TTT: Top Ten Tuesday 19th May 2020.

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

This Tuesday:

Reasons Why I Love…The Bone Season series.

This week we have free rein to discuss something bookish we love. Enter my favourite book series that I have been following from the beginning!

I first read The Bone Season weeks after it was released as my Grandma thought it sounded like something I would love, after she had seen Samantha Shannon giving an interview about the book on BBC1. Book 2, The Mime Order, was published when I was at college. Book 3, The Song Rising, was published whilst I was hating every second of uni. This series dragged me kicking and screaming through the trauma of the end of my education and I love it.

Set in a future where the world has ‘fallen’ to clairvoyance and the Republic of Scion is trampling the world into submission, Paige Mahoney must survive in the safety of the Criminal Underworld of London. Paige’s job is to break into the minds of other voyants as the right-hand woman of Jaxon Hall, one of London’s Mime Lords. That is until she is attacked, abducted, and taken to the prison city of Oxford, kept hidden from the world for 200 years. Let the fun (and the emotional torture) begin!

Here are a few reasons why I adore The Bone Season series.

1. Each book (so far) is almost a love letter to a city. The Bone Season = Ode to Oxford. The Mime Order = Ode to London. The Song Rising = Ode to Edinburgh (with a side of Manchester thrown in). The Mask Falling = Ode to Paris.

2. World building. Following on from the fact this series explores different cities and locations, the general world building is so vast. So, so vast. We have orders of clairvoyance along with innumerable types of clairvoyant, we have the entire history of the Scion regime, we have the history of an entire different species, we have transport systems, have recreational activities and entertainment, it goes on and on and it’s insane.

3. Etymology. The genius of the words and the names. Honestly if you want a deep dive into etymology go straight to Samantha Shannon’s Twitter.

4. Jaxon Hall. He’s a sassy, brilliant, sly, pain in the ass. Please read this series he is such a great character.

5. Slightly shallow but, look how pretty 😍 Who wouldn’t want these on their shelves?!

6. It’s going to be a 7 book series! The first 3 have already been published, book 4 is on its way in January 2020 and then there will be 3 more to look forward to!! Samantha Shannon is also known to write chonky ass books so think of how much book fun is still to be had!

7. These books are a musical education. Trust me. Oh, and Samantha Shannon has created some rather helpful Spotify playlists to accompany the books.

8. Girl power! Women run the show in this series. Including the antagonists.

9. Representation and inclusivity. This series contains a multitude of characters from different backgrounds and life situations. This includes POC characters and LGBTQIA+ characters.

10. SLOW. BURN. ROMANCE. Enough said.

See more of my favourite things over on my Bookstagram!
This week:

Review: A Very English Murder by Verity Bright

A Very English Murder, by Verity Bright

Format: e-Arc

Published date: 7th April 2020

⭐️ 2 / 5

Thank you to NetGalley who kindly provided this e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I’d like to apologise for this long overdue review. I was sent this e-ARC a while before lockdown began. A busy few weeks at work pre-lockdown and the initial lockdown blues of being unable to concentrate enough to read have prevented me from reading and reviewing this book. I did manage to read this in its publication week and I’m happy to be finally sharing my thoughts.

Plot

Our protagonist, Lady Eleanor, witnesses a murder. Except the body vanishes, and the police seem to have no desire to investigate. So Ellie begins sleuthing around the village to solve the murder herself. On the surface this is my perfect book. This concept is so intriguing and I thought this would be a real brain teaser of a novel. Unfortunately not.

The plot began painfully slowly and didn’t really start getting anywhere until around half way through. Honestly I thought the whole first half of the novel could have been cut and it wouldn’t have impacted the story. There was one small side character introduced in the first few chapters that popped up again later in the novel to be useful in ultimately solving the crime, but otherwise there was nothing remotely useful or entertaining in the first half of the novel. Once the plot finally got a move on, everything was very predictable. I felt like there were a lot of missed opportunities for real red herrings and twists to really get the reader going. Unfortunately, I felt the plot was severely lacking in this area.

There was a lot of effort made to drip feed Eleanor’s backstory into the novel. This was the main thing that kept me interested in the book. All I wanted to know was what happened to Ellie’s parents and more about her global travels. *Spoiler alert* we don’t find out what happened to Ellie’s parents. I can only assume this is planting seeds for later books in the series however the mystery element of this mystery novel was not executed well enough for me to read another book in this series.

Characters

Ellie is a confusing character. She spends the first 20 chapters doing absolutely nothing except despising other characters in the book for not taking her seriously because she’s a woman. Bright uses Ellie’s every line of thought or dialogue to express that the police in the little village Ellie now lives in is backwards as there are no female officers. She constantly provides social commentary that the men around her are underestimating her before she even opens her mouth based on the fact she’s a woman. She even goes as far as to suspect characters of murder based on how they treated her as a woman and not a shred of motive or anything remotely relevant. The first couple of times it’s brought up, fine, that’s setting the scene. But after that? Honestly, Jesus Christ I get it. The novel is set in 1920s England. We know the social position of women in this time. I felt it was irrelevant to the plot or the character development, especially considering no semblance of a plot was taking place. The second the plot began heading somewhere, the ridiculous commentary stopped clearly showing it served no purpose.

So Ellie was set up as being very pro-women’s rights and very forward thinking for her era, so I thought ‘great’! Surely this means Bright is going to use her protagonist to shut down irritating tropes of women in the 1920s right? HAHAHAHA WRONG. Every time an attractive man enters her field of view she suddenly can’t function and goes weak at the knees. It’s all blushing and feeling faint when an attractive man strays too close. Very cliché.

So which is it? Fainting flapper girl and a hopeless romantic, or trailblazing modern roaring 20s woman (who FYI could have romance without the stereotypical weak, woozy, fainting cr*p).

Clifford, the butler, is a pain in the rear. One of his personality quirks is he is very pedantic. Fine, that’s established early on. But sometimes it feels like this gets in the way of meaningful dialogue and it SERVES NO PURPOSE. Honestly so infuriating.

I did however love the rest of the cast of household staff who each had distinct personalities, really contributed to Ellie’s character development and felt like tangible people.

Final Thoughts

Unfortunately this book just left me feeling kind of meh. For the most part it felt like I was reading FanFiction of something, and I’d like to point out I’ve read novel-quality FanFic, but this is more an inexperienced author who hasn’t found a voice. The voice is confused, the third person narrative doesn’t work when Eleanor spends so much time inside her own head and voices dialogue to the dog instead of having the novel written in first person…but maybe that’s just me?

I’m really upset that I didn’t enjoy this book as the blurb sounds like everything I adore in a novel. I really expected so much more from this book…

I’d like to thank NetGalley again for sending this e-Arc to me in exchange for an honest review.


Blurb:

Move over Miss Marple, there’s a new sleuth in town! Meet Eleanor Swift: distinguished adventurer, dog lover, dignified lady… daring detective?

England, 1920Eleanor Swift has spent the last few years travelling the world: taking tea in China, tasting alligators in Peru, escaping bandits in Persia and she has just arrived in England after a chaotic forty-five-day flight from South Africa. Chipstone is about the sleepiest town you could have the misfortune to meet. And to add to these indignities – she’s now a Lady

Lady Eleanor, as she would prefer not to be known, reluctantly returns to her uncle’s home, Henley Hall. Now Lord Henley is gone, she is the owner of the cold and musty manor. What’s a girl to do? Well, befriend the household dog, Gladstone, for a start, and head straight out for a walk in the English countryside, even though a storm is brewing… 

But then, from the edge of a quarry, through the driving rain, Eleanor is shocked to see a man shot and killed in the distance. Before she can climb down to the spot, the villain is gone and the body has vanished. With no victim and the local police convinced she’s stirring up trouble, Eleanor vows to solve this affair by herself. And when her brakes are mysteriously cut, one thing seems sure: someone in this quiet country town has Lady Eleanor Swift in their murderous sights… 

Review: Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo (The Grisha – book 2)

Siege and Storm, by Leigh Bardugo

Pages: 435

Published: 4th June 2013

⭐️ 3.5 / 5

This book (and the entire series actually) has been on my shelf and my TBR for a long time. I bought all 3 books in the series several years ago and they’ve been sat on my bookshelf ever since. Towards the end of 2019 I finally got around to them, after uni destroyed my love of reading almost irreparably, and I am so glad I am now on this bandwagon.

Whilst I really enjoyed book 1, Siege and Storm actually had me rolling my eyes quite a lot. Here’s what I thought.

Plot

Just when you think Mal and Alina might have it a bit easier, at least for a little while, they get caught again. Guess who? Shock horror, yes that’s right, The Darkling is back – and only a handful of pages after they shook him off. That’s a theme of this book to be honest, escaping and then being caught again almost immediately by someone or another. The Darkling initially drags Alina with him whilst looking for the sea whip, AKA yet another Grisha amplifier, which he can use to further control her. Naturally they succeed because tracker extraordinaire Mal is on the case. He and Alina kill the sea whip themselves and then escape…

I couldn’t resist 😂 – I apologise to the non-Brits who probably won’t catch this reference.

The new band of escapees drop themselves straight into more trouble in the last place that Mal and Alina want to be in. It is capture disguised as freedom as they can’t really freely leave. Alina essentially doesn’t escape for the whole novel as The Darkling keeps appearing to her and causing problems. It’s exhausting and doesn’t seem to serve a purpose except to irritate the reader. Yes it causes conflict between certain characters but I don’t think it actually adds anything of value to the novel.

There’s lots more questing, when Alina discovers there is actually a third amplifier, which allows for a fair amount of world building. I loved that we were able to learn more about Mal and Alina’s childhood which gave us some adorable fluffy moments (yes I ship it please don’t judge). However the similarities in embarking on a quest where so strong for me that it made this feel like a carbon copy of Shadow and Bone, and makes it difficult to judge this book on its own. For me, the characters really made this novel as there were some excellent additions to the series.

Characters

I love lots of the new cast of this book. One is notorious privateer, Sturmhond. What a sassy, wonderful, pain in the ass he is. I adored him, his particular brand of humour, and his cutting remarks. His interactions with the characters we already love are brilliant.

Twins Tolya and Tamar are also standout characters of this book who should be protected at all costs.

Unfortunately, Mal becomes even more whiney in this book. I mean honestly, he needs to get a grip. He starts fighting Grisha and just generally being an angsty, miserable, moaning idiot who puts other people in danger as a result of his actions.

To top it all off The Darkling gains some interesting and horrific new powers that just keep growing and developing into greater horrors…

Lots of the newer cast are from other regions in the world this series is set. As such we are able to learn more about nations such as Shu Han. This is definitely a strength of this book and I loved how this added depths to certain characters’ actions.

Final Thoughts

I did enjoy this book for the most part however I did find the repetitious plot frustrating. I also feel like the conclusion of the novel was such a horrific low that I can’t see how this is going to be resolved in the final book. It left me very despondent and seemed like a ridiculous conclusion after everything that Mal and Alina had worked for. I can understand the final fight, a common fantasy trope but there doesn’t seem to be anywhere to go from here…

I guess I’ll have to work that out in Ruin and Rising.

Blurb:

Soldier, Summoner, Saint. Alina Starkov’s power has grown, but not without a price. She is the Sun Summoner – hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Shadow Fold. But she and Mal can’t outrun their enemies for long. The Darkling is more determined than ever to claim Alina’s magic and use it to take the Ravkan throne. With nowhere else to turn, Alina enlists the help of an infamous privateer and sets out to lead the Grisha army. But as the truth of Alina’s destiny unfolds, she slips deeper into the Darkling’s deadly game of forbidden magic, and further away from her humanity. To save her country, Alina will have to choose between her power and the love she thought would always be her shelter. No victory can come without sacrifice – and only she can face the oncoming storm.

from Waterstones – I am not affiliated with this, or any other, bookshop.

Review: Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Katherine Webber

Only Love Can Break Your Heart, by Katherine Webber

Pages: 400

Published: 2 August 2018

⭐️ 5 / 5

This review is LONG overdue considering I got an early copy at YA Prom and read this book 2 weeks before its publication… What can I say? Life just got away from me.

This novel was, at the time, one of the first contemporary YA novels I had read and was a large part of the reason I have continued to enjoy the genre. Only Love Can Break Your Heart was beautiful and heart breaking and I adored it.

Plot

I laughed, I cried, I screamed at the actions of the characters. This book had a bit of everything. This is a love letter to the Californian desert and a reminder of how important self-care is. It was really interesting to read a book written from the point of view of the popular girl at school. Usually, the YA novels I read follow the misfit finding their way in the world, but I liked this new angle.

Reiko’s struggle with grief is complex and Katherine Webber portrays this wonderfully. It was so real and tangible and heartbreaking. This book really showed how easy it is for life to get on top of you and for everything to unravel. This was the most honest portrayal of the sort of thing I went through during my ALevels and I would really have appreciated having this book at the time. Webber really illustrates the importance of having good friends and family around you to help build yourself up when you’ve reached a complete rock bottom.

I did find the plot a little slow to begin with however once I realised the direction we were heading in and things began to happen, the pace picked up and the novel was excellent.

Characters

For large parts of the novel I found Reiko and Seth to both be extremely unlikeable characters. However this allowed for some excellent character development and I experienced a complete turn around in my feelings towards the characters. The plot was so character driven it’s really hard to say more than I already have. I loved that about the book though.

Final Thoughts

This book was so much about the people and a gorgeous coming of age story I really wish that I’d had when I was 17 or 18. I’d highly recommend everyone to read it. With each novel Katherine Webber writes, she gets better and better so I cannot wait to read whatever she publishes next!

Blurb:

From the author of the acclaimed Wing Jones comes a ‘break-up’ book about a Japanese-American teenager, set in the Palm Springs desert, California.  Sometimes a broken heart is all you need to set you free… Reiko loves the endless sky and electric colours of the Californian desert.

It is a refuge from an increasingly claustrophobic life of family pressures and her own secrets. Then she meets Seth, a boy who shares a love of the desert and her yearning for a different kind of life. But Reiko and Seth both want something the other can’t give them. As summer ends, things begin to fall apart. But the end of love can sometimes be the beginning of you…

from Waterstones – I am not affiliated with this, or any other, bookshop.

January 2020 Wrap-Up

This month I’ve been trying to get back into blogging properly. The last half of 2019 was a bit of a nightmare if I’m honest. I failed an exam, and therefore my degree, so had to re-sit during the summer ahead of my delayed graduation this month. I was busy trying to find a full-time job with no degree classification. I also had my very busy summer job to contend with. With all of this going on I was barely reading, let alone keeping up with my blog or instagram. So far, 2020 has started off pretty well on the reading and blogging front so hopefully the rest of this year will follow suit.

Here’s what I’ve been getting up to in January.


What I’ve Been Reading

I have managed to read

  1. The Northern Lights, Philip Pullman
  2. The Subtle Knife, Philip Pullman
  3. The Amber Spyglass, Philip Pullman
  4. One Of Us Is Lying, Karen M. McManus
  5. One Of Us Is Next, Karen M. McManus
  6. The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Hercule Poirot #1), Agatha Christie
  7. The Secret Adversary (Tommy and Tuppence #1), Agatha Christie

7 books is a really good reading month for me. I’m finally starting to get back to the numbers I was reading before uni broke me! Here are some of my highlights.


Most Pleasant Surprise: The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie

2 brilliant 20 somethings running around London and involving themselves in espionage in the 20s?! YES PLEASE. Tuppence is a total bad ass woman! Perfect book to bring a bit of the roaring 20s into the 2020s! Oh, and a little love story on the side! Now a firm favourite and I cannot wait to read the rest of the Tommy and Tuppence novels.

Most Anticipated: One Of Us Is Next by Karen M. McManus

Holy sh*t, the reigning YA Thriller Queen did NOT disappoint with this sequel. I wondered how on earth a sequel would be written but wow, wow, wow. McManus nailed it. We checked in with the Bayview Four whilst meeting new characters and a new game. This was also a OOUIL switcheroo as this time we were playing catch up and trying to work out who was dead rather than who did it, although we were trying to figure out the mysterious puppet master of the truth or dare game… Already my favourite read of 2020 and it will take a fair amount to knock it off top spot.


Christie 100 – My crazy reading challenge

If you haven’t seen my post already, I’ve decided to read all 66 of Agatha Christie’s novels (written under her own name) this year to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Agatha’s first novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles.

Because apparently my life isn’t already busy enough…

This is also my own personal celebration of one of the only successful people to come out of my hometown and my reminder that I can absolutely ace my life like she did.

Click here to read all about it!


What I’ve Been Watching

The Crown, Season 3. You, Season 2. The Good Place, Season 4. Gavin & Stacey, Christmas Special 2019. Grace & Frankie, Season 6.
NB. I do not own these images. Image rights belong to Netflix, NBC, and the BBC respectively.

Season 3 of The Crown was the most disappointing so far, in my opinion. The only improvement is that Prince Philip hasn’t been painted as a villain in the same way seasons 1 and 2 did. Princess Anne is woefully under-used, which is a shame because her character has some of the best lines in the series. I also feel like there’s lots of important historical events missing that could have been included and far more interesting than the persistent personal speculation the whole series involves itself in.

Writers and producers should be careful with a historical drama like this that concerns living memory because lots of viewers seem to use this programme as a documentary and a gospel of these events. It needs to be made much clearer that this is a dramatisation based on true events where lots of artistic licence has been taken. Otherwise, it’s a slippery slope that will only get steeper as the seasons bring the show more and more up to date.


The next series of You hit Netflix shortly before the New Year and let’s just say it makes for rather uncomfortable viewing. If you’re thinking of watching this I should point out these trigger warnings:

  • Violence. Big time.
  • Child abuse.
  • Sexual assault.
  • Gaslighting.

After a hiatus from the middle of December until the middle of January, season 4 of The Good Place is finally back! I love this show, it’s so damn wholesome and I really don’t want it to end. Chidi and Eleanor 5eva 😉.


I couldn’t mention my viewing habits this month without shouting about the Gavin & Stacey Christmas Special!!! After nearly a decade we finally caught up with the Barry Island and Billericay crews! I have 2 overwhelming thoughts following Christmas Day (and the 15 or more times I’ve re-watched the episode already 😂):

  1. YOU CANNOT LEAVE IT LIKE THAT
  2. WILL WE EVER FIND OUT WHAT THE SH*TTING F*UCK HAPPENED ON THAT FISHING TRIP?!

January 2020 has seen the return of Grace & Frankie on Netflix! Hit, feel-good comedy about 2 women who are forced into friendship (and living together) after their husbands leave them for each other! I devoured this in an afternoon, as I have done with the release of most of the previous series’. I already cannot wait to watch season 7, although I’m very upset that this will be the last…

Next time…

In February I’m planning to finally read Jenny Han’s To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before series, especially with film #2 being released on Netflix on the 12th.

Keep up to date with what I get up to on a daily basis on my Instagram stories @beauteaful.reads

Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (The Grisha – book 1)

Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo

Pages: 352

Published: 5 June 2012

⭐️ 4 / 5

This book (and the entire series actually) has been on my shelf and my TBR for a long time. I bought all 3 books in the series several years ago and they’ve been sat on my bookshelf ever since. Towards the end of 2019 I finally got around to them, after uni destroyed my love of reading almost irreparably, and I am so glad I am now on this bandwagon.

Warning: technically there is a small plot spoiler below in the form of a relationship but honestly if you don’t see it coming from the first page, I don’t know what to tell you…

Plot

This is a novel about discovering yourself and carving your own path. When Alina discovers a magic (and by extension, a strength) she didn’t know she had, she’s whisked away with people she doesn’t know to a place she doesn’t know where she doesn’t fit in and is not accepted. She is forced to leave behind the only person she knows, her best friend Mal, and it’s like she’s orphaned all over again. The fact that Alina has to learn about herself as one of the Grisha is really effective in terms of worldbuilding. The reader is able to learn as Alina is forced to learn. This is the first book I’ve read in a while that has a magic system, which I really enjoyed. It’s been very well constructed considering in theory the Grisha can only control one of 3 different things but their own grasp of their power dictates just how much they can do. Another thing I really enjoyed about the worldbuilding is that there was mention of other countries meaning the world extends beyond Alina’s immediate environment. It feels like we are going to explore some of this later in the series, which I really hope is the case.

The description of the Fold is really striking and I love that the metaphorical darkness seen in most fantasies is a literal threat in this series. It’s interesting to explore this concept and the reason the Fold exists. I think it gives the opportunity to remind ourselves of the child-like vulnerability that comes with being afraid of the dark, only this time there really are monsters lurking beyond your vision.

We do get to see a fair amount of Ravka in Shadow and Bone as Alina (and eventually Mal) head out on a nation-wide quest. One strength of this being done is that the reader was able to see ‘normal’ life in this world as opposed to the military or magic lives we’d experienced before. This also meant the reader was able to get to know these characters fairly well as, for the most part, they were alone. I did feel that some of the difficulties they faced on this journey were unnecessary though. Each of them should have been for a specific character-building or story arc purpose however a couple of instances felt like they were just included to give them something to do and to distract them from the slow-burn realisation of their feelings towards each other.

Characters

I found Alina, our protagonist, to be very relatable. She really struggles with wanting to fit in despite being literally born to stand out. She desperately wants to cling on to anything familiar and can’t handle how much her life is changing. She feels crushed by the pressure of failure and letting others down, which is mostly her own exacerbated impression of what her role in Ravka’s future could be. Mal flits between irritating me and being the character I enjoy most on the page. He’s a moody sod and an utter gem. Part of me thinks he is unfair to Alina, part of me understands because she is not exactly the model character in her behaviour either. I love that they’re both so messy and both trying so hard. Bardugo writes them both beautifully and I love that she has created two characters that I can absolutely root for.

I really enjoyed The Darkling as a character. He is so complex and layered. I loved to love him and I loved to hate him too. He has far more potential than we saw in this book so I am really excited to see where he goes in the rest of the series.

I also have to give a special mention to Baghra. What a babe. She has so much more depth to her that just the grumpy old woman she is on the surface. Her wisdom runs deep and I have to say she really surprised me. I hope we see more of her as the series progresses.

Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed this book and thought it was a great start to a series. The ending left me desperate to read the sequel straight away which leaves me thankful that I waited so long to start this series. There’s nothing better than a book binge if you have the patience to wait years for a series to end before you start.

Let me know what you thought of this book/series below! Keep an eye out for my review of Siege and Storm soon.

Blurb:

Soldier. Summoner. Saint. Orphaned and expendable, Alina Starkov is a soldier who knows she may not survive her first trek across the Shadow Fold – a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters. But when her regiment is attacked, Alina unleashes dormant magic not even she knew she possessed. Now Alina will enter a lavish world of royalty and intrigue as she trains with the Grisha, her country’s magical military elite – and falls under the spell of their notorious leader, the Darkling. He believes Alina can summon a force capable of destroying the Shadow Fold and reuniting their war-ravaged country, but only if she can master her untamed gift. As the threat to the kingdom mounts and Alina unlocks the secrets of her past, she will make a dangerous discovery that could threaten all she loves and the very future of a nation. Welcome to Ravka . . . a world of science and superstition where nothing is what it seems.

from Waterstones – I am not affiliated with this, or any other, bookshop.

Christmas 2019 Book Haul

This Christmas has seen me trying to fit a new bookshelf worth of books into my car boot to get back to London with me. I’ve ended up with quite the bookstack under my tree to add to my TBR. This calls for a Christmas Book Haul!

British Library Crime Classics

I discovered the existence of this series towards the end of last year, which made my little crime fiction freak heart very happy. Helpfully, my relatives bought me these titles. I’m really looking forward to discovering some new classic crime authors!

  • Crimson Snow, ed. by Martin Edwards
    • – Anthology of winter mysteries with fictional detectives, forgotten gems from great writers, and classics by lesser-known writers
  • The Long Arm of the Law, ed. by Martin Edwards
    • – Anthology of murder mysteries with a focus on the criminal investigations.
  • The Dead Shall Be Raised & The Murder Of A Quack, George Bellairs
    • – 1940s England. A dead body from a cold case. A skeleton.
  • The Incredible Crime, Lois Austen-Leigh
    • – Cambridge University. A drug smuggling ring. A wealthy Lord. Female student must solve the mystery.
  • Family Matters, Anthony Rolls
    • – Unhappy marriage. Handsome London bachelor. Traditional English countryside.
  • Scarweather, Anthony Rolls
    • – 1930s novel. North England Coast. Set just before WWI.
Cilka’s Journey, Heather Morris

Last year I read The Tattooist of Auschwitz, and it was one of the highlights of my reading year. Cilka’s Journey is the heartbreaking sequel to that book, based on what is known about the real Cilka.

As 2020 is the year we are marking the 75th Anniversary of the end of WWII, I am going to add this book to the list of my reads to commemorate the conflict and the atrocities the planet experienced under it.

The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern

Finally! The book a thousand people have recommended to me but I haven’t got around to yet. Let’s hope it lives up to my expectations.

Comment below on your thoughts if you’ve read The Night Circus, or leave links to your reviews. Good or bad, I want to hear them.

The Invisible Library, Genevieve Cogman

A picture of this book has sat on my camera roll for nearly 2 years reminding me I need to buy it and read it. A spy and a library of dreams. It sounds right up my street and I’m really looking forward to reading it!

Five Dark Fates, Kendare Blake

This is book number 4, and the concluding novel, in the Three Dark Crowns series which I read last year. I’m really looking forward to reading this however I think a re-read of the rest of the series is in order before I dive into this one. At the moment I’m still very much #TeamArsinoe, I wonder if I still will be at the end of the series?

If you’ve read any of the Three Dark Crowns books comment below who your Queen is!

A London Year, Travis Elborough & Nick Rennison

This ‘chunky boi’ is a collection of letters and diary/journal entries about London for each day of the year, and the only non-fiction book I received this year. I might see how long I can keep up with reading these either daily or weekly.

I hope you found all the books you were hoping for under your Christmas tree this year.

I’d like to wish you all a

Happy New Year 2020!

Review: Two Can Keep A Secret by Karen M. McManus

Two Can Keep A Secret, by Karen M. McManus

Pages: 336

Published: 10th January 2019

⭐️ 5 / 5

After reading One Of Us Is Lying, I was excited to read another Karen M. McManus book as soon as possible. I would go as far to say that she is a contender for one of my favourite authors. I love that crime/thriller/mystery (a genre I LOVE) is starting to appear as a leading sub-genre of young adult and it’s being done SO WELL. McManus is leading the charge with excellently written YA mysteries and I hope she’s publishing books annually for a long time to come. Those of you who have read my review for One Of Us Is Lying will know that I really enjoyed it, and I preferred this novel so get ready for me to blow the trumpets at Two Can Keep A Secret!

Plot

Two Can Keep A Secret is told from two narrative points of view: Ellery, niece of a girl who vanished during her senior prom decades ago; and Malcolm, brother of the prime suspect in the murder of a second prom queen 5 years ago. This worked really well for weaving the plot threads of the two previous unsolved murders into the central action of this novel. I usually struggle with multiple narrators because I tend to favour one and resent having to endure the other POV, however McManus uses this to build tension and set the pacing which drove me mad – a clear indication of a good mystery novel for me. I got the sense of multiple timelines without time jumping (which is another trope I dislike for the most part and was glad it was so expertly worked around) giving me 3 murder mysteries for the price of one. The choice of narrators was also very cleverly calculated as this expanded the world building. Although Ellery and Malcolm were friends, they didn’t cross over too much meaning that we could explore more of the town through each of our narrators. The small-town setting was done really well and used very well too. Coming from a small(ish) town myself, I felt the local drama/curtain twitching/nosey neighbour elements of the plot were very accurate and added to the mystery as you’re left wondering how such a busy-body community could be harbouring so many unsolvable secrets. I got absolutely lost in this novel and easily polished it off in one sitting, which I would happily do again and again. Honestly, I did guess part of the outcome around half way through (far later than I did with One Of Us Is Lying though) however there were plenty of other twists that I didn’t predict. This book was definitely a firm favourite YA Murder Mystery read of 2019 for me.

Characters

I really enjoyed the point of view of both POV characters. Ellery was very relatable for me as a fellow true-crime addict. I love that fictional young women obsessed with true crime and murder mysteries are starting to emerge in novels, especially in this section of YA. It’s nice to see myself in books – and come on, we all secretly adore serial killer documentaries don’t we 😉 ? She’s a feisty, intelligent character and we need more Ellerys in our fiction. Ellery and her twin Ezra have an excellent rapport/banter going on and McManus has written this sibling relationship very well. Malcolm is the second POV character and I honestly just want to give him a hug. Mia finishes off the 4-strong friend squad that’s central to the novel and she is a diamond of a character too. The extended cast include popular Katrin, who happens to be Malcolm’s step sister, work colleague Brooke, and the twins’ gem of a grandmother. Each of the characters are fully realised and flawed and believable. McManus constructs an air of suspicion around each of them too which constantly played with my opinions of them. I really hope she finds a way back to these characters as she has with Bayview High and One Of Us Is Lying.

Final Thoughts

I hope this somewhat lengthy review conveys just how great this book was. One of the easiest 5 stars I’ve given for all of my 2019 reads, and a book I fully intend to re-read this year too. Keep an eye out for my next Karen M. McManus book review this month as I read One Of Us Is Next after its release this week!

Blurb:

A perfect town is hiding secrets. Two teenagers are dead. Two murders unsolved. And a killer who claims to be coming back. Ellery’s never been to Echo Ridge, but she’s heard all about it. It’s where her aunt went missing at age sixteen, never to return. Where a Homecoming Queen’s murder five years ago made national news and where Ellery now has to live with a grandmother she barely knows, after her failed-actress mother lands in rehab. Malcolm grew up in the shadow of the Homecoming Queen’s death. His older brother was the prime suspect and left Echo Ridge in disgrace. His mother’s remarriage vaulted them to Echo Ridge’s upper crust, but it could all change when mysterious threats around town hint that a killer plans to strike again. And the return of Malcolm’s brother doesn’t help matters. But his return is just a coincidence… isn’t it? Ellery and Malcolm both know it’s hard to let go when you don’t have closure. Then another girl disappears. As they race to unravel what happened, they realise every secret has layers in Echo Ridge. The truth might be closer to home than either of them want to believe. And somebody would kill to keep it hidden.

from Waterstones – I am not affiliated with this, or any other, bookshop.

12 Reads of Christmas 2019: Day 10

Let It Snow, John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle

“Christmas is never over,unless you want it to be… Christmas is a state of mind.” 

– Lauren Myracle, The Patron Saint of Pigs, Let It Snow
Continue reading “12 Reads of Christmas 2019: Day 10”

12 Reads of Christmas 2019: Day 8

The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle, Arthur Conan Doyle

“My name is Sherlock Holmes. It is my business to know what other people do not know.”

– Sherlock Holmes
Continue reading “12 Reads of Christmas 2019: Day 8”