The Mud and Stars Book Blog

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

Book Review: ‘Clean’ by Juno Dawson

CleanJunoDawson

Clean. Juno Dawson. Quercus Children’s Books. April 2018.

When socialite Lexi Volkov almost overdoses, she thinks she’s hit rock bottom.

She’s wrong. Rock bottom is when she’s forced into an exclusive rehab facility.

From there, the only way is up for Lexi and her fellow inmates, including the mysterious Brady.

As she faces her demons, Lexi realises love is the most powerful drug of all …


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

Trigger warning: drug abuse, addiction, eating disorders, self harm

Juno Dawson is quickly becoming one of my favourite authors. I got approved to read this book on Netgalley a couple of months ago, but I’ve only just got around to reading it… I wish I’d picked it up sooner, particularly as I have been swimming through a sea of three-star, take-or-leave kind of books the past few weeks. This fantastic book really pulled me out of my slump.

What I love most about Juno’s books is her characterisation. All of her protagonists have such distinctive voices, and Lexi is no exception. Prickly, sarcastic, and selfish, Lexi may be unlikeable to begin with, but her character leaps off the page, and her character development as the story progresses is so satisfying; I really cared about and liked her by the end of the novel. Lexi is a seventeen year old heiress to a chain of luxury hotels, a socialite who has fallen in with the wrong crowd (and more specifically the wrong boy), and… a heroin addict. This novel has been described as a cross between Gossip Girl and Girl, Interrupted, and there is definitely something of party-girl-days-Serena-Van-der-Woodsen about Lexi. But Lexi is a much more complex and interesting character in my opinion. With everything you know about Lexi to begin with, you could write her off as a poor-little-rich-girl cliché, but you shouldn’t, because there is so much more to her.

At the start of Clean we see Lexi being ‘kidnapped’ and taken to a residential treatment facility by her older brother Nikolai. How Lexi acts at the beginning of the book is miles away from who she is by the end of the book. It’s summed up best by a scene where Lexi says something totally unforgivable to her doctor in her blind rage. She later apologises to him, and he tells her: ‘You and I haven’t really met yet, I’ve only met the addiction living in your body’; (I’m paraphrasing this because I’m too lazy to scroll through on my Kindle and find the exact quote). It’s so interesting to gradually get to know the real Lexi as her system is detoxed of all the poison she has been putting into it for so long (but BOY, the journey is NOT easy). Lexi to begin with IS her addiction, and once the addiction is stripped away, she has to relearn who she is without the drugs. She feels like a real person, who is really hurting, and I grew to really love who she was underneath it all.

I loved the side characters in this book too. I didn’t love the druggy crowd that Lexi had been spending her time with before going to rehab, because they were so, so bad for her to be around, but all of the characters at the treatment centre (which is on an island, so makes the relationships between the residents feel very close-knit) were wonderful in their own ways. The cast of characters was diverse, and all of the characters had distinctive personalities, complex problems and flaws, and authentic voices. My favourite side characters were probably Kendall, a trans anorexic girl, who becomes Lexi’s closest friend on the island, and Sasha, a mixed race girl with multiple mental health issues, who is the only character on the island not to come from a privileged background. Sasha was abrasive, aggressive, scary at times, but also such a complex and interesting character, and someone who came out with some of the most raw, insightful, brutally honest comments which really got under my skin. I loved her feistiness, and I loved all of the interactions between her and Lexi.

There is a romance in this book, but I won’t go into this too much as I don’t want to spoil anything. I thought it was well done, and I’m glad that the romance wasn’t used as a device to ‘cure’ Lexi’s illness. I did feel that it happened quickly, but given the intense circumstances of being in addiction recovery on an island where you can’t help but get to know people intimately, it made a lot of sense. I didn’t feel heaps of romantic tension, but I did feel sweetness, warmth and safety, and I think that was kind of the point. Lexi needed a healthy relationship, not a wild, passionate, dangerous one.

Aside from the characters, I think what I loved most about this book was the setting. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book set in a rehabilitation clinic, and it was fascinating to see how they operate, and the emotional journey someone like Lexi would experience after being unexpectedly dropped off there and told she needs help, urgently. Some of the scenes in the first half of the book where Lexi is coming off the opiates are pretty harrowing, and you can’t help but feel desperately sorry for her, even if she is being a total asshole to pretty much everyone she comes across. I loved the relationship between Lexi and her doctor, which of course starts off on extremely hostile ground. I also loved seeing Lexi start to explore some of the activities the island has to offer, once she is feeling more physically capable. There’s a wonderful storyline surrounding horse-riding, and an extremely difficult horse called Storm, and I really enjoyed the way it mirrored Lexi’s journey, but also became a huge part of it.

All in all, I absolutely adored this book. It was hard-hitting and emotional, showing addiction in its true and ugly light, and it was full of complex characters I grew to love and loved to see develop. Highly recommend this one!

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February 2018 Wrap-Up

Hello bookish friends! Hope you’re all well and have had fabulous Februarys!

I’m sorry I haven’t been around much (a.k.a. at all) this month. February was quite intense for me, because I started a new role at work (I now work with children, instead of in the nursery office dealing with finance, and I am so much happier, but so much more physically exhausted!), and then halfway through the month I went down with a nasty flu bug. Because I was extra tired and super ill, I got into a bit of a reading slump, and I spent most of February binge-watching BookTube videos instead of actually finishing books. I still managed to read 4 books this month, but that’s compared to 11 last month! Ah well, life happens.

Here are my thoughts on the books I did read this month…


How to be Champion by Sarah Millican

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Rating: 4 stars

For those who haven’t heard of her, Sarah Millican is a comedian here in the UK, and she’s one of my favourites. How to be Champion is her autobiography, and it’s just as funny as she is. Her personality was everywhere in this book, and I could imagine every line in her voice. The humour in this book is quite crude at times, which normally I’m not a huge fan of, but somehow when Sarah Millican does it I end up snorting with laughter. I really enjoyed the life tips at the end of each chapter (some serious, some not so serious), and I found everything Sarah shares with the reader so relatable. She claims that this book is for ‘anyone who has ever buttoned their cardigan up the wrong way’ and HI THAT IS ME. I also really appreciated the positivity she writes with, and the way she manages to spin sad things into funnies, even things like being bullied at school, and her family’s money struggles during the miners’ strikes (her main positive take being all the free food they were given at the time). Another thing I loved about this book were her chapters on why she doesn’t want children, and on body image/women’s magazines (and how she set up Standard Issue, her own ‘no bullshit’ online women’s magazine. These chapters were interesting, feminist, and empowering, and I respect Sarah so much for not letting society pressure her into conforming to it’s (bullshitty) ideal of what a woman should be like. All in all, I loved this book, and I would very much like to sit and eat cake with Sarah, and be her best friend,


Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray

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Rating: 5 stars

I absolutely adore the Diviners series by Libba Bray, and I think this third instalment might be my favourite so far. The Diviners series is a paranormal fantasy series set in 1920s New York, with a diverse set of characters (who have a diverse range of supernatural gifts), a creepy and mysterious villain we still don’t know everything about, and a whole bunch of ghosts. What I love most about how the overall storyline is progressing is that, whereas in the first book the characters had largely separate storylines, the Diviners are now coming together and working as a team. I love what this has meant for the development of their Diviner powers, but I also adore the way they are becoming an alternative kind of family. I just love them all together so much! I can’t say much about the plot of this book, as obviously this is a sequel, but things I loved included the parts that were set in the asylum (so atmospheric and cinematic), learning more about Project Buffalo, Bill Johnson (who I previously hated, but who kind of won me over by the end of this book), and all the challenging of bigotry. The setting, as in all of the previous books, was my favourite thing about this novel; it feels like a character in its own right. I love the sweep of it, and how many different stories the city has to tell. I am super in love with Libba Bray’s writing style, and I can’t wait for her next book.


A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston

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Rating: 3 stars

A Thousand Nights is a retelling of A Thousand and One Arabian Nights, a story which I was only vaguely familiar with before going into this novel. I have mixed feelings about this book hence the middling rating. I think I enjoyed it, but my feelings were constantly shifting whilst I was reading it. One minute I was really into the book, and the next I was really bored. The story is quite slow paced, which I didn’t actually mind, because I enjoyed gently exploring the setting of the Qasr (the King’s palace), and the desert (where our protagonist lived in her family’s tents before she was taken away to marry him). Everything was vividly described and the writing was beautiful.  For some reason I loved all of the scenes where the protagonist was being bathed or dressed, or where food was being laid out. I guess I just enjoy the idea of living in a palace, and so appreciated the little details about everyday life there. What I didn’t enjoy so much about this novel were the endless descriptions of spinning wool (the protagonist’s main hobby). I realise they were there for a purpose (one which I can’t really reveal due to spoilers), but they were way too repetitive and contained too much mundane detail. Another thing which bothered me about this book was that the magical elements were vague and underdeveloped. I spent a lot of time confused and wanting a proper explanation of how things worked. That being said, in some aspects of the story, this vagueness worked. I liked the mystery surrounding the demon possessing the King, and gradually learning more about him as the story progressed. Overall, this book was quite hit and miss for me. I enjoyed it for the most part, but I don’t think I would re-read it.


The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

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Rating: 5 stars

This was by far the best book I read this month! I can’t remember the last time I was so hooked by a thriller. I stayed up way past my bedtime three nights in a row finishing this book, and it was totally worth the sacrificed sleep. This story is about an agoraphobic woman named Anna, who witnesses a crime through the window of the house opposite hers, but nobody will believe her, because she’s on medication that causes hallucinations, and she drinks… a lot! I love books which explore reality vs. imagination, and this one had me constantly questioning the unreliable narration. The story is told in super-short chapters which makes it incredibly moreish, and Anna’s character is so complex and compelling you can’t help but get invested straight away, and root for her throughout. The writing in this book is also excellent. Anna is obsessed with noir films from the age of black and white movies, and the way this book is written matches that aesthetic so perfectly. The descriptions of Anna’s house felt very gothic, dusty, gloomy, and lonely, and it was the perfect setting for the tone of this book. Every line feels cinematic, and I love the way the focus of the writing zooms in and out on different images, attaching and disguising meaning where necessary. This book is a strong mystery; apart from one thing we learn roughly half-way through anyway, I didn’t guess anything, and the twist genuinely shocked me. It also managed to jolt me, as if it were a jumpy movie, with the genuinely creepy reveal scene. I highly recommend this book if you enjoy thrillers; it’s a cut above most of them, and I am so excited to read more books from this author in the future.


How was your reading month? Have you read any of the books I mentioned? What was your favourite book you picked up this month? I’d love to hear from you! 🙂

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January 2018 Wrap-Up (Part Two)

Hihihi lovely people, and welcome to Part Two of my January Wrap Up!

The second half of my reading month was even better than the first, with three 5 star books, and two 4 star books, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed. Without further ado, here’s what I thought of them…


Happy: Finding Joy in Every Day and Letting Go of Perfect by Fearne Cotton

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Rating: 5 stars

A friend of mine recommended this book to me, and I’m so glad I took her advice. This is one of the best self-help books I’ve read because it comes from a place of total honesty. The way Fearne openly talks about her battle with depression struck a chord with me because her descriptions of how it felt for her strongly resemble my own experiences with depression. This book is by no means a cure for depression, or a substitute for seeking medical guidance, but the suggestions it gives for helping you to feel more in control and balanced, and helping to boost your mood, were really useful for me. It doesn’t cover loads of new ground, but the down-to-earth way Fearne discusses each concept meant that the advice finally sank in for me in a way it hasn’t with other self-help books I’ve read. This book meant a lot to me, and I plan to pick up my own copy of this one (having borrowed this from the library) because I want to work through all of the activities at the end of each chapter in my own time.


Margot and Me by Juno Dawson

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Rating: 5 stars

I picked this book up on a whim because I was looking for comforting books, and this one was described as witty and heartwarming on the cover. The story unfolds in two timelines, both of which are historical fiction, as the ‘present day’ storyline is actually set in 1998. All of the 90s references made me so nostalgic! The ‘past’ timeline is set during World War II and told in the format of a diary (written by our protagonist Fliss’s grandmother, Margot). In the ‘present day’, Fliss and her mother (who is recovering from Chemotherapy) move from London to Wales to live with Margot. Fliss has a difficult relationship with Margot, and doesn’t want to be there one bit, but when she discovers Margot’s wartime diary in the attic, she becomes fascinated by her grandmother’s experiences as an evacuee, even though she knows she really shouldn’t be reading them. This book was emotional, heartbreakingly sad in places, but also heartwarming. I loved the family dynamics explored in this book, and the gradually thawing relationship between Margot and Fliss was done so well. I loved both Margot and Fliss as characters. Fliss’s narration was very witty, and I was constantly laughing at her sarcastic comments. Margot was an unexpected badass, full of determination to stand up for her beliefs. This book told a wonderful story, and it’s my favourite I’ve read so far this year.


Magpie Murders by Anthony Horrowitz

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Rating: 5 stars

I borrowed this book from the library after hearing one of my favourite booktubers, Charley from Duvet Day Devours, talking about how much she loved it. This book is the ultimate murder mystery, because it’s a murder mystery WITHIN a murder mystery. One strand of the book follows an editor called Susan who is reading the manuscript of Alan Conway’s latest book in his ‘Atticus Pund’ detective series. The other strand is the manuscript of said book. This book is all about art imitating life, and when something happens to the author of the book Susan is editing, she turns detective, like Atticus Pund himself, to try and piece together what happened to Alan, sure that the answers lie somewhere in his manuscript. I loved the structure of this book, and everything was so cleverly plotted down to the tiniest detail. I didn’t guess whodunnit in either murder case, but I was satisfied with the outcome in each storyline. All of the characters were so distinctive in this novel, and all were shady and secretive enough to convince me that any of them could be capable of murder. I had so much fun trying to work it all out, and I was amazed at how complex the whole puzzle ended up being.  I also loved all of the literary references to detective fiction, most notably Agatha Christie’s work. Atticus Pund reminded me a lot of Poirot, and if you’re a fan of Agatha Christie you will eat this up!


One by Sarah Crossan

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Rating: 4 stars

After enjoying Moonrise by Sarah Crossan, I picked up another of her novels, One, from my library. This story, about conjoined twins Grace and Tippi, is written in verse and beautifully told. It was a sad book but also very touching. Reading about conjoined twins made me think about the world from a completely unique perspective, and put me in touch with my own ignorance, particularly with regards to the questions I had about the logistics of sharing a body (which are exactly the kind of ignorant questions the girls get asked all the time). The most profound thing I took away from this book is that pity can be unkind. I loved that Grace and Tippi were happy together, that they could think of far worse things than being conjoined, and that they didn’t want others to pity them. I appreciated how much research and thought had gone into this novel, and how every detail gave me pause of thought (for example, what it’s like when one twin wants to do something, like trying a cigarette, and the other doesn’t want to.) I loved both characters, the dynamics between them, and I loved the way this book explored the fact that although they Grace and Tippi are separate people, they are also one, and cannot imagine a life separated from one another. Though this book didn’t hit me quite as hard as Moonrise did, it was still a very powerful read.


The Note by Zoe Folbigg

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Rating: 4 stars

I borrowed this book from my mum, because I was in the mood for something light and fluffy, and she had just read and enjoyed this one. I loved it too! This was a sweet and uplifting story about how small acts of bravery can change the course of your life. The story is all about a woman named Maya, who falls for a man named James who gets her commuter train to London every morning. It’s based on the true story of how the author met her husband, whom she introduced herself to by handing him a note saying she thought he looked lovely and asking him out for a drink. Although the writing style wasn’t my favourite (third person present tense takes some getting used to), I loved the concept of this book. Rather than being a book focusing on a relationship, this book is more about two characters gradually becoming the people they are supposed to be before the timing is right for them to end up together. There were some secondary characters in this book whom it was quite fun to hate, and it made me root for Maya and James even more strongly. Although I loved the ending (FEELS), I do sort of wish that the characters had had more shared page time overall. Nevertheless, I found this book very heartwarming, and it made me smile, which is exactly what I needed.


So that’s the end of my January Wrap Up! Have you read any of these books? What was your favourite book you read this month? I’d love to hear from you!

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January 2018 Wrap-Up (Part One)

Hello lovely people! Hope you’ve all had a wonderful start to 2018.

January was a great reading month for me, with multiple five star reads, and barely any bad ones. I read eleven books in total, so to save this post from becoming an unwieldy dissertation, I’m going to split my wrap-up into two parts! Here in Part One are my thoughts on the first six books I read in January…


Sky Song by Abi Elphinstone

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Rating: 4.5 stars

My first read of the year was a middle grade Snow Queen retelling, with one of the most beautiful covers I have seen in a while. The snowy landscapes of Erkenwald, the fantastical setting of this story, were stunningly described, and there was a lovely, cosy, fairytale-like quality to the writing. What I loved most about this book were the characters. Eska (a girl whose voice the Ice Queen is attempting to steal), and Flint, an inventor, and one of the only people in the realm who still believes in magic, were brave characters you couldn’t help but root for. However, my favourite characters were Balapan (an eagle who befriends Eska), and Blu (Flint’s little sister, who I believe has Downs Syndrome, although we are not explicitly told this in the text, and I could be completely wrong about this). The friendship between Eska and Balapan was the best human-eagle friendship I have ever encountered (not that I’ve encountered any others, tbh) and Blu’s hopeful spirit completely warmed my heart and brought joy to every page. Sky Song was the perfect warm-and-fuzzy book to read snuggled under a blanket on a cold January day.


Moth Girls by Anne Cassidy

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Rating: 3.5 stars

Next I read Moth Girls, a YA thriller about a girl called Mandy whose two best friends Petra and Tina go missing one night after they dare each other to sneak into an old, dilapidated house. I really enjoyed this, but for me it felt more like a character study than a thriller. We follow Mandy five years after the incident, still struggling to move on with her life, but we also get chapters from Petra’s perspective, five years earlier. I found Mandy’s chapters fascinating, as we explore how the tragedy has impacted every facet of her life, although I think I enjoyed Petra’s chapters more (despite her being the less likeable character). Through each narrative, we slowly piece together what happened to Petra and Tina that night. I enjoyed unravelling the mystery, but I felt like all of the answers were given to us way too conveniently. I would have preferred to see Mandy struggling to uncover them herself, and coming up against obstacles, but instead they were kind of offered to her on a plate. Nevertheless, Moth Girls was an interesting read, particularly in its portrayal of first teenage friendships, fraught as they are with insecurities and jealousies. It felt authentic and reminded me a lot of my own school days.


Moonrise by Sarah Crossan

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Rating: 5 stars

The next book I read was Moonrise, a YA novel told in verse, all about a boy named Joe, whose brother Ed is on Death Row in Texas. I didn’t think I would enjoy the verse format, but I found it added a lot to the reading experience, because so much was conveyed in the smallest of lines, and every carefully chosen word had a purpose. This book made me think, made me angry, made me sob (a lot… stock up on tissues if you are going to read this book). I adored the characters, and their senses of humour and the dynamics between them warmed my heavy heart. I was laughing one minute and crying the next. I’ve always disagreed with the Death Penalty, but this book made me painfully aware of its reality, and as a consequence, incredibly angry with the backwards injustice of the system. A powerful, raw, honest book which cut me deep. I am going to be thinking about this one for a long, long time.


Conspiracy Girl by Sarah Alderson

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Rating: 5 stars

Next I picked up Conspiracy Girl, a YA thriller. The cover led me to believe this was going to be a bit trashy, but I ended up devouring it. It follows a girl named Nic whose family are brutally murdered in their own home, whilst Nic is hiding in the bathroom. Several years later, Nic is living in a high security apartment in a different city, but one night her supposedly safe home is broken into, and it seems the people who were once after her family are back to finish the job. Nic teams up with a hacker named Finn, in an attempt to find out who the killers are and why they are looking for her, and the action proceeds from there. This book was so fast-paced, tense, and exciting, and I never felt like the characters were safe, so I couldn’t possibly put it down. I loved the conspiracy behind the murders (because conspiracies are one of my favourite tropes), and I loved the insight into hacking (because let’s face it, hacking is cool). Be forewarned, there is some romance in this book (which I wouldn’t normally appreciate in a thriller), however this one was all kinds of swoon, and I really enjoyed it. Be forewarned, you will probably fancy the pants off Finn; I certainly did.


The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami

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Rating: 2.5 stars

Next I read The Strange Library, and unfortunately this ended up being my least favourite book of the month. It’s a short and surreal story, which follows a boy who gets taken hostage by some very strange characters, in a creepy room, somewhere in the labyrinthine basement of his local library. I loved the premise, and the edition (which I borrowed from my own, thankfully normal, library) was absolutely stunning. It had beautiful illustrations, all taken from old books found in The London Library, and there was something interesting to look at on every page. I loved the little details, like on the first page, there is a stamp which reads ‘File copy: do not remove from library’, which actually had me believing, when I first picked it up, that I was not allowed to borrow this book (even though on the second page another stamp suggested that this book was last taken out sometime in the 80s.) I felt a bit silly when I realised that these pages were both part of the book’s design! Normally I really love surreal elements in fiction, but I think this story was just TOO weird for me. I felt like the boy’s reactions to his situation were abnormal. He was very chilled about the whole thing, and spent a lot of time pondering, rather than freaking the **** out. This story was certainly creepy, but I got to the end of it feeling like there was something else I was supposed to have gotten out of it, which instead went over my head.


Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson

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Rating: 4 stars

I started reading some of the Moomin stories last year, and having loved Tove Jansson’s writing style, which is whimsical, magical and full of quirky charm, I decided to give this one a go next. The story follows Moomintroll, whose family are hibernating through the winter months, but who wakes up early, whilst everyone else is still sleeping. Moomintroll has never seen winter before (having always slept through it) ,so the story follows his adventures exploring the new and exciting snowy landscapes of his valley, and the various quirky characters he meets along the way. This story was utterly charming, and I’d love to re-read it in the run up to Christmas, as it’s such a cosy read for a winter’s day. At some point, I would also like to read the Moomin books in order (I believe this is the 6th instalment), as I think I would have benefited from some context as to who certain characters and types of creature were. But it didn’t matter enough to spoil my enjoyment of this adorable story.


Soooo, these are all of the books I read in the first half of January. Part Two of my wrap-up will be up in a few days’ time. Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them?

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ARC Book Review: ‘The Hazel Wood’ by Melissa Albert

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The Hazel Wood. Melissa Albert. Penguin. Release date: 8th February 2018.

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the strange bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate – the Hazel Wood – Alice learns how bad her luck can really get. Her mother is stolen away – by a figure who claims to come from the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: STAY AWAY FROM THE HAZEL WOOD.

To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began…


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

I finished reading The Hazel Wood over the Christmas holidays and I have been putting off writing my review ever since, because I had no idea what to say about it without being too spoilery. It’s one of those books you’re better off going into without knowing too much, because the weird twists and turns are what make it such a compelling read.

When I first read the description of this book, I was DESPERATE to get my hands on it, especially when I saw that one reviewer had compared it to Night Film by Marisha Pessl (which is one of my favourite books of all time). When I initially requested the book on Netgalley, I got rejected, and I was SO disappointed, but then a few weeks later I randomly decided to try my luck again and this time I got approved! I was OVER THE MOON.

This was such a fantastic book to read over Christmas because it provided a strange and absorbing world to escape into whenever Christmassy socialising got a bit overwhelming. It’s one of those books that really draws you in and makes you forget where you are. The writing is creepy, atmospheric, and surreal; in other words, my ultimate cup of tea.

What made The Hazel Wood such an addictive read for me was the weird mystery of it all, and the blurred lines between fantasy and reality. I can see why this book has been compared to Night Film, because both books are reality-bending, thrilling reads, and both involve a character investigating the works and worlds of a mysterious, elusive creator (in Night Film it’s a cult horror movie director, but in The Hazel Wood it’s a cult fairytale writer; what a cool thing to be obscurely famous for, amiright?!).

Althea Proserpine, author of ‘Tales From The Hinterland’ was such a fascinating character, because she is such an enigma in the story; Alice, her granddaughter (and our protagonist) has never even read a copy of her book because it’s so rare and difficult to get hold of. Her stories are a mystery, her fans are full of strange theories which they discuss on shady internet forums, her estate ‘The Hazel Wood’ has attained mythical status, because nobody knows where it is, though many have tried to find it, and being an absent Grandmother, she’s a missing piece in Alice’s family puzzle too. I adored the experience of unravelling each thread in this complex, one-woman mystery.

Another thing I really enjoyed about The Hazel Wood was the mother/daughter dynamic between Alice and her mother Ella. Ella is something of an enigma too, because she is a keeper of many secrets, and as the majority of the book’s storyline is Alice’s quest to find Ella, they don’t get that much page-time together. However, it was lovely to see how close Alice felt to, and fiercely loyal she was towards, her mum (something we don’t often see in YA books), and Alice’s connection with her mum really helped me to find a connection with her (something I struggled with initially, because I found her spiky and difficult to warm up to).

I really enjoyed all of the flashbacks from Alice’s childhood with Ella, and it was interesting to see how their lifestyle affected and deepened the bond between them; Alice’s whole childhood was spent moving from place to place, sometimes at the drop of a hat, so, being all each other really had in the world, Alice and Ella were bound very tightly together from the beginning.

Undoubtedly what I loved most about The Hazel Wood was its use of fairytale. Although we don’t get to hear all of Althea’s tales, I was gripped completely by each and every one of them. I wish ‘Tales From The Hinterland’ was a real book (or at the very least, a spin-off written by Melissa Albert 😛 ), because I would give anything to read it.

The fairytales interspersed within this novel were so dark, strange, and creepy, and I just devoured them. The beginning of the story ‘Alice Three Times’ in particular made me shiver. I don’t want to say too much about the stories and how they tie in with Alice’s quest, because I don’t want to spoil anything, but I found the whole concept very imaginative, and very well executed. I would have liked the last section of the book to have been a little longer, so we could have delved more deeply into the setting of Althea’s stories, but I’m pretty sure there is going to be a sequel to this book, so I’m grateful there is still plenty more to explore.

All in all, The Hazel Wood was a novel I couldn’t put down (and immediately decided to re-read upon finishing!) I cannot wait for this book to come out in February so I can get my hands on a physical copy, and I can’t wait for more people to read this so I have someone to talk about it with!

Have you read The Hazel Wood? What did you think of it? Reviews seem to be mixed, but for me it completely lived up to my (very high) expectations!

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The ‘What Cats Do’ Book Tag

HAPPY FRIDAY everyone! I hope your week has been…

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Mine has! I’m currently slap-bang in the middle of a two week break from work and I am enjoying life immensely. I’ve been participating in all kinds of joyful thangs such as sleeping in until 10am, spending the majority of my Christmas money on the majority of Waterstones, and drinking my body-weight in cups of tea.

Today, I thought I’d do a book tag, because it’s been a while! Thank you to Tiana from The Book Raven for tagging me in the ‘What Cats Do’ book tag, which I’m embarrassed to say actually happened back in March last year. Better late than never! Please do go and check out her wonderful blog, asap! 🙂

I’m excited to do this tag, and not only because it gives me an excuse to spam you all with a bunch of cat gifs… but mainly because of that. #sorrynotsorry

Anyhoo, here are my answers to the tag…


1) PURR…

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Purr – As cats do this when they’re happy or relaxed, what is the book that makes you happiest or relaxed?

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The Princess Diaries books were my favourite fictional retreat from the world during my crazy mixed up teenage years, and I find the series just as warm, safe and comforting today. Whenever I re-read these books it feels like coming home and catching up with old friends who I still get on with like a house on fire, even if I haven’t seen them for a long time.


2) SLEEP…

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Sleep – What is a book that put you to sleep or was just boring?

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Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust. I had to read this book for my European Modernist Fiction module at university, and it was achingly dull. The writing is so flowery you want to be sick, and nothing happens; it’s just this guy waffling on about all the beautiful things he remembers from his childhood, like the taste of a particularly memorable biscuit, the architecture of his local church, and other fascinating things like that. It made me want to claw my own eyes out, and I don’t even mean that in a cat-pun kind of way.


3) CLAWS…

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Seems to Play Nice…Until the Claws are Out – Which book had the biggest plot twist?

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The Peppermint Pig by Nina Bawden. Oh, this book played so cutesy-cutesy, nicey nicey… and then it stuck in its claws and tore out my heart with its brutal ending. This book made me so ANGRY with its unnecessary cruelty, and I will never not be bitter about it.


4) CUDDLES…

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Cuddles – Which book character would you give a hug to?

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Eeyore is the character in Winnie-the-Pooh who most needs and deserves a cuddle. Eeyore is my mopey and mourngeful little spirit animal and I love him to pieces. (Sidenote: I’ve been using the word mourngeful for years, but my laptop has put a squiggly line under it. Did I just make this word up?! I swear it’s a thing.)


5) CATNIP…

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Catnip – What’s a book that made you have warm and fuzzy feels?

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A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron. Oh gosh, this was just adorable. If you are in need of a hug in the form of a book, read this one. Reading from this dog’s perspective is just so pure, and his naivety is so sweet and amusing, yet Bailey is also gifted with bags more wisdom than most humans possess. I cried so many times while reading this book (and mainly from joy).


6) CAT BREEDS…

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Cat Breeds – What are your favourite books?

My favourite classic is Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy.

My favourite YA book is Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver.

My favourite thriller is Night Film by Marisha Pessl. I’m planning on re-reading all of these books this year.


7) GETTING THE CAT…

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Getting the Cat – How did you find your favourite book(s)?

 

I discovered Tess because I started watching the BBC adaptation with Gemma Arterton and Eddie Redmayne, and I decided I wanted to read the book itself before I got to the ending. The BBC adaptation is brilliant, but the book is everything.

I discovered Before I Fall through first reading the Delirium trilogy by Lauren Oliver (when I was going through my post-Hunger-Games-Dystopian-phase). I loved these books and desperately wanted to read more from their author.

I discovered Night Film because a friend with similar reading tastes recommended it to me, and I’m so grateful, because I’ve never been so utterly obsessed with/possessed by a book. Marisha Pessl is bringing out a YA book later this year and I am so ready.


8) THE VET’S OFFICE…

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The Vet’s Office – Your least favourite book:

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The Book of Margery Kempe by Margery Kempe. I had to read this book for my Medieval Literature module at university, and whilst I loved everything else I studied for that unit, I detested this with a fiery passion. It’s basically a religious autobiography about this woman who wanders around weeping uncontrollably because she’s so overwhelmed by how much she loves God. It was boring and repetitive and basically agony to read.


9) BEING PLACES THEY SHOULDN’T…

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Being in Places They Shouldn’t – Least favourite cliche:

The ‘chosen one’ trope (with HP being the only exception). Ugh. Ugghhhh. Whenever I read the back cover of the book and it mentions “So-and-So: the one and only super-special teenager who can save the world from crumbling into a million irreparable pieces”, a part of my soul shrivels up and dies.


10) THE GOOD OLD CARDBOARD BOX…

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Final Question: The Good Old Cardboard Box – Most underrated book series:

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The Diving In trilogy by Kate Cann. I haven’t read this series in many years, but I remember these books being fantastic when I was a teenager. They follow a girl named Coll through her first serious relationship, but they essentially tell a coming-of-age story. They are all about the intensity of first love, but have some really healthy things to say about sex and relationships, the importance of friendships, and identity too. The characters were well-developed and memorable; fourteen years later, I still remember Coll’s feisty best friend Val, and her cool feminist mum. I would love to re-read these books and see if they live up to my memories.


As I was tagged to do this literally ten months ago, I am not sure who has done this one already, so I’m throwing this one out to all my followers… if you haven’t done this and would like to, consider yourself tagged!

Love to you all and I hope you have a gooooorgeous weekend full of books, pillows, and possibly pizza! ❤

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Book review: ‘The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue’ by Mackenzi Lee

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The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. Mackenzi Lee. Katherine Tegan Books. June 2017.

Henry “Monty” Montague doesn’t care that his roguish passions are far from suitable for the gentleman he was born to be. But as Monty embarks on his grand tour of Europe, his quests for pleasure and vice are in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

So Monty vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.


I don’t tend to reach for historical fiction often, but if more historical fiction books were written like this one, I would be far more inclined to pick them up. This book’s writing style was so accessible and modern, which made it light and fun to read. There was plenty of historical detail, and I could picture everything vividly, but there wasn’t so much as to make the book dry, and I never felt like the author was trying to overwhelm me by cramming in everything she knew about the period.

Something I really appreciated about his book was the author’s guide to the historical context at the end. There had been points throughout the story where I had been thinking ‘Could that really have happened in the 1700s?’ (even though I know NOTHING about the 1700s, so I was clearly talking out of my posterior), but everything had a factual basis, and it was clear the author had done her research. I learnt a lot from this book, particularly regarding race, sexuality, and scientific thought during this time period, but the story always came first, and I never felt like I was being lectured, which to me is the way all historical fiction should read.

Monty was a fabulous narrator – funny, self-deprecating, arrogant, yet insecure. Monty messed up A LOT in this book, but he felt like a real person BECAUSE of his flaws. I abso-bloody-lutely adored him, and just wanted to cuddle him, and tell him everything was going to be okay. Percy was another wonderful character. He was calm and sensible, but never boring. Beneath his quiet façade he had a wicked sense of humour, and the solid sense of confidence needed to call Monty out whenever he was being an idiot. Percy, despite growing up in a white aristocratic household, was a mixed raced character, which was a refreshing perspective to see explored in a historical novel. Characters of colour are not often enough given the spotlight in historical fiction, unless said books are exploring race-related topics specifically (which of course this book does too to a certain extent); it was wonderful to read a story about a POC character in the 1700s embarking on a thrilling (and romantic!) adventure with his best friend. We need more books like this one!

My favourite thing by far about this book was the relationship between Monty and Percy. Monty is a bisexual character who is secretly (but quite obviously) in love with his best friend, and I felt so many feels in all of the scenes where Monty was pining over Percy. These two were SO shippable, but also their relationship was flawed and realistic. There are moments when Monty is being selfish, and not really thinking about what Percy needs/how he feels, and there are moments when he really needs to be called out on that. Percy doesn’t hesitate to do so, and I felt like Percy really helped Monty to grow as a person, and acknowledge his areas of ignorance. I felt like Percy was the perfect match for Monty, bringing him back to reality whenever he went too far, and brining balance and harmony to their relationship. Percy, in short, was exactly what Monty needed.

Monty’s sister Felicity was also a character I loved to pieces. She was crotchety, smart, and always had her head stuck in a book, even at the breakfast table. Basically, she was a girl after my own heart. I hate the phrase ‘strong female character’, but to me, Felicity was exactly that. She wasn’t someone who knew how to fight, or use a weapon, but she was someone who could use her brain to outsmart anybody, and her self-taught knowledge and practical skills helped her to come up with solutions to so many of the problems the trio encountered throughout their journey.

I loved how far from the course of their original Tour the characters ended up, and I loved how much of an adventure this book became. I don’t want to go into plot details too much, as I don’t want to spoil anything, but this book takes you all over Europe, leading you into lots of unexpected, and dangerous, situations along the way. This story never stopped being exciting! If I had one little quibble, it would be that the pacing was at times too fast, which sounds like a strange criticism, because nobody wants a 500-page book to drag! I just sometimes felt like we jumped from one situation to another too quickly, without any time to breathe in between. However, this was a very minor grumble – it didn’t bother me enough to spoil my five star rating of this book.

I loved this book so much; it more than lived up the hype for me, and I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a well-written, entertaining, funny, diverse read full of characters you will fall in love with. JUMP ON THAT BANDWAGON, YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO!

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2018 Reading Resolutions

In 2018 I want to do things differently. This list of reading resolutions may make it seem like I want to read and blog LESS, but that’s not true at all. What I want is to read and blog more CAREFULLY. I want to put less pressure on myself, and I want to enjoy books as much as I can. Without further ado, here are my five reading resolutions for 2018…


1) Change the way I use the Goodreads Challenge

For the past two years I have set huge goals for myself in the Goodreads Challenge. In 2016, it was 100 books, and last year it was 52. I struggled to read 100 books, I easily ready 52, but I’ve realised that neither of these was a healthy goal for me.

Why?

Because when I set myself a challenge like that, I start thinking of reading as a race, and I start worrying about getting behind. I try to cram in as many small books as I can in order achieve a bigger number, rather than reaching for the books I actually want to read. I start reading books a quickly as I possibly can, and not getting anything from them. I do a lot of flailing. But all of this is silly, because reading should be fun, and should preferably not involve any flailing.

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I want to focus on quality, not quantity this year, so I am setting my goal at 12 books. Obviously I will read more than 12 books, I am just using 12 as a token number, as I still want to participate in the Goodreads challenge to track my reading over the year. But the point is, having a nice low number will stop me from caring so much about how MANY books I’m reading. Because it really doesn’t matter at all.


2) Review every book on Goodreads

This year I am planning to record a couple of lines about every book I read on Goodreads. I am not going to write long reviews, and may even write them in bullet points, but I want to be able to remember why I gave a certain book a certain rating.

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Why?

I feel like ratings have come to be largely meaningless for me, because how I rate books is very random, a number out of five is never enough to demonstrate how I actually felt about a book, and I often struggle to choose a number. (If I’m being honest, I’m way too liberal with the number five…) I was going to give up rating books altogether this year, and may still do so later down the line, but for now I am just going to put a couple of thoughts with each rating so it has some context for me and for others.


3) Stop buying so many books

Ahh I know, I know this sounds dreadful, and I’m not sure how long this is going to last, but at least for the first couple of months of 2018, I am going to try not to buy (m)any more books.

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Why?

Because I have over 200 unread books, and I should probably read them at some point.


4) Read the books I own

Why?

Because having 200 unread books is

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I bought each one of those books and at some point was super excited to read them. The problem is I keep getting distracted by shiny new books, and that’s just not fair to the ones gathering dust on my shelves. I want to get excited about them again. This year I want to tackle my TBR, and make enjoying the books I own a priority.


5) Do more wrap-ups and less full reviews

Why?

Don’t get me wrong, I like writing reviews, but I’ve realised over the past year that I much prefer writing (and reading/watching) wrap-ups with mini reviews of books. I wrote quite a few of these in 2017, but I want to do this a lot more in 2018. If I’ve got tons and tons to stay about a particular book, if I feel the need to let out approx. 1000 words of rage, or if it’s an ARC, I’ll review it in full, but otherwise I will review books in wrap-ups (probably once or twice a month). I also want to do more tags in between, because tags are fun!

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YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!


So, those are MY reading and blogging planz for the year. What are some of your reading resolutions for 2018? I’d love to hear from you! 🙂

45 Comments »

2017 End of Year Book Survey

Hello everyone! Hope you are all having a lovely holiday and have eaten your weight in cheese/pistachio nuts/chocolates/your outrageously fattening food of choice. I personally have eaten thrice my weight by opting for all three of the above.

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I did the End of Year Book Survey last year, and really enjoyed it. This tag was created by The Perpetual Page Turner, and I find it a great way to review my year of reading!

Without further ado, let’s get started…


2017 READING STATS:

Number of books you read: 85
Number of re-reads: 3 (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Winnie-the-Pooh, and Rebecca)
Genre you read the most from: Contemporary, closely followed by horror/thriller


Best book you read in 2017?

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ABSOLUTELY THE HATE U GIVE BY ANGIE THOMAS. A phenomenal book inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, with a hugely memorable narrative voice, characters I adored to pieces, and some powerful things to say we could all do with sitting down, shutting up, and listening to.


Book you were excited about and thought you were going to love more but didn’t?

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This Savage Song by V.E. Schwab was a big disappointment for me. I know this is a beloved book, but I found it kind of slow and boring, and I felt the world-building in particular was lacking. I wish I could have loved it as much as everyone else, but I just didn’t get the hype.


Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?

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Slade House by David Mitchell was a total mindf**k for such a tiny little book, and I loved how complex and creepy it ended up being. Definitely in my top 5 favourite books of the year.


Book you “pushed” the most people to read (and they did)?

The Hate U Give! And I will keep on pushing. Everyone should read this book.


Best series started in 2017:

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The Diviners series by Libba Bray! I fell for these books so hard. I loved the 1920s New York setting, and the paranormal elements made them so creepy and compelling. Libba Bray has put so much research into these books, and every detail comes together to create something luxuriously rich and believable; I couldn’t help but be completely sucked in.


Best sequel of 2017:

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That would have to be Lord of Shadows (despite the traumatic ending). I think the Dark Artifices series is some of Cassandra Clare’s best writing, although I will always hold The Mortal Instruments dearest in my heart.


Best series-ender of 2017:

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Mafiosa, the final book in Catherine Doyle’s Blood for Blood trilogy ripped my heart to pieces and remade it again. This YA mafia romance trilogy is such an emotional rollercoaster full of danger, passion, and intrigue. I am 100% obsessed with it and will definitely be reading it again soon.


Favourite new author you discovered in 2017?

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Tove Jansson (author of the Moomin books, a Finnish children’s series about cute troll-type creatures that live in a valley.) I loved the Moomin television show as a child, but I had never read any of the books until this year. There is something so lovely about them; they are quiet, quirky, and packed full of meaning and wisdom. I also picked up a collection of Tove Jansson’s short stories for adults this month (The Winter Book) and loved the stark poetry and subtle charm of her writing style. Can’t wait to read more of her work.


Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

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I read my first graphic novel this year – Nimona by Noelle Stevenson – and I loved it to pieces. I’ve never rooted for ‘villains’ so hard; these characters made me laugh on every page and rendered my heart all squishy.


Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

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Nemesis by Brendan Reichs was one of the most addictive books I read this year. The premise of a girl who is killed over and over again but never dies drew me in, but all of the mystery and conspiracy and weird things going down in her town kept me reading and reading, desperate to know what it all meant. The word unputdownable was designed for books like this.


Book you read in 2017 that you are most likely to re-read next year?

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I found quite a few new favourites this year, but I will almost certainly re-read Caraval next year in preparation for the sequel. I know opinions are split on this book, but I fall into the camp that adored it; it was so atmospheric and strange and dreamlike and I ate it up like the most decadent box of chocolates.


Favourite cover of a book you read in 2017?

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The cover of The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night by Jen Campbell is so gorgeous, and I will treasure this book of short stories forever because it is SO aesthetically pleasing, both inside (with the word-pictures it paints) and out.


Most memorable character of 2017?

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Eleanor Oliphant from Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. This book probably ties with THUG as my favourite book of the year. I related to Eleanor in ways I can’t even explain, and found her narrative voice so authentic and distinctive.


Most beautifully written book read in 2017?

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The Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moira Fowley-Doyle. Her writing is mesmerising and otherworldly. It took me completely away from myself.


Most thought-provoking/life-changing book of 2017?

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Esther the Wonder Pig. This is a memoir about two men and their pet micropig… who grew up to be not so micro after all. Not only was this book adorable, hilarious, and heartwarming, but it also got me thinking much more seriously about vegetarianism. This year I gave up pork, lamb, and beef, and in 2018 I will be going completely meat free. I have Esther to thank for my shift in world-view and I am very grateful 🙂


Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2017 to finally read?

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Murder on the Orient Express. How have I only just read my first ever Agatha Christie novel?! Madness! This book was fabulous and I intend to read many more of her novels in 2018.


Favourite passage/quote from a book you read in 2017?

It’s not the most profound passage from the book, but this oddball line from Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, for some reason, made me crack up laughing:

“If I’m ever unsure as to the correct course of action, I’ll think, “What would a ferret do?” or, “How would a salamander respond to this situation?” Invariably, I find the right answer.” 


Shortest and longest book you read in 2017?

Shortest: The Invisible Child and The Fur Tree by Tove Jansson (80 pages)

Longest: Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare (720 pages)


Book that shocked you the most?

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The Peppermint Pig by Nina Bawden. Whatthedamnhell was that ending?! Read my rant review if you want to know more…


OTP OF THE YEAR? (You will go down with this ship!)

I’ve not read many romance-centric books this year, but I do adore the pairing of Emma and Julian in the Dark Artifices series. Cassandra Clare is Queen of the Forbidden Romance and theirs is so agonisingly, heart-wrenchingly shippable.


Favourite non-romantic relationship of the year?

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I loved the relationship between Peter and his fox Pax in Pax by Sara Pennypacker. This is the story of a boy who gets separated from his pet fox and sets off on a journey across the country to find him again. The connection between these characters was so pure, and melted my heart into a pile of gooey slush.


Favourite book you read in 2017 from an author you’ve read previously?

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I loved The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli, just as much as Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda. Everything about it turned my insides to warm and fuzzy, and I loved the cameos from Abby and Simon. I can’t wait for Becky’s next book, Leah on the Offbeat.


Best book you read in 2017 that you read based SOLELY on a recommendation from somebody else/peer pressure?

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I finally read Bone Gap by Laura Ruby this year after so many fellow bloggers recommending it to me. I’ve decided that I need more magical realism in my life because this book was so weird and disorientating and fabulous.


Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2017?

Luca from the Blood for Blood trilogy. He’s the underboss of a prominent mafia family, but he’s secretly desperate to leave his family’s way of life behind. And he’s all sexy and Italian and stuff. *fans self*


Best 2017 debut you read?

I would have to say The Hate U Give or Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – my two favourite books of the entire year, and both, unbelievably, debuts!


Best worldbuilding/most vivid setting you read this year?

The worldbuilding in the Diviners series is some of the most impressive worldbuilding I have ever encountered. I’ve never been so immersed in a setting.


Book that put a smile on your face/was the most FUN to read?

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Esther the Wonder Pig by Steve Jenkins and Derek Walter; I laughed so much whilst reading this book, and all of Esther’s antics left me with a big soppy smile on my face. If you’re interested, she has a Facebook page, and it is glorious. Warning: you will fall in love with her and may decide to give up bacon for the rest of your life like I did.

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Also, shoutout to Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch which I read on my summer holiday. It was so light and fluffy and sweet, with a cute romance, and a lovely estranged father-daughter relationship. I also adored the setting (Florence, Italy). It was the perfect happy-making summer read.


Book that made you cry or nearly cry in 2017?

The Peppermint Pig by Nina Bawden.

Me upon finishing this book:

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Hidden gem of the year?

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The Wrong Train by Jeremy de Quidt. This creepy book is about a boy who gets the wrong train in the middle of the night. He gets off at a station which isn’t a station in the middle of nowhere, where he meets a strange old man who proceeds to tell him a bunch of horrifying stories. Although this was YA horror, it was actually extremely unsettling. The weirdness of this book gives it a feeling of ‘wrongness’, and that feeling of wrongness makes you want to shut all your curtains and block out the night. In other words, it was my favourite kind of book and I ADORED it.


Book that crushed your soul?

To re-use an answer (again), The Peppermint Pig. I don’t understand why a parent would read this to their child. It’s devastating.


Most unique book you read in 2017?

Slade House, which I’ve also already mentioned, was creepy and confusing and I would describe the reading experience as akin to walking UP a staircase only to arrive on the ground floor. It was a head-twisting masterpiece and like nothing I’ve read before.


Book that made you the most mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

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Did I Mention I Love You?  by Estelle Maskame. Ugh, the love interest in this book was toxic, and the main character was an idiot, and they were both selfish, and I just didn’t want them to succeed at all, y’know?


New favourite book blog you discovered in 2017?

I’ve been terrible at blog-hopping this year, but I have spent a LOT of time watching Booktube over the past 12 months. If you’re looking for recommendations, my favourites are Duvet Day Devours, Francina Simone, Peter Likes Books, and Hannah Tay.


Favourite review that you wrote in 2017?

I’m pointing you at my review of The Hate U Give, not because I think my review is anything special, but simply because I want EVERYONE to read this book!


Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?

I’m really proud of my ‘Self-care tips for book-bloggers’ post, and I was so happy with the response it received, as a lot of people seemed to relate to it. 🙂


Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?

YALC (Young Adult Literature Convention) at London Film and Comic Con was so much fun this year. I saw lots of awesome author panels, bought 22 books, and even spotted Benedict Cumberbatch wandering around the building (so much fangirling!)

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Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2017?

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Getting approved to read The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert on Netgalley was SO FREAKING EXCITING! And it absolutely lived up to the hype.


Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year?

Posting… you may have noticed I haven’t done a whole lot of that these past few months. My mental health has been up and down, and it has been so hard keeping up, but don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere – this blog and all of you guys mean too much to me, and I don’t want to let my anxiety win!


Most popular post this year on your blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

Apparently my most popular post was The Unpopular Opinions Book Tag… Because we all love throwing a bit of good ol’ fashioned shade!


Post you wished got a little more love?

Hmm, I don’t really have an answer for this one. I’ve learned to stop worrying so much about numbers, and it’s very freeing 🙂


Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?

This year I started buying books from charity shops and it’s so worth it! I scan the shelves specifically for books on my TBR, and it’s so satisfying when you manage to find, for example, a hardback copy of Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor for £1.50. BARGAINS ARE MY NEW FAVE.


Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

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#boom

 


Book you are most anticipating for 2018 (non-debut)?

These please:

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2018 debut you are most anticipating?

Most definitely this:

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Series ending/sequel you are most anticipating in 2018?

Squealy-excited about these:

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One thing you hope to accomplish or do in your reading/blogging life in 2018?

I want to try and post more regularly in 2018, but not put pressure on myself to review every book. That will hopefully mean lots more book tags and other bookish content as those are the posts I enjoy writing the most. 🙂 I also want to do much better at keeping up with all of YOUR wonderful blogs. ❤


A 2018 release you’ve already read and recommend to everyone:

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Of course my answer to this one has to be The Hazel Wood. It has everything I want in a story… mystery, intrigue, weirdness, creepiness, and fairytale magic. Absolute perfection! I can’t wait to pick up a physical copy when it comes out in February, and I can’t wait for you guys to read it too. Review coming soon.


If you’ve done the End of Year Book Survey too, please link me to your posts down below as I’d love to see which books you loved and hated in 2017.

Much love to you all and a very Happy New Year; I hope your 2018 is a happyful one! ❤ xxx

20 Comments »

Thriller review: ‘The Marriage Pact’ by Michelle Richmond

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The Marriage Pact. Michelle Richmond. Penguin. July 2017.

Would you stake your life on your marriage?

Newlyweds Jake and Alice are offered a mysterious wedding gift – membership of a club which promises its couples will never divorce.

Signing The Pact seems the start to a perfect marriage.

Until one of them breaks the rules.

The marriage of their dreams is about to become their worst nightmare.

Because The Pact is for life.

And its members will do anything to make sure no one leaves . . .


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

The Marriage Pact is hands down the best thriller I have read this year. I very rarely give 5 stars to a thriller these days because they are often samey and predictable, but this one had such a unique concept, and it was so well executed, that it ended up really wowing me.

I’ve always been fascinated by cults, but all of the cult-related books I have read have featured closed-community type cults. I loved that The Pact was a completely different kind of cult – an organisation operating on a global scale, with seemingly unlimited funds, and extreme levels of secrecy regarding its members and its methods. The scale, influence, and sinister mystery of The Pact made it all the more terrifying.

Jake and Alice were both likeable and believable characters, and I really enjoyed the development of their relationship, particularly seeing how it fared under such pressure (the whole being terrorised by a marriage-cult thing… just your standard marital problem). Although I loved both characters, they both frustrated me at times. The Pact really got between these characters, and the danger it put them in forced them to hide things from each other. But, if only they had communicated with each other more, they’d have had so much more ammunition with which to fight back against The Pact. I just wanted to smack their heads together, and be like: ‘Talk to each other, you fooools!” That being said, the deeper the trouble Jake and Alice got themselves into, the faster I was turning those pages. I cared about them, and I could barely put this book down; I carried it with me whilst I washed, dressed, cooked, ate, and absent-mindedly participated in conversations.

The Marriage Pact is told from Jake’s point of view, and I really connected with him as a narrator, although I would have welcomed some chapters from Alice’s point of view. There are sections of this book where Alice is going through (scary, scary) things that I would have loved to have heard about from her perspective. However, I guess I can appreciate why the author has chosen not to do this; the tension is ramped up to the max when Jake is separated from Alice and has no idea what is happening to her.

What I loved most about this novel was the world-building. World-building isn’t something I would usually associate with a thriller novel, but The Pact, as a wide-reaching cult-like community, needed a lot of setting-up. I think the author did a marvellous job of making The Pact feel like an authentic ‘world’, and succeeded at weaving in details throughout the story, rather than information-dumping everything at the beginning to set the scene. Every aspect of The Pact was well-thought out, from the rules, to the rituals, to the ridiculously terrifying Pact headquarters, named Fernley. I don’t want to reveal any details about what Fernley is/is like in this review, because I don’t want to spoil anything, but I felt like this gigantic place was so well described, so intricately thought out and revealed, that it felt scarily real, like the setting of a vivid nightmare.

If you are going to read this novel, naturally you are going to require a little suspension of disbelief. One thing that perplexed me when I first started reading this novel was how readily Jake and Alice signed their lives over to The Pact. Of course, they didn’t really know what they were letting themselves in for, but that’s where my issue lies; neither of them read The Pact’s main text ‘The Manual’ before deciding whether to join. In fact, they both scribble their signatures hastily, without even bothering to have a proper look at the contract they are signing. Alice is supposed to be an attorney, so it made no sense to me that she would sign a legal document without reading it first! Anyway, I quickly decided to suspend my disbelief, and I’m glad I did, because the story that followed was so exciting, I ended up being fully appreciative of Alice’s moment of madness (even if I do still think she needs to go back to Law school!)

All in all, I loved this thriller to pieces, and I decided to give this one a full 5 stars, because it gripped me so hard I was still thinking about it hours after finishing it. Highly recommend this book, especially if you’re looking for something to devour in one sitting.

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