Category Archives: Reading Updates

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.

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!

Top 5 underrated favourites

Hello fellow readers! Recently I have been moving my bookshelves around and began thinking whether I wanted to organise them by authors, colour, genre, or by favourites (we all know the struggle). Well, I may have decided to go with genre but a few reads stood out to me for how underrated they are and so here we are; a list of my top 5 underrated favourites.

Underrated #5

Don’t Look Back – Jennifer L. Armentrout

So if you have no clue what this book is about it follows Samantha, who has just emerged battered and bruised after being missing for four days with absolutely no memory of what happened. Now this at first may get your deja vu senses tingling BUT theres an extra layer that Armentrout has weaved into the fold; and that is although Samantha has been found, her best friend Cassie is still missing. This then makes the entire plot not only a contemporary – fit the jigsaw pieces together – mystery but also a thriller. Coupled with Armentrout’s engaging writing style I simply could not put this book down and raced through the pages. What I was particularly impressed with was how the book kept me guessing throughout and yet I still did not see the reveal coming- it took me by complete surprise and I loved it. Another surprise was the character of Samantha; often it’s easy for a main character to be ‘the golden girl’ but she most definitely has faults. It was actually rather heartwarming to see her admit them and try to better herself along the way.

Underrated #4

This is Where it Ends – Marieke Nijkamp

I will not lie this book is quite a marmite read (you either love it or you hate it) and the little comments I have read about it have been equally divided. This is Where it Ends is a first person, in the moment, telling of a school shooting and is ultimately an extremely heavy reading experience. Many other readers, who I am inclined to agree with, seem to have an issue with the antagonist (the shooter) in that his motives, reasoning, and overall development are extremely lack lustre and fall quite flat. However, I decided to include it on this list because there are some amazing qualities of this book that does make it underrated. Firstly, I love that the chapters are from multiple character perspectives; in a novel with a setting such as this I think it really adds to the personal factor when the reader can feel the weight and the consequences of everyone rather than just one individual. It makes it feel more real and the ultimate connectedness of the characters translates to the reader and really makes you question ideals of community and what matters to you. Another reason I feel this book is underrated is the inclusion of a lesbian relationship that is presented in a natural and wholesome way; it definitely feels LGBTQ inclusive as a means of representation and not of baiting the community.

If you do enjoy books that deal with settings and themes of this nature then I would also recommend Hate List by Jennifer Brown as an honorary mention. This book is interesting in the portrayal of guilt as an aftermath of the event and is definitely worth a read!

Underrated #3

I’ll Give You the Sun – Jandy Nelson

I first read this book as an advanced reading copy and it was the first time I read anything of Jandy Nelson. However, I enjoyed it so much I was then sent her first book The Sky is Everywhere so I could devour more of her words. Despite the wonderful flow of her writing style and the dynamic characters that I fell in love with, this book is on this list because of its unique structure. The novel follows twin siblings Noah and Jude and each chapter changes to the corresponding perspective. What’s different about this is Jude tells her side of the story from the perspective of the present day whereas her brother Noah’s chapters are from years previously. I found this really intriguing because the reader knows an event has happened that has separated them; we know the consequence because of Jude and we get all the anticipation and build up from Noah. Its such a uniquely fascinating way of keeping the reader guessing and sometimes feels like you get two stories in one. Another reason I personally adore this book is the chapter configuration feels almost symbolic of the characters coming together again; which I ultimately craved and loved because i’m a sucker for all things poetic.

Underrated #2

My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece – Annabel Pitcher

This was such a tough decision for me to place this book first or second because I nearly cry just thinking about it. Now don’t get me wrong this book is not a ball your eyes out, purposefully sad book, but theres such a sense of childhood innocence that translates so well it just warms my heart and makes me teary. This book is from the perspective of 10 year old Jamie (and wow does the author do a fantastic job of making this FEEL like the voice of a child). His elder sister died during the London bombing and her urn sits on the mantlepiece whilst the rest of his family struggles with the aftermath years later.

The themes in this book could have been represented so much darker and heavier if it weren’t for Jamie and ultimately the author Annabel Pitcher. This story isn’t about grief but about friendship, loyalty and essentially humanity. One of the biggest things I took from this book was Jamie’s friendship with Sunya as it showcases how people overcome and form their own opinions even at such a young age when we are said to be the most impressionable. Sunya is a muslim girl who wears a hijab and due to how Jamie’s sister’s died his father has begun to nurture islamophobic ideals and doesn’t want them to be friends. The reader really gets to see Jamie try to process what’s right and wrong, being a good friend, and a good son and the raw and honest portrayal is great to see. If you haven’t read this book I will not spoil things for you but please watch out for two things; The Superhero shirt and Rodger the cat (if you have read this book then you’ll know).

Underrated #1

Under Rose-tainted Skies – Louise Gornall

My number 1!! This book has an idealistic slow burn love story, a supportive mother daughter relationship, AND most importantly an accurate representation of mental health. It truly is refreshing to see. Under Rose-tainted Skies follows the life of Norah, who is agrophobic with OCD and anxiety, as she watches life from the safety of her window, until Luke arrives and changes her own perspective on self-care and mental health. I want to be really clear here, although the romance is quite fanciful it is most definitely NOT a relationship that sets out to fix Norah and her mental health, prior to meeting Luke she attends therapy and counselling and her dialogue about her conditions is as open at the start as it is at the end.

It’s this representation of MH that really makes this book shine; the author herself deals with the same conditions as Norah which just makes her character feel even more real. I may be biased in that I connected with Norah so heavily as I am also diagnosed OCD and anxiety. However, it wasn’t until reading this book that I realised some of the things I did or thought was apart of my personality, was actually an attribute of my conditions. I have been officially diagnosed with OCD for 5 years now and I can honestly say I have never read a more realistic interpretation that doesn’t fantasise MH than in Gornall’s novel. Despite it being just a heartwarming and enjoyable contemporary read, I will always recommend this book to anyone that would want to know what my brain feels like or just MH in general.