I have compiled a list of books that I have received for review over the past few years to keep track of them all. Although I don’t see myself getting through them all any time soon, if ever, it’s nice to have them all recorded in one place; books in bold are of the highest priority. I will remove books as they are read and reviewed, adding to the list as appropriate. Continue reading
Received from NetGalley for review.
POPSUGAR Reading Challenge: prompt #25, a book set at sea.
“In my heart, I’m as wild as the ocean that raised me.”
Princess Lira is a lethal siren who has the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection – one for every year she has been alive – but finds herself transformed into a human and outcast by her mother, the Sea Queen, unless she can bring her the heart of Elian, the prince of Midas. Lira thinks her task will be easy, she’s a ruthless killer who hates human, but she finds herself delaying Elian’s death, initially because her human body is weak, and then because a tentative friendship begins to form between her and Elian (and his crew), and we all know how that plays out…
“…I let it all fall away. My mission, my kingdom. The world. They exist somewhere other than in this moment, and now there is only this. Me, my ship, and a girl with oceans in her eyes.”
Yes, the storyline is predictable. The romance even more so. But, To Kill a Kingdom is such good fun, and the writing so lovely, that it really doesn’t matter. Killer sirens that physically rip hearts from a human’s chest, siren-hunting princes that are more like pirates, actual pirates, magic, ancient powers, the might and cruelty of the sea…it all makes for one hell of a novel and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Lira and Elian, and Elian’s crew on the Saad.
“They celebrate love as though it’s power, even though it has killed far more humans than I ever have.”
Predictability aside, I really enjoyed this novel. I loved Lira and her unapologetic fierceness, I loved Elian when the arrogant prince demeanour fell away, and I loved Elian’s crew (Kye, Madrid, and Torik are as precious as murderous pirates can be). There were some surprises in the plot throughout, but the real draw for me was the beautiful writing – I was there every moment with Lira and Elian, soaking up that salty sea air – and the characters, who I think Christo has crafted magnificently. They are so believable in every way and the way they trust and love one other is so lovely to read; no character felt flat or unnecessary. This really is an astounding debut – the story has depth without being difficult to read or understand, and the characters feel so real. I can’t wait to see what Christo writes next.
“In the pits of our souls – if I amuse myself with the notion that I have a soul – Elian and I aren’t so different. Two kingdoms that come with responsibilities we each have trouble bearing. Him, the shackles of being pinned to one land and one life. Me, trapped in the confines of my mother’s murderous legacy. And the ocean, calling out to us both. A song of freedom and longing.”
Read: March 4th-11th 2018
The Children of Willesden Lane by Mona Golabek
Received from NetGalley for review.
He paused to take a breath. ‘And there were no sirens. They wanted everything to burn.’
The Children of Willesden Lane is another great addition to the wealth of memoirs and accounts of World War II. Golabek tells the story of her mother as a Jewish teenager in Vienna; Lisa is a musical prodigy who finds herself sent to England with thousands of other Jewish children through the Kindertransport, an organised rescue effort to get them out of Nazi Europe and to safety. Through Lisa’s eyes we see how the Nazi regime affected Jewish citizens, even those who managed to get away from Nazi occupation, and the worry and confusion that comes with it.
Through her music, however, Lisa is able to find amazing bravery and resilience, as are the other inhabitants of Willesden Lane, who find inspiration from Lisa and each other to work hard and persevere. There is so much courage and hope throughout the novel, and it really shows how brave people of all ages had to be during the war – Lisa may have escaped the terror of Hitler’s regime but there were still obstacles to overcome and hardships to endure, and I liked how the novel showed that perspective of the war.
It was odd, she thought, how being with others like herself made her fears easier to endure.
Read: January 19th 2018
The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
Received from NetGalley for review.
Look until the leaves turn red, sew the worlds up with thread. If your journey’s left undone, fear the rising of the sun.
The Hazel Wood is trippy as fuck. I wish I had a more eloquent way to put it, but I really don’t. A reclusive author, being followed by bad luck, the mysterious Hazel Wood estate, dark fairy tale characters coming to life, the Hinterland bleeding into the everyday. It’s like you’ve had just a few too many drinks – I spent the first 70% of the novel wondering what the hell was going on, but still enjoying every moment of the bizarre journey Alice was undertaking as she desperately tried to find her mother. It’s creepy and mysterious and wonderful.
Alice was an interesting character to read as she’s pretty unlikeable most of the time; she’s angry, guarded, and can be ignorant (police incident with Finch, I’m looking at you), but I found myself rooting for her at the end and I do think she grew as a character as she learned more about herself. Finch, on the other hand, was adorable and I loved him, even if his motivations sometimes seemed a bit misguided, and Janet was a brilliant character as well.
I’ve read a lot of reviews by people who found this book boring and I can see how it might be seen as long-winded road trip, but, even though it is definitely a slow burner in places, I was kept hooked by the mystery of the Hazel Wood and the Hinterland.
Read: February 25th-March 1st 2018
The Inner Beauty Bible by Laurey Simmons
POPSUGAR Reading Challenge: prompt #22, a book with alliteration in the title → I have never been a massively spiritual person, but I have always been open minded and felt a strong affinity with the natural world and its healing potential, as well as its beauty. Although I found some of the rituals in The Inner Beauty Bible too entrenched in a spiritual lifestyle, I love the way Laurey Simmons frames the world and the emphasis that she has placed on ancient and multicultural teachings about nature and inner beauty. In this chaotic, stressful world I think it’s really important to be able to disconnect from the madness and pressures placed on us, even if all that involves is a walk, hot bath, or a nice candle, and there are some lovely suggestions here about slowing down, taking a breath, and nourishing that inner awesome.
Read: January 28th 2018
Sky Song by Abi Elphinstone
The Sky Song was the call of Eska’s tribe, built of wild, unexpected things – Erkenbears, eagles, giants, inventors, little lost girls and the Sky Gods themselves – and it was the fiercest sound of all.
Well, consider me an emotional wreck. This is such a beautiful story, full of magic, wonder, and the power of both stories and friendships, and I was enamoured with Eska and her world from the very first sentence.
Read: February 18th-23rd 2018
4.5/5 stars stars
“You have to make more noise than anybody else, you have to make yourself more obtrusive than anybody else, you have to fill all the papers more than anybody else, in fact you have to be there all the time and see that they do not snow you under.” – Emmeline Pankhurst
Make More Noise! has been published to coincide with the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage – when some women were finally able to vote in Britain. The stories have been written by established and new voices within children’s literature, and they all celebrate strong, inspiring female characters throughout the ages, both fictional and real. As well as celebrating women’s suffrage, and the continuing battle for worldwide equality, £1 from the sale of every book goes directly to Camfed, which tackles poverty and inequality by supporting women’s education in developing countries.
“Women everywhere are fighting this. We’re coming together, and we’re kicking, and we’re shouting, and we’re marching, and we’re speaking, and we won’t be silenced. And we will win.” – Out for the Count
Out for the Count by Sally Nichols – 5/5 stars. 2nd April 1911, the census. Women all over the country walked out of their houses and refused to be counted for the census if they wouldn’t be counted for the vote. An excellent insight into what was happening during 1911, what the suffragettes were fighting for, and the horrendous inequality of the time.
“And I think if we want to discover the secrets of life and make something important, we shouldn’t have to listen to people that tell us what we are supposed or not supposed to do.” – The Bug Hunters
The Bug Hunters by M.G. Leonard – 5/5 stars. Oh, I loved this. Sofia, who loves bugs and nature, has to move and attend a new school, where the other children promptly mock her for her love of bugs. The children are really cruel, and it saddens me that children can be that horrible and judgemental, even at eleven. Beatrice, however, shows Sofia kindness despite being labelled as the ‘weird kid’, and I was practically tearing up when Bea got up to do Show and Tell about Maria Merian.
All Things Bright and Beautiful by Patrice Lawrence – 4.5/5 stars. Such a harrowing and hopeful story about the plight of working and living conditions of girls and women in the Victorian era, and the exposure Olive Malvery gave them.
The Green-Hearted Girl by Kiran Millwood Hargrave – 4.5/5 stars. A broken-hearted weather witch, a sea of tears, tree people, a green-hearted girl. A wonderful myth-like story about overcoming differences.
“If you want things to change, you’ve got to speak up. You have to fight for what you want.” – Tea and Jam
Tea and Jam by Katherine Woodfine – 4.5/5 stars. Another suffrage-era story, with Eveline, a young maid, having her eyes opened to the suffragette movement and the different ways that equality can be fought for.
“I may not reflect the old-fashioned notion of feminine beauty, but why should there be only one kind?” – On Your Bike (perhaps not such a strange or radical notion in 2018, but in 1894? Annie was making waves and smashing those glass ceilings).
On Your Bike by Jeanne Willis – 4.5/5 stars. Annie Londonderry became the first woman to cycle around the world, proving most of the world wrong after two wealthy men made a wager that a woman would never be able to do it. A truly inspiring story.
The Tuesday Afternoon Ghost by Ella Risbridger – 4.5/5 stars. Maybe a ghost story, maybe not, this is all about the power of stories and how they’re told and believed.
The Otter Path by Emma Carroll – 5/5 stars. A lovely war-time story about not assuming you know everything about someone, and realising that there’s often something going on beneath the surface. Plus, otters!
The Race by Ally Kennen – 4.5/5 stars. A young girl staying on a farm with five rambunctious male cousins and her eccentric aunt and uncle who starts off whiney and quiet? I wasn’t expecting to love this as much as I did, but then it turned into this wonderful tale of Faith finding herself and being true to who she really is. So heart-warming and inspiring.
“Honestly, all these people sitting round saying something should be done, and doing nothing! We’re different. We discuss, decide and then do something!” – Discuss, Decide, Do
Discuss, Decide, Do by Catherine Johnson – 5/5 stars. Post-war Britain, The 43 Group, standing up and fighting against fascism, bullying, and racism. A very powerful ending to this excellent collection of short stories.
If I’ve taken anything away from this collection, it’s that you can never just stand by and hope things will get better, or that people will become less ignorant. We have to affect change if we want it to happen. Make sure you use your voice in any way you can, any way that is safe. Stand against cruelty, nastiness, bullying, inequality, dehumanisation. Don’t just stand by and watch: make more noise, until they listen.
Read: February 14th-18th 2018
Received from NetGalley for review.
POPSUGAR Reading Challenge: prompt #34, a book that’s published in 2018.
If I cannot be better than them, I will be so much worse.
I won’t lie – I want to live in Faerie. Even with all the danger, the intrigue, the trickery, the brutality, I love it. And I especially love Holly Black’s imaginings of the Fae world. The Cruel Prince is full of darkness and cruelty, non-stop action, moves and counter-moves, and I was living for it.
Jude is a mortal, stolen away to Elfhame after the murder of her parents, with her twin Taryn, and half-fae sister Vivi, by Vivi’s father, Madoc. Although Madoc protects and loves Jude and Taryn, they are seen very much as ‘other’ amongst the Fae and have to protect themselves against enchantments, Fae food, and glamours. Throughout the novel, Jude struggles with wanting to fit in with the Fae whilst being aware of how dangerous they can be; most of the other Fae are rude or cruel to Jude and Taryn (especially Prince Cardan and his cronies), and Jude can’t help but rise to the bait, which usually makes things worse.
I can see why humans succumb to the beautiful nightmare of the Court, why they willingly drown in it.
I loved Jude – she is smart, sarcastic, tough, and relatable as a teenage girl trying to find her place. She wants nothing more than to become a knight and serve the High King, but soon finds herself embroiled in the messy world of politics, and surrounded by murderers, thieves, and rogues – she has to try and be smarter than the Fae, more cunning that centuries old immortals who have no time or inclination for human kindness. I also loved Prince Cardan, though I’m still not sure whether I’m meant to or not. He has the whole beautiful, cruel, and brooding thing going on, with the hint of something deeper beneath the surface. I’m a sucker for a pretty Fae prince.
Storms are less fickle than they are, seas less capricious.
Although the novel didn’t quite play out like I wanted it to – the last one hundred pages or so were a bit hit and miss for me – I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I know anyone interested in the world of Fae, or Holly Black’s previous novels, will do too. It’s an incredibly twisty plot, full of politics and intrigue and cut-throat Fae, and I fell in love with the characters and their murky alliances.
Read: February 8th-12th 2018
Received from NetGalley for review.
Received for free through Goodreads First Reads.
POPSUGAR Reading Challenge: prompt #16, a book about mental health.
I’m not sad. That’s too small. A tiny word.
I read the The Taste of Blue Light and it felt like stepping inside my own head as I read Lux’s stream-of-consciousness narrative. Although my experience with mental illness is vastly different in circumstance to Lux’s, the building blocks of it were there; the feeling of not knowing how it happened, not being able to trust your mind, feeling trapped and suffering with no idea why, no reason that you can fathom when you know that your life is good. I think Ruffles has created an incredibly important novel regarding mental health and how (although Lux’s is the result of a trauma) it can sometimes go wrong with no reason.
I knew nobody had ever felt how we did. If they had, they never would have grown up. They’d have kept writing, painting, flying like Peter Pan, scared to land in case touching their feet to the ground ruptured the magic, making them old and scared and slow.
I loved how Lux recognised her own privilege and struggled to accept her mental health because she couldn’t see a reason for it. After blacking out and waking up in hospital she knows something has happened to her, she can’t remember and can’t understand how a night out gone too far has left her with crippling migraines and anxiety – she is white, she is wealthy, she is at a prestigious art school for those not suited to ‘normal’ academia, so why should she be suffering in any way? And I feel that so hard. There is not always a reason and I think it is so important for that to be explored, as well as showing that people suffering from mental illness can be extremely difficult to be around. Even when she was unaware of what happened to her, Lux’s feelings were still valid – mental illness does not discriminate, it does not care what your circumstances are or who you are.
It doesn’t always help to know that you are privileged. To know it and fail to feel it means you are even more broken.
For me, this novel was an incredibly realistic portrayal of mental illness and the long, slow, and hard road to recovery – learning to live again in a way that works, in a way that is no longer the same is so difficult, and Lux stumbles a lot as she tries to put her self back together. She is in no way perfect, and although she has the luxury of loving, wealthy parents who can provide her a home, she still has to overcome what happened to her, especially when she remembers what happened on the night she blacked out.
The story is full of me, gifts and shrapnel, smudges and shadows, starting to reveal themselves.
Read: January 27th-February 3rd 2018
The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane & Jackie Morris
This is such a wonderful, whimsical book, full of the delights of the natural world. It is visually stunning; the illustrations and acrostic poems that describe the various animals and foliage work together incredibly well and create a real sense of magic. Reading the book is truly like casting a spell and conjuring up the beauty and the wildness of the countryside. Adults and children alike will adore this, and I can only hope that the words within are not being lost by younger generations.
Read: January 13th 2018
The Freedom Writers Diary by Erin Gruwell
‘…in spite of it all, people are really good at heart.’ – Anne Frank
This is an incredible book. It is so moving and inspiring to read all that Erin Gruwell and the Freedom Writers achieved, and the lives that were changed in the process.
Read: January 13th 2018
Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed
POPSUGAR Reading Challenge: prompt #37, a book you meant to read in 2017 → this is undoubtedly one of the most disturbing dystopias I have ever read; an island cult where women are suppressed in every way, where daughters are raped by their fathers until they are old enough to breed, where patriarchy and control has gone mad. I was horrified by this compelling story, by the possibility of reality in tales such as this, but I can’t help but be disappointed that the ending did not go as I had hoped, although I suppose that’s the way of life, and those who seek to control it.
Read: January 20th-21st 2018