April 2020 Round-Up

Hello and welcome to my April 2020 round-up! I honestly cannot believe it’s the end of April already and we are all stuck inside watching the weather through our windows. This is not how I thought 2020 was going to go, but I’m trying to make the best of the situation. I’ve been writing daily for Camp NaNoWriMo and making pom-poms like there’s no tomorrow. There is something incredibly therapeutic about winding wool round and round and round, especially while watching one of my favourite movies like Burlesque. Back to the books, I’m struggling to read as much as I did before, but I try to read a little each day, even if it is only a couple of pages. I’ve been feeling quite overwhelmed, so thanks for bearing with me while my blog posts are very sporadic. I will try to get some book reviews up soon!

Top 3 novels I read in April

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

What I liked about it: the unique format, the drama, the way she writes about music

What I did not like about it: Nothing that I can think of.

My favourite character: Camila. What an amazing woman.

Position in series: 1/1

Genre: Historical fiction, music

Aurora Rising by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman

What I liked about it: sassy misfit crew, aliens, lots of sarcasm, the action and excitement

What I did not like about it: my heart exploding

My favourite character: Tyler or Zila. I didn’t realise how awesome I think Tyler is until I actually considered it.

Position in series: 1/3

Genre: young adult, science fiction, fantasy

Dust by Hugh Howey

What I liked about it: an incredible conclusion to the Wool trilogy, the worldbuilding, the unravelling of the plot

What I did not like about it: DEATHS.

My favourite character: Jules. I would die for that woman. Amazing.

Position in series: 3/3

Genre: science fiction, post-apocalyptic

Poetry of the month: Wild Embers by Nikita Gill

What I liked about it: emotional and empowering

What I did not like about it: that it wasn’t longer!

My favourite poem: For Her

Genre: poetry, feminism

Special mention: Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

Why: this book means more to me than I can put into words. It has saved lives and reminds you that at no point are you alone. You can get through than this. There is more to life than your mental illness.

Genre: nonfiction, mental health

And that, folks, is my April in books. For a full list of everything I read in April, check out my goodreads which I try my best to keep up to date! I hope you’re all well, even if you’re feeling unmotivated like I am. Wishing you and your families all the best, and if you ever want to talk you can reach me through my contact page here, Instagram here or twitter here.

A Book For Every Colour of the Rainbow

People all over the country have been putting pictures of rainbows up in their windows and outside their houses in order to cheer everyone up in these not-so-great times, so I thought I’d do my part and try and cheer you all up with a book for every colour of the rainbow! I’ve done both a paperback and a hardback rainbow, although I have to admit my paperback one is a lot better. Why do I own so many dark hardbacks?!

Paperback Rainbow

From left to right:

  • A succulent
  • The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon– I can’t wait for The Mask Falling to come out! I read the first three of this series a while ago, and I absolutely adored them. I’m definitely going to have fun rereading them in anticipation for The Mask Falling.
  • The Merlin Conspiracy by Diana Wynne Jones- I read this with my mum as a child, and while I can’t actually remember what happens, I remember that it was awesome! Diana Wynne Jones is an incredible author, and I adore Howl’s Moving Castle.
  • The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee- I read this quite recently, having had it sitting on my shelf for months. The gossip girl comparison is accurate and the ending left me furious, so as to whether I read the rest is a mystery.
  • This Vicious Cure by Emily Suvada- The only one on this list I haven’t read, This Vicious Cure is the conclusion to a trilogy. I thought the previous books were great, so I have no doubts that this one will be too.
  • Shift by Hugh Howey- I am actually in the middle of this at the moment. It’s quite a change of pace from Wool, being a prequel, but it’s just as gripping. This is truly brilliant science fiction.
  • The Rose & the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh- Another one I read a while ago, but I loved The Rose and the Dagger, it’s a complete whirlwind of magic and drama in the desert.
  • A Smuggler’s Path by I.L. Cruz- I was gifted this in return for review, and although it is chaotic at times, A Smuggler’s Path is never boring and I look forward ti reading the third book in the series
  • A succulent

Hardback Rainbow

From left to right:

  • A succulent
  • Bedlam by Derek Landy- when I read the first series of Skulduggery Pleasant, I was obsessed. I loved everything about Valkyrie and Skulduggery and their relationship and the various characters they knew. In the revival Valkyrie is very different, and I miss the old her, but Landy’s writing is brilliant as ever and I look forward to reading this one.
  • The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon- this is currently my favourite book, and has been since I first read it. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to write a review, because a) it’s massive and b) I love it too much. A female-led fantasy epic with a slow-burn sapphic relationship and dragons? Just take my money.
  • Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch- you might have noticed that this rainbow has not one, but three Ben Aaronovitch books on. This is because I am completely obsessed with the Rivers of London series and I managed to get my mum hooked as well. Pure brilliance. A modern London detective series with magic and crime and humour that I will continue to recommend to everyone I meet.
  • False Value by Ben Aaronovitch- I will admit I have not read this one yet, because I cannot bear for it to end. It came out recently and my mum ordered it immediately but I just can’t bring myself to step into Peter Grant’s world because inevitably I’ll have to leave. Also the cover glows in the dark which I think is the coolest thing ever.
  • The Wicked King by Holly Black- the second book in a delicious trilogy filled with magic and faeries and betrayal. Holly Black is a brilliant writer and I had the privilege of meeting her last year. She has blue hair which I think automatically elevates her to awesome.
  • Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch- I honestly devoured this series. They’re so easy to dive into and I am emotionally attached to all of the characters and the books are the perfect mix between reality and magic.
  • Aurora Rising by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman- I read this last week and it is pretty much the perfect YA sci-fi. A badass space crew, mysterious girl from the past, all the sass and the occasional battle? Just my cup of intergalactic tea.
  • A succulent

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and it at least made you smile a little bit. Keep going and stay home, save lives. Shoutout to the NHS for being absolute superheroes!

Why not make your own book rainbows and post them on instagram or twitter? Remember to tag me so I can see your favourite books!

The Girl the Sea Gave Back Review

The Girl the Sea Gave Back by Adrienne Young.

I’ll start off by saying I absolutely adored the cover for this book, it was what first attracted me to it. A girl in Viking-esque style stepping out of a choppy sea? Amazing. As usual I did no research on this book before reading it, and therefore had no idea this was the second in a series. Thankfully it doesn’t directly follow on from the previous book, because that would have been very confusing. Instead the main character from the previous book appears as a very minor relation to one of the main characters in this book, Halvard. This review is a bit messy, but so were my thoughts about this book so it couldn’t be helped. The synopsis:

For as long as she can remember, Tova has lived among the Svell, the people who found her washed ashore as a child and use her for her gift as a Truthtongue. Her own home and clan are long-faded memories, but the sacred symbols and staves inked over every inch of her skin mark her as one who can cast the rune stones and see into the future. She has found a fragile place among those who fear her, but when two clans to the east bury their age-old blood feud and join together as one, her world is dangerously close to collapse.

For the first time in generations, the leaders of the Svell are divided. Should they maintain peace or go to war with the allied clans to protect their newfound power? And when their chieftain looks to Tova to cast the stones, she sets into motion a series of events that will not only change the landscape of the mainland forever but will give her something she believed she could never have again—a home.

Now, if you’ve read the first book, I’m assuming you went into this book knowing about the history between all the clans and who the Svell are. I didn’t, and if you are going to read this book, I highly recommend reading The Sky in the Deep first. You can read this one and understand it, but it takes some detective work to have any idea what’s going on.

Some basic details I picked up were that Tova comes from a territory not connected to the mainland, from a people called the Kyrr. They’re mysterious and no one messes with them. On the mainland there are the Svell, who Tova lives with, and the Nadhir, who are made up of two joined clans, the Aska and the Riki. Some people called the Herja attacked the Nadhir a while ago. While this book is described as a standalone, I think I would have got less distracted by random details if I had read the first one.

The book is written in first person from two perspectives, Tova and Halvard. Tova is a Truthtongue, which means she can read the runes. The Svell hate her and think she is an insult to their god, so want to kill her while their Tala (holy person) keeps her alive for his own uses. Tova is uniquely in tune with the spinners, who control the destiny of gods and men. She can sense the web the spinners weave, and occasionally hears things. I did a bit of research and while the spinners are called the Norns in Norse mythology, they are roughly equal to the fates in Greek mythology. This book definitely felt more historical fiction than fantasy. Halvard is the heir to the Nadhir chieftain and the link to the previous book.

The writing of this book was the best bit about it. There were some stereotypical features such as memory flashbacks to provide background to Halvard and Tova and some outsiders who save the day, but the plot got better as the book went one, with the mysterious Kyrr who Halvard knows and the brief encounters between Tova and Halvard before they meet properly. I really enjoyed the simple, evocative descriptions of setting and the vivid writing of action, the mixture of fate and free will, inevitability and brutality.

The ending was my favourite part of The Girl the Sea Gave Back. That sounds like an insult, but I don’t mean it as one, it’s just the book took me a while to get into and everything pulls together very dramatically near the end. It had the contrast between Tova and Halvard tentatively trusting one another, Tova finally not feeling like an outcast and a great final battle. There was a bit of romance if you like that kind of thing, although I slightly thought Tova and Halvard should be left as friends. Overall I would recommend this book, but only after reading the first one. Would I survive? Maybe not, I’m not a particularly violent person.

The Middle Ages Unlocked Review

The Middle Ages Unlocked by Gillian Polack and Katrin Kania

I have a habit of picking up very solid historical information books about the middle ages and reading them from cover to cover. It is a slightly questionable technique, especially since some of them are VERY information dense, but I have great fun doing it. As you can see in the image above I used a lot of sticky notes.

The Middle Ages Unlocked was awesome, really informative and jam packed with every type of information you could possibly need about medieval England 1050-1300. The time period you choose for a medieval nonfiction book is very important because there are huge changes that happened over what is quite a large period. This was the first one I’ve read where it considered both Jewish and Christian communities as well as slavery in the middle ages, two things I have never seen much info about. There is even information about measuring things! In conclusion, The Middle Ages Unlocked was very readable, sorted into handy sections and filled with information. If you want information on this time period, this is the book for you.

I’m not sure what else I can say about this without it getting repetitive, so instead I’m going to throw some facts at you from different sections that you can surprise your family with (if you so wish.)

Rich and Poor, High and Low

Rich and well-born people were supposed to be happy and look happy, regardless of their state, as happiness was considered attractive.

The Middle Ages Unlocked

From Cradle to Grave

Pain was often considered an essential part of Christian death because it was thought to be the deserved punishment for sins.

The Middle Ages Unlocked

Death and Taxes You Cannot Avoid

Outlawry meant that the person was considered outside the law and thus had no legal protection from others.

The Middle Ages Unlocked

Crossroads of the Mind

The vast majority of magic practices were considered part of daily life or religious belief and were not regarded as sorcerous.

The Middle Ages Unlocked

Babies were ideally bathed one to three times a day.

The Middle Ages Unlocked

Written and Spoken Words

Dragons were generally considered to be oversized snakes, with wings, a tail, feet and sharp talons.

The Middle Ages Unlocked

March 2020 Round-up

Here we are again, the end of another month. And what a month March has been! Coronavirus, social distancing, self-isolating, lockdown and no toilet roll (I’m still confused as to why it was toilet roll that people decided to hoard.) Amongst the chaos I have not done a lot of reading, I actually read double the amount of books in January! I’ve tried my best to read a little everyday though and keep going so I think I have enough books to do a roundup! Being in lockdown is surprisingly stressful so I’ve found it quite hard to settle down and read- does anyone relate? Either way life goes on and so do my monthly roundups. THE BOOKS MUST GO ON.

BOOK OF THE MONTH: Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman

What I liked about it: a disaster situation, very appropriate for the current world climate! Gripping. Distinct viewpoints. Atmospheric.

What I didn’t like about it: nothing really, it is well rounded.

My favourite character: Alyssa, she did her best in a hard situation and never abandoned her brother

Position in series: 1/1

Genres: young adult, science fiction, climate change

THE RUNNERS UP:

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

What I liked about it: The glamour, the gayness, how gripping it was. The drama, the mystery and that incredible ending.

What I didn’t like about it: I wasn’t that attached to Monique who was one of the two main characters. A littler more time with her might have improved this, but it might have just taken away from Evelyn which I definitely don’t want.

My favourite character: Evelyn Hugo herself, of course. I do have a soft spot for Harry though.

Position in series: 1/1

Genres: historical fiction, romance, drama

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

What I liked about it: I had fun reading this, the enemies to lovers trope, the tension and the fairy-tale feel.

What I didn’t like about it: I needed more of the sassy crew. Just endless sassy crew.

My favourite character: Lira probably, although I am quite attached to THE ENTIRE CREW.

Position in series: 1/1 sadly

Genres: young adult, romance, fairy-tale retelling

The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

What I liked about it: the deliciously descriptive writing, the tension, the immersive intensity.

What I didn’t like about it: the fact that women were ever burned as witches.

My favourite character: Maren, that naïve old soul.

Position in series: 1/1

Genres: historical fiction, LGBT, awesome

In conclusion, I have read a lot of standalone novels this month and they were awesome. If you’d like to try something slightly different, I read both A Smuggler’s Path and A Noble’s Path by I.L.Cruz this month and they were great fun, slightly chaotic fantasy. Remember to wash your hands and stay inside, I hope you’re all well and if you want to talk about anything feel free to message me! Let’s hope April goes a bit better than March 🙂

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo Review

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I ordered The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo from the library after seeing a recommendation on twitter for F/F February. I didn’t read the synopsis, just went and ordered it, so when it arrived I was a little apprehensive as it isn’t the kind of thing I normally read. However, my expectations were blown out of the park. I adored The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and would highly recommend it. Here’s the synopsis:

Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now? Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ’80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a mesmerizing journey through the splendor of old Hollywood into the harsh realities of the present day as two women struggle with what it means–and what it costs–to face the truth.

The novel is written in first person, switching from Monique to Evelyn when Evelyn begins to tell her life story, and switching back to Monique at various intervals. The intervals are done by husband, that is to say Evelyn goes through her life husband by husband and pauses after each one while other things go on in Monique’s life. I was hooked by the time I had got 43 pages in (weirdly specific, I know) and to be perfectly honest I was hooked well before that. In the sections where Evelyn narrated, I was spellbound and temporarily forgot that any other plot was going on apart from the telling of Evelyn’s life story. There are also newspaper articles scattered throughout, showing the world’s reaction to what was happening inside Evelyn and Monique’s intense little bubble.

The world of Hollywood that’s portrayed is vivid, glamorous and glorious and exciting and absolutely fascinating. There was not a single moment without drama in the life of Evelyn Hugo and I was gripped, genuinely caring about what happened and desperate for everything to turn out okay even as hints were dropped that something was off. Evelyn’s tumultuous relationships with her seven husbands reveal many secrets, the mistakes Evelyn made and the lessons she learned which she tries to impart to Monique as Monique asks the biggest question on her mind: which husband was Evelyn Hugo’s true love?  Now, I have no idea what one of the notes I made means and I’ve already taken it back to the library, so if anyone decides to pick up the book after reading this review (YOU SHOULD) please explain what this means: ‘Sudden plot twist without actually being a plot twist in the middle’. Enigmatic.

And in the last moments, where it is revealed why Evelyn Hugo chose Monique for her story? Incredible. What an ending. I was happy, then I was sad. Oh my gosh. What a book. Read it. Go for it. I didn’t think t would be my thing either, yet here I am raving about it. This book has love and drama and a strong willed woman living her life the best she can. Would I survive this book? It’s set on earth so I suppose if I’m still alive to write this review then I’d do just fine.

The Mercies Review

The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

The Mercies Review

Even starting this review, my emotions were tumultuous. I LOVED The Mercies and putting that love into words was not easy. I’m trying to cobble something together from the notes I made, even though most of them are just me going ‘it’s so beautiful. Incredible. Amazing. Beautiful.’ Not especially helpful, but if you want some escapism during quarantine into a standalone fantasy with a historical element, this is the book for you!

The synopsis:

On Christmas Eve, 1617, the sea around the remote Norwegian island of Vardo is thrown into a reckless storm. As Maren Magnusdatter watches, forty fishermen, including her father and brother, are lost to the waves, the menfolk of Vardo wiped out in an instant.

Now the women must fend for themselves.

Eighteen months later, a sinister figure arrives. Summoned from Scotland to take control of a place at the edge of the civilized world, Absalom Cornet knows what he needs to do to bring the women of Vardo to heel. With him travels his young wife, Ursa. In Vardo, and in Maren, Ursa finds something she has never seen before: independent women. But Absalom sees only a place untouched by God and flooded with a mighty and terrible evil, one he must root out at all costs.

Inspired by the real events of the Vardo storm and the 1621 witch trials, Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s The Mercies is a story about how suspicion can twist its way through a community, and a love that may prove as dangerous as it is powerful.

The Mercies is told in present tense from two viewpoints, Ursa and Maren. I found that I liked both viewpoints equally, possibly with a slight leaning towards Maren. Such tension was built between them from the very first time Maren set eyes upon Ursa, and each worried the other would look down on them for their ways. All the characters in The Mercies are fascinating, the way they group and then break apart, swirling like the currents of the ever-present tide. I was completely drawn up into Ursa and Maren’s relationship, the way they felt and thought about everything so intensely illustrated.

The Mercies would not be what it is without its incredible setting of Vardo, Finnmark. It is so isolated, far from what some would consider civilisation. Kiran Millwood Hargrave beautifully evokes the freedom and fear and danger of the sea, surrounding this community who rely upon one another closely. The little details of the scenery are woven in seamlessly amongst the sea, cliffs, heather, houses and sky immersing the reader in this enchanting tale.

The Mercies is elegantly and lyrically written, emotive and full of desperation, reaching a feverish intensity as the cracks in the community widen and the line between religion and superstition is drawn by the arrival of a man. I forgot everything briefly as I was completely absorbed by the danger brewing on Vardo, thrilled by the atmosphere right from its intense beginning. I adored the ending and it is the perfect atmospheric standalone novel. Absolutely spellbinding.

Would I survive? Absolutely not. I get very, very seasick.

Herself, lost inside his name.

Kiran Millwood Hargrave, The Mercies