SCARY BIG Book Haul!!!

Do you know that feeling where you can never walk into a bookshop/library/book event and not come away with *so many* more books than you planned? Do you know what it’s like to walk past a book you’ve not even added to your tbr, but have a vague interest in, and think “I must have it”!? Well, one side effect of going away for a while is that that crazy, insatiable thirst for new books is SO MUCH WORSE THAN NORMAL! All my former impulse control (pah like I ever had impulse control) went out the window and I just found myself hauling BOOKS, BOOKS and MORE BOOKS. Two days back and I was already showing off an insane library haul on twitter. And you know what? That haul has only grown since then! I mean, I’m not entirely to blame for this- I basically went through my entire physical tbr before I went away, so of course I had to replenish my stocks- right?!?! Plus, some of my hauling was (pretty logically) because it’s *SPOOKTOBER* and I needed wanted some spooky reads. Which is why I got these for starters:

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I also thought it would be fun to finally try the Saga graphic novels- I don’t know why but their unusual feel felt right for this month- so I picked these up in the library:

 

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Not totally related to this month, I also got a couple of books as a belated birthday present:

 

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What’s a little uncanny about getting these books is that I got the first ones in those series last year– oooh! 😉 (also I have already read and reviewed Girl in the Tower if you’re interested- I just wanted a physical copy cos I LOVE IT!) Still, it’s not all freaky thrills. Since I’m a total scaredy cat, I had to get a load of romantic YA books to make sure I don’t get too freaked out this month:

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Plus, I also picked out a hefty classic, which, I’ll admit, I’ve been terrified of reading:

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And I almost forgot about this one, because it’s currently sitting on my bedside table waiting to be read, but it comes back full circle to the *creepy, suspensful* vibe I’ve been trying to get this month:

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So as you can see I have plenty to be getting on with! I doubt I’ll be whizzing through all of this any time soon- which is why I want to hear from you about tackling this haul! Have you read any of these? Which ones do you recommend? Let me know in the comments!

Bloggers who Deserve More Attention #2

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Hello all! A while back I did a post about bloggers I love who don’t get nearly as much attention as they deserve and I thought it would be fun to make an (irregular) thing out of it. Originally I thought it’d be great to nudge you to check out other people while I was away- buuut that didn’t end up happening (/I was busy and wasn’t blogging much of anything). Still- that’s no reason not to go ahead and do it now! Cos who doesn’t love discovering fantastic bloggers and reading awesome content? So without further ado, here’s part 2 of bloggers you should check out:

Lydia @22 is still young adult– Lydia’s reviews are just so beautiful that I always end up adding whatever book she’s talking about to my list. Not only is this blog a fantastic place to grow your tbr, I also find that if I have read the book, her reviews remind me why I loved it and make me all warm and fuzzy about it!

Cindy @Readctbooks– Cindy is one of those bloggers that captures the *need to fangirl* feeling! Loads of her reviews just make me so excited to pick up whatever she’s reading. I love her take on memes and fun updates-  her blog is such an entertaining place to be!

Ayunda Bhuwana– Ayunda is recently celebrating her bloggiversary and I must say she’s taking the blogosphere by storm! With her great takes on books and films, and just sharing her life and travels, she covers a lot of bases in an incredibly engaging way. I also love her slick design and am so glad she’s returned to blogging!

Sarah @Art Expedition– Sarah is one of the most talented people on this platform and her blog most certainly showcases this. Her paintings and photography are simply stunning and I really recommend you check it out- you’ll be in for a treat! She also writes very beautifully about why she chooses certain subjects and Art Expedition all round a great place to visit on the blogosphere!

Maddie @Of Reading and Random Things– the bookish discussions on this blog are always fascinating and get me thinking- which is why it’s worth checking her out! It’s always interesting to explore some of the topics she gets into- like which is better: books or video games? Or blogging vs vlogging? And if that’s not enough for you, there’s plenty of awesome book reviews and tags over there to get fulfil all your bookish needs!

The Bibliophile Empress– one of the things I like best about Kristyn is her thoughtful discussion posts- she eloquently puts forth her point of view and it’s really worthwhile to hear her out. I have to admit, as a classicist, her informative and educational mythology posts make me super excited as well!

Dragons & Zombies– not only does Sarah have excellent taste in books (I’m biased 😉 ) she also brings so much personality to her blog. I love that she covers so many different topics as well- like movies, travel and even wrestling! There’s really no other book blogger like her and I don’t know why you’re still reading this instead of going to check her out right now! 😉

Suziey @Of all the books in all the libraries– if you’re looking for varied book tastes then you’ve come to the right place! Suziey covers everything from Nancy Drew to contemporary romance to classics. Her reviews are always so in depth that you get an excellent idea of what to expect and whether to pick it up for yourself. Not to mention, she does great book hauls (which admittedly can be dangerous for us bookaholics to see 😉 ) Her blog often puts me in a great mood- especially after her upbeat tag about music today! Also, who doesn’t love the reference she’s making with her blog title?

Carolina @Fictionologyst– Carolina is one of the sweetest people I’ve met recently and is super friendly! Her personality comes across so well on her blog and I always enjoy reading her enthusiastic reviews and posts!!

Book Beach Bunny– Book Beach Bunny has such amazing reviews of TV, films and books! They’re honest and will give you the lowdown of what to add to your list- and perhaps also what to avoid. She’s really clear on what the book/film/show has going for it- and that’s really helpful to me! Plus, she has a very entertaining way of doing things and makes me laugh!

If you’re looking for more wonderful bloggers you need to look out for, feel free to check out:

Bloggers Who Deserve More Attention #1

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Obviously there are loads more bloggers who deserve *all the attention*- so who do you think I should be looking out for? And do you know any of these bloggers? Will you be checking them out? Let me know in the comments!

The Master and Margarita was *MASTERFUL*

the master and margaritaOne of the most curious books I’ve ever read, The Master and Margarita took me on a journey to a place both real and imagined. Whilst clearly evoking the oddities and terror of Soviet Russia, there is also a sense of surrealism that pervades the book and forbids the reader from gaining any sort of even footing in the narrative. The lines between what is reality and what is allegorical are increasingly blurred, making for an impossibly complex narrative.

With many layers to the narrative, I found myself gripped as I discovered puzzle after puzzle: who is the professor? Who is the hero? Who- or what- is the cat? Eventually I began to piece it all together- all the while with a developing sense of foreboding.

Now, though I’ve mentioned much of this book’s hidden depths, it’s important to note that it is better to go into The Master and Margarita as clueless as possible. While it’s good to bear in mind the relevance of the Soviet setting, there is also something timeless about the piece, as it draws parallels between Bulgakov’s present, the demise of Christ and Goethe’s Faust. The time period, as noted in the introduction of my copy, is actually rather fluid- supposedly it’s set in the years of the Great Terror and yet it also very clearly encompasses the period after where the communist rule was more established. More than that, however, the book takes on a distinctly allegorical feel through its extensive use of symbolism, which make it hard to pin it down to a mere reflection of one form of human evil. Yes, it refers to the disappearances and sudden deaths of the Soviet Union, but it is equally a tale of devilish schemes run amok (humorously depicted in an atheistic society).

Of course this is a world where people lose their heads- both literally and figuratively- and yet the narrative doesn’t stop there. The Master and Margarita is at its heart a love story. Surprisingly for such a book, the plot is very heavily centred on romance, perhaps showing how even the purest of human motivations become corrupted by external forces.

This not only adds another dynamic to the novel, but also gives the reader sympathetic characters to latch onto. And it is thanks to this vivid sense of character and place that makes it possible to suspend disbelief and picture this unreal world in its entirety.

Bulgakov certainly brings his almost mythical vision to life- not least with his stunning and strange writing style. The quirkiness of the text is one of its bigger draws and one of the things I loved the most. Again, I don’t think this is something I can describe for you, I just think you’ll have to check it out for yourself:

“The cats sneaking by the veranda had a distinctly morning look. Daytime advanced relentlessly on the poet.”

“What other oddities transpired in Moscow that might not know not, and we certainly will not pry, especially since it is time for us to move on to the second part of this truthful narrative. Follow me, reader!”

“Trousers don’t suit cats, messire,’ replied the cat with great dignity. ‘Why don’t you tell me to wear boots? Cats always wear boots in fairy tales. But have you ever seen a cat going to a ball without a tie? I don’t want to make myself look ridiculous.” 

Ultimately, I think this is one of the most magnificent, thought-provoking and fascinating works I’ve ever come across. It’s one of those books I would recommend to everyone- just so they can experience the magic for themselves:

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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So have you read this? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

Fighting the Good Fight: Red Queen’s War Trilogy Review

*Spoiler Free*

So some of you will know, I was in a MASSIVE book slump while I was away. With everything going on, I struggled to concentrate on reading… until I picked up Mark Lawrence’s Red Queen series. Because one thing I know for sure is that some authors are just perfect for pulling me out of a slump- and Lawrence just so happens to be one of those authors for me.

prince of fools

Prince of Fools– this was *exactly* the action packed, witty book I needed to get me reading again! I’d describe a lot of Mark Lawrence’s work as “read in one sitting” kind of books and this was no exception! As part of the Broken Empire universe, I felt the vivid descriptions built on the world beautifully and the crossover elements worked very well. In fact there were some parts of this book that made me almost prefer it to Prince of Thorns. As always, the sense of voice was incredible and I loved Jalan as a character- dare I say, even more than Jorg. I felt he was relatable, his motivation made sense, his flaws were well thought out and he’s probably Lawrence’s funniest character to date. It was thanks to his persona that I was laughing the whole way through this one. I also liked the way Jalan played off other people. However, I did find that this didn’t quite light the spark under me in the same way as Lawrence’s other books, which is why I gave it:

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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liar's key

Liar’s Key– I always feel transported by Lawrence’s work- and this book was a perfect example of why! Even though this is the 5th book set in this universe, what was remarkable about it was how fresh Lawrence managed to make it. By building on the previous work with deeper connections to the mythological elements, Lawrence created a richer tapestry and added so many layers to the storytelling. The hints of the previous destroyed world, especially the inaccuracies in their interpretations of Florence and Venice, created a sense of history. Subplots, like with the bankers, were really clever and totally worked for me. I also liked the way the dreams interwove with the rest of the tale and formed pieces of a puzzle. What I also liked was Jalan’s developing relationships and the real sense of the character’s progression, without losing a sense of his original identity. I particularly liked how he became a kind of roguish mentor to Hennan and how this showed he was softening (albeit still giving advice like “take the money”).

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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wheel of osheim

Wheel of Osheim– annoyingly, I didn’t take enough notes for this one… but that’s because I was too wrapped up in it. From the intriguing prologue to the epic conclusion, I was transfixed by this story. Again, I loved the mythological side to the story- and really loved the direction that took! I don’t want to spoil anything, so all I’ll say is the world building was intricately mindblowing and the origin of how Aslaug came to be was just perfect. Of course, as a fan of the original trilogy, I also appreciated the Jorg cameo and the repetition of one of my favourite quotes (death isn’t what it was). All in all, it made for another fantastic finale!

Rating: 4½ bananas

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So, yeah reading a whole series back to back definitely classifies as snapping me out of a slump! Have you read it? Did you like it? And what’s the last book or series that got you to start reading again? Let me know in the comments!

Monthly Monkey Mini Review – October

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Hello all! I’m so excited to get back to doing more bookish content and what better way to start than with a bunch of mini reviews? Thankfully, I managed to read quite a few more books last month, which I couldn’t be happier about! Fingers and toes crossed that I’m finally, finally over my slump!! So let’s get straight into it!

the notebook

The Notebook– okay I’m going to start off by saying something controversial: I’m not a fan of the movie. As much as this annoys people (my sister included) I *hate* the main couple with a burning passion. So why, then, did I bother to read the book? Well, quite simply because there were a few old paperbacks where I was living and this was the only one that interested me. And, surprisingly, this was better than I expected. I thought it was well written and preferred how some of the themes of aging were dealt with. That said, Allie is still a cheat and no amount of blaming the guy she was with for not being perfect will make that any better.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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safe haven

Safe Haven– yup, I was on a bit of a Nicholas Sparks sprint. I read this in the interest of seeing whether I’d been fair to the author for ignoring him all these years. I did prefer this overall- but then, I was pretty safe in the knowledge that I would, cos I’d already enjoyed the storyline from the movie. But, even though I committed the cardinal sin of watching the film first, I have to say I still preferred the book. This was particularly thanks to the fact that the characters and romance were far more complex than the generic vision I got from the film. Not only was the relationship better developed- especially given the empathic way the leading man understood what she was going through just from her behaviours- there was also a sense that the leading lady had to be a lot smarter to get away. Also, while the book was a tad melodramatic, I still felt dealt with subjects like abusive relationships, the aftermath of traumatic experiences and grief in a far more substantive way. That said, there was one spoilery flaw that kept me from completely loving it. Highlight for spoiler: I could have done without her talking to the dead wife and really didn’t feel like the supernatural element fitted with the book’s vibes.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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one in a million

One in a Million– this was such a funny book! I especially loved the running joke about book design! I did think it was a cute relationship, BUT I didn’t fall for the love interest (which I find kinda necessary in romance- you want to want them for yourself). I thought the guy would make a great friend, however I just didn’t get how anyone could date someone who was so socially awkward that he needed basic cues explained. He was shockingly rude and had zero social graces. I sort of saw the heroine ending up with him, maybe? Yet a part of me felt like this was only because she had a lack of options at that point in time and that it was what the plot dictated. And random nitpick of the day: Batman is *not* a sociopath (at the risk of opening up the age old vlogsbrothers debate, I side with Hank on this one).

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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the wedding date

The Wedding Date– alright, I was reading a lot of contemporary romance last month, which meant I was bound to dislike one of them… and The Wedding Date just so happened to not make the cut for me (also quick disclaimer in case there’s any confusion: this is not the more famous, more recent book with the same title). I found myself disliking everything- from the way the main character insecurely picked herself apart to the wish fulfilment way the romance panned out. I was almost gagging at the love interest’s attempts at sexiness and I didn’t buy that he was into her (he kept claiming to like her for her confidence- you know, the one I mentioned she was completely lacking to the point of being difficult to read about). I also didn’t connect with the writing style, complete with jokey lists- things like the quirky lists felt like they were trying too hard to make me laugh. And ultimately, the plot, the relationships and the showdowns only got a “whatever” out of me.

Rating: 2/5 bananas

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ash princess

Ash Princess– I feel like this book employed *all the infodumps*. Although some of the world building was good, there was just way too much over-explaining. There were some emotional tugs, but unfortunately the heroine wasn’t dynamic enough and, because I couldn’t help myself, I spent too much time questioning why the Kaiser kept her alive in the first place (I mean, I know this is part of the course of evil dictators in YA, but surely if you conquer a country and kill their leaders, it doesn’t make sense to keep the heir to the throne alive? Surely they can see that beating them occasionally will only piss off the populace? Surely they know they’re keeping the spark of rebellion alive?) Anyway, I do recognise that this sort of thing is done as a plot device and I (mostly) let it go. In the end, my main problem was that it was somewhat forgettable.

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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shiver

Shiver– speaking of forgettable, this was so non-descript that I didn’t remember that I’d actually read it before (and according to goodreads I had). It was also incredibly juvenile as a story. I don’t think I’ve read a book that’s quite so instalove since the last time I apparently read this book. And I also don’t get how the main character doesn’t see that she should be more worried about her love interest being potentially dangerous. But nope- that sort of thing doesn’t enter our teenage heroine’s brain. A lot of the imagery was also a bit clichéd and missed the mark. Metaphors like “I tramped into the woods with all the grace of a polar bear in a dollhouse” felt random and didn’t work for me. On the bright side, I think a lot of these issues simply served to show how much the author’s matured as an author. There were glimpses of beauty her and some parts felt like a precursor to Stiefvater’s later work. I especially liked the concept of a cursed winter. Unfortunately I just didn’t give a damn what was gonna happen next.

Rating: 2/5 bananas

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life's golden ticket

Life’s Golden Ticket– I’ll be honest, self-help books are rarely my thing. I wouldn’t have picked this up if it hadn’t been a gift (and for me personally the best thing about it was connecting it to the person who gave it to me). Still, that couldn’t make me get over the bland, childish-to-the-point-of-being-nauseating writing style. I think that’s the main reasons I found myself getting inexplicably irritated at the book. I can’t fault it for some of the messaging- however I found it overly moralistic and a tad annoying for being so obvious sometimes. I’m glad this book has helped so many other people, yet it really wasn’t not for me.

Rating: 2½/5 bananas

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So have you read any of these? What did you think of them? Let me know in the comments!

BACK FROM THE DEAD!

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Hello, it’s me, I’ve been wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet…

Hello, can you hear me…

Hello from the other si-i-ide….

Okay, I should probably stop channelling Adele and cut to the chase 😉 I’ve been away for a really long time and as much as I’ve tried to convince you all with my infrequent appearances that I wasn’t, in fact, dead, this blog has ended up being something of a graveyard at times- but it’s time for it to come back to life!  I’m happy to announce that I should be getting back into the swing of things now my ridiculously long hiatus has come to an end!  I’m going to be resurrecting a lot of the old stuff I liked to do and hopefully going to be active on the blogosphere again! But this isn’t just a post to tell you where I am now, it’s finally time for me to spill on what I’ve been upto- so buckle up, cos it’s gonna be quite the ride!

So where was I? Well, I was volunteering on a kibbutz in Israel.

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For those that don’t know what that is, it’s basically a communal farm, where you work for room and board. As you can imagine that involves a lot of physical labour. Glamourous, I know 😉 Some of the time I did get to do the typical gardening type work that you’d expect on a kibbutz; mostly however I was in the kitchen and dining room. I’ll be blunt, kitchen kinda sucked, but once I got moved to the dining room it was much better (even if it is bloody tough serving people food in a foreign language). I really enjoyed getting to talk to everyone from the kibbutz and the crazy pace of things was very distracting.

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It wasn’t all work though- thankfully! I was really lucky to be on a kibbutz where there was a pool (a freaking godsend if you ask me!) and I got to chill with people from all around the world (which was especially great for watching the world cup- although they did tease me mercilessly when it turned out it wasn’t coming home…)

orangutan swimming cropped.jpgAnd although I’ve been to Israel before, I spent a huge amount of the time travelling round the country, so I got to see some places I hadn’t, return to some brilliant sites and hang out with a lot of friends and family I’d been missing. The reason I’d gone out there in the first place was to spend time with everyone and it was easily the highlight of my trip. Between all the birthdays and my bestie’s wedding, I had some EPIC times. I have to say a THANK YOU to all those people who put me up (and put up with me 😉 ) over the last few months!

 

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And yes, I did manage to spend some time on the beach 😉

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When the volunteering came to an end, I had some time before my sister was visiting for her birthday, so I figured I would use the opportunity to fulfil a lifelong dream… which is why I took myself off to Greece to see the Parthenon (and lots of other ancient monuments!). Yup, even though half my degree was in Classics, I’d never been and I felt like that was something I simply had to rectify! This was by far one of the best things I did in the last few months and as much as I could spend FOREVER talking about how brilliant it was to visit Delphi, how much fun I had fangirling over particular sculptures I’d studied (to the point where museum staff were laughing at me) and never-shut-up about the delicious food, I’m just going to let out one big SQUEEEEEEE! to give you some idea of how excited I still am about it.

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I then went back to Israel briefly to say goodbye, before heading HOMEWARD BOUND!

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Of course I’m still getting used to everything again, yet I’ve got to admit I’m really enjoying being back in London, having more access to some proper tea and after MONTHS of heat I’m appreciating the gloriously autumnal weather!

And that’s the story of where I’ve been! Hope you had as much fun reading it as I had writing it!