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.

WWW Wednesday 22 April 2020.

This Book Tag is hosted by Taking On A World Of Words.

What I’ve read, What I’m reading, What’s next.

What I’ve Read

Title: Hold Back The Tide

Author: Melinda Salisbury

Star rating: 5 / 5

After attending the book launch for Hold Back the Tide in the middle of March (the last weekend I left the house before lockdown), I read this in two sittings right afterwards.

This book is a punchy, thrilling, and quite frankly terrifying little novel. Set in the wilds of Scotland, we follow 16 year old Alva and her murderer father’s lives on the Loch. Just as Alva is ready to carve her own path, everything she thought she knew flips on its head and she must survive unbelievable horrors past and present.

Hold Back the Tide is Melinda Salisbury’s first stand-alone novel and I loved it. Very unsettling from the beginning, this is an eye-opening spin on the consequences of our abuse of natural resources. I would also happily state that the first chapter is easily the best YA novel opening I have ever read. Alva is also a kick ass protagonist and sports my own horrific brand of gallows humour.

In short, I would highly recommend this book.

What I’m Currently Reading

Title: A Very English Murder

Author: Verity Bright

Star rating prediction: 2.5 – 3.5 / 5

First impressions:

I assumed I was going to adore this book from the offset because it’s set in 1920s England with an amateur female detective sleuthing around. However, so far I’ve found the protagonist mostly irritating at best. The plot concept is great (Lady Swift has witnessed a murder but there is no body, the scene is clean, yet everyone is acting shady and then the victim turns up dead elsewhere in an apparent accident), but so far it’s less ‘getting on with the plot’ and more ‘the author has a bee in her bonnet over 1920s sexism’.

Baring in mind the era this novel is set in, I fully understand the situation with regards to men’s attitudes towards women at the time. Even a little bit of set up to paint that picture is absolutely fine. However, every third paragraph the narrative is side-tracked by Ellie’s social commentary of historical sexism.

‘Oh that man is disregarding my opinion because I’m a woman.’ 3 sentences later: ‘Oh I wish we had female police constables in this village like in some of the northern cities, but even those women are babysat by men on the force.’

It’s the 1920s. We got it the first time you mentioned it. We’re in an era 2 years post some women getting the vote. Society is male-dominated and backwards. Fine. Understood. Get on with the plot.

I’m over half way through and so far not a lot has actually happened. Here’s hoping it improves because I really want to like this book…

What I’m Reading Next

Title: Orphan Monster Spy

Author: Matt Kileen

Blurb:

A teenage spy. A Nazi boarding school. The performance of a lifetime.

Sarah has played many roles – but now she faces her most challenging of all. Because there’s only one way for a Jewish orphan to survive at a school for the Nazi elite. And that is to become a monster like them.

Survive. Deceive. Resist.

They think she is just a little girl. But she is the weapon they never saw coming… with a mission to destroy them all.

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

I think I’m a Kindle convert

I know. I said it would never happen…

On Black Friday 2019 the Amazon sales broke me and I bought the new Kindle Paperwhite (not sponsored, it’s just the e-reader I purchased).

Back in 2016, during the huge rise in e-books, I wrote this blog post -> 3 Reasons Why I Will Always Be Loyal To Print Over e-Books. Yet it’s 2020 and I’ve eventually bought a Kindle. Dare I say, I’m actually pleasantly surprised and all of the factors that left me vehemently against these evil electronic book murdering machines, have been less of an issue than I expected.

It won’t feel like a ‘real’ book…!

Let me tell you, 900 pages of paperback feels every bit as long on a Kindle. For me, I think what helps with this is that my Kindle Paperwhite has a matte screen. It doesn’t look like a screen therefore it doesn’t feel like a screen when I’m reading. Yes I have the backlight option available for lowlight conditions but I very rarely use it which means there’s no glare on my eyes, aka like reading paper (thumbs up emoji).

I do miss turning the pages and feeling the physical book, however if I can read fanfiction on a screen (don’t judge) I can read a published book on a screen. I’m coming to realise that the ‘real book’ is the words and not necessarily the paper.

NO BOOK SMELL

Again, missing one of my favourite parts of a book but it’s not like I’ve donated my book shelves and removed them all from my life. My Kindle will always play second fiddle to a physical book but I don’t detest the e-book the way I expected to.

Convenience

The biggest realisation for me has been how convenient a Kindle is. I don’t mean that there is an entire library in my pocket, more that I have 24 hour access to new titles and the next book in a series. The new Paperwhite also has the option to add audible narration for a relatively small extra cost (this may not be a new feature but before purchase, I didn’t know this was a option and it was pretty much the deciding factor). This is proving very useful to me as I can now use this to assist with my language learning. I have the foreign text in front of me, with the audible narration in that language in my ears, and then I can highlight words to search for definitions and to add to a vocabulary page. Honestly I think language teachers should be recommending this as I have certainly found it very useful.

An e-book is also definitely a space-saver. I bought The Priory of the Orange Tree in the Kindle sale and I’m definitely glad I won’t have to lug around a nearly 1000 page hardback should I wish to re-read.

E-readers also make reading accessible as there are options on my Paperwhite to increase the text size, change the font, even invert the colour which I know would help my brother who is dyslexic. AKA: e-books = books for everyone 😁.

Cost

Quite simply, ignoring the initial expense of the device, e-books are usually cheaper. It’s much cheaper to buy a £3.99 e-book that I may only read once than purchase a physical copy for £7.99 and let it gather dust on my shelves.

Before anyone comes at me to say ‘libraries are free’, I’m aware. However some of us aren’t lucky enough to live in a place where we have a local library. My hometown library has lost so much funding that it is only open 6 days a week from 9.30am – 1pm on 2 days, closing at 4pm on 2 days, and closing at 6pm on 2 days, which means I would not have time to get there after work to use the facilities.

New Approach

Most of all, buying my Kindle has already changed my approach to my book-buying habits despite only owning it for around 6 weeks or so.

I’ve pretty much decided that unless I can see myself reading a book more than once, I’m going to buy the e-book rather than the physical copy. Most books I do re-read so this won’t make a massive impact but I think it’s a good question for me to ask myself when I consider how much I can afford to spend.

For instance, I already know that I’ll be buying every one of Samantha Shannon’s books, but after not enjoying Lauren James’s books to the same level I’m unlikely to purchase physical copies unless I really enjoy them. I’ll definitely buy all of the books in series I’m already committed to reading – because if I’ve decided to continue a series chances are that will be a re-read. However, in the future I’m probably going to read the first of a new series on my Kindle before making that decision.

I can already feel myself being more selective with my book-buying which is great when I currently share a flat so all of my belongings remain in the one room.

So far, so good…

Long story short, my first impressions of my Kindle Paperwhite are really positive – despite all of my initial reservations, and at times outright hatred, towards them for most of the last decade or so of e-reader existence.

At the moment I currently own about 20 e-books, most of which I only paid £0.99 for, and own over 400 physical books which I have no plans to get rid of or cut down on. My Kindle has certainly confirmed my suspicion that I will NEVER completely switch to e-books because paper books have my heart and are clearly far superior.

However, I think I may just be a Kindle convert…

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.

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 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”

2019 Wrap-Up

This year has been an odd one. The final weeks of university caused me to have another improptu hiatus from my book blogging/bookstagram life. Summer came and went in a blur of exam re-sit stress.  I quit a job I hated. I somehow succeeded in getting a full time job and my feet firmly in the door of my dream career, despite not having a degree classification or a graduation date in the near future.

Yet, despite achieving so much on a personal level in terms of setting myself up for the future, I still feel like I didn’t DO anything. No abroad holidays like I did in 2018. In fact, I barely left London except to visit my family in the South West and a week on the Isle of Wight. I still haven’t written my book or improved my French and Italian like I wanted to. Still can’t play the piano. I feel like all I’ve done is work and study, and some of that I didn’t do very well…

This year has also seen yet another huge reading slump as uni has ruined reading for pleasure for me (don’t panic, it looks like I’m finally on my way out of it though).

So, out with the old, and in with the new. Good riddance 2019. Please let 2020 be the beginning of my roaring 20s decade of dreams and make the decade which will see me turn 30 (EWW NO I’M A 90s BABY AND I REFUSE TO GROW UP) so much better than the decade of my teenage and very early 20s.


What I’ve Been Reading in 2019

I didn’t manage to meet my Goodreads goal of 50 books for this year which I’m really disappointed about…

I re-read lots of things I enjoyed and started 2019 off with one of the biggest books I’ve ever read – Samantha Shannon’s The Priory of the Orange Tree. Nearly 900 pages of dragons and badass women which I read in one crazy caffeine-fuelled 18 hour sitting the night before the book launch. (A book I still haven’t had time to write a review for).

However, here’s some highlights and lowlights of what I did manage to read this year:

(One of my) Favourite Reads: A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

I LOVED THIS BOOK. Jackson has written a very strong debut. The plot had so many different threads woven through it and it was seriously impressive. Pip is absolutely my favourite protagonist in a very long time, I wish I had a friend like her. This book made me laugh and cry. I am over the moon to hear that this book is getting a sequel and I can’t wait to see what Pip gets up to next.

Most Pleasant Surprise: The Paper & Hearts Society by Lucy Powrie

Book blogger, YouTuber and creative Lucy Powrie has just released her debut novel into the world. At only 18 years old she has managed to write the book I desperately needed as a 15 year old. TP&HS touches on many themes including not fitting in, divorce, and bullying but has a core of friendship and the love of books. I thought it was very well written and Lucy provides a refreshing new YA voice, standing far apart from the other books born out of YouTube fame. I am very exited to read the rest of this series when the time comes.

Most Anticipated: The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

Nearly 35 years after the publication of The Handmaid’s Tale, the most anticipated sequel of the decade (or the last century even) was published. I really, really enjoyed it. It was terrifying and relevant and a real philosophical and literary masterpiece. Do I think it deserved The Booker Prize? No, probably not. I think this was a reparation for The Handmaid’s Tale not winning it when it was nominated back in ’86 (a book that thoroughly does deserve that award IMHO). Either way, this was the best book launch I’ve ever attended and I feel lucky to have been alive, and front and centre, for this monumental moment in literary history.

Biggest Disappointment: Finale by Stephanie Garber

The third and final instalment of the Caraval Series was finally published at the beginning of May. I have been desperate for this release all year! I thought this was an appropriate end to the series however I did find it slightly predictable and the book fell a bit flat for me, as did the entire series. Keep an eye out for my full review coming soon.


My Pick of What I’ve Been Watching in 2019

Jane the Virgin. Murder Mystery. Designated Survivor.
NB. I do not own these images. Image rights belong to Netflix.

The final season of Jane the Virgin was everything I needed and more. The whole series has been beautiful, wholesome, and hilarious. I highly recommend it for some lighthearted dram-edy (and a glorious Telenovela education!).

The new comedy from Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler, Murder Mystery, is absolutely brilliant. This married couple from New York, a hairdresser and a NYPD cop, finally go on their long-awaited European vacation/honeymoon. They end up on a yacht with Luke Evans, David Walliams, Gemma Arterton, and a host of other great acting talent, and become embroiled in a murder investigation. Hilarious fun and a nice quick 1hr 40min watch.

Designated Survivor season three finally streamed on Netflix after inexplicably being cancelled (I MEAN?!!) by ABC at the conclusion of season two. Netflix saved the day and I binged the new season in an afternoon. DRAMA, DRAMA, DRAMA. This series is a must-see!


Next Year…

At the moment I’m enjoying reading murder mysteries, both classic Agatha Christie and books that fall into the Young Adult Genre. I will be reading more of these in 2020. PLEASE LEAVE RECOMMENDATIONS IN THE COMMENTS – I’m looking for books similar to One of Us is Lying and Two Can Keep a Secret.

I also aim to finish/re-do my Jane Austen Reading Challenge this year which you can keep up to date with on my Instagram Highlights at @beauteaful.reads

As if we’re entering the year 2020?!

Happy New Year, Readers 😘

12 Reads of Christmas 2019: Day 7

The Velveteen Rabit, Margery Williams

“When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

– The Skin Horse
Continue reading “12 Reads of Christmas 2019: Day 7”

12 Days of Christmas 2019: Day 6

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K Rowling

“Ah, music,” he said, wiping his eyes. “A magic beyond all we do here!”

– Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore
Continue reading “12 Days of Christmas 2019: Day 6”