New Year’s Resolutions Book Tag

I often read tags like this and think they’d be fun to do but never do them, so they’ll be sporadic but as and when I can I’ll be throwing them into the mix!

Today’s is taken from Golden Books Girl, Amy – you can see her answers here!


1. An Author You’d Like To Read That You’ve Never Read

So many! There are a lot of authors/books I feel I should have read but haven’t – this is a big reason I’m going to try and read more classics this year! From a recent conversation though, I’ll say MG Leonard.

2. A New Book You’d Like To Read

There’s lots of books out this year I’m excited for – the new Five Realms (Podkin) book by Kieran Larwood, the second Wild Folk book by Sylvia Linsteadt for starters. New Jess Butterworth and Abi Elphinstone…

But the book I’m most excited about is Circle by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen! (You can read my thoughts on the first two books in the trilogy here).

3. A Classic You’d Like To Read

One of my reading goals this year is to read more classics, both adult and children’s (I’m looking forward to the children’s more!).

I have the new Lauren Child illustrated Mary Poppins so I think I’ll start with that. I also have Patrick Ness’ ‘And The Ocean Was Our Sky’ which is a new take on Moby Dick, so I’d quite like to read the two together.

4. A Book You’d Like To Re-Read

I’ve been meaning to re-read the Harry Potter books for AGES! So those! I’d like to re-read Discworld (and read those I’ve not read) too – I can’t see that happening this year, but who knows!

5. A Book You’ve Had For Ages and Want To Read

So many! The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden or Alice by Christina Henry maybe. Or, I haven’t had it for ages but Marcus Zusak’s Bridge of Clay has been on the shelf for longer than I’d have liked.

6. A Big Book You’d Like To Read

Hmm. I’m not sure about this one. Can I say Bridge of Clay twice?! Or I have Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s Labyrinth of the Spirits waiting too.

7. An Author You’ve Previously Read and Would Like To Read More Of

I’d like to read the rest of the Murder Most Unladylike Series by Robin Stevens, as well as the Emma Carroll books I’ve not yet read.

8. A Book You Got For Christmas and Would Like To Read

I didn’t get any 😭😭 No one wants to buy a bookseller books! I do have some book vouchers to spend though – I’ll be getting a hardback set of Harry Potter.

9. A Series You Want To Read From Start to Finish

Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows or Shadow and Bone. I read her fairytale collection ‘The Language of Thorns’ and loved it but haven’t read her novels yet.

10. A Series You Want To Finish That You’ve Already Started

The Ink trilogy by Alice Broadway.

11. Do You Set Reading Goals? If So, How Many Books Do You Want To Read in 2018?

Yes, although I don’t get too worked up about meeting them – it’s always nice to reach my target but I won’t binge or speed read to do it. Ultimately, I’d rather enjoy a book than rush through it. This year I’m hoping for at least 75. I’d like to reach 100 but we’ll see!

12. Any Other Reading Goals?

You can read my post on this year’s reading goals here.

Have you read or are you looking forward to reading any of the same books as me? What are you hoping to read this year?

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Six for Sunday: Books I Wish I’d Had As a Teen

Six for Sunday is hosted by Steph at A Little But A Lot. She gives a prompt for a list of six books each Sunday – the list can be found here. This week it’s

Books You Wish You’d Had as a Teen

I’m really interested to see what others come up with for this. I’ve struggled with it; I honestly can’t think of any books I’ve read as an adult that I wish I’d read as a teen – maybe I’ve just forgotten when I have thought this or maybe it’s because it feels so long ago!

Either way, I’ve decided to pick 3 books I’ve read as an adult that I think teen me would have liked and 3 books I’ve not yet read that I think both teen and adult me would/will like.

I’d probably also squeeze in a music biography of some sort too, but I’m not sure which. Any recommendations?!

First, the three I’ve read:

Clean – Juno Dawson

The Bees – Lalline Paul

The Book Thief – Marcus Zusak

And for the 3 I haven’t:

Vox – Christina Dalcher

Smoke and Mirrors – Neil Gaiman

Alice – Christina Henry

Interestingly, there’s not many actual YA books on here. I wonder if that’s because it wasn’t a big thing when I was younger and I mostly read adult fiction? Or whether it’s because of children’s, YA and adult books that I read now, YA is still what I read least… I’m not sure!

Have you read any of my choices? What do you think?

Have you taken part in #SixforSunday too? Leave me a link to your list!

 

The Restless Girls

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When I was younger, Twelve Dancing Princesses was one of my favourite stories. Something about the midnight trips out, the worn out shoes, the boats to magical forests and dancing maybe.

As a huge fan of Jessie Burton’s adult novels ‘The Miniaturist’ and ‘The Muse’, I was very excited to hear she was writing a modern version of this.

Especially since I revisited it myself last year as part of some artwork, and was struck by how little autonomy the Princesses have.

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And it is this lack of autonomy, and the sexism that dominates traditional fairytale kingdoms, that is put right in The Restless Girls.

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There’s a real energy and spark to both the girls and the story – with some fantastically impossible events (a dance hosted by a lioness and a peacock with a wild animal band for starters) alongside some fantastically important ones – namely the girls being in charge of their own choices and futures, and being a force for change in those around them too.

Rather than just stumbling across the party in the woods, the girls use their skills, talents and knowledge to find it – each demonstrating their unique personality and strengths, from science to languages to sports.

There is an inspiring sense of determination and loyalty in the sisters and their relationship with each other is portrayed with warmth and understanding; youngest sister Agnes is described affectionately as “their little walking popcorn” which I loved!

It is little phrases and details like this which I really enjoyed in the book – adding depth at times (“The dark was simply the beginning of new things. The dark was necessary.”) and humour at others (the excuses they found for the holes in their shoes are brilliant and there’s a perfectly placed “It’s bloody freezing!” which made me smile too.)

Truly a fairytale for modern times, this keeps all the magic of the original, with midnight feasting and dancing in glittering forests, but throws in a large helping of adventure, independence and resourcefulness too.

Wonderfully detailed illustrations from Angela Barrett complete the package and make this a stunning book to give, gift and keep!

Storm-wake

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Moss has lived with Pa on a remote island for as long as she remembers. The Old World has disappeared beneath the waves – only Pa’s magic, harnessing the wondrous stormflowers on the island, can save the sunken continents. But a storm is brewing, promising cataclysmic changes.

I received a review copy of this from Chicken House and wasn’t sure what to expect. It’s taken me a while to get round to reading and I wish I’d read it sooner. It was wonderful.

Classed as YA, it is in one sense a classic ‘coming-of-age’ narrative. We see Moss as she grows from a ‘Small Thing’ into her teens, and watch as her relationships with both “wild-boy” Cal and Pa change as she does. However, there’s a lot more going on here, and in some ways I’m not sure where or how I’d categorise this, which is no bad thing.

Let’s start with the island and its stormflowers – described in Lucy Christopher’s beautiful and lyrical style, there is a dream-like feel to the place, the flowers and the magical qualities that surround them. But are things as idyllic as they seem, or is there a darker side to the flowers and their effects? There’s a heavy, heady link to poppies and their opioid connections made, but we’re left to draw our own conclusions as the book progresses.

Much of the book feels like this: the line between fantasy and reality is not so much blurred as changeable and shifting. There is a wonderful balance between the real and the fantastic: the real often seeming to be written between the lines of the magic on the page, which I thought was so cleverly done and only added to the sense of foreboding and doubt that gradually creeps in as Moss begins to realise that perhaps not everything is how she has grown up believing it to be.

While not a retelling as such, I loved the many parallels with The Tempest in the book. I want to say more, but am loath to give any spoilers away. Suffice to say – the influence is there with similarities carefully woven into the story. If you don’t know it, it won’t matter: it stands as a well-crafted story in its own right.

This is a book for being swallowed up in – immersed in stories, stormy seas, stormflower smoke and the tingle-fizz of petals on tongues, scales on skin and whispers of another world. You could easily find yourself going as mad as Pa if you try to wrap your head round what’s really real, what’s magic, what’s illusion, what’s lies, what’s truth, what’s a version of all of these… and that’s partly why I loved this book as much as I did. It’ll definitely be a book to come back to and one that will withstand multiple readings.

I’ve not read any of Lucy Christopher’s other books, but will be looking out for them: have you read any? Which would you recommend?

 

WWW Wednesday 15/8/18

Hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’,  every Wednesday, we ask and answer the 3 W’s:

WWW Wednesdays

What are you currently reading?

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I need to start timing these WWW Wednesday posts better! Just like last week, I finished my current book – Storm-Wake by Lucy Christopher – in bed with a coffee this morning (there may or may not have also been biscuits!), so technically I’m not reading anything at the moment again! But close enough! Full review is here, but I thought it was wonderful.

What have you just finished reading?

I’ve not got through loads, but it’s been a mystery-filled MG sort of week with:

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Kat Wolfe Investigates by Lauren St John (‘Middle-Grade/MG’): This was my introduction to Lauren St John (the shame!) and a very welcome one. While animal stories are generally not really my cup of tea, this was a very well-written, fun mystery with layer upon layer to keep you guessing til the end. It deserves to be hugely popular with its target readers and would make a perfect pressie for any MG mystery/animal fans in your life! You can see a full review here.

Agatha Oddly: The Secret Key by Lena Jones (‘Middle-Grade/MG’): The first in a new detective series for MG readers, this just didn’t do it for me, sadly. I know it will grab others with its mysterious red slime filling London’s waterworks, a sassy and confident female MC and a mysterious underground society, but it just didn’t come together for me.


It’s also been a week for picture books and board books, and there’ll be plenty of posts to follow about these too, but in brief, this week I’ve also read:

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Ten Little Robots by Mike Brownlow and Simon Rickerty (picture book) – the latest in the ‘Ten Little…’ series and every bit as bold, bright and busy as the rest. Thumbs up!

Some Birds by Matt Spink (picture book) – simple rhyming text matched with the most BEAUTIFUL illustrations. Such a gorgeous book. There should be a colouring book of it…

100 Dogs by Michael Whaite (picture book) – this one has been buzzing around in my twitter feed for some time so I picked it up yesterday – it’s fantastic! Perfectly executed rhyming text (something which can be so hard to get right), wonderfully detailed and expressive illustrations and as many different dogs as you can think of (well, ok, 100 of them) – absolutely spot on.

Baby Lit A-Z and Alice in Wonderland (board books) – I’d not seen this series before, but I am now on a mission to collect them all! Classic characters in contemporary illustrations teaching everything from colours to weather to the alphabet.

Little Gestalten’s Grimm and Andersen Fairy Tale Collections (fairy tales) – GORGEOUS!! I’ve been on the hunt for a fairy tale collection with just the right illustrations for years now: nothing too old-fashioned, colour, but not too childish and with the right text rather than simplified for children or minute and closely packed for adults. These were shrink-wrapped so I had to take a bit of a punt, but they are perfect!

What are you planning on reading next?

Like last week, that is still a very good question!

I still haven’t started Katherine Rundell’s Into the Jungle from last week (I think it’s becoming one of those that I want to read so much I keep putting it off!) and I still have that whole shelf full of adult fiction to start on, so maybe some of those. Though

But yesterday, I went to the library for the first time in an embarrassingly long time and picked up some books there too, so I may have to prioritise those so that I don’t get side-tracked, forget about them and end up with a stupidly huge fine!

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I picked up Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys because I LOVED her book ‘Salt to the Sea (it’s a phenomenal YA/Adult fiction told via several converging fictional narratives based on the true story of the sinking of the German military transport ship the Wilhelm Gustloff in WW2). Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry has been one of those books I’ve meant to read for ages, but not got round to and I think Egg and Spoon might be one of the only Gregory Maguire books I’ve not read: I love his twisty takes on fairy tales.

So, I think Egg and Spoon might pip the others to the post, but what do you think? What should I read next?!

Have you read any of the books I’ve read this week? What are you reading at the moment?

WWW Wednesday

I stumbled on this weekly ’round up’ via Kelly’s Rambles, it is originally hosted over here on ‘Taking on a World of Words’ though. I keep thinking I might branch out from just reviews to other book-ish posts and this seemed a good way to start, as well as hopefully being a good way to connect with other book-ish bloggers!

So, the idea is that every Wednesday, we ask and answer the 3 W’s:

WWW Wednesdays

What are you currently reading?

Actually, nothing. Poor timing on my part – I have just finished my current book this morning! So I’m all ready to start something new…

What have you just finished reading?

I’ve been determined to get through some of the books that have languished on my shelf for a while since being on mat leave, especially those kindly sent to me as review copies. So this week I have powered through:

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The Mercy Seat by Elizabeth Winthrop (Adult Fiction): This was ok. It was an interesting way to look approach the subject and I liked the different perspectives it was written from and thought that brought something new to a well-trodden path. But, for me, there just wasn’t enough to save it from feeling like it didn’t have anything really fresh to offer that hasn’t been done before.

The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater (YA Non-fiction): This was excellent: a very well-written and thought-provoking book. A full review will be up either later today or tomorrow.

The List of Real Things by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald (YA/MG): A thoroughly enjoyable read with endearing characters, a touch of magic and a sensitive and warm look at growing up, family and loss. I think this is technically classed as YA, but it read much more like MG to me – I can see it being a good one for bridging the two.

No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen (YA/MG): Another one that for me would bridge the YA/MG divide nicely. It’s definitely more YA than MG, but there’s nothing unsuitable for more mature MG readers. A very readable story which has you rooting for main character, Felix from the very beginning, and a great way of beginning to explore the idea of the ever-increasing ‘unseen’ homeless in society.

The Last Chance Hotel by Nicki Thornton (MG): Honestly, this one just wasn’t for me. I won’t dwell on it, as I try to keep reviews on the blog fairly positive, but if you want to know in more detail why I wasn’t a fan, just ask.

What are you planning on reading next?

That is a very good question! I was absolutely wet-my-pants excited when this arrived for me in work this week (I should clarify, despite being heavily preggers I did not actually wet my pants with excitement):

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The final edition of it is going to be so beautiful if these ARCs are anything to go by, and I love Katherine Rundell, so this is a top contender for my next read. But, I still have lots of other books that have been waiting patiently on the shelf for ages too – some are more ARCs waiting to be read and reviewed, a lot are ‘grown-up books’ I’ve bought then continually put to the bottom of the pile as new kids/YA ones have turned up:

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So, what do you think? What should I read next?!

Please say hi – let me know if you’ve read any of the books I’ve read this week, or if you think any of my TBR deserve to jump straight into pole position for my next read! And of course, let me know what you are/have been/will be reading too!

The Binding

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Imagine you could erase your grief.
Imagine you could forget your pain.
Imagine you could hide a secret.
Forever.

Emmett Farmer is working in the fields when a letter arrives summoning him to begin an apprenticeship. He will work for a Bookbinder, a vocation that arouses fear, superstition and prejudice – but one neither he nor his parents can afford to refuse.

I was lucky enough to be sent a copy of this from HarperInsider/Borough Press to review and I’ll be honest, it’s another of those magpie books that I was drawn to, initially solely because of its oh-so-beautiful cover (sadly, I don’t know who designed it, so I can’t credit).

But then I found out that this was a book about books – specifically books which are not so much banned as shunned, feared, locked away, secreted; and specifically books which are created by specialists (some more scrupulous than others) by binding – not works of fiction as we would know them, these books contain memories that for one reason or another someone wants forgotten.

I was hooked before I’d begun.

The fact that it had elements of all my favourite genres without really being confined to any of them only added to this. Even the fact that it is essentially a love story couldn’t deter me (and it shouldn’t – it’s beautiful, full of hope, frustration, guilt and despair: raw feeling and not in the least bit sentimental and squishy).

While this is a work of fantasy, it is hinged on real lives and the everyday, in particular society, class and prejudice. Magical realism if you must. But really I don’t think either of those pigeon-holes are quite right for it. Similarly, it has the feel of the best gothic, historical fiction, but it’s not really that either – there is unquestionably an atmosphere of times gone by but no concrete time period to pin it down.

The setting is richly described and I was drawn right into the thick of it. My favourite part of the book is the time Emmett spends at Seredith’s bindery: the workshop and vaults, the surrounding marshes, the changing seasons and the isolation – all of it felt so tangible. I could happily have had this book go down a completely different route and spent the whole novel there (did someone say prequel – Seredith’s story anyone? Come on, Bridget, you know you’d love to!) But all of it felt incredibly vividly and real.

Likewise, the characters are well-drawn and believable. Though at first I felt some of them were going to be a little stereotypical, with some of their relationships looking to play out in ways we’ve seen before, the way they develop as the story progresses, the way each character is vital to the story and the way we see it from different angles and viewpoints helps bring them much more depth, purpose and realism.

This was a truly captivating book. It is at times dark, horrifying, bleak, but at other times bursting with hope and possibility. It feels both magical and all too real; historical and incredibly relevant. A book that truly swallows you up into its world and has you reading ‘just one more page/chapter/part’ every time you pick it up.