The Mud and Stars Book Blog

thoughts from a girl who spends her days in other worlds…

Self-care tips for book bloggers

Hello, you lovely people, and a happy Friday to you!

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been struggling with blogging recently, and with reading too. I’m feeling burned-out and tired, which prevents me from enjoying reading as much as I normally do, and as for blogging… that feels impossible.

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A lot of the way I’m feeling is due to my anxiety, but all of us can feel this way at times, regardless of mental health issues, because book-blogging, though we love it, can be stressful and overwhelming.

FOR EXAMPLE…

Sometimes we find ourselves drowning in a sea of ARCs, and, although ARCs are an honour and a privilege, drowning isn’t fun for anyone.

Sometimes we have a million things we WANT to read, but can’t, because of all the books we HAVE to read, so we spend hours staring at our shelves in a state of panic, not reading anything at all.

Sometimes, we don’t want to read, and we just want to watch Netflix, y’know?

All of these things make it pretty damn difficult to keep up with our blogs, and feel calm.

But, there are lots of little things we can do to help ourselves when we feel like we’re crumbling under this pressure.

Those little things are small, but vital, acts of self-care.

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As somebody who suffers from anxiety and depression, I have come to appreciate just how important self-care is when I’m feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and exhausted. Self-care can be anything from scheduling time for relaxation, to saying ‘no’ to things when I’m not feeling well enough to do them.

But looking after yourself is important no matter what the state of your mental health might be. Putting yourself first is not selfish, it’s not weak, and your health is entirely more important than your blog, at the end of the day.

If you are finding book-blogging stressful and overwhelming in any way right now, here are some self-care tips (with a bookish/blogging slant) that you might find helpful. 😊


GIVE YOURELF TIME TO RELAX

Get into a blanket/onesie/cosy get-up of you choosing, surround yourself with snacks and beverages, turn off your phone, ignore your loved ones(!), and spend some quality time with a book. Reading a book just for fun – one that you have no intention of reviewing – removes all pressure from your reading experience.

If you decide, afterwards, that you want to review the book, you can, but go in telling yourself that this is for pure enjoyment, nothing more, and you’ll find the whole thing so much more relaxing.

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SAY NO

Learning to say no is extremely important if you are feeling overwhelmed. It is okay to put yourself, and your health, first.

It’s okay to say no to review requests, and if you have ALL THE ARCS stacked on top of you, Buckaroo stylee, however tempting it may be, DO NOT, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, REQUEST ANY MORE. It’s extra pressure that you don’t need right now, and that book will be there waiting for you later down the line, once it has been released, and you actually have the time and energy to read it.

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STOP BUYING BOOKS

I know, I know, this sounds like sacrilege. But, similarly to being approved for a bunch of ARCs you don’t have the time or inclination to read, having lots of unread books on your shelf can be really overwhelming if you’re feeling low. And, if you’re buying more books every week, no matter how gloriously shiny their covers may be, you’re just adding to the problem.

Ban yourself from buying books, and focus on reading the ones you’ve got. If you don’t feel like reading any of them at the moment, do something else – it will be healthier for you to watch a bit of TV, or have a relaxing bath, than try to struggle through a book you’re not into, feeling increasingly guiltier about it with every page. And, if you want to treat yourself to a pick-me-up,  you can always spend your money on something other than a book; chocolate, wine, bubble bath, stationary… basically comforting things that you don’t have to read.

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So, if you find yourself drawn to a bookshop, wrench yourself away; you’ll feel far better about yourself, and your shelves, if you do.


DITCH THE NEW RELEASES

As book-bloggers, we constantly feel pressure to read the books that EVERYONE is talking about. But we don’t HAVE to read them RIGHT NOW if the pressure is getting to us. Those books don’t have a sell-by date. We’ll get to them when we’re ready.

Re-reading an old favourite book instead can be a real treat, and there is no pressure involved, because we don’t need to decide how we feel about the book, and what star rating to give it – we already know we adore it, and that it will do our mental health the world of good.

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DO A BOOK TAG

Book tags are fun, and approx. a million times less pressurised than writing a book review where you have to analyse the crap out of everything.

If book tags are too much for you right now, that’s absolutely fine, but if you sit down and give one a go, just for fun, you might find yourself getting back into the swing of things.

Plus, book tags generally contain more gif-usage and more fangirling than reviews, both of which are highly efficient at boosting your endorphin levels. FACT.

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DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP

This is easier said than done – I beat myself up constantly – but remind yourself that NOBODY IS JUDGING YOU EXCEPT FOR YOURSELF. Nobody is looking at your blog and thinking ‘what a failure, she never posts anymore, compared to I, superwoman, who whacks out a post every day of the week.’

Superwoman is too busy doing Superwoman to notice, so you just do you… whatever you have to offer is enough for now, and makes you Superwoman/man in my eyes.

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HAVE A BREAK

Take a hiatus if you need one. You can announce it, if that makes you feel more comfortable, but if you don’t want to, there is no shame in going off-road for a while, without telling anyone. YOU DO NOT NEED TO EXPLAIN YOURSELF.

The blogging community isn’t going anywhere, and you will not be forgotten, but if you’re worried about disappearing, you can always keep in contact with everyone by liking or commenting on their posts (which is a lot easier than writing your own when you’re feeling burned out.)

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LOOK AFTER YOURSELF IN GENERAL

This is not related to books or blogging, but if you are feeling low, basic things can feel impossible, let alone keeping up with a hobby. Eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep, getting some exercise, and breathing fresh air are all vital, and do as much good for your mental health as they do your physical health.

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I hope these tips have been helpful, and that some of them work for you! 😊 Do you have any self-care tips for when you’re feeling overwhelmed? I’d love to hear from you.

Wishing you all a lovely weekend filled with books and cake!

Gif credit: Giphy

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The Ben & Jerry’s Book Tag

Hi everyone! Sorry for my (unannounced) hiatus of approx three weeks. I’ve missed you all lots, and hope your days since we last spoke have been filled with good books, snuggly blankets, and gigantic tubs of ice-cream. You deserve those things! ❤

I’m struggling to keep up with blogging (and reading) at the moment due to good old anxiety, so I’m not going to make any promises about posting more regularly this month… But for now, I thought I’d do a book tag, because book tags are fun, and I haven’t done a single one so far in 2017.

I was tagged for this one by The Orangutan Librarian, and I’m ashamed to say this was actually over a year ago! Better late than never, I guess 😊 Please go check out her fantastic blog immediately – she’s one of my favourite book bloggers, and if you’re not already following her, you are very silly 😝


 VANILLA CARAMEL FUDGE: PICK A LIGHT, FLUFFY CONTEMPORARY

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Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. I’ve loved all of Stephanie’s books, but Anna was by far my favourite. I loved the Paris setting (Paris being one of my favourite places on this planet we call Earth), I loved Anna (because she was dorky and funny and relatable), and I loved Etienne (because I couldn’t help but make swoony eyes whenever he appeared on the page).


MINT CHOCOLATE COOKIE: A NEW RELEASE THAT YOU WISH EVERYBODY WOULD READ

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Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney. I just finished reading this book, and I could NOT put it down. I have been getting a bit bored with psych thrillers recently because they’re all so samey and predictable, but this one surprised me, and had some very interesting, very screwed up, characters. It’s narrated by a woman in a coma, so it also has a creepy, claustrophobic feel, which made the reading experience unbearably tense, in the best possible way. And, most importantly, I DID NOT PREDICT THE ENDING.


CHERRY GARCIA: AN ENDING THAT WAS BITTERSWEET

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling. There’s an overwhelming feeling of triumph, but an undercurrent of loss. I knew not everyone would make it out alive, but some of those deaths still SLAY me today.


STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE: A BOOK CONTAINING YOUR OTP OF OTPS

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It’s a toss up between City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare (because I just can’t with all my fluffy Malec feels) and Carry On (because I also have pretty intense Simon and Baz feels). #dilemma


MILK AND COOKIES: TWO AUTHORS THAT IF THEY COLLABORATED, THEY WOULD GO PERFECTLY TOGETHER

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Sara Barnard and Holly Bourne. These ladies are two of my favourite UKYA authors, and both prioritise female friendship over romance in their books, which I think is just FABULOUS. Both have also written about characters with anxiety issues, which is something I relate to, too hard, and both did so in realistic, poignant, yet often humorous ways. I think these two authors would write a wonderful collaboration, filled with smart, funny, and extremely relatable young women.


BOSTON CREAM PIE: A BOOK THAT HAD YOU TURNING YOUR PAGES LATE INTO THE NIGHT

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The Magpies by Mark Edwards. This was the first thriller I ever read, and I remember finishing it in a single sitting. It’s about a couple who move into a new flat, and start getting harassed by their next-door neighbours. The harassment gets worse and worse, creepier and creepier, and, let’s just say, there’s a scene involving spiders mid-way through the book that legit gave me nightmares. So many thrillers fail to be SCARY, but this one nailed it. I highly recommend all of Mark Edwards’ books. He always has such original concepts, which stand out in the overcrowded thriller market.


CHOCOLATE THERAPY: A BOOK THAT MAKES YOU FEEL BETTER AFTER A LONG DAY OF LIFE

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Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. This book only came out in 2015, but I’ve already read it several times. It’s my go-to book when I’ve had a rubbish day because Simon and Blue’s adorable romance never fails to make me feel all happy and fluffy inside.


COFFEE, COFFEE, BUZZBUZZBUZZ!: A BOOK NOT YET RELEASED THAT YOU CAN’T WAIT TO GET YOUR HANDS ON

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Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare. I absolutely adore all of Cassandra Clare’s books, and Lady Midnight last year was no exception. I’m so excited to read the sequel – I picked up a free sample of the first chapter in Waterstones the other day, and I may or may not have squealed. I’m planning on re-reading Lady Midnight over the next month in preparation. I’m so excited for more Emma and Julian, more cameos from Malec (pretty please?), but mainly more Mark Blackthorn. #swoon


I’m not going to tag anybody, because, as I mentioned, this tag has been floating around in my shameful list of tags-I-haven’t-done-because-I-suck for over a year. However, if you feel so inclined, feel free to give this tag a go, and link me to your answers, so I can find bookish inspiration, and spend further time fantasizing about ice-cream. ❤

6 Comments »

Psychological thriller: Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land (ARC book review)

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Good Me Bad Me. Ali Land. Michael Joseph. January 2017.

‘NEW NAME .
NEW FAMILY.
SHINY.
NEW.
ME.’

Annie’s mother is a serial killer.

The only way she can make it stop is to hand her in to the police.

But out of sight is not out of mind.

As her mother’s trial looms, the secrets of her past won’t let Annie sleep, even with a new foster family and name – Milly.

A fresh start. Now, surely, she can be whoever she wants to be.

But Milly’s mother is a serial killer. And blood is thicker than water.

Good me, bad me.

She is, after all, her mother’s daughter…


Thank you to Netgalley and Michael Joseph for providing me with a digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Trigger warning: child abuse, self harm

You know the sick-to-the-stomach feeling you get when you read about some really horrific crime in the newspaper? This is the feeling I had all the way through reading this book.. It was a very uncomfortable reading experience, and whilst I cannot deny that it is a good book (I rated it 4 stars), I’m not sure ‘enjoyed’ would be an accurate way to describe how I felt about it.

When I requested this book, I had no idea that it had anything to do with child abuse. It turns out, the entire plot revolves around it! The blurb doesn’t mention the fact that the serial killer mum’s victims are all children, and I have to admit, I probably would not have requested the book if I had known. However, I’m glad I left my comfort zone and gave this book a go, because these things do happen in real life, and the stories of those victims do need to be told. This book, in my opinion, does an excellent job of portraying them (although of course, having never experienced abuse myself, I cannot testify as to whether this is a truthful and accurate representation.)

This was a very well written book. A real strength of the writing was that the descriptions of abuse and violence were never gratuitous – things are always implied, rather than painted explicitly, but these parts were always so cleverly done that I knew EXACTLY what was being implied every time, and the pictures my imagination conjured up were horrific enough.

The narrator of this book – Annie (or Milly, as she is renamed when she moves in with her foster family) – was such a psychologically complex character. I think Ali Land did a fabulous job of portraying a survivor of child abuse, and the confused, conflicting emotions she battles with daily – her disgust and fear over what her mum has done, as well as the love she stills feels for her mum, and her deep-seated need to defend her, impress her, and become the person she raised her to be.

I think the most interesting thing about this book was the way it explored how our upbringing can damage us – how we learn from the examples we are set, and the boundaries we are given. I found a lot of Milly’s behaviour in this book very worrying; I felt she was missing certain qualities, such as empathy, that she might have developed if only she’d come from a stable and loving home, and she had no clue about boundaries when it came to her interactions with other people. It was disturbing to see the way her brain worked, yet, at the same time, terribly sad.  I was rooting for Milly, but, at the same time, praying someone would stop her before she went too far.

This book isn’t action packed, and it isn’t full of twists and turns, but I couldn’t put it down, because it was so interesting to see the way Milly’s character developed as her mother’s trial date loomed nearer. Although Milly’s mother is physically absent from Milly’s life, because she’s in prison, she is a huge, domineering presence in the story, and Milly remains under her manipulative influence; her mother is present in her every thought and action. The way Milly interacted with her mother in her head was one of the most fascinating aspects of the story, and the way this relationship was portrayed was very powerful.

The ending of this book didn’t shock me, because I saw it coming, but I did find it unsettling, and that’s something I appreciate in a psychological thriller. I was, however, left with a rather desolate feeling, which I experienced pretty relentlessly throughout the rest of the book as well. I had to reach for something light and fluffy as soon as I had finished it!

If you like books with complex characters and complex relationships, which leave you feeling all kinds of disturbed, I highly recommend this book. It’s a well-crafted story, and even though it made me feel pretty sick at some of the things that happen in this world, I’m still glad I had the opportunity to read it, as it was so well executed.

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Another book haul because Jess has no willpower at all…

At the start of the year, I made a vow to myself that, until I had read some of the books I already owned, I would resist buying any more books, apart from a select list of new releases I would ‘allow’ myself to pick up throughout the year.

This book haul contains eleven books, and only three of them were on the aforementioned list…

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I think it’s fair to say I have no will power at all when it comes to buying books. But in my defence, I’m a book blogger; it’s in our blood.

Here are all the books I hauled in January and February:


Caraval by Stephanie Garber

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This book was one of my most anticipated reads of 2017, and I’m delighted to say that it has been MY FAVOURITE BOOK OF THE YEAR SO FAR. You can read my review here. Spoiler alert: contains gushing.


Slade House by David Mitchell

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I’ve had my eye on this book for a while, as I love literary horror, and I’ve heard great things about David Mitchell’s writing. This novel is about a house where, every nine years, something very-sinister-indeed takes place. I’m so excited to find out what that sinister something is.


After Me Comes the Flood by Sarah Perry

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I picked this book up because it has a really cool and creepy concept: it’s about a man who stumbles upon an old house when his car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, and, when he goes to seek help from the residents of said house, discovers that they all know his name, and have been waiting for him to turn up for a very long time. #creepy

Sarah Perry won the Waterstones Book of the Year with her latest novel, The Essex Serpent, so I’m expecting excellent things from the writing too.


A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

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I hunted everywhere for this book because one of my favourite booktubers, Katie at Chapterstackss, really enjoyed this one. This book is about a family who find themselves the focus of a reality TV show called The Possession when their local priest advises them that their fourteen-year-old daughter has become the victim of a demonic possession. This book sounds SO interesting!

As an aside, if you enjoy horror novels and need recommendations, check out Katie’s channel, because she is a fountain of wisdom when it comes to this genre.


Unconventional by Maggie Harcourt

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I discovered this book when I was browsing in the Waterstones YA section, and it sounds PERFECT. The main character is a girl whose dad owns an events business, and who has grown up helping out at SciFi/Fantasy conventions. The love interest is a ‘messy haired and annoyingly arrogant’ author. If this book lives up to my expectations, I am going to fall all kinds of in love with it.


The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

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This book is SO BEAUTIFUL. I wanted to read it anyway because it’s set in a snowy landscape (which is something I adore in a book), it’s based around Russian folklore (intriguing), and according to the blurb, it contains a creepy forest (I cannot resist a creepy forest). When I saw the glorious cover, however, it leapt from a want-to-read to MUST-read!


Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

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I have been meaning to read this book for the longest time. I LOVE magical realism, and so many people whose bookish opinions I respect have enjoyed this one. I’ve also heard that the writing is beautiful, and there is an element of creepiness… SOLD.


A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

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This book is about the diary of a Japanese girl that washes ashore on a beach in Canada, and the impact the diary has on the woman who finds it. This concept is really fascinating to me, and I’ve wanted to read this book for years, as I remember being impressed by the first few pages when I picked it up in a bookshop many moons ago. It was nominated for the Mann Booker Prize at the time, too, so I feel very intellectual having bought it, tbh.


History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

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Adam Silvera’s new book was, of course, on my list of new releases I am ‘allowed’ to buy this year! I was blown away by his debut novel, More Happy Than Not, and I’ve heard this one packs just as big an emotional punch. I have extremely high expectations for this book!


Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

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CW at Read Think Ponder wrote a fantastic review for this book, and it has been on my TBR ever since. This is a supernatural horror set in a small town, and sounds like it explores some interesting themes too. I love it when a horror novel has so much more to it than simple shocks and scares, so I’m really excited to read this one!


My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella

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Sophie Kinsella is one of my favourite authors, if not my FAVOURITE author of all time, and I own every single one of her books; this was always going to be an auto-buy for me. What I love about Sophie’s books is that they are light-hearted, but they are done so well. She doesn’t just churn out bland, samey rubbish like some authors in her genre – her characterisation is always excellent and her writing is hilarious. Her books never fail to make me smile, and are perfect for when I need some cheering up.


So, that’s it for my January/February haul. I would say that you might not see one next month, because I’m going to try and exercise some restraint, but that would probably be a BIG, FAT LIE.

Have you read any of these books? Which books did you pick up this month? I’d love to hear from you!

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All the reasons you must, must, MUST read ‘Caraval’ by Stephanie Garber

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Caraval. Stephanie Garber. Hodder and Stoughton. January 2017.

Whatever you’ve heard about Caraval, it doesn’t compare to the reality. It’s more than just a game or a performance. It’s the closest you’ll ever find to magic in this world . . . 

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.


Whatever you’ve heard about this book, it doesn’t compare to the reality: Caraval completely blew me away, and is without a doubt my favourite read of the year so far! I’m as wary of hyped books as the next person, but I promise you, this time, the hype is justified.

I was always destined to rate Caraval 5 stars because it contains all of things I find irresistible in a book: a unique concept, a mysterious island, a strong sibling bond, a sprinkle of magic on every page, and the strange and sinister atmosphere of a nightmare that could easily real. I loved everything about this book, and I’ll almost certainly re-read it before the end of the year.

The writing in Caraval is so luscious and atmospheric. It manages to be beautiful without being flowery, simply by building a vivid picture out of all the small, enchanting details each sentence is loaded with. This is a quality book. Reading it feels like tucking into the most decadent, indulgent dessert you can imagine, built with layer upon layer of wicked, chocolatey deliciousness. It’s the kind of book you’ll want to curl up in a blanket with and read as slowly as you can, savouring every line.

As well as the gorgeous writing, Caraval is full of mystery, and I was forming new theories about how everything was connected with every page. Caraval isn’t a predictable book in any way – it’s a book where you don’t know what’s going to happen, but you’re excited to find out, because literally anything could. The storytelling was fabulous; there was something interesting happening on every page, and nearly every chapter ended on a cliffhanger. There was no point at which the story dragged, and I never once got distracted by how many pages or chapters I had left to go – I wanted this book to go on forever. I was also thrilled that the book got darker as the storyline unfolded, and I loved the way Caraval developed from something light and magical into something intense and sinister that I felt Scarlett needed to get the hell away from asap.

By far the most fascinating aspect of this book was the game of Caraval itself. I loved the fact that I was never quite sure what was real and what was an illusion. I loved that things felt dangerous, even when on the surface they seemed glossy and too-good-to-be-true. I loved that I couldn’t trust ANYONE that Scarlett met, or spent time with, on the island where Caraval took place. I also LOVED all of the imaginative detail that went into building the world of the game. I don’t want to say too much about it, because I don’t want to spoil anything; it will be far more magical if you discover it all for yourself.

I absolutely adored the mystery of Legend: Who was the man behind the game? What were his motives? Had we met him during the course of the game? What kind of disguise was he wearing? There were so many layers to Legend’s character, as well as every other character within the novel. Nobody was what they seemed, and just when I thought I’d got somebody figured out, the novel would have yet another trick hidden up its sleeve, and my head would be left reeling.

One of my absolute favourite things about this novel was the bond between Scarlett and Tella. These sisters were completely different, yet devoted to one another. I loved their fierce protectiveness of each other, forged during a dangerous childhood spent trying to survive the twisted, abusive games their father played with them. Both of their characters leapt off the page for me. I definitely related to Scarlett the most – she was reserved, uptight, and cautious, yet driven by loyalty and love. Tella was the more reckless, whirlwind type, but she also had her sister’s best interests at heart in everything she did.

All in all, this book was spellbinding, mesmerising, and I could probably fill several more paragraphs with praiseful adjectives like these ones. I was, quite simply, obsessed with this book, and it’s already a strong contender for my favourite book of the year. The epilogue of this book has me desperately hoping there will be a sequel, because it presents yet another mystery I’m dying to unravel. I need more Caraval in my life, like yesterday.

In conclusion: Caraval lives up to the hype in every way, and you must, must, MUST read it immediately.

16 Comments »

What I’ve been reading: some mini reviews!

Hihihi everybody and a happy Friday to you! Hope you’re all having a smashing one. I’ve been super busy recently, and I haven’t had time to fully review all of the books I’ve wanted to, so I thought I’d bring you some mini reviews today instead. Here goes…


Heart Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne

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My rating: 3.5 stars

(Read the blurb here.)

Heart Shaped Bruise was the first book I read this year, and it was an intriguing, character driven story. I was expecting this book to be more of a psychological thriller, but really I’d describe it as a character study, because it’s not action-packed. That’s not to say it isn’t entertaining, though! The story follows a girl named Emily who is serving time in the psychiatric wing of a young offender’s institute. In a loose diary format, she relates the story of how she came to commit her offence.

Emily made this story, because she was such a psychologically fascinating, complex character. Emily has done something pretty awful (although we don’t find out straight away the nature of her crime), and she has shown a complete lack of remorse for her actions. Despite this, I liked Emily, because her narrative was so compelling that I felt I was on her side, even when I couldn’t morally agree with her twisted actions. I felt her hurt, and her desperate desire for revenge, and somehow, I couldn’t condemn her.

This book really made me think about crime, and our tendency to judge those who commit it by the crime alone. Something which was really interesting about this book was that, apart from Emily’s, we don’t learn the crimes of any of the girls staying in the institute. We are forced, instead, to form opinions of them based on everything but the things they have done wrong.

I definitely recommend this book if you’re looking for a story with complex, gritty characterisation! Emily is a character I won’t be forgetting in a hurry.


Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik

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My rating: 4.5 stars

(Read the blurb here.)

I read this book when I was in need of something light-hearted and entertaining, and it delivered and then some. I’d never read a book with a Muslim protagonist before, but if you are looking for an own voices book with Muslim representation, I highly recommend this one.

This book has been described as the ‘Muslim Bridget Jones’, because it’s written in diary format, and is about a woman in her thirties navigating the dating scene (and hiding a smoking habit from a family who desperately want her to get married!) Sofia isn’t much like Bridget aside from this, though she now has just as big a place in my heart. She’s stubborn, sometimes prickly (but in a loveable way), and is often treated satirically, as she’s not always aware of how amusing her behaviour is. I loved all of the side characters in this book, and Sofia’s observations, particularly about her family and their chaotic dynamics, constantly had me giggling.

I didn’t know anything about the Muslim dating scene before reading this book, but I really enjoyed the humorous way Ayisha Malik depicted it, and Sofia certainly meets some interesting characters along the way! My prediction about who Sofia would end up with turned out to be wrong, which almost never happens to me in contemporary romance books, so I was pleasantly surprised, although I was a tiny bit disappointed that my initial ship in this book did not sail. I still loved the ending though. There’s supposed to be a sequel coming out this year and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

I cannot recommend this one enough if you’re looking for a book to make you smile.


A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

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My rating: 4.5 stars

(Read the blurb here.)

I absolutely adored this book! I related so much to Steffi, who has anxiety, and there were times when I felt like she was reading the thoughts directly out of my head. My anxiety is in no way as severe as Steffi’s, and my anxiety has nothing to do with speaking (whereas Steffi has been a selective mute for a large part of her life), but her thought processes were so familiar to me, and it was so great to see this kind of representation in a book.

This book is a contemporary romance, and Rhys, the boy Steffi ends up falling for, was a fantastic character too. Rhys was deaf, and I think this may be the first time I’ve read a book with a deaf character, so it really opened my eyes to a lot of things I’d never thought about before, and gave me the opportunity to look at the world from a completely different perspective. The romance was very sweet, gave me lots of fluffy feelings, and most importantly of all, did not miraculously cure Steffi’s mental illness. Although I didn’t always feel overwhelmed by the chemistry, the romance was such a healthy, realistic one, and really demonstrated the fact that there are things far more important than chemistry.

Alongside the romance, friendship played just as important a part, and I LOVED Steffi’s friendship with Tem, perhaps even more so than her romance with Rhys. This book gave such an honest portrayal of friendship, with all of the ups and downs it can go through; it made no secret of the fact that falling out with a friend can hurt just as much, if not more, than falling out with a boyfriend, and that making things right with someone who has been by your side since day one should always be your priority.

I know it’s early days, but I’m fairly certain this book will make it into my top ten of 2017.


Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? I hope you all have wonderful weekends full of books, tea, and napping (because those are clearly the best kind.) 🙂

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YA Horror: ‘Fir’ by Sharon Gosling (ARC Book Review)

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Fir. Sharon Gosling. Stripes Publishing. Release date: 9th February 2017.

Moving from Stockholm to an isolated pine plantation in northern Sweden is bad enough, but when the snows come early and all links between the Strombergs and the outside world are cut off, it gets worse.

With only a grudging housekeeper and increasingly withdrawn parents for company, there is nothing to do but to explore the old plantation house. Anything to stay out of the endless pine trees pressing in on them.

But soon it becomes clear that the danger within the old plantation house is even greater than what lies outside…


Thank you to Netgalley and Stripes Publishing for providing me with a digital ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I love the Red Eye range of YA horror books from Stripes Publishing (my favourite being Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell) so when a new book from the range popped up on Netgalley, I knew I had to request it, immediately!

Overall, I enjoyed this book, but I was really torn over how to rate it. I ended up opting for 3 stars, because, whilst there were a lot of things I liked about the book, I was left with the feeling that something was missing.

First of all, let’s talk about the good stuff! This book contained so many of my favourite tropes from the horror genre: an isolated house, a sinister forest, unnerving characters, creepy children, and a multitude of mysteries. The setting and atmosphere within this book were extremely well executed, and the descriptions made me feel like I was right there, alone in that weird, silent forest, with only the ancient trees for company.

Despite the atmospheric writing, I felt quite disconnected from the main character. I can only call her the main character in this review, because we never find out her name. I had trouble getting to know her because, as well as lacking a name to ground her in some kind of reality, I discovered very little about her throughout the course of the story. She didn’t seem to have any hobbies, there was a brief mention of some friends at the beginning of the novel, but they weren’t mentioned again, and she spent a lot of time exploring her new home alone, rather than conversing with other characters.

The main character did have personality; it just wasn’t a strong one which jumped off the page. I wasn’t her biggest fan to begin with, because she started off being extremely whiney. I can understand that she wasn’t too thrilled about being forced to move to the back of beyond (and I’m sure I would have had the same stroppy reaction at her age), but I found her whining a bit grating; it reminded me of Bella Swan when she first moves to Forks, before she discovers the sparkly vampires… However, the main character definitely grew on me; as the story progressed, she developed into somebody much more mature and capable, when thrown into situations where she needed to be.

One character I did find very interesting was Dorothea, the housekeeper. The Stromberg family inherit her when they move to the plantation, as she has been in service there for many years. Dorothea was rude, deliberately difficult and uncooperative, and was described as having a ‘scuttling’ walk, which I have to admit made her all kinds of creepy to me. If you’ve ever read Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, Dorothea will give you serious Mrs. Danvers vibes… she was always lurking around every corner, and trying to make the family feel unwelcome in their own home, and I was constantly curious to know just what she was up to.

My favourite thing about this novel was probably the use of mythology. I can’t say much more about this, as I don’t want to wander into spoiler territory, but I loved the way that mythology was tied into the horror, and examined against the other possibility… that all the creepy things happening were simply hallucinations brought on by the isolation.

I was certainly invested in the mysteries of the story, and I enjoyed sneaking around and exploring with the main character, as she made sinister discovery after sinister discovery. I get a buzz out of that kinda thang! Despite enjoying how the mystery unfolded, I was left frustrated by the ending. I did get answers to the questions I’d had throughout the book, but what happens at the end threw a curveball, and I was actually pretty confused about what had happened. I sometimes enjoy an ambiguous ending, but I’m not sure this one was needed… unless it was a set-up for a sequel!

All in all, I found this novel entertaining, and definitely creepy in places, but I think I would have enjoyed it more if I’d had a better connection with the main character, and if the ending had been clearer. However, if you’re new to the horror genre, I think Fir could be a fun place to start.

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Psychological Thriller: ‘The Girl Before’ by JP Delaney (ARC Book Review)

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The Girl Before. JP Delaney. Quercus Books. Release date: 2nd February 2017.

Jane stumbles on the rental opportunity of a lifetime: the chance to live in a beautiful ultra-minimalist house designed by an enigmatic architect, on condition she abides by a long list of exacting rules. After moving in, she discovers that a previous tenant, Emma, met a mysterious death there – and starts to wonder if her own story will be a re-run of the girl before. As twist after twist catches the reader off guard, Emma’s past and Jane’s present become inexorably entwined in this tense, page-turning portrayal of psychological obsession.


Thank you to Netgalley and Quercus Books for sending me a digital ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

When I first read the description of this psychological thriller, I knew I had to request it. The concept was such an intriguing one, and I was really excited when I was approved to receive a digital ARC.

Overall, this was a solid, entertaining thriller. I liked the fact that the story was based around a weird house (with an even weirder tenancy agreement), because things which are off-kilter from the ordinary are my favourite. Generally, creepy houses in fiction are of the old, haunted variety, so I was delighted by how sinister I found One Folgate Street, a sparsely decorated, modern creation, full of intuitive technology which allows the house, and the Monkford Partnership who own the house, to know just a little bit too much about its tenants.

I don’t know much about minimalism, so it was really interesting to read from the perspective of two characters (Jane and Emma) who agree to adopt a more minimalistic lifestyle when they move into One Folgate Street. I was intrigued by the tenancy agreement which, despite its peculiarities, both women agree to sign. There were so many strange rules in the agreement, compiled by the architect of the house, mostly regarding things they weren’t allowed to bring with them (for example, “NO BOOKS” is one of the rules… what even?!) Both women, for personal reasons, are attracted to the idea of completely changing the way the live, and whilst it was something I could personally never do, the psychology driving their decisions to take these strict rules on board was fascinating.

Even more fascinating than the house was the architect himself, Edward Monkford. Edward was one hell of a strange and complex character. He becomes involved with both women, Emma initially, (before her mysterious death at the property), and later Jane, who rents the house in the present day. And, to put it mildly, there’s something pretty creepy about him, and the way he inserts himself so quickly and efficiently into their lives.

Edward was a smooth operator, but beneath his calm and suave exterior, you could see his restrained anger when things didn’t go his way, and his urgent need for control, pulsing, desperate to burst out of him. At times, he reminded me a little of Christian Grey (as in 50 Shades of…); he was a rich, manipulative control-freak, was into luxury minimalist decor, treated his relationships like ‘agreements’, and had a pathological need to be dominant in all situations. Perhaps the most creepy thing about Edward was the way in which his relationship with Jane played out almost identically to his ‘romance’ with Emma. The robotic way he pursued Jane using all the same lines he used on Emma made me hella suspicious of him.

Emma and Jane were both interesting characters, and the more I read about them, the more layers I uncovered. Emma was a selfish, impulsive character, who jumped into things without thinking them through at all. Jane was more likeable, and I empathised with her more readily, but I also found her actions frustrating at times. I couldn’t understand how she could become involved with a man like Edward, when people kept warning her against him. Every time another character stated their opinion of Edward, Jane would be in complete denial, insisting ‘they’ve got him all wrong’, when actually their description of him had been uncanny. Still, Edward was a very charming and manipulative man, so to a certain extent, I could see where her denial was coming from.

One thing I found a little bit confusing in this book was the way Emma’s chapters were written. There were no speech marks, and at first I thought this might be an oversight, as this was an ARC copy, but it continued throughout the book, and was only in Emma’s chapters, which led me to think that it had been done deliberately, to distinguish her chapters from Jane’s. I found her sections a bit hard to follow, at times, because it wasn’t always clear who was speaking, and it wasn’t always obvious if I was reading narration or dialogue.

Something else that bothered me was how much I had to suspend disbelief. I found that certain characters, namely Emma’s therapist, and the DI who had been investigating her death, gave away confidential information about Emma and the case way too easily to Jane (someone who had nothing to do with Emma whatsoever, at the end of the day.) Nevertheless, I have to admit it made the story more exciting, and it couldn’t have progressed in the way it did if it weren’t for these ‘professionals’ and their good old lack of professionalism!

I enjoyed the ending of this book, but I wasn’t bowled over by it, and I think I enjoyed the journey more than the destination. I didn’t guess the twist until just before it was revealed, but somehow it didn’t greatly surprise me either; it just made sense, so my reaction was “ohhh, I see” rather than “wow”. Despite this, the story was intriguing throughout, kept me entertained, and certainly made an interesting character study! I also found the scene where the twist was revealed very tense, and dramatic, and although I wasn’t surprised by said reveal, I was terrified for the character involved.

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel, despite some minor quibbles, and I didn’t hesitate to give it four stars, largely owing to the fact that it contained one of the most interesting characters I’ve read about in a long time! I definitely recommend this book if you’re looking for an entertaining thriller, with complex characters, and an awesome, unique concept!

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A big book haul and a little life update (which is actually pretty huge too!)

Hi guys! Apologies for slipping into hiatus mode again. It’s been a busy couple of weeks for me, as I moved to London last weekend! I’m now living with my lovely boyfriend in South West London, not too far from the cemetery where Emmeline Pankhurst is buried (therefore my new home is blessed with awesome feminist vibes.)

I’ve finally finished unpacking, and most importantly, my new bookcase has been constructed. I had to be selective about the books I brought with me, but on the plus side I now have an empty bookcase back in Oxford I can use as overflow when I go on my next book-buying-binge.

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I haven’t posted a book haul in a while, but I bought lots of wonderful books in November and December, received lots of lovely books for Christmas, and picked up many a bargain in the January sales, so I thought I’d brag about them all in a big old haul post tbh:


Six of Crows and The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

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Everyone and their Grandma and their Grandma’s cat adores Six of Crows, and I am generally wary of hype, but this book sounds fantastic. I’ve been told I don’t have to read The Grisha Trilogy beforehand, but doing things out of order makes me the opposite of chill, so I’ll probably read those books on my Kindle first before I dive into Six of Crows.


The Mortal Instruments boxed set by Cassandra Clare

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I already own The Mortal Instruments series on Kindle, but it’s one of my all time faves, so I’ve been desperate to get my hands on physical copies for approx forever. I picked up the boxed set for £20 in a Black Friday deal and to say I was chuffed is putting it mildly.


Harry Potter boxed set by J.K. Rowling

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I received the boxed set of the Harry Potter series with the gorgeous new covers for Christmas (confession time: I think I like them better than the originals!) I grew up with the Harry Potter series, and of course own the original editions, but the set was always a *family* set, and we only had the one in our household. Now I’ve moved to London, I’m really happy I have my own set which is exclusively mine to read/squeal over/hug.


Holding Up the Universe and All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

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I read Holding Up the Universe over Christmas and absolutely loved it. It was heartwarming, funny, and sweet, with characters I related to deeply (particularly Libby) and I was grateful to have this book as a refuge when all the Christmassing got a bit too much. After Christmas, I decided to pick up a physical copy of All The Bright Places too (which I already own on Kindle) and it’ll be one of my priority reads in early 2017.


Bridget Jones’s Baby by Helen Fielding

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I received this book from my lovely mama and papa for Christmas and I’m really excited to read it. I’m a huge Bridget Jones fan, and I LOVED the recent Bridget Jones’s Baby film. I believe the book is adapted from some of the original newspaper columns Helen Fielding wrote before the concept became a book/movie series, and I know it’s going to be the perfect light and funny anecdote to the freezing January weather I’m in need of.


111 Places in London That You Shouldn’t Miss by John Sykes

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My brother bought me this book as a Christmas pressie ahead of my move to London, and it’s full of awesome ideas for things to see and do in the city. Even though I live here now, I’m totally not above being a tourist in my own city and I intend to make full use of this asap!


Le Diners De Gala (Dali cookbook) by Salvador Dali

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You know how I’m obsessed with weird and creepy books? Well I also have a thing for weird and creepy art. I wouldn’t necessarily put Salvador Dali’s paintings on my wall, but they do fascinate me. My wonderful boyfriend bought me this fantastic cookbook Dali wrote, which is a combination of rich recipes and unusual artwork, and it’s just stunning! Now on display in my new kitchen.


Misery by Stephen King, and Skin by Roald Dahl

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I received both of these books from my bestie Tash and I’m really excited to get stuck in. We’re both on a mission to read more Stephen King this year, and I’ve heard awesome things about this one. I always loved Roald Dahl’s books as a child, so I’m really intrigued to see what his adult short stories are like (especially as they’re supposed to be pretty dark, aka my fave kind.)


Guinea Pig Oliver Twist, and Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

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Which do I pick up first? #dilemma

Of course I’ll read the classic first, but the guinea pig version (another Christmas gift from my parents) is the most abso-flipping-lutely-adorable thing I’ve seen and is top of my TBR as soon as I’ve read the original.


BBC Animal Babies

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While we’re on the subject of cute and fluffy, I picked this beautiful book up in the Waterstones sale and I can’t even with how cute and fluffy it is. I’m saving this for when I’m stressed and in need of teeny, tiny animals to cheer me up.


Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy by Cassandra Clare

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This book was another bargain in the January sales; I got this humungous hardback normally priced at £12.99 for £6. What self-respecting Cassie Clare fan could possibly refuse?


Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

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I am in love with Anna Kendrick. She’s so down to earth, witty, and smart. I’m really excited to read her book because if it’s anything like her tweets, I’ll be laughing out loud the whole way through.


The Girls by Emma Cline

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I’ve heard mixed things about this, but I’m really intrigued by the premise. The story focuses on a girl who falls in with a Manson family type cult. I find cults fascinating, so I’m desperate to read this one, even if it wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea.


The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

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I read 17 and Gone by the same author years ago, and remember enjoying it. Nova Ren Suma had a strange and unsettling writing style which had me constantly questioning what was and wasn’t real, so I’m hope this novel will be just as mesmerising.


Tell Us Something True by Dana Reinhardt

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This was an impulse buy in Blackwells and I know virtually nothing about it, other than that it’s about a boy called River who is a compulsive liar. It has great reviews from E. Lockhart and Adam Silvera (both authors I love) so I have high hopes!


A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

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This YA contemporary about Steffi, a mute girl with anxiety, sounds absolutely fabulous. I’ve been looking for a book with good anxiety representation, and Sammie gave this one an excellent review, so I have a feeling I’m going to fall in love with it tbh.


Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

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One of my 2017 reading goals is to read more diversely, and after seeing Lauren speak highly of this one, I knew I had to add it to my shelves. Set in Ghana, it beings with the story of two sisters, one of whom is sold into slavery, and one of whom is married off to a British slave trader. This book sounds like a heartbreaking but important read, and I can’t wait to get started.


Sooo that’s the end of my haul. Which of these books have you read, and what did you think of them? What lovely books have you picked up recently? I’d love to hear from you!

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YA Contemporary: ‘The One Memory of Flora Banks’ by Emily Barr (ARC Book Review)

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The One Memory of Flora Banks. Emily Barr. Penguin. Release date: 12th January 2017.

You always remember your first kiss.

Flora remembers nothing else…

“I look at my hands. One of them says ‘Flora, be brave’. I am Flora.”

Flora has anterograde amnesia. She can’t remember anything day-to-day: the joke her friend made, the instructions her parents gave her, how old she is.

Then she kisses someone she shouldn’t have kissed – and the next day she remembers it. The first time she’s remembered anything since she was ten.

But the boy is gone.

Desperate to hold onto the memory, she sets off to the Arctic to find him.

Why can she remember Drake? Could he be the key to everything else she’s forgotten?


Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin for providing me with a digital ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Wow! I’m so, so happy I read this novel. I loved it to pieces, and I already want to pick it up again because I became so engrossed in this beautiful book about bravery and finding yourself.

If you think from the blurb that this is a book about love miraculously curing illness (which you’d be forgiven for assuming), I can assure you it isn’t. This is a story about an extremely sheltered girl with amnesia named Flora who goes on a wonderful journey of self discovery, involving a casual trip to the North Pole in search of a boy she kissed on a beach. But this book isn’t really about the boy Flora kissed on the beach. It’s all about Flora, and the bravery it takes for her to set off on her own, putting herself in great danger, in pursuit of the one full and accurate memory she’s managed to retain since the age of ten.

The story centres around what happens to Flora after she kisses Drake on the night of his leaving party. Drake is Flora’s best friend’s boyfriend, and he’s going away to study in Svalbard, a cold place where the sun in summer never sets. Flora remembers kissing Drake the next day, which is abnormal for her, because she hasn’t been able to form new memories since she suffered brain damage as a child.

When Flora’s parents are called away to visit her brother Jacob in France, they believe they are leaving Flora in the care of her best friend Paige. But, as Paige isn’t speaking to Flora, after the whole Flora kissing her boyfriend thing, Flora finds herself all alone. As she exchanges emails with Drake, she clings to the memory of their kiss, and becomes convinced that seeing him again will help fix her memory. So, despite the fact that she’s prone to forgetting where and who and why she is, she sets out on a reckless adventure to find Drake and remember.

Flora was such an interesting character, and her perspective was so unique. Everything was a mystery in this novel because everything was a mystery to Flora. She would learn things only to forget them a few hours later. She was constantly having to reorient herself, relearn where she was and why she was there. She wrote messages to herself on her arms and it was just astonishing to see how far she could get herself (all the way to Norway!) and how much she could actually achieve on her own, just relying on her notes.

Flora was so vulnerable, because she couldn’t trust her own memory, and if she were to lose her notes (which could so easily happen), she’d end up lost, not knowing who or where she was. I was often frightened for her, but she was an incredibly brave individual, and I admired her so much. She had the words ‘Flora, be brave’ tattooed on her hand, and a list of rules to live her life by which she kept adding to throughout the story, and I found myself wishing I was more like her. Reading about a girl who never doubted her own abilities, despite her severe memory problems, made me think about how much I doubt my own, and realise that I don’t need to. If Flora can brave and get things done, then so can I.

I absolutely adored the way this book was written. Flora’s narrative voice was one of childlike simplicity (Flora is always ten years old in her head, before she re-reads the notes on her arms and re-learns that she is seventeen) and there was something so endearing about the way she related her story. Despite the fact that Flora speaks like a younger child, she has a very sharp mind (well, as sharp as a mind can be when it has amnesia) and her observations, and ways of thinking and rationalising, showed just how grown up she could be when faced with situations where she had no choice but to be independent.

The section of this book I enjoyed most was the time Flora spent in Svalbard. This book made me fall in love with the Arctic. I’ve always had a fascination with cold climates (I used to actively seek out books that were set in places like Alaska and Norway and Northern Canada purely because I was so obsessed with them), and this book reawakened my longing to travel to those parts of the world. I adored the descriptions of the midnight sun, and the pure cold air, and the rough natural beauty of the mountains. I desperately want to visit Svalbard now.

I loved reading about all of the people Flora met during her time in Svalbard (even though she kept forgetting who they were!) Meeting people is a huge part of the travelling experience, and I loved that Flora had the opportunity to experience that, against such an unusual and extreme set of odds. Flora’s new friends were just as fascinated and enchanted by her as I was, and the way people gathered around her, and wanted to help her, was heartwarming.

I loved the secondary characters in this book, particularly Agi, a Finnish friend Flora meets at the guesthouse in Svalbard  who is catastrophically bad at using English idioms in the correct contexts. I also ADORED Jacob, Flora’s older brother, and the person whom Flora loves most in all the world. We don’t get to meet Jacob face-to-face in this novel, but his emails and letters to Flora were one of my favourite aspects of the story. This is one of the best portrayals of a sibling relationship I’ve ever read, and it gave me all the feels.

Overall, I absolutely fell in love with this novel. It was touching (though heartbreaking in places), unique, and compelling, with a protagonist I couldn’t help but love and wholeheartedly root for. I couldn’t put it down. This book comes out on 12th January and I can’t wait to go out and grab myself a physical copy, because I’ll certainly be reading it again.

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