Friday, 21 June 2019

Unread Books I Think I'll Love #2

I’ve been browsing my TBR shelf recently (as you do) and it’s got me thinking about the books I currently own that could potentially be new favourites. I’m terrible at buying books in the heat of the moment and then not picking them up immediately, but of late I’ve been pondering the books that I own which could be future five star reads. I wrote a post like this one last year and my predictions were interesting so I wanted to share the books that are currently my top contenders for being my favourites of the year.


The Secret History by Donna Tartt
1992  629 pages  Penguin Books

I feel like one of the few people to not have read this book and it saddens me because I think I’m going to love, love this one. A group of college students who gradually go beyond moral boundaries and slip in to corruption and evil?  Sign. Me. Up. It’s been on my shelves for a little over a year, and I did in fact take it away with me last year with the full intention of reading it whilst I was on holiday in sunny Spain. However, the timing felt off and I wasn’t feeling compelled to pick it up and the time. The last thing you want is to taint a book by reading it at the wrong time so I decided to save it for when I really wanted to read it. That time may be almost here because it’s been drawing my eye of late and I’m so excited to finally get stuck in.

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
2016  536 pages  Orion

I read Six of Crows, the first book in this fantasy duology, at the back end of last summer. It was a fun, fast-paced story that again I felt everyone on Bookstagram had read apart from me! I was curious and wanted to see what all the fuss was about and I’m very glad I did. I enjoyed it and went ahead and bought the sequel, Crooked Kingdom, shortly after. And I haven’t read it yet. Oops. I know I’m going to enjoy this one, I can feel it in my bones. Leigh Bardugo’s writing style is engrossing and each of her characters has their own unique voice so I’m keen to revisit this well-crafted fantasy world. Again, I think I’m just waiting for when I feel truly inspired to pick it up.


The Huntress by Kate Quinn
2019  560 pages  William Morrow Paperbacks

One of my anticipated release for 2019 by one of my favourite authors. It’s been a couple of years since Quinn released The Alice Network – a historical fiction set between the two world wars which I absolutely loved. Now she’s back with another post-war novel about three individuals who all cross paths with a Nazi murderess known as The Huntress and it sounds so, so good. The way Kate Quinn writes characters and makes history come to life is amazing and I’m forever in awe of her work as an author. I’ve read all of her books to date and she’s not disappointed me yet so I’ve no doubt The Huntress will be one of my favourites of this year.

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
2014  599 pages  Virago

Remember earlier this year when I wrote a post saying one of my reading goals was to read all of Sarah Waters published works? Well, it’s six months in to the year I have yet to put that goal in to action but worried I am not because The Paying Guests is increasingly looking more and more appealing to me. As Waters’ most current novel to date it’s a chunky one even by her standards but I’ve been reading my fair share of ‘big’ books lately (in fact, I realised while writing this that all of the books in this post are over 500 pages) so I’m not letting that put me off. Set in 1922 this is another post-war novel about the lives of an impoverished widow and her daughter as they welcome a lodger couple in to their lives. In true Sarah Waters fashion, I have no doubt this will be an engrossing and evocative read so this is one I’ll be adding to my summer to-read list for sure.

Which of your unread books do you think hold the potential to be new favourites? As always, feel free to let me know if you’ve read any of the books I’ve mentioned and what you think of them!

SHARE:

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Review: The Ketty Jay series by Chris Wooding



Minor spoilers for the Ketty Jay series ahead!

It’s been a while since I wrote a full-length review for a book or a series. I find mini-reviews much more effective when I’m rounding up my feelings towards my recently read pile. However last night I finished The Ace of Skulls, the final book in the Tales of the Ketty Jay series by Chris Wooding and I was left with lots of thoughts. I’ve been reading this four-book series since the beginning of the year and it’s been an experience to say the least, so I wanted to round up my overall final thoughts because when I finished up the story in the early hours of this morning, I had some feelings.

The Tales of The Ketty Jay is a steampunk-fantasy series which follows a crew of dysfunctional pirates on board a flying vessel known as the Ketty Jay. The crew are a misfit bunch of characters each with their own history and are led by Darian Frey, their rogue, down-on-his-luck Captain who is better at charming ladies than he is at leading his crew. Alongside Frey you’ve got Crake, a man on the run who practises an outlawed science known as deamonism; Malvery, the loveable drunk doctor; Silo, the silent engineer; Jez, the navigator with a dark and terrifying secret; Bess, Crake’s eight foot golem; Harkins and Pinn, two bickering out-pilots who are the polar opposite of one another; and then you’ve got Slag the Cat who roams the Ketty Jay and is as much a part of the crew as the rest of them. They make their living transporting contraband and generally living on the wrong side of the law, as pirates do, and the plot of each book is fast paced with one dilemma after another around each corner. It’s a fun, swashbuckling fantasy series that feels as loveable as Pirates of the Caribbean in a world very different to our own.

I’ve never read any steampunk before so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I loved the world-building and the futuristic, yet historical feel to the setting. Chris Wooding has clearly spent a lot of time crafting this world for his characters, creating a believable societal system with politics and religion being the driving pivotal points in the big events that drive the plot. One thing that was missing, something that I think is an added bonus with any fantasy series, was a map at the start of each book. The central characters move around a lot, going from country to country and frequently reference other places, so I think a map would have been greatly beneficial. I used my imagination of course, but as a reference point I think it would have been handy to know how far one place was from another.

So, the world and the setting get a big thumbs up from me, but what about the characters? Character focus in novels is a big thing for me and as much as do enjoy a fast-paced story, the characters ultimately have to be the central motivation to keep me reading. My favourite parts of these books were the scenes that focused on character building, which I thought on a whole, Chris Wooding did a good job with. The relationship between Frey and his crew goes through many ups and downs but they always pull together and learn to work and live together like the dysfunctional yet loveable family that they are. The first two books, Retribution Falls and The Black Lung Captain, were in my opinion the strongest at building and exploring the crew’s relationship. Things fell a little short me by the third book. There seemed to be an increase in action scenes which I did get a bit lost in. Battle scenes always tend to go by in a bit of blur for me.

Frey is the most central figure in this ensemble cast and despite his sometimes-questionable ability of being a good leader, his compassion and will to be a better person shines through. His relationship with former lover-turned nemesis Trinica Draken, a formidable pirate queen in her own right, plays a big part in Frey’s character arc and a lot of his motivation by third book stems from his feelings towards her. It’s very “will they, won’t they,” and their relationship goes through a lot of turmoil before the final book comes to a close. I enjoyed Frey’s character, but was I entirely satisfied with his character arc? For me his story became a bit romance heavy in the final book, to the point where he risks the safety of his crew over the woman he loves, which for me negates what he and his crew had been previously been through.

As for the other characters and their stories, I enjoyed the time I spent with them and I appreciated how they all had their own individual character arcs. Crake, one of my favourite characters, felt like he’d come a long way since the opening of book one and everything in his story was rounded off nicely. Pinn and Harkins were two of my least favourite characters; they felt the most under-developed and I felt they were mainly there for comic relief. Even Slag the Cat gets his own chapter thrown in every now and then, which I thought was a bit odd and the first time it happened it took me right out of the story because it doesn’t add anything to the overall narrative.

One of my favourite characters and my biggest disappointment was Jez, the Ketty Jay’s trusty navigator. The main focus of Jez’s story is that she’s half-Mane; a ghoulish, haunting creature that is neither dead or alive. They’re feared beings who live in the north and Jez’s encounter with one left her not quite human, but not quite Mane. She spends the first two books trying to fight her Mane-side and understand these new-found supernatural abilities she possesses (amazing eyesight, incredible perception at knowing where places are) all of which improve her ability as a navigator. But by the third book I felt as though she gets forgotten about. Her Mane-side is growing and she can’t control it; the crew become a bit wary of her and all of the aspects of her original character just sort of disappear. By the end of Book Four she’s turned fully Mane and leaves to join her brethren. It felt as though Jez the navigator and member of the Ketty Jay left in Book Two and the last two books she was Jez the Mane who the crew weren’t sure about anymore. She was one of my favourite characters and her story arc fell very flat and cold for me.

So, what is my overall impression of this series? My general feelings towards it is that I enjoyed these books and I had a lot of fun with them. I liked the time I spent with these characters and despite not being entirely satisfied with some character arcs, I am going to miss them. I loved the fast-paced action, I thought the world building was brilliant, and as a newbie to steampunk fantasy I’m very glad I read these books. They’d been on my radar for sometime so it feels to good have finally given them a shot.

Overall series rating: 4 stars

Would I recommend? Yes

And who would I recommend to? Lovers of fantasy; people who enjoy fast paced historical fiction with a twist; lovers of well-developed and realistic characters.
SHARE:

Friday, 31 May 2019

Book Series I'm Not Going to Finish



After a month-long absence from blogging all throughout April and nearly all of May (oops) I’m back with a post I’ve been wanting to write for a while. We all have book series we love and adore, but what about the ones that didn’t capture us as much as we’d hoped? I used to get terrible book-guilt over series I hadn’t finished and forever kept telling myself that I’d eventually get around to picking up the next instalment. I’ve now made peace with the fact that there are just some series that I’m never going to complete because I didn’t love them enough to carry or I’ve outgrown the story. And that’s okay. So today I’m going to discuss the series I’ve decided to leave behind and not continue. First up:

The Millennium Series by Stieg Larsson

I was a bit late to the party with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but when I got around to it I did enjoy it. A thriller with a kick ass heroine and a mystery that kept me guessing right until the very end. So why haven’t I carried on with the series? This is a classic case of ‘I enjoyed this book at the time, but it didn’t stay with me afterwards’. As good as the story and the characters were, I found the writing to be dry and over-written. I told myself I would pick up the next book but I never felt compelled to, even when I first initially finished this one.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

This was one of those books that repeatedly kept popping up on my radar to the point where I had a fear of missing out and wanted to see what all the hype with these books was about. I went in to reading it with some trepidation, as I do with any well-known and well-loved book. What if I found it didn’t live up to the hype? In cases like those you just have to go for it and hope the story is for you. That’s how I discovered V. E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic series and I’m so glad I gave those books a chance. However, while I thought A Court of Thorns and Roses was good, I didn’t enjoy it enough to warrant me reading the rest of the series. I’m glad I gave this one a go, but ultimately this series just isn’t for me.

The Last Kingdom (The Saxon Stories) by Bernard Cornwell

When I picked up the first book in this epic historical fiction series a few years ago I expected to fall in love with it. Historical fiction is one of my favourite genres and I always enjoy reading books set in periods I know very little about. Ninth-century Saxon England is an era in history I’d barely touched upon so I was curious to read a historical fiction set during that time. I did enjoy it to an extent, but I think my main issue with The Last Kingdom wasn’t so much the history, but the writing style. It felt dry and although it’s been a few years since I read it, I remember being very underwhelmed by it. Sadly this just wasn't what I was looking for.

A Great and Terrible Beauty (The Gemma Doyle Series) by Libba Bray

Yet another historical fiction I had high hopes for but left me feeling lukewarm. Again, it’s not that I disliked this book, but it also didn’t leave me compelled to rush off and buy the sequel. I actually wrote a favourable review for this one a few years ago which you can check out here, but this is one of those books that didn’t stand the test of time for me. Libba Bray isn’t a complete write off for me though, and I may check out some of her other standalone novels in the future.

A Song of Ice and Fire by George. R. R. Martin

This one is a toughie. I surprised myself when I realised that this series of books just isn’t for me because I really, really wanted to love them, but I've made my peace with the fact that I'm never going to finish them. I made it as far as A Storm of Swords and called it a day. Instead, I trusted the storytelling of these books to the T.V show, which is easily one of my favourite shows of all time. However, I’m now writing this post-watching the final ever episode (sob) and my disappointment has left me wondering what more the books can offer. Yet I have a few reasons as to why I abandoned this series – too many POV’s and a writing style I couldn't gel with to name two – so as much as I love the story overall, realistically I don’t think I’m going to return to these books. My experience was that whilst they added more depth to the overall story, I found them to be long-winded and an overall slog to get through.

That being said, that doesn’t mean I won’t shy away from finding out who GRRM really feels belongs on the Iron Throne because the show really dropped a ball in that final season. Sigh.

Which series have you decided you’re never going to finish? Are on of yours on my list?

SHARE:

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

The Monthly Edit: What I've Been Reading, Watching and Listening to #1

Like most humans, I consume a lot of media. I read a lot of course, but I also love T.V and film and I’m lost on public transport if I don’t have my headphones with me. There’s always something new to watch or listen to in this ever-growing Netflix age so I thought I’d start a  series where I discuss what I’ve read, watched, and listened over the last month or so. I love reading these kinds of posts and I think it’s always interesting to reflect on what you’ve been enjoying recently. Or not enjoying. With the good comes some bad, but overall I enjoyed some pretty good stuff over the last month so here’s what I read, watched, and listened to in February!


Reading

Over the last few months I’ve gotten in to listening to audiobooks and I do wonder what took me so long to give them a go. I find that they’re perfect for those times when I want to snuggle up with my book, but my eyes are just too tired to concentrate. So with my latest Audible credit I decided to listen to I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara. As a true crime fanatic this one had been on my radar since its release last year and I enjoyed it (as much as one can enjoy a non-fiction account of an infamous serial killer.) I wasn’t completely enamoured with it as I hoped I’d be, but I put that down to listening to it rather than reading a physical copy. I think my brain might have appreciated reading the facts and statistics as opposed to listening to them. I’m still glad I finally got around to this one though.

I then had a bit of an impulse read and picked up Holes by Louis Sachar. I read this back in high school and I had a sudden, desperate urge to read it again. I love mood reading and I especially love it when I have a desire to pick up a book I know I’ve enjoyed in the past. There was something so comforting about reading Holes again – not just the story, which I think is well thought out and executed, but the nostalgia of the book as a whole. It reminded me of being 14 again and reading it in my Year 9 English class.

Whilst reading Holes I also had two other books on the go: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and The Black Lung Captain by Chris Wooding. I’d been reading Homegoing throughout January and February for Bee’s Patreon book club and it was an incredible read. I was a bit sceptical with how I’d feel about it at first since multigenerational novels aren’t something I read a lot and I think they’re a tricky thing to master, but Gyasi does a brilliant job. It’s unlike anything I’ve read and I highly recommend. I then rounded the month of with a bit of fantasy and completed The Black Lung Captain, the second book in the Ketty Jay series. This was so much fun and I enjoyed this one more than the first book, so much so that I put my order in for the third book before I finished this one. These books are pure escapism with great characters and a super exciting plot. A very good end to February’s reading.


Watching

I somehow managed to watch a lot of TV series in February. Usually I either read a lot or watch a lot, but this month I seem to have found an equal balance between the two. I started off by watching You on Netflix, a show I’d heard a lot about and one a friend had recommended I check out. I’m sure a lot of you have heard about this one by now – the show where Dan from Gossip Girl is a seemingly charming bookstore clerk/stalker/murderer/creep. It’s binge-worthy I’ll give it that and I was hooked from the first episode, although by around episode 6 my interest started to wane. For a 10-episode series, I felt it was too long and the ending really annoyed me. It was good, but I don’t think I’d recommend it in a hurry.

So after watching 10 hour long episodes of a show about a stalker, I wanted something equally binge worthy but a bit more fun. Russian Doll starring Natasha Lyonne jumped out at me – a series following a woman who relives the same night over and over again. A bit like Groundhog Day with Nicky from Orange is the New Black instead of Bill Murray. I enjoyed this one – it’s not without its faults and it didn’t knock my socks off but it was an entertaining experience and one I’d recommend if you’re looking for something quirky.

I also finally managed to get to a cinema in February to watch the much talked about The Favourite. I’d been dying to see this ever since I knew it was being released – a historical comedy drama about the later years of Queen Anne and her closest female advisers, both vying to be her favourite. The cast is amazing: I love Olivia Colman and Emma Stone and I’ve had a crush on Rachel Weisz since seeing her in The Mummy when I was 12. Throw them together and you’ve got a strong cast of amazing women. It’s a Yorgos Lanthimos film so it’s a little bizarre but it was an experience to say the least and I felt there was lots of layers to unravel in terms of storytelling. Olivia Colman won an Oscar for her leading role and so well deserved because she was brilliant.

Towards the end of February I watched The Umbrella Academy on Netflix which was a bit of a random watch for me, I’d seen someone mention it on Twitter so I decided to give it a go and I’m so glad I did. It stars Ellen Page and it centres around a family of former child superhero’s who reunite after their father’s death and it’s so good, so so good. The cast, the cinematography, the soundtrack, this show was pure fun and I binged it in two days. It’s not perfect, most works of television have their fault, but I was so entertained by this series and I’m very much looking forward to season 2.

Once I binged The Umbrella Academy I felt like I needed something else along a similar vein – that and  I needed some more Robert Sheehan in my life - so I went old school and watched the first two season of Misfits. Damn that show is good and I can’t believe it aired 10 years ago, although watching all of the characters use flip phones really took me back.


Listening

I’m very much a repeat listener, so when it comes to music I play the same songs or album for weeks. In February I discovered Patti Smith’s Horses album, which really made me want to read her memoirs. I’ve already mentioned The Umbrella Academy Soundtrack, but I’ve been listening to it constantly. There’s an amazing collection of songs on that show, just tune after tune. It’s on Apple Music so I recommend giving it a listen.

In terms of podcasts I haven’t listened to anything new for a while. I’m forever listening to My Favourite Murder when I’m in bed and I can’t sleep, but I would like something new to listen to if you have any recommendations. Anything true crime based and chatty with a bit of humour, yes please.

So that’s everything I read, watched, and listened to in the month of February! Quite a lot for such a short month but on the whole I enjoyed some really good content. What did you read, watch, and listen to last month? Any new favourites?

SHARE:

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Pendulum: A Flash Fiction

This is a creative piece I wrote in the autumn of last year. I was hesitant to post it as first, but then I thought, why not? I never share my creative work online but as it’s a short piece I thought it would be a good place to start if I ever want to share more in the future. I rather like it so let me know what you think! (TW: death, suicide).

(photo credit)


Pendulum

Her body twirled, weightless and gentle
Toes at a perfect point
Suspended by air
Creak creak, said the rope
As it strained against the beams

SHARE:

Friday, 1 February 2019

My 2019 Reading Goals


Happy 1st February, one and all! I hope 2019 is treating you well so far. For those of you who were waiting for the January slog to be over (and I think I speak for all of us there), you can now rejoice in leaving those January blues behind for another year. The nights are getting shorter, little green buds are starting to show, and even though it’s still bitterly cold, I’m hopeful that February will be a good month.

Despite January being the month of New Years Resolutions, I found it really difficult to motivate myself in the first few weeks of 2019. I blame it on the cold, dreary weather, or the fact that I was looking forward to a few weeks of relaxation after a busy Christmas. Either way, this post was something I wanted to write at the very beginning of the year but as my energy for creativity was at a serious low, it’s come a little later than planned. My Reading Goals For 2019.

I’m not really one for having strict TBR’s or set ideas of where I want to go with my reading – I’m very much a mood reader. This year however I have a few goals I’d like to dedicate some more time too.


READ 40 BOOKS

I’ve taken part in the GoodReads reading challenge every year since 2011 and 40 books is my go-to reading goal. Last year I didn’t make my target due to the slump of a slumps I was in for the first four months of 2018, but this year I’m back to reading at my usual pace and I’m confident I can hit it this year.

READ ALL OF SARAH WATERS NOVELS

Since reading The Little Stranger back in October I’ve been desperate to read some more Sarah Waters, and I thought why not read all of her work? I have a terrible habit of finding a book I adored and then not reading anything else from the author for months, even years, and it’s something I want to seriously amend. I’d love to find some new favourite authors and I have a feeling Sarah Waters might be a contender, so 2019 is the year I’m going to pick up all of her books. I’ve got five to go – including a re-read of Affinity – so I’m going to aim for one every two months or so.

READ SOME AGATHA CHRISTIE

I enjoy crime fiction and in recent years I’ve realised how much I actually love it. I love novels that keep me on my toes and crime novels do just that, yet I don’t read very many. To try and amend that I’ve decided this year I want to try some books written by the Queen of Crime herself: Agatha Christie. Shamefully, I’ve never read any Christie and I think it’s because I’m a bit at a loss of where to start. This post from The Book Riot has given me a few ideas so I might start with one of her more well-known novels first. If you have any recommendations of which book would be a good one to pick up first let me know! I’m open to suggestions.

PRIORITISE BOOKS THAT ARE ON MY TBR

A bit of a toughy since – like all bookworms – I love buying books. However, there are some books on my shelves that have been there for far too long. A little rule I have (which I’ve currently bent due to a post-Christmas book haul. Oops) is that I have a single shelf of book to-be-read and I tell myself I can’t purchase any more books until there’s room for more on that shelf. This is something I’m going to try and stick to this year because I do find it works for me most of the time.

I also want to prioritise some books on my digital TBR, that have been lying on my GoodReads to-read shelf for years. With the plethora of new fiction that’s constantly being released some older books get forgotten, so I’m going to go through my digital shelf and pick out a few to read this year. I may potentially dedicate another post towards the books I pick.


What are some of your reading goals for 2019? Any new authors you want to check out? Is there a particular series you’d like to finish? Let me know in the comments!

SHARE:

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Review: Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier


I originally wanted to post this review back in November when I re-read Jamaica Inn, but alas, life got in the way and my review lay waiting in my Drafts throughout Christmas. Although later than I intended, I wanted to publish this review because this book meant a great deal to me when I first read it over four years ago and I wanted to share my feelings on why I still loved it second time around. So here we go. 



302 pages  Virago Modern Press  2013

It’s no secret that I love Daphne du Maurier. Her story telling is brilliant and I’m forever in awe of the atmosphere she managed to inject in to her writing. All autumn I’ve been craving historical novels blended with gothic themes and I decided to treat myself to a re-read of one of my favourite du Maurier novels: Jamaica Inn. I don’t often re-read books but I was craving something familiar and Jamaica Inn was calling to me, so it would have been rude not too, right? I think so.

The heroine of the story is Mary Yellan, a young woman in her early twenties who following her dying mother’s last wish, goes to live with her aunt Patience on the isolated Cornish moors. Mary arrives at Jamaica Inn, where her brutish uncle Joss Merlyn is the landlord and her aunt Patience is a shell of the woman she once was. There are no visitors at the inn, except for the wagons which come late at night and Mary soon realises that Jamaica Inn’s crumbling walls hide many dark and villainous secrets.

I’m always nervous when I read a book a second time. The voice in the back of my mind makes me question whether I’ll enjoy the story again. What if it’s not as good as the first time? That possibility is always there since as readers our tastes are forever changing and growing. Yet I was itching to return to this story and I was confident this book would be a comfort to me. And boy, it sure was. Daphne du Maurier has a way of writing that draws me in – her prose oozes atmosphere and suspense and it kept me on my toes even though I already knew the story. There were so many little details that I’d forgotten about and even though I wouldn’t consider Jamaica Inn to be a sweeping epic with masses of plot, it’s still full of tension.

I realised I liked Mary more as a protagonist this time around. I have memories of her being rather moody and aloof but I think that stems from how she was portrayed in the BBC mini-series, which I quite liked but I don’t think it was the adaptation the book truly deserved. Du Maurier’s Mary Yellan is good natured and strong, but she’s also na├»ve and makes her fair share of bad decisions like the rest of us. Most of the characters in the book are flawed and that’s what makes them so believable. Joss Merlyn is a ruthless bully who has committed terrible crimes, but I find his character so interesting as there are hints as to what he would have been ten years ago and how he became what he is.

Even the romance is flawed and, in a sense, unromantic. Jem Merlyn isn’t cruel like his brother but Mary notes the similarities and can see the charm that her aunt Patience once saw in her uncle. In a story that harbours some quite harrowing scenes, there are moments of tenderness between Mary and Jem which do offer some hope.

Although I anticipated the ending this time, I remember not seeing it coming the first time I read it. There’s build up upon build up and just when it feels the story has reached its climax, it surprises you once again. The twists, the gothic atmosphere, the suspense – I simply love this story. As it’s set through November and December it’s perfect for those blustery winter evenings if seasonal reads are your jam cosy. When I first read this story four years ago, I was going through a difficult time in my life and yet I still managed to find some joy in this book. That’s real literary power and I’m so thankful to Daphne du Maurier for writing it.

Overall rating: 5 stars
SHARE:
© CHAPTERS BY AMY
Blogger Templates by pipdig