Monday, 31 December 2018

Taking Stock

The last year (and a bit) has been a rollercoaster, and a lot of it the not fun kind.
Towards the end of 2017 I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and left my place of work due to my manager's response to that fact - both within a few short weeks. It was a truly awful time, added to by starting antidepressants, which whilst ultimately a saving grace, provided an additional challenge during the first few weeks as I tried to find some sort of equilibrium.

Part of my depression manifested in not being able to read. I couldn't settle to anything for more than a page or two at a time, and having that support system of books taken away at a time when I needed it most was really difficult.

However, at the start of this year, as I took some much needed time out to try and piece myself back together again, and the tablets started to do what they were meant to, I found a little corner of myself I recognised - the one that wanted to read again.

Whilst I've not read with the usual speed and intensity as I used to, having that piece of myself back has been a huge relief. Something that I now take less for granted. One that I've then been able to branch out into actually reviewing books again - this site had gone unused for far too long.

So whilst this time last year I was an absolute mess, over the last twelve months the good has outweighed the bad, and the to read pile has slowly been tackled.

I want to thank you, dear reader, for sticking through the quiet patches where this space wasn't used, and for coming back to hear my thoughts on books and TV and films in the last few months. It means a lot to me.

I also want to open up a line of communication for anyone who is struggling with mental health. I'm trying to talk more about mine, to try and remove some of the taboo around it, and part of what really helped me was having people around me who had been through similar things and could offer me understanding and support. So if you need someone to talk to, use any of the listed ways to contact me - I will always be here.

Happy new year everyone, I hope the next 12 months bring you wonderful books to read and happiness, even when it may not feel like that is possible.

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I hope are under my Christmas tree!

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature hosted by the fabulous Jana at The Artsy Reader Girl. You can join in with future topics here!
My family know that books are a guaranteed way to a) keep me quiet and b) make me happy - both key things around Christmas.
So here you have ten books I'm hoping I've dropped enough hints about to end up with over the holiday!

A Devil in Scotland by Suzanne Enoch
A brash and bold Scot follows few rules. But falling in love with his brother's fiancee?That's a rule not meant to be broken... Reckless and wild, Callum MacCreath is everything his brother Ian is not. And when Ian gets to marry the beautiful Rebecca Sanderson, Callum is the one who has to stand by in watch. In love with Rebecca, Callum races off to America to pursue his own destiny. But even the most daring Scot can't escape true love's fate... Once a wife, now a widow, Rebecca needs to accept a marriage offer from a Duke in order to keep her daughter cared for and fed. But when Callum comes back from America with a blaze of desire in his eyes that reawakens her instantly, Rebecca knows that this time, she'll marry the right MacCreath.

Historical romance novels have become somewhat of a Christmas staple for me. I usually find at lest one in my stocking, and it keeps me quiet and happy for a couple of hours Christmas afternoon...

The Other Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn
She was in the wrong place...
Fiercely independent and adventurous, Poppy Bridgerton will only wed a suitor whose keen intellect and interests match her own. Sadly, none of the fools from her London season qualify. While visiting a friend on the Dorset coast, Poppy is pleasantly surprised to discover a smugglers' hideaway tucked inside a cave. But her delight turns to dismay when two pirates kidnap her and take her aboard a ship, leaving her bound and gagged on the captain's bed...
He found her at the wrong time...
Known to society as a rascal and reckless privateer, Captain Andrew James Rokesby actually transports essential goods and documents for the British government. Setting sail on a time-sensitive voyage to Portugal, he's stunned to find a woman waiting for him in his cabin. Surely, his imagination is getting the better of him. But no, she is very real-and his duty to the Crown means he's stuck with her.
Can two wrongs make the most perfect right?

When Andrew learns that she is a Bridgerton, he knows he will likely have to wed her to avert a scandal-though Poppy has no idea that he is the son of an earl and neighbor to her aristocratic cousins in Kent. On the high seas, their war of words soon gives way to an intoxicating passion. But when Andrew's secret is revealed, will his declaration of love be enough to capture her heart...?

I've been harping on about this one for an absolute age, and I'm really hoping the hint will have stuck...

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (collectors edition)
Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price–and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…
A convict with a thirst for revenge.
A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.
A runaway with a privileged past.
A spy known as the Wraith.
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.
Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

Such a fabulous book, and such a gorgeous new edition. I really want this one on my shelves, and I'm hoping they release a special edition of the second book next year too.

Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas (collectors edition)

Throne of Glass begins the sweeping saga of assassin Celaena Sardothien, who is serving a life sentence in the mines of Endovier - until a young captain of the guard offers her a deal. She will have her freedom, on one condition: she must fight to win a deadly competition to serve as the champion of the king. The king who rules his kingdom with a cruel and merciless hand.

Live or die, Celaena will be free. Win or lose, her destiny will claim her.
Now available in this gorgeous new package, the Throne of Glass Collector's Edition features unique foil-stamped cover art, a ribbon marker, beautiful new interior page designs, colour endpapers and a new map of Erilea.
I've been so good this year. Please let me have this one, it's so beautiful. Also, make the rest of the series match now, thanks.

Reign the Earth by A C Guaghen
Shalia is a proud daughter of the desert, but after years of devastating war with the adjoining kingdom, her people are desperate for peace. Willing to trade her freedom to ensure the safety of her family, Shalia becomes Queen of the Bonelands.
But she soon learns that her husband, Calix, is motivated only by his desire to exterminate the Elementae—mystical people who can control earth, wind, air, and fire. Even more unsettling are Shalia’s feelings for her husband’s brother, which unleash a power over the earth she never knew she possessed—a power that could get her killed. As rumours of a rebellion against Calix spread, Shalia must choose between the last chance for peace and her own future as an Elementae.

I've been eyeing this one for so long, and actually having some time to make my way through a stack of books over the Christmas break is exactly the perfect time to read this. Now I just hope I get a copy.

Fire and Blood by George R R Martin

With all the fire and fury fans have come to expect from internationally bestselling author George R. R. Martin, this is the first volume of the definitive two-part history of the Targaryens in Westeros.
Centuries before the events of A Game of Thrones, House Targaryen—the only family of dragonlords to survive the Doom of Valyria—took up residence on Dragonstone. Fire and Blood begins their tale with the legendary Aegon the Conqueror, creator of the Iron Throne, and goes on to recount the generations of Targaryens who fought to hold that iconic seat, all the way up to the civil war that nearly tore their dynasty apart.
What really happened during the Dance of the Dragons? Why did it become so deadly to visit Valyria after the Doom? What is the origin of Daenerys’s three dragon eggs? These are but a few of the questions answered in this essential chronicle, as related by a learned maester of the Citadel and featuring more than eighty all-new black-and-white illustrations by artist Doug Wheatley. Readers have glimpsed small parts of this narrative in such volumes as The World of Ice & Fire, but now, for the first time, the full tapestry of Targaryen history is revealed.

I'm super excited to immerse myself further in the history of Westeros. I love historical reads anyway, so this seems like a bit of a match made in heaven.

Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare
What if damnation is the price of true love?
Innocent blood has been spilled on the steps of the Council Hall, the sacred stronghold of the Shadowhunters. In the wake of the tragic death of Livia Blackthorn, the Clave teeters on the brink of civil war. One fragment of the Blackthorn family flees to Los Angeles, seeking to discover the source of the blight that is destroying the race of warlocks. 

Meanwhile, Julian and Emma take desperate measures to put their forbidden love aside and undertake a perilous mission to Faerie to retrieve the Black Volume of the Dead. What they find in the Courts is a secret that may tear the Shadow World asunder and open a dark path into a future they could never have imagined. Caught in a race against time, Emma and Julian must save the world of Shadowhunters before the deadly power of the parabatai curse destroys them and everyone they love. 

I've got the first two books in the series sat on my bookcase waiting for me to spend a couple of days back with the Shadowhunters over Christmas, and I really want the third book now to complete the set and allow me to thoroughly binge my way through this series.

Seven Minutes in Heaven by Eloisa James

Witty and elusive Eugenia Snowe has all society begging for one of her premiere governesses - except the powerful Edward Reeve, who bursts into her office with his arrogant demands.
He promises her heaven.
No question that Eugenia enjoys crossing wits with the brilliant inventor, but soon it becomes clear that Ward wants far more than a governess. He wants Eugenia, and he'll stop at nothing to have her - including kidnapping.
Will Eugenia lose her heart in the most reckless gamble of her life, or will she discover the sweetest pleasure she's ever known? 
She gives him seven minutes.

See the above excitement about how Christmas is the time for historical romances, add in how much I love Eloisa James and the fact that I've failed to catch up on her latest releases for a little while, and you have this gorgeous book that I really hope is under the Christmas tree for me.

Wilde in Love by Eloisa James
Lord Alaric Wilde, son of the Duke of Lindow, is the most celebrated man in England, revered for his dangerous adventures and rakish good looks. Arriving home from years abroad, he has no idea of his own celebrity until his boat is met by mobs of screaming ladies. Alaric escapes to his father's castle, but just as he grasps that he's not only famous but notorious, he encounters the very private, very witty, Miss Willa Ffynche.
Willa presents the fa├žade of a serene young lady to the world. Her love of books and bawdy jokes is purely for the delight of her intimate friends. She wants nothing to do with a man whose private life is splashed over every newspaper.
Alaric has never met a woman he wanted for his own... until he meets Willa. He's never lost a battle.
But a spirited woman like Willa isn't going to make it easy.

Yes please, see the above reasoning. More Eloisa James makes me a happy bunny.

Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman
The stakes are high in this chilling sci-fi thriller, in which professional scythes control who dies. Everything else is out of human control, managed by the Thunderhead. It's a perfect system – until it isn't.
It’s been a year since Rowan went off-grid. Hunted by the Scythedom, he has become an urban legend, a vigilante snuffing out corrupt scythes in a trial by fire. Citra, meanwhile, is forging her path as Scythe Anastasia, gleaning with compassion. However, conflict within the Scythedom is growing by the day, and when Citra’s life is threatened, it becomes clear that there is a truly terrifying plot afoot.
The Thunderhead observes everything, and it does not like what it sees. Will it intervene?
Or will it simply watch as this perfect world begins to unravel?

I really loved reading Scythe earlier this year. It was fresh and exciting, and really different from anything else I'd picked up. Now I can't wait to read the sequel and see what happens next.

There are ten books that I'm really hoping are under my Christmas tree. Let me know some of your hoped for Christmas reads in the comments, and have a lovely day!

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Silent in the Sanctuary re-read

Publication Date: December 28th 2007
Publisher: Mira
Pages: 552

Fresh from a six-month sojourn in Italy, Lady Julia returns home to Sussex to find her father's estate crowded with family and friends— but dark deeds are afoot at the deconsecrated abbey, and a murderer roams the ancient cloisters. 
Much to her surprise, the one man she had hoped to forget—the enigmatic and compelling Nicholas Brisbane—is among her father's houseguests… and he is not alone. Not to be outdone, Julia shows him that two can play at flirtation and promptly introduces him to her devoted, younger, titled Italian count.
But the homecoming celebrations quickly take a ghastly turn when one of the guests is found brutally murdered in the chapel, and a member of Lady Julia's own family confesses to the crime. Certain of her cousin's innocence, Lady Julia resumes her unlikely and deliciously intriguing partnership with Nicholas Brisbane, setting out to unravel a tangle of deceit before the killer can strike again. When a sudden snowstorm blankets the abbey like a shroud, it falls to Lady Julia and Nicholas Brisbane to answer the shriek of murder most foul.

There's nothing quite like returning to an old favourite. Particularly when that favourite is set at Christmas and involves murder and intrigue. I've talked a bit about my love for coming back to read this book around Christmas, but realised I'd never actually written a review of one of my all time favourites.

The Lady Julia books were a happy accident for me. I'd read and loved some Gail Carriger and decided to take advantage of Amazon's 'people who bought what you've bought also bought this!' feature. It recommended me this series, and I bought the first book, "Silent in the Grave", based entirely off the first sentence. I then bought the next two books (all that were out at the time) before I was barely twenty pages into the first, because I was enjoying it so much.

Whilst all of the books in the series are favourites in different ways, this one is the one I come back to at Christmas. The entire family, snow bound in their country house, with a murderer on the loose! Ghosts and ghouls! Foul play! Romance! Intrigue! I just cannot get enough of it, it is glorious.

It's sometimes hard to follow up an incredible first book, but Deanna not only has written a worthy follow up, but an absolutely brilliant continuation of the story. I loved meeting more of Julia's family. I loved the slow, simmering tension between her and Brisbane. The writing is glorious, the plotting absolute perfection, and the mystery itself truly brilliant. It's the kind of mystery that has you almost believing in ghosts - the mysterious apparitions and fear that pervade the estate at night. The character's are beautifully constructed. Everyone could be a suspect, all charming with dark hidden secrets just waiting for Julia to ferret them out with her intrepidly determined sleuthing.

In short, this book is perfection, and I love it. It's one I adore coming back to, and I always make time for a re-read at Christmas. If you're looking for an excellent historical murder mystery, the Lady Julia series is one of the very best out there.

If you're curious to find out more about Deanna's writing, you can read my Q&A with her here!

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: My Winter Reading Pile

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature hosted by the fabulous Jana at The Artsy Reader Girl. You can join in with future topics here!

It's cold and dark and the Christmas tree is up so I can sit and read by the light of the fairy lights! What more could I want? Oh yes, ten books to curl up with... Thankfully that isn't hard given the ridiculous towering pile of books waiting to be read...

Time's Convert by Deborah Harkness

On the battlefields of the American Revolution, Matthew de Clermont meets Marcus MacNeil, a young surgeon from Massachusetts, during a moment of political awakening when it seems that the world is on the brink of a brighter future. When Matthew offers him a chance at immortality and a new life free from the restraints of his puritanical upbringing, Marcus seizes the opportunity to become a vampire. But his transformation is not an easy one and the ancient traditions and responsibilities of the de Clermont family clash with Marcus's deeply held beliefs in liberty, equality, and brotherhood.
Fast-forward to contemporary Paris, where Phoebe Taylor—the young employee at Sotheby's whom Marcus has fallen for—is about to embark on her own journey to immortality. Though the modernized version of the process at first seems uncomplicated, the couple discovers that the challenges facing a human who wishes to be a vampire are no less formidable than they were in the eighteenth century. The shadows that Marcus believed he'd escaped centuries ago may return to haunt them both—forever.
A passionate love story and a fascinating exploration of the power of tradition and the possibilities not just for change but for revolution, Time's Convert channels the supernatural world-building and slow-burning romance that made the All Souls Trilogy instant bestsellers to illuminate a new and vital moment in history, and a love affair that will bridge centuries.

Currently I am in the middle of this one, but I keep dipping in and out and mixing it up with a few other books. But I am loving being back with these characters and getting a bit more of a taste for this world.

Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman

In the medieval kingdom of Goredd, women are expected to be ladies, men are their protectors, and dragons get to be whomever they want. Tess, stubbornly, is a troublemaker. You can’t make a scene at your sister’s wedding and break a relative’s nose with one punch (no matter how pompous he is) and not suffer the consequences. As her family plans to send her to a nunnery, Tess yanks on her boots and sets out on a journey across the Southlands, alone and pretending to be a boy.
Where Tess is headed is a mystery, even to her. So when she runs into an old friend, it’s a stroke of luck. This friend is a quigutl—a subspecies of dragon—who gives her both a purpose and protection on the road. But Tess is guarding a troubling secret. Her tumultuous past is a heavy burden to carry, and the memories she’s tried to forget threaten to expose her to the world in more ways than one.

I'm both really excited about this and terrified to read it in case it doesn't live up to my expectations. But with some time on my hands to do nothing but read, I think it's finally time.

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville—derailing the War Between the States and changing America forever. In this new nation, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Reeducation Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead. But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.
But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose. But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies. And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.

I've heard so many good things about this book, and I've just been waiting to give it the time and attention it deserves. Soon my precious!

Empress of all Seasons by Emiko Jean
In a deadly tournament to become empress, any may enter but only one will survive, and one competitor doesn't just plan to win, she's going to steal the Emperor's fortune...
In each generation, a competition is held to find the next empress of Honoku. The rules are simple. Survive the palace's enchanted seasonal rooms. Conquer Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall, and you can marry the prince. All are eligible to compete -
all except yokai, supernatural monsters and spirits whom the human emperor is determined to enslave and destroy.
Mari has spent a lifetime training to become empress. Winning should be easy. And it would be, if she weren't hiding a dangerous secret. Mari is a yokai with the ability to transform into a terrifying monster. If discovered, her life will be forfeit. As she struggles to keep her true identity hidden, Mari's fate collides with that of Taro, the prince who has no desire to inherit the imperial throne, and Akira, a half-human, half-yokai outcast.
Torn between duty and love, loyalty and betrayal, vengeance and forgiveness, the choices of Mari, Taro and Akira will decide the fate of Honoku.

I've been excited about this one for months, and it's another that I keep desperately wanting to start, but also wanting to give it the time and focus it deserves. A few days over Christmas will be the perfect time to binge!

Onyx & Ivory by Mindee Arnett
They call her Traitor Kate. It’s a title Kate Brighton inherited from her father after he tried to assassinate the high king years ago. Now Kate lives as an outcast, clinging to the fringes of society as a member of the Relay, the imperial courier service. Only those most skilled in riding and bow hunting ride for the Relay; and only the fastest survive, for when dark falls, the nightdrakes—deadly flightless dragons—come out to hunt. Fortunately, Kate has a secret edge: she is a wilder, born with magic that allows her to influence the minds of animals. But it’s this magic that she needs to keep hidden, as being a wilder is forbidden, punishable by death or exile. And it’s this magic that leads her to a caravan massacred by nightdrakes in broad daylight—the only survivor her childhood friend, her first love, the boy she swore to forget, the boy who broke her heart.
The high king’s second son, Corwin Tormane, never asked to lead. Even as he waits for the uror—the once-in-a-generation ritual to decide which of the king’s children will succeed him—he knows it’s always been his brother who will assume the throne. And that’s fine by him. He’d rather spend his days away from the palace, away from the sight of his father, broken with sickness from the attempt on his life. But the peacekeeping tour Corwin is on has given him too much time to reflect upon the night he saved his father’s life—the night he condemned the would-be killer to death and lost the girl he loved. Which is why he takes it on himself to investigate rumors of unrest in one of the remote city-states, only for his caravan to be attacked—and for him to be saved by Kate.
With their paths once more entangled, Kate and Corwin have to put the past behind them. The threat of drakes who attack in the daylight is only the beginning of a darker menace stirring in the kingdom—one whose origins have dire implications for Kate’s father’s attack upon the king and will thrust them into the middle of a brewing civil war in the kingdom of Rime. 

Another one that I've been super excited about and just haven't had the time to get to - are you sensing a theme yet? Everything about that blurb has me seriously excited, and I really hope it lives up to the hype.

Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian
Theodosia was six when her country was invaded and her mother, the Fire Queen, was murdered before her eyes. On that day, the Kaiser took Theodosia's family, her land, and her name. Theo was crowned Ash Princess--a title of shame to bear in her new life as a prisoner.
For ten years Theo has been a captive in her own palace. She's endured the relentless abuse and ridicule of the Kaiser and his court. She is powerless, surviving in her new world only by burying the girl she was deep inside.
Then, one night, the Kaiser forces her to do the unthinkable. With blood on her hands and all hope of reclaiming her throne lost, she realizes that surviving is no longer enough. But she does have a weapon: her mind is sharper than any sword. And power isn't always won on the battlefield.
For ten years, the Ash Princess has seen her land pillaged and her people enslaved. That all ends here.

Urgh this blurb! I've been antsing to get to this one for so long! Soon! Soooooon!

The Other Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn
She was in the wrong place...
Fiercely independent and adventurous, Poppy Bridgerton will only wed a suitor whose keen intellect and interests match her own. Sadly, none of the fools from her London season qualify. While visiting a friend on the Dorset coast, Poppy is pleasantly surprised to discover a smugglers' hideaway tucked inside a cave. But her delight turns to dismay when two pirates kidnap her and take her aboard a ship, leaving her bound and gagged on the captain's bed...
He found her at the wrong time...
Known to society as a rascal and reckless privateer, Captain Andrew James Rokesby actually transports essential goods and documents for the British government. Setting sail on a time-sensitive voyage to Portugal, he's stunned to find a woman waiting for him in his cabin. Surely, his imagination is getting the better of him. But no, she is very real-and his duty to the Crown means he's stuck with her.
Can two wrongs make the most perfect right?

When Andrew learns that she is a Bridgerton, he knows he will likely have to wed her to avert a scandal-though Poppy has no idea that he is the son of an earl and neighbor to her aristocratic cousins in Kent. On the high seas, their war of words soon gives way to an intoxicating passion. But when Andrew's secret is revealed, will his declaration of love be enough to capture her heart...?

I adore Julia Quinn novels, and Christmas is the absolutely best time to curl up with a good romance book. I've been saving this one for when the tree is up and I can spend an afternoon with some delicious romantic tension.

Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon
What if you knew someone you loved was going to die? What if you thought you could save them? How much would you risk to try?
Claire Randall has gone to find Jamie Fraser, the man she loved more than life, and has left half her heart behind with their daughter, Brianna. Claire

gave up Jamie to save Brianna, and now Bree has sent her mother back to the Scottish warrior who was willing to give his life to save them both. But a chilling discovery in the pages of history suggests that Jamie and Claire's story doesn't have a happy ending.
Brianna dares a terrifying leap into the unknown in search of her mother and the father she has never met, risking her own future to try to change history, and to save their lives. But as Brianna plunges into an uncharted wilderness, a heart-breaking encounter may strand her forever in the past... or root her in the place she should be, where her heart and soul belong.

I like to take my time over these books. I like to savour them and pace myself over the long breaks between seasons of the tv show. So now, with the fourth season on which this book is based, nearly coming to an end, it's time to get on with book four and throw myself back into the rich and detailed world of Claire and Jamie.

Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor
Sarai has lived and breathed nightmares since she was six years old.
She believed she knew every horror and was beyond surprise.
She was wrong.
In the wake of tragedy, neither Lazlo nor Sarai are who they were before. One a god, the other a ghost, they struggle to grasp the new boundaries of their selves as dark-minded Minya holds them hostage, intent on vengeance against Weep.
Lazlo faces an unthinkable choice—save the woman he loves, or everyone else?—while Sarai feels more helpless than ever. But is she? Sometimes, only the direst need can teach us our own depths, and Sarai, the Muse of Nightmares, has not yet discovered what she's capable of.
As humans and godspawn reel in the aftermath of the citadel's near fall, a new foe shatters their fragile hopes, and the mysteries of the Mesarthim are resurrected: Where did the gods come from, and why? What was done with thousands of children born in the citadel nursery? And most important of all, as forgotten doors are opened and new worlds revealed: Must heroes always slay monsters, or is it possible to save them instead?

I'm reading "Strange the Dreamer" at the moment and really enjoying it, so it won't be long after I finish the first book before I'm diving straight into the second.

The Dark Artifices trilogy by Cassandra Clare
In a secret world where half-angel warriors are sworn to fight demons, parabatai is a sacred word.
A parabatai is your partner in battle. A parabatai is your best friend. Parabatai can be everything to each other—but they can never fall in love.
Emma Carstairs is a warrior, a Shadowhunter, and the best in her generation. She lives for battle. Shoulder to shoulder with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, she patrols the streets of Los Angeles, where vampires party on the Sunset Strip, and faeries—the most powerful of supernatural creatures—teeter on the edge of open war with Shadowhunters. When the bodies of humans and faeries turn up murdered in the same way Emma’s parents were when she was a child, an uneasy alliance is formed. This is Emma’s chance for revenge—and Julian’s chance to get back his brother Mark, who is being held prisoner by the faerie Courts. All Emma, Mark, and Julian have to do is solve the murders within two weeks…and before the murderer targets them.

Their search takes Emma from sea caves full of sorcery to a dark lottery where death is dispensed. And each clue she unravels uncovers more secrets. What has Julian been hiding from her all these years? Why does Shadowhunter Law forbid parabatai to fall in love? Who really killed her parents—and can she bear to know the truth?

Sure ok this is technically three books and not just one... But Christmas is a time for generosity!

Basically this series has been sat on my shelves for so long that I decided to wait until the trilogy was complete before diving in. Now the final book has been released, it's time to read!

There are mine, what books are on your winter reading pile? Let me know in the comments below!

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Film Review: Once Upon a Deadpool

I love Deadpool. It's a film that holds a very special place in my heart. I also thoroughly enjoyed Deadpool 2, even though it never quite reached the dizzying heights of insanity that the first film did.
I also absolutely adore The Princess Bride. So when it was announced that just before Christmas there would be a one night only (ha, already additional showings have been added to my local cinema) re-cut family friendly (double ha!) version of Deadpool, cut to be a bit of a parody with The Princess Bride, I was intrigued. Then I watched the trailer and I was in love.

Honestly though, whilst it was an entertaining night out, it didn't live up to my expectations. There's meant to be around 20 minutes of new footage, but it really didn't feel like that. The film is cut up with a few really entertaining scenes involving a now grown up Fred Savage, (he's still got that insanely childlike charm of a smile) to frame the story as a bedtime story to a captive Savage. Unfortunately, they really don't make the most of this great device, and by mid-film it appears to have been mostly forgotten. What cuts back and forth are made though feel clunky and just disrupt the flow of the film.

Given that Reynold's mouth is covered throughout most of the film I also expected more to be made of this opportunity to play with the dialogue with some redubbing. Sadly though that was horribly under utilised. 

It was also frustrating to have to wait until the very end of the credits to get a resolution to the Savage/Deadpool thread - the end of the film just cuts off and leaves you hanging in a decidedly irritating way.

Basically it didn't live up to my expectations, but it was still enjoyable. I had gripes, mostly because I love the two source material pieces so much. It doesn't really add an awful lot, and is a bit of a gimmicky money grab right before Christmas. But I'm a sucker, so take my money.

It's meant for a bit of a niche group - those that love Deadpool, The Princess Bride, and a few younger audience members who may not have seen the film. If you love Deadpool then this will be an amusing watch, but don't expect anything mind-blowing. To get the full enjoyment I also really recommend watching The Princess Bride beforehand if you haven't already.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: TV shows I've been binging

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature hosted by the fabulous Jana at The Artsy Reader Girl. You can join in with future topics here!

This week is a freebie week, and given that when I'm not reading I spend far too much time watching tv shows, I thought it was an excellent time to talk about some of the shows that I'm loving at the moment.
Buckle up guys, if you've not discovered these shows yet, prepare to lose all your free time.

Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23
I put off watching this show for far too long, 1) because the title just didn't appeal and 2) the poster didn't exactly sell me. But then I was told (repeatedly) to watch it, and I thought I may as well give the pilot a shot. Confession: I snort laughed my way through the entire twenty minutes before going straight on to the second episode.
It just gets better the further in you get. If you need something funny and light, do yourself a favour and give this one a shot.

Marvel's: Jessica Jones (season 1)
Krysten Ritter showcases how versatile and talented she is with this sarcastic, dry, badass and brilliant superhero in Marvel's pantheon of TV heroes. The start of this season should come with a trigger warning, because some scenes are incredibly hard to watch. However it does ease slightly the further in you get, and becomes a really gripping and brilliant show to watch. Ritter is brilliant, and David Tennant's turn as villain 'Kilgrave' is an insanely glorious thing to watch. It's addictive and I loved it.

Intense, weird, and incredibly discomforting, this tv show is perfect binge material. Some may find the lack of discernible plot movement in the first few episodes to be a put off, but if you give this one a chance it definitely rewards. It's a slow burn, the kind of show that enjoys making you feel super paranoid without really knowing why or what's going on. It is so, so good, and really rewarding by the end.

The Good Place
I'll admit, until the latest episode "Janet(s)" (which is frankly one of the most glorious episodes of TV ever...) Season 3 hadn't thrilled me in the same way as the first two seasons. The show starts out as some quirky oddball comedy that feels pretty surface level and shallow. What follows over the next two seasons is a gloriously brilliant, complex and layered, snarkily funny weirdo of a show. And I mean that in the best possible way. There is nothing else on TV like this, and it is frequently laugh out loud funny. Every time you think you've hit peak insanity, The Good Place finds a whole new way to pivot, keeping the show fresh and brilliant.

This show keeps getting better. The idea of taking the Archie characters and making everything a lot darker is great. The cast is great. A lot of the plots are great (some not so much but we can forgive that). But the thing that really sells this show to me is the cinematography. Riverdale captures (in a way that no other show that I've been watching manages to) the slightly pulpy, stylized concept of comics. Some of the framing is down right breath taking, and they've really embraced it head on. Plus the flashback episode in Season 3 is pure tv GOLD. I will always love this show - from the neon pink and blue lighting, to the over enhanced colours of things like the school colours and Archie Andrews' hair, I adore the look and feel of this show and I dare you not to fall in love with it too. Go on, I'll wait.

Final Space
How dare this show. I started watching it expecting a quirky, funny, animated series. What I got was a quirky, funny, animated series, that FREQUENTLY SUCKER PUNCHES YOU IN THE FEELS.
But I love it.
It's a lot darker and has a lot more to it than I expected going in. It also has David Tennant as the baddie (I want video proof of him doing this voice please) and one of the sassiest, snarkiest scripts around. This one won't be for everyone, I've heard from a few people who struggled to engage because the protagonist is a bit of an ass sometimes - but I personally adored it and can't wait for the second series.

Queer Eye: More than a makeover
Oh this show. This show is everything we need right now. It's honest to goodness kindness and humanity and five wonderful people helping others become the best version of themselves. I can't fully express how much I love this show. I need more of it, two seasons is so not enough. It is chicken soup for the soul.

Nailed It!
Do you like baking shows? What about baking fails? Then this is the show for you! Watch people attempt to create truly insanely difficult cakes in not enough time, whilst learning some surprisingly helpful baking tips, and finding the entire thing hilarious rather than painfully cringeworthy. Honestly the best part of the show is the host Nicole, whom I adore, and I want to be when I grow up.
Light, half hour entertainment to give you a giggle after a long day. Plus, THE HOLIDAY SEASON IS NOW UP AND OH MY GOSH IT IS BRILLIANT.

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

Weird, bizarre, not at all like the 90s sitcom, this new version of Sabrina takes a bit of getting used to. But once let go of any pre-conceived ideas of what the show should be, it's a brilliant binge watch. It also helps to take some of it as the pure comedy gold I think it was intended as, rather than it all being super dark and serious. Either way, it's a great show to curl up under a blanket and binge your way through. Fair warning those who have arachnophobia, there's a scene in episode 1 (and another in episode 5) you're not going to want to watch. Just shut your eyes for a couple of minutes, the rest of the show is worth that brief horror.

A Discovery of Witches

I have mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand I loved the first book in this trilogy, and binge read it before the tv series hit our screens. On the other, I really didn't get along with the second book which put a dampener on my excitement. Conversely I really struggled with the first few episodes of the series, finding them contrived, and a slog to get through. But then suddenly the magic of binge watching, or the show getting better, or possibly my high fever whilst watching (who can say? It's a mystery!) meant that I loved the second half of the series. I stormed through it in one evening and found myself craving more and really excited for the second season. Bizarre, but enjoyable.

There you have ten of my currently binged shows, have you got any that you've been watching recently?

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Review: Pestilence by Laura Thalassa

Publication Date: March 20th 2018
Publisher: Laura Thalassa
Pages: 383

They came to earth—Pestilence, War, Famine, Death—four horsemen riding their screaming steeds, racing to the corners of the world. Four horsemen with the power to destroy all of humanity. They came to earth, and they came to end us all. 
When Pestilence comes for Sara Burn’s town, one thing is certain: everyone she knows and loves is marked for death. Unless, of course, the angelic-looking horseman is stopped, which is exactly what Sara has in mind when she shoots the unholy beast off his steed. 
Too bad no one told her Pestilence can’t be killed. 
Now the horseman, very much alive and very pissed off, has taken her prisoner, and he’s eager to make her suffer. Only, the longer she’s with him, the more uncertain she is about his true feelings towards her … and hers towards him. 
And now, well, Sara might still be able to save the world, but in order to do so, she'll have to sacrifice her heart in the process.

This book kept on appearing, the name "Pestilence" seemed to be everywhere until eventually I caved and found it on amazon. It then sat on my wishlist for a while as I ummed and ahhed - on the one hand the blurb looked kinda brilliant and the reviews for it were through the roof, on the other, I was nervous of it letting me down after all the hype.

Never fear, this book totally lives up to the hype. It's sassy, it's dark, it's gut wrenching and saucy and utterly brilliant, and once I'd started reading I found it very difficult to stop.

Sara is a compelling heroine. Admittedly she makes some questionable choices at a few points, and seems incredibly distracted by Pestilence's body, but on the whole I really felt for her. She's snarky and relatable and I frequently found myself sniggering at the sass. She's stuck in this incredibly difficult position, and I felt for her. Her shifting emotions and feelings as time went on made sense, instead of just feeling like insta-love and weird and squicky. So bravo on that front.

I also really enjoyed the interactions with other people that the two go through - the different responses, feelings and emotions, and how Sara and Pestilence each deal with those. The anger! The heartbreak! My poor little heart!

I did find the grammatical and spelling errors to be a little frustrating, I feel that things like that really should be picked up before a book is published, and it diminishes my enjoyment of a story because I'm picky and grumpy like that.

However overall I found this to be a really enjoyable story. Ok, maybe enjoyable is the wrong word when you're talking about plague... But still! It was engrossing, I stormed through it in a couple of days, and now I'm here desperately waiting for book 2 "War" to come out next spring.