The Mud and Stars Book Blog

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

All of my thoughts and (many, many) feelings about ‘Lord of Shadows’ by Cassandra Clare

Spoiler alert: This review contains spoilers for Lady Midnight, and the Mortal Instruments series. If you haven’t read them, but plan to, then look away now!


Lord of Shadows. Cassandra Clare. Simon & Schuster Children’s UK. May 2017.

Emma Carstairs has finally avenged her parents. She thought she’d be at peace. But she is anything but calm. Torn between her desire for her parabatai Julian and her desire to protect him from the brutal consequences of parabatai relationships, she has begun dating his brother, Mark. But Mark has spent the past five years trapped in Faerie; can he ever truly be a Shadowhunter again?

And the faerie courts are not silent. The Unseelie King is tired of the Cold Peace, and will no longer concede to the Shadowhunters’ demands. Caught between the demands of faerie and the laws of the Clave, Emma, Julian, and Mark must find a way to come together to defend everything they hold dear—before it’s too late.

It’s hard to concisely review a 700 page book at the best of times, but it’s even more difficult when you fell in love with it so much you could probably fill a book of the same length with all of your many, many feelings! I’ll do my best not to write an essay, you guys.

I’d been anticipating the sequel to Lady Midnight for a long time, so I started reading Lord of Shadows as soon as I could get my hands on it. Lord of Shadows is set in the aftermath of Malcom Fade’s betrayal, and follows the Blackthorn family and their friends as they attempt to deal with the numerous repercussions from Malcom’s death. And believe me, although this warlock is dead, his story is FAR from over! Cassandra Clare is the Queen of Plotting, and I loved how the tiniest of details from Lady Midnight were picked up again in this book; they were all there for a reason, and everything was so cleverly woven together.

Cassandra Clare writes villains so complexly and fabulously that they really leap of the page, and give you feelings of pure, unadulterated hatred. In Lord of Shadows we have threats coming from all directions; threats from Malcom (even though he is supposed to be dead), threats from Faerie (because to say the Fair Folk are not happy about the Cold Peace, and not the biggest fans of Nephilim right now, would be putting it mildly), and even threats from a certain group of Shadowhunters with some rather nasty views.

In this book, we are introduced to Zara Dearborn, a Shadowhunter and Centurion who has, along with a big group of other Centurions, been sent to L.A. to search for Malcom Fade’s body. Zara is probably the most detestable character in the entire book; she’s a patronising bigot who has only slightly less horrific ideas about how Downworlders should be treated than Valentine Morgenstern himself. Every time Zara appeared on the page, I wanted to punch her in the face, she was so ridiculously evil. My hatred was probably exacerbated further by the fact that the vile rhetoric she was spouting about Downworlders sounded all too similar to some of things we hear in today’s world about certain groups of people. Fantasy is such a good platform for exploring how we can respond to bigotry, and I have so much respect for Cassandra Clare for using it. All of the decent characters in this book took every opportunity they could to call Zara out, and fight against what she stood for.

Emma, Christina, Diana, Julian, Mark, and the rest of the Blackthorn clan, were all given so much character development in this book. The younger Blackthorns are growing up, and they became much more involved in Shadowhunter missions throughout the course of this story. I really enjoyed learning more about Ty and Livvy, and I thought that the exploration of Ty’s autism was fantastic, particularly in the positive ways it was shown to help him with certain aspects of being a Shadowhunter.

Something else I really loved was Kit’s story: seeing him slowly coming to terms with being a Shadowhunter. He was hostile and reluctant to start with, having just lost his father, and feeling like an outsider in this world he never knew he was a part of, but I loved seeing his development as he gradually learned to trust, and came to love, Ty and Livvy, who guided him through everything as gently as they could. I felt like there was something more than friendship growing between Kit and Ty, and I hope that’s developed further in the next book, but for now I think the slow build relationship was handled excellently, and felt very pure and truthful.

Speaking of relationships, I have SO many feelings when it comes to Emma and Julian. As we know from Lady Midnight, these two are doomed by the curse of ultra-forbidden love, which will destroy everything they hold dear if they pursue it. It was so hard to watch these two dealing with the agony of trying not to love each other, especially in the sections from Julian’s point of view; he is usually so calm and in control of his feelings, but his love for Emma really tore him apart in this book. I don’t want to give any spoilers away, so I won’t go into any plot details here, but there were scenes that broke my heart between these two, and scenes that made that same heart beat overtime. The relationship between Julian and Emma is endgame, on SO many levels.

As much as I love Julian and Emma, we all know that my OTP from the Shadowhunter Universe is Malec. I loved that Magnus and Alec were a part of this book, and now that their adorable adopted children (one of whom is blue) have been added into the mix, I just can’t even. My heart was filled with so many fluffy feelings during every scene in which they interacted with the tiny people they are raising together.

Although Cassie gave me lots of fluff in Lord of Shadows, she also quite brutally ripped my heart out with the way this book ended. Before I read this book, I’d heard a lot of people talking about how it had destroyed them. I am not going to go into details because spoilers, but I can confirm that, after finishing this book, I am definitely NOT okay. The thing that devastated me so much was unexpected, shockingly abrupt, and painful. I am also left feeling horribly uneasy, because my favourite characters are not safe and snug just yet – not by a long shot. I don’t know how I can possibly wait until 2019 for the next book!! I can’t cope with this level of uncertainty!!!!

All in all, Lord of Shadows gave me everything I could possibly have wanted in a sequel: fabulous plotting, rich character development, villains I more than despised, and feelings. SO MANY FEELINGS. If you haven’t already done so, you need to pick this book up, ASAP. But, be warned: you will be DESPERATE for the next book the moment you turn the final page. And you’re not going to get it for another two years…. WHY CASSIE, WHY?!?!?

Have you read Lord of Shadows? Who is your favourite character in the Shadowhunter Universe? And how are you coping with life after finishing this book? HELP ME! I HAVE TOO MANY FEELINGS FOR ONE PERSON TO BEAR ALONE!!!!


Fancy a supernatural roadtrip across America? ‘Demon Road’ by Derek Landy will take you on one…


Demon Road. Derek Landy. Harper Collins Children’s Books. February 2016.

For anyone who ever thought their parents were monsters… Amber Lamont is a normal 16-year-old. Smart but insecure, she spends most of her time online, where she can avoid her beautiful, aloof parents and their weird friends.

But when a shocking encounter reveals a horrifying secret, Amber is forced to go on the run. Killer cars, vampires, undead serial killers and red-skinned, horned demons – Amber hurtles from one threat to the next, revealing the terror woven into the very fabric of her life. As her parents close in behind her, Amber’s only chance rests with her fellow travellers, who are not at all what they appear to be….

I had no idea what to expect when I borrowed Demon Road from my local library, but I ended up giving it 5 stars because it was soooo ridiculously entertaining. I’d been wanting to read a Derek Landy book for a while for the sole reason that I saw him speak at YALC two years ago, and the man was HILARIOUS. His talk was like a stand-up comedy show; he had everyone roaring with laughter, and I just knew that someone that funny would write an excellent book. I was right!

Demon Road follows Amber, a 16-year-old girl who is on the run from her demon parents, who want to kill and eat her so they can gain more demon-y power: just your standard teenage problem really. The story is a kind of supernatural road trip across America, and yes that is as exciting as it sounds! Amber is joined by Milo (a surly, mysterious man who has an unusual relationship with his car – no, I don’t mean a sexual one, you perv!), and Glen, an overly chatty and extremely irritating (but strangely loveable) Irish boy they pick up somewhere along the way.

I loved the characters in this book, and the dynamics between them. There was no romance whatsoever, which was so refreshing, and allowed for my favourite kind of relationship to develop between the characters: unlikely (and reluctant) friendship!

Amber was a fabulous main character because she was a tough cookie, but not unrealistically so. She had the will to fight back, and she held it together pretty well considering her parents were attempting to kill and eat her, but she also experienced fear, felt pain, and didn’t magically, automatically know how to fight like a badass. Amber was smart (despite making some impulsive [bad] decisions here and there), funny, and adept in the art of quippy teenage sass. I found her (and all of the other characters, tbh) hilarious, and I’m so happy that Derek Landy’s IRL sense of humour translated so well into this book.

Demon Road had so much action, and so many moments of omg-they’re-all-going-to-die peril, that I had trouble putting it down. I enjoyed the urgency and fear of knowing that Amber’s psychopath parents were hot on her trail, and I loved all of the scrapes she, Milo, and Glen got themselves into along the way. They met so many fascinating (and SHADY) characters, and got unintentionally caught up in so many small-town paranormal horror stories, as they made their way across the supernatural backroads of America (a trail known to those in the know as the ‘Demon Road’). It was impossible to get bored with this novel; I never knew what was lurking around the next corner.  I love stories set in small towns where freaky weirdness is goin’ down, so the parts where the characters would pitch up in a new town for the night were so much fun for me.

I should probably warn you that this is quite a gory book (I’m talking guts, all over the place), but I’ve never been as bothered by supernatural violence as I have the kind that could happen in real life. If I can handle it, anyone can, because I’m a wimp when it comes to these kinds of things. I actually weirdly appreciated how brutal Amber’s parents were, because it gave a real edge of danger to the story; the threat Amber was running from was REAL.

All in all, I absolutely loved this book! I’m definitely going to read the sequel, Desolation, and I’ll be checking out some of Derek Landy’s other books too. If this sounds like your cup of tea, I highly recommend you do the same! 🙂

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‘The Upside of Unrequited’ by Becky Albertalli: a book which made me ridiculously happy! :):):)


The Upside of Unrequited. Becky Albertalli. Penguin. April 2017.

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love—she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny and flirtatious and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back. 

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker Reid. He’s an awkward Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?

I can’t even explain to you how much joy I experienced whilst reading this book. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know how frequently I wax lyrical about Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, aka the book I reread whenever I’ve had a thoroughly crappy week and need some cheering up. Because of how much I loved Becky Albertalli’s debut, I was nervous picking up her second book, worried I wouldn’t adore it in the same way I did Simon. But my worrying was in vain, people! This book made my heart so happy, and I can now officially say that Becky Albertalli is one of my FAVOURITE authors. I will auto-buy anything she ever writes in the future, and I can’t WAIT for her next book!

One of the reasons I loved this book so much was Molly; she was SUCH a relatable protagonist. At school, I was exactly like Molly – I was super awkward and shy around boys I liked, and I never put myself out there, because I was so scared of rejection. I was also overweight like Molly, and I related so much to how this made her feel at times, particularly when she felt like the boys she liked wouldn’t be interested because of her weight.

Molly also had anxiety, and sometimes I felt like Molly was literally speaking my own thoughts out loud. So many random observations she made about little things had me going ‘YES, THIS!’, for example when she feels all awkward and anxious about two sets of people she knows from different places being at the same sleepover together. I have zero chill when it comes to situations like this either. I loved the way Molly’s anxiety was portrayed in this story so much; we saw her taking her medication, we saw her lying awake at night, thoughts churning round and round in her head, but we also saw Molly. Anxiety was not the only facet of her personality, and this book was not the story of her anxiety. I appreciated that so much. I find it so difficult to find representations of anxiety in books, unless the stories are specifically about anxiety. This one was realistic and relatable, and helped me connect with the idea that anxiety is not ALL there is to ME.

As well as being the fictional version of teenage me, Molly was hilarious and witty, and her narration made me laugh out loud so many times. It’s quite rare for books to ACTUALLY make me lol, so I bow down in worship to Becky Albertalli for making me continuously giggle throughout reading this book using words from her very own brain.

The romance in this book was super cute, and made me squeal, which is always the sign of a romantic storyline done well. I loved Reid (Will who?!), and I loved all of the dorky text messages full of in-jokes that he and Molly sent to each other. They reminded me of the messages me and my boyfriend send to each other; I always think that if anyone else were to read them, they’d think we were super-weird, but they make sense to us. Every scene containing Reid left me with a big sappy grin on my face (which was exactly my reaction to every Simon and Blue exchange in Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda). Becky Albertalli builds romantic tension SO WELL, and has a gift for creating fluffy, happy, squealy feelings in the hearts and tummies of her readers.

I think the thing this book did BEST of all was its portrayal of family dynamics. Nadine and Patty, Molly’s parents, were BRILLIANT. For starters, they actually acted like parents, and noticed/got angry when their children drank alcohol at a sleepover (because, HELLO other YA books; parents get mad about this shit in real life, y’know? Take heed!) Something else I loved about Nadine and Patty was how much personality they had, and how much a part of the story they were. I read so many YA books that are rendered unrealistic by their glaringly obvious parent-shaped holes, so thank you, Becky Albertalli, for recognising that parents are a massive part of our lives: they comfort us when we’re down, they tell us off when we mess up, and they make us laugh, daily. Molly’s parents provided a lot of humour in this story: Nadine in particular was hilarious, and I loved her obsession with ‘compound curse-words’. Badass, sweary parents are one of my favourite things to encounter in a piece of literature, tbh.

The relationship between Cassie and Molly was also very well done. I loved the way this book explored what happens when someone close to you gets into a new relationship, and the way it can make you feel left behind, even if you are happy for them. Molly and Cassie’s relationship was complex, well written, sad at times, but also pretty wonderful. The sibling storyline in this book was perhaps an even more important love story than the romance. Plus, Cassie was a FABULOUS character. She was feisty, and funny, and confident; she was selfish a times, but she was human, and felt like a real, relatable person. I loved her.

Finally, I just wanted to say that I loved that Becky Albertalli wrote such a diverse cast of characters in this book, all of whom felt like real people, with vibrant, memorable personalities. I loved that there were so many LGBT characters in this book, and I loved that the book was set around the time when gay marriage was legalised in America. This book was an awesome, rainbow-filled celebration of that, and the way this historic event affected the plot made me so happy; it was all kinds of adorable.

I feel like I have used the words ‘loved’ and ‘adored’ so much in this review, but I speak the truth. I LOVED AND ADORED this book, I have nothing but good things to say about it, and I really think you should pick it up ASAP, so you can feel as happy as I did whilst reading it.


Currently reading: eleventy-million books

I’m not usually one of those people who reads multiple books at the same time: I’m more of a one book kinda gal. However, recently, as I’ve been feeling reading-slumpy, I’ve decided that the solution to beating said slump is to read a silly number of books at one time (okay, five, whatever…), and keep switching every time I find myself getting a little bit book-fatigued. Here are all of the books I’ve got on the go at the mo:

Mafiosa by Catherine Doyle


In my last post I mentioned that I fell in love with Vendetta (the first book in the Blood for Blood trilogy, which is a YA mafia romance, and is a lot less trashy than it sounds.) Mafiosa is the third and final book in the series and is undoubtedly the book I’m enjoying most at the moment. I love all of the characters in this series, and although I don’t know any gangsters personally, the ones in these books feel pretty realistic to me. This book feels so much darker, and more dangerous, than the first, but it’s still full of feels, and I am swooning hard over Luca, the underboss of the Falcone mafia family, who I believe, deep down, just wants to be good.

*fans self*

*falls on floor*

*rip jess*

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski


This is definitely the most challenging book I’m reading at the moment, and because it is so ginormous, and majoratively written in the style of an academic text, I think it’s going to take me at least a month or two to finish it. This novel is about a man who finds an academic paper about a mysterious documentary that doesn’t exist. The documentary is supposedly about a house which is bigger on the inside than the outside (in a creepy, rather than cool, Tardis-like, way). This book is strange and scary, although it’s difficult to describe exactly WHY it’s so scary. The writing is unsettling and when I’m reading this I feel like I completely zone out of reality.

Parts of this book are hard to follow, because the writer of the paper likes to go off on nonsensical, rambling tangents about loosely related academic concepts, which jars the narrative on so many levels. But I love how unique this book is – every page looks different, there are footnotes all over the place, parts of the text are upside down or on their sides, the word ‘house’ is written in blue ink every time it appears, and there are all sorts of other weird and wonderful things like this throughout the book. I guess it’s a bit pretentious, being so “experimental”, and I’m still not quite sure what it all means, but I’m enjoying trying to wrap my awed mind around all the craziness.

Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman


This is a collection of short stories and poems by Neil Gaiman, and so far it’s quite a mixed bag. I’ve read two Neil Gaiman novels previously (Coraline and The Ocean at the End of the Lane,) and was left a little bit underwhelmed by both of them. I liked them, but I didn’t love them. So far I’m not really loving this collection either. Don’t get me wrong, Gaiman is a GOOD writer, and his prose is beautiful, but the endings of most of the stories I’ve read so far have felt like anti-climaxes, and with some of those endings, I wasn’t really clear as to what had actually happened (which is frustrating, because I like to think of myself as a semi-intelligent human).

My favourite story in the collection so far has been one about a man searching for a cave on a mysterious island know as ‘The Misty Isle’. I love me a mysterious island, I really enjoyed the writing, and I felt like it had a powerful conclusion. But all of the other stories have been somewhat meh. I’m partially considering DNFing this book, but I don’t like doing that, so maybe I’ll press on and see if it becomes more my cup of tea in the second half.

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King


I’ve been wanting to pick up this short story collection for a while, as I really enjoyed King’s novella collection – Four Past Midnight. Like with Trigger Warning, this collection is a mixed bag so far, although I would say I am enjoying it more than the Neil Gaiman book. The first story in the collection, about a car that eats people, sounds like it would be ridiculous, but was actually very enjoyable. Some of the subsequent stories have been pretty entertaining too, and King is certainly the master of the creepy ending, as well as being one hell of a good storyteller in general. The stories I have enjoyed less have been ones I wouldn’t really describe as horror. They weren’t bad stories, but I guess they just didn’t fit with my expectations of what King usually writes. I’m not very far through this book, so I can’t wait to get creeped out by some of the more traditional horror type stories King does so well, in later pages.

You are a Badass by Jen Sincero


I got this book in my monthly ‘Buddy Box’ from The Blurt Foundation. The Buddy Box is a subscription box full of self-care goodies for people who suffer from depression, which you can take out a personal subscription to, or gift to somebody you know who is struggling. It’s such a lovely thing to receive every month, as the contents are always a surprise. This self-help book was a wonderful addition this month, and I am really enjoying reading this, because the author writes in a humorous, down-to-earth way which just makes me feel like she *gets* me, y’know?

I have to admit that some of the ideas are a little wishy-washy to me (there are mentions of ‘higher selves’ and ‘vibrations’ and ‘manifesting your desires’: concepts I encountered in Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway aka the worst book I read in 2016, and which I personally don’t buy), but there are also plenty of chapters with useful, practical advice about boosting your self-esteem, forgiving other people, and forgiving yourself, which I’m finding very helpful. Every chapter ends with a list of things you can do to put the advice into practice, which for me makes it so easy to digest and remember. There is also a resounding message that ‘self-love’ is the most important thing of all, and that’s something I can’t help but dig. ❤

So that’s all of the books I’m currently reading! Let me know in the comments if you’ve read and loved/read and hated any of these books, and if you have any recommendations for similar books I might enjoy. Lots of love to you all, and hope you have a lovely weekend!


Mini reviews of YA books

Hello everybody and a happy Tuesday to you! (I know, I know, it’s a stretch; Tuesdays suck only slightly less than Mondays…) Today I want to share with you some mini reviews for YA books that I have read over the past month or so. The first two I didn’t enjoy as much as I’d anticipated, but the third one I fell in love with. Let me know your thoughts if you’ve read any of these books – I’d love to discuss them with you 😊

The Yellow Room by Jess Vallance


When Anna receives a letter telling her that her father has died, she finds it hard to feel anything much. She hasn’t seen him for years and can barely remember him. She certainly has no interest in meeting the person who sent the letter: her dead father’s girlfriend, Edie. Anna has her own problems to deal with, including a secret she desperately needs to keep buried.

When Leon, a creepy boy from school, begins threatening to reveal Anna’s secret, Anna’s life starts spiralling out of control. With her own mother distracted and distant, she finds herself turning to the warm and eccentric Edie for support.

But what Anna doesn’t realise is that Edie has some secrets of her own.

My rating: 3 stars

I have very mixed feelings about this book. There were lots of things I LOVED about it; the characterisation was EXCELLENT, and although I was left a little bit underwhelmed by the plot, I still remember all of the characters and their quirks, because they were all so colourfully painted.

I enjoyed reading this book, but I felt disappointed with the last 30% or so. I LOVED the first half. The creepiness of some of the characters in this book was spot on. Leon, the boy who was blackmailing our main character, Anna, was the PERFECT villain. I just wanted to strangle him, he was so vile and condescending. The pacing and atmosphere of the first half was excellent too. But then…

I felt the final quarter of the book was RUSHED through. I had barely blinked and the book was over and all wrapped up. The tension building beforehand had been excellent, but the climax happened way too fast. I wasn’t left with unanswered questions, but I almost wish I had been, because everything seemed too neat, and was resolved far too quickly. I felt too much like I had been *told* the conclusion of a story, if that makes sense. Too many threads were tied up for it to seem real.

If I was rating the first half of the book alone, I would give this book 5 stars, but as a whole, I’ve gone for 3, because the resolution felt a little bit like a rapidly deflating balloon. I was left with a ‘meh’ feeling, which is a shame, because I had such high and floaty hopes at the beginning.

Unconventional by Maggie Harcourt


Lexi Angelo has grown up helping her dad with his events business. She likes to stay behind the scenes, planning and organizing…until author Aidan Green – messy haired and annoyingly arrogant – arrives unannounced at the first event of the year. Then Lexi’s life is thrown into disarray.

In a flurry of late-night conversations, mixed messages and butterflies, Lexi discovers that some things can’t be planned. Things like falling in love…

My rating: 2 stars

I wanted so much to love this book, and I had SUCH high expectations. This book has been described as the British answer to Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – I mean, who wouldn’t have high expectations after such a statement? Sadly, this book is nothing like Fangirl, because Fangirl’s strength is in its characters, which just so happens to be this book’s weakness…

I loved the premise of this book, and as somebody who enjoys going to conventions, I felt it had been written especially for me. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t as well executed as I’d hoped.

The protagonist of this book did not stand out for me, I felt like the side characters were all the same person, and I felt no chemistry whatsoever from the romance storyline. There was so much focus on the running of conventions that I didn’t get a feel for ANYONE’S personalities OUTSIDE of the fact that they ran conventions, and although the book was trying to make the point that Lexi (our main character) didn’t know who she was outside of conventions (because they had been her main focus/priority her entire life), all this did was make her come across as a bland character with nothing *more* to her than… well, conventions. I mean, there wasn’t even any mention of what Lexi was a fan of, besides the love interest’s book… As somebody whose entire life/personality is based around conventions, I at least expected more geekery from Lexi, and I was left disappointed.

There was also way too much telling instead of showing in this book. For example, we were told that Lexi struggled to do her school essays because she had so much work to do for her dad, but we never saw her struggling, and we never saw this negatively impacting her schoolwork. In fact, we never saw her at school full stop. There were barely any scenes outside of the conventions, and, as a result, it just felt a bit like Lexi didn’t exist when she wasn’t at a convention. Ugh, I have used the word conventions too many times in this review and now it doesn’t sound like a real word.

Vendetta by Catherine Doyle


When five brothers move into the abandoned mansion next door, Sophie Gracewell’s life changes forever. Irresistibly drawn to bad boy Nic, Sophie finds herself falling into an underworld governed by powerful families. When Sophie’s own family skeletons come to life, she must choose between two warring dynasties – the one she was born into, and the one she is falling in love with. When she does, blood will spill and hearts will break.

My rating: 4 stars

Finally, a book I wasn’t disappointed with! Oh, how I adored this book (despite it’s cringey cover!) I went to Waterstones a couple of weekends ago, specifically looking for some fluff. As somebody who loves dark books too, I got an awesome combination of fluff and darkness when I picked up this YA mafia romance.

This book was EXACTLY what I needed – it was romantic, thrilling, intriguing, contained many a bad boy, and had some awesome family drama too.

I also LOVED Catherine Doyle’s writing style – it flowed so nicely that I forgot I was reading a book. She created some brilliant characters, and they were all so easy to imagine because of their body language. Very few authors pull this off, but I LOVE it when a writer can make me imagine a living breathing person by doing an excellent job of describing their movements (i.e. how they walk, what they do with their hands, their facial expressions when nobody is looking, etc.). I believed the Falcone brothers were real people because of the way Catherine Doyle used their bodies and made them move around each scene; they leapt off the page for me.

Props to Catherine, also, for making Sophie a strong main character, who felt fear intensely, yet still fought back, and for making her best friend, Millie, a memorable, hilarious character, who wasn’t just a sidekick, but felt like a lead in her own right.

I read this book super-speedily because I loved it so much, I devoured the second book in the trilogy (which had SO many good twists), and I’m now whizzing through the third. Highly recommend if you’re in the mood for fluff with a dark-and-dangerous edge, containing hot Italian bad-boys you may or may not swoon over.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? Hope you all have a week as lovely as your lovely selves. ❤


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


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


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.


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


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 be 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.


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


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


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


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.) 🙂


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


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.


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


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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