All posts by Glass Houses and Bookshelves

Wilder Girls, Rory Power; Review

Wild is in the name and it is certainly fitting for this book about friendship, humanity, but ultimately survival. I was absolutely engrossed in each and every twisting page of Rory Power’s novel about a quarantined Boarding School that has been struck by an unnerving virus.

The book opens from the first person perspective of Hetty, and begins with everything already in motion; in that the virus, named The Tox, is already established and has already wrecked havoc within the school causing major illnesses and death. It becomes clear that the island that is home to the Boarding School has been abandoned and the girls are instructed to wait for a cure and must remain in quarantine. What I really loved about this was how matter of fact it seemed for the characters and how they just laid everything bare for the reader to see. Usually when there is a storyline about a virus; the outbreak is the big shocking event that the plot leads up to, whereas here it had already happened. The fact that Hetty spoke so offhandedly about it really vocalised how much the character’s have had to adapt to survive. The rest of the book really solidifies this and it really tests the girl’s to their limits to see how far they are willing to go in order to live.

That’s what really struck home about this book for me personally. It felt like the farther I got into the book the more wild I became; as if I truly were on this journey with them. The brutal imagery and even weirdly gross descriptions were shocking and unexpected for a YA but made it all the more intriguing. I could feel the need to survive, and to adapt. There were some moments where I felt like I didn’t get all the answers I craved (especially in regard to The Tox itself) but in retrospect I don’t think I needed them. I was left in the same boat as Hetty, Reese, and Byatt; uncertain and reeling. Hetty came to the conclusion that she didn’t really need to know how it had happened to them; just that it did and in some weird ways it brought them closer together. Similarly with Byatt who at times acted as though she didn’t want a cure, knew that this event had changed the girls not just physically. I was really intrigued by her and as it emerged she was more morally grey of a character I enjoyed her even more. I think its very easy to make characters seem nice and angelic when something bad happens to them so that the event seems undeserving, but in Byatt’s case it was all the more affirming that it could be anyone and despite her questionable attributes; Hetty and Reese would have done anything for her proving that friendship, and loyalty really drives this novel.

Another aspect of this novel that I truly loved was the fact that it was LGBTQ+ but also that it was done naturally. Having Reese as a queer character didn’t feel as though it was done to add diversity for the sake of diversity but to further the dynamics and layers created what this story aimed to tell; what people would or wouldn’t do for those they truly care for. I didn’t once feel like the romance was detracting from the narrative or the plot in any way, but that it just so happened to be a side plot that felt natural, empathetic, and truly representative. I think there are some key scenes that showcase this which include Reese’s father, boatshift, and the ending as a whole because it also demonstrates that YA romance isn’t always fluffy and easy but that its hard and that actions have consequences; especially in a world were survival is your priority.

Wilder Girls was truly unique. I particularly loved the descriptions (although sometimes quite graphic) about how the Tox changed these girls; the bloody sores, the second spine, the sealed eye, and the silver hand, were all nontypical and refreshingly different to read about. They weren’t pretty; they were brutal and honest. The only real issue I had with this book was sometimes the writing style, although done purposefully to reflect the characters not being coherent, was slightly stunting and awkward to read. I think this was primarily down to the fact that it was first person but once I got into the story I didn’t notice it all that much and was able to get past it.

This book was actually a buddy read with my wonderful friend Lauren, who you can find on Bookstragram as LittleBookishFairy. We actually demolished this book reading over half of it in one sitting while frantically messaging each other at 1am. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it with her and talking through all our theories together because it is a book that keeps you wondering why in the back of your mind. I would definitely recommend Wilder Girls for a feminist, well represented, and interesting read that is different to the norm. Its intriguing, fast paced, and really makes you think about survival and friendship.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Silent Patient, Alex Michaelides; Review

See no evil, hear no evil, but most definitely speak no evil. This psychological thriller explores the aftermath of a murder when the killer decides to never speak again and is institutionalised in a medial facility.

I saw quite a bit of buzz surrounding this novel and finally decided to take the plunge this October to read it. I did the typical bookworm thing where I envisioned spooky chapters but I’d still be safe with my lamp on and firmly snuggled within the cosy depths of my blanket. The premise really intrigued me because I adore a good mystery which is all the more tantalising when the character involved won’t tell what happened; the tension alone wants to drive you to the end. Alicia Berenson, despite having an idealistic life, comes home one evening to shoot her husband in the face five times and hasn’t uttered a word since. The novel follows two perspectives; mainly the voice of her psychotherapist Theo as he tries to uncover her mystery, and Alicia’s diary entries leading up to the bloody event.

At first I wasn’t particularly keen on the narrative presented by Theo. In all honesty, I found him to be a little stiff and overly explanative in the beginning. A lot of the first chapters were heavy description which involved too much focus on the study of psychology to the point where it felt a little redundant. He was explaining things that I could have easily realised myself and because of the emphasis of description over plot or dialogue, it felt very much like the author was making sure the reader understood rather than it being a part of the story naturally. With that being said, it did start to ease off during the middle of the book when I was hooked by the story, not necessarily the characters.

I did really like the chapters that were of Alicia’s diary entries because it really enhanced the tension whilst adding just enough small clues to make me question everyone. I particularly liked the dynamic presented between Max (Alicia’s brother in law) and Alicia and thought that was an interesting exploration into sibling rivalry; but I would have loved to have further input from Max’s wife Tanya as I felt she could have introduced another layer with more complicated emotions and therefore intrigue. Similarly, I really enjoyed the small insight into Alicia’s cousin Paul and how he felt trapped to look after his mother. Although again, I feel as though this could have been explored further without the predicable gambling subplot. In all honesty, I had a few issues with the secondary characters not being explored thoroughly because they felt secondary. Plus, not to mention the blatant stereotypes, such as; the gossiping and materialist neighbour named Barbie, the Greek psychologist, and of course the French gallery owner, that all added to the sense that they were an afterthought.

The true star of this book however, is the ending. I can see why it had so many people talking, because the twist actually lives up to the shock that the premise promises. I will say that I didn’t expect it to go the way that it did and I was thoroughly thrown off my game as I had pointed my finger of blame in the completely wrong direction. The anticipation of waiting for Alicia to speak, in combination with the theories that the reader collects on the way make this a very intriguing read that can only be described as a page turner! I would like to explore this ending further so the next paragraph will include spoilers so here is your warning folks! If you do not want the twist to be revealed please stop here; but if you’re as nosy as I am, or you have read the book yourself then please continue.

Firstly and obviously, I was shocked to find that Theo himself was the driving character in implementing the murder, however unintended. When I had that revelation moment my jaw truly did hang open. I loved the way that Michaelides interweaves the past and the present based on the readers assumptions to only completely subvert them later. What a master of misdirection because I truly did not connect Alicia’s stalker to Theo. I remember reading those last few passages thinking that Theo was heading down a dark path and questioning how this was going to end for him only to find out it had already happened. The other thing that completely shocked me about this twist was Gabriel himself. During Alicia’s entries I was so sure that he adored her that I didn’t even question his infidelity; which was exactly what Michaelides wanted. I won’t lie to you either, it hurt me. The bit that sticks in my mind is when Gabriel asks Alicia if they could have children together because I truly believed he cared; so this really contributed to me being blind-sighted during the actual reveal. Alicia is the character that I empathised and connected with the most. I really felt for her and despite being confused with the Greek tragedy analogies at the beginning I learnt to appreciate its brilliance at the end. The final piece that connected it all when Theo made Gabriel choose between Alicia and himself and how it reverts back to her childhood was a remarkable plot point that was the perfect jigsaw piece to finish the puzzle.

Overall, The plot of this book was good enough for me to get past my dislike of the narrative Theo was written in. The twist was excellently thought out and made me pause to reevaluate everything I had previously believed and read. The psychology moments, despite sometimes feeling excessive, was an interesting exploration into the motivations of the characters and contributed to all my theories throughout the reading experience. It was a quick read as the novel is fairly short, and so it makes for very easy reading especially with the desire to know what truly happened. The twist is definitely one of those that sticks with you long after finishing the story and I would highly recommend for others to give this one a try. It wasn’t a scary read by any means (like I thought it may be prior to reading) but it is indeed a psychological thriller.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Let’s Remove the Guilt from a Creative Slump

I was going to title this “Why I haven’t been active” but it felt too much like a “Why I Left Buzzfeed” video so we’re here instead!

Hello, wonderful readers, writers, and bloggers alike! Long time no see from me as I realised my last post was way back in August. I have mentioned previously that I am a big mood reader but it has become apparent to me that I am in fact a mood everything! So, I now must confess that my absence has been due to the biggest creative block I could ever of imagined. But now i’m on the other side of it, i’ve had time to reflect on it and its fair to say I have a fair few things to talk about. Please bear with me as I vent along in this blog post but I truly hope that you relate and find comfort in the points I make.

Being a part of the book community via a multitude of different social media platforms has been so rewarding in all the many connections and friendships I have made. However, I have also found that it has exposed me to a mass amount of content; and while sometimes this is stimulating and inspiring, it can also be pretty overwhelming. A lot of the time I find myself doubting my own content and even if its good enough to bring to the table with such other creators! This happened recently to the point where I didn’t want to open Instagram and participate. In all honesty, it created a chain reaction where I didn’t take book photos because of the doubt; which in turn led to guilt for having nothing to post. Do you see my Catch-22?

It took one photo. One photo that I liked that made me want to engage again and what ultimately broke my mini hiatus. I felt as though I finally had something to talk about. Retrospectively I can now see that I was striving too hard to be perfect when I just had to enjoy it. Yes, it’s good to be proud of the content you make and it makes all the difference in how you feel as a producer rather than just a consumer of media. But, and there is a but, it doesn’t make me any less of a member of the book community if I don’t post every day. I can still engage in all the content that I was previously enjoying. I think this is where I was going wrong in that I was comparing what I was making to everything I saw online, even if it were different styles. So, where does this newfound insight leave me now?

Well, firstly I am trying to make a promise to myself to remember that as long as I like what I make; then it is good enough. If you take photos for yourself you don’t have to hold yourself up to unrealistic standards. The same goes for any art form be it photography, writing, painting, dance, or even music. You started it because you loved it and that is what should keep you going and persevering with it. As for my writing, well I shall also be persevering with that too.

I’ve decided to try and put my “mood” on a leash and I hope to tame her with a sense of competition, because if there’s anything else to note about me other than books its that i’m extremely competitive (seriously, do not play Cluedo with me). I have decided to challenge myself to write at least one book review for this blog each month (starting slow) and hopefully that’ll motivate me to write about more bookish things too. Also, I’m thinking of going ALL in with this challenge and I am going to attempt to participate in NaNoWriMo!!! That’s right I am here to make up for last time and all my moping whilst I was in the Big Creative Slump. If you would me interested I could post little updates here and would obviously love to chat with you all if you’re thinking of participating as well.

So my big take away from all this? you can still be a creative member of any community regardless of how frequent you post. Post what you like and reignite your love for what you’re doing. If you need a push it’s ok to challenge yourself; don’t hold yourself to other people’s expectations. And finally, the Big Creative Slump doesn’t last forever. Trust me.

Just the beginning: Series I need to Finish

I’m starting to wonder if I have separation anxiety and thats why I have so many series unfinished.

Hello my lovely readers, writers, and bloggers alike! It’s been a while since I’ve done a casual chatty post and now I have some things to say. Lately I have been thinking about all the books on my TBR pile that is so high it’s beginning to resemble the Leaning Tower of Pisa. As it turns out a lot of these books are within a series; which quickly made me realise how many I haven’t actually finished.

We’ve all been there waiting for the next book in a series when the time of reading to release just gets way too long and either we forget what’s happened or have moved on to different books in-between. If i’m being completely honest; more often then not I already own the next book and every time I see it on my shelf I get shifty eyes and pretend I don’t see it staring at me in waiting. Well, no more! Today I am making the pledge to write a list of all the series I have yet to finish so I can officially challenge myself to read them. If you’re like me and are sneakily avoiding certain books then I encourage you to partake in this challenge too! Let me know in the comments if you do; i’d love to know what books you still have to get through.

Ok, here goes nothing. Here is my official list of series I intend to finish in 2020.

  1. Throne of Glass, Sarah J. Maas
  2. An Ember in the Ashes, Sabaa Tahir
  3. Red Queen, Victoria Aveyard
  4. The Raven Cycle, Maggie Stiefvater
  5. The Dark Divine, Bree Despain
  6. Shadow and Bone, Leigh Bardugo
  7. The Body Finder, Kimberly Derting

However, with this being said there are also a few series that I have decided I will not be finishing. This is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the books I have read but more that I don’t see myself as invested in taking them to the finish line. I have already mentioned in my DNF post that I am trying to learn that by not completing books, or in this cases series, actually allows me time to read more books that I have zero doubts about. Some of these books just weren’t what I wanted them to be, I grew out of them, or in some cases the ending was spoilt and I wasn’t keen in the direction they were being taken. So here goes my list of series I won’t be continuing.

  1. The Chemical Garden, Lauren, DeStefano
  2. House of Night, P.C and Kristin Cast
  3. Divergent, Veronica Roth
  4. The Maze Runner, James Dashner
  5. The Darkest Minds, Alexandra Bracken
  6. Caraval, Stephanie Garber

Let me know what you think about my lists, and of course your series you want to finish. And of course; happy reading!

The Story of Babushka, Catherine Flores: Review

It’s been a while since I have done a review and if I’m completely honest; I didn’t expect to be doing one on a children’s book any time soon. And yet here we are. When Catherine first messaged me about her book I knew I wanted in because of my affinity with Russian Nesting Dolls. I have loved them since I was a child after my Nana gifted me her very own. As Catherine describes;

“The doll has come to symbolise Russian folk culture, as well as the complex and beautiful layers of women.”

Her story really does solidify this meaning and truly showcases the depth of women and I’m very happy to have had the chance to read it. This book may primarily be a children’s book but by no means is it only for children. The flowing words, beautiful imagery, and insightful meaning will strike true for any reader.

Babushka is the name of the complete doll and each of the five bodies have their own name, traits, and decorations. The story follows each of these bodies as they leave the nest (pun intended) and go on their solo adventures. However, they each come to realise that they need to work and live together to be truly happy and complete. I love this story wholeheartedly as in my mind, it creates a simple discourse surrounding the societal ideas of women that is easily comprehensible. For instance, in the case of Antonia (the most beautiful doll) she is only known for her beauty; Antonia needs the other bodies of the doll to be recognised as more. This simply isn’t the case for women. We want to be beautiful, wealthy, talented, wise, and give love.

The bodies of Babushka

Another thing I love about this story is the fact that each of the bodies go on their own journeys. I think it’s very telling about humans and their desire to be perfect at something; but the way this story presents itself reminds you that you don’t have to be just one thing. I can imagine this book being read to younger children in a way to encourage all of their passions and different aspects of their personalities. The Story of Babushka really is a celebration of the complexity of individuals.

I also have to mention here the illustrations that accompany this book. They are beautifully crafted to add to the fairytale setting and create a sense of whimsy that is just lovely. The only thing I would say that I doubted within this book was the similarity of the names for the talented and wise dolls. I think any parent who reads this aloud would have to really enunciate Paula and Viola; however the imagery does help distinguish the two and they have separate colours for readers to follow along. Overall, this book was a super quick but an absolute delight to read.

Here’s me with my very own Babushka

It’s Thriller (rec) Night

Despite being the self proclaimed Vamp queen I do read other genres beside fantasy and supernatural! Thrillers and mysteries are my secondary go to and because a few of you asked; here are some of my recommendations.

If we’re being honest, thrillers have to be the most ‘hit or miss’ genre because it has to be smart enough to not be predictable but also not be too difficult to the point where it’s impossible to even guess. That doesn’t seem like the easiest of tasks so authors; I simply applaud you! My personal favourite from this genre is the younger contemporary protagonist as I find them more captivating to follow. For me, there’s something more interesting about reading that age range where they are still trying to find themselves and also the mystery that has just fell into their lap. I’m thinking both the Scooby Doo gang and Nancy Drew- esque thrillers. Now, don’t get me wrong I have dabbled in the likes of ‘Girl on the Train’ but if i’m being honest; sometimes its too much for me if the protagonist’s life is seemingly heavy and falling apart as well (in essence I need a bit of hope in there too).

A book that did that for me was Karen M. McManus’ Two Can Keep a Secret. The book is set in a small American town that has a bad history of Homecoming queen’s going missing. This year is no different because there’s a promise hanging in the air to make this one deadly. For the main character Ellery there is a personal element to this threat as her Aunt was the first girl to go missing years previously. What I loved about this book is that Ellery is a self confessed true crime nut and thinks that makes her qualified to start investigating but never quite getting it right. It was a fairly unique telling because the clues I thought I were picking up on were then shared by Ellery and therefore was the ultimate misdirection from McManus. Ellery seemed to be really struggling at the beginning of the book (her mum being in rehab) but ironically the town became good for her – a home with actual friends and family. This made me root for her and care about her survival throughout the story. The overall plot twist was by no means groundbreaking but it was unpredictable enough to still shock me. However, the true star of this book is the final line; the ending is chilling and unnerving and just ties everything together in a foreboding little bow.

The next book I want to talk about is rather old school. Its a book I have had on my shelf for years and I read it myself when I was a young teen. However, I think it is still worth a read today; perhaps if you are just getting started into the mystery/thrillers. The Dark Secrets series by Elizabeth Chandler encompass short stories that are unconnected except for their creepiness. I specifically want to talk about Don’t Tell which is the second story in the first volume. It follows Lauren as she returns to the town where her mother drowned seven years previously, but things start happening to her that mimic the days before her mother’s accident; and now Lauren isn’t so sure it was an accident after all. What I particularly loved about this book was the strangeness of it; in that the events that occurred felt supernatural. It truly felt like Lauren was being haunted and was the epitome of that ‘i’m being watched’ feeling. The final reveal was shocking to me mainly because it altered Lauren’s life so significantly rather than it being overly unexpected. I won’t lie this book definitely has that ‘teen’ feel and it is extremely naive at times; but considering their short length they are super easy to get through and are still enjoyable.

Moving on now to a book that felt like a real life game of Cluedo is Shari Lapena’s An Unwanted Guest. I will preface this by saying that I also tried Lapena’s A Stranger in the House but unfortunately I could not finish this one as it was far too stiff for me and I guessed it’s outcome at the very beginning. So, if you have seen lots about this author’s work I would suggest you do some digging into which of hers would fit you as a reader, as I believe they are not of the same quality and An Unwanted Guest is the only one i’ve read that I would recommend. It’s set in a remote lodge in upstate New York that has been booked by a group of strangers and because of this is a multiple perspective telling. A blizzard strands the guests and cuts them off from the outside world before something (or someone) begins murdering them one by one. What I liked about this book is that despite its cliché setting it felt more like a homage to the work of Agatha Christie and a real ‘who done it’ tale. Every character was open to suspicion and I really enjoyed trying to guess which one was the murderer. If this does appeal to you, I will also say that it’s one of those books that deliver on the suspense it has created in that any of the characters could have been responsible and any could have been the next to die.

Lastly I want to talk about Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan. Margot Lewis is an advice columnist under the name Amy part-time from being a teacher. One of her own students goes missing but the surprises don’t end there. Margot receives a letter from a girl asking for help from being kidnapped, but the girl is not who is currently missing but Bethan Avery; who has been presumed dead for years. Margot tries to get the police to listen as surely there must be a connection between the two girls, but they believe the letters are a hoax, and so Margot begins her own investigation for the truth. I really loved the concept of this book particularly because every time Margot received a letter I got that knot of anticipation where I really wanted to know where this was going. The best part of this telling is the weaving of the cold case with the current abduction. I would say that the writing style left something to be desired for me personally, and the book as a whole wasn’t groundbreaking or anything overly new. But having said this, I did really want to know if the present girl abducted would make it out alive and the premise was intriguing enough for me to keep reading.

I also wanted to throw in some books that I have bought recently that I am looking forward to reading! If you want more info on these be sure to check out my Instagram account as i’ll most likely post current updates about them there.

  • See How They Lie by Sue Wellman
  • The Flower Girls by Alice Clark-Platts

I tend to enjoy thriller mysteries more so when its Autumn and I can wrap myself up in cosy blankets but I also find them a great palate cleanser between other genres (fellow mood readers am I right)? Another one that I would love to recommend to you is Don’t Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout but as I’ve mentioned this one before here I won’t go into detail. Please let me know your thoughts on any of these, if they interest you or if you’ve already read them! I’m excited to always talk books afterall.

My go to Rereads

Have you ever found yourself itching to get back to some of your favourite characters and story-worlds?

So I recently saw Millie over at inkypaperpages write a post about the books that she keeps on rereading! As I was reading along my mind decided to picture my own bookshelves and well, it got me thinking about the books that are my favourites to read once, twice, three, or even four times over. And here we are; Hayley’s comprehensive list (so far) of books that I have read multiple times because I just cannot get enough!

Ok, to start I am going to first list the obvious choice and the series I would bet is one you have reread as well; Harry Potter by J.K Rowling. This series is infamous for making youngsters read and has contributed to shaping many a childhood; mine included. I don’t know about you, but when I see the films streaming on my TV I get the need to pick out all the extra nuanced detail the books alone offer (Goblet of Fire I am specifically looking at you here). And just like at The Burrow, there is a homeliness about these books that make them so comforting to read again and again. I have a sneaky suspicion that if you’ve reread this series its because Hogwarts will always be your home and I really don’t need to say much else (except where are my fellow Slytherins)?

The next reread on my list is another series! The Morganville Vampires by Rachel Caine really does hold a special place in my heart. This very blog is named after the first book (Glass Houses) and it’s one of those series that just keeps on giving. You expect the vampires (its in the name afterall) but it also has a ‘choose your own’ family with characters I always want to cheer for. These books evolve and the core group investigate and fight against so many different obstacles its very reminiscent of the feeling I get watching seasons 1-4 of Supernatural. It’s very much the journey of these characters and the nostalgia I feel when rereading that make me want to relive the town of Morganville.

Remember when I said I was a mood reader? Well its time for a complete tonal shift as we delve into Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Sometimes, you just need to read a classic and as much as I love the Brontë sisters; Austen’s Pride and Prejudice just dominates the top spot, and no other is taking the place of my beloved Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy. This book is the one I always go to for a reread when I want that romance experience. You know the one that makes your heart flutter and you go all giddy just thinking about it? Well Pride and Prejudice is that one for me.

Surprisingly, I have another stand alone to add to this list which is Don’t Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout. If this book seems a little familiar to you its because I have mentioned it already in my Top 5 Underrated Favourites. I have read this book twice because I genuinely was so surprised by the reveal I had to go back and see all the little hints I missed the first time round. My reading habits are no secret (I often rant over on Bookstagram) so you should know that I absolutely love a contemporary thriller. However, there is another reason why I would want to reread this book and that’s the main character Samantha. I have a pet hate when it comes to protagonists having to be that typical angelic type but Samantha has her faults! And to me it’s really interesting to read her explore herself and ultimately try and better herself in a way that doesn’t overly feel like a teen cliché.

The last on this list is the Night World series by L.J. Smith. These books were the books I bought myself for the first time ever and what kickstarted my reading habit (thank you to the WH Smith in Liverpool One). I love the supernatural and magical feel that these books offer and the fact that they all flow into one another even though it is actually a collection of different characters and stories. However, the reason they are on this list primarily is because each individual story is short and I can pick up any of them to read without needing to read the entire series for it to make sense. They genuinely are so great for some light reading that is full of the things you enjoy most.

As a small bonus I have decided to add some books to this list that I am planning to reread in the future!

  • The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller
  • Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin
  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  • Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

So here they all are. Honestly I love rereading books because besides from the nostalgia of reliving something that I wholeheartedly fell in love with, I also find it a useful tool to get out of reading slumps. When I am revisiting characters and a story I already know the pressure is off in regard to concentrating, finishing it, or even liking it which allows me to truly just enjoy the book and gets me back into that reading mood! I’d love to know in the comments if we have any rereads in common and what books you are planning to read again.

Reads of April 2020

It may not be Christmas but April is officially wrapped!

This site is first and foremost a book centric place. However with that being said I still think it’s fitting that I begin this post with a slight disclaimer. This past month has not been easy for anyone and 2020 will, I think, be forever marked by what has happened throughout this pandemic. It’s important to remember that just because it appears as though we have more free time at home, it’s still a crisis situation and therefore we should be gentle with ourselves and not expect too much from each-other. This time does not define our productivity or our self worth and we should continue to use it as a way to recuperate, be thankful, and be mindful of one another.

I guess I should say that this can still relate to reading. There seems to be an idea floating about the internet sphere that this is a time to read Everything you can get your hands on. I agree that books are the perfect escape and I have often found myself reaching for a new world between the pages; but it’s not the only coping mechanism, and it certainly is not a race. If this time period has taught me anything its to listen to my mind and body telling me what I truly need. I hope this helps anyone reading this who feels the pressure right now that it’s ok as can be and we’ll get through it.

So, are you wondering what books I actually did escape to last month? Well here they are!

  • The Near Witch by V.E. Schwab
  • White Hot Kiss by Jennifer L. Armentrout
  • Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin
  • Panic by Lauren Oliver
  • Good Girl, Bad Blood by Holly Jackson

The Near Witch I have already reviewed in full which you can find here but I will say that something Wiccan this way comes! This book is extremely fulfilling for when you are in a particularly witchy mood. The writing style of Schwab is extremely unique and as a fairly short standalone its a quick but beautiful read.

Switching tone completely (mood readers are you with me?) to White Hot Kiss which is a dark teen series by Armentrout featuring Gargoyles and Demons. This book gave me nostalgia for something I haven’t even read yet. I feel as though if I discovered this book in my actual teens I’d have quickly gone ‘Twihard’ levels of obsessed. It has a unique premise with the creatures that appear that I haven’t seen in YA before; it definitely adds to the questions surrounding morals and good vs evil you see in the likes of many YA (i’m reminded of the fallen angels trope). I’ve already picked up the sequel which is eyeing me up from the ever-spawning pile on the floor.

Ah here we go. Serpent & Dove has already become a fast favourite of the year for me. I guess I wasn’t ready to let go of the witchcraft mood that overcame me as this book focuses on Lou (a witch) who ends up in a marriage of convenience with non other than Reid; a witch hunter. This book has a witty, determined, strong willed feminist lead and a beautiful setting that gave me a longing to be staring out of a patisserie window onlooking France. This book also has mystery, a slow burn romance, a duel perspective narrative, and witches! Need I say more?

Moving on to Panic and another mood change (I think I give myself whiplash sometimes). This one features a game of only dares that competitors must overcome in order to be the last one standing and to win the accumulated money. It’s set in a small town and has all the small town cliches of secrets, gossip, and teenage drama. I won’t lie I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I was hoping I would – i think the reason was ultimately it became too predictable. However with that being said, it had an interesting portrayal of family dynamics and is still worth a read for when you’re in a competitive mood.

Something that wasn’t the least bit predictable however was Good Girl, Bad Blood the sequel to A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder (again you can find the full review for this book here). Initially I had some small reservations about this book as I didn’t know how it could possibly evolve from the first; but I was once again enthralled and encaptured into the world-wind that is Pip’s detective life. I would like to do a full review of this book so I am trying to keep this bit brief. If you want a hint though I did finish it in less than ten hours so it was definitely a page turner to say the least.

Although five may seem like only a few to some I am very pleased with what I managed this month. I can only anticipate what May has to offer and if my TBR is anything to go by… it could be a big month. I would love to know if you have read any of these books or if you intend to so let me know in the comments below!

The Near Witch, V.E. Schwab: Review

Hello readers and writers alike! On this fine Sunday morning I have decided to bask in the afterglow I am left in after reading V.E. Schwab’s The Near Witch; and of course I have to share this with you.

In the town of Near the children sing about the witches old and new and then one by one the children are taken from their beds. This coincides with the arrival of the stranger whom the suspicions are directed towards. Lexi decides to trust her gut instincts and give the stranger the benefit of the doubt; and together they search for the children and the one responsible.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book primarily for the writing style of Schwab. In all honesty, this is my first dive into her works so I couldn’t tell you if all her writings exist within this whimsical poetry-like style, but regardless it suits this story tremendously and it has stayed with me. It felt moody, atmospheric, and has amazing flow.

“She spoke to the earth and the earth cracked

Spoke to the wind and it whistled back

Spoke to the river and the river whirled

Spoke to the fire and the fire curled

But little boy Jack he stayed too long

Listened too closely to the witch’s song”

page 21

Another factor of this book that I truly enjoyed was the setting. Again this was amplified by the writing style and the descriptions that heightened all of my senses. But, the allure of the moor (Schwab has got me rhyming now) was reminiscent of the gothic literature found in Wuthering Heights. I loved reading the witches (not a spoiler as this is revealed rather early on and is common knowledge within the book) Magda and Dreska hobble around their small cottage and attending to their garden with hints of their craft showing through their knobbly fingers. I loved the songs the children sing and the stories Lexi reads.

The only thing I wished differently about this book was the repetitiveness; because of this I was quick to pick up on what was to come to the point where when Schwab had finally revealed it I was already well aware. It sometimes left the character Lexi looking slightly naive, but despite this she still has a lot of gumption and charm as a character that made her really likeable. I also really adored the easiness of her being with the stranger and how they seemed to fit so effortlessly. (I do wish he wasn’t as broody as he is in the beginning though- like c’mon Schwab he can still be thoughtful and mysterious and still have something to say)!

Overall, this book has charm and delights in all the right ways. It has that old sense about it with the town’s council and the folktales the townspeople cling to (think slight The Crucible vibes). The Near Witch is a stand alone novel and wraps up in a satisfactory way where I am not left wanting for anything. For any magic and witch lovers out there; this is a fairly simple story that just has that extra something about it that makes it oh so delicious.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, Holly Jackson: Review

I’m back with another suspenseful thriller to review! And just like my previous one I shall be separating this piece into two parts (one half without spoilers and the other half with) so just like a restaurant with vegan options I am catering for you all!

So let’s get started! A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder follows the character Pippa as she uses a closed case murder, from her town years previously, as the topic for an extended project. The case involved the supposed murder of Andie Bell by her boyfriend Sal Singh who committed suicide out of guilt. However, during her research she begins to uncover secrets that suggest the case is not what it seems, and consequently becomes an amateur detective Nancy Drew style as she investigates it for herself. Now, I absolutely adore this premise because as a true crime nut myself I feel like if given the opportunity I would attempt (probably really badly) to investigate as well. My love for this premise is solidified more so by Pippa herself; her stubborn and determined character was a breath of fresh air in that she was self assured in herself and her ability to be good at this. I really did connect with her and her unashamedly nosy self; and ultimately it was just really nice to read from a character’s perspective where she was confident, witty, and passionate.

Initially I did have reservations when picking this book up as I was worried that it would present itself as a rather young and naive read; especially as a huge part of this story involved the fact that Pippa was doing this project for school. My reservations were stupid. Her age fell into that category that is often ignored in the young adult genre – Pippa is very much a young adult in the way that she carries herself and the writing style is written in a mature way that fits an eighteen year old rather than a younger teen. That’s not to say that you cannot enjoy this book if you are older or slightly younger as the school factor is not as prominent as you might think. Pippa’s project is independent led and when the focus shifts to this it is written in production logs from a first person perspective; you as the reader still feel as though you are following Pip’s investigation rather than her school journey.

Around mid way through this book I remember having an increasing feeling of tension and frustration because there were so many leads to follow in this ‘who done it’ tale. I know this may not be for everyone but for me this was actually a welcomed feeling because I was so invested in getting to the end. I had zero clue about the direction this book was going and I needed to know who the murderer was – this book is the definition of a page-turner and I finished it in just two sittings!

I feel like there isn’t anything in this book that resembles a dud; the whole thing is just thought out and executed so well (Holly Jackson consider me sold i’m delving into your other works now too)! As already mentioned, I couldn’t predict the outcome because of the way the suspicion shifts from character to character and each one is presented to be morally grey. It’s definitely not a black and white tale and each character gave me their doubts; including Andie Bell herself (the girl who was murdered). I really liked the take that Jackson underwent in questioning why in a tragedy there is a tendency to make the victim into some angelic type of character and how sometimes that shouldn’t be the case. Like I said, this book has depth! To continue this, the book also touches on the representation of race in criminal cases, with the initial alleged killer being of Indian decent and why that may have contributed to the town’s easy acceptance of his guilt.

Ok, this is your warning folks! I’m about to go into detail so if you want off the spoiler train this is your stop. In all honesty, I don’t have many spoilers to talk about as I’ve already covered a lot of what I wanted to say about the book except for a few specific characters (one of which is the killer so I guess that’s the biggest spoiler of all).

When the book revealed the killer I was shocked! It was the father of Pippa’s best friend who we as the reader discounted so early on. I think this is the true beauty and cleverness of the book in that he was initially a person of interest so I never jumped on a character that seemed innocent so that I could preempt the unexpected. Jackson acted as a sleight of hand magician here in that whenever the focus could have been on Elliot (the murderer) it was instead on Naomi (his elder daughter). Naomi as a character was so interesting as she presented so many reasons to be guilty that I was betting she was in on it somehow, but she also gave me so many places to doubt myself. Her nervous energy and overall sweet nature was enough for me to question if she was even capable of murder. But in the wonderful words of Jackson there was always another character to switch the suspicion on that wasn’t Elliot; namely Max Hastings who just screamed ‘icky’.

Then came the second reveal; that there were TWO murderers; Elliot who killed Sal (the alleged murder that closed the case in the first place) and Becca, the sister of the original victim Andie Bell. In order, for this reveal to take place it was established that Elliot didn’t know whether he had killed Andie or not and that is why he killed Sal in the first place; to cover his tracks and pass the blame. It was Becca who found her sister hurt and left her to die.

Unfortunately, there was a section that during the reveal of Elliot that suggested Andie Bell was still alive and kept captive by Elliot. Obviously this is not the case as we find out Becca left her to die, which meant that Elliot actually had another girl captive to pretend to be Andie. I’m still processing how I feel about this Norman Bates move as I think it felt a little rushed to be accepted so easily by the reader. However, having said this I much prefer this idea than the alternative of Andie actually still being alive which would have been way too convenient for the story.

Overall, this book had developed characters with motives that made me question everything! There was a likeable protagonist to follow and connect with and a promise of a little romance without it subtracting any focus from the actual investigation and plot of the book. It wasn’t predictable in any way shape or form with a cleverly written and mature writing style from Jackson. Although I didn’t expand on this detail in the review, I still think it is worthy to note how well Jackson captured a British setting and tone. I very much felt like I was in my home country of England and I believe this contributed to how believable the overall story is because it fits so well. To say I was happy with this book is an understatement! I thoroughly enjoyed it and devoured each and every page.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.