Book I read thanks to blogging (that I probably wouldn’t have read otherwise)

Okay, yes, this post could easily go on forever! Which is why I (mostly) decided to go with books *directly* recommended by individual bloggers- which actually makes this post a DOUBLE WHAMMY of recommendations for reviewers as well as books!! *SURPRISE!!* This was so hard to narrow down- which is why I decided in advance I’m going to need to do multiple posts on this! Watch out for those in the future! For now, let’s jump straight into it…

Red Rising– I’ve read so many books on the *spectacular* Kat @Life and Other Disasters suggestions, so much so I could have filled an entire post with just those! Nonetheless, I chose this, because I didn’t have much space in my life for sci fi before this 😉 It’s a bloodydamn brilliant series-an adult Hunger Games, with heavy Roman inspiration… in space! And in case that wasn’t enough, it’s got characters to die for! I can’t thank Kat enough for this rec!!

Prince of Thorns– the GREAT Drew @Tattooed Book Geek is another person who I could feature again and again! I had to pick this, cos I never would’ve tried grimdark if not for Drew’s regular recommendations for this book. In fact, this is one that year’s earlier I thought was not for me. AND YET, now that I’ve grown older (though perhaps not wiser) I’ve found the cleverness and weight in series like these. And I have Drew to thank for that!

Wolf in the Whale– okay, I’m going to be a bit boring and say I had multiple cool recs from the lovely Liis. However, my reason for picking this *chillingly beautiful* read is that I’ve basically never read anything else like it! And the reason I even heard about it was because of Liis’ fantastic review!

Ten Thousand Doors of January– I can’t seem to shut up about this book, because it’s an open and shut case of how good it is! And, as I’ve mentioned before, it was all thanks to the wonderful Witty and Sarcastic Book Club’s riveting review!  

Winter Rose- McKillip is an author I’d never heard of until I started blogging (perhaps she’s not very well known in the UK?) but I frequently saw her recommended on the BRILLIANT Bookstooge’s site. So much so that I simply had to check her out. And I’m so glad I did- her writing has a beautiful, dreamlike, fairy tale quality. Her stories sucked me in. She’s not the easiest author to come by across the pond, but I’m happy to go out of my way for more of these bad boys!

Neverending Story– by contrast, Neverending Story is one I’d definitely heard of! But, it was thanks to a recommendation from the *fab* Zezee that I finally adventured into the wilds of this book. And it truly was wild! This book doesn’t just take you on a journey into a fantasy world, it takes you into the very heart of books and shows us their beauty.

Beowulf– another story I was (of course) aware of- and yet I was thoroughly intimidated out of reading. But I needn’t have been… thanks to the fantastic Joelendil’s suggestion of trying the Seamus Heaney’s translation. I loved every moment of this.

V for Vendetta– I never would’ve attempted graphic novels if not for the *stupendous* Lashaan @Bookidote’s personalised recs- so I owe him a great debt! And this is a stellar example of his suggestions- emotional, clever and with a unique artistic style. If you crave graphic novel suggestions (and many other books besides) you’d be a fool not to check out his reviews!

Exquisite– I had a hard time recommending just the one of the many, many books the MARVELOUS Meggy @Chocolatenwaffles got me to read! I really credit her with encouraging me to step out of my comfort zone and start me on thrillers with her exquisite reviews! And this was a real zinger- sublime writing and intriguing twists. I was hooked on this read… almost as much as I’m hooked on Meggy’s suggestions!

Bright Side– contemporary romance is another genre I didn’t read… until I came across the delightful Deanna @A Novel Glimpse’s blog!! And thanks to her glowing mentions over the years, I put this on my tbr (with a caveat that I must be prepared to be in a weepy mood). Once again, this was a book that blew me away (and made me go through a considerable number of tissues!)

Secret History– I was so reluctant to try this book, because sadly Goldfinch wasn’t for me. AND YET, I saw an inspiring review on the amazing Meltotheany’s blog and I simply had to know more about this murder mystery told in reverse. And you know what? She was right- this one’s a winner!

Huntress– I’ve had a weird relationship with historical fiction- let’s just say a writer-who-shall-not-be-named put me off for half a decade 😉 BUT thanks to the AWESOME Beware of the Reader and her suggestion on my blog, I just had to see what all the fuss was about! And gosh, this was far better than I ever could have imagined. Gripping from beginning to end, I fell in love with the characters and was *so invested* in their stories! Can’t recommend this- and the Beware of the Reader blog- highly enough!

Before I go, as a bonus, I thought I’d mention a few books that I was inspired to pick up after seeing them more generally round the blogosphere, just to give a tiny sense of how many good books you can find from blogging (in case you don’t already know):

So, have you read any of these? Did you like them as much as I did? What’s the best recommendation you’ve ever received from blogging? And do you plan to check out these lovely people? Let me know in the comments!

The Truth About Originality in Literature

Recently, I read a book where it claimed Shakespeare thought reality was false, so decided to create art because he thought he could create a better lie. Personally I find this is a rather peculiar (and very 21st century) conclusion to draw from “All the world’s a stage”. Shakespeare was holding a mirror up to the world, not calling it artifice and smashing up the whole damn universe to be more in his image. But nonsensical interpretation aside, it got me thinking about the value of truth in literature.

You see, this is not the first time I’ve seen writers portrayed as liars in art. It seems that rather than cleaving to the author’s AUTHORity, the modern writer wants to stand out as ANTI-AUTHORity. All for a desire to be original that’s truthfully becoming a bit passé.

From unexplored texts to creative claims that actually do ring true, there is certainly scope for original thinking in literature. AND YET, I would also suggest that there is a power in knowing you cannot come up with anything especially unique. It is a humbling experience to know that great thinkers have gone before us; it is freeing to worry less about being the GOAT! 😉 And, as fun as it is to view ourselves through the lens of the “Death of the Author”, we need to be wary of viewing ourselves with too much importance and making spurious claims. It does not improve our scholarship or artistic endeavours. In my experience, it transparently shows we’re more interested in our own self-aggrandisement. Much like reading between the lines or just plain making things up, these claims may gain notoriety, but they are fundamentally flawed. And, as with so many fictional writers being liars, in a “unique” subversion on authorship, uniqueness may actually be more common than we realise. There is, after all, nothing new under the sun- it is only how we shine a light on things from a different angle that gives it a fresh perspective. That is why, rather than trying to be original, we should be trying to be truthful.

And yes, our society values achievement in a very Roman sense. We want to see our names up in *BIG SPARKLY LIGHTS*- because that’s what we’ve been taught is meaningful. That’s why we fight so hard to be original. The problem is, we don’t realise the way to that goal is not as straightforward as it seems. In typical quest fashion, we must really go east in order to go west. We must take a round-about route to our goals. And it’s not just fools who fail to recognise the true path- (sorry to get all fantasy nerd on you) it’s also villains! Villains are the ones who take shortcuts. But there are no real shortcuts in life or art. And a hero must be prepared to forfeit their dreams, because, somewhat paradoxically, that’s how you win. Likewise, the path to true wisdom is not by wildly believing in yourself, but by letting go and believing in the people that came before.

Originality is often accidental consequence of good craftsmanship. While I believe everyone has the potential to craft some aspects of their art with originality, that is not what makes a piece powerful: success comes from how much a piece rings out with truth and beauty. Perhaps it is naïve, yet I think if you focus on those aspects, you may well come up with something honestly original. If you focus on originality, the result is frequently nonsensical and meaningless. Grinding misplaced innovation into a work won’t do any good. One must have a command of the tools that already exist.

Just something I’ve been mulling over. But what do you think? Should there be a line between truth and fiction? How important is it to be original? Let me know what you think about this topic in the comments!

Most Unique Books I’ve Really Enjoyed!

There’s nothing new under the sun… except for these beauties! Originality is so hard to come by- and even harder to pull off without a hitch- which is what makes these unique reads special. There’s no two books the same here! And I can recommend them all for very different reasons:

Illuminae– this series has such a  u n i q u e  format!! It felt a little far out at first- but I soon got swept up in this spectacular space opera. The plot, the characters, the romance, the villains, the drama- all had me on the edge of my seat. It was such a ride!!

Horrorstor– designed like an Ikea catalogue, this was funny and entertaining and horrifying all at once. I was surprised by how much I liked this, considering I’m not much of a fan of scary stories or furniture for that matter 😉

The Seven and a Half Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle- this would be original for the premise alone: Agatha Christie meets Groundhog Day. But this cross-genre novel goes further than that, exploring complex and unexpected themes. It was completely different to anything I’ve ever read before.

Homegoing– I loved the way this innovative cross-generation epic progresses the story with a character from each generation. It had so much scope! 

Secret History– a murder mystery told in reverse, it is all the more compelling for it!

The Trial– there’s a reason the term Kafkaesque exists- no one writes quite like Kafka. This is an oddly prophetic novel… emphasis on *odd*.

Master and Margarita– equal parts strange and sublime, I’ve never read anything quite like this. Surreally realising reality, this is an unusually philosophical read that will make you question everything.  

Life of Pi– similarly (and yet totally different) Mantel challenges the very notion of what is real with this survival novel.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children– using old, unusual photographs, Riggs builds a very peculiar narrative indeed. Simultaneously an alternate history of the holocaust and an adventure fantasy, it’s not your typical read!

Wolf in the Whale– I simply had to include this for its unique subject: when the history of Inuits and Vikings collided. It feels refreshingly different.

Night Circus– I’ve seen a lot of books compared to the Night Circus– but it’s a pretty impossible feat, because nothing is like Night Circus. The structure, writing and world are all completely original. Don’t believe me? Pick it up for yourself and you’ll see how unbelievably delightful it is.

Wilder Girls– this is a hard one to pin down. In parts it’s a straight horror; other parts read more like a Sapphic romance; and sometimes it just feels like a straight retelling. For all those, it’s not your usual YA.

Scorpio Races– no one writes quite like Stiefvater. Not only is her world building very original, this is so atmospheric, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped out of reality.

Phantom Tollbooth– eccentric and charming, I can’t think of another book to compare it to… because there isn’t one! Playing with language and just plain playing around, this is one of my all-time favourite children’s books.

Good Omens– all of Gaiman’s and Pratchett’s works are so OUT THERE, I didn’t know which one to spotlight… so I decided to go for the one where the great duo teamed up! The concept for this post-apocalyptic story is wildly different and so much fun. And, of course, as you’d expect from these two authors, it’s also completely hilarious.

And that’s all for now! Do you like or dislike any of my picks? And what books have you read that stood out as unique? Let me know in the comments!

When can you dismiss criticism?

Taking on board criticism is an important part of life. As writers in particular, we need feedback to grow, improve and potentially perfect our craft (as the marvellous Mary @Mary and the Words talked about recently). It’s therefore no surprise that it’s become a cornerstone of modern writing advice to get that crucial reader response.

AND YET, not all of that criticism is going to be worthwhile. Let’s be real: it’s not always going to be constructive or helpful or relevant. This may be an *unpopular opinion* right now, but you don’t always have to listen to it.  

Sometimes you just have to *take the advice from whence it comes*. If someone, however nicely, says that the style is just not for them or that they don’t read this sort of thing- that’s fine! We all know that taste is subjective, so not everyone is going to be the right reader for your work. Heck- there are plenty of bestselling authors that I don’t jibe with. That’s why you have to be cautious with this kind of advice (And on the offchance, as has happened to me, someone doesn’t like the genre/category you write in and wants you to write to suit their tastes… well they can kindly sod off).  

There is also the issue that not all criticism is designed to be helpful. Especially if they rouse a hate mob against you. Call me a cynic- I just don’t think people trying to destroy a career have an author’s best interests at heart. I know there’s a lot of talk about “learning” and “growing” from those experiences- nonetheless it seems the vast majority advice being doled out is to *run and hide* (in far less friendly terms). And, going beyond this specific example, I think it’s fair to dismiss critiques designed as an attack. Insulting, degrading or being downright abusive are not productive (as the wonderful Rain @the Withering discussed on her blog). On the plus side, those kinds of critiques can get you in the mindset of proving the bastards wrong! 😉

I’d also add that sometimes the criticism is coming too late in the day ie reviews. Yes, you could learn from reviews as an author, buuuut at that stage the genie is well and truly out of the bottle. If you read them, you’ll just waste lot of time wishing you’d written that book differently. Best to leave them alone. After all, reviews are for readers– not the author (and thus shouldn’t be sent to them unsolicited).

Ultimately, criticism can add some much-needed spice to your work, though it’s still worth taking it with a grain of salt 😉

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with me that there are times when you can dismiss criticism? And are there any other times when you should just ignore the advice? Let me know in the comments!

The Freedom to Fail

The internet is amazing. It’s how I’m here talking to you today. It has opened up the world to information in a way that barely seems possible, it has allowed us to remain connected with our loved ones and it has given us the opportunity to form friendships across oceans. And yet, no one can deny that there are downsides. Not least for creatives.

Nowadays, it can be nigh on impossible to switch off from the constant noise. And, as great as it is to have so much knowledge at your fingertips, the never-ending advice can be overwhelming. And then, of course, not to sound out the broken record, there is the din coming from the cancel culture mob. Even as private citizens, we can feel like we’re always under the microscope- and that scrutiny only seems to intensify if we dare to do something different. It’s hard pill to swallow, especially when, let’s face it: that’s what being creative is all about.

Not that I think people should be free from criticism (obviously). Nor do I want to offer banal advice to just get offline (especially when so many people’s incomes depend on being online in some capacity). But I do want to offer a glimmer of positivity.

Because, in order to achieve anything, we have to be prepared to fail. As writers, we have to remember: we can’t write to suit other people, we can only write the best version of our own story. There’s no concept of perfection, no possibility of pleasing everyone and no way of coming out of the process unscathed (even if we just take a beating from our inner critic). We will most certainly fall down and get a few scraped knees- we just have to learn to pick ourselves up again.

Creativity has always been about being brave. I imagine every creative individual feels like they’ve got Daedalus’ wings strapped to their backs, not sure if they’ll make it without flying too close to the sun. Not sure if they’ll tumble down into the glinting sea. It’s a dangerous business- yet if we don’t take that leap, we’ll be imprisoned forever.

And, above all, we’ve got to focus on our own flying, not getting distracted by what others are doing. It doesn’t matter if they’re freewheeling and showing off; it doesn’t make a difference if you think they’re flight plan is way off. Ultimately, we’ve got to make sure our own life jacket’s on before we assist others 😉 Then, and only then, can we be free to make our own mistakes.

Cool Books About Creativity!

In honour of Nanowrimo, I thought it would be fun to share a few books that feature creativity! Here are some inspiring and insightful reads for you:

Enchantment of Ravens– there were a lot of things I appreciated about this book, but one of my favourites was how it handled “craft”. It actually managed to make mortality special in a way that was completely unique. I appreciated this charming refrain more even than the actual magic!

My Name is Asher Lev– while I admit I disliked the main character for sacrificing everything- including his family- for his art, I do think it’s great that it explored this theme in such a deep way. Potok’s beautiful writing doesn’t hurt either.

Eliza and her Monsters– there’s lots to write home about with this contemporary- the friendships, the way it explores family and how it tackles mental health topics. But most of all, I love how it gives a modern twist on the topic of creativity. The protagonist is the creator of a popular webcomic- looking at all different sides of the topic, from internet culture to the pressure of success to the challenges of finding an ending. Even better, it does all of this in a creative way, bringing the story to life with fun illustrations.

Angel’s Game– while Shadow of the Wind is a book about reading, its sequel explores the topic of writing. In his haunting way, Zafon doesn’t try to glamorise the process, showing all its gritty frustrations and realities and struggles. You won’t just be enraptured by the setting, you will fall into the very atmosphere of the writer’s world.

Little Women– everyone and their mother knows (and loves) this classic. And one of the many, many reasons it’s so loved is for Jo- who is an inspiration to all young, budding writers. As much about her failures as her successes, Alcott shows us why we can’t be stuck in our ways as creatives and how we have to learn to adapt.  

I Capture the Castle– writing is a theme in this book in more ways than one. We see creativity in this book from multiple perspectives- the book is replete with creative types. Trying to achieve dreams is written into the very spine of the book, beginning with an artists exile and ending with the possibility of revival.

Daisy Jones and the Six– in this realistic story, you really get the vibe of the rock ’n roll movement. It’s a snapshot of a moment in time; it’s a real mood. I got so much out of the way this book describes creativity. And, with the fantastic narration in the audio version, I felt like I was listening in as an honorary band member – not just a groupie.

With the Fire on High– this is the kind of unusual take on creativity we don’t often get to taste. With its creative culinary skills, this book shows us how creativity can take you beyond your circumstances and how a dash of spice can brighten up your life. An absolutely delectable read.

Big Magic- as a bonus, I thought I’d mention a charming non fic that will give you a little push to be creative, if you need it.

So, have you read any of these? Were you inspired by them? Do you plan to? And what are your favourite books about creativity? Let me know in the comments!

Writerly Benefits From Reading Widely

As a reader, I’ve never been a fan of genre snobbery. It’s limiting, makes reading less fun and means missing out on whole worlds of experiences. But what about for writers? Surely, if you’re an aspiring writer, you need to focus on reading obsessively in your own genre? Wouldn’t it be better to not get distracted by all those shiny titles outside the category you’re writing in? Well, while reading books in your own genre is *a must*, I’d argue reading widely is also vital for a writer’s development. Each genre has something special to offer and lots of unique lessons to learn. And even if successfully pulling off a technique is not guaranteed by simply knowing it exists, being exposed to a greater variety certainly helps! Let’s break it down by genre, shall we?

lily and jamesRomance– I mean the clue is in the title… romances teach you how to develop a romance. Whether it’s hate to love, friends to lovers or anything in between, all the tropes have been tried and tested in this very broad category. And it’s such a long-standing genre, so there are *countless* classics to choose from (not just harlequin novels with topless men on the covers 😉). If you want more banter and happily ever afters, then you need to be checking this out! What’s more, it doesn’t stop with the romantic relationships. Friendships and family relationships are a strong element of this genre- even if they’re dysfunctional (because, yes, you can learn how to write toxic relationships from this too- even if it’s just an accident of bad writing 😉). Basically anything related to relationships are going to be explored in this genre- so unless you’re writing a book about a hermit, you may want to at least try a romance sometime.

dragon gifFantasy– ahh my genre of choice. I could rave forever about why this genre is *out of this world*. Perhaps just one of the reasons I find it so rewarding is that, in some ways, it’s the purest form of storytelling. With more mythologically based narratives and archetypal characters, it can give an idealised version of reality (if not a real one). Plus, all that magic world building is great inspiration, because even if you’re setting it in the real world, you need to have a sense of place. It also has a great tradition of the pure evil villain or the fascist archetypal dictator- even if it’s not as good at the more human villains (although GRRM is a good example of someone breaking that mould). That said, it’s solid in the anti-hero department these days. If you need flawed, but lovable characters, then this is a great genre for it. 

spaceSci fi– this offers a lot of the same things as fantasy in terms of getting a sense of place… though it’s more rooted in reality (which is ironically very useful for fantasy writers!) I’m not a big sci fi reader, but even I can say it’s amazing for philosophical and existential discussions (not just cos this genre includes dystopias… though that’s a big pull!!). Plus, many space operas in particular know how to pack in *action*.

enchanted castle victorian homeHistorical– for me, this is another genre where the strong suit is the setting. Yet what I also like about historical fiction is how it brings facts to life. I also personally love how lots of historical fiction works so well as genre-crossers, blending lots of different categories into one. I’ve read so many that manage to be historical and a thriller and a romance. While every book should manage to do this, I’d say that I particularly love how historical fiction balances its themes and subplots.  

dr-evilThrillers– for me, thrillers are hands down the best for villains. A lot of the time you’ll have the opportunity to get in the head of some sick mothereffers. Thrillers also allow for sparser writing and occasionally atmospheric reads. It’s also good if you’re looking for some more of that realism (eek if a thriller spins into fantastical territory!). Plus, if you need a clue how to get plotting, pacing and twists right, then boy is this the genre for you!  

read-fastNon-fiction– well, for starters there’s nothing stranger than real life. Given that non fiction is factual (or at least it should be) you can get *actual knowledge* from them to use in your own books. Personally, I’ve learnt a lot about characterisation, people and the nature of evil from both memoirs and psychology books. But obviously, there’s so much more you can discover!

Of course, this was not an exhaustive list, but I hope it was inspiring! Do you believe there are writerly benefits from reading widely? What do you think they are? And what else do you get out of different genres? Let me know in the comments!

Alias Grace was a Gem Hidden in Plain Sight

I committed a cardinal sin with this book: I started watching the TV show first. I know, I know, that’s a crime as a bookaholic! Truth be told, I did it because I was on the fence over whether I wanted to try more Atwood. While I was impressed with her writing in Handmaid’s Tale, the actual story wasn’t for me. But then Netflix went and tempted me with this beauty.

Telling of a notorious murderess, this is an intriguing historical murder mystery. Pacey and languid in equal parts, I found myself racing to the end of the book and the show at the same time! (such that the two are blurred together in my mind). The lilting tone of the writing and the specificity of the imagery took me on a journey. My only issue is that Atwood has an aversion to speech marks for some indecipherable reason- the only consequence of which is to blur the words on the page. But otherwise, I was captivated.

Twining real life events with hints of the supernatural twists the tale into a unique patchwork-puzzle. Even with all the pieces, it’s impossible to solve… and for me that makes it a little bit special. The text never fully commits to vindicating or condemning Grace- and for me that is the perfect solution. I am sure there are feminist interpretations (indeed I’ve seen a few) that blame all the negative male behaviour for everything bad the women do… and yet neither the book nor the show fully commits to that argument. Which is a good thing- not least because this would take away the responsibility (and therefore power) of its female cast.

And, because of this ambiguity, I can’t stop thinking about it. I confess after finishing, I fell down an (unsatisfactory) research rabbithole, trying to get to the bottom of the true story! One thing’s for certain, Grace has been haunting me ever since I first caught her eye.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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So, have you read this? Do you plan to? And what Atwood (other than the Handmaid’s Tale) would you recommend? Let me know in the comments!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – November 2020!

Hello all! Looks like we made it to November- hopefully all in one piece! Nothing too freaky happened to me in October… except starting a new job- which caught me by surprise! (in a good way 😉) Like a lot of people, this year’s been a bit rocky financially, so pretty relieved to have some more stable work to see me out to the end of 2020. Sadly, on that note, I may have to take a few more breaks from blogging (gosh so reluctant to just say I’m going on hiatus!) I’d love to be able to catch up on everything I’ve been missing out online, but I guess I’ll just have to see what happens.

gotta go to work! 😉

Emily in Paris– there are a million reasons why I shouldn’t have enjoyed this: the stereotyping, the silly inaccuracies for cheap laughs, the *awful* (cheating) love triangle and the horribly unsympathetic lead… buuut I have to admit I had fun with it. It was a light, fluffy, silly rom com that made me laugh. So I’m sorry to the Gods of TV Taste- I enjoyed this more than I should have!

American Vandal– I watched this because I was obviously craving something a little more serious 😉 I loved how this sent up true crime documentaries. I still think that Sadie is the best for critiquing the way true crime doesn’t care about the victims- yet this did make compelling arguments about how filmmakers can expose people unfairly, ruin lives and not really help anyone in the long run (especially if society already has it in for them). Not just because it offered an interesting commentary on how so many of these documentaries can be unethical, but because it was a remarkably compelling story in its own right (even if the main mystery was “who drew the dicks on teacher’s cars?”). And it was all the more entertaining for being completely over the top!

City of Girls– after reading a couple of Gilbert’s great non-fiction books, I’d been hoping to read her fiction for some time now, because I hoped it would hold the same charm for me. Sadly, this did not live up to expectations. My biggest issue with City of Girls was that it basically read like a modern story with a vintage veneer. For all the costumes and hints of setting, I felt like too many characters were out of step with the time period. And while I loved the voice, because its expressive tone created so much character, I ultimately found the protagonist incredibly unlikeable. Sometimes this isn’t such a big problem- however in this case she was such an unconscionable cow that I was cheering on the person chastising her.

Rating: 2½/5 bananas

hand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-banana half-a-hand-drawn-banana

Inheritance– in this compelling memoir about discovering the secrets of her DNA, Dani Shapiro hands down the details of her life story. Part detective story, part journal of self-discovery, this is one of the most intriguing non fiction books I’ve ever read. Reading this, I was constantly annoying my family with exclamations of “oh my god!” (so beware reading this in a public place). On a personal level, it’s hard not to empathise- yet it also raises ethical quandaries that are not so easily put to rest. Do donors have a right to privacy or children have a right to know? It is no small thing to consider- especially if the potential cost is the lives of these very children. Then there are the questions of nature vs nurture- for if you find out your father is not your biological father, then who made you who you are? Surely both inform your identity in some way? Finally, and most significantly, there is an attempt to get to the root of one of life’s biggest issues: who am I? And I guess it was this central issue that made me relate- despite how unusual her story was. I couldn’t help but identify with her struggles to connect with her identity. I definitely knew what she was talking about when she referred to veiled anti-Semitism. Much of this hit me like a gut-punch. It’s a powerful and fascinating read that I would definitely recommend. Nonetheless, I have to warn you, even though the mystery of her parentage is solved by the end: the puzzles at its heart linger will linger long after you turn the last page.   

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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The Wife Who Knew Too Much– after reading Michele Campbell’s Stranger on the Beach, I knew this would be a strong thriller. And I was right… to an extent. For much of the book, I had no idea where this was going. I loved some of the legal drama woven in, but it dragged in the middle and I wasn’t quite clear on whether I was fully invested in the story. Yet, the author really hits the accelerator at 80%, taking a bit of a wild turn off a freeway. I was impressed with how much smart the twist was and liked the motive more than I expected. I especially loved how the title plays with you and has many different meanings. Ultimately it wasn’t my favourite journey, but I liked the destination.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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Spinning Silver– I’m struggling to weigh up my thoughts about this one. There were so many delicate threads that wove into an intricate design. There’s love, monsters, adventure, friendship and family- all seamlessly stitched together. Standing back from it I can see Novik certainly knows how to spin an elaborate tale! The author has such a talent for taking the villains of a tale and turning it around- and doing this with Rumpelstiltskin is a far more remarkable feat than Beauty and the Beast. What I especially liked was how the original was revealed to be simply the blood libel in disguise- which I had not realised before. Still, I did end up fairly conflicted about the Jewish aspect of the story- since writing another ugly-Jewish-girl-with-money story doesn’t exactly challenge stereotypes. But while I may have been a little sensitive to this, I don’t want to be too critical, especially as I am aware of the historical reality (ie Christians were not allowed to lend money and Jews were often not allowed access to any other profession). Plus, it’s an interesting enough spin. On balance, this was an excellent book, just perhaps not quite the right fit for me.

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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Ninth House- I’ll confess I took a risk reading this, because I wasn’t that sure I’d like it. I love the author, but have never been into horror. That said, with all the hype, the pull was to great to resist. And, even if it’s not my usual cup of tea, I’m glad I gave it a go! Straight away, I could see it was a good job this was classified as adult- it’s exceptionally dark. As has been widely discussed, there is a graphic rape scene that is hard to read. However, having read it, I can’t believe Bardugo was called out over it- maybe people should spend more time getting angry at the people that do evil things, not the people that write about them. Despite all the gore, what actually stood out was the story. Pacey, intriguing and hinging on different timelines- I was wowed by how it all came together. In fact, I was feeling pretty slumpy when I picked it up and still whizzed through it in a day! Galaxy, while dark and edgy, has enough shine to keep me interested. Darlington was considerably more fascinating than I first thought as well. But really it was all about that plot and killer ending for me.  

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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That’s all for now! Have you read any of these? Did you like them? Let me know in the comments! And I hope you all had a good month!

A Bloody Good Time

The sunlight offends me. Squinting at the windows, indecently trying to get in. I hiss at the flickering blinds. The impertinence of it! The breeze and a slight buzzing have broken my slumber- yet I shall not be roused…

Only I’m so thirsty. So hungry. A gnawing ache twists and turns. A tremble fills the void. I cannot remember the last time I had serious sustenance. Groaning, I creak from my abode.

Creeping across the landing, desperate not to wake the others, I shield my eyes as I pass the hall mirror. I dare not look; I will not like what I see. I ought to smash the damn thing- it is a constant reminder of what I am now. Of what creature I have become.

Instead, my eyes snag on the insect suspiciously resting by the window pane… and I make a run for it. Bolting for cover. Sprinting down the stairs, I make it, gracelessly, to what we used to call the living area (it has other uses now, we don’t talk about it).

Eyes closed to the endless equipment we’ve been “gifted” by our gracious overlords, I make it through. Careless of the noise now, because I’ve not seen a soul in days and it’s pretty hard to wake the undead.

Into the pantry I go. Open a cupboard and… We’re completely out of supplies. Completely. I curse myself for I am an accursed fool. Foolish not to brave the streets yesterday- before we ran out. Before the news broke.

Not just the food is gone- but the cleaning products, the hand sanitiser and the toilet rolls. And now the killer bees are at the door too…

Oh well, looks like it’s just another day in 2020!