book meme

WWW Wednesday | 13 Jan

Hi everyone! I’m back with another WWW Wednesday, hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words.

The three Ws to be answered are:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?

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I have literally just picked up Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall, which I’m very excited to get into. Hood Feminism looks at the women that women that the feminist movement forgot, making the point that while privileged (white) women often focus their feminism on gaining more privilege, they forget and leave behind the women that are struggling to survive – through lack of education, medical care, living wages, safe neighbourhoods etc. The book takes the form short essays covering all of these topics (and ones I haven’t mentioned), and I’m really excited to get into it properly!

What did you recently finish reading?

The last week has been a great reading week for me, so I’ve got quite a few to mention (lockdown 3 has definitely helped here!). I haven’t written reviews for these yet, but they are all coming!

  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – This was a five star read for me – I found it absolutely phenomenal, so vivid and vibrant and full of humanity. I found myself slowing my reading down to truly savour the experience, as I was enjoying it so much. There’s so much to unpack and discuss about this book that I’m looking forward to sitting down and properly writing my review on it!
  • White Ivy by Susie Yang – Another very accomplished debut! I’m still a bit undecided about my rating for it, but it will probably fall somewhere in the 4 to 5 star range. I’m still thinking about this book days after I finished it, and it’s another I’m looking forward to writing the review on.
  • Unsettled Ground by Clare Fuller (eARC, NetGalley) – I was on such a run of good books for the year, and unfortunately this book really let me down. I found it overly bleak and quite…boring? I never really felt invested in it and I left the book feeling a bit like I wasted my time, which is not what you want to feel after finishing a book!
  • Confessions of a Curious Bookseller by Elizabeth Green (eARC, NetGalley) – this was actually a dnf for me. I feel bad about putting books down unfinished, especially when I’ve been sent them for review, but I just couldn’t continue with this one. Written in the form of epistolary, combining emails, letters and diary entries, I was expecting to really like this one, having been such a big fan of Meg Cabot’s Boy series (heartily recommend if you love rom coms), which follows this structure. But this book was not fun, the character was rude and unlikeable, and 25% of the way in, there was no plot – just the main character emailing back and forth with plumbers and catering companies.

What do you think you’ll read next?

Ooh, this is a tough one! I’ve recently gone on a bit of a book-buying frenzy, with some Christmas money and also just because there’s nothing else really to do during lockdown – so I have a lot of good ones to choose from! I think I’ve narrowed by choice for the next read down to a couple though!

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I have the eARC of Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson to read by 4th February, which I’m very excited about as I’ve seen amazing reviews. I also want to read The Magpie Society by Zoe Sugg and Amy McCulloch, as I bought this Nov/Dec time and had planned to read it by the end of the year. Another book high up on my to-read list is The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré, which I bought on Kindle (for 99p, bargain!) after hearing rave reviews and seeing people mark it as their fave book of 2020.

What are you currently reading? How are you finding it?

wrap up

December wrap-up

So I feel a bit silly posting my December wrap-up after my 2020 in review post, but I still wanted to talk about all of the books I’ve read in December!

I read a grand total of 9 books this December – not bad, I don’t think! They were:

(All of the links above go to my reviews, if I’ve posted them yet! I have a lot still outstanding!)

My favourite book I read this month was definitely The Suspicions of Mr Whicher – my boyfriend gave me this as a gift on Christmas Day and I finished it on Boxing Day! It’s a non-fiction novel about a crime in Victorian England, the detective that investigated it, and its links to Victorian crime and detective fiction. Sisters should also get a shout-out too, as my favourite fiction read of the month.

I did a fair amount of reading over the first half of the Christmas holidays, but less after Christmas – I probably could’ve read a few more books if I’ve tried this month, but I was enjoying chilling out and doing nothing! Which is also why I haven’t posted reviews for my last couple of reads – but they will come soon, I promise!

What were your favourite December reads?

book review

Mini reviews: From Blood and Ash & A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire by Jennifer L. Armentrout

I’m going to talk a little bit about books 1 and 2 in the Blood and Ash series by Jennifer L. Armentrout today.

I read From Blood and Ash (book 1) back in July(ish) – it was my first read by JLA in a long time – and I devoured it. It really cut through the lockdown book slump I was having, where I was really struggling to pay attention to anything long enough to read. It was just what I needed to kick me into gear, and I really loved it. When I finally got around to reading AKOFAF this month, I decided to re-read FB&A first as I like to have that immersive experience and make sure I haven’t forgotten anything before moving onto book 2! They’re such easy-to-read books as well, so I knew it wouldn’t take me too long.

From Blood and Ash

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Chosen from birth to usher in a new era, Poppy’s life has never been her own. The life of the Maiden is solitary. Never to be touched. Never to be looked upon. Never to be spoken to. Never to experience pleasure. Waiting for the day of her Ascension, she would rather be with the guards, fighting back the evil that took her family, than preparing to be found worthy by the gods. But the choice has never been hers. […] Poppy is not only on the verge of losing her heart and being found unworthy by the gods, but also her life when every blood-soaked thread that holds her world together begins to unravel.

Goodreads summary

From Blood and Ash is a fantasy novel, set in mythical location where humans are ruled by the Ascended – humans that have been blessed by the gods and have gone through the ‘Ascension’, a secretive process that makes them almost immortal and very powerful. Poppy is their ‘Maiden’, chosen from birth and put on a pedestal – she must wear a veil, cannot speak to anyone but a select few, and must live a sheltered life until she can Ascend and ‘usher in a new era’. When a new Royal Guard called Hawke enters her life, things start to unravel as she begins to want what she can’t have.

I love Jennifer L. Armentrout. I love her characters, her stories and the charm, humour and fun she injects into all of her novels. She is an auto-buy author for me, because her books always, always make me smile. From Blood and Ash is addictive from the start; I’ve read it twice this year (very unusual for me!) and I’ve ploughed through it both times, loving every second.

Poppy is fun, fierce and full of heart. She doesn’t enjoy her life and takes risks so that she can experience things that aren’t allowed to her – which is how she first meets Hawke. She’s a very conflicted character, both wanting to do what is right for everyone (be found worthy by the gods and Ascend) and also wanting to live her life how she chooses. Hawke is a usual Armentrout hero – attractive, flirty, strong but mushy underneath when it comes to the person he loves. And the only ones who can’t see he loves Poppy are him and Poppy. I loved reading the banter between Poppy and Hawke, and watching their relationship grow.

There’s lots of twists and turns in this book, and of course, everything is not what it seems. There’s a rebel faction who believe that the Ascended have wrongfully stolen the throne, there are humans who want to know where their third-born children go when they are chosen to ‘serve the gods’ at the Rite every year, and there are questions about who the Ascended really are what, exactly, Poppy’s role is as the Maiden. This book never stops moving, taking you from twist to twist at breakneck pace.

If you want to escape from the world and fall into a fast-paced, fluffy and fun book, I heartily recommend this book to you!

And I’m now going to talk about AKOFAF, so if you don’t want spoilers for FB&A, I suggest you stop here! Even the blurb for AKOFAF will spoil it for you!

A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Everything Poppy has ever believed in is a lie, including the man she was falling in love with. Thrust among those who see her as a symbol of a monstrous kingdom, she barely knows who she is without the veil of the Maiden. But what she does know is that nothing is as dangerous to her as him. The Dark One. The Prince of Atlantia. He wants her to fight him, and that’s one order she’s more than happy to obey. He may have taken her, but he will never have her.

Summary from Goodreads

I think I preferred A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire to From Blood and Ash?! I was worried about second book syndrome and how this book would progress (I was especially worried about Poppy forgiving Casteel too quickly) but I really, really enjoyed it – it was an excellent addition to the series.

Poppy has entered a whole new world: separated from everyone she knows, she is surrounded by Atlantians who mostly hate her guts and a man who betrayed her. In this novel, Poppy has to work out whose side she is on, and navigate a relationship that she doesn’t know was every true to begin with.

I really liked seeing Poppy truly come into her own in this novel; no longer forced to wear a veil and act like a Maiden, she is able to be the person she really wants to be. She is someone with a strong spirit and sense of righteousness, someone who will no longer let anyone muzzle her. We also see her relationship with Casteel, which is rocky, to say the least. I said going in to the novel that I didn’t want Poppy forgiving him straight away, which she definitely didn’t do, but there is potentially slightly too much back and forth and angst for me in this one. He’s spent so long putting on act with her that she doesn’t know what was real and what wasn’t, which puts up her guard and makes her want to hide how she feels – this goes round in circles in a way that is entertaining, tense and fun, but does perhaps get a little bit old by the final time.

I think this novel could’ve felt a bit like it was moving pieces around a bit in preparation for book 3, but Armentrout balances this by making sure that we get more information and surprises as well as outright action and ‘physical’ story progression. I like what we learn about the Atlantians, as well as what we learn about Poppy herself.

And finally, that cliffhanger!!! I should’ve know Armentrout had something like that up her sleeve, but I think my mouth was absolutely gaping when I finished the book. It leaves you at exactly the right moment to make you desperate for more – so I will definitely be picking up the next book as soon as it’s released.

Have you read these books? I’d love to know what you think!

For more of my reviews, connect with me on Goodreads.

For more pictures of pretty books, follow me on Instagram.

wrap up

November wrap-up

This is the end of my first full month blogging, so this is my first ever end-of-month wrap-up! I think I’ll probably play around with the formatting and what I include in these as I go, but here’s my first one.

How has November been for you? It’s absolutely flown by for me, but I’m ok with that as it’s been lockdown here, it’s now almost December (and I really need all the Christmas decorations to life my mood) and it’s almost, almost the end of this hellish year. I know 2021 isn’t going to be a magical salve to fix the world’s problems, but at least it feels like we’re moving on a bit.  

I’ve read more books in November than I have in ages – mostly because of book blogging, I think. So that’s one very good thing that has come from starting this blog already!

Ok, so let’s get into my November wrap-up – and remember to tell me in the comments how yours went!

Books I’ve finished this month:

Books I’ve finished this month (the rest were e-books!)

So that’s 8 books, which is really good going for me! I still have a couple of reviews to write up to end the month.

Audiobooks I’ve finished this month:

  • Dear Joan and Jericha: Why he turns away by Julia Davis and Vicki Pepperdine – this is a book based on a podcast that I really enjoy (Dear Joan and Jericha). I decided to listen to it as an audiobook because I think their delivery is the best bit of the podcast – and I probably wouldn’t have got round to actually reading it. I’d probably give it 3 stars. I recommend to fans of the podcast, but would definitely suggest you try that out first before thinking about the (audio)book – it’s a very specific type of humour, I think!

Books I’ve started (but not finished):

Books I’ve bought this month:

I thought this would be a good way to keep track of my book spending – as it’s risen exponentially since I started blogging – and keep one eye on my growing tbr pile! I don’t necessarily have to have read all the books I’ve bought in the month I’ve got them, but I would like to finish them within two months I think.

  • Sisters by Daisy Johnson
  • Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin
  • The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
  • The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon
  • The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon
  • The Magpie Society by Zoe Sugg & Amy McCulloch

Post round-up

I’m not too happy with my output towards the end of this month – it’s been a bit irregular and I’ve still got some reviews outstanding. So that’s something I definitely want to work on in December and the new year.

Personal round-up

I thought this might be a nice little section for you to get to know me more! So here’s a little round-up of what’s been going on in my life:

  • We decorated the flat for Christmas this week. We drank some mulled wine, put up the decorations and then watched a Christmas film on Netflix (The Princess Switch, not sure I would recommend but will probably watch the sequel!)
My festive living room!
  • I moved into this flat with my boyfriend in August, and since then we’ve been slowly decorating it – we bought lots of the essentials when we moved in, of course, but left the optional/more expensive things. I’ve just bought some really pretty prints from Etsy for the wall – I’m very excited for these to arrive this week…
  • … if they ever do! That brings me on to the last thing, which is that five (5) parcels we’ve been expecting over the last two weeks have gone missing in the post!! One of those was someone resending one of the things that got lost (to no avail!). I know Royal Mail is slow because lockdown/Black Friday/Christmas shopping converging, but this is a bit ridiculous. Especially as I’ve been trying to buy from small businesses (like those Etsy prints!) and it’s much worse for them having to resend things than, say, if an Amazon order went missing.

Anyway, that was a bit of a random monthly recap for my personal life but, to be very honest, it’s not like there’s much going on right now, considering I’ve barely left my home in November and have only seen one person the entire month.   

How has your November been? How much have you read? Let me know below or feel free to leave your November wrap-up in the comments so I can visit your blog and give it some love ❤️

For more of my reviews, connect with me on Goodreads.

For more pictures of pretty books, follow me on Instagram.

You can support independent bookshops this Christmas and shop for any of the books I’ve talked about this month at Bookshop.org (affiliate link).

book photo · to-read

November: Bedside books

Wow, it’s November already! I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels like time is passing really weirdly; like it’s simultaneously dragging and flying past. So here’s the list of the books that are on my tbr pile this month. I want to start with a small-ish list so I can add things that catch my eye or I’m excited about throughout the month. We’ve just had another full lockdown announced in England so I’m sure I will have plenty of time to read this month. Trying to look on the bright side at least! I hope everyone is doing well and staying safe.

So here’s my list:

Big Girl Small Town by Michelle Gallen – I’m almost finished with this book, having started it a few days ago, and I’m really enjoying it. I’m hoping I’ll actually get the chance to finish it later today and then I can have a review up for everyone soon.

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How Do We Know Know We’re Doing It Right? by Pandora Sykes – this is a collection of essays that I’ve been dipping in and out of for the last few months. I love Pandora Sykes’ podcast with Dolly Alderton (The High Low) so was quite interested in her essay collection. At the moment, I’m finding the essays a bit hit-or-miss but the good thing about a collection like this is you don’t have to like them all to still get something out of it.

Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers – I’ve heard nothing but good things about this book and I’m really excited to get into it. One review described it as ‘the literary equivalent of pulling a duvet over your head’ – and I think that sounds like something we all need right now!

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix – I’ve heard mixed things about this novel but was really intrigued by the description. I meant to read it during October as it obviously seems like a good read for the spooky season, but ended up picking up Big Girl Small Town instead. Will hopefully be able to get to it soon.

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A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire by Jennifer L. Armentrout – This is the second book in the Blood and Ash series by Armentrout. I’ve been a big fan of hers for years, finding her books always fun, gripping and a great escape from the world. From Blood and Ash was the first book I’d read of hers in a while, and when I read it earlier this year I couldn’t push it down. Hopefully this one is the same.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? And I’d love to know what’s on your tbr pile this month – or if you’re more of a mood reader than a planner!

book review

The Hunger by Alma Katsu

Rating: 2 out of 5.

The Hunger by Alma Katsu is based on the true story of the Donner Party – a group of pioneers that migrated to California from the Midwest in 1846. The pioneers were delayed by a series of problems that meant that they ended up trapped in the snow in a mountain range over winter, when they should have already made it to California. This unplanned delay meant that they ran out of food, and it is rumoured that they turned to cannibalism to survive. A great premise for a horror novel, right?

But The Hunger fell flat for me, and I think it’s for two main reasons. Firstly, the image of humans turning to cannibalism to survive after being lost in the wilderness for months is a genuinely terrifying prospect, and I was expecting this to be a novel that explored human nature in a realistic manner, if fictionalised rather than in a non-fiction book. However, this novel actually takes this real-life scary thing and it gives it a supernatural reason – which completely sucked all of the scariness out of it for me. A lot of the time, scary things are scary because we think it’s possible that they can happen to us, and I think this novel lost that element by taking that away.

And secondly, there was no grit to this novel. It was slow-paced, which I’m not fussed about if the novel is doing a good job of building up and creating that tension. But, for the most part, I was a little bit bored. And then, when we finally get to the point where the bad things are supposed to happen, I found the writing confused and disjointed, and it skipped in time and didn’t actually portray any of the cannibalism. Writing that down sounds really morbid of me, doesn’t it? But I’m reading a horror novel to be scared; I don’t expect to be spared any description or detail of the actual scary thing that’s happening.

The book is written in third person, switching between lots of characters’ points of view. I think the author did a good job of giving all of the characters’ backgrounds and reasons to be on the wagon train, and she wrote some characters that you were rooting for. However, the novel ended quite abruptly and though you know the outcome for a couple of the main characters, you don’t really know who has survived and who hasn’t.

Overall, I can’t say that I recommend this book. However, I honestly do recommend the Wikipedia page if you want to read something deeply chilling and horrifying! I think I will be looking to see if I can find a non-fiction novel based on this story.

For more of my reviews, connect with me on Goodreads.

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book review

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Haunting of Hill House follows the story of four people who travel to Hill House to investigate the unexplained ghostly phenomena that has been observed there over the years. Told through third-person narration, but mostly from the point of view of Eleanor (Nell), we witness the strange events in the house and how it sinks its claws into one of the guests.

This novel relies on terror rather than the horror – it’s the idea that something bad might happen, and wondering what that bad thing will be, and working yourself up, that really causes fear in the reader. It’s not that bad things don’t happen, it’s just that the anticipation of the bad thing is perhaps just as (if not more) terrifying. I thought this was something that this novel did exceptionally well, and it does that through Jackson’s phenomenal descriptions of the house.

No human eye can isolate the unhappy coincidence of line and place which suggests evil in the face of a house, and yet somehow a maniac juxtaposition, a badly turned angle, some chance meeting of roof and sky, turned Hill House into a place of despair, more frightening because the face of Hill House seemed awake, with a watchfulness from the blank windows and a touch of glee in the eyebrow of a cornice.

The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson

Hill House is basically a character of its own in the novel – it looms over all of the characters, inciting disgust and repulsion, and creeping into their subconscious. Jackson’s prose is intelligent and distinctive, and I think it’s very clever how she builds up the wrongness of the house through little things like it being built at slightly wrong angles, with rooms and towers not quite being where you think they should be logically. It’s a great way to isolate, untether and confuse both the characters and the readers.

As well as the darkness and the creepiness, the author instils a great sense of humour into the novel, and an immediate kinship and closeness within the characters (that does get twisted as the story progresses). It was a joy to read both during the creepy moments and the moments when they’re sitting around and having a chat.

Jackson leaves a lot up to the reader’s interpretation, leaving you wondering about whether the goings on were supernatural, caused by humans, or manifestations of mental illness (or a combination of these things). It’s the perfect way to end the novel, as it means you get something out of no matter what you believe.

This is an engaging, well-written gothic novel that I would heartily recommend this scary season (or any other time of the year, for that matter!). Having already read another of Shirley Jackson’s novels (We Have Always Lived in the Castle), I am now intent on reading more!

For more of my reviews, connect with me on Goodreads.

For more pictures of pretty books, follow me on Instagram.