How has my reading taste changed over the years?

Reading taste is a funny thing. In some ways, it feels static, like I’m stuck in a childish timewarp, loving what I’ve always loved and refusing to grow up. Other times, I’m feel like I’ve skidded into a space I don’t really understand, talking about genres I never thought I’d read. Because while I find there are some constants to my reading repertoire (classics/fantasy/classic fantasy) my taste has changed *a lot * in the years since I started blogging.

To start with, a big change (that may or may not be as noticeable) is how much I have fallen for romance and contemporaries. While I always enjoyed romance in my fiction, I didn’t tend to go for many rom com style books- whether they were adult or YA! Now, a shift began shortly before I started blogging, where I found I got a lot of stress relief from very fluffy YA books. Yet I wasn’t quite clear on where to find more of these books I was enjoying. *ENTER BLOGGING* and I started to get recommendations- I discovered New Adult and Regular Adult. A massive influence for me were people like Deanna @ A Novel Glimpse– who as far as I’m concerned is the Romance Queen! I’ve found too many heart-warming, charming and feel good stories to count! It’s been the start of a beautiful new adventure…

… Though that’s certainly not where it ended- because somehow I fell headlong into thriller territory (I bet you didn’t see that twist coming! I certainly didn’t!) I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned it before, but my first foray into adult thrillers was the Da Vinci Code when I would’ve been around 13. To cut to the chase: it did not go well. I thought thrillers would never be for me. And then I discovered blog’s like Meggy’s. With her exquisite reviews, introducing me to the dangerously seductive world of killers and stalkers and messed up people, my interest was piqued. Intrigued, I took the plunge and picked one up. Then another. Then I began to seek them out far and wide. I guess once you’ve got a taste for the dark side, there’s no going back 😉 (plus it compliments all the super sweet reads I go for 😉) I’ve even (and this surprises me no end) enjoyed a few mysteries here and there!

But the biggest shift in my reading taste is that… I like non fiction now?! Back in the day, when I started blogging, I was so disinterested in non-fiction that I had to set myself a handful to read in a year. Now I’m currently at 20 in 2020- and it doesn’t look like I’m slowing down! Odder still, even though I vowed I didn’t like memoirs… a great deal of those are in fact memoirs. In this case, I don’t know what changed- maybe it was the passage of time, maybe it was some good recommendations or maybe it was just practicing a new reading habit that shifted my perspective.

And I guess that’s a good note to leave on- because while I still love the same books I always did, I can also say that experimenting has made my reading experience all the more rewarding. And I don’t think all of that came down to chance. Sure, I happened to stumble on some amazing blogs and recommendations- yet it took a pinch of courage to step outside of my reading comfort zone. It didn’t take me long to discover that the reading world was full of even more wonders than I knew. So, I’d encourage everyone else to do the same- you never know where it might lead you.

How about you? Has your reading taste changed over time or thanks to blogging? What do you think brought about this change? Let me know in the comments!

The Behind the Book Blogger Tag!

Hello all! Today, I thought it’d be fun to pull back the curtain and give you get a peek behind the scenes in… the behind the book blogger tag! Thank you so much to the wonderful Tiffany @Read by Tiffany for tagging me to do this! I absolutely love her gorgeous blog design and fun posts- plus she’s recently started a youtube channel which is well worth checking out if you enjoy booktube! Okay, let’s get this show on the road!

The Rules:

  • Thank the person who nominated you
  • Answer all the questions down below
  • Pingback to the creator: Ellyn @ Allonsythornraxx
  • Nominate 5+ bloggers you’d like to know more about, to do this tag

1. Why did you start blogging? & Why have you kept blogging?

Coming to the end of my degree, I wanted a place where I could be honest about my opinions about books and hopefully have fun with it. I think the biggest change for me was that I came to vent my opinions into thin air… and some people listened?! From that, I found other people’s blogs and got an insane number of recommendations. I’ve had a blast and realised there was so much more to this hobby than meets the eye. All the lovely, inspirational, entertaining people along the way have made me love being a part of this community! You guys are the best! ❤

2. What is your favourite type of blog post to write?

Ooh it’s hard to choose! I love writing discussion posts, but I also like making people laugh if I can!

3. What are your top three favourite blog posts?

This is subject to change at any moment, but here goes:

4. What are some of your favourite things to do to relax?

Well, obviously I like to read! And I love to draw- especially bizarre and funny little cartoons! Also, a huge fan of yoga!

5. What are three of your favourite things?

Books, chocolate and listening to music!

6. What are your proudest blogging moments?

Hitting 100 followers was the first time I thought “*whoa* something cool is happening here!” I’d also say when I was featured on Freshly Pressed just about made my day/week/year. I got so much great feedback from people who weren’t followers and found some really cool people! I think also on a personal level, there are people in my real life who’ve read the blog and liked it. That meant a lot to me.

7. What are your hobbies outside of blogging?

Well I’ve mentioned a few already, so I suppose the one thing left to mention is that I love to write stories!  

8. Describe your personality in three words.

Bananas, blunt, bookaholic!

9. What are your top three pet peeves?

Okay here’s a few things that are bugging me lately:

  • Moralising books (an old favourite)
  • Performative lower case (I’ve never liked bad grammar and this just seems like the most egregious example lately, because somehow it’s even worse than hypercorrection, because highly educated professors are choosing to write like children!?)
  • Virtue signalling corporations (we all know what you’re doing and see through it. Please stop pretending to be all virtuous and noble and oh-so-just, whilst turning a blind eye to horrific human rights abuses, all to make some bank… that’s effed up! And yeah, in case you can’t tell, this is a pointed jab at The Mouse That Shall Not Be Named)

10. What’s something your followers don’t know about you?

The first thing I ever wanted to do with my life was be an inventor, because I desperately wanted a real, working broomstick! Also, this may have come up, but I really like cats and wish I’d had one as a kid. I also used to make potions out of whatever I found in the garden or bathroom cabinet. Basically I’m an aspiring witch 😉

Okay that was fun- I tag: Laura, Celine, Meeghan, Beck, Sam and anyone else who wants to do it!

How about you? How did you get into blogging? And did you have any unusual aspirations as a child? Let me know in the comments!

Ingredients for making the VERY BEST main character!

Lately I’ve been wondering what does it take to get a load of random character traits, stir them altogether, shove them in the oven and see what comes out… Because this is the year of baking metaphors 😉 In all seriousness… this post isn’t very serious 😉 (I just wanted a fun way to talk about some character tropes I don’t like). Okay time to look at the ingredients…

Let’s start with a dusting of special snowflakery. A main character has to be good at everything… otherwise how will you know they are the main one? The best way to achieve this is to have them be the best from the very beginning (but they don’t know how great they are) because if you leave them to ferment, they might simply explode in the process! No, better to just get an instant mix of perfection. Never have them be vulnerable; always give them every ability in your world. There should be nothing they can’t do- because is the point in side characters if you can’t outshine them and how else will your readers know your mc is a badass? What’s that you’re saying? You want flaws? Oh well, if you insist…

Make them clumsy! You don’t want your character to have any character imperfections (that they can work on) so instead give them two left feet! And make sure they trip over at every opportunity. Have them be uncoordinated to the point of it being baffling, causing genuinely life-threatening scenarios. Don’t worry- this won’t come across as slapstick, because you will have a love interest darkly berating them for nearly getting everyone killed over an untied shoelace. Speaking of which- introducing…

The love-interest-appendage. This entirely makes up for your main character having no personality. This love interest should be moody, speak only in grunts, but be impossibly hot. Not sounding exciting enough? Never fear! When in doubt, make two love-interest-appendages! (this will be useful later!)

And if you need these characters to do something together or bond in anyway, you can just have them be pretentious. They can do things like recite “memorised” verses back and forth. Just pages and pages to fill with someone else’s words- because that’s how you hit the big word counts! Thus you have now given them “obscure” interests that no one else has- which is especially good if you have a female lead, cos then they are conveniently…

NOT LIKE OTHER GIRLS! Oh wow- who doesn’t love this trope? This character doesn’t like “normal” girly things like clothes and makeup, cos they’re just so cool and unique. One of my favourite things to include in this trope is having them be bitchy about all other female characters- especially ones who have boobs you envy or blond hair or (*OMG*) boobs and blond hair!! Because girls that have features you envy deserve your ire and this teaches teen girls really healthy messages about how they should treat other women. Also don’t have them be friends with other women- paha! No way is this possible when there is man candy on display. Let them all claw each other’s eyes out- that’s a fun form of conflict. And on the topic of bitchiness…

Your protagonist should be nice-ty. Aka they are really quite nasty, but somehow they believe (and everyone around them believes) they’re a saint. And here’s where that love triangle gets realllly useful- because you can have them cheat on their significant other, emotionally and physically, all the while having other characters saying how sweet they are and how they’re only in this predicament because they’re so nice (barf). Who knew this dilemma came from a place of pure goodness? I’m telling you, this book is going to teach so many *positive* messages.

And when in doubt, you should add some telling into the mix. Make sure to have other characters tell how clever the main character is for instance. Don’t have them problem solve a complex test or put them in challenging situations they have to get out of- just put in that they’re a certified genius and your reader is sure to believe it!

Plus, you can blend in the fact that they’re a plain jane (/plain john). And yet everyone is falling over themselves for their god/dess-like features. Weird that!

Also, add a pinch of bad parenting. Now, I say a pinch, because I don’t just mean removing the parents from the story altogether or an example of abuse. I mean, they should be non-absentee absent parents. I know a lot of people complain about dead/missing parents- so you know what’s better? A parent that’s *right there*… buuut completely ineffectual. Somehow they managed to bring up a child to near adulthood, not letting them run into traffic etc, but at the last hurdle they seem to have just taken their foot off the brakes and don’t seem to care whether their teen lives or dies. Smart.

Mix it all together and what do you get…

Bella Swan!

Okay, just kidding! But it’s pretty close! Do you agree with me here? What ingredients would you add? Let me know in the comments!

Which Characters from my Favourite Books am I?

Hello all! I have a reallllly big guilty pleasure: I love online quizzes. Yeah I know it’s illogical and about as accurate as reading a horoscope- but if Buzzfeed wants to try and gauge what Westerosi house I am from my choice of breakfast cereal, then I’m all for it! And since it’s becoming a bit of a tradition for me to do a post like this every year, I stole this from the wonderful Katie @Never Not Reading! I thoroughly enjoyed her answers (and found I have a lot in common with her, which I kinda already knew 😉) and love reading her posts in general- so *highly recommend* checking her out!

Now let’s jump into the questions!

Six of Crows

Quiz: Which Six of Crows character are you? (Grishaverse.com)

What I think I’ll get: maybe Inej?

What I got: Kaz!

Oh wow- not sure if this is true- but I’m happy cos he’s wicked smart!

Percy Jackson

Quiz: Which Percy Jackson character are you? (Playbuzz)

What I Think I’ll get: I’d love to get Annabeth!

What I got: Yay I got Annabeth!

I feel like this has affirmed my whole existence 😉 Athena is easily my favourite Greek goddess and I love Annabeth!

The Raven Cycle

Quiz: Which character from The Raven Cycle are you? (Buzzfeed)

What I think I’ll get: I want to get Ronan, but don’t think I have much in common with him!

What I got: Blue Sargent

Well I think that was rather random, especially cos lots of the images had been taken down, but that said I think it’s somewhat accurate (at least the outspoken part)

The Lord of the Rings

Quiz: Which Member of the Fellowship Are You? (Playbuzz)

What I think I’ll get: Well I’d like Eowyn…

What I got: Aragorn

Well that’s very flattering

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Quiz: Which “Simon Universe” character are you? (EpicReads)

What I think I’ll get: Simon I suppose

What I got: Simon!

Really like the description here! Makes me feel all warm inside! (like the book did)

Harry Potter

Quiz: Which Harry Potter character are you? (Buzzfeed)

What I think I’ll get: I think I’m most like Luna Lovegood (don’t know if that’s an option though)

What I got: Dumbledore?!

I get Dumbledore so often in these quizzes and I don’t really get how! I have so many feelings about Dumbledore- not all of them good… so I never feel amazing about getting him! Sorry!

Quiz: Which Hogwarts professor are you?

What I think I’ll get: Really want McGonagall! (cos I’m basic 😉) But, let’s face it, I’m gonna get Dumbledore again…

What I got: I’m going to leave it for you to guess hahaha!!

This is just part of the course now! I’m just going to have to embrace it (and get myself a silver beard to cosplay with)

(oh god I just remember that I did this as a kid)

(I’m not kidding, it’s all coming back to me and I’m guessing that’s why I keep getting Dumby).

Pride and Prejudice

Quiz: Which Pride and Prejudice character are you?

What I think I’ll get: I desperately want Elizabeth!!!

What I got: Elizabeth!!

Aha this makes up for being a secretive old guy with a beard! While Pride and Prejudice isn’t my favourite Austen novel (just cos I love her others so much more) Elizabeth is the best Austen character! And I’d love to be considered anything like her!

And that’s all for now! Do you enjoy quizzes too? Do you identify with any of these characters? Let me know in the comments!

My Must Read Non Fic

If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know I didn’t use to be a massive non fiction reader. When I was younger I struggled to read any non fiction book from cover to cover. Then I started including non fiction in my yearly goals to make sure I got my fill. But now- this year- for some reason I can’t explain, I’ve been devouring the non fiction. Maybe it’s cos I got into memoirs last year, maybe it’s cos I can’t seem to click with a lot of my usual favourites this year. Either way, I thought it might be good to recommend a few of the very best non fic books I’ve read over the years. Books that are *vital*, that will shake you to the core, that will mean a lot to any reader. Now, while this won’t be a favourites list, I will say that my interests in non fiction are pretty niche, so be prepared for an unusual selection. But I hope you get as much out of these as I did:

Big Magic– I want to begin on a positive and empowering note- so what better place to start than with something that will spark your creativity? Insightful and inspiring, this was such an uplifting read for me. And it might just give you a kick up the backside if you need it 😉

The Art of War– one of the most spectacular books I’ve ever read. This is full of ancient wisdom that still feels very relevant. And while the title might suggest it’ll only be of use to military generals, I’d strongly recommend this to anyone writing a book or just needs to understand people a bit better. The advice is surprisingly universal.

Man’s Search for Meaning– I’ve gone on about this book so often, I almost feel bad… but it’s such a good book!! It made a massive difference to my own outlook on life. Frankl may have been through hell, however, he used it to empower others to find meaning in suffering.

Twelve Years a Slave– a heartrending, true account, sometimes I just think it’s important to understand history and look evil in the eye. Speaking of which…

Evil– this is in part to understand how and why other people do evil things, but also to understand our own nature as humans. In my view, that is the only way to truly prevent evil in all its forms. When I first started looking into moral psychology, this book was recommended everywhere and for good reason. Not only is it a thorough exploration in its own right, it’s also got a very good bibliography that you can use as a springboard for further research.

Ordinary Men– this is a book I found because of Evil (and other recommendations). Even though I knew it would be tough, I also understood that I had to read it if I wanted to truly understand how ordinary men can do evil things. As important as it is to remember victims, I’d argue it’s more important to understand how the human heart can be twisted to do the unthinkable. Lest we are doomed to repeat it.

Wild Swans– I’m not just recommending this because it’s emotional and moving and interesting- though it is all those things. It goes beyond personal stories to be an account of a historical era that, while recent, seems to have been quickly forgotten. We ought to know more about it.

In Order to Live– I was blown away by this memoir. It was both an incredible and universal tale of human endurance, giving us just a peek behind the fences of North Korea. Hearing of how Park not only persevered and survived, but also thrived was such an inspiration to me. It was impressive beyond belief. Human endurance.

Gulag Archipelago– even if you just read volume 1, I think it is tremendously important to understand the full scope and tragedy of communism. This is the definitive explanation as to why it did not work and why it could never work. It also demonstrates how the same tragedy repeated itself across borders and how the experiment fails the same way every time. I also personally found the parallels with 1984 astounding- which, interestingly enough, the previous two recommendations also explicitly referred to.

Communist Manifesto– because of my last two recommendations, this may be a surprise. However, unsurprisingly, this is not an endorsement of communism. Far from it. I believe that an honest evaluation of this creed is necessary. I trust people to check it out for themselves (and come to your own conclusions about whether it’s a good idea to denigrate human endeavour, family and freedom).

On Liberty– whether you agree with this or not, I feel like it’s important to understand the founding principles of a lot of Western political systems. I think this is a great place to start.

Righteous Minds– given the gulf that exists between political classes right now, I’d say there’s never been a more important time to read this. Explaining why different people react differently to the same information and why people might have different political inclinations, I think this could be really useful for people looking to reach an understanding. In my view, this book can help people move towards productive conversations and see each other’s perspectives. I reckon we could all do with this in our lives.

Woke– and since we’re ending on a political note, then I must once again talk about THE MOST IMPORTANT BOOK OF OUR TIME! This book will CHANGE YOUR WHOLE WAY OF THINKING! You will see what A GODDESS TITANIA MCGRATH IS! (okay, for the record, this is satire, don’t make the same mistake as that bookshop that took it too seriously 😉 but I do think it’s a must-read, because there’s no greater cure for all the *bonkers* in the world than a little bit of laughter!)

So, have you read any of these? Do you agree with me? Disagree? Have any MUST-READ books to recommend? Let me know in the comments!

My Battle with War of Art

war of artOof this was a painful one for me to read. If you liked it, then more power to you, but for me this was an uphill battle from the start. Look elsewhere for positive reviews, because I’m going to go all in on this one. I don’t want any fights to break out, I just found this book ridiculous. Something (well a lot of things) really rubbed me the wrong way here.

My issues started with the childish personification of “Resistance”. And, no, that’s not my capitalisation. The author does that to make it seem Oh So Very Important. To me, this idea that “People have Resistance” didn’t come across as especially profound. It just seemed like a rather juvenile way to say sometimes people procrastinate. Well, that’s how the idea starts out- it gets a lot more ludicrous.

Within a short amount of time, the author proceeds to call *EVERYTHING* “Resistance”. If you’re out walking your dog, that’s Resistance. If you’re having sex, that’s Resistance. And if you’ve got a mental health problem, well guess what? That’s Resistance. Thankfully he does acknowledge some mental health problems are real (and not marketing ploys like other issues)… buuut also calls them Resistance. Great expert analysis there.

Who am I kidding? This guy knows jack shit about anything. Look, I get it, self help books tend to be light on facts- however this takes it to a whole other level! He plucks statistics like “70% of doctors think there’s nothing wrong with their patients” out of his arse and I’m over here thinking WORKS CITED?! I mean, even if that wasn’t an opinion, I’d like to know where he got that figure from. I also don’t think opinions should be stated as facts by the way- for instance I get that he hates critics, yet sadly for him it’s not true that no one successful ever critiques anything. Still, my favourite of his hilariously wrong “facts” was this:

“You know, Hitler wanted to be an artist. At eighteen he took his inheritance, seven hundred kronen, and moved to Vienna to live and study. He applied to the Academy of Fine Arts and later to the School of Architecture. Ever see one of his paintings? Neither have I. Resistance beat him. Call it an overstatement, but I’ll say it anyway: it was easier for Hitler to start World War II than it was for him to face a blank square of canvas.”

I hate to burst his bubble about Hitler, but a quick google search could have corrected this assumption. Hitler painted plenty- although, as is typical of narcissists, they’re not up to much. Perhaps- and you can call this an overstatement if you like- if Hitler hadn’t been a raging psychopathic narcissist he wouldn’t have started WWII. Or maybe Hitler was resisting his Resistance and following his dreams- after all, according to this author, foisting your opinions onto the world could also be living up to your potential 😉 And if all that sounds silly, that’s because it is. I’m taking this book as seriously as that paragraph deserves.

What makes this even more ludicrous is how so often the ideas put forward are later contradicted. For instance, you know how I mentioned that he called sex Resistance? Well you can also be Resisting having sex (so I suppose that’s resisting resistance?) Early in the book, he says not to worry about what you’re writing, as long as you do it (BTW that’s how you end up with books like this in the world). He feeds into one of my pet peeves of favouring money over fulfilment; he talks about obsessing with craft over writing… BUT THEN decides to go full-on kooky in the final part. Look, I may not agree with being purely practical, yet you can hardly call people precious when you invoke the Muses. That’s about as flighty an idea as you can get. It’s just so unbelievably hypocritical.

Would I say there’s nothing of value in it? No, but frankly I don’t want to go digging through mud, looking for the occasional (cheap) gem. Even if I agreed with one or two of the ideas (like not giving into victimhood and continuing on after success) I’m afraid it’s too little, too late. Frankly, if I’d never heard those ideas before (which, obviously I have cos they’re not very original) I wouldn’t have taken them to heart coming from this terrible book.

I found this so lazy that I’d guess it was far more effort for me to read than it was to write. It was grandiose and pompous, while at the same time being utterly mundane. It may not be the worst book in the world, but I can’t give it more than:

A banana peel!

form50030

Yeah that was a little harsh- I’m sorry! Some books just wind me up! Have you read this? Did you get more out of it than me? Do you (still) plan to read it after my review? Let me know in the comments!

How On Trend Am I? Looking at Whether My Taste Follows the Crowd When it Comes to YA

thoughts orangutan

I’ve talked before about whether my taste follows the crowd and it’s something I often wonder about. Last month, when Goodreads celebrated YA, I noticed how closely my taste follows the crowd… well, for the most part.

Looking at 40 most popular recent Young Adult Novels and 100 most popular YA books of all time, I was surprised to find I’d read most of the books. Even more significant is how much I liked the books- my average ratings were 3.9 and 3.47 respectively. I gave 15% of books 5* in the recent YA books and 10% 5* in the most popular of all time. There were some outliers that I didn’t love (like Caraval and Lord of Shadows) or won’t read (Turtles All the Way Down), but for the most part I was at least satisfied with the vast majority of the books on the popular recent releases list. Clearly, I’m enjoying these a lot more- suggesting I’m on the right track to keep reading them. Turns out, I know my own taste! (go figure 😉)

To me, it makes sense that I’ve read so many of these as well, since these are the books with the most visibility and I’m not immune to marketing 😉 Plus, these are also books that are more readily available on a budget and if you use libraries a lot. So, in this case, I don’t feel all that bad about my taste following the crowd- especially given it’s leading to high levels of satisfaction! As much as I’d enjoy being a bookish hipster, I guess I’m quite mainstream when it comes to YA.

One thing I have to note from this experiment is that there were books on the most popular YA of all time that (at least to my mind) weren’t YA at all (Red Rising and Anne of Green Gables being the most obvious). But that’s a discussion to have (again) another day. I don’t think it massively skewed my results- though have to do my due diligence and mention it 😉

Alrighty then! Do you notice your taste follows the crowd in particular genres and categories? Are you bothered by it if your taste is quite mainstream like mine? Let me know in the comments!

Hot off the Press for Cooler Weather- New(ish) Releases to Enjoy This Autumn!

orangutan list

Hello all! Now we’re heading into autumn, I thought it might be cool to follow up my summery HOT RELEASES. This time, I’m spotlighting a few that give me more *fall feels*! Let’s get into it!

beach read

Beach Read– starting off on a warmer note, this was probably the most fun, fluffy contemporaries I read last season. If, like me, you’re still needing a getaway vibe, then this will be right up your street!

weekend away

The Weekend Away– speaking of not coming back from holiday, this was another HOT HIT for me this summer. Set in Lisbon, this thriller offers a killer deal, taking tourists on a quick spin around a city they just might not return from… Definitely recommend if you’re not ready to return to reality!

clap when you land

Clap When You Land– on a more poignant note, this contemporary that deals with grief and family really hit some emotional highs and lows for me. It deserves a round of applause.

the huntress

Huntress– I hunted down this book after a recommendation from Beware of the Reader and I’m so glad I did, because this was a thrilling historical fiction set during and after the second world war.

his and hers

His and Hers– in a small town, with bodies piling up, there are plenty of deadly turns to this thriller… and many sides to this story.

one by one

One by One– another high-body-count murder mystery, this is a more modern take on Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. Prepare to feel cut off in this ski resort, as horrible things go down!!

good girls guide to murder

Good Girl’s Guide to Murder– I haven’t mentioned this before, but I really did enjoy the twists and turns of this YA thriller- especially the ending!

wilder girls

Wilders Girls– I don’t talk about this nearly enough- even though it was one of the most absorbing and atmospheric reads of the last year. I recommend this Lord of the Flies style dystopia for anyone in the mood to be a bit freaked out this fall.

this is how you lose the time war

This is How You Lose the Time War– just as unique, this sci fi love story captivated me with its beautiful writing.

sorcery of thorns

Sorcery of Thorns– of course, if you’re looking for a more traditionally escapist read, then I can’t recommend Sorcery of Thorns highly enough! I mean, let’s be real, this had me at *magical library* 😉 Luckily it didn’t disappoint!

serpent and dove

Serpent and Dove– on the note of *sheer entertainment*, you can’t go wrong with this (slightly bonkers but entirely enjoyable) romp. With enemies to lovers and forced marriage, this one made me very happy (and super excited for the sequel!) Also, it has witches, which most certainly gets me in the Halloween-y mood!

And that’s all for now! Did you enjoy any of these? Are you planning on reading them? And do you have any recent releases you’d like to recommend? Let me know in the comments!

One by One Piqued My Interest

***Received from Netgalley in exchange for review, but the upbeat ramblings are all me!***

one by oneBeing stranded in the snow-covered alps with a group of people that hate each other sounds pretty close to the ninth circle of hell. No spoilers ahead, but that’s pretty much the vibe of Ruth Ware’s spin on And Then There Were None. To give you a quick snapshot, One by One gives us an inside peek at a tech company retreat that goes horribly wrong. And as you might suspect from a book with such strong Agatha Christie vibes, this has some pretty wild twists and turns.

Isolated in at a ski chalet after an avalanche, it’s the perfect setting for a claustrophobic thriller. Even though I was reading it in the summer heat, I caught chills. The atmosphere totally transported me. I was locked into these character’s heads, not knowing who I could trust and where it was leading.

Very quickly, the story freefalls Off-Piste. People start dying. There’s real tension as the pace picks up and the tenuously forged alliances go downhill. The plot plummets over the edge as it races towards a heartstopping conclusion.

Each of the POVs worked for me. They led me down one path, only for me to discover I’d been led astray. My allegiances shifted with the narrative. I loved snooping inside the main character’s heads and thought their perspectives were fascinating. One by one, their secrets get revealed… until there were none.

Speaking of nosing into other people’s business, that’s along the lines of what this tech company does, listening to celebs music taste along with them. While I didn’t relate to this social media aspect completely (I’m much too uncool for all that) I have to admit it added a salaciously soapy dimension. I couldn’t look away.

Ultimately, this ticked so many boxes for me. Thumbs up!

like

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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

And that’s all I’m going to give you! Do you plan on reading One by One? Have you tried Ruth Ware before? Let me know in the comments!

Thriller tropes I love and hate!

orangutan list

We all have different expectations for books. Sometimes that’s more general (like good writing) and sometimes it’s a bit more genre specific. In the last few years, I’ve really changed things up and discovered a new love for psychological thrillers. And over time, I’ve realised there are really specific things that can get me revved up… or completely grind my gears. So, today I’m talking about some of those tropes I love and hate. And I’m going to do it without spoilers (the book covers don’t necessarily correlate with the list and are in a random order to avoid giving anything away!). Let’s get into it!

Thriller Tropes I Love

Secret sociopaths– one of the best things about thrillers are the bad guys. I love a lot of the villain types that come up- but do get a kind of particular pleasure when the person pulling all the sadistic strings is a secret sociopath the whole time. Bonus points if I can get inside that person’s head, which leads me onto…

Multiple POVs– I don’t always love multiple POVs in books, but it can really work in thrillers. Especially if we get inside the head of the bad guy (preferably not knowing who that is!) It’s one of the biggest pulls to the genre.

Unreliable narrators– on the topic of getting inside people’s minds, an unreliable narrator can be used very powerfully in a thriller. There are lots of different ways this can create a fascinating psychological profile and keep the reader on their toes, so most of them work for me. It’s just all about the execution.

Justified bad guy– oof this can be a masterful twist, especially if they get away with it, cos then you’re kinda rooting for it.

Person you least expect did it– this can be so much fun. I know that some people like it to be paired with justified baddie, however, cos apparently I’m a messed up individual, I actually prefer if this goes with sociopathic killers. It multiplies the creep factor for me!

Creepy kids– this is taking me back to my gothic roots and my love of Turn of the Screw. If done well, this subversion of cutesy innocence can be a killer move.

Isolated in the middle of nowhere– this also plays into the gothicy vibes I love. Not only is it a great way to build atmosphere, I also love how much it builds tension because YOU CAN’T ESCAPE!!

Dark past and buried secrets– I mean, this is pretty much a staple of most thrillers, yet I still love when the past is dug up and the truth is exposed.

Cliffhanger ending or final gut punch twist- I know a lot of people like a clean ending with everything neatly tied up… but when it comes to thrillers, I want the exact opposite. I want there to be a last second reveal that turns everything on its head and makes my stomach drop. Well, within reason. I still want it to make sense, which I guess leads me onto the tropes I don’t like.

Thriller Tropes I Don’t Like

An impossible twist– or anything really that comes out of nowhere. The worst example I’ve ever seen is in a book that thought (for some reason) it’d be a good idea to have a paranormal plot twist. Which, yeah, I didn’t see coming from a seemingly realistic thriller… but that’s also what made it really dumb. Don’t genre shift at the last second! Grr!!

*Surprise* not dead– this can also break my suspension of disbelief, cos while it happens an awful lot in thrillers, it never does in real life… so maybe it’s not the best trick to pull. Plus, I’m never keen on being robbed of an emotional moment. I guess the only way this could work is if a character was believed to be dead before the plot ever began and somehow wormed their way back into the story. I could just about get behind that.

Police procedurals– okay, this isn’t really a trope, it’s more of a subgenre, but anything in this vein doesn’t do it for me.

Clueless mc– this is probably one of my most hated tropes, because even if it helps the plot, it can be annoying to be in the head of someone really stupid. A lot of the time, if the book is otherwise well written, I can let this slide. But it will still make me dock points, because there’s only so much a person can go through before I think “wow this person has the IQ of a pigeon- and not even a smart pigeon, a stupid pigeon that keeps flying into windows” (this is why so many books involve unreliable narrators with substance abuse issues!)

Bad guy is irrelevant character– quite simply, this will spoil the fun of a good thriller. You want to feel invested and terrified of the antagonist. You don’t want to get to the end and go who?!

When the red herring was a better solution- similarly, I don’t like it when the misleading subplot would’ve been a better outcome. It’s disappointing when a writer lays down a roadmap to a really entertaining outcome… then veers off course. I end up wishing they’d taken the other route.

Agenda driven twists or plots– this is another way I’m seeing authors really spoil a dramatic plot. What makes this even worse is how heavily signposted and moralising this can be. It’s not that thrillers can’t deal with hard-hitting topics- I’ve read a number that really work. It’s that it shouldn’t take away from the thrill of a thriller. It’s supposed to keep me on the edge of my seat… not make me feel like I’m slumped over, held hostage in a lecture theatre by a crazed activist, trying to tell me something painfully obvious. Yeah, no thanks. I was reading this to be entertained.

They’re not so bad, really– this is very close to the justified killer- so it’s probably odd that it’s on the hate side. Still, I can’t help hating it when a character does something terrible and everyone in the story goes above and beyond to excuse their behaviour. There are times when this can work… and others when it can fall flat on its face. Even if a character’s justified and even if the plot demands they get away with it, I think it’s a delicate balance to reach, so I can’t stand it when characters keep going on and on and on about how the character shouldn’t be punished. I think it’s just a question of knowing when to stop.

Alrighty then- that’s all I’ve got for now! Do you love or loathe any of these? And do you have any thriller tropes to add? Let me know in the comments!