… in a good way (sort of 😉). Because these are some of the most poignant, heartrending, memorable reads I’ve ever experienced. Let’s just get right into it!
The Book Thief– I’ve been meaning to reread this for years, but I’m so haunted by the first time, I can’t quite bring myself to pick it up again. It completely broke my heart.
Heart of Darkness– the writing that is so hauntingly beautiful, it’s hard to forget. More than that, the story is such that every reread gives me a different impression. It’s a puzzle that I don’t know if I’ll ever solve.
The Stranger- an unusual book, I can’t quite shake it from my mind. When I look back on this book, I feel like I’m in a haze of mismatched thoughts. I don’t know what to think of it- and yet I can’t not think about it!
The Trial– it’s not just the weird, surreal atmosphere that gets to me with this book- the shocking part is how true it turned out to be. Kafka acted as a prophet with this book, reflecting the absurdity of Soviet-style show trials before they ever took place.
Homegoing– this is another story with exquisite writing- yet it’s the overarching narrative that lives in my heart. A disquieting story, it shows the intergenerational ghosts that haunt a single family, coming full circle at the end to put them at peace.
Beowulf– I don’t know what it was- the ancient words or the powerful translation by Heaney, but I felt this story thrumming in my bones. I don’t know if it was the obscurity or the familiarity of the epic- but it’s seized my imagination now and will not let it go.
Wolf in the Whale– this is a story that captured me with its sense of place, I feel like the visuals are imprinted in my mind and the harrowing tale is hard to shake. Fantastical, mythical and yet all too real, it’s not going to be for everyone, but if you do read it you won’t forget it in a hurry.
Between Shades of Grey/Salt to the Sea– yes I’m doing 2 for 1 here, because I frankly can’t choose between Sepetys most celebrated works. These evocative novels shed light on events a lot of people (including me) don’t learn about- and I love that they managed to be subtly interlinked as well.
All That Still Matters at All– I talk a lot about this poetry collection, because I just don’t feel like it gets enough attention. A hidden, Hungarian gem, this has a heartbreaking background and is well worth sampling.
Beneath a Scarlet Sky- ever since I read this book, I can’t quite get the plaintiff tune of Nessum Dorma, floating through the alps, out of my head. I will never forget this story of heroism in WWII and I salute the real life inspirations for it- they should not be forgotten.
Tess of the D’Urbervilles- Hardy stole my heart from the moment I read this, introducing me to his characters and world. I suppose I should be annoyed at how he toyed with my emotions, raising my hopes, only to lead me off into dark woods and dashing my dreams on a rock. But as devastated as I was, I’m not bitter about it! To my mind, it’s the perfect example of how a tragedy should be written.
So, have you read any of these? What did you think of them? And do you have any books that will haunt you forever? Let me know in the comments!
Hello all! I have a very exciting post for you today… featuring my sister the ONE AND ONLY Monkey Baby!
Hi my precious bonbons- I hope you enjoy this discussion and my jelly belly thoughts!
Since she’s often the guinea pig for my recommendations (and we’ve spent an awful lot of the year locked in the same house together) I thought it might be cool to put it to the test! As you may know, I love seeing how my taste differs from other people and trying to be a bit more objective about the books I love. And, although this is a little close to home, you’ll still hear plenty of contrasting opinions from us!
To make this even more fun (for me 😉 ) I did this interview style! I’ll be the one in bold, asking the questions, while my lovely sister will be the one answering (henceforth known as MB). Hope you enjoy! Onto the interview…
Let’s start off with some of the big ones- what did you think of my recommendation for Laini Taylor? What do you think about her as an author?
MB: She’s a special human who writes magical content. Her romance is the mushiest. And she writes about cake- it’s so cute. I love Lazlo and moths.
But you hate moths…?
MB: Only in that world. She converted me to moths in that world- not in reality (in reality they’re the worst thing in the world).
And similarly, how do you feel about Katherine Arden’s Bear and the Nightingale series?
MB: I love the romance in that one, it’s really awesome. Their romance is so good between Vasilisa and the winter ice-freak. *Then mentions big spoiler that I’ve censored!*
I think the word you’re looking for is demon! 😂 You also loved Uprooted– I think that was even more to your taste than mine?
MB: It’s awesome. It’d be pretty cool to have magical powers to get dressed in different ways. That’s funky banana socks! I like Agniezka and the Dragon. The writing style is pretty and Novik ends it really well… *redacted for spoilers*.
And how about Night Circus? That became a favourite as well, didn’t it?
MB: Yeah that one is a favourite of mine, I love the magic. The circus is incredible. I wish there was a circus that existed like that. One that wasn’t just full of creepy clowns, because no one wants to go to a circus that’s just full of creepy clowns. Actually, on a complete tangent, I went to one at Winter Wonderland last year and that was actually pretty awesome. Getting close to that… well not really- 90% not there- but at least much closer than it used to be when we were kids, soooo.
*prompts her back on topic*
MB: In Night circus there are no clowns. And it’s just magical. And the romance was beautiful. And the ending is amazing… *starts speaking spoilers again*.
Hahaha you keep spoiling is the endings of books!
MB: It’s amazing- I can’t tell you anything about it- but it’s incredible!
Moving onto the Grisha Series- what are your thoughts about Shadow and Bone vs Six of Crows? You know I like Six of Crows better, but which do you prefer?
MB: Six of Crows was better. It was a more fleshed out story and the heist was better. The Grisha series was really good, but the romance was a bit meh. I actually wanted her to be with the evil one (spoilers).
It’s okay that’s not a spoiler- you didn’t say who the evil one was. I thought you preferred the shadow and bone series for some reason.
MB: No I really didn’t. As in I liked it a lot, but I thought he was a bit naff and I thought she was a bit naff by the end. Although her powers were really cool and I liked the fact *launches into a spoiler*… oh wait that was a spoiler.
Okay that’s quite cool- I thought we differed on that.
MB: Also Kaz is just the coolest- you can imagine he’s really cool in real life. (At the moment I’m mixing him up with another character in my mind- you know the magician from The Last Magician. He’s really similar. Kaz is better. But if you put them together it’s the best character)
Now we’re going onto a big topic- Throne of Glass. When it came to that we ended up on the same page- didn’t we? And we shipped the same people?
MB: Oh Dorian. She ruined that series. It had so much potential for so much cuteness! And how can you say no to a puppy? Dorian is a puppy and also he gives a puppy- how on earth do you choose anyone else when they give you a puppy? I don’t understand; it doesn’t make any sense. And Manon was awesome- that was a very clever addition- the whole witch thing was brilliantly done. Dorian and Manon should’ve been the main characters. She should make a whole separate book on Dorian and Manon. That would be the only book by her that I would read next… otherwise no. The only romance that she focused on was the one I didn’t care about.
The series fell off the tracks at the end.
MB: The series itself was ehhhhh…. It got very political and it copied Lord of the Rings (but in a way where I thought “I know that you’re trying to do lotr but it’s not lotr and you’re not Tolkien, so… stop.”) I didn’t really appreciate the politics. The whole ending of we’ll now build a democracy… Sorry, ending spoiler. Of course I’m down for a democracy but why do you have to bring it into a fantasy world? It’s like, okay, I don’t care. Say it for a sentence, if you really must, but it went on for ages, banging home about it. We know democracy is good, we’re not stupid. I don’t think you can meet many people nowadays who say “you know what I really want to do is go back to the middle ages and just be ruled by royalty and not have any freewill. That makes sense”.
I’m also happy I got you into Kagawa- you read all the Iron Fey and the first two Shadow of the Fox books in lockdown, didn’t you? What did you like about those?
MB: Oh Kagawa! She’s great! Iron Fey- oh my god. What’s his name- the one with the dark hair- I’m gonna die if I don’t know- look it up!
(makes me pause to look up the name of the love interest)
MB: Ash! Ash is one of the best fairy prince characters ever. He’s just the coolest character and the whole journey to his soul is mind-blowingly good. That whole book is just… the best. Actually I don’t know why I sold it now I’m thinking of it, because I would happily reread it…
Except for the other half of the series is really meh, because she took the complete wrong path with the son. Because why why why did she have to make him evil. And then why does he have to be the (spoiler) the king of the in-between and he never has a romance. It should’ve been from his perspective. It’s just sad- they had potential to be really good- but I don’t really care about Ethan. He’s mortal and boring. But the first four were incredible.
I haven’t finished the Shadow of the Fox series- but the first impressions are that it’s cool. Yumeko’s the sweetest character and I like how she makes friends along the way. She’s a cute little fairy creature. She’s one of those little rabbits, a rabbit that makes friends, that makes you go aww.
I can’t remember what your thoughts were on Cruel Prince though? Did you like the conclusion?
MB: Oh oh ohhhhh! The first two were really good. I really liked the romance- they were a cute couple. And Jude’s obsession with getting power is really well portrayed. The whole sister thing is a bit messed up, but was well thought out. All of the relationships made sense. And I do think she ended it well. But I dunno, I think the third one was good- but it just needed MORE of it. MORE depth to the relationships. MORE to the plot. MORE fleshed out. It would just be juicier- if you don’t have any flesh in the apple, you’re not going to enjoy it). I’d still read more of her books, because I liked the whole fairy world that she created, with it being very tricksy and difficult to live in as humans.
Dipping our toes into sci fi, I also gave you Renegades- and since we’ve already talked quite a bit about that on here, I won’t make you repeat yourself. What I want to know is does it inspire you to try more Marissa Meyer?
MB: Oh Renegades was incredible. Yeah of course. There’s a whole other series… Oh her other stuff? Interestingly I don’t know if I can be bothered, just because there’s so many fantasy books and you’ve given me five more and I can’t think ahead. It depends what she writes about. Authors like Laini Taylor- heaven!– if she brought out anything, ANYTHING, I would read anything by you. For most authors it has to be about the topic. (Like Katherine Arden has written ghost stuff that I’m not interested in).
I was just wondering if you have anything else to say about it?
Also Adrian has the best power in the world. Although there’s Ronan. Adrian’s power vs Ronan’s power- oh lords- what would you choose?
That’s really hard.
MB: You can make anything in your dream and bring it out.
Or give yourself powers.
MB: It’s a little less dangerous if you have Adrian’s
That’s what I was thinking.
MB: Cos Ronan’s is really scary to be honest. And you’d have to have a lot of control. Whereas Adrian’s you don’t have to have that much control, you just have to get better at art, which is just a fun problem. Whereas Ronan it’s like “oh my god I have this insane amazing power and it could be amazing but it’s scary and beep”. If you could have full control of Ronan’s power possibly that could be better. But Adrian’s power is definitely the easier route.
We’re gonna talk about Raven Cycle now you’ve brought it up… I take it you like it?
MB: I thought it was pretty cool. And Blue and that posh boy Gansey- aww that was very cute. But I’m glad she did a whole spinoff on Ronan because he was the most interesting character.
It hasn’t always been plain sailing though, has it? Do you remember when I tried to get you into dark fantasy, like Sabriel?
MB: Yeahhhhh… nahhh… it wasn’t my thing. It wasn’t terrible, it was very well written, I was just like “yeah not into this”.
And you didn’t like Hazel Wood either- why not?
MB: Just no. I mean, incredibly written, very addictive, but not my thing. I don’t know why the heck you gave that to me.
I should’ve known better! (but at least you can be thankful I’m not giving you any grimdark…) You’re not as big of a fan of Carry On either, are you?
MB: It was fine. You just hyped it up way more than it needed to be hyped. It was cute and it was funny, but it was essentially just a rewrite, so… (although every book is technically rewritten). It was good. It was funny- but it’s not Laini Taylor. (There’s a stream here. No one lives up!)
thankfully, though, you liked all the Cinda Chima Williams books I’ve lent you?
MB: I remember it being incredible and addictive and the romance was awesome. It was really clever.
Oh and I loved the Heir series! I thought it was so sweet. I thought the whole music bit was amazing because, well obviously… So so cool to have magic in the instruments.
Which is a good note to leave on! Thank you very much Monkey Baby!
And now I want to ask you lovely people- what do you think of my recommendations? Have you enjoyed anything I’ve recommended over the years? Is there anything you hated or were a bit more meh about? Let me know in the comments!
I’m always talking about fantastical worlds I’d love to visit… but not about the ones I’d prefer to avoid! Which is why today, in honour of the spooky season, I’m going to brave these perilous places and report back all the reasons they’re not on the regular resort list!
The Wood from Uprooted– yes, this world is lushly described, yes, it’s intriguing and yes, I love reading about freaky fantasy forests… BUT UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES DO I ACTUALLY WANT TO VISIT! I mean, the trees basically eat people, so that’s a hard pass on this as a holiday destination.
The Hazel Wood from Hazel Wood– likewise I adore the creepilicious setting described in the world of this book- yet I hardly imagining chilling out in these woods… more like catching a chill! Far from feeling like a fairy story, this is the place where twisted tales live. Plus, not only is it a pain to get to, but once you get there it’s far from easy going.
Midnight from Winter of the Witch– haunting, atmospheric and exquisite to read, this is less a place where dreams are made and more a world that weaves nightmares. It is a world where time slows, where reality bleeds from the landscape and where the story takes a darker turn. And so, for all its beauty, I think I’d rather not take this detour in real life!
Ithrea from Doomspell– if you thought kid’s books would escape this list, you’d be mistaken. Kind of reminiscent of Narnia, this portal fantasy takes you to a land of eternal winter, with the *freakiest* witches imaginable. And the best-case scenario? You can become one of them!
Misery from Ravencry– I mean, the clue is in the name 😉 While it is alluring in its atmospheric way, it doesn’t exactly bring travellers any joy. Wading through this world is like losing little pieces of yourself. It’s grey and ghastly and grimdark… so not exactly a fun destination.
The Broken Empire from Prince of Thorns– similarly to the last one, this futuristic fantasy is a hellscape that doesn’t bear thinking about. In this case, it’s so hard to talk about this world without spoiling it, but suffice to say it’s chaotic, violence-filled and ravaged by nightmares.
Westeros from Game of Thrones– to my mind, GRRM’s world building is second to none. The long seasons that tie into the plot, the subtly hinted at supernatural elements and the terrors lurking in the background… And it’s for precisely all of the above reasons that I DO NOT want to visit. There’s the threat of White Walkers beyond the wall, the risk of Red Priestesses looking for their next sacrifice… not to mention all the human horrors. I mean, there are basically a million ways to die in Westeros and I think I’d rather keep my head attached to my body! So thanks for the invite, but NO THANKS!
The Old Kingdom from Sabriel– yay for necromancy and all that… but also this has necromancy and undead and all kinds of other terrors. I don’t much fancy wading into Death either. Let’s just keep our feet firmly planted in the land of the living, shall we?
The World from Shade’s Children– yes, another Garth Nix! Because apparently no one else writes creeptacular worlds quite like him. Set in a post-apocalyptic future, where there are no adults, children face being taken to the Meat Factory as soon as they turn fourteen (and yes, that’s just as “fun” as it sounds). And if you do escape, you’ll find yourself hunted down by the Overlords’ creatures… good times (although, seriously, if you’re looking for a good standalone for Halloween, then this is it!)
Raxter School for Girls from Wilder Girls– I had the pleasure of reading this last year. I say pleasure, but what I mean is this completely freaked me out. In this claustrophobic horror, stranded schoolgirls get picked off one at a time by a ferocious illness. Not for the faint of heart, I get a little squeamish just thinking about all the vivid descriptions of what can happen to you here. So yeah, I’m glad I was never posh enough for boarding school if this is what it’s all about 😉
Panem from the Hunger Games– I think this would be a popular one to avoid. With its authoritarian government and poor standards of living, it doesn’t exactly scream a good getaway… More like somewhere you’d want to get-away from! Whether you’re starving in the sticks, getting murdered in the Games or watching other people die for sport- there’s basically nothing civilised about this civilisation.
Peculiardom from Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children– technically speaking, I could’ve talked about being trapped in time loops, but honestly I feel like every aspect of Rigg’s acutely rendered world is terrifying. While I love how this is brought to life with various old, unusual photos, I don’t much like the sound of being chased by Hollogasts and Wights- and you’ll feel the same if you read it!
1920s New York from the Diviners– funny how my most desirable location in history becomes the least desirable when you throw ghosts into the mix! It kinda stops being glitzy and glamorous when you add in a helluva lot of hauntings! And all of those creatures are so h-u-u-u-u-n-g-r-y! Yeahhh I’m running in the other direction!
So, there you go! Those are the places I *wouldn’t want to go* on pain of death… because most of them would cause a very painful death! What do you think of these worlds? Would you be willing to visit them? And which places would you dare not venture? Let me know in the comments!
Hello all! As promised, I’ve decided to return to the topic of my *terrifyingly* long list of great reads I don’t talk about often. And this time, there’s a spicy twist for the pumpkin-filled season (that’s my long-winded way of saying there may be some s-c-a-r-y books ahead… so tread carefully!) Off we go!
Wilder Girls– I can’t believe I’ve been so wilfully neglecting this one! I read it about a year ago now and it’s still haunting me- which is the sign of a great book! With its cutting prose and Lord of the Flies feel, this is a YA has more than a hint of horror. A must-read for Halloween… if you can stomach some of the more graphic elements!
The Book of Hidden Things– this is another one that may not be for everyone- and yet it held an indefinable allure for me. With a hint of magical realism, on the surface, it tells of friends reuniting in the atmospherically rendered town of Casalfranco. Don’t be fooled by that simple synopsis though- there’s a lot more going on here than meets the eye!
Horrorstor– not everyone loves this Ikea-inspired spooky story- however, for me, it’s a reminder of what a hellish experience retail can be! (especially furniture stores 😉) For me the setting is the best reason to get stuck in, but there’s so many other great touches- from the pictures to the products- which definitely “Kranjk” things up a notch!
Coldest Girl in Cold Town– I can’t believe how rarely talk about this- it’s such a cool YA! And I don’t even usually like vampire books. As with a lot of her works, Black’s take felt very fresh. So, whether you’re a fan of paranormal or not, you should give this a go- you can *fang* me later! 😉
Metamorphosis– speaking of different, there’s nothing like Kafka for *unusual*. To put the premise as simply as possible: imagine waking up with the body of a bug! Suffice to say, that’s my worst nightmare!
Coraline– in my mind, Gaiman has a real knack for fulfilling creepilicious cravings and Coraline is no exception… except that it’s an exceptionally unsettling children’s book. Perhaps I have a very low tolerance for scary (okay that is one hundred percent the case!) but I read this as an adult and found it beyond freaky!
Monstress– I’ve got to be frank, the main selling point of this series for me is the artwork. Its devilish beauty explodes off the page. The story and world building evolve gradually- but it’s the graphics of this one that have stayed with me the most.
Through the Woods– this is another treat for the visual senses. Perfect for the spooky season, this chilling collection of fairy tale retellings will knock your socks off!
Replica– for something a little bit less full on, you may be in the mood for a more casual sci fi. That said, even if the story isn’t tremendously unusual, this far more entertainingly structured than your average book! Set up with parallel stories, you can read each one in turn, or flip between the two- taking the idea that no two people read the same book the same way to another level! On this rare occasion, I will have to recommend the physical copy, as you can’t replicate that experience!
Artemis– just because I can’t shut up about Weir’s the Martian, doesn’t mean I think you should neglect his other work. And if you enjoyed the banter, the drama and the tone of its predecessor, then no doubt you’ll take to this too! With a fun heroine and a space heist, you’d be a lunatic not to try to this out 😉
And that’s all for now! Have you read any of these? Did you enjoy them? And have you got any great books you’ve neglected to talk about? Let me know in the comments!
Well you guys know I’m all about the objectivity when reviewing 😉 Just kidding! But I do occasionally like to try to get a little beyond my initial emotional response, such as talking about how some books are perfectly imperfect as I make them out to be and recommending books I didn’t like. Today, I decided to flip that on its head and talk about some books I do love, yet talking more about their downsides, so you get a fuller picture of what to expect than my usual GUSH. Because apparently I am a masochist I like a challenge. This was really tricky, not just cos it’s hard to critique something you adore, but I also didn’t want to pick books people like to trash talk. Plus, if you want pure negativity, maybe look at a negative review! 😉 Anyway, enough of the preamble, let’s jump into it!
The Great Gatsby– I’m starting with Gatsby because, while it’s one of my favourite books, I understand why a lot of people don’t love it. Fitzgerald is the King of Purple Prose. Plus, it’s fairly propagandistic (as is the case with a lot of American literature centred around the American Dream- you know what it’s getting at before you start reading). Not to mention that, as I once heard said, “there’s not a single likeable character in it”. For some reason none of that bothers me- I just think it’s an excellent depiction of human behaviour, it’s multi-layered enough to have universal themes and the writing is to die for.
East of Eden– speaking of great American literature, this is one of my personal faves. That said, I noticed in a response I had to a post recently that it’s not everyone’s personal pick. And that’s totally fair- as the criticism said, it has a lot more exposition and (as I’ve noticed) it’s a lot more sprawling than his other work. And yet, though it doesn’t have that tight form of Steinbeck’s more popular works, I still kinda love it more. The characters for me leap off the page and feel more like family.
Lorna Doone– this is a book which isn’t perfect by a long shot. I was a kid when I read this, so I’m sure the (admittedly rather obvious) plot points will not be particularly surprising to an adult. Still, it’s a very entertaining, sensationalised story. Definitely an enjoyable read, if nothing else.
Shadow on the Wind– I do occasionally see criticism of this beloved book and my first response is always “WHAT?! You don’t love it?!” So I may struggle with objectivity for this one. It is a truly immersive and beautiful book, but in fairness to the haters critics, it is not fast paced (which, in my opinion, lends itself to the atmosphere). I also agree that it’s highly descriptive (which comes down to personal preference). Fairer to say that it weaves through the labyrinthine streets of Barcelona at a meandering pace. And I also understand that it’s frequently miss-marketed as a mystery or (more bizarrely still) a thriller. If you do want to try it out, look at it more as a piece of literary fiction about the beauty of books and you’ll be more satisfied for it!
Daughter of Smoke and Bone– hmm if you want objectivity for this book then you may have come to the wrong place 😉 Okay let’s give this a go- I guess if you don’t want to read a book with beautiful writing, intriguing characters, a great love story and spectacular world building then this won’t be for you… 😉 Alright- I guess you could call said beautiful writing prose very flowery and (while I think it isn’t technically instalove) I also get why people feel that way (just a little). It’s still really imaginative and Laini Taylor is one of my favourite writers, so. You. Should. Read. It.
Red Rising– this is probably my *favourite ever sci fi series*- which means it’s not going to be easy to have any level of objectivity for it! That said, I think Darrow would want me to be reasonable and measured here. I can say that it has a slower opening than a lot of people were expecting. Not only was I forewarned, but I’m actually so geeky about classics, that I LOVED how the world building linked so much to Roman culture. That said, I get why people would be (a little) peeved that it takes an unusually long time to get to the inciting incident. I also understand why people say that it’s similar to Hunger Games (though BLOODYDAMN it ends up doing something very different and is much more adult!)
Black Magician’s Trilogy– this is one of my favourite series that it’s actually easier for me to critique because, yes, I get that it’s not perfect. The first book was slow and there was much too much telling (especially in the way of world building infodumps). THAT SAID, it’s entirely worth sticking with. I was lucky enough to have a friend that told me to stick with it- so now I guess I’m doing the same for you- if you try this series, stick with it!
Hazel Wood– this was one that was one where the criticism was a little closer to home- literally, because my sister didn’t like it! That said, her criticism that it was too graphic was valid. Also, I read a lot of reviews that complained it was too slow paced and that it took ages to get to the actual hazel wood. All of which is fair… I just didn’t mind the slower pace because I felt the wonderful writing, world building and characters balanced it out!
Circe– Oho- such a hard one!! I have seen a couple of negative reviews (because even masterpieces like this have detractors 😉) but I can admit it’s fair when people call it slow. Expect a more languid pace for this one- it’s not designed to be an Achillean sprint. This takes place over hundreds of years, stringing countless myths together into a story arc and developing character in a unique way. It’s both very modern and ancient in its telling. It’s basically a work of pure genius… and yes I’m still being objective!
Wolf in the Whale– oof I understand why people don’t love this (although I will continue to recommend it because it’s so different to anything I’ve ever read). This is an account of history that’s never been explored- the meeting of Inuit and Viking. Yet for that, it’s realistic historically and has some graphic assault scenes. I completely understand why it’s over the line for some people- normally I’d feel the same way. Except I personally felt so absorbed in this other world and thought the atmosphere was incredible.
Bear and the Nightingale– this is another atmospheric read that I’m going to struggle to critique. I think in this case, it might be best to read Briana’s review, where she explains why it’s not great that it engages in the (all too common trope) of making the religious characters are portrayed as fanatics. I can see her point- HOWEVER I have to defend this series as a whole- over the course of the trilogy Arden really gives this aspect far more nuance. It show you a purer and good hearted alternative. I thought it managed to balance the complex culture of Russia and its history by the end. The other main criticism that this gets is that it starts slow and that the action is over in a blur- which I can see to an extent. In retrospect, this is more about building relationships, characters and sets the scene for what’s to come. I get that this won’t be for everyone, but I can still recommend giving it a go over a hot chocolate on a chilly night!
I didn’t do the worst job of being objective… although perhaps not the best either! 😉 What do you think? Was I fair here? Do you have any critiques to add? Or, most importantly, have any of you been tempted into reading any of these? Let me know in the comments!
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!
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– 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!
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– 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.
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– 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– 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 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!
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– just as unique, this sci fi love story captivated me with its beautiful writing.
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– 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!
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!
There are *so many* songs out there that inspire me and make me think “I’d love to read a book about this!” So when I saw this prompt for a Top Ten Tuesday a few years back, I wanted to do it… But forgot! Luckily, the brilliant Kat @Life and Other Disasters reminded me of it recently with an awesome follow up! So be sure to check it out if you like this topic!
Blank Space– I mean, let’s be real, I mostly want to fill this with Taylor Swift songs 😉 However, if I had to pick just one, I’d go with this because I think it’s got cheeky Gone Girl vibes and would make an excellent thriller. The lead would be charming and potentially sociopathic OR, even better, the final twist could be that the media got it all wrong and stitched up an innocent woman! (seriously, someone needs to write this book!)
Strange and Beautiful– call me masochistic, I just love stories about unrequited love. Preferably if it ends tragically…
Winter Winds– this is another one where I think it’d be interesting if the characters didn’t end up together. I just think it could be an interesting, character-focused story about people growing up in their early twenties in London (and I love books with a strong London setting!)
Blackbird– I just think this is beautiful and I can see the characters flying around… Actually that’s not a bad idea- it’d be really cool as a fantasy story! Someone write it please!
Ruby Tuesday– I imagine this would be nigh on impossible to pull off capturing the enigma of the titlular character… then again Taylor Jenkins Reid always pulls that off with her main characters… so maybe she should write it!
Galway Girl- this is another one where I can just picture the character… Not Ed Sheeran, I don’t really care about his part and would write him out of the narrative. It’s The Girl who is enigmatic and fascinating and I just want to read her story.
Homeward Bound– weirdly, out of all of Simon and Garfunkel’s narrative driven songs, this is the one that speaks to me the most, even though there’s less of a story to it. There’s just something about it that leaves me longing to know the full story. It could be a kind of modern-day Odyssey… with musicians!
Zombie– I mean, this song speaks for itself. It could be an amazing book about war. It’d be really cool to do it as a split timeline, during a conflict and after. Maybe even don’t say whose perspective the after perspective is from, so you don’t know who survived… *dun dun dun*
I Will Follow You Into the Dark– this could be a really cool paranormal fantasy, heavy on the romance 😉 On the note of fantasy…
Kashmir– this is super trippy and could make a really good, really odd book.
Bad Guy– a song for an anti-hero. A bit of a loopy one.
All These Things That I Have Done– another anti-hero-ish potential-novel. And if someone said they’d based a book on this, I’d definitely read it!
Tomorrow– yes I know this is from a musical, but I always had lingering questions about whether tomorrow ever came for this character!
Shine On You Crazy Diamond– there’s actually crazy story about this song. The way I heard it told, it was a tribute to Syd Barrett, a troubled former member of the band. Bizarrely, when they were recording the song, he turned up, so different that they almost didn’t recognise him, then left. I’d love for someone to do a fictionalised version of it (only have him be missing instead of kicked out of the band and turn up for one performance in a sort of mystical fashion at a festival).
Mad Woman– I know I said that I said I wouldn’t just fill this up with Taylor Swift songs, but I can’t help including just one more! And every time I listen to this lately, I can’t help but think this would be a nice spin on the whole mad woman in the attic trope!!
And that’s all for now! Do you agree with any of these? Would you tell any of these stories differently? And what songs would you like to see become books? (by Taylor Swift or otherwise! 😉) Let me know in the comments!
We’re coming to the end of the summer, but I’m not ready for it to end (because it barely felt like it was the summer this year with no vacation), so that’s why I’m choosing some books to prolong the season! Because I went with some HOT NEW books last month, I thought I’d go with some throwbacks here (books that are at least ten years old), kicking it off with…
Percy Jackson– because I need a little magic in my life right now! And this also is set at Camp Half Blood- which achieves both my goals of getting away and getting a little adventure. But in case that wasn’t wild enough…
Wild Magic– yes I did just use that pun (and I’m sorry… sorta). Regardless, this is a fun read and Tamora Pierce always gives me summer vibes.
Goose Girl– this book gives me all the *nostalgia* and *warm fuzzies*- which I’d say qualifies it as a summer read 😉
The Secret Garden– this is another childhood fave. It really brings the idea of new seasons to life. And I’ve always dreamed of having a garden like this one day to lounge about on summer days (and read 😉).
I Capture the Castle– aside from the romantic, crumbling castle, there’s nothing more iconic and summery than the midsummer festivities.
Famous Five– the adventures of the Famous Five will always have a special place in my heart and long be associated with summer!
How I Live Now– this is perhaps an odd one, because it’s a dystopia, but this begins in one lush summer, transforming as the world changes around them.
Yellow Wallpaper– this one twisty gothic set in summer. And, if anything the summer setting only makes it creepier!
Return of the Native– a bit more of a poignant choice, Hardy has a way with settings that make me think of the gorgeous Dorset countryside.
East of Eden– another writer with exquisite descriptions of the setting! Set in California, there’s often more than enough in the writing to get you feeling a little hot and bothered. And while technically speaking, I think Grapes of Wrath does an even greater job depicting the landscape, I personally prefer this family epic.
Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society– this books makes me want to take a trip to Guernsey!
Journey to the River Sea– most of Eva Ibbotson has a summery feel- but especially this Middle Grade, set in the Amazon.
And that’s all for now? Which throwback books do you recommend for summer? Let me know in the comments!