liba and Laya have their own short chapters, but where Liba’s is written in prose, Laya’s is stylised in verse. I think this may have been an artistic decision to show the differences between the sisters. Liba is the older, more pious of the two where Laya is the young dreamer, the more romantic. The narrative also features both Yiddish and Hebrew phrases and I was thankful to find a glossary in the back pages so I could understand their meaning, but their presence in the text does help echo the Jewish sensibilities running throughout.

The fairy tale elements and the violent history which courses through this book’s pages does mean there dark moments. There’s talk of poison, blood sucking, and murder surrounding the village and Laya becomes enchanted by the group of boys believed to be responsible. Laya’s chapters in particular are centred around forbidden fruit and an unquenchable desire which gave me serious ‘Goblin Market’ vibes. There is romance to counterbalance the dark parts and it’s the powerful and occasionally overbearing kind that you find in some YA novels. Seeing as this is an adult story the romance did feel a bit heavy for me at times, but it worked for the sisters’ characters arcs well.  

This book may be full to the brim with ideas and themes but the heart of the story centres around the bond of two sisters who would do anything for one another. Their relationship really shines through and it was a delight to be drawn in to such a magical atmosphere. It’s out in the UK on 25th September so keep your eyes peeled for then if you want to get your hands on a copy!

Overall rating: 4 stars

If you'd like to check out more of my reviews you can find them here.

My arc copy of The Sisters of the Winter Wood was sent me by The Bookbag and my review originally appeared on their website.
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Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Autumn Reading Prep


Summer is steadily melting in to autumn and everything seems to be in a transitional stage at the moment. From putting away our summer dresses and digging out our beloved jumpers, to swapping iced coffees for the warming comfort of pumpkin spiced lattes. September is that month in the year where everything feeling as though it’s starting afresh - it’s like having a spring clean in the latter half of the year. With that thought in mind I thought I would write a post about prepping for autumn. More specifically, preparing our autumnal reading.

These are some of things I’ve started doing to help me get ready for those cosy September/October days:


Bookshelf TLC

With the cooler weather here after a long, hot summer, I felt my bookshelves were in dire need of a damn good clean. The summer months had caused dust to settle more easily and my shelves needed more than just a quick going over with a cloth and Mr Sheen. It took me a full afternoon but I removed all of my books, dusted them down, wiped the shelves, and reorganised them before putting them back. It was a tiring job – books are heavy – but it was worth it because now my shelves are lovely and clean, ready to see me through another season.

Un-hauling books

I’m no stranger to un-hauling books. In fact, I find it quite liberating. There’s something strangely pleasing about taking those tomes of your shelves that are no longer as well loved as they should be and sending them off to a better home. Plus, it leaves room to buy other books that you’re more excited about. I have a pile in my room that I’m going to donate to my local charity shop. I might do a little un-haul post about the books I’ve decided to no longer keep before they go off to a new home.


Pick out some autumnal reads

A subjective one because autumnal reads can be different for everyone. It might mean you want to pick up the next instalment to that fantasy series you’ve been meaning to carry on with, or a maybe a crime thriller to keep you on your toes. My perfect idea of autumnal reading involves Daphne du Maurier (shocker), historical fiction – particularly if it’s set in a cold climate, and the occasional thriller. I’ve currently got Burial Rites by Hannah Kent on the go and there a few unread du Maurier’s on my shelf, but Jamaica Inn is calling to me to be reread. Early nineteenth-century in Cornwall? Yes please.

Figure out my reading goals for the rest of the year

Now that we’re well in to the latter half of the year, I've been thinking about my reading goals for the next few months. How are my goals for 2018 looking? How's my GoodReads challenge going? Which books do I absolutely want to get to before the year is up? Lots to think about. In regards to the latter, I'm going to try and get around to picking up a Sarah Waters novel because autumn sounds like the perfect time of year to delve in to one of her books. I must get my hands on a copy of The Little Stranger *makes mental note*.

Organise my virtual shelves

If you’re an avid user of GoodReads (like me) you’ll love organising your reading. Over the last few days I’ve really been getting on top of documenting my books and making sure my virtual shelves match up with what I’ve got on my physical TBR. I also use a spreadsheet designed by Sophie from Portal in the Pages, but it’s been neglected these last few months and it’s in desperate need of being updated. My organised little brain loves to document everything.
                                                            

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And there we have it, my autumn reading prep. I’ve plenty of reading material to keep me busy over the next few months and I’m excited to get in to those novels that I’ve been saving for now. What are your autumn reading plans? Do you have an autumn TBR planned?

If you’d like to read more of my book related posts, you can check them out here.

Happy reading, booklovers!
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Monday, 3 September 2018

Holiday Diary: What I Read This Summer




Why, hello! It's been a busy old summer of travelling for me this year. I first took a holiday to Spain with my family and then I was off camping around France for three weeks with two of my best friends. It's been hectic and I've loved every minute of it. Spain was the relaxing trip I needed whereas France offered me the adventure I didn't even know I was craving! It was the trip of a lifetime and I wouldn't change it for the world.

Anyway, let's move on to the real reason I'm here today... to discuss all of the books I read on my travels! I managed a fair few so let's get straight in.

 

Vicious by V. E. Schwab
2013 • 366 pages • Tor Books

This was one of only two books that I actually read from my Summer Holiday Reading List post. That TBR may have been a bit of a fail but this book was a complete gem. Schwab is fast becoming one of my new favourite writers and I’ve devoured four of her books in the last year. It was actually her Shades of Magic series that got me out of a dreaded reading slump at the beginning of 2018 so her books have done me a world of good. Vicious is different to Shades of Magic in that it’s a contemporary about super-villains as opposed to a heavily detailed fantasy, but I loved it no less and savoured every minute of it. I’m steadily awaiting the sequel which comes out this month and I’ve even got it on pre-order. Excited, much?

Overall rating: 4.5 stars

A Song of War by Various
2016 • 444 pages • Knight Media

I’m a bit late getting around to reading the third novel by The H Team but I finally decided to pick it up this summer. I had similar feelings for this one as I did for A Day of Fire – I liked it but it didn’t blow me away. I still think the authors themselves did a great job at working with one another and weaving together an epic retelling of The Illiad, but something was missing that stopped me from falling in love with the story. I enjoyed the time I spent with this one, but it’s not my favourite.

Overall rating: 3 stars

2017 • 366 pages • Tor Books

Honeyman’s debut really surprised me. I’m always a bit cautious about reading books that have a lot of hype surrounding them but, in this case, I needn’t have worried. I was swept up in Eleanor’s story and although I found her to be a slightly annoying protagonist at first, she grew on me as the book went on. By the end, I was in love with the story. The best part is I didn’t see it coming, which I think is why I enjoyed it so much.

Overall rating: 4 stars


The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
2011 • 328 pages • Granta Books

I’d first heard of The Sisters Brothers a few years ago when it was nominated for the Manbooker, but I didn’t have any interest in reading it at the time. Then out of the blue, I stumble across the trailer on YouTube for the film coming out later this year. Naturally my interest is piqued and I order myself a copy right away. Amid this new-found excitement I was keen to get started on it straight away, but unfortunately the whole experience ended up being a bit underwhelming. The plot didn’t grab me, I felt the characters didn’t have a lot of depth – overall it wasn’t for me. Trial and error, guys. Trial and error.

Overall rating: 2 stars

Beatrice and Benedick by Marina Fiorato
2014 • 416 pages • Hodder Paperbacks

This is my third Marina Fiorato novel and she’s become my go-to for when I’m in the mood for some light historical fiction. Any of you out there familiar with Shakespeare might be able to guess that this one is centred around two of the main characters from Much Ado About Nothing, my personal favourite of Shakespeare’s works. Beatrice and Benedick was so much fun and I was worried at first because on paper it sounds like it shouldn’t work, but Fiorato builds a backstory that felt real and fits with the structure of the original play. I’ve got two more of her books waiting to be read on my shelves so I’ll be sure to get around to those.

Overall rating: 3.5 stars

Company of Liars by Karen Maitland
2008 • 592 pages • Penguin

It turns out whilst I was on my travels around France, I discovered that I didn’t bring enough books with me. Terrible, I l know. Luckily, I was travelling with two of my besties who also love books, so my friend Victoria let me borrow one from her own portable library. Company of Liars came highly recommended and I had never read any of Karen Maitland’s novels before, but gritty historical fiction about a band of misfits during the Black Plague sounded right up my street. I trusted my gut on this one and it payed off because I loved this story. I fell in love with the characters and throughout you can sense something untoward is going on but I never saw it coming. And the ending – that twist, guys. Well worth the read.

Overall rating: 4 stars


So, there we have it. The books I read on my holidays this summer. Not a bad wrap up, I don’t think. Vicious was a standout read for me this summer but Eleanor Oliphant and Company of Liars are the two that really took me by surprise.

Which books have you read and loved this summer?


If you’d like to check out more of my reviews and wrap-ups you can find them here.

Until next time – happy reading, booklovers!


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