Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Halloween reads

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

With Halloween nearly upon us, it's time to break out some fitting reads. Below are ten of my suggestions, ranging from the deliciously spooky, to the atmospheric and the funny.


Darkmere by Helen Maslin
A castle. A curse. A dangerous summer.
Leo has invited Kate and a few friends to spend the summer at his inheritance, Darkmere Castle: as wild and remote as it is beautiful. Kate thinks it will be the perfect place for her and Leo to get together - but instead, she's drawn into the dark story of a young nineteenth-century bride who haunts the tunnels and towers of the house. And whose curse now hangs over them all. 

Deliciously creepy, this book will sneak up on you, until you're jumping at the slightest noise and thoroughly frightened. Be warned, I did have to put my copy in the freezer at a couple of points when it all became too much.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black
Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown's gates, you can never leave.
One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

One of the creepiest of Holly Black's novels (and that's saying something because this list could be entirely made up of Holly Black novels) this is a gorgeously dark look at vampires and reality tv. Not a combination I ever thought could work, but Black makes a dark and terrifyingly good novel from the concept.

BonfireBonfire by Krysten Ritter
Should you ever go back?It has been ten years since Abby Williams left home and scrubbed away all visible evidence of her small town roots. Now working as an environmental lawyer in Chicago, she has a thriving career, a modern apartment, and her pick of meaningless one-night stands.
But when a new case takes her back home to Barrens, Indiana, the life Abby painstakingly created begins to crack. Tasked with investigating Optimal Plastics, the town's most high-profile company and economic heart, Abby begins to find strange connections to Barrens’ biggest scandal from more than a decade ago involving the popular Kaycee Mitchell and her closest friends—just before Kaycee disappeared for good.
Abby knows the key to solving any case lies in the weak spots, the unanswered questions. But as Abby tries to find out what really happened to Kaycee, she unearths an even more disturbing secret—a ritual called “The Game,” which will threaten the reputations, and lives, of the community and risk exposing a darkness that may consume her.

With tantalizing twists, slow-burning suspense, and a remote, rural town of just five claustrophobic miles, Bonfire is a dark exploration of the question: can you ever outrun your past?

The kind of thriller that sucks you into its small town claustrophobia where everyone (including the protagonist) could be a suspect. I really enjoyed this debut novel, and it's perfect to thrill you at Halloween.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
At once a Gothic thriller, a passionate romance, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of science, Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature's hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein.

A classic, and an excellent creepy read. You know all the lore, but have you ever read the original text? It's very much worth it, go forth and read!

Coraline by Neil Gaiman
There is something strange about Coraline's new home. It's not the mist, or the cat that always seems to be watching her, nor the signs of danger that Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, her new neighbours, read in the tea leaves. It's the other house - the one behind the old door in the drawing room. Another mother and father with black-button eyes and papery skin are waiting for Coraline to join them there. And they want her to stay with them. For ever. She knows that if she ventures through that door, she may never come back.

The most terrifying children's book, and the scariest of Neil Gaiman's books, this one gave me nightmares for weeks, and still haunts me...

The Dead Travel Fast
The Dead Travel Fast by Deanna Raybourn
A husband, a family, a comfortable life: Theodora Lestrange lives in terror of it all. With a modest inheritance and the three gowns that comprise her entire wardrobe, Theodora leaves Edinburgh--and a disappointed suitor--far behind. She is bound for Rumania, where tales of vampires are still whispered, to visit an old friend and write the book that will bring her true independence.
She arrives at a magnificent, decaying castle in the Carpathians, replete with eccentric inhabitants: the ailing dowager; the troubled steward; her own fearful friend, Cosmina. But all are outstripped in dark glamour by the castle's master, Count Andrei Dragulescu.
Bewildering and bewitching in equal measure, the brooding nobleman ignites Theodora's imagination and awakens passions in her that she can neither deny nor conceal. His allure is superlative, his dominion over the superstitious town, absolute--Theodora may simply be one more person under his sway.
Before her sojourn is ended--or her novel completed--Theodora will have encountered things as strange and terrible as they are seductive. For obsession can prove fatal...and she is in danger of falling prey to more than desire.

This is by far Deanna's scariest read, with creepy Dracula undertones. If you enjoy historical mysteries that will both thrill and chill you then it's a perfect read for this time of year.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter #2)

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J K Rowling
"'There is a plot, Harry Potter. A plot to make most terrible things happen at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry this year.'" 
Harry Potter's summer has included the worst birthday ever, doomy warnings from a house-elf called Dobby, and rescue from the Dursleys by his friend Ron Weasley in a magical flying car! Back at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for his second year, Harry hears strange whispers echo through empty corridors - and then the attacks start. Students are found as though turned to stone ... Dobby's sinister predictions seem to be coming true.

Not your traditional spooky read, but definitely the creepiest of the Potter books, this one still gives me shivers. The voice in the walls that only Harry can hear, Death Day parties, ghosts, petrified students? Definitely a Halloween read.

The Night CircusThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des RĂªves, and it is only open at night. 
But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands. 
True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Sure this isn't really traditional spooky scariness, but The Night Circus has always been associated with Halloween for me. The circus opens for the first time on Halloween, and that beautiful, fantastical element permeates the entire novel. 

Team HumanTeam Human by Sarah Rees Brennan & Justine LarbalestierJust because Mel lives in New Whitby, a city founded by vampires, doesn't mean she knows any of the blood-drinking undead personally. They stay in their part of town; she says in hers. Until the day a vampire shows up at her high school. Worse yet, her best friend, Cathy, seems to be falling in love with him. It's up to Mel to save Cathy from a mistake she might regret for all eternity! On top of trying to help Cathy (whether she wants it or not), Mel is investigating a mysterious disappearance for another friend and discovering the attractions of a certain vampire wannabe. Combine all this with a cranky vampire cop, a number of unlikely romantic entanglements, and the occasional zombie, and soon Mel is hip-deep in an adventure that is equal parts hilarious and touching.

Not really scary, definitely funny. If like me you would like something a little less terrifying this Halloween then this is definitely the one for you. It's whip smart, funny, and takes a look at the traditional vampire in high school tropes from the human watching it happen and thinking it's insane perspective. I adore this book.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

The Scorpio Races
It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses  long enough to make it to the finish line.
Some riders live.
Others die.
At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn't given her much of a choice. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen. 

Again, not a scary book, but this is the time of year for a (re)read of The Scorpio Races. October is perfect for going to Thisby and experiencing this curious little island, its inhabitants, and the blood thirsty races that happen every November first.

So there you have some of my recommendations for books to pick up this Halloween, regardless of how scary you like your stories. What are some books that you'd recommend?

Monday, 29 October 2018

Review: Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J Maas

This review is spoiler free!

Publication Date: 23rd October 2018
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 984 pages

Years in the making, Sarah J. Maas’s #1 New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series draws to an epic, unforgettable conclusion. Aelin Galathynius’s journey from slave to king’s assassin to the queen of a once-great kingdom reaches its heart-rending finale as war erupts across her world. . .
Aelin has risked everything to save her people―but at a tremendous cost. Locked within an iron coffin by the Queen of the Fae, Aelin must draw upon her fiery will as she endures months of torture. Aware that yielding to Maeve will doom those she loves keeps her from breaking, though her resolve begins to unravel with each passing day…
With Aelin captured, Aedion and Lysandra remain the last line of defense to protect Terrasen from utter destruction. Yet they soon realize that the many allies they’ve gathered to battle Erawan’s hordes might not be enough to save them. Scattered across the continent and racing against time, Chaol, Manon, and Dorian are forced to forge their own paths to meet their fates. Hanging in the balance is any hope of salvation―and a better world.
And across the sea, his companions unwavering beside him, Rowan hunts to find his captured wife and queen―before she is lost to him forever.
As the threads of fate weave together at last, all must fight, if they are to have a chance at a future. Some bonds will grow even deeper, while others will be severed forever in the explosive final chapter of the Throne of Glass series.

There was a lot riding on this book - my re-read over the last few weeks had only highlighted that. Sarah had created such a sprawling complex world, peopled with incredible multi-faceted characters, and with such a layered and brilliant plot - followed with the mother of all endings for both "Empire of Storms" and "Tower of Dawn". I honestly didn't know how this book could provide a satisfying conclusion. How, with all of those expectations riding on it, could it live up to it?
Because Sarah is a damn fine writer, and this book showcases her skills extraordinarily, it totally surpassed all my hopes and dreams for it.

I was afraid that for whatever reason this final instalment might mar the series for me - might not manage to provide a satisfying resolution. So I was wary but excited going in, but quickly realised my fears were entirely unfounded.
It is a bittersweet, beautiful conclusion. Sure, it's heart-breaking and terrifying, and there are moments where you honest to god think it's all going to hell and there's no way anyone is getting out of this alive... But there are lighter moments too. Unexpected moments of humour that had me laughing out loud. Touching scenes that had me weeping. Thrilling moments that raised goose bumps on my arms and made me pause to catch my breath before continuing on. I savoured this book. I drew it out as long as I could bear, whilst desperately wanting to race through it, to find out what happens. 

There is heartbreak. There's devastation. Not everyone makes it through to the final pages. But that only serves to add to the overall emotion. The stakes feel very high and very real this time, and I genuinely wasn't certain at various points who would make it through, if this was finally it, if I were witnessing final desperate stands and breaths.

There are a few problems - no book is perfect. And I found myself flagging a bit before the final act because I felt almost a little bit cheated by how some things were being laid to play out. I want to talk about those properly, but not until the book has been out for a lot longer and spoilers are not so stressful. However whilst there were some issues, I didn't find that it ruined my enjoyment overall. I still loved the book, and felt it was a really wonderful conclusion to the series.

I haven't experienced the feeling of community that arose around this book since Harry Potter. Sharing updates with people, checking in at 'OH MY GOD' moments with friends. Swapping emotions and feelings and tears back and forth and feeling as though you're part of something whilst reading this. It's magic. It doesn't come around very often, but when it does it is something truly incredible to be part of.

This series has meant a lot to me. More than I will ever truly be able to articulate. I feel so incredibly grateful that all those years ago I had a parcel drop through my letterbox with a proof of Throne of Glass in, and a note from Bloomsbury saying to read it, they thought it was something pretty special.
It is a series that has developed and matured over the years, and offered me something new every time I go back and re-read it, and whilst this conclusion was satisfying and wonderful and I adore it, I am also bereft that this is it. There will be no more. I will miss this court and all those around them fiercely. I will come back to them again and again.

This is a fitting conclusion to the series. A beautiful final act. A bright beacon of hope in dark times, that reminds us to fight for a better world.

Friday, 26 October 2018

Books that have shaped me

Today, it's my birthday. Not only that, it is my thirtieth birthday which calls for some serious celebrations. It's also caused a lot of introspection, so I thought I would share some of the books that have had a huge impact on me over the last thirty years in one way or another. 
Some you will have heard me gushing about lots already, some may be new to you, but I whole heartedly recommend each and every one of these.

Harry Potter by JK Rowling
Of course this series is on here. These books defined a lot of growing up years for a lot of people, and I am no exception. They shaped a lot about my values, my beliefs, and the all healing power of chocolate - thanks Professor Lupin!

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas
This book. I mean, all of Sarah's books have been important to me, but this one most of all. This was the first time that I had truly seen a character in a book that had been utterly broken, was trapped in an emotionally (and sometimes physically) abusive relationship, was suffering from depression, anxiety, PTSD, and was at times suicidal. And she was the heroine. This was mind blowing for me, and I was so so glad that I had held off reading this book for a while, because it meant that I ended up reading it when I needed Feyre and her story the most. This book is incredibly important to me, so much so that I ended up getting a tattoo to mark the impact that it had on me. I will always love Sarah's work, but this one will always hold a special place in my heart.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
There is something so incredibly magical about this book. It is unlike anything else Maggie has written, and it resonated so deeply with me when I first read it, and maintains that hold on me even now. It is a book I return to every autumn, called by the lure of Thisby, of the capal, of Puck and Sean and this slice of the world that holds so much of my heart, even though it is entirely fictional.
"I am so, so alive."

The Song of Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce
Widely documented on here as the beginning of my love affair with bad ass ladies and fantasy books, this series, that wee eleven year old Rosy discovered in her school library, honestly shaped the reader I would become. I still adore these books and go back to them frequently, and when I have kids I will introduce them to Alanna and George and show them how magical the world can be. That's the lasting power of an excellent book.

Fire by Kristin Cashore
All three of the Seven Kingdoms books had an impact on me, but none more so than Fire. She was so different to Katsa, the heroine in the first book. She was softer, coming to terms with her femininity, but no less strong or powerful for that. She was incredible in whole new ways, without sacrificing her hardness and determination when needed. She showcases an amplified version of the attention women experience everyday, and that reflection is hard and necessary to see. It is a beautiful book, an important book, and I cannot fully express how much I love it.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell
Another book that sat on my shelves for far too long, and I ended up picking it up at just the right moment. Landline caught me at a tipping point in my life, and helped me to look at what was important, to focus on what I needed, and wrenched such visceral emotions from me that I hadn't experienced reading a book in some time. I'm both curious and afraid to go back to it again, because I wonder how I would experience it this time.

Paris in Love by Eloisa James
I had already read and loved Eloisa's historical romance novels, but when I moved to France for two and a half years, I was suddenly completely adrift and sought comfort in books. This non-fiction account of Eloisa and her family's own time in Paris gave me just that. The bite size snippets of daily life made me focus on the beautiful aspects, to really appreciate the wonderful things that I was suddenly living with, and it completely changed my outlook on an initially terrifying experience.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Poetic, lyrical, beautiful - this book was unlike anything I had ever read before, and something about that really resonated with me. It's still a favourite I like to sink into. The magic, the love, the characters, the sheer beauty of this world. It is a gorgeous book that means the world to me.

It's in His Kiss by Julia Quinn
This book changed my view on relationships and romance. Julia's books have all done that, but this one is where I started, so it seems fitting to mark it.
This was the first time I'd really seen adult relationships depicted where the shirtless hugging wasn't seen as some closeted dark thing to be hidden. These books celebrated it, they relished in it, and it opened young Rosy's eyes to all the possibilities in the world.

The Lynburn Legacy trilogy by Sarah Rees Brennan
It was really hard to choose just one book/series from Sarah, because all of them have had an impact on me in some way. My love affair with Sarah's work began around fifteen years ago (now that's a scary thought) when I first read her fan fiction. I eagerly followed her progress to publishing and buy multiple copies of every book she publishes (because they are guaranteed to be ones that I lend out to people saying READ THIS NOW). Her - her words, her story, had a huge impact on the shape of my life. It was because of her and her blog that I realised I might actually be able to write as part of my life instead of it being a pipe dream. It was because of her that I realised I could study Creative Writing at uni, and went on to do so. She inspires me, hugely. She is a truly incredible, wonderfully funny person, and her books have shaped me into the person I am today.

So there you have ten books that shaped me into the person I am today. Someone who has a house full of books and an unhealthy reading habit that results in too little sleep.
What books have helped shaped you?

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Bestest Villains

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

We've all got them, those villainous characters that we both love and hate. It's a sign of an excellently written novel if the bad guys are relatable enough that you actually feel for them, or that they inspire such visceral feelings in you. There are also so many excellent villains in film and tv that I had to let some of them sneak onto this list too... So here are ten villains (although it is by no means a complete list) that were so well written and played that I am in awe, even though I hate/love them.

Cersei Lannister - A Song of Ice & Fire by George 
(book and show)

She's cunning and devious and let's face it, not particularly nice a lot of the time. But she's also really human and entirely relatable. She's just trying to protect her children, her family, and herself. It all makes sense, and I feel for her particularly given the excellent portrayal in the show. But once you pit her against other characters that are infinitely more likeable she's always going to lose. Particularly given some of the truly heinous things she does...

Leck - The Seven Kingdoms trilogy by Kristin Cashore
There is no redeeming Leck. I love that we see him as an adult in the first book, and then see snippets of how he came to be that person in the second, followed by unravelling the effects of him in the third. He is such a vital part of these books, with how he impacts these women, whilst he spends very little time on the page. Corruption of power, and unchecked power as a child, it's an incredible examination of it, and Cashore makes a terrifying villain out of him.

Captain Jonathan "Black Jack" Randall - The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon
(book and show)

Tobias Menzies is glorious in this role. He's terrifying and utterly without humanity, and he is so well written and played as to be absolutely horrifying but impossible to look away from. Plus having him play quiet, loving, Frank is a visual masterstroke. Like Claire, you're constantly expecting Black Jack to behave with a shred of humanity, which then make his violent and blackest moments all the more horrifying.

Catherine de Medici - Reign

Catherine becomes less of a villain as the show progresses, but she is still a sly and brilliant woman, I think we just become more on her side as the show progresses and she stops trying to hurt Mary so often. She's a woman in a man's world who cares deeply for her family and will ruthlessly do what she feels needs to be done to protect them and herself. She's complex, tactical, and fascinating to watch.

Klaus Mikaelson - The Originals

Ah Klaus, you complex and utterly screwed up guy, I love you so. He entered The Vampire Diaries as a full blown swaggering villain, and over the course of that show and the spinoff The Originals, he became someone so complex and intriguing that I couldn't look away from his attempts at redemption. Played exquisitely by Joseph Morgan, I'm so sad that his story is, after a thousand years, finally over.

Regina Mills - Once Upon a Time
Complex, intriguing, and in later season's more hero than villain, Regina's journey was fascinating. I adored seeing her growth and development, the moments when she'd slip up and go back to her old ways, the peaks at her humanity and vulnerability that gradually were revealed more frequently. She was brutal but human, and I loved watching her.

Hector Bowen - The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
He doesn't have a huge role in the book, but Hector's machinations and power plays are what set off the events of the book, and seeing what he does to his own daughter to achieve his ends is absolutely horrifying. Parents treating their children appallingly is a guaranteed rage thing for me, and whilst Hector is by no means the worst parent out there, something about him really gets to me. Excellent writing at its best.

Kilgrave - Jessica Jones
Oh David Tennant is brilliant. I loathe Kilgrave, but Tennant is exceptional in his portrayal. He brings a humanity to him, even whilst he compels people to do the most awful things. It's hard to watch, particularly early in the season, but Tennant's acting is worth it. A child with unchecked power, who never learnt how to not get his way, or any sort of humanity. Yet you can kind of understand how it happened. It's a horrible grey blurry thing, and that's what makes it brilliant.

Dolores Umbridge - Harry Potter by J K Rowling
(book and films)
Nope, there is no love here, only hate. But to provoke such a response from so many people is pretty impressive. More than Voldermort in a lot of cases, Umbridge embodies every hateful and cruel thing. She is vicious and despicable and very human (everyone has known some level of an Umbridge) and that's why she inspires such a visceral response from readers and watchers alike.

Loki - the Marvel Cinematic Universe
Can he even really be considered a villain now? Probably, after all he is the god of mischief. But Loki is just such an excellent character I couldn't resist. Sure, he tried to take over the world and make everyone into mindless minions, but he just wants to be loved guys! I have such a soft spot for him, and even when he's been super bad, I still adore him. Plus the little insights we got into his and Thor's childhood were GLORIOUS. 

So there you have ten of the villains I love/love to hate - share some of yours!

Monday, 22 October 2018

Throne of Glass re-read: Tower of Dawn

Publication Date: September 5th 2017
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 660 pages

In the next installment of the New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series, follow Chaol on his sweeping journey to a distant empire.
Chaol Westfall has always defined himself by his unwavering loyalty, his strength, and his position as the Captain of the Guard. But all of that has changed since the glass castle shattered, since his men were slaughtered, since the King of Adarlan spared him from a killing blow, but left his body broken.
His only shot at recovery lies with the legendary healers of the Torre Cesme in Antica—the stronghold of the southern continent's mighty empire. And with war looming over Dorian and Aelin back home, their survival might lie with Chaol and Nesryn convincing its rulers to ally with them.
But what they discover in Antica will change them both—and be more vital to saving Erilea than they could have imagined.

With the long anticipated release of "Kingdom of Ash" tomorrow, it seemed the perfect moment to post my re-read review for "Tower of Dawn", before I launch into the final book in the series. And it's such a unique and curious book in the series, for the first time following an entirely separate thread to Aelin's story, and focussing instead on one of the most polarizing characters in the series, Chaol.

There have been refrains of "do I really need to read this book, I don't like Chaol!" echoing through the internet since this book was first announced, and it still remains a hotly contested debate. My feeling has always been that if it was written and published, it's pretty essential. Would you skip one of the Harry Potter books if it was written from someone else's point of view? No. So I've always felt this is pretty important reading, and my feelings about that after finishing it again have only grown.

It's a slow start, and it's strange to suddenly be thrust into a story that Aelin has no obvious part in. She's still there, in the odd reports that filter back to Chaol, in his thoughts and his actions. She's like a spectre (which given the ending of Empire of Storms is only more distressing guys) hanging over the story in her inadvertent actions with Yrene in TAB, and in the impact that she has had on Chaol.

And let's talk about Chaol. He has been through so much over these books, and I love the growth and character development that Maas has put him through. He's grown up in a very rigid world view, and he's had almost everything he believed to be true broken down and ripped away from him. Sure he didn't react in the best way to some things, but that's because he's human. None of us are perfect, and how flawed Chaol is only serves to make him more interesting as a character.
His growth over the course of this book is particularly poignant, and has made me even more excited for his reunion with the others in the final book.

I loved Yrene, she's an excellent addition to the pantheon of characters, and one who helps to balance Chaol beautifully. She is one of many fascinating character's we're introduced to in this book, and honestly the thought of everyone coming together for the last hurrah makes me so excited.

This additional space and time to add depth to the world building, and provide crucial information is incredibly important. Some of the bombs Maas drops on us in these pages had me gasping out loud - there are some real game changers folded into this story and they are incredibly exciting.

All in all this is a worthy addition to the series. It picks up speed the further into the story you get, and it's an incredible, fraught and brilliant story that helps to move the final pieces into place for the showdown in the finale.
I love it, and I cannot recommend it enough. Should you read this book, absolutely yes. If you've not yet picked it up, get on it now before you start "Kingdom of Ash", you'll regret it if you don't.

Friday, 19 October 2018

Throne of Glass re-read: Empire of Storms

Publication date: September 6th 2016
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Length: 693 pages

The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius as war looms on the horizon. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those who don't.
With her heart sworn to the warrior-prince by her side, and her fealty pledged to the people she is determined to save, Aelin will delve into the depths of her power to protect those she loves. But as monsters emerge from the horrors of the past, and dark forces become poised to claim her world, the only chance for salvation will lie in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.
In this breath-taking fifth instalment of the New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series, Aelin will have to choose what—and who—to sacrifice if she's to keep the world of Erilea from breaking apart.

I can't even with this book. Just. What. Even. This series keeps on improving, it's like Maas sees each excellent instalment as a challenge - "Oh I broke your heart with that book? LET ME HAVE YOUR SOUL WITH THIS ONE."
I adore "Queen of Shadows" like you wouldn't believe, but I'd not fully allowed myself to remember just how insanely brilliant "Empire of Storms" is. Whilst the fourth book takes its time to build to an earth shattering final quarter, the fifth kicks off hard and fast and brutal and doesn't let up.

All the threads that Maas has gently woven over the course of the series are pulled together and it is a sight to behold. Suddenly there are pairings you never knew you wanted, character interactions which are brilliant in so many ways, and the whole thing feels like one giant reward for all the plotting that has come before. This is a book that rewards you for your dedication and attention as everything starts to be revealed and set up for a truly amazing finale.

The confrontation in Skulls Bay at the halfway point is incredible. I love it when a plan comes together, and there is nothing quite like a team of characters working with each other. Lysandra vs. the sea wyverns honest to god gives me chills as everyone else rallies around to support her. It's just so intense and you're left completely dizzy and breathless by the end. Which all goes to show just how damn extraordinary the writing is.

Then the brief lull - although by no means boring - whilst the pieces are all moved into place for the final heart-breaking showdown, and oh boy did I cry. Even though I was expecting it this time, I still tore through the pages desperate to see how it plays out. I still had goose-bumps as everything falls into place and everyone comes together in one glorious moment. I still was in tears at the gut wrenching heartbreak and emotional sucker punch of the end.

It's incredible. The writing, the characters, the plotting, the layering that slowly unwraps and offers this stunning instalment and sets up what is sure to be an unbelievable final instalment. I adored this book, but I am so glad that I'd put off re-reading it until only a few days before the release of "Kingdom of Ash"!

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Review: An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

Publication Date: September 26th 2017
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Pages: 300 pages

A skilled painter must stand up to the ancient power of the faerie courts—even as she falls in love with a faerie prince—in this gorgeous debut novel.
Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes—a weakness that could cost him his life.
Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love—and that love violates the fair folks’ ruthless laws. Now both of their lives are forfeit, unless Isobel can use her skill as an artist to fight the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.

This was one of my most anticipated reads, as it took far too long to make its way from the US over to the UK, and the positive reviews were already pouring in by that point. I went into it with high expectations, and felt... a bit ambivalent.

Don't get me wrong, it's a beautifully written book, with some curious world building and a host of intriguing characters. It's been compared to Sarah J Maas and Holly Black's writing, and there have been so many people who really loved it. But I just felt a bit flat. I wanted to be swept away in the story, I wanted to fall for these characters and be left wanting more. Instead I was perfectly entertained for a couple of hours and then left feeling a little non-plussed at the end.

I am endlessly frustrated by intelligent young women in fiction who are painted as smart and strong and then go all googly and air headed once they're intrigued by a man. Yes I want romance, but I felt like Isobel became a bit too flat and swoony for a male that I mostly felt irritated by. 
And I don't really understand why. This book should have ticked all of my boxes and it didn't.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Review: Bonfire by Krysten Ritter

Publication Date: November 7th 2017
Publisher: Hutchinson
Pages: 288 pages

Should you ever go back?
It has been ten years since Abby Williams left home and scrubbed away all visible evidence of her small town roots. Now working as an environmental lawyer in Chicago, she has a thriving career, a modern apartment, and her pick of meaningless one-night stands.
But when a new case takes her back home to Barrens, Indiana, the life Abby painstakingly created begins to crack. Tasked with investigating Optimal Plastics, the town's most high-profile company and economic heart, Abby begins to find strange connections to Barrens’ biggest scandal from more than a decade ago involving the popular Kaycee Mitchell and her closest friends—just before Kaycee disappeared for good.
Abby knows the key to solving any case lies in the weak spots, the unanswered questions. But as Abby tries to find out what really happened to Kaycee, she unearths an even more disturbing secret—a ritual called “The Game,” which will threaten the reputations, and lives, of the community and risk exposing a darkness that may consume her.
With tantalizing twists, slow-burning suspense, and a remote, rural town of just five claustrophobic miles, Bonfire is a dark exploration of the question: can you ever outrun your past?

After binge watching the first season of "Jessica Jones", and moving swiftly onto watching "Don't trust the B---- in Apartment 23" I appear to be on something of a Krysten Ritter bender, so reading her debut novel was the next logical step.
I went in with barely any idea of what I was letting myself in for (I didn't read the blurb or seek out any information) knowing just that it was a thriller (not my usual read), and it was her first novel. In some ways I think that did the experience some favours, because I had no expectations of pre-conceived notions of what I was getting into, I just got to enjoy the ride. And what a ride it was.

This book sinks its claws into you and doesn't let go. I found myself completely gripped and unable to put it down once I'd started it. I'm always a little wary of books written by actors, because there's always that fear that they've been published not because they're good, but because they're going to sell. This is not the case here. The writing is excellent, startling prose that sometimes made me catch my breath, and really immerses you into Barrens - the claustrophobia of the town.

It's excellently paced, and peopled with curious characters. I felt like I was there, experiencing all of this with Abby. The fear, the claustrophobia, the isolation. That feeling of going back to the place you grew up and it all being too close and real and overlaid with memories, whilst you don't feel like you fit. That feeling of not being able to get a place and the memories off your skin. And Ritter deftly interweaves the mystery into all of this, until you're not sure who to trust, who's telling the truth, and even whether you can trust Abby the narrator.

The mystery itself is excellently done. Clues dropped in piecemeal to lead you down various roads, and then breathlessly brought to its conclusion in the final act. I was left guessing instead of feeling like I'd already solved it, which always makes me happy.

All in all, I loved it. It was satisfying, but didn't feel like everything was tied up with a neat bow. It was engrossing and dark without being too twisted. It was excellently written and fascinating to read. Once I'd started I found it really difficult to put it down, and stayed up late for "just one more chapter"...

If you're after a quick, well written thriller, this is definitely a must, it will linger long after you've finished.