FairyLoot February Unboxing – Twisted Tales

*Spoliers ahead!*IMG_7805

The following post contains spoilers about the items contained in February’s FairyLoot box so tread carefully if you don’t want to spoil the surprise!

The very minute the theme ‘Twisted Tales’ for this box was unveiled, I was super excited! It had ‘dark fairy tales’ written all over it and not most because of the stunning Red Riding Hood style artwork by @taratjah

IMG_7795The first item I came across was a beautiful Hinterland candle from Wick and Fable which was designed (along with the author) to tie into the setting of this month’s book. The scent of the candle was Oakmoss and Tea Leaves and it smells so Spring-like and fresh! I think it is my favourite FairyLoot candle so far and I can’t wait to burn it.

Next up was an exclusive ‘Grimm Tales’ Mug with a design from Aunjuli Art featuring loads of different nods to various fairytales including Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel, The Princess and the Frog amongst many more! I’m going to have so much fun spotting them all!

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IMG_7800Perfect for a winter warm-up was a packet of luminously green ‘Poisonous Apple’ bath salts from Little Heart as well as some exclusively designed Hansel and Gretel inspired socks featuring witch hats and gingerbread houses. I love pinkish/purple colour of them!

 

IMG_7801The final piece of bookish merch was a stunning Ink and Wonder woodmark (wooden bookmark) which had a gorgeous Little Red Riding image and quote on it. I have Lord of the Rings one of these from a previous FairyLoot box but I just can’t bring myself to use them in case they broken, and then I would be distraught!

The book for this month was The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert. It was an exclusive hardback edition of the book featuring the cover from the UK paperback. On the cover of the book, underneath the jacket, was an embossed image of a pair of gates which ties into the storyline of the book. The book itself was an enjoyable read paying homage to the legacy of fairy tale and storytelling. I’ll hopefully be posting a review of it within the next week or so.
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Next month’s box is themed ‘Memorable Moments’ and will be a special purple two-year anniversary box. Despite my best efforts, I’ve already been snooping all over Goodreads to match the book description and suss out what the book is (I’ll never learn!). I’m really excited to see what the exclusive hardcover is like and the items linked to fandoms including LOTR, Harry Potter, GOT and Shadowhunters! Honestly, if FairyLoot did anymore than one box a month my bank account would be in serious danger!

[Book Review] Ready Player One

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Pages: 372
Publisher: Arrow Books 2012
Genre: Science Fiction
Rating: 5/5 Easter Eggs

Synopsis from Goodreads:

In the year 2045, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

I am not a video-gamer. I am not an 80s superfan.

But…

I am hugely in love with Ready Player One.

I began reading this purely out of the hype which has gradually been building during the run up to its movie release in March this year. As I said, I’m not really a massive gamer purely for the fact that I am so bad at them and end up getting angry, grumpy and not much fun to be around! I grew up in the 90s so knowledge of 80s culture is through what has been passed to me rather than experienced first hand from living through that decade.  I’m also not very up to speed with the whole virtual reality/artificial intelligence thing either, so I did not really go into this book thinking that I would like it but knew that I definitely wanted to read it before seeing the film. Having only read the Goodreads synopsis, I delved straight in…after the first page, I honestly could not put this book down! So much so that I went to bed one night and stayed up til gone 1AM just to reach the end. I’ve been raving about it and recommending it ever since to anyone who’ll listen, even to the friends who have already read it before me!

“Whenever I saw the sun, I reminded myself that I was looking at a star. One of over a hundred billion in our galaxy. A galaxy that was just one of billions of other galaxies in the observable universe. This helped me keep things in perspective.”

What I loved about this book:

·      The Quest – I absolutely love treasure hunts and the mission to find things which are hidden. Ready Player One has this in abundance! Cline has absolutely nailed it with his plot. Every detail is superbly laid out and intrinsically thought about. It really is a master class in how to lay a trail of clues and hide them within the narrative. You don’t need to know much about video games or 80s pop culture as you are given an expert tour by the main character Wade. There is a fair amount of detail imparted to the reader and normally I’m not a huge fan of info-dumping but what Cline does is spread this out into short chunks which are revealed only when necessary, when they have something to contribute to the plot. Cline really has written an ode to the 80s. Movies, music, games and novels are all very well represented. Check out this article on the Shmoop website to see the vast, mind-blowing array of little treasures that are featured or referenced to throughout!

·      The story keeps on giving – now whilst some elements of the plot were easy enough for me to predict or guess, there were other parts which took me by surprise and kept me flipping the pages just to keep on going. The suspension and pace kept on building all of the way through and as the stakes got higher, my anticipation went along with it too and I was thoroughly gripped.

·      The characters – Wade is such a likeable character. He has qualities and traits which are relatable to a wide range of readers. As someone who has lost both of his parents and doesn’t really feel like he fits in with the rest of his family or the real world at all, he seeks solace in the OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation, basically a virtual reality world where people can create avatars and live their life). He is a walking encyclopedia of all things to do with retro arcade games and James Halliday, the creator of the OASIS and the Easter Egg contest which poses as the main focus of the novel. He believes in a world which is not overrun with corruption or corporationalism from the evil IOI Company and he uses the refuge of the virtual world in order to express a representation of his true self, which can also be said for many of the other central characters. Art3mis and Aech (pronounced ‘aitch’ not ‘ike’ as I finally discovered on p.320!) also do a stellar job at matching up to Wade and providing some great rivalry, dialogue and humour throughout the story.

·      The villain – Whilst the main villain of Ready Player One is Sorrento, for me the actual villain of the story is the meaning behind Sorrento’s character. Working for the IOI which wants to win the contest in order to control the whole OASIS, Sorrento represents the modern day idea of globalisation and big corporate companies dictating the way in which the entire world is run. Wade and the other gunters, who are on a mission to prevent this from happening, parody this by bringing the good side to balance the evil. They see the importance of friendship and working together as the main way they will be able to counteract the threat of the IOI and these themes are central within the plot, giving the whole novel quite a meaningful message.

What I didn’t love about this book:

·      That it had to end!

·      I can honestly think of no other reasons than that! The ending was slightly twee, and I’m not sure that one part of it was entirely needed as it felt a little cliché, but I think that’s just my own cynicism!

·      Apparently, a sequel is in the works; I do not know where the next novel could possibly go. Without using a whole load of spoilers, I’m not really sure that a sequel is necessary after such an amazing story like Ready Player One was.


All in all, Ready Player One blew me away. The quirkiness and attention to detail was sublime; Cline really knew his themes and plot inside out and the sense that this was his passion project just leapt off every page. I know without a doubt that this will be one of my favourite reads of 2018 already. USA Today accurately described it as ‘Willy Wonka meets The Matrix’ and this is such an accurate assessment. If you have a love for retro gaming or reliving your 80s youth, if you love plots intricately laid with subtle references to pop culture, if you love a story with a real-world message then hopefully you’d find something to love in Ready Player One.

Top Ten Tuesday – Love Freebie

First-time loves – books I’d love to read again as if for the very first time!

Hey there Bookaholics!

So this week Top Ten Tuesday is a ‘Love freebie’ and I’m not going to lie, I kind of picked out my theme before fully reading the prompt so although this week’s post is not entirely ‘lovey-dovey’ or ‘romancy’, I’m going with it anyway! For this TTT, I decided to think about all of the books that I’d LOVE (had to get that word in there!) to rediscover as if for the first time. Deleting all my knowledge of these next ten books only to be able to read them afresh and experience those first-time feels again would be awesome! Bring on the nostalgic love…

10. Spies by Michael Frayn

This text was one of the books that was on my English Literature A-Level syllabus. I remember exactly where I sat in the A2 classroom of the English Block to discover this for the first time. Geekish as it may be, I absolutely loved school and had the most amazing English teachers (I’m now a teacher myself J). Despite English Literature being my last option selected for A-Levels, it fast became my favourite subject and I went on to study it at university too. For some reason, Spies has stuck out in my mind after all of these years. I really enjoyed Frayn’s storytelling as well as the tension and suspense he creates through the plot and imagery. Having to think of the significance of the cigarette packet, the laburnum and the diary with strange markings made it feel like a real mystery to solve before the ending was actually revealed. Whether it is the story told in the book itself, or the nostalgia it brings with it of being back at school, this text had to appear somewhere in my TTT this week.

9. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl thoroughly gripped me from the first to last page. I can’t really remember now whether I worked out the twists or not, but I definitely remember devouring it within a very short time as I just couldn’t put it down. Obviously now, after having read it and watched the film, the mystery of that first time reading is forever ruined, and since I can’t go back in time, I thought I’d honour it with a place on my list this week.

8. One Day by David Nicholls

Similarly to Gone Girl, this page-turner had to have a place on my top ten this week, purely for that dramatic twist at the end. I remember sitting at my computer, desperately trying to finish my uni assignments with this book just glaring at me from the chair. To hell with the essays, I had to finish it and then suffered the devastating book hangover that came from reaching the ending. Whether it is a great piece of literature or not, the shattering feeling that came from the last pages of that book has been difficult (but not entirely impossible) to experience again since.

7. Summer at the Lake by Erica James

I don’t often read a lot of this genre but I happened upon this book completely by chance in Cape Verde. We had gone to one of those 5 star all inclusive holidays where you never really leave the hotel complex and just sit and relax on the beach. I’d already polished off all four of the books I’d taken with me and was searching through a cabinet full of books other holidaymakers had abandoned on the island when Summer at the Lake called out to me. Being set in one of my all-time favourite locations (Lake Como, Italy) and with an Oxford tour guide protagonist named Floriana guiding the story, it was the perfect holiday read. Whether my glorious white-sandy setting influenced my enjoyment of James’ novel is yet to be seen but I would gladly go back in time to re-experience that book all over again.

6. The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

This was my first ever time reading Angela Carter and boy it was not my last! I loved how deliciously dark these tales were and I’d happily revisit this book just for the pure shock-factor of how gruesome and morbid those tales really were.

5. The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Zafon is one of my absolute favourite authors. He has such a beautiful way with words and his novels are some of the most well-constructed I have ever read. I was resolute that at least one of his books would make this list so after browsing my shelves I decided upon The Prince of Mist. Whilst this isn’t one from his more popular Cemetery of Forgotten books series, I fell in love with the idea of the enchanted stone garden at the centre of the story. It had been an anticipated read on my TBR from the moment I knew that it was to be released in the UK and I would love to go back and open its pages again for the very first time. Zafon hasn’t released new material in English since 2013 and finally, in September 2018 we are getting the fourth instalment in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series and I CAN NOT WAIT!

4. George’s Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl

Who doesn’t love Roald Dahl?! By far one of my favourite Dahl books, I remember this being insanely funny when I read it as a kid. I was one of those children who messed around in the kitchen sink at my Grandparents’ house, making all sorts of potions and concoctions with whatever I found and although I didn’t manage to make a medicine as magical as George’s, I definitely made a few things to make my Grandad pull some highly comedic faces (brave Grandad)! Rediscovering this book for the first time without knowing the hilarious side-effects of George’s makeshift medicine would definitely be a blast from the past and would bring back that happy childhood nostalgia.

3. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Oh to experience that first adventure into Middle Earth once again without knowing how the journey ends! Tolkien is surely one of the greatest story-telling masters of all-time and I’d love to just revisit that WOW feeling that came from reading The Hobbit for the very first time. The trolls, the wizard, the elves, the dragon…! Stories which carry that much resonance with so many legions of fans truly are special and the first-time feels they give you really are worth treasuring. A highly deserved place on my TTT this week!

2. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas

I thought about mentioning the whole trilogy in this post, but as those people who have read the ACOTAR trilogy and loved it will know, there’s just something special about book 2 (Rhysand, I’m talking to you!). The rollercoaster of emotions that this book sent me on…I felt like I was actually IN the book! ACOMAF has definitely earned its place on my most-loved-books-of-all-time shelf and to be able to go back and read it again for the first time would be such a thrill.

1. The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

Could there be any other…? To rediscover any book again as if for the very first time – If there was ever a chance to delete all of your Harry Potter knowledge and to go right back to the start and discover it all over again, would you do it? Would it be the same reading it in this day and age; the age you are now? Would it be better than you originally thought, or would you hate it and not rediscover that Potter love at all?

I grew up with Harry; I was at primary school when the first book was released and each time the next novel was announced my Nan had it on pre-order for me straight away (always from WH Smiths!). Never has a book series captivated me so wholeheartedly as much as Potter. Now whilst that may be a little cliché or roll the eyes of those Potter-haters out there (yes, they really do exist), no book-lover can surely deny that special feeling that comes with reading a book for the very first time and knowing that you are going to love it, treasure it and remember it for life. To experience that feeling is quite rare and I only hope I get to experience it again in the not so distant future.

Should the TARDIS ever become a reality these are the top ten books that I would go back in time to rediscover all over again as if for the very first time. Which books would you go back in time for? Feel free to chat and let me know in the comments!

Have a brilliant week Bookaholic friends!

Top Ten Tuesday – Books on my TBR which I still haven’t read!

Hey Bookaholic friends,

I cannot believe Tuesday has come around again so quickly and it’s time for another Top Ten Tuesday! This week we are looking at the top ten books that have been on my TBR way too long. As there are far too many unread books on my shelves already, I decided to focus this post on the YA books which I’ve heard a lot about and feel like I should have read by now.

10.Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

One of the children I teach has read practically every Percy Jackson book published to date and it puts me to shame! I should really make a start on this series but feel like I’ve got so many series on the go at the moment!

9.Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

I saw the movie of this book when it came out at the cinema and loved the concept! I’ve bought the first two books in the series but as yet, I am still to get around to reading them!

8.Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

This series is very hyped in the bookish community so I feel like I should read it just to tick it off my list. My first introduction to Laini Taylor was Strange the Dreamer and I enjoyed her eloquent writer’s voice and the way she told the story so I am hoping that I like this trilogy too, when I finally get around to it of course!

7.The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh

Similarly to Daughter of Smoke and Bone, this has long been on my TBR. Arabian Nights is one of my favourite story themes so I really need to get a move on and start this series!

6.The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

I have had this on my iBooks for so long and I keep seeing little fandom bits popping up all over Instagram. The reviews/opinions I have read are quite divided so I’m intrigued to read this.

5.The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Having just seen the last instalment of this as a film at the cinema I am now more motivated than ever to finally get stuck into this series!

4.Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Yet another fandom I keep seeing pop up and felt compelled to buy. For some reason it keeps making its way further down the TBR list but I will definitely make sure I get around to it at some point this year!

3.Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

I absolutely adored The Language of Thorns so much so that I ordered all of Bardugo’s other books. I’m two thirds of the way through the Shadow and Bone trilogy and will start Ruin and Rising very soon. I am really looking forward to finally starting Six of Crows as many people have said how they enjoyed it more than Shadow and Bone.

2.Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

This has been pitched as one of the must-reads of the fantasy genres so it’s been on my To Buy list for ages and arrived just a few days ago despite being on my TBR list for well over a year!

1.A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Like Nevernight I’ve been meaning to purchase this trilogy starter for ages. Hopefully 2018 will be the year I can tick it off my TBR pile!

This week’s TTT seemed quite simple to start with…until I looked closer at how big my pile actually was! There are quite a few novels on here that didn’t make the cut to this post including, The Night Circus, Clockwork Angel, The Loney, Rebel of the Sands and Cinder to name but a few!

What made it into your Top Ten Tuesday this week? Which books have been on your TBR the longest? Have you read any of the ones on my TBR and what did you think? Let me know in the comments, I always love a good natter about books!

Until next time Bookaholic friends, have a good week!

Top Ten Tuesday – Books I Can’t Believe I’ve Read

Hey bookaholic friends!

What are you all reading this week? I have finally managed to get my hands on a copy of The Cruel Prince by Holly Black. It’s my first Holly Black read and I love her interpretation of the world of Faerie so far, although some of these faeries are downright mean!

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday was quite a difficult one to interpret. Some books I can’t believe I read because they were so awful, some because they were so long, some because of the subject matter etc. So there’s a real mixture in this week’s top ten!

10) The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

As someone who works with young children which have various kinds of needs, both educational and behavioural I really wanted to champion the perspective of Christopher Boone, however I found the writing style quite awkward for me to read and take in. I’m not sure if this was just the time during which I read it but for some reason I can’t believe I made it through to the end.

9) Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Now before anyone starts outcries or pulling funny faces, I am a massive Lord of the Rings fan. The reason this is on my top ten this week is purely because of the length of the book. I had a beautiful golden paperback edition gifted to me by one of my school friends for my 16th birthday which contains all three stories and the multitude of appendices. I read it all in one go! Yes it took me a good few months to get through it all the way to the end, but I’m so glad that I was able to tick this off on my read shelf on Goodreads. It has to be one of my all-time favourites! I’m sure I remember Sir Christopher Lee saying that he used to reread Lord of the Rings every year and boy do I take my hat off to him for that!

8) Sex and the City by Candace Bushnell

I picked up a cheap copy of this at a book store in town. Due to a printing error there was no cover art so it was basically just a blank white cover and you could only see the faint imprint of the title on the spine. As a fan of the TV show I decided to give it a shot but I think I was expecting it to be more like the TV show than it was. Some of the characters were a little unrecognisable to my eyes and had I not enjoyed the TV show so much I don’t think I would have ever picked this up which is why it made my top ten this week.

7) A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

I read this for a book club a few years ago and the only way I can describe it is quirky and bizarre. I’m not sure I even remember anything the book was about! Thinking back, I must have osmosed most of the words and just kept absorbing them one by one until I turned the final page. It’s one of the few Pulitzer Prize winners that I’ve actually “read” but I just can’t believe I made it all of the way to the end without recollecting anything. I’m probably missing some really deep meaning about the American Dream or the trials and tribulations of what it means to be human but sadly I just could not get into the spirit of this book.

6) A Thing or Two about Curtis and Camilla by Nick Fowler

Not going to lie, the dog on the front cover of this book is what drew me to it and was a prime example of why I should not just buy books because of their cover. This is possibly the ONLY book I have ever DNF’d (and I sneakily shelved it as read on Goodreads because I just couldn’t bear to try to wade through until the end). I could not find myself championing a single character; in fact the one I honestly supported was the poor daschund! Never before has a book made me quite so dismissive about it but this one just did, so much so that it was the second one I picked out almost instantaneously when sitting down to write this post.

5) Wetlands by Charlotte Roche

When this book was published, all pink and shiny with a giant and salacious-looking avocado on the cover, there was quite a lot of hype surrounding the subject matter of it. I remember the author being on the news and interviewed about her decision to write so honestly and controversially about sexuality and because curiosity usually prevails and gets the better of me I somehow found myself picking it up in Waterstones and taking it home. Some parts I laughed at, some parts I cringed at, but it will always remain one of those novels I can’t actually believe I read, let alone paid for!

4) Moby Dick by Herman Melville

I’m not terribly good with classics. I have to be in the mood to read them and almost translate the old styles of writing in my head so I have some kind of clue about what is actually happening. For a few years I’d owned the gorgeous Vintage edition of Moby Dick and it had been on my TBR ever since I found out it was what Matilda and Miss Honey were reading at the end of the film (Call me Ismael). What gave me the final push to read it was the film In the Heart of the Sea with Chris Hemsworth. I’m glad that I persevered and got myself through it. I enjoyed a majority of the text but my brain did have to train itself to skim the long ‘waffley’ parts and slow down again for the main parts of the story. I guess I feel a kind of achievement in reading it which is why I picked out for my list this week.

3) American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis

Do I really need to justify why I can’t believe I read this…??Some parts of this tale give new meaning to the word horror story, and not in a good way. I don’t know if I’m perturbed by its subject matter and content or in awe of it as a piece of literature and I don’t think I’ll ever work out the answer to that in my head either.

2) Pure Dead Magic by Debi Gliori

I have a disorder when it comes to buying books. If it’s on offer, it’s got a shiny cover, it’s about magic or I have to spend a certain amount to get free shipping then it’ll usually end up in my basket. That’s how the entire Pure Dead Magic series ended up on my shelves. I can’t believe I got through the first one and don’t think I’ll get around to reading the rest. For some reason the computers + magic calculation didn’t cast a spell on me.

1) The Fifty Shades Trilogy by E.L. James

I could not justify giving this three spaces on my top ten but this was the very first book/series that came to mind when thinking of books I can’t believe I’ve read. Yet again, I followed the hype and purchased the books which caused such a furore, then I sat down and read them and could not for the life of me realise why it received the reaction it did. Quite often, people are surprised when I say I’ve read all three. I’ve certainly read more explicit books than that, I’ve also read many many more well-written books than that as well. For some reason, I’ve also seen the films and will probably see the last one when it’s released next month, but I draw the line at reading the same books rehashed again just from a different character’s perspective (I’m lookin’ at you Grey!). Kudos to James though, she’s made her money and got her name on the bookshelves but I cannot believe I read them. What’s possibly worse is that I also can’t believe that they are still sat on my shelves!

So that’s my real mish-mash this week for Top Ten Tuesday – Books I can’t believe I’ve read (and equally can’t believe I’ll admit to reading some of them!).

Until next time, have a good week my bookaholic friends!

Top Ten Tuesday – Books I Enjoyed Reading But Can’t Remember Anything About!

Top Ten Tuesday time!

It’s my first ever time compiling a list of books for Top Ten Tuesday and whilst I loved the challenge of it, it’s made me want to reread nearly all of the books that made it into my top ten! 🙈

So here goes, the top ten books I really enjoyed reading but can’t remember much about…

10. Bubbles Unbound by Sarah Strohmeyer

This was one of the first remotely adult books that I read; I think it was a gift from an aunt. I’m pretty sure that the character solves a crime case although I can’t be sure. The one thing that I do remember above all else is that she used that iconic Maybelline Great Lash mascara, you know, the one with the bubblegum pink tube and lime green lid!

9. Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier

I read this one after a trip to the place itself on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall. My friend and I were massive Most Haunted fans and had to make a stop there whilst on holiday. Sadly, I remember more about the trip there than the actual book!

8. The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

This was the first audiobook I ever owned and listened to. I don’t really get along with audio books as I can never concentrate for long enough without zoning out. That’s probably why I don’t remember a single thing about the plot of The Lost Symbol at all. I can’t even remember who-dunnit, or even what they did for that matter! However I do know that it takes place in Washington, and obviously there’s conspiracy involved!

7. The Winter Ghosts

I thoroughly enjoyed Kate Mosse’s Labyrinth trilogy from the characters, to the plot and that gorgeous French Languedoc setting. That’s why when looking through my shelves on Goodreads I was really surprised to find that I couldn’t recall a single thing about this novel of hers.

6. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Hope this doesn’t raise a few eyebrows because I wanted so much to try and remember what on Earth happened in this. This series has been fairly hyped and Stiefvater has a great reputation as an author, her Raven Boys cycle is definitely in my TBR. Obviously I know Shiver was about werewolves but other than that…I’m drawing a blank!

5. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka

Without a doubt this is one of the fascinatingly titled books I’ve ever read! Stating the obvious I think it might have involved a tractor, but then again, as with the trend of this post I really can’t be sure what the hell it was about. I definitely know that I liked it though and found it quite amusing.

4. The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks

Purely for the sense of weirdness and macabre surrounding Banks’ work I was drawn into picking up a copy of The Wasp Factory just to see what all the fuss was about. I remember admiring Banks’ writing, but sadly for The Wasp Factory, nothing more than that!

3. The Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

This one really pains me to admit! I am a huge fan of Neil Gaiman and have read most of his works; Neverwhere is one of my all-time favourites purely for the ingenuity of his portrayal of London. For some unknown reason Anansi Boys just got blotted out of my memory. I feel a reread coming on…

2. The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

As a massive Florence + The Machine fan, I had to join the book club, Between Two Books, inspired by Flo’s love for reading. One of the monthly book suggestions was The Marriage Plot which I dived into having read and enjoyed his other book The Virgin Suicides. Again, I remember enjoying the storyline, but I have no idea what that storyline was!

1. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie is one of those authors, like Murakami, who I really love to put on my TBR list. To me they have this complex magical realism that makes me feel like I’m challenging myself and becoming more cultured when I’m reading it. Midnight’s Children was my introduction to Rushdie’s work as I read it for part of my English Lit degree. I remember being so excited to finally get my hands on it, excited to crack open the first page and start reading…and then that’s it! The only thing I remember about the story itself was a character called Wee Willie Winkee, but that’s was purely down to our Professor’s pronunciation of it. I’ve since read other works by Rushdie including The Satanic Verses, The Enchantress of Florence and Two Years Eight Months and Twenty Eight Nights and I do remember those so I’m definitely going to try rereading Midnight’s Children to see if I can get a grip on it a second time round.

And there it is, the top ten books that I really enjoyed reading but can’t remember a single thing about! Did any of these make your list? What would you put in your own Top Ten? Drop me a comment!

Pinnacle – Book Review

•   Published 6th February 2018 by Astraea Press (Paperback)

•   298 pages

•   ISBN-13:978-1621357339

•   Rated: 4/5 Magical Attributes

“Identifying her parents was the hardest thing ever, until Kaya learned she was the killer’s next target. Moving had thrown the ancient predator off her trail temporarily but with magical abilities manifesting, Kaya’s scent grows stronger and the attempts on her life become constant. Narrowly surviving each encounter, Kaya is desperate to stop her potential assassin, but it’s hard to kill a creature that changes its appearance and disappears without a trace. Kaya finds the support she needs to succeed in her small group of friends and her boyfriend Kenneth. Like so many things, they’re more than what they seem and with the killer having unsettling similarities to Kenneth and his family…Kaya can’t help but wonder if there’s a connection.”

Pinnacle is a brilliant debut from Lynn Veevers and really brings Lycanthropy into the spotlight. The novel has a wide-ranging cast of characters and gives the reader an in-depth look at the powers and heritage of the people within Kaya’s world. There is a lot of character-building which really immerses you into the plot.

At the beginning, I felt like there was a fair bit of info-dumping explaining all of the attributes and qualities of both the Natural and Afflicted Lycans and the Natural Mystics to bring the reader up to speed and into the story. As the descriptions were often quite lengthy and took place during conversations with numerous characters (some of which had been freshly introduced), I found myself having to pay close attention to what was happening to get my head around it all. With a little bit of perseverance, I came to understand more about the complexities of the various character traits. Afflicted Lycans = bad, they’re basically like the Terminators of the Lycan world; Natural Lycans are the good guys and have more than one form and Natural Mystics are like humans but with a specific skill or attribute.

Now Kaya is like the ultimate of the Natural Mystics and the plot revolves around her being the destined Pinnacle. Because of her heritage she has quite a range of different abilities which make her different from other Natural Mystics. She shows a lot of determination and adapts to her powers really well and quite speedily, especially when a new one will pop up out of the blue and show itself suddenly. At times, her relationship with Kenneth was a little cheesy for my personal taste, but I was pleased that the tone of the novel didn’t come across as an angsty teenage romance.

Although there were a lot of characters, you quickly felt like you got to know them as a fair amount of the text was centered around their interactions and conversations with each other. I don’t tend to read many books with werewolf or lycan themes but the likeability of the characters that Veevers created drew me into following their story through until the end.

My highlight of the book is where they journey to a cave in an attempt to track down and discover Senka, the main villain. This part of the novel was able to merge the world-building of the setting whilst also giving the characters a chance to demonstrate their skills in a battle-type situation. It gave the story a little more action and pace. I also felt that this was the part of the story where all of the main components came together and gave the story its link into the second novel Eximius.

Overall I really enjoyed Pinnacle, it was thrilling to read a book which had little complexities layered throughout its narrative. It really made me pay attention to the storyline and what was happening. For a debut, this is an ambitious and valiant attempt into the foray of paranormal YA fiction. I would definitely recommend this to older, more mature readers due to the exploration of relationships involved and some scenes which include violence and a character death. If you liked Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Twilight and The Mortal Instruments for their werewolf elements and prefer books which focus heavily on character development and interactions then you would probably enjoy reading Pinnacle.

I would like to thank Lynn for giving me the opportunity to read Pinnacle before its release date and cannot wait to see what happens next in the forthcoming sequel Eximius.

Happy New Year! 2017 Review and 2018 Aspirations

Happy New Year Bookish Friends!

What a successful reading year 2017 was for me!
I began doing the Goodreads Reading Challenge about two years ago to try and get me back into reading. I had the reading appetite of Matilda when I was a child but since getting a job and adulting happened, reading dropped right off my radar! Unfortunately my book-buying habit had not subsided and I found myself with shelves full of books which had hardly been touched! Therefore I began my initial challenge at 25 books working at about two per month with an extra one as I prefer the number 24 to 25 (don’t ask me why!). It definitely motivated me as I read 34 books that year and so I decided to up my challenge each year by 10 books. Last year’s target of 35 was smashed as well as I ended up reading about 47 books. So perhaps 2018’s target of 45 is a little conservative but at least I know I can definitely reach it and it feels like an achievable goal.

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When I started properly reading again, I wanted to find a book series or author that had given me as many feels as the Harry Potter series; like so many I am a complete and utter Potterhead and grew up alongside Harry and the books. I really wanted to find a series where I’d be able to get back that eager anticipation of waiting for the next instalment to be released and I definitely found that in Sarah J Maas. The Bookstagram community was full of such love and adoration for SJM that when I heard she was hosting a talk and a book signing at the Cheltenham Literature Festival in October 2016 I booked a ticket straight away to see what all the fuss was about! The queue to get into the event was one of the longest I’ve ever seen and some of the fangirls in the queue for the event looked at me gone out as if to say “What do you mean you’ve never read Throne of Glass?!” Needless to say that for that whole hour listening to SJM talk, the only thing I had any real understanding of was her love for Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, plus I’d managed to get a seat right at the front so I felt really awkward surrounded by all these teenage lexicons swooning over people called Rhysand and Rowan whom I obviously knew nothing about. The complete buzz around both TOG, ACOTAR and Sarah herself made me buy the starter books from both series from the book tent right after the event and then spend more time in another really long queue to get her to sign those books. These were the series I had been waiting for. I was completely sucked into the worlds of Prythian and Erilea! I’d read both ACOTAR and ACOMAF ready for the release of ACOWAR in 2017 and I’ve now also read all of TOG up to Tower of Dawn which is on my TBR list for 2018. I’m trying to pace it out so I don’t gorge them all in one go! 🙈

Other bookish highlights of 2017 include:

  • Subscribing to the Fairyloot book box (since Feb 2017). It’s the only book box I subscribe to and I’m definitely never relinquishing my subscription. It has been one of the factors in helping me get back into reading and the whole community surrounding it is full of such lovely people who love to talk about books just as much as me! I’ve received so many gorgeous books I’d never have picked up on my own and discovered some brilliant new writers.
  • Ploughing through The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. I managed to pick up this box set for about £10 from The Works and again it was one of those purchases based purely on the hype surrounding those infamous Shadowhunters.
  • Discovering Leigh Bardugo. I wrote my university dissertation on fairytales; I own copious books on fairytale criticism and theory; Angela Carter is one of my all-time favourite writers. So when I received an exclusively red-foiled copy of The Language of Thorns in my October Fairyloot box it felt like Leigh Bardugo had given me a little bit of Carter back in a Bloody Chamber-esque way! Her tales were so exquisitely told and full of such intrinsic imagery; both dark and twisty yet light and pure at the same time. It really was one of my favourite reads of 2017.

Bookish targets for 2018 include:

  • Reading Tower of Dawn ready for TOG7 and ordering A Court of Frost and Starlight.
  • Completing The Grishverse and starting the Six of Crows duology.
  • Purchasing and reading The Infernal Devices.
  • Reading books from authors I haven’t heard of or read before (enter Fairyloot!)
  • Clearing more of my TBR and not buying quite as many books, particularly e-books because I don’t actually enjoy reading them as much as physical books.
  • And the biggest challenge…Focusing on improving this blog (any constructive tips are welcome, I know that pictures are lacking!) and getting my new bookstagram account off the ground. You can follow me on Instagram @cotswoldbookaholic

So that’s me for this year! What are some of your 2017 reading highlights or goals for 2018? Let me know and happy reading!