Books I’m *eternally grateful* for!

orangutan list

So, we don’t have Thanksgiving here in the UK, but that doesn’t mean I can’t share some BOOKISH GRATITUDE! I tried to narrow this down to books that have a special place in my heart or that came into my life at exactly the right time (although of course, most great books feel like that, simply by virtue of being great 😉). Annnd I’m gonna be honest, I ended up with a very different post to the one I started with, because I took out anything too dark. I think I just prefer this to be a *happy place*. Without further ado, here are some of the books I’m most grateful for:

Harry_Potter_and_the_Philosopher's_Stone_Book_Cover

Harry Potter– starting way back when I was 7- this was the first big book I ever read and I will always be thankful that it made me the reader I am today. Yes, I am a stereotypical millennial reader and proud of it 😉

Hobbit_cover

The Hobbit– aside from being mythologically rich and having wonderful characters, this book gave me my love of fantasy- how could I not include it?

peter pan and wendy

Peter Pan– this is another childhood favourite and I’d feel remiss not to include it, especially given how often it inspired me to practice flying as a child 😉 (granted, I never actually achieved my goal, but not for want of trying 😉)

rebecca

Rebecca– this book always reminds me of my mum, cos it’s her favourite. And I’m always glad that she foisted her favourites on me!

idiot

The Idiot– I originally felt like I had no special reason for including this one, but whenever I think about books that have shaped me, this springs to mind. I read this at about thirteen and it just clicked. Not only did it start a lifelong love of Dostoevsky, it taught me so many valuable lessons that I carry with me to this day.

Emma_Jane_Austen_book_cover

Emma– okay, quick confession, I’d already read Pride and Prejudice when I read this and I think I was too young to get the irony. I’m really happy I read this book, because it unlocked Austen’s humour for me. I ended up rereading Pride and Prejudice shortly after and loved it the second time round! (which was lucky, cos I was set it for school). Then, of course, I read all the others and have never looked back!

dr faustus

Dr Faustus– it just lit up my brain at exactly the right moment- yes I am enough of a dork to include academic inspiration on this list.

man's search for meaning

Man’s Search for Meaning– part autobiography, part exploration of logotherapy, Frankl’s book may seem a bit heavy on the surface. However, it’s actually the most uplifting book I’ve ever read and my brother was a hundred percent right about getting me to read it!

mort nice edition

Mort– I *needed* this book in my life- I just didn’t know it. Fortunately, a couple of my friends did know that I needed to read this and pushed me into it… and I couldn’t be happier that they did! Plus, one of my friends knew exactly which Pratchett to get me started on. So I know you’re not reading this, but thank you.

vicious

Vicious– fun fact, I was giving blood for the first time when I read this- and it was the *perfect* distraction! It was simply too brilliant! You simply can’t pay attention to anything else going on when you’ve got Schwab for company! (also, guys, give blood- it’s a great excuse to sit and read and you get free biscuits 😉 )

grey sister

Grey Sister– ah this is just a pleasure to put on the list. I was in a horrible slump a couple of summers ago and trying to deal with big life changes- this gave me a welcome distraction for a few hours- which I was immensely grateful for, I can tell you!

carry on

Carry On– I can’t stop being thankful for this magical book- because it has the power to pull me out of any slump and give me all the *warm fuzzies*!

That was fun- I feel like I should steal more traditions from across the Pond 😉 Hope all my American friends have a Happy Thanksgiving! (and if it’s not to late, the same to all you lovely Canadians!) And, I’m curious, what books are you most grateful for? Let me know in the comments!

Twisty Stories Where You Won’t Guess the Ending…

orangutan list

After finishing up the Impossible Times trilogy, I felt like sharing some more books with UNEXPECTED and EPIC endings! Don’t worry, there won’t be any spoilers, but these are some of the most twisty books I’ve ever read:

we were liars

We Were Liars– I have to admit, I was lulled into thinking the BIG TWIST had happened. When it comes- *oof*- it hits you right in the gut. Annnd I won’t say anymore for fear of ruining it… Another one I can’t talk much about…

poison chris wooding

Poison– one of the *best* things about Wooding’s fairy tale is how unexpected the twists are. It’s such a fresh and interesting and unique tale! (in fact, I’d argue there’s still nothing else like it, even though this is over 15 years old at this point!)

evelyn hardcastle

The Seven and a Half Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle- gotta say this Groundhog Day murder mystery is pretty darn unusual. Even better, this is the kind of book where the conclusion really makes the whole story! I for one never could’ve guessed where this was heading.

death of mrs westaway

Death of Mrs Westaway- what’s funny is I came close to guessing the outcome here, yet the author tricked me into thinking I’d got it wrong. Well played, Ware. Speaking of killer mysteries…

murder-on-the-orient-express-agatha-christie

Murder on the Orient Express– of course, this list would have been incomplete without Christie! And, as anyone who’s read her work knows, her endings are to die for!

the young elites

The Young Elites– this has a very different kind of heart-stopping ending. Most impressive though is how it takes the series a completely thrilling and different direction.

thief

The Thief– I really enjoyed this super-smart first instalment in the Queen’s Thief series. I did guess a few of the twists, but I still didn’t get everything and, in this case, I felt a supreme sense of satisfaction seeing how it all comes together.

six of crows

Six of Crows– another super twisty series is the Six of Crows duology. And while the series ender is *emotional* I had to pick this cos of how it turned the tables righhhht when you think you’re safe.

golden son

Golden Son– this entire series was another wild ride- but the reason I picked the ending for the second one is because *WHOA*- it very nearly killed me! Needless to say, I had to grab the next one as soon as possible! (if you try this series, fair warning, make sure you have the finale close to hand!!)

emperor of thorns

Emperor of Thorns– as a series ender, this is so satisfying. Exciting and bold and… I really can’t tell you anything else about it! All I’ll say is I never would’ve expected that!

And on that note… have you read any of these? Do you agree with me? And what books did you find so terrifically twisty that you couldn’t guess the ending? Let me know in the comments!

Incendiary Historical Fiction for Bonfire Night!

Well, hello, hello! In case anyone doesn’t remember (or know) tonight is Bonfire Night in the UK. The night to celebrate when the gunpowder plot was foiled and parliament wasn’t blown up (so we set off fireworks and burn things… yeahhh the logic in that is weird…). Given the historic significance, I thought it would be fun to talk about some *EXPLOSIVE* historical fiction. I wanted to keep this to 5, for symmetry’s sake, but this topic was such *dynamite* I had to do more! I did try to cover a broad spectrum of (mostly British) time periods though…

last kingdom

The Last Kingdom– there are many things to love about Cornwell’s Saxon Stories– the plot and protagonist alone are to die for! But what made me especially excited by this story was how it explores the Norman and Viking period- a part of history often overlooked in British schools- which is a crying shame cos it’s FASCINATING!

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At the Sign of the Sugar Plum– speaking of more random parts of English history- although this one does come up in high school- this is a YA historical fiction about the plague. Yup, there’s a cheerful topic for you… sooo don’t go into this looking for all sunshine and rainbows- even if this is set in a London sweet shop. Also, the sequel is about the Great Fire of London, if I haven’t scared you off with the Black Death 😉

the king's general

King’s General– while not my favourite of Du Maurier’s books, I do really like this take on the English Civil War. Romantic and poignant, this not only tells the story of lost love, what I remember most about this book is the powerful way it captured the country’s divided loyalties and how it felt to be caught in the middle of conflict.

homegoing

Homegoing– this is one of the most unusual books on the list, because it spans a huge amount of time. Each chapter is a different member of the family, this story spans centuries, exploring the true horror of the slave trade and its impact. It’s remarkable how well this works and how heart-breaking it manages to be with this structure.

birdsong

Birdsong– I had to really think which Sebastian Faulks book to choose and ultimately went with his story set in WWI. This wasn’t perfect- frankly I wasn’t a fan of the flashforwards to present day- but this wonderfully written story does do a great job of spanning before, during and after the war.

private peaceful

Private Peaceful– sticking to WWI, nothing punches me in the gut emotionally more than this. Even though it’s a children’s book, it doesn’t hold back.

salt to the sea

Salt to the Sea– exploring the fate of the Wilhelm Gustoff in World War II, this is not your normal war story. It isn’t about great battles or the people fighting, it’s about the people stuck in the middle. This is a YA historical fiction that will truly have an impact.

guernsey literary and potato peel pie society

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society- moving slightly ahead in the timeline, Guernsey does explore the issues of WWII, yet in an epistolary, retrospective way. Set in the aftermath of the Guernsey occupation, this is about uncovering the mystery. Be prepared for some *explosive* revelation, *unbelievable* characters who will touch your heart and, of course, all the *feels*.

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Sweet Clarinet– thinking more about WWII, it’s kind of amazing to note that I’ve never mentioned this book on my blog before, even though it had a profound effect on me. Set during the blitz and exploring the consequences of wartime wounds, this poignant tale tells of trauma and recovery. Most notably, it explores the idea of music as therapy.

daisy jones and the six

Daisy Jones and the Six– and finally, darting across the pond for the last book, I thought I’d end with a book that is THE BOMB for totally different reasons! Like Sweet Clarinet, this is about music. Daisy Jones and the Six explores the 70s rock scene- which is an utterly unique part of history for a book and I am DOWN for it! Unfortunately for us all, they’re not a real band, but if you read this, you’ll wish they were as much as I did!

So, do you like any of my choices? And do you have any other *highly charged* historical fiction you think I was mad to miss? Let me know in the comments!

Fantastic Fantasy for November Nights!

I don’t know about you, but as the nights get colder and the days get drearier, I start to feel a bit more like grabbing the nearest dragon and taking flight into some bookish fantasy worlds… which is why today I’ve got some excellent escapism for us all, with a fun fantasy list:

(NB Yes, you can always just reread Harry Potter, but you don’t need me to tell you that, do you? 😉)

wizard heir

Wizard Heir– of course, if you need something with one foot still in this world, then I cannot recommend the Heir series enough! There is a book that takes place before this, but I tend to pick this one as my favourite because *my goodness* this book hit me in the *feels*. On the subject of faves…

mort nice edition

Discworld DEATH series– where would I be without this series? I started my Pratchett journey with the Death books and I couldn’t have fallen more deeply in love with the humour, quirkiness and sheer wit of this series. If you’re searching for funny fantasy, with a darker twist, then look no further!

Neverwhere

Neverwhere– I feel like Gaiman and Pratchett always go together in my mind. If you don’t feel like travelling as far as the Discworld, however, this reimagining of London is the *perfect* book for this time of year: dark, unique and layered.

a darker shade of magic

A Darker Shade of Magic– speaking of a fresh take on London, Schwab’s *magical* series will certainly win over fantasy fans (that is, if you haven’t already read it 😉)

raven boys

Raven Boys– more or less still in the real world, this atmospheric series plays with fantasy in innovative ways and will win you over with its complex characters (also ahhh so glad Rowan is getting more books!)

hazel wood

Hazel Wood– let’s take a trip somewhere a little different. And my goodness, this book is different! If you like luxuriously written and gloriously imaginative stories, then this gothic blend of fantasy and fairy tales will sweep you off your feet.

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Darkest Part of the Forest– are you hyped up for Queen of Nothing coming out soon? Well, why wait! You can always check out some of Black’s other *fantastic* fairy stories. This one even gets a shoutout in Folk of the Air!

through the woods

Through the Woods– this sort-of fairy tale retelling has a spectacularly spooky feel and really works if you’re still looking for some Halloween vibes!

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Blackwing– if you’re craving even more darkness, then why not try this vivid and distinctive grimdark series? It’s the kind of book that takes you far from the family and lingers with you long after you finish.

king of scars

King of Scars– to be fair, I could’ve picked any one of the books in Bardugo’s grishaverse. I chose this partly because I read it recently, but mostly because really evokes a darker Russian setting that suits the approaching wintry mood. I feel like it really embraces the coming darkness- which reminds me of…

sabriel

Sabriel– by far one of my favourite fantasy series, this classic necromancy tale is the book that showed me how deliciously dark fantasy can get.

And that’s all for now! Which fantasy lands do you like to escape to at this time of the year? Let me know in the comments!

The Witching Hour is Nigh!

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Some of you may be getting dressed up around about now, some of you might be stuffing your face pre-emptively with sweets and some of you are getting cosy and planning to watch Hocus Pocus (I know I am 😉). Wherever you are, I think we can all agree that we need some spooctacular book recommendations! And what better topic than talking about *witches*? Yup- I’m giving you a list of some of my favourite witchy books! (NB I had to resist the urge to not just tell you to reread Harry Potter, cos obviously that’s an option… but I guess I kinda just did that… ah well 😉) Without further ado, pick up your broomsticks and let’s get this kicked off!

wicked deep

Wicked Deep– one of my favourite spooky reads last year, this spellbinding, atmospheric read with a historical edge definitely cast its spell over me!

winter of the witch

Winter of the Witch– such a captivating series set in medieval Rus! Though I could’ve picked any of the books in this series, but this is where Vasya has fully come into her powers, journeys through Midnight and shines in her greatest glory. This is how to tell a witchy tale!

witch's daughter

The Witch’s Daughter– this fantastical take on historical fiction was fun and brimming with entertainment!

crucible

The Crucible– if you’re on the hunt for something about the Salem witch trials, then look no further! Well, I say that, but this isn’t really about that at all 😉 It’s very intense and will transport you in time though!

circe

Circe– there’s something utterly bewitching about this book- it’s the perfect retelling of Odysseus, the characters shine and the writing is exquisite. Most importantly for this list, it has one of the most unique takes on witches I have ever seen.

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Northern Lights– speaking of unique takes, everything about Lyra’s Oxford (and extended world) is different and interesting. So, it’s no surprise that his take on witches is *brilliant*.

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Doomspell– I always vividly remember this book as well for its *stand out* witches. Although, be prepared for things to get a little creepier… And on that note…

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The Witches– yes, this list wouldn’t be complete without Dahl’s Witches. Terrifying to adults and children alike, these are the kinds of witches to keep you up at night!

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The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe– another absolute *classic* book starring a witch! In this case, the White Witch is the epitome of evil, enticing you in with Turkish Delight… only to try and turn you to stone if she gets the chance!

good omens book

Good Omens– of course, however, if you (like me) prefer your spooky reads not-so-spooky, then look no further. This quirky and hilarious book has everything spooky from witches to the devil to the four horseman of the apocalypse… and yet miraculously manages to be a good time!

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Equal Rites– sticking with the fun vibes, this was one of the first Discworld books I ever read and it completely charmed me! The humour and the characters were top notch- and this is definitely a great starting point for people looking for some girl power! And just so you know, the series gets better and better! (Maskerade is probably my favourite!) Pratchett always draws brilliantly on classics as well, which brings me to…

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Macbethhubble bubble toil and trouble… this is the quintessential play with witches! Whether you’ve seen it/read it/heard about it vaguely- you can’t go wrong with this ambitious drama!

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The Worst Witch– and finally, I thought the best way to end out this list would be to talk about a fun family friendly witch… who happens to not be very good at it. Though she may not fail in the Shakespearean sense, it’s rather comforting (and hella entertaining) to read about a heroine who struggles to *shine* and whose finest quality is her big heart.

And that’s all I’ve got for tonight! Have you read any of these? Do you have any other witchy reads to add? Let me know in the comments! And Happy Halloween!

Things that horrify me in books: terrifying tropes and writing styles I really don’t like!

orangutan list

It’s nearly Halloween and- rather tangentially- that’s got me thinking about *scary* book tropes. No, not literally scary. I barely ever even read kids spooky stories. I mean, things that realllly make me break out in hives and send a shiver down my spine for all the wrong reasons. I had a good think about this, cos I didn’t want to include anything that could potentially be done well. These are the most irredeemable, the gah-why-is-this-a-thing, the KILL ME NOW tropes. That said, it goes without saying, these are my personal preferences, so if you like any of these, feel free to go on liking it *yada yada yada*. Without further ado, here’s some things that will probably (almost definitely) make me hate a book:

gollum not listeningStream of consciousness– this is my number one NO GO. Granted this is *absolutely* a matter of personal taste. I’ve tried loads and it never works out. I can barely ever manage to finish stream of consciousness books- let alone enjoy them. Whenever I pick something up in this style my brain just goes “lalalala not listening!” At this point, I’m genuinely frightened to pick up anything else in this style.

rolls eyesStupid moralising– if you really wanna make me freak out though, just include some moralising. It’s especially scary when it comes with simple platitudes like “war is bad” and “be nice to each other”. Wowww no one could’ve figured that out unless a brave author points it out. Sometimes, this is even combined with some post-structuralist pseudointellectualism crap where the author goes on a nice nihilist rant about how nothing means anything… I could really live without it.

pottyBodily functions– there are some exceptions where this is acceptable (ie comedy) but basically this is a no-go. Disgusting me is a sure-fire way to put me off a book. Speaking of shit things…

 

 

cheatCheating Love Triangles– what’s worse than a love triangle? A love triangle that involves some kind of cheating. What’s sad is cheating is often the default in books revolving round love triangles (and why I typically hate them).

 

your eternal rewardThe boy/girl is a rewardpeople still do this in books?!? I hear you yell. Unfortunately, yes. It’s not just the failure to make the love interest an actual person, it’s the fact that sometimes this is combined with…

 

escapeMiraculously escaping the friendzone– don’t get me wrong, I like friends to lovers, but when a character repeatedly says “I don’t want to be with you!” it can come off badly when they suddenly change their mind (usually for no apparent reason other than getting bored of arguing). This often ends up undermining “no means no” and I’m not a fan.

it was all a dream.gifIt was all a dream– I mean, what is more horrifying than getting to the end of a book and finding out it was all a waste of time? The same goes for anything else in this vein, like winding the clock back or ending up back where you started (when there’s little to no character development). But there are other *awful* ways to end a story, like…

voldemort
best friend material, amirite?!

The villain saying: “I was trying to help you all along”- ugh- surprisingly there are books that genuinely have the antagonist about-turning in the last chapter. I pretty much raged to read a story where a baddie said “you thought I was chasing you across Europe? Noooo I was trying to warn you about the other guy stalking you!” (a banana goes to anyone who knows what book I’m referring to 😉 )

set upThis entire book was setup for the next one! Yeahhh there are certain authors who think it’s a good idea to write an *ENTIRE BOOK* that has no plot of its own and to prep you for the sequel. Then, they go and stick a cliffhanger in to get you to tune in next time for an actual story… maybe… (it’s scary how often I’ve fallen for this trick!) There’s only one thing worse…

i don't remember.gifAmnesia– I hate when characters- particularly protagonists- get amnesia. It basically allows the author to repeat entire storylines/romances/character development. It’s so lazy and you end up with an entirely recycled story. So yeah, at the risk of repeating myself, I hate amnesia in books.

So, what are your thoughts on these? And what tropes or writing styles will instantly put you off a book? Let me know in the comments!

Classic Spooky Reads that *Gave Me the Shivers*

spooktacular reads

Hello all! Just a quick post today to celebrate spooktober! In the last year (and beyond), I’ve been reading quite a few classic spooky read and some of them really hit the spot (and by hit the spot, I mean made my blood run cold, freaked me out and made me duck under my duvet for cover!) Here’s some books you may have heard of that really live up to the hype:

we have always lived in a castle

We Have Always Lived in a Castle– oh man, Shirley Jackson reallllly nailed the creepy vibes with this one. The mystery builds and builds and you don’t get total closure… which is exactly how it should be in the best scary stories! Speaking of which…

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Turn of the Screw– this is one of the *best* gothic tales I’ve ever read and there are multiple ways to read it. Ambiguous, brilliantly written and so terrifying I had to turn on my big lights so I could finish it!

the woman in black

The Woman in Black– ooh this one was freaky! This ghost story will definitely keep you up at night. An unsettling mist descends from the moment I turned the first page and doesn’t let up until long after you’ve turned the last. I’m just hoping she never makes an appearance in my life…

rebecca

Rebecca– on the note of enigmatic women, the titular character is too dead to make an appearance in this book, yet that doesn’t stop her making her presence felt 😉 This book has a hint of the gothic and is a wonderfully atmospheric read!

haunting of hill house

Haunting of Hill House– this was another solid book from Shirley Jackson and perfect if you’re too chicken to check out the Netflix version (like me 😉)

wieland

Wieland– this is a weird book… and yet isn’t that perfect for this time of year? A strangely captivating gothic tale, I was taken aback the first time I read it and it still haunts me to this day.

confessions

Confessions of a Justified Sinner– this mad little Scottish classic is a hidden gothic gem and guaranteed to take you to a dark place… which of course meant I had to include it 😉

frankenstein

Frankenstein– in many ways, this isn’t as scary as the other stories on this list. While it does venture into the subject of monsters, it’s more about humanity and hubris and the terrible things we’re capable of… so in many ways it’s the scariest book on this list by far.

jekyll and hyde

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde– coming back to London, this classic tale is pure entertainment and a sign that sometimes the darkest creatures can be closer to home than we think…

And on that note, I’ll be bringing this list to an end… *MWHAHAHAHA*! Don’t know if that’s the most appropriate place for a “MWHAHAHAHA”… Moving swiftly on! Have you read any of these? Do you love any classic scary stories? Let me know in the comments!