The Mud and Stars Book Blog

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

A long-overdue bookish catch-up!

Hello bookish friends, and welcome back to my poor, abandoned little book blog!

I haven’t posted on here since November last year, and that makes me sad, so I wanted to come back and catch up with you all. This is the longest hiatus I’ve ever taken from blogging (5 months!), and there were several reasons for my absence:

1) It started with a terrible reading slump, where I didn’t feel much motivation to read for about 2 months. I did try to read, and I did finish some books, but most of them were very average and made my slump worse.

2) Then, I had some health problems. I was suffering from really low energy and fatigue at the start of this year, and some days I could hardly get out of bed. I thought it was linked to my mental health and that my depression was making a comeback, but thankfully after some blood tests I found out it was Vitamin D deficiency, and after a couple of months of taking supplements, I’m feeling a lot better (even though I still get tired really easily.)

3) Finally, I have been wanting to post again for a while, but anxiety has been holding me back. I freak out when I look at a blank word document I have to fill, worrying that what comes out won’t be good enough, or that everyone will have forgotten me!

But, I have worked so hard on building this blog, and, no matter how many breaks I take, I will always come back to it. I will never abandon it forever!

At this point in the year, I’ve read quite a lot of books, so I can’t possibly catch you up on everything I’ve read so far in 2019, but I thought I’d give you some quick thoughts on my favourites. It hasn’t been the best reading year so far, as not many books have really blown me away. However, these are the four that have stood out to me:


1) Pen Pal by Dathan Auerbach

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Pen Pal is probably my favourite book I’ve read so far this year. It’s a horror novel about a boy who gains a very creepy pen pal when he takes part in a school project (which involves releasing balloons with attached messages into the sky, in the hope that somebody will find them, when they land, and write back.) I can’t explain to you how creepy I found this book. The writing is so atmospheric and dreamlike; it reminds me of the off-kilter feeling of a nightmare, where everything looks normal, but you know that there is something (or someone) lurking in the shadows. My favourite part of this novel was one of the earliest chapters, where our main character wakes up in the forest alone in the middle of the night. It’s so strange and unsettling because he has no idea how he got there or how to find his way back home. My heart was pounding the whole time – the tension was perfectly written, and the feeling of being watched by someone unseen was undeniable. I got déjà vu whilst reading this chapter because it seemed so familiar, which almost added to how freaked out I felt, until I realised that I had actually read this chapter before on Reddit several years before (where this story was originally published.) I highly recommend this book if you like being creeped the hell out.


2) Monsters by Emerald Fennell (Trigger warning: child abuse)

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I got this book from the library, however I might buy my own copy as I would love to re-read it someday. This is the story of two somewhat terrifying children who become friends during a summer spent at a hotel in Cornwall. The setting is very atmospheric and there were some references to Daphne Du Maurier which I loved! In this Cornish town there is serial killer at large, strangling women and throwing their bodies into the sea, and to say that these two children are morbidly fascinated by these murders would be an understatement. They decide to turn detective and solve the murders, but they are far more interested in the gory details than your average true-crime fan. This book was dark and twisted, and although the characters are not ‘nice’, they get under your skin. Miles is definitely a sociopath, however our main character, whose name we never find out, is, underneath her scarily emotionless exterior, a lost, lonely, and neglected child who has never been shown what love is. As such, her friendship with Miles, the only person to ever really pay her attention, becomes very intense, bordering on obsessive. It was a very interesting relationship dynamic to explore. I felt desperately sorry for our main character, even if some of the things she came out with were, frankly, terrifying, and I found her a very compelling narrator. I think this is one of the most well-written and distinctive character voices I have read in a long time.


3) Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare

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I just finished reading QoAaD last night (having stayed up until 1am to finish it!) and I have so many emotions! The Dark Artifices is not my favourite Cassandra Clare series, but reading it really makes me appreciate the depth and breadth of the Shadowhunter world. If you haven’t read any of them, the books are about Nephilim (‘Shadowhunters’) who are charged with protecting the human (‘Mundane’) world from Demons. There are so many characters at this stage in the story, but all of them feel distinctive and none are forgettable. I love how this book draws together so many characters from across all of Cassie’s series, and seeing them working together makes my heart so happy. I guess I can’t really say a lot about this book as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read the rest of the Shadowhunter books, but I thought the plot of this book was epic (so many twists!) and the ending really wowed me. What happens towards the end of this book is a gigantic turning point in Shadowhunter history, and I am so excited to see what happens in The Wicked Powers series, politics-wise. I loved the happy-endings that some ongoing storylines received here (my heart! 😀 ), with others not wrapped up quite so tidily (my heart! 😥 ). This book felt like a conclusion, but also the beginning of other exciting storylines which we will see develop in The Wicked Powers. All in all, I really loved this emotional journey. It was a big beastie of a book at almost 900 pages, but I made it, and I adored every second of it.


4) Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

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Finally, I would like to talk about Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. Funnily enough, I didn’t give this book 5 stars, because I felt like some of the characters were a little lacking in depth and development, however it’s a stand out book because of how much it entertained me. This story follows Rachel Chu, whose boyfriend Nick Young invites her to spend the summer in Singapore with his family. Little does Rachel know, but the Young’s are one of the most monumentally rich families in Asia, and they are NOT happy with Nick’s choice of girlfriend. This book was humorous, but a lot of the humour is subtle and satirical. It reminded me of the way Jane Austen writes, because it is filled with acute social commentary, and the way certain characters act when they are not intending to be funny provides the comedy in so many scenes (e.g. pompous, snobby Eddie Chen, whose pants split in a scene where he is forcing his long-suffering family to dress up as expensively as him to impress a society magazine photographer.) I really enjoyed all of the lavish descriptions of Nick’s family’s opulent lifestyle; it’s the kind of wealth that is so ridiculous it makes your mind boggle, and it’s so much fun to read about. I also really liked reading about Singapore, and every time food was mentioned I became instantly hungry. Funnily enough, I visited Singapore a month or so after reading this book, and whilst I didn’t see the ‘crazy rich’ side of it that these characters experience, I got excited every time I recognised something from the book (and of course, every time I sampled the delicious food!).  This book was all round entertaining, and I hope to read its sequels very soon!


And that concludes my big catch up blog post! I’m sorry I was away for so long, and I’m looking forward to blog-hopping now that I’m back and catching up on all of your posts too.

Hopefully I’ll be back again with another post soon. I am going to make some changes to my blog and revamp things a bit (perhaps even with a new colour scheme!) I also want to experiment with different types of content. The focus will still be on books, but I hope to write about some other things that are important to me too, including mental health. I am thinking of doing a travel post soon too, as I would love to share some of my stories and photos from the trip to Singapore I mentioned above!

Lots of bookish love to you all, and see you soon! Jess xxx

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November Wrap Up: some mini book reviews!

Happy Friday bookworms!

I’ve read a lot of wonderful books in November. I’ve already reviewed a couple of those books, so this is just going to be a wrap up of everything else I read this month but haven’t talked about yet! Let me know if you’ve read any of these books, and what you thought of them! I like having people to fangirl with. ❤


The Wonderling by Mira Bartok

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This was a cute middle grade fantasy about Arthur, a half-human/half fox boy, and his best friend, a little bird called Trinket, who go on an adventure after escaping from their grim orphanage, Miss Carbunkle’s Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures. This was such a fun book. It gave me Oliver Twist vibes, had some cool Steampunk elements, and the world building was brilliant. Everything felt magical, and there were more wonders to discover with every page, although there were also some dark and gloomy corners of the world which gave the book a gritty edge. The friendship between Arthur and Trinket was so heartwarming, and, along with the charming illustrations (drawn by the author herself), was probably my favourite thing about this book. My only criticism was that it was rather long for a middle grade at almost 500 pages, and it started to drag a little towards the end, but other than that, I adored this beautiful book.


Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett

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I picked this book up because I was in the mood for some fluffy contemporary and I liked it, but I didn’t love it. The basic premise is that Zorie and her ex-best-friend/boyfriend Lennon get stranded together in the wilderness after a camping trip with some other friends turns into a big bust up with said friends. I really enjoyed the chemistry between Zorie and Lennon, and I liked that they both had interesting hobbies. Zorie is into astronomy, and Lennon is (luckily) into wilderness survival. I’m a sucker for the whole hate to love thing, so the tension between these two was my fave. I think the thing which prevented me from loving this book wholeheartedly was the annoying trope of ‘lack of communication’. The reason Zorie and Lennon broke up wouldn’t have been a reason at all if they’d just had a conversation, and it makes no sense that they didn’t if they mattered to each other that much. The other thing I didn’t like is that Zorie says some super mean things to one of her friends on the camping trip, and never apologises. Their friendship is just over at the end of the book, and that’s it. But grievances aside, I did enjoy the romance in this one, I liked exploring the wilderness and learning more about outdoorsy stuff like how to stay safe from bears, and I liked Lennon’s lesbian moms who own a sex shop, because they were just cute and so much fun. ❤


Vicious and Vengeful by V.E. Schwab

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I’m not the hugest fan of V.E. Schwab’s books; I always feel like something is missing. Thankfully, I felt differently about these two: I loved them! This series follows Victor and Eli, college friends (turned enemies), who decide to experiment with near death experiences in order to gain supernatural powers. The book kicks off ten years after these events with Victor escaping from prison, hellbent on revenge against Eli for putting him there. The characters in this series are so complexly constructed. It’s hard to tell who is the hero and who the villain; these characters are both morally grey. Victor and Eli want to destroy each other, and both have motivations that, though twisted, make sense. Victor is the one I was rooting for, but I couldn’t bring myself to completely hate Eli. I love all of the characters, and the dynamics between them, particularly the found-family relationship Victor has with Mike (his cellmate from prison) and Sydney, an injured girl he rescues from the side of the road. There’s something so warm and fuzzy about the way these three look out for each other as the story progresses.

I preferred Vicious to its sequel: Vicious had me completely sucked in, especially the sections set in the past, during Victor and Eli’s college days, however Vengeful was a little too slow paced and long to keep me constantly engaged. Nevertheless, I enjoyed being back with the characters, and also meeting some new anti-heroes along the way. I was not happy with the ending though. It was abrupt, and I feel like there is so much more story to tell! I hope we get another sequel.


Heartstopper Volume One by Alice Oseman

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Heartstopper is an ongoing web comic created by UKYA author Alice Oseman (whom I adore!). A bind up of the first two chapters is being published in February, but I read this on Alice’s Tumblr as I don’t have a physical copy yet. I CAN’T WAIT TO GET MY HANDS ON ONE! The story of Heartstopper follows Charlie and Nick, two characters who appear in Alice’s debut novel Solitaire, however you don’t need to have read Solitaire first in order to understand this comic. It’s a gentle boy meets boy – friends to something more – love story, with gay and bisexual rep, and it’s so engaging because the interactions between the characters are so real. It’s warm and comforting (although it does deal with some heavier topics, such as bullying, at times) and is my new favourite thing ever. The art style is very cute; Alice perfectly captures the body language of people who are crushing on each other, and it fully gave me all the butterflies of that experience. Charlie and Nick are SO adorable, and every interaction between them made me squee with joy. Nick also has an adorable dog called Nellie who made me squee with joy whenever she appeared. Basically, if you want to squee with joy, repeatedly, you need to read this. You can read the whole thing (up to the latest post) for free on Alice Oseman’s Tumblr. You are so welcome! ❤


The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

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I finally picked up The Raven Boys after having it on my shelf for about 6 years. I had tried to read it lots of times but never managed to get into it, but this time I got sucked into this weird and whimsical story. It is one of those series you have to really concentrate on, in order to get everything you can out of it. It is quite subtle, very character driven, and there are hints and allusions to things it would be easy to miss if you weren’t paying attention.The story follows Blue, Gansey, Ronan, Adam and Noah, a group of friends who are searching for the tomb of a Welsh King who is rumoured to grant a favour to the person who wakes him. It’s a story about psychics, and ley lines, and dreams, and magic, a perfect mix of things I adore. The pacing can be slow, because although there is a mysterious, fascinating plot, it almost takes a backseat to the characters and their complex friendships, but those characters are what make this story so dear to my heart.

My favourite character is Gansey; I relate so much to his burning need for there to be something *more* to life than we can see. I love his obsessive personality, and the way he fills his notebooks with frantic scribblings about his quest. My least favourite character so far is Adam. I want to like him, but he makes it so difficult. Adam is from a less privileged background than his friends, and has experienced some really difficult things, which of course make me sympathise with him, but his anger about his unhappy upbringing is often misdirected towards his friends, who are only ever trying to help him, and it really frustrates me. Ronan is supposed to be the snarky, spiteful character, and yet I find him so much more endearing than Adam. (I think this might be largely to do with how uncharacteristically sweet he is towards his pet raven, Chainsaw.) I’m reading book three now, and I am loving this series. It will definitely be one I re-read again and again in the future, as I feel there will be more to gain from it each time.

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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

moonrise

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

conspiracygirl

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

thestrangelibrary

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

moominlandmidwinter

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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