Moody Books!

Because I’m in a bit of a mood… for some spook season books! 😉

Gallant– this was my latest moody read and it was just perfect for those Halloween vibes! Scwhab brilliantly executed this dark family drama with its edgy fairy tale feel.

Our Crooked Hearts– possibly the moodiest book I’ve read this year, Our Crooked Hearts is an angsty coming of age story full of witches and dark deeds that will haunt you for years to come.

House of Hollow– on that note, here’s another edgy book for those looking for a strong dose of YA horror! 

Winterwood– of course, if you’re looking for something a little more witchy, you absolutely will not go wrong with Shea Ernshaw’s stunningly atmospheric story!

Wuthering Heights– delving more into realistic books (but still with an edge of the ethereal) Wuthering Heights is an excellent classic for those seeking something a little gloomy for those autumnal nights. 

Book of Hidden Things– but if you need something a little weirder and totally different, then perhaps pick up this odd little book set in Southern Italy. If you want something that will take you far away from the everyday and will leave you with an unsettling feeling of unknowing- look no further!

Darkest Part of the Forest– one of the more unusual fairy tale style stories I’ve read, this will take you from the everyday into, well, the darkest part of the forest where you’ll discover the Fae aren’t quite so lovely as they’re often portrayed. 

The Diviners– sticking with YA, I thoroughly enjoyed this supernatural series, with its murder mysteries and end-of-the-world-is-nigh plots! Such an inventive quartet that’s absolutely worth picking up (particularly in audiobook form thanks to the wonderful January LaVoy)

Raven Boys– you really can’t beat this series for atmosphere and pretty prose! With its premise of the heroine’s first love being doomed to die, this definitely has its moody moments (in amongst all the adventure and excitement). 

Darker Shade of Magic– seems like a good idea to begin and end a post like this with a Schwab book, since no one does moody quite like her 😉 and I really do love this fantasy series for its melancholic tone and sombre storylines. 

And that’s all for now! Have you read any of these? And do you have any other moody suggestions? Let me know in the comments!

(Some of the) Best Quintessentially British Books to Read this Bank Holiday Weekend!

Yes, I did have to make a list like this because of the jubilee. We are all under strict instructions as British people to make a whole song and dance out of it- or we’ll find ourselves up on tower hill for treason 😉 Better jump into it- chop chop! 😉

Wind in the Willows– let’s be honest, this book is why we all think that the countryside is magical 😉 I for one always encounter talking toads when I’m out walking.

The Hobbit– apart from acting as a mythology for Britain, his books are also filled with the oddities and humour of this island.

Mort– Death eating a curry is the most quintessentially British thing change my mind 😉 Seriously though, Pratchett’s eccentric humour makes it a real winner.

Peter Pan– after all, in this country, we never grow up 😉

Harry Potter- because the best boarding school book is a *magic* boarding school book.  

Remains of the Day– reflecting more of a “classic” part of British culture, but either way this upstairs-downstairs drama definitely makes the cut.

Pride and Prejudice– Austen’s books are full of British charm and habits- but most of all she captures all the different types of people you’ll meet at parties over here. And if you think you’ve never met a Lady Catherine De Bourgh, I’m sorry to say you’re her 😉

Sense of an Ending– this is a new one for me, yet it absolutely captures a sense of Britishness (see what I did there 😉). Partly because it talks about class, but mostly because of how much of a downer it is 😉 (just kidding… sort of).

Oliver Twist– this list wouldn’t be complete without a Dickens book. And, don’t be fooled by the musical version, this one has some particularly gritty and grim elements.  

The Woman in Black– there’s got to be a hint of the gothic on this list- and what more fun than the spooky spectre of this story? 😉 Plus it makes me think of every small town I’ve visited after dark 😉

Armadale– mysterious, evocative and above all fun, this is perfect if you need an intense classic to sink your teeth into.

And that’s all I have for now! But of course, there could be so many more books on this list- what book is most quintessentially British for you? Let me know in the comments!

Great Reads Featuring the Great Outdoors – Travelling the World in Books!

Because we all love travelling vicariously through books 😉 And these are just some of the books that made me feel like I lost myself in the wilds of their pages.

Wild Silence- Iceland– evocative and steeped in history, this treads ancient paths from Cornwall to Iceland. And no one is quite like Winn at bringing landscapes to life. I could practically feel the earth beneath my feet as I went on a journey with this book.

Where the Crawdads Sing- North Carolina– here setting does more than providing backdrop for the plot, it elegantly becomes a part of the narrative, intrinsically linked to the mysteries, romances and character growth.  

East of Eden- Salinas Valley– there’s no disputing the beauty of Steinbeck’s descriptions. Personally they have always made me want to drop everything and see the landscape he speaks of for myself.

Return of the Native- Wessex– because no list about landscapes and the outdoors would be complete without a quick diversion into Hardy’s Wessex.

Island of the Missing Tree- Cyprus– Shafak is a recent discovery for me and I find her writing deliciously vivid. The way she captures the sights, smells and tastes of Cyprus made me long to go there.  

Journey to the River Sea- Brazil– captivating and fairytale-esque, Ibbotson’s writing can transport me anywhere- from Europe to Brazil… which is exactly what this book did.

Snow Child- Alaska

if you’re looking to cool off, this book is perfect. An enchanting tale set in Alaska, it draws on Russian mythology and creates a world of its own. A world you can step into merely by turning a page.

That’s all for now! Hope you enjoyed that quick jaunt! What books make you feel like you’re transported into the great outdoors? Let me know in the comments!

Deliciously Dark Thrillers

As the sun comes out, I can’t help looking for darker books 😉 Psychological thrillers and sunshine are an odd delight. Of course, it’s hard to talk about these without spoilers, so I’m going to be light with my descriptions. Just know that if you’re looking for a good thriller to read this summer, then look no further.

What Lies Between Us– a locked in thriller, featuring a mother and daughter relationship gone *really* wrong. The warped perspectives and endless twists had me on the edge of my seat. I actually walked away from this one a little bit disturbed- you have been warned!  

The Family Upstairs– Jewell knows how to delve into the truly disturbing- and this one is the creepiest by far. Honestly, the family dynamic gets a little sick and twisted. I don’t recommend this for the faint of heart.

The Maidens– this takes dark academia to another level. The secrets in this one leave you feeling the cold.

The Ice Twins– it’s not just the location of this one that’s moody- but themes of loss that will chill you to the bone.

Sharp Objects– frankly, this one is graphic to the point where I felt queasy. This small town secrets story has a dark edge.

Home Before Dark– exploring the bleak truths of childhood trauma, this book won’t let you rest easy. It’ll keep you up long after dark.

Rock Paper Scissors– sometimes marriage is made in heaven… other times it’s made in hell. This one is the latter. If you’re looking for a romance that’s all sunshine and rainbows, I suggest you look elsewhere.

Sometimes I Lie– I didn’t know where I stood with this book. Getting stuck inside the narrator’s brain took me to a very dark place indeed. 

Exquisite– there’s something so intense about this book that made me obsessed… much like the stalker in this book 😉

You– speaking of stalkers, this unsettling read freaked me out all the more because the set up reminded me more of a rom com than a typical thriller… and that’s just horrifying!

What do you think of these books? Do you plan to read any of them? And what deliciously dark thrillers can you recommend? Let me know in the comments!

I Lied to You – All the Books I Promised I’d Give Away… But I Actually Kept!

Nearly two years ago I did my harshest unhaul yet and was really proud of myself for getting rid of a ton of books… Annnd then I decided to keep a bunch of them! 😅 While I was spring cleaning this year, I discovered a lot of them were still in storage and (clearly) I have little-to-no-intention of actually giving them away. I do think there are some in this secret stash I might get rid of some day… but it is not this day! 😉 Let’s discuss why I went back on my word, shall we?

Kingdom of Ash– okay I’m still pretty torn about this one. On the one hand, I didn’t like the lacklustre ending in this book and have consequently fallen out of love with the series. On the other hand, I do like a nice signed copy and the memories I have of going to the book event where I got it still excite me on some level. I’m just so undecided over whether I will get rid of this one day!

Apocalypse– again, this is a case of “it’s signed and I remember getting it signed”. Even if I never loved this book (heck I don’t even like it) I just can’t bring myself to get rid of it right now. Also, as I was going through these books, I had a weird urge to reread it and see if it has any merit that my teen-self missed… Although- with that in mind- I may actually need to get rid of this book to prevent myself from doing anything stupid 😉  

Blood Bones and Body Bits– yeahhh this is definitely a case of being overly sentimental with this one. HOWEVER, in my defence, it was my first ever signed book!! And let’s face it, the Horrible History/Horrible Science series still slaps (I may just give it to my nephews).  

Deenie– I kept for sentimental reasons. I LOVED Judy Blume books as a teen and I still have so much respect for her as a YA writer, doing so much to normalise what it’s like to go through puberty as a girl in particular. I’m holding onto the fond memories I have of reading all her books, so I won’t be letting go of this book for the time being.

Nemesis– I don’t feel remotely guilty about keeping these books (okay, maybe a little bit). At the time of the Great Unhaul (That Wasn’t Quite So Great) I said I was unsure about these ones. Turns out, I didn’t want to part with this series. I LOVED these books back when I read them. And sure, I might be older (though sadly not wiser), but I can’t seem to outgrow my love for this completely underrated YA series! I just had way too much fun with it!

And that’s all for now! I’m going to go and hang my head in shame and think about what I did! But I want to hear your thoughts before I hide away from the world. Have you ever changed your mind about an unhaul? Or do you think I’m being overly sentimental here? Let me know in the comments!  

Just a Few Unusual Fairy Tale Retellings

I know we’ve been over this before, but I’m here to say it again: I love a good retelling! Fairy tales and myths are some of my favourite stories. They are timeless and transformative and irresistible- which is why I will always love fairy tale retellings. I’ve shared some cool ones before and now I’m showcasing even more! This time, I’m going to be focusing on some unusual ones that feature tales we don’t see being adapted often (and hopefully a few you haven’t come across before!) Let’s get to it!

Echo North– one of the best books I read last year, this gorgeous book combines two fairy tales: Beauty and the Beast and East of the Sun West of the Moon. And as I’m not particularly familiar with the latter, it felt even more fresh and dazzling. With original concepts and a unique way of characterising the female lead, this wasn’t your every day YA.

Uprooted– it’s hard to make Beauty and the Beast seem new and original- and yet Novik’s immersive Russian take does exactly that. Hate-to-love at its finest, this is unquestionably stunning.  

Bloody Chamber– for something a little bit more adult, I have to insist on trying this creepy collection. Simultaneously deconstructing and venerating the originals, this divinely written work is well worth a read.

Winter Rose– a retelling of Tam Lin, this atmospheric book had me sold from the start. I felt wrapped up in the tendrils of this enchanted forest setting. It’s simply beautifully written and reimagined. 

Owl Service– drawing from Welsh folklore, this is one of the most unusual books I’ve ever read. Uncanny and different, it’s like it was possessed by mythology rather than simply retelling an old tale again and again. This is trippy in the very best of ways.

Medusa– okay this one’s not a fairy tale per se, but it fits into the mythic theme and is definitely a book that springs to mind when I want to talk about newer retellings. Aside from the gorgeous illustrations, this is one of those retellings that manages to make us genuinely sympathise with the villain. Using real elements from history, this transforms the original story of Medusa into something every girl can relate to. It has a distinctly modern feel, whilst also being true to the realities of ancient Greece. I just love how this allows us to see the gorgons with new eyes and a modern vision.

Thorn– goose girl is one of those stories that doesn’t get adapted nearly as often as others- and this adaptation also happens to be an absolute delight. What I especially like is how it explores the question of the heroine’s victimhood and challenges our very perceptions of passivity. This isn’t a story about yet another kickass heroine punching her way to victory- but a quieter more profound story of what we are willing to sacrifice for others. I feel like its distinctive morality strikes to the heart of what fairy tales are really about.

The Princess and the Fangirl- every instalment of the Once Upon a Con retelling series is thoroughly enjoyable! Give me all the geeky fairy-tale-inspired stories please! The reason I chose this one is not just because it features a sapphic romance, which doesn’t come up enough in retellings, but because it also happens to be a retelling of the Princess and the Pea… and how often do we get to read one of those?! This is a particularly perfect retelling as well- which is nothing less than I’d expect from a story with a perfectionist theme 😉

The Boy Who Steals Houses– I have never come across another Goldilocks retelling- and it couldn’t have been better- because this one was just right! With a main character you will want to protect with your life and a found family you’ll want to adopt, Boy Who Steals Houses *absolutely* stole my heart!!

Call it What you Want– I don’t read many contemporary retellings OR takes on Robin Hood- and this does both! Not only is it unusual, it’s also extremely well done, with deep character work. It’s my favourite of Kemmerer’s work to date!

And that’s all for now! I’m definitely on the hunt for more! What retellings do you think I should check out next? And what do you think of these? Let me know in the comments!

Best fictional rivalries

Ok, I didn’t intend on this being about a whole lotta love, but I couldn’t help it. For me, the best rivalries often end in romance! Let’s just get into the list, shall we?  

Nimona– I love the rivalry in this- it’s so much fun!! Yes, this may seem like a typical villain vs hero story- but appearances can be deceiving 😉

Renegades– the whole dynamic of the heroes vs villains is perfect!! Throw in a forbidden romance and this series is the bomb!

Carry On– a parody of Harry Potter that focuses more on what’s really going on between Draco and Harry 😉

Cruel Prince– I almost love Cardan vs Jude MORE than Cardan with Jude. Their snarky chemistry worked so well in book 1! I think they enjoyed being rivals!

Game of Thrones– specifically the Starks vs the Lannisters. For me, this straightforward I-want-to-destroy-your-house-and-family rivalry is what made the series spectacular at the start. Of course, as the series goes on, we see that there’s a deeper divisions and more important conflicts, but they almost pale in comparison when I think of the original rivalry of the series.

This is How You Lose the Time War– I just loved the concept of this: two people on opposite sides of a time war fall in love. Swift and beautifully written, this book is full of contrasting emotions. 

Night Circus– these characters are destined to fight to the death… so they really shouldn’t develop any feelings for each other…

Hating Game– sometimes office competition can be sexy 😉

Tweet Cute– some rivalries are just completely cheesy- and this book certainly brings the BIG CHEESE factor! Cute and fun, this rivalry roasts all the competition.

Beach Read– the main reason I’m putting this on the list is not for rivals-to-lovers conflict, but for the classic conversation about contemporary romance vs literary fiction! I love that a central theme of the book is these two genres duking it out! Let the battle commence and may the best books win, I say!

East of Eden– playing out the themes of Abel vs Cain from generation to generation, this story isn’t just about rivalry, but also about family ties and difficult relationships.  

And that’s all for now! Are you a fan of any of these? What are your favourite fictional rivalries? Let me know in the comments!

My Worst Books of All Time (books I hate so much they make me feel like I’ve reached rock bottom)

You know, I genuinely wish I’d forgotten all the bad books I’ve ever read. And to be honest, when I go back over my “most disappointing” lists, I generally don’t remember (or care about) most of the books on there. Yet sometimes there are books so frickin AWFUL that they’re seared into my memory and I can’t forget them even though I’ve tried!! (Of course, usual disclaimer that this is just my opinion and what technically constitutes a bad book is subjective… although, for some of these, if you tell me they’re not technically bad, I just want to ask: who hurt you?!) ANYWAY, in no particular order (cos it feels too much like sifting through shit), these are the books I hate most in the world:

Fifty Shades of Grey– oh my, I can’t believe I actually read this book. I mean, no “worst books” list would be complete without it- but why oh why did I have to read it?! I blame myself for getting all caught up in the fact everyone was reading it. This (should’ve) been the moment when I realised never to listen to hype. And unfortunately, it’s forever scarred into my memory. There’s no two ways about it: this book blows. 

Nutshell– in a nutshell, this book is nonsense. Unless of course you believe a foetus can monologue reams of conceited drivel. And of course that little synopsis would be bad enough on its own, if it wasn’t masquerading as a Hamlet retelling… (seriously, how do some books exist?)

As I Lay Dying– this book makes me want to die… ahhh I’m not even being melodramatic. It’s been years since I was forced to read this for uni and I’m still not over this insipid advertisement for postmodern bullshit. Amazingly, I’m not impressed by people that pontificate on whether words can truly convey emotion. I wish the self-indulgent wankers who engage in such discussions would just go off to baa in some field somewhere and leave the rest of us in peace.

Wideacre– just gross. I’m disturbed that this was recommended to me, because, WHY?!?! If you don’t know the book, then maybe shield your eyes, stop reading and be grateful in the knowledge that you have been spared from this abject horror. For the rest of us, we have to know that a “feminist” book about incest exists… It’s the book no one asked for/needed/wanted. Yay. Now excuse me while I vomit.

Conversations with Friends– this book is memorable for all the wrong reasons: the pretentious writing style, the characters, oh and did I mention the characters?! I loathe everything about everyone in this book. They’re not only up their own arse, they frequently get far too intimate with other (arsey) characters who happen to be married. And they have no emotions about it cos they’re sociopaths. Cool. Love this kind of thing.

Inspector Calls– technically a play, but I’m counting it. I don’t know why but there’s something endlessly irritating about this precious little play and it’s non-stop moralising. All the “characters” are so flat they may as well be made out of cardboard. And the writing has a sickeningly saccharine edge to it, as it dictates the ways of the world in oh-so-simple terms that even mere mortals such as you or I could understand… Luckily for Priestley, he was preaching to the choir (that choir being the Soviet Union… great- just the kind of regime you want endorsing you).

Dishonourable mentions that I don’t want to waste too much breath on:

The Fault in Our Stars– I wouldn’t care anymore if not for that awful scene in Anne Frank’s house.

Atlas Shrugged– I’d rather thump myself over the head with this gigantic book than talk about it.

Foxhole Court– why is this book?

Girl Woman Other– because there is nothing wrong with a full stop.   

And that’s all… for now! Though I hope I never have to add to this list! Dare I ask- what do you think of these books? And what are your worst books of all time? Let me know in the comments!

Recommending Books I Didn’t Like #2

I’m definitely of the opinion that taste is subjective. Which is why, what works for me may not work for you and vice versa. That’s why I want to recognise books that have a lot going for them, but sadly weren’t my cup of tea. Writing a post like this can be a real challenge- and yet I’m here for round #2 because I relish the chance to give books the kudos they deserve… even if they weren’t quite my jam! Today I’ve chosen books that could easily turn out to be five star reads for someone else! Let’s get to it!

Eye of the World– having watched the show (and yes hearing all the ways it differs from the books) I can now say that it has a really interesting story. So much so that even though I didn’t enjoy the first book because of the writing style, I’m keen to give the series another go. It doesn’t hurt that I’m told it’s a story about hope- which is exactly the kind of fantasy I’m often looking for!

Romanovs– I was kinda numb by the time I got to the end of this monstrosity mammoth book- but the last section is worth reading and it’s an absolutely comprehensive study.

Gormenghast– I didn’t love this story, but it could be because it was very overhyped for me. What I will say is that the descriptions are so visual and I can still remember the feel of the book- even if I didn’t love it as I hoped I might. It’s a one of a kind book that will stick in your mind.

Handmaid’s Tale– love it or loathe it, you can’t deny its cultural significance or Atwood’s talent. Even if I felt tripped up by the world-building, I can attest to this being the kind of book you won’t forget in a hurry. 

Slaughterhouse Five– this is a rec straight from my sister, who loves Vonnegut and wanted me to try it. And it certainly has a striking writing style, even if it wasn’t for me.

Station Eleven– this one is an easy one to recommend, since the only reason I didn’t like this book was because of timing. So I can definitely say it’s a well-written and intense experience… just maybe hold off on it until you’re reading books set in an apocalypse caused by a pandemic.

Fifth Season– this is also easy to recommend- especially since I didn’t dislike this one per se. I just didn’t love it as much as I thought it would. But there is absolutely no denying the quality of the work or that it is doing something entirely unique.

To the Lighthouse– I mentioned Virginia Woolf in my last post, yet I also wanted to mention that I love her writing on a sentence-by-sentence level.

Sons and Lovers– this is another one I didn’t hate- but I find it a little emotional for me and this may be the only opportunity I have to recommend it. It’s beautifully written and a really moving story.

Grief is a Thing with Feathers– this is definitely an unusual book that divides opinion- and the only way to find out which side you fall on is to go ahead and read it. While I didn’t get as much out of this as I hoped, I think it does have some profound insight into the process of grieving.

So, what do you think? Would you recommend any of these too? And what books that you didn’t like would you recommend? Let me know in the comments!

Anti-Valentines Suggestions!

You all know I really enjoy giving lovey-dovey suggestions- but I wanted to change things up this year and give some utterly UNROMANTIC suggestions!

You– unless you consider stalking romantic… But seriously, I love how this twists the whole rom com genre on its head and shows you the dark side of obsession. 

It’s Always the Husband– because no matter how good you think a marriage is, if you’re going to wind up as a murder victim in a thriller, then it’s always gonna be the husband. Till death us do part and all that jazz.

The Catch– speaking of “too good to be true”, this book will have you questioning every single squeaky clean great guy dating your loved ones…

Rock Paper Scissors– one of the best thrillers I read all year, you’ll be in for a wild ride and left to figure out if love is all a twisted game…

The Silent Patient– and if you need any more proof of unhealthy obsessions going too far, then look no further! Incorporating psychotherapy and Greek mythology, this book will have you questioning everything. In a good way 😉

Frankenstein– I mean, aside from the monster, this has a pretty wacked idea of romance.

The Picture of Dorian Gray– learn to love yourself… and no one else! 😉

Wilder Girls– this is gory and weird and it even has a hint of doomed sapphic romance- definitely one to add to your anti-Valentines TBR.

Horrorstor– but if you need something a bit more straight-up-spooky, then take a turn in a haunted (ripoff IKEA) furniture store. One things for certain, the only concern you’ll have for your heart by the end of the night is whether you’re going to need a bypass.

The Sociopath Next Door– and if you need to be even more creeped out, you can check out some non-fiction on the real-life terrors in our midst (should probably add that this is statistically very low, but still, I’m gonna go for the sensationalised stats, since this is the season for optimism 😉)

The Prince– I mean, he does teach “it’s better to be feared than loved, if one cannot be both”- so I guess that rounds off this list nicely! Why woo someone when you can terrify them? I always think sneaking up on someone, putting your hands over their eyes and saying “guess who” works nicely 😉

Great Expectations– sometimes great expectations don’t pay off 😉 and nothing screams bad romance more than a woman stuck in a wedding dress for eternity 😉

Okay that’s my anti-Valentines list! What do you think? Will these be sufficient to put you off romance? Or do you have more suggestions? Let me know in the comments!