2016 Favourites

I think we can all let out a collective sigh of relief that 2016 is over. It was a particularly depressing year – at least on a pop cultural level – but despite loving to revel in mutual loathing, first and foremost I am a blogger, so a 2016 favourites post was necessary. Consider it a form of purging. Out with old, in with the new. Except this stuff which I kinda sorta loved.

Favourite Book: A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

I love me a good fantasy series – but sometimes it’s hard to find a good balance between the grittiness of adult fantasy and the playfulness of YA fantasy: enter V.E. Schwab. The themes of this book are most definitely adult, there are no overplayed love triangles or teenagers born to save the world. But still, the series manages to catch a sense of adventure that others don’t, all the while building a detailed and engaging world for the characters. The last book in the trilogy comes out soon and I am not sure how I’ll cope.

Favourite Beauty Product: Kat Von D Everlasting Liquid Lipstick in Lolita

By no means new to 2016, but new to me. 2016 was the year Spanish Sephora finally got its act together and started stocking Kat Von D. I own four of these babies now (and plan on a million more), but Lolita is the ultimate one for me. It’s a dusty/purpley/nudey colour that never fails to make me feel a little more put together on days when I’m otherwise just meh. A pro tip is to pair it with Barry M’s lipliner in Blush. Kylie who?

Favourite TV Show: How To Get Away With Murder

I was sooooooo late to the bandwagon on this show, but once I started, boy was I hooked. As increasingly ridiculous as it has gotten, I can’t look away. The twists still hook me and the reveals still shock me. Also it’s like a little glimpse into Paris Gellar’s future since the Gilmore Girls revival ruined her character. If you secretly think you’d make a kickass lawyer, this one’s for you.

Favourite Movie: The Visit

Technically a 2015 release, but I didn’t get a chance to watch it until the new year so it totally still counts. I think this movie is proof that M. Night Shyamalan either makes really great movies or really terrible movies. The Visit is definitely a return to the likes of SignsThe Sixth Sense, and The Village.  I may have a soft spot for found footage horror movies, but this is probably the best since The Blair Witch Project. But if you don’t like horror, it works as a comedy too. Best of both worlds!

Favourite Album: California by Blink-182

When Fall Out Boy came out with Save Rock and Roll, I loved it because they had grown out of their pop punk phase gracefully. When Panic! At The Disco released Death of a Bachelor, it was clearly the same band with a more mature take. But when Blink-182 released California, it was as if it was still 2003. As much as I love that my favourite teenage bands are growing up with me, something about this album had just the right amount of nostalgia and growth for me. And now I don’t have to be embarrassed about not really listening to current music, because Blink have my back.

Maybe I’ll branch out more in 2017, but for now, fantasy, murder, and pop-punk are doing me just fine ❤

 

My Reading Rut: Part 3

I may not actually like reading at the moment, but I do still like talking about reading. So I figured it was time for the third post of my reading rut adventure: covering months April to June and books 10-14 of my thirty book challenge. This definitely got me back to my reading roots – meaning there were a lot of books I was anticipating the release of and fantasy novels. And I actually enjoyed this block of books a lot! Too bad I immediately stopped reading again afterwards… ugh.

The Missing by C.L. Taylor

Another thriller, yes, but one I was waiting for. I loved C.L. Taylor’s previous two thrillers, but something about The Missing just fell flat. I wasn’t as invested in the story as I was with  her previous work. The Lie was one of the most innovative thriller novels I’ve read in years, with The Accident keeping me just as hooked. But with Taylor’s third novel, I just didn’t give a shit. And then the resolution came and I was just like “oh, I still don’t care”. A good book, but not up to her usual standard. If you’ve never read her work before, start with this one and work backwards – that way they’re getting better instead of worse.

I give this book: 3/5 schizophrenic visions

Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch

I have an apology to make to Mr Aaronovitch, because it took me two attempts to read this book. The first was last July and I got about 100 pages into it before giving up. This really bugged me because I absolutely love this series. But I decided to give it another chance and this time it finally clicked. This series definitely does have a pattern of one great book followed by a weaker one, and sadly this book was one of the latter, but that ending definitely made it worthwhile. I won’t dwell too much on this book because I think this series definitely deserves a post on its own, so just know that I’m sorry I doubted you, Peter Grant, and I’m glad I didn’t abandon you.

I give this book: 3.5/5 vengeful ghosts

Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch

You know what I was saying about the quality pattern of this series? Ignore it. Right after finishing book four, I jumped right into number five and I think that Foxglove Summer is my favourite instalment of the series so far – even more than Rivers of London. And I’m not just saying that because it saw the return of my favourite character. Getting out of the city was exactly what this series needed; as was a more standalone case that didn’t revolve around the Big Bad. Think of it as the Peter Grant equivalent of Prisoner of Azkaban. It rejuvenated the series for me after my struggles with the previous book and made me fall in love with the world all over again. And props for the great Good Omens reference, which brings us nicely to book four.

I give this book: 5/5 creepy unicorns

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

For as long as I can remember, everyone has been telling me to read this book. Although I’ve never read any Pratchett, I am a huge Gaiman fan and was assured I’d love this story. I bought the book years ago, excited to get down to reading it, and what happened? It just fell flat. I tried so hard to persevere but in the end gave up. Which makes me wonder what happened this time around because… I loved it. On my second attempt reading this book, everything fell into place and I finally got all the love for it. It’s witty, gripping, and original – basically all the things you’d want out of a fantasy novel. Crowley might just be one of my favourite literary characters ever.

I give this book: 4/5 Queen CDs

The Girls by Emma Cline

I don’t really have to go into too much detail on this book because I already wrote a whole post about it over here. It’s not like anything else I’ve ever read before – so dreamy and relaxing yet somehow totally dangerous. It nicely broke up my fantasy to thriller to oh look another fantasy pattern as well as seamlessly slipping me into summer.

I give this book: 5/5 charismatic cult leaders

I’m clearly behind in this whole book review thing – and if I want to get everything up by 2o17 then I’ll need to get a move on. Of course, that would also entail catching up on my reading itself. We are comfortably in November now and I still have six to go. Wish me luck.

Six of Crows & Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo Review

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Two years ago now I wrote a review of a little book series called The Grisha Trilogy and ended it with a wish to read more stories set in that universe. Well, my wish came true, because in 2015 the amazing Leigh Bardugo delivered with the wonderful Six of Crows. With the release of the second book last month, I figured once again I’d do a little review of the recent happenings in the Grishaverse.

Obviously I gave The Grisha Trilogy a glowing review, so I was a little nervous about revisiting the world again. The plot description enticed me though… the whole Oceans 11 meets Game of Thrones thing was too intriguing to pass up on. And Six of Crows blew me away.

As much as I enjoyed the first series, it was undeniably very YA. The books were shorter, there was a love triangle, and it was very much about how one person can change the world. There’s nothing wrong with any of those things – but these later instalments of the Grishaverse were just on another level. Multiple POV chapters. No romance fuelling the plot. And most importantly – no hero. Despite the young characters, this series doesn’t come off as YA. It’s the Grishaverse’s grittier, sexier, older sibling.

The Six of Crows duology is about a gang of misfit thieves who plan to pull off the ultimate heist. Through the POV chapters we learn about the backstories of each of these characters and their motivation for attempting to do the impossible. We learn about their specific skills and what they hope to get out of the cards they’ve been dealt. The first instalment, the titular Six of Crows, is an amazing adventure story. It’s gripping, well written, and has just the right amount of nods to the original trilogy to appease both new readers and old. I read this book over a year ago now and there are still scenes stuck firmly in my head.

The second book, Crooked Kingdom, was equally as amazing – though there’s something about the first book I found more endearing. Though the writing and the character building and the pacing were just as great the second time around – the overall plot felt weaker to me. There were times I completely forgot what was going on and I thought two different characters were the same person for a good two thirds of the book. The characters’ drive from the first story also seemed to have disappeared in this one and I was often left wondering why they were doing certain things.

The strongest part of this series comes from the characters and I think it’s a real testament to Bardugo’s writing that she could portray all these diverse people so wonderfully. Diverse being the key word here: with the main cast including POC, LGBT, and disabled characters. My favourite character in both instalments was Inej – with Jesper as a close second. Total badassery with a light side of comic relief – just how I like ‘em.

It’s not necessary to read The Grisha Trilogy before Six of Crows, but for the second book in particular, it would definitely aid your enjoyment. Some characters from the first series make an appearance in the second book and you’ll definitely appreciate some of the interactions more if you got to know them in their own series first. One of my issues with Crooked Kingdom was that it did feel a bit fan service-y – but that fan service brought me another glimpse at my three favourite characters so I will gladly take it. But to really appreciate those moments – reading the first series definitely helps.

I could sit and gush over this series for hours but I’d rather not give anything away. If you want a fun, innovative fantasy series with great diversity and excellent world building – then Six of Crows is for you. If not, then get better taste in books. I’ll end this review of the Grishaverse as I ended my last one – WHERE IS MY NIKOLAI SPINOFF STORY?!

Seeing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

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Last October I arrived home from work to see that the online queue was open to buy tickets for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I had no faith that I would actually manage to secure tickets, but I knew I’d hate myself if I didn’t try. THIS WAS HARRY POTTER WE WERE TALKING ABOUT.

So I sat and waited, periodically checking the tab, and then boom – I was in. Now at this point I didn’t know you could set a price limit for your tickets but this turned out to be a good thing, because the tickets I was offered were £60 and in the Grand Circle.

“AAAAAH WHAT DO I DO?”

“BUY THEM!”

“IT’S £240!”

“IT’S HARRY POTTER!”

My boyfriend swayed me. I clicked purchase. I was expecting buyer’s guilt to kick in at least once in the eleven months I’d have to wait until I saw the show – but it never did.

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So finally September rolled around and James and I hopped on a plane to London to have a week of Harry Potter madness. We saw the play on our second day. When picking up our tickets, the woman behind us asked the box office if she could buy some. Mate, I bought these tickets eleven months ago. Don’t even try me.

We killed some time in Foyles looking at books – some Potter, some not. Grabbed a drink in the cafe and headed over the show super early to queue for our seats.

Sorry to break it to you all, but I’m 100% about to #KeepTheSecrets. I’ll only let it slip that… the show is incredible. And that reading the script is not the same. I’ve seen a lot of negative stuff about The Cursed Child now but most of those people haven’t seen the show and are basing their opinion solely on a fraction of the experience. It’s a play, people, it’s meant to be seen.

Yes, there are some plot holes which contradict earlier established canon.

Yes, it does feel a bit like fanfiction.

Yes, reading the script isn’t a particularly enthralling experience.

BUT DAMN SEEING THE SHOW WAS MAGICAL.

The visual effects, the comedic timing, the incredible acting – particularly from Scorpius Malfoy. It was one of the best theatre experiences I’ve had.

A few days after seeing the show I started reading the script and whilst I’m enjoying it because hello I’m reading a new Harry Potter book, I can see that I probably wouldn’t have ‘got it’ if I hadn’t seen the show first.

I get that theatre is expensive and tickets are hard to come by, but if you ever get the chance please see the show. I went into it without any knowledge of the plot and enjoyed every minute. In fact, I was so mesmerised that I really didn’t notice the plot holes until later googling (my bad).

Overall, I just really wish people would stop attacking the show – or Jo Rowling. She gave us the books, she gave us the movies, and now she’s given us the play. Keep thinking of it as a nice addition (like the charity books) and not as part of the ‘Harry Potter series’ and you’re fine.

Seeing The Cursed Child was one of the best experiences of my life and I’ll be in awe of it for years to come. SORRY HATERS ‘CAUSE IT’S WONDERFUL. ❤

My Reading Rut: Part 2


I am terrible. Even with a job with a load of commute time, I have managed to get NINE BOOKS behind in my forty book reading challenge. I have no idea what I’ve been doing with my life but I’m trying my hardest to catch up during these last remnants of summer, before life starts getting crazy again.

I’ve currently read 17 books, but I’m not gonna spam you with all of that. Instead, here’s my thoughts on books five through nine instead.

It by Stephen King

This was the initial book that got me far behind in my reading challenge ’cause it took so damn long to get through. However, I did manage to catch up… and then fall behind again. I told you I’m terrible. My experience reading It went a lot like my experience reading other King novels – in that it starts off slow, I regret everything by the middle, and then the last third turns out to be some of the most gripping literature I’ve ever read. I won’t bother recounting the plot to you, as I’m pretty sure everyone knows the tale of Pennywise, but I will say this: it wasn’t scary. All my life people have been telling me how scary this book is. It’s not. I mean, I’m sure if I was been stalked by a weird creepy killer clown, I’d be terrified. But told on page, it just didn’t cut it for me. It’s an excellent book, but I’m sure I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I didn’t have the expectation that I’d be terrified by it. But I’m glad I read it in preparation for the film adaptations coming out next year!

I give this book: 4/5 unexplained child murders

The Magpies by Mark Edwards

After reading a book the size of my head, I needed something quick to bring me back up to speed, so I asked my mum to recommend a thriller for me to get addicted to. She gushed about this book for so long that I finally relented. But to be honest, it’s been six months since I read it now and I can’t remember a single thing about (my fault for leaving this post so long, I know). I can vividly remember every other book I’ve read this year, even last year in cases, but not this one. All I remember is that it’s a creepy thriller based around new neighbours and is a typical wtf-is-going-on-here type of novel. I don’t regret reading it, and I think I remember enjoying it at the time, but it’s definitely not a memorable story.

I give this book: 2.5/5 dead birds

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

Continuing on with my quick-to-read thriller tactic, I went with another recommendation from my mother – but I liked this one a lot more! This is type of thriller I live for: creepy, evil, and rooted in reality. Even though my favourite genre is fantasy, I like my thrillers to be about real life maniacs rather than the supernatural. I read a lot books that follow the ‘x has the perfect life – OR DO THEY?’ formula and although they can get a little overdone, Behind Closed Doors was refreshingly sinister.

I give this book: 4/5 secret pleas for help

Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson

The last of my thriller binge (until this point, at least – old habits) and it was another good one. It’s a movie, so I’m sure y’all know the plot – but basically the protagonist has some form of amnesia and is being cared for by her husband – or is she? Pretty standard thriller stuff but made for a gripping read. The ending was particularly satisfying, which is always a worry when I read thrillers. Sometimes it’s as if the writers are so excited to reveal the solution that they miss out a tonne of context. My only criticism would be that sometimes it was obvious that it was a male writer behind the woman’s voice – too much talk of her naked body to be believable sometimes. If I woke up with no memory of the last few decades, I’d have bigger concerns than my saggy boobs.

I give this book: 3/5 secret phone calls

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Finally back on the horror game! Bird Box was creepy af. Definitely one of those stories that works better as a book than a movie, which doesn’t often work in the horror genre. No clichés, no jump scares – in fact, jump scares couldn’t even possibly work in this story because most of it takes place with no vision. The plot of Bird Box is a mysterious disease has overtaken humanity and the only way to avoid it is to keep your eyes covered, if you see an infected, then you become one of them too. It’s a very isolated book for the most part, but that’s broken up with flashbacks to the beginnings of the virus, something which really helps to space out the plot. Again, not scary to read, but if that was happening in real life I have no idea what I’d do.

I give this book: 4/5 things in the shadows

Around this point I had finally rectified the damage from reading It for six weeks and was ready to start reading for fun again, instead of ploughing through thrillers which trick me into reading them. We are now up to April and soon will embark on some good old fashioned fantasy to suck me right back in again. I guess that post will be up whenever I somehow figure out how to read nine books (!!!!!!) in 24 hours. Seriously, how did I get this far behind? At this point, 40 books looks a long way off…

The Girls by Emma Cline Review


I’ve gotta be honest, recently I’ve been in a real reading slump. I’ve been buying so many books and then just… giving up. Nothing has caught my attention. But that all changed with The Girls by Emma Cline. I first saw this book pop up in the Booktube community a couple of months ago and immediately added it to my TBR. I just love cults, but I usually only get my creepy obsessive fill from reading Wikipedia pages at 3AM. But now I have this baby, and its simultaneously everything I wanted and didn’t know I wanted from a book on cults.

One of my favourite books of the last few years has been Vivian Versus The Apocalypse by Katie Coyle, which was another look at a cult-like phenomenon as told by a teenage girl. But despite a similar premise, they were such totally different books. And not for the obvious reasons like The Girls being set in the 1960s and VvsTA being a contemporary novel, or like VvsTA being a much more YA-focused story. Because as much as I loved the Vivian Apple series, her involvement always felt too big to me. Which is something you definitely don’t get with Cline’s novel. The protagonist, Evie, doesn’t change the world. She doesn’t stop the horrendous crimes from happening. She doesn’t have any control. And that’s why it’s so great. Not everyone who stumbles onto a cult becomes a major player, most people are on the outskirts of the action. Evie gets sucked into the cult, but she’s never in control, she never fully knows what’s going on around her. And neither do we for the majority of the story. We get snippets from Adult Evie in the future and can guess about future events from what Evie witnesses at the compound, but she is never the one making these decisions. We experience the cult from her powerless position, just as we would if we were the ones in that situation.

Usually in books like this, I’d be demanding more murder. More action. More blood. But not in this case. What drew me in was the dynamics of the compound and the cult mentality that gets these people do do what they do, something I think Cline portrays very well. Besides, if I wanted to read about the gory details or the major players, I’d read the Charles Manson biography. You don’t really get to see things from the perspective of the outsiders, and even if this account is a fictional one, its got to be rooted in reality.

Despite my going on about realism, a word I’d definitely use to describe this book would be dreamy. So much emphasis is put on the summer this happens in. From Evie’s lazy days before discovering the girls and even her time at the camp. And maybe it’s just because I’m a British person currently dying in 35 degree Spanish heat, but I’m damn sure I felt that Californian summer and I’m damn sure a lot of it was from Cline’s amazing use of language. It really helped to empathise with Evie, and there weren’t many times I experienced a “girl, why are you doing that?” type of moment. Some people might find the writing style a little pretentious, but I didn’t get that vibe. To me, it’s everything that We Were Liars tried and failed to do. Evie is super bored, so to me it makes sense that her way of describing things is a little long winded. What else has she got to do with her time? And when she’s joined the girls, she’s obsessed, so of course she’s going to be taking in all these little details.

I think this a book that anyone can enjoy, weird statutory rape scenes aside (but after IT by Stephen King, I’m pretty much numb to those). You don’t need to be obsessed with cults, or history, or weird descriptive novels. It’s got something for everyone, which is why I think the hype around it is so big right now. Excellent writing, an interesting plot, and a great lazy vibe to it that makes it the perfect summer read. Go forth, devour, and be thankful you didn’t join a cult when you were fourteen.

I give it 5/5 mind-controlled psychopaths.

My Reading Rut: Part 1


Last year I reached my goal of reading thirty books… and by goal I mean the second number I picked when it became evident that forty books was never gonna happen. This year, we’re going for forty. Actually forty this time. And we’re already two books behind. Brilliant. However, whilst I battle through the never ending love-it/hate-it novel that is Stephen King’s It, I figured I’d talk a little about the first four books I read this year. Because they were pretty brilliant, if I do say so myself.

The Martian by Andy Weir:

Admittedly this was a rather rushed choice of book for me, as I had a plane to catch in a matter of hours and needed something to dull the ride back to España. I’d wanted to pick up this book for a while now, but I’ve never really had that much luck with sci-fi novels in the past. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised with this one. The writing was phenomenal. I’m sure you’ve all seen clips of Watney’s POV chapters floating around the Internet, and it is true that Weir creates a brilliantly realistic geek in his protagonist, but even with the smaller characters, I really felt that I knew their personalities and reasonings for things. Certain parts of the book were a bit ‘explain-y’ for me, and occasionally I did find myself scanning the seventy page descriptions of whatever Watney was doing, but in the end it actually turned out to be a good thing… because I wouldn’t have understood like half of the movie without having read the novel first. Definitely a good example of the book being better than the movie trope. Even if Matt Damon kiiiiiilled it as Watney.

I give it: 3/5 Mars Rovers

The Accident by C.L. Taylor:

This is my second C.L. Taylor book and it turned out to be just as gripping as the first one I read. Admittedly I have to thank my mum for the recommendation here, as I never would have picked up either of the author’s books without her pestering. The story follows a mother coping with her daughter being in a coma, after the titular ‘accident’… or was it one? The book started off slowly, but damn, once it got going I couldn’t put it down. I’m starting to realise maybe I don’t like crime novels… I just like really creepy, messed up mysteries. The twists and turns in this book kept me guessing constantly, and even though you know everything will get linked together eventually, your brain will explode trying to connect the pieces yourself. If you liked The Girl On The Train and Gone Girl, you really ought to give Taylor’s work a whirl.

I give it: 3.5/5 creepy ex-boyfriends

A Darker Shade Of Magic by V.E. Schwab:

I have wanted to read this book for SO LONG, but as I mention every time I talk about fantasy novels, I’m always apprehensive as they can be either brilliant or terrible. There’s very few examples of ‘just meh’ fantasy stories. But after a rocky start, I can safely say that A Darker Shade Of Magic is in the brilliant category. The story takes place in a world (or three) that each have a London, and follows Kell, one of the few people who can travel between the three of them. I don’t want to give too much away, but I’ll also say that there’s evil forces and crossdressing pirates, and if that doesn’t make you want to read it I don’t know what will. The first part of this book really took a while to get going for me, with lots of world building and character development making the actual plot take a backseat, but once shit started going down I. Was. Hooked. Everything happens so quickly, but not in a rushed way, and I really hated putting this book down every time I had to get off the train. So pumped to read the sequel.

I give it: 4/5 dangerous magical relics

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell:

I love Rainbow Rowell. She’s one of the few contemporary YA authors I can stomach, but Attachments was the first actual adult novel I’ve read of hers, but once again, she’s written a love interest who I really wanna make out with. And isn’t that all we really want when we read love stories? The book takes place in a newspaper office in 1999, right before Y2k, and is told in two ways: through the POV of Lincoln, the Internet Security Officer (the 90s <3) and through the email exchanges between two journalists called Jen and Beth that he has to read. It definitely gave me -the feeeeeeels- when reading it, and I really enjoyed screaming at my Kindle trying to make the damn characters fall in love already. This was Rowell’s first novel, and it really is impressive for a debut. If you love her YA stuff, you really should give her contemporary adult stories a chance. Next stop, Simon Snow!

I give it: 4/5 emails to your best friend

So there you have it. The first four books I read this year. I promise I’ll be back with more… if I ever finish reading It. Sci-fi, mystery, fantasy, romance, horror… I really am going all out with my genre choices this year.

Stalkers, Secrets, & Sorcery: Best Books Of 2015 (Part 2)

 

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Wow, got a bit behind with this book reviewing thing, didn’t I? I thought with the start of my new job and an even longer commute, I’d be all about that forty book reading challenge… but as it turns out, when you’re on a train at 7:01AM, you’re more interested in staring aimlessly out the window and saying “why, God? Why?” rather than reading. So I’m pretty behind. Nonetheless, I did a tonne of reading over the summer, so I did have some choices for this second installment of my favourite books. The following aren’t exactly what you’d call ‘summer reads’, and I actually think they’re more suited to autumn/winter reading, so I held off on posting them until the weather turned. I’m so considerate. If anyone has any other recommendations, please let me know! I’ll pretty much read anything at the moment.

4) The Night Circus– Erin Morgenstern:

Real talk, I bought this book years ago, and although everyone says it’s great, it’s just been sitting on myself… waiting. I’ve had no real strong desire to read it. But this year, upon my biannual return to the UK, I was bored and figured I’d read one of the many books piling up on my shelves. Admittedly, I didn’t finish it in the two weeks I was home… but something kept me thinking about this book upon my return to Madrid, and I ended up buying the digital copy to finish it. Although I don’t really think it’s up to the hype people say, clearly something in this book sucked me in. The plot may be practically nonexistent, the characters two dimensional, the the romance increasingly stale; but this book was magical. The writing alone makes it a real winner. It might not be for everyone, but I’d recommend you give it a try.

3) Into The Darkest Corner– Elizabeth Haynes:

Something has happened to me recently… I ask my mum for book recommendations now. I know, gross, right? But she was insistent I read this book, and because it was 99p on the Kindle store, I caved. It took me a while to get into, but damn, once it did, I couldn’t put the it down. I’ve been reading a lot of the mystery/crime genre this year, but this book was just so refreshing and unexpected that it’s definitely shown that there are still surprises out there. I won’t say anything about the plot, as it’s best to go into it a surprise, but damn, it’s a good one.

2) The Girl On The Train– Paula Hawkins:

Okay, so everyone has read this book this summer– BUT THAT’S BECAUSE IT’S A GREAT BOOK! Initially I was feeling that TGOTT was a poor Gone Girl ripoff, but as I got more and more hooked into the story, I began to realise that it really stood on its own. I love me a good unreliable narrator, and Rachel really encompasses that through the tropes of her obsession and alcoholism. If for some reason you haven’t picked up a copy yet, it’d be the perfect creepy read for these cold autumn nights.

1) Dark Places– Gillian Flynn:

After I read GG in January, I knew I needed to read the rest of Flynn’s library… imagine my disappointment upon learning it was only another two books. Dark Places was the final Flynn book I read this summer, because for some reason I was less interested in the blurb than the other offering. Boy, was I wrong. As much as I loved Sharp Objects and Gone Girl, this one really took things a step further. It’s definitely the most unsettling of Flynn’s stories, and the one with the most unexpected twist. There’s so many red herrings and so many dead ends that by the time the reveal comes, you’re like “WHAT?!” As you probably know, it’s best to go into Flynn’s novels knowing absolutely nothing, so I’ll leave it here. But if you enjoyed Gone Girl and are looking for something grittier and creepier, this is the book for you.

In regards to my reading challenge, I recently opted to lower my goal to thirty books. I am ashamed. But also super tired all the time so reading is kind of impossible right now. As of today, I’ve read 24 books, which is already beating last year’s measly 19, so I can’t be too hard on myself. Hopefully with the return of the cold weather and the fact a giant Primark just opened in Madrid, I can reach my goal with the aid of copious amounts of peppermint tea and a fluffy onesie. Living the dream.

In Defence Of YA: My Favourite Young Adult Novels

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I have a complicated relationship with YA novels. I go through stages of ‘I am an adult, I shouldn’t be reading about teenagers’ and ‘GOD THIS BOOK ABOUT A THIRTY YEAR OLD WITH A JOB IS SO BORING’. There’s definitely a guilt sort of situation going on, as if I really should be moving on from that stage of my life, contrasted with a sort of I’ll-read-what-I-want mentality. But as much as I wish I could solely read highly regarded adult literature, certain YA novels have lingered in my brain since I first read them. So to maybe help shred some of the stigma associated with “grownups” reading YA lit, here’s five novels from the genre that I actually really loved. Yay.

5) The Grisha Trilogy– Leigh Bardugo:

Technically three books, not one, and I’ve actually raved about this series on the blog before, but I think that’s just even more testament to how great it is. It’s a fantasy series with a young female protagonist that doesn’t feel at all like Twilight or any of the other copycats currently saturating YA fantasy literature. The series focuses on Alina Starkov and her journey to understand her new found place in the world, and even though it features possibly my least favourite YA trope, the dreaded love triangle, it’s done in a genuinely enjoyable and completely natural way. It’s such a refreshing read and I’m really excited for the spinoff series coming soon. I really recommend it!

4) Fangirl– Rainbow Rowell:

If fantasy isn’t your thing, don’t worry, ‘cause there’s a whole other load of great YA I can recommend that takes place in the -real- world. Although, Fangirl sits a bit in the middle. Stay with me, it makes sense, I promise. The book stars Cath, an introvert and loner who is just starting university. All of that part of the story is totally contemporary. It’s about friendship, and romance, and family, and growing up. It’s great. No witches, no ghouls, no monsters. But Cath’s passion lies with a very Harry Potter-esque series called Simon Snow, and the chapters about Cath’s life are interchanged with excerpts from the fanfiction she writes about him. So if you yourself were a fangirl/boy of Harry Potter growing up, Cath’s story is bound to resonate with you. It’s a really cute story that reminded me a lot of myself starting uni. Fangirl is a really great concept and is easily my favourite of Rowell’s (always fantastic) works. Go forth and read.

3) Lola and the Boy Next Door– Stephanie Perkins:

This is the second instalment in a loosely related series, and is definitely my favourite of the bunch! Again, I’ve already discussed this series in length before on here, but I want to sing its praises one more time. Out of all three books, Lola was the least annoying protagonist, and Cricket was the least pretentious love interest. It might seem like I’m scraping the barrel with that compliment, but I really did like this novel. The premise was cute, but still engaging, and wasn’t just the piece of fluff literature I expected when I picked it up. Lola reminded me a lot of my self as a teenager, and at that age I would have loooooved a guy like Cricket.  I read this book as a relaxing method whilst doing my TEFL course last August, so I really recommend it if you need something easy but enjoyable to help you relax. And isn’t that what YAs all about?

2) Vivian Versus the Apocalypse– Katie Coyle:

The premise of this book intrigued me immediately, and I still think it’s one of the most interesting novels I’ve read in years, YA or adult. The plot revolves around a cult-like religion that has taken America by storm, the rapture that happens because of it, and eventually, how Vivian deals with her new found life in an apocalyptic America. But is everything as it seems? That’s the mystery. AND what makes it such a fantastic and addictive story. It’s one of those books you read and think ‘wow, I wish I wrote that’. If I was Katie Coyle, I’d feel super proud of myself for writing such an entertaining and gripping book. I’d also wholeheartedly recommend the sequel, which doesn’t lose any of the charm of the original, and somehow manages to raise the WTF factor even further. Also the cover is beautiful… but you’re not meant to judge your books by that so I won’t mention it. Oh.

1) The Diviners– Libba Bray:

THIS BOOK. Man, I love this book. The Diviners is very special to me. Most notably because it’s the first book I ever purchased on my Nook, but mainly ‘cause it’s just so MAGIC. This story has everything I love in life. A plucky female protagonist, the roaring twenties (oh hai blog title), a serial killer, and the paranormal. It might sound like a total clusterfuck of genres and ideas, but somehow, it works. I have been painstakingly awaiting the sequel since I read the last word of this book, and now, after yeaaaaars, we’re finally close to the publication date (August 25th, aaaaaaah!). Unless it gets pushed back. AGAIN. In which case I will have to end my life because it would be unbearable to live without Evie, Sam, Jericho, and Will (who I can’t help but picture as Giles from Buffy whenever I read it). If you read any of the books I’ve suggested here, make it The Diviners. And then come back and try and tell me that it isn’t completely incredible.

So, that’s my five favourites for you. I mean, I’ll be the first to admit that some YA novels can be completely terrible, cringeworthy, ridiculous, unoriginal… the list goes on. But, and here’s the kicker, so can adult novels. I’ve read awful books from both age ranges. So whilst I’ll continue braving the path of grownup books (so far I can only really stomach fantasy, mystery, and horror), I’ll also continue with my love of YA. And I won’t be ashamed. Even if some of the worst books I’ve read this year have been YA, I won’t give up hope. I’m sure some more shining stars will appear soon enough and I might even get to write a sequel to this post. Here’s hoping.

Before I leave, however, I would like to give some honourable mentions to the cause: The Miss Peregrine’s Series by Ransom Riggs, Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, Beauty Queens by Libba Bray, and Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. You guys are great too.

Now, I should probably get back to the 40 book reading challenge I’m embarrassingly behind on. Ehhhhh.

Murder, Magic, & Marriage: Best Books of 2015 (Part 1)

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You might remember that back in December I said I was going to read 40 books in 2015. Well, it’s going okay. I’m a couple of books behind schedule, but some of the books I read were huge monsters so I’m not being too hard on myself. I’m really happy that I decided to push myself with this challenge (last year I only read a measly nineteen, but like, I did have the whole stress of moving countries and getting a TEFL and everything), because it’s really pushed me to read not only often, but also diversely. I got into a bad habit of reading fantasy novel after fantasy novel, and although a few of the books I’ve read this year have been fantasy, I’ve picked up a lot of other books that I wouldn’t have otherwise. So, almost halfway through the year, here are my favourite books of 2015 so far. You’re welcome.

4) Gone Girl– Gillian Flynn:

I know, I know. Everyone and their mother has read this book. Especially their mothers, this is a total mum at the beach book (and one of the only books my mum and I both agree is good). So I was totally late to the party with this book, I was putting it off for so long because I thought it wouldn’t live up to the hype. I will say that part of the push for me to finally read this book was equal parts not wanting the twist ruined for me and also really wanting to watch Neil Patrick Harris shirtless in the movie. No shame in admitting that, he’s a babe. But the book was great, and it almost makes me want to take more recommendations from my mother. Almost.

3) Yes Please– Amy Poehler:

So I never really liked non-fiction books up until last year, but since I made a conscious decision to read more books by funny women I admire, I’ve been on a roll. I love memoirs because it’s just like reading a really long Wikipedia page about someone I’m interested in… which is something I do frequently. Yes Please was super interesting and had a great mix of Poehler’s own anecdotes about life and actual useful advice. If Mindy Kaling’s memoir is my book best friend, Amy Poehler’s is my book cool aunt (not a regular aunt, a cool aunt). Who needs humans when you have books, right?

2) Rivers of London, Moon Over Soho, and Whispers Under Ground– Ben Aaronovitch:

Is it cheating to include three books in one? Probably, but I really love this series. It’s been sitting in my to read pile for years, but for some reason I kept putting it off. Big mistake. Peter Grant is such a hilarious and believable narrator. And like myself, if I suddenly discovered I was magical, he makes a lot of LotR and Harry Potter references. I can’t decide which of the books so far has been my favourite (I loved the Rivers subplot from the first book, but I was a lot more invested in the mystery of the third) and I’m super excited to read the next two books in the series. Beverley Brook better make another appearance soon. I’m also strangely now interested in a career in the police force. Weird.

1) The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear– Patrick Rothfuss:

Ooops, I did it again. More books by one author. But omg. These books. Yet another one I’ve been meaning to read for years, but it was so big and daunting and scary I just pretended it didn’t exist. With a long stint at an airport looming before me, I finally bit the bullet and downloaded the first book of the series. I devoured this book. The fantasy world is so complex and I love how Rothfuss really makes the characters come to life. My favourite part of this series is how he really tips the fantasy genre upside down… whilst still writing an amazing fantasy book. But I loved the second book even more. I read it in February and I still think about it on an almost daily basis. And now I am one with the rest of the fans of the series… waiting patiently for the final installment. And by patiently, I mean the complete opposite. COME TO ME, KVOTHE.

So… so what if I’ve only read thirteen books this year? I’m only three books behind schedule and I’m determined to catch up in the next few weeks. I feel a renewed love of reading that I hadn’t felt since before I studied literature at university. I read in bed before sleeping, I read in my breaks at work, I read on the metro and the bus. I LOVE READING. I don’t even know who I am anymore.

… Maybe I’ll go read some more. Y’know, just ‘til I figure that out.