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The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

The magical adventure begun in The Bear and the Nightingale continues as brave Vasya, now a young woman, is forced to choose between marriage or life in a convent and instead flees her home—but soon finds herself called upon to help defend the city of Moscow when it comes under siege.

Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya’s options are few: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both doom her to life in a tower, cut off from the vast world she longs to explore. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods. When a battle with some bandits who have been terrorizing the countryside earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, she must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop. (blurb taken from Goodreads)

It may well be still summer but I just spent three days under the snow covered trees in medieval Russia. This book tugged at my heart and took a huge chunk of it with it. It was beautiful. Katherine Arden’s writing is just so brilliant, she really puts effort into every single paragraph. I cried at mere sentences and marvelled at her skill as a writer. Her language is sophisticated and she manages to say so much with just a few words. It’s like poetry, really.

Rezultat iskanja slik za the girl in the tower

The Girl in the Tower picks up right where The Bear and the Nightingale ended, but it is much more action packed than the first book. That’s why I think it will appeal more to those who found the story a bit slow in The Bear and the Nightingale – here the pacing is fast and unexpected. I really loved the occasional references to the events that took place in the first book because they were there but the author didn’t summarise them fully which usually happens in series.

Morozko and Vasya are my dream team. I swooned over all their shared scenes and found them heart wrenching and at times almost unbearable. We get to see so much more of Morozko here, his story, his reasons for visiting Vasya, and Vasya herself has grown so much from the first book. She is a wonderful lead character and I adored her.

Arden’s characters are so well written, complex and fleshed out, full of flawes yet so lovable – in short they feel very realistic – it is a breeze of fresh air from the typical YA series where everyone is pretty much the same. Sasha and Olga were portrayed so intricately, I loved the way we got to see more of how and why they do the things that they do. This is character development at its highest.

Despite the fairy tale elements this book reads more like historical fiction than fantasy. Arden took great care to portray the medieval Russia properly; there is a mixture of politics, feminism, fairy tales, religion and the struggle for power. Vasya was trying to break free from the traditional role of women in Russian society and she deserves all the praise for that. The world building was just stunning.

Rezultat iskanja slik za the girl in the tower

The food! OMG, I loved the food descriptions. The writing in general was very atmospheric, it really transported me to that world despite the fact that I am currently on holiday and it’s hot outside – it felt chilly while reading the book. I really can’t tell you enough how much I adored this book. It got all the stars.

The trouble is, I’ll have to wait until January to read the next and final book in the series. How will I ever manage that?

Witch. The word drifted across his mind. We call such women so, because we have no other name.

Katherine Arden, The Girl in the Tower

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Audio books or e-books? Paperbacks or hardbacks?

Ever since I truly gave in to my bookish obsession, I spent most of my time hunting for harbacks on sale. Checking book depository every other day was part of a routine and I despised paperbacks. If a certain book wasn’t available in hardback, I’d despair over it and then grudgingly buy the paperback. My motto was: I may own fewer books but all of them are PROPER books. Meaning hardbacks, of course.

There is no denying it – hardbacks do look the prettiest on your shelves. The spines make for the most beautiful home decor you could ask for and they are far more resilient than paperbacks and don’t bend as easily. But they cost a lot more than paperbacks, sometimes even twice the price. And with books that are a bit older, perhaps not as mainstream and hyped as your typical YA fantasy series, it’s sometimes difficult to find a harback edition of your beloved novel.

IMG_20180227_190006_069Availability was actually the first reason why I switched to buying paperbacks. Well, not entirely switched – but I do buy more paperbacks now than I do hardbacks. A couple years ago I wanted to buy the Crestomanci series by Diana Wynne Jones and the only books available were paperbacks.When I started comparing the prices I did see that perhaps a change was necessary because I could get SO MANY books for the price of a hardback or two.

Today, my shopping habits are as following: for my favourite authors, such as Kate Morton, J. K. Rowling (I already preordered Lethal White, can’t wait to read it), Maggie Stiefvater, Laini Taylor and others, I usually order hardbacks just because I know I will love their books and since I already own most of what they’ve written in that format, it makes sense to continue with the tradition.

For new authors, I tend to buy a paperback first, just in case I end up not liking it (as was the case with Shadow and Bone – I still regret that purchase). Also, if a book isn’t available in hardback, I don’t cry about it anymore and just buy the paperback instead. I look after my books and rarely break the spines. I just really don’t like the look of a book with broken spines – I know, I know, books are meant to be read and enjoyed and it doesn’t matter how they look! But to me, it does matter. I like my books to stay as undamaged as they possibly can.

davWhen it comes to e-books, I do own a kindle and use it. When my library doesn’t have a certain book I want to read and especially if it is from an author I haven’t read before, then I download an e-book and read it on my kindle. If I really like the book, I then buy a physical copy of it. But since I am on a tight budget (I am still a student) I can’t afford to go on buying every single book I want to read. My library isn’t that well stocked either. So it’s very important to me to first check if I really like a book before I actually buy it in physical form. Too many times have I been burned like this – buying a book and then absolutely hating it (or at least disliking it very much).

This past year I’ve also started listening to audio books. I only listened to three audio books but I really liked all of them. It took me a while to get used to it and I did notice that my attention span was far shorter – I’m just not the listening type. Even in class, I remember very little if I only listen to the lecture, without taking notes. So audio books aren’t my favourite and best option, but I will try to encorporate more non-fiction audio books on my TBR.

If I had to choose only one format of a book to read for the rest of my life, I’d go with hardbacks in a heart beat. But I also have to admit that paperbacks are far more practical to read because they fit in your hands so perfectly. And e-books are great for non-English speaking countries because we don’t have that many English books in our libraries and so our choices are very limited. And audio books are perfect for when you are out and about, whether you like talking a walk every day or you’re commuting to somewhere.

What matters at the end of the day is consuming stories in all shapes and sizes and I truly do believe reading can change your life for the better. It is after all one of the cheapest ways of escapism – you just need a library card and you are set to go.

Enjoy your adventure.

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Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders… but her father isn’t a very good one. Free to lend and reluctant to collect, he has loaned out most of his wife’s dowry and left the family on the edge of poverty–until Miryem steps in. Hardening her heart against her fellow villagers’ pleas, she sets out to collect what is owed–and finds herself more than up to the task. When her grandfather loans her a pouch of silver pennies, she brings it back full of gold.

But having the reputation of being able to change silver to gold can be more trouble than it’s worth–especially when her fate becomes tangled with the cold creatures that haunt the wood, and whose king has learned of her reputation and wants to exploit it for reasons Miryem cannot understand. (blurb taken from Goodreads)

After I finished reading Uprooted at the start of the year which instantly became one of my favourite fantasy standalones, I was so eager to get to this book. I just knew I would love it as much as Uprooted because Novik has a wonderful writing style, magical and fairy tale inspired and she crafts such detailed worlds in her books, you are immediately transported to them after reading just one chapter. I was a bit scared at first because I kept wondering: “What if I don’t like the book? How can it possibly be as good as Uprooted?” but all my fears were squashed to death in the first hundred or so pages. This story captured my heart and filled me with so much joy.

The book is told by three main protagonists but we also get individual chapters which are written from the POV of other characters so we really get a rounded story at the end of it. I was a bit confused about the different narrators at the beginning because the chapters are only marked with numbers so you don’t immediately tell there’s been a shift in narration but once I picked up on that, it was fairly easy to see the different writing styles that each girl used to tell her side of the story.

Image result for spinning silverThis book is the perfect balance of character and plot driven narrative. Miryem, Wanda and Irina are all so different from each other but interesting in their own way and I was blown away by how the author changed her writing according to whichever girl was telling the story. That shows real skill! My favourite character was Miryem and I loved reading about her ventures in the winter kingdom. I think she was insanely brave and determined and heart warmingly generous.

Novik spins such a wonderful web of different stories; we have the fairy tale element, the retelling of the tale of Rumpelstiltskin, the historical background set around the Russian history and social injustice and religous prejudice towards the Jews, then we get to see some feminist ideas when Wanda refuses to marry the man her father picked for her. There is politics, the ever present battle for power, the good old darkness vs light power struggle, we have a bit of romance (although not enough for my taste, I have to admit) and at the center of it all is the friendship and love and compassion which holds us together.

I can’t say which book I loved more: Uprooted or Spinning Silver. They were both set in the same world and had elements of fairy tale and fantasy which were superbly portrayed and both books had such interesting female characters. I think I can honestly say that I love both books equally. Since I read Uprooted in Slovenian translation, it’s hard to compare the language but I can without doubt say that Novik’s writing style is rich and full of imagery, it fits so perfectly with the detailed world she has built.

The only thing that confused me in this book was the way the Staryk king spoke: I had to reread some of his paragraphs just to make sure I knew what he was saying because the language he uses is archaic. Still that adds to the experience and well done for thinking of it. Novik is without a doubt one of my favourite fantasy authors and I have yet to tackle her Temeraire series. I’m pretty sure I’m going to love it.

But it was all the same choice, every time. The choice between the one death and all the little ones.” 

Naomi Novik, Spinning Silver

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The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

In December I plan on writing a post on my most disappointing books of the year and this series will be somewhere near the top. Leigh Bardugo’s books get all the hype on Instagram and almost every bookstagrammer has at least one (if not more) photo of Six of Crows on their feeds. To be honest, I was sure I’d like this series as well, since it has such a high rating on Goodreads. As it turned out, I was sorely disappointed.

What annoys me the most is the fact that I actually bought the first book in the series! And not on book depository where it costs about 8 euros, no, I bought it at my local book shop, paid 13 euros for it and now it just sits there on my shelves, waiting for me to either sell it or give it to someone else. Though truth be told, I wouldn’t want to gift it to anyone because it was so bad.

Image result for grisha seriesThe first book in the series actually didn’t start off so bad or at least that’s what I tried to make myself believe. I did notice while reading it that I wasn’t that invested in the story and that the main character got on my nerves but I just thought that’ll pass by the time I get to the next book in the series. So I read the second book on my kindle and the beginning was midely interesting but then the story got SO BORING.

I struggled to read on and thought about DNF-ing it. When I reached 70 % I decided that was that, so I just skimmed through the rest to see what happens. SNOOZE FEST! I watched a video made by @booksundays on Youtube to see what happens in the third book just to see the story to the end. But I honestly can’t see why there is such a hype around this series and why people adore it.

First of all, the writing is poor. Think Stephenie Meyer on a bit of a higher level but that’s about it. Secondly, the characters are flat. In other words they are one dimensional and BORING. There is no depth in these books, I wasn’t emotionally involved AT ALL. Thirdly, the story plotline is repetitive and … can you guess it? Yes, BORING! Whilst the first book introduced the world and we get to see the mechanics of the politics and the power struggles, the second book just seemed pointless.

Our main protagonist Alina spends most of her time worrying about a boy, albeit her one true love, Mal. She is the most powerful Grisha in the world (with the exception of the Darkling), yet all she does is worry about her love interest. I am so fed up with this type of female protagonist. If you break down the second book, you realise that nothing really happens. You could easily shorten the book but no, the world needs more trilogies. *sigh*

When it comes to the story plotline, the second book offers such an obvious hint regarding Alina’s quest for the amplifiers that I immediately started to roll my eyes at it. You basically already know what will happen in the third book. I didn’t read it and I could easily predict it. What happens in the second book is basically this: Alina and Mal escape the Darkling, then they get caught, then they manage to escape again and then they are confronted by the Darkling … AGAIN.

Image result for leigh bardugo

Regarding the emotional depth (or lack of it), this series reminds me of the Vampire Academy though that series was better. The writing itself was better. I do think highly of having a distinct writing style and Bardugo’s just wasn’t good. There it is, I said it. I know you can’t objectively say why a certain writing style works and why it doesn’t. But Bardugo’s story telling is just so plain and rudimental. It lacks in the richness of the language which separates a good book from a great one.

Once again we get to see a YA fantasy series that is mediocre but somehow beloved by the readers and most especially by the bloggers. Talk about over hyped books. If you are a fan of YA fantasy books, I would urge you to pick up Laini Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer or Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys. These books are wonderful, the writing style is on a whole new level and the story is fresh and original.

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Jonathan Stroud: Lockwood and Co. books 3-5

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On Monday afternoon I managed to finish this jewel of a fantasy series. It is such a comfort read because the characters are at times insanely funny, their interactions filled with sarcasm and witty remarks, their affections towards each other unwavering, yet each one is so clearly fleshed out that you can’t help but picture them sitting right there beside you, watching over your shoulders while you read.

I read the final three books in the series while away on holiday and loved all of them. The cases which they investigate are so creepy (especially the one with the cannibal!) that I was afraid to read the books before bed. Character development can be spotted immediately if you read the books in succesion and I love that the reader gets to grow up with Lucy, Lockwood and George (who is by the way my favourite character in the books).

The arc of the series and the overall plot was genius! The revelation at the end of book 4 was just shocking and it plays nicely into book 5 where we finally get closure. That ending by the way, of book 5 and with it, the series – it made me very happy indeed. I also loved the fact that we got to see Lockwood’s story because if it would stay a secret, I would be mad as hell.

I’m quite sad to have read the entire series but then again I can just pick up the first book and start rereading it. Before I started book 3, I was quite disappointed with the YA genre in general because I’ve read the second book in the Grisha series and it was SO BAD! It just made me furious that this series gets so much recognition and praise when it’s written so poorly. Luckily Locwood and Co. delivers on a much higher level and it is superb.

I would highly recommend this series to fans of YA fantasy literature because although it’s not your typical story (there is much less romance for example, but the moments that are included are HEART WRENCHING), the characters are for example a bit younger when we first meet them, it is still essentially a YA paranormal series and the writing is BRILLIANT. Stroud is a master of his craft. So forget about the shitty Grisha-like stories and try this one instead – you might just find yourself with a new best friend.

 

Image result for lockwood and co

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The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

The third book of our beloved The Order of Fiction Book Club was The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. For both of us this jewel of a book became one of our yearly favourites and we actually listened to it on audio – the narrator is brilliant and her reading is magical. This book falls under the magical realism category and is perfect for fans of fantasy as well. Beware though of the trigger – rape and abuse. This is on one hand a major spoiler but as a firm believer in trigger warnings, this had to be said. The writing of the book is extremely beautiful and lyrical so the story reads as a modern day fairytale. Samanta and I decided to talk about two things with regards to the book.

The first is our favourite character and to me that was Viviene. She was the middle generation of the women in this book and I think I identified with her the most because she experienced depression and was unable to leave her home for a while. And the tragic love story that she had to endure broke my heart and that just made me love her even more. Her continuing story with Gabe was so bitter-sweet and I kept rooting for them to finally be together because Gabe was such a good person, so very kind and gentle. I did love the ending A LOT and I also loved Viviene’s character development, how she went from being hopelessly in love with that asshole Jack to finally getting over him and realising that true love was actually always there, waiting for her just a couple of steps away.

The second thing we talked about was the difference between plot driven stories and character driven narrative. This book was mostly character driven despite also being plot oriented but mostly it concentrated on the women of the family. For me this style of writing is my favourite. I don’t particularly like plot driven stories because I do care primarily about the characters and what drives them, what makes them tick. Also I value beautiful writing styles and this book definitely has that. The writing is absolutely stunning, mesmerising and enchanting. The characters were fleshed out so vividly, it really felt like we knew them, like they were our friends. And I think that’s what good writing is all about.

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Your Soul is a River by Nikita Gill

Hello, bookish people! It’s been a while, I know, but I’ve been super buys with uni and exams. I’m done with all that for now so you know what that means – bring on the books! 😀 My bookish friend Samanta (https://samyinbookworld.wordpress.com/) chose last month’s book for our book club and so we read a poetry collection called Your Soul is a River by Nikita Gill. While she loved the book, I found it to be too simplistic, Rupi Kaur-like and so I only gave it 3 out of 5 stars. There were some poems however, which I really liked and this was my favourite.

 

OCEAN PEOPLE

Some people grow entire oceans

inside themselves instead of hearts.

It’s  why they have more love to

give than anyone can ever return.

It’s why they awaken sometimes

to heartache and tear soaked pillows.

Sometimes it is a blessing to love something

so much more than you love yourself.

Sometimes it is a curse to love anything

so much more  than you love yourself.

What I love most about this poem is how it conveys the utter agony of being an overly emphatic, sensitive person. This is so me! I cry at commercials with cute kittens in them and it takes me a long time to get over a book hangover. I often wonder what it would be like to just feel flat all the time. To be emotionally stable. It feels like it would be so much easier to deal with general life stuff but at the same time it also feels so sad, to not be excited about your favourite books and obsessed with stories or TV series. There is a thin line and when you can walk properly on it, it means you get to enjoy life so much more. You just have to remind yourself not to step over into the moody parts.

Moving on from my favourite poem from this collection, Samanta and I chose another poem together which we both liked and we ended up choosing this one.

 

THIS BRUISED SKIN

I

To be fully human

fully kind and true

is full of bruising.

Because

that is how things

become soft.

II

What you have

hidden inside

your skin.

It is more precious

than diamonds

or gold.

 

This poem represents something completely different to me than it does to Samanta. What I see is the daily struggle of someone who suffers from mental illness. While our scars may not (always) appear on our physical bodies, we do wear them on the insides of our skin. And although it is pure hell sometimes, it also makes you a kinder and softer person. Someone who understands and doesn’t judge. And kindness is such an underestimated quality nowadays.

Despite the fact I didn’t love this book, there are some pretty good poems in it. I just don’t like this modern, tumblr inspired poetry, because too often it seems like a random sentence broken down into verse. And there is nothing wrong with that but at least try making it original and meaningful. I have yet to find a poetry collection that will inspire and move me (I’m counting on Jen Campbell’s Girl Aquarium).

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Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (part 2)

As promised, the second part of our book discussion. 🙂

7. Do you agree with Isola that “reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones”?      

I sure do! It often happens that when I read a book I really, really love, I can’t pick up a new one for a while. This also happened with this novel in fact. I was still thinking about the characters and living in Guernsey and I just couldn’t leave it and face the real world. And all the books I’ve read since, have been somewhat lacking. It’s gotten better now because a whole month has passed since I finished the book. But I do agree that reading great books, those that change you and stay with you, ruin you for the average story lines and you may even grow angry and impatient and even take it out on some harmless book from that decent authors that you used to kind of liked but now can’t bring yourself to even look at their books. I think this is the same with everything in life, for example great friendships ruin you for mere acquaintances because once you find that one person with whom you can talk effortlessly about anything, it’s hard to be patient and deal with boring people.

8. Guernsey book club brought different people together. Do you believe that books truly have the power to bring people together and in so help create a community?

Books are such a unique kind of art, they whisper different things to different people. A book is always being remade by the reader and it’s never the same for two people. So yes, I do agree that books have that magical quality about them that bring people together. I have a friend whose personality clashes with mine but one time, we both loved the same book and kept talking about it for hours even though we normally just chat about silly things!

9. There were many themes in the novel- war, love, books, and friendship to name a few. Which theme impacted you the most?

Friendship and the courage to stand up for what is right. Elizabeth’s bravery made such an impact on me and I felt crushed when I found out what happened to her and to Kit’s father. They seemed such good people and they should get their own happy ending but wars take all the happiness away and throw it in the ocean. What I found most endearing was how the book club took care of Kit without questioning what to do with her. They all shared their love and kindness with the child and that to me shows that love endures and friendships can extend even beyond one’s lifetime. I also loved the notion of books as this universal forces of friendship and bonding and how they read to keep boredom away and shared stories with each other in order to make their lives more tolerable.

 10. Through researching material for her book, Juliet got first-hand accounts of many Guernsey’s residence memories of the Occupation. Which memories or stories made an impact on you? Which one was the most memorable?

The most memorable were the terrible stories of Guernsey’s prisoners. How they were left to death, how they roamed the island searching for food. How they were basically treated like meat because they were expendable. What a horrific notion. I also took to heart the stories of evacuated children. I cannot even imagine how terrible it must’ve been, to not see your children or grandchildren for several years and to not know if they were all right. But what made me feel better is to hear the stories of German soldiers who shared their medicines with worried mothers, desperately trying to save their children. This showed such compassion and universal love, it made the unbearable war stories slightly less painful.

 

 

 

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Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (part 1)

My reading buddy @samyinbookworld (https://samyinbookworld.wordpress.com/) and I have started our very own book club! We named it “The Order of Fiction” book club thanks to our mutual love for Harry Potter. Each month we will be reading one book and then have a discussion about it. The first book we chose was Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and we both ADORED it and even shed some tears. We cannot wait for the film to come out so we can see how true it will stay to the book. I’ve probably watched the trailer more times than I’d cared to admit but I just love this story and these characters so much. Be sure to subscribe to both of our blogs to receive notifications on our next book.

  1. Why did you even decide to pick up this book?

There are two reasons; the first is that I saw the movie trailer and thought it was fantastic, the story seemed so compelling and I loved the idea behind the film, the fact that books saved a group of people who suffered under the German occupation. Just the overall love of reading is what drew me in. The second reason is that my favourite booktuber Jen Campbell talked about the book and how she found it just absolutely stunning and that was that final cherry on top – I immediately went to the library and started reading it. I think I read like a third of the book on that evening, it was just that good.

  1. What was it like to read a novel composed entirely of letters? What do letters offer that no other form of writing (not even emails) can convey? What is the role of handwritten letters today?

This wasn’t the first novel written in letters that I’ve read – I also read Love, Rosie by Cecilia Ahern and Dangerous Liaisons by Choderlos de Laclos. I believe that novels written in letters offer an in-depth view into the souls and personalities of each character. Writing is such a personal act, it’s just you and that blank sheet of paper and it is completely different to writing emails or texting. It is a much more intimate gesture, to send someone a handwritten letter. So when you receive a letter and read it, it’s like you’re holding a piece of that person’s soul in your hands, an imprint of the person they were in that moment of writing. Unfortunately, letter writing lost its charm and very few people still exchange letters today. I myself am quite old-fashioned when it comes to this and I still exchange letters with friends I don’t see often. Receiving a handwritten letters for me is one of the greatest pleasures in life.

  1. Dawsey first wrote to Juliet because books, on Charles Lamb or otherwise, were so difficult to obtain on Guernsey in the aftermath of the war. What differences did you note between bookselling in the novel and bookselling in your world? What makes book lovers unique, across all generations?

There is one obvious difference and that is the shear availability of books. Nowadays almost everything is available to purchase by simply clicking on a few buttons and I think we can’t even imagine what it’s like to not be able to buy something. In the book, Dawsey received a letter from a bookseller who tried to find him a copy of a book and that to me sounds completely bizarre. All I have to do to buy a book today is go on book depository or amazon and there it is. But the personal touch gets lost in this process. I still prefer going to an actual bookshop to purchase books but the problem is that our local bookstores’ offer is very limited regarding books in English so often I just buy the books I want online.

I believe that what makes book lovers unique is their ability to see the myriad of stories which surround us. A reader lives a thousand lives and we get to experience so much: historical eras which are far away in the past, magical worlds with laws completely different to ours, and we can even glimpse into a potentially real version of the future. This ability to believe and to hold different stories, different possibilities in our mind are what separates a reader from a non-reader. The fact that we believe things can be different. Books also cause an irreparable damage if you ask me, because we are never quite satisfied with the world in which we are forced to live.

  1. Discuss the poets, novelists, biographers and other writers who capture the hearts of the members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. What does a reader’s taste in books say about his or her personality?

This can be a tricky question to answer. On one hand I don’t believe that someone’s taste determines their personality but it can show us some of the things that that person values and cherishes the most. For example those who love fantasy novels (myself included) tent to be more creative and open-minded. For me this also means that I can get melancholic because I find our lives to be quite boring when I compare them with books. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – thing would be so much easier and so much better if I were a witch. For example readers who “enjoy” just the classics and frown upon YA set my teeth on edge. Each genre offers so much variety, from shitty books which were probably written in a month and never edited to really terrific novels that crush your heart and leave you to pick up the pieces. And I really hate it when people, who often don’t even read YA, trash talk about it and make me feel inferior because of my reading tastes. Live and let live – the same can be said for books. Read what you love and don’t criticize other people’s tastes. For me, reading widely across different genres is the mark of true intelligence and curiosity.

  1. Juliet rejects marriage proposals from a man who is a stereotypical “great catch.” How would you have handled Juliet’s romantic entanglement? What truly makes someone a “great catch”?

I would most probably have acted the same. While Mark Reynolds sounded perfect on paper, in reality he got on my nerves A LOT. He was so full of himself and acted as though the war never happened and he just went on with his life but the war changed everything and everyone. Dawsey was such a better match for Juliet, he was kind and patient and I just loved his relationship with Kit. I’d like to think I would’ve done the same as Juliet though I would probably be less subtle about it and grew impatient and just started yelling at the poor man. For me, a “great catch” is such a constructed idea, it is completely bonkers. Yes, we all have our fantasies and ideal partners but in reality what matters the most is that you respect and love each other and have enough patience to stick through it even when the honeymoon phase is over. For me, a great catch is someone who is kind and respectful, someone who talks about a problem when they are faced with it and someone who is loyal to the bone and willing to put in that extra effort to make a relationship work.

  1. Which of the members of the Society is your favourite?

My favourite is probably Dawsey, I loved reading his letters. He just seemed to be such a rock solid kind of person, someone who stands firmly on the ground and is always there for you when you need him. My favourite moment of his was when the awful lady from the church came to his house and found him reading when he was supposed to be working. That pretty much sums up my life. And I also found it terribly endearing how kind he was with Kit and how she never ever bothered him. He just showered her with love but in his own quiet, unobtrusive way.

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Wrap-up: April 2018

April was such a stressful month for me, I literally have no idea what happened during these 30 days. Since I had so much work to do for uni, I didn’t get to read as much as I wanted to but those books that I did manage to read, were absolutely wonderful, I think I gave five start to all of them. So these are the books I managed to read in April:

  • The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (Winternight Trilogy #1)
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
  • The Curse by Jina S. Bazaar (Roxanne Fosch #0.5)
  • Heir of Ashes by Jina S. Bazaar (Roxanne Fosch #1)
  • The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud (Lockwood & Co. #2)

I also managed to reread some of my feel-good novels from the lovely Joss Stirling and these two were the ones I picked:

  • Angel Dares by Joss Stirling (Benedicts #5)
  • Summer Shadows by Joss Stirling (Benedicts #6)

Since I wrote full reviews on most of these books, I won’t get into too much details. Besides all of the books listed above I also read some short stories from Unexpected Magic: Collected Stories by Diana Wynne Jones. Now, I started reading this collection at the beginning of the year but something just seems off about it, I honestly have to struggle to finish a story. I adored the Crestomanci short stories but these are just weird and not my cup of tea. I only have one left, but it’s a pretty long novella, so it will take me some time to finish.

My lovely Benedict brothers brightened my too-dark days and I’m really glad I bought the entire series. I just keep going back to them and when there’s nothing left, I read fanfiction. I normally don’t read fanfiction but this series is the exception and I even wrote two stories myself, about my favourite Benedict brother, Victor. Honestly I have no idea why I’m so obsessed with this series. *sigh*

May is going to be even busier than April so I probably won’t have time to read as much. That’s okay, though, I will catch up during the summer. Now if I had to pick my favourite book of last month, I’d probably pick Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society though I also adored The Bear and the Nightingale. But Guernsey just broke my heart and I know this book will always have a bit of my soul.

Speaking of this absolutely stunning novel, my bookish friend Samanta and I (https://samyinbookworld.wordpress.com/) started our very own book club! And this was the first book we read together. We’ll write a joined post on it somewhere in the (hopefully near) future. And we already decided on what our next read will be. Now we just need to find the time to start reading it.

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The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud (Lockwood & Co. #2)

In the six months since Anthony, Lucy, and George survived a night in the most haunted house in England, Lockwood & Co. hasn’t made much progress. Quill Kipps and his team of Fittes agents keep swooping in on Lockwood’s investigations. Finally, in a fit of anger, Anthony challenges his rival to a contest: the next time the two agencies compete on a job, the losing side will have to admit defeat in the Times newspaper.

Things look up when a new client, Mr. Saunders, hires Lockwood & Co. to be present at the excavation of Edmund Bickerstaff, a Victorian doctor who reportedly tried to communicate with the dead. Saunders needs the coffin sealed with silver to prevent any supernatural trouble. All goes well-until George’s curiosity attracts a horrible phantom. 

Back home at Portland Row, Lockwood accuses George of making too many careless mistakes. Lucy is distracted by urgent whispers coming from the skull in the ghost jar. Then the team is summoned to DEPRAC headquarters. Kipps is there too, much to Lockwood’s annoyance. Bickerstaff’s coffin was raided and a strange glass object buried with the corpse has vanished. Inspector Barnes believes the relic to be highly dangerous, and he wants it found. (blurb taken from Goodreads)

 

Jonathan Stroud’s writing is filled with magic and great character development, but I still think there was something missing in this book. I much preferred The Screaming  Staircase because it was more character driven and the plot was just absurdly genius. This book however… I still liked it, don’t get me wrong, I just didn’t fall in love with it quite the same way.

The ending was utterly shocking, but then again so was the ending of the first book. What Stroud does so well is he creates this incessant need for his books, like you just have to read the next one or else you’ll burst with anticipation. That is a brilliant way to write a series because it urges the reader to go on and continue with it.

Lockwood, Lucy and George are still one of my favourite characters of all time but I felt like they had a side role in this book. There was a lot of insinuation regarding Lucy and Lockwood (YAAAS!) and I kept waiting for something to happen and nothing did. You better not disappoint me in the third book, Stroud! George was as awkward and lovable as ever and he is just the central part of this group in my opinion.

Some scenes were so outrageously hilarious, I laughed at loud till I started crying! Stroud is such a funny author, I adore his humour. The plot line was a bit predictable, especially the identity of the villain, I had a hunch about them from the beginning. It wasn’t as scary as the first book, which was also a bit disappointing (and I dislike scary books!). That extra something just wasn’t there for me.

I am really curious to see what happens in the third book, especially after that shocking ending! And I do hope we see Lucy and Lockwood’s relationship progress (oh, please, please, please). Despite the fact that this is classified as YA, I think fans of fantasy will adore this series. It has just the right amount of humour and action and the characters feel like family when you read about them.

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Heir of Ashes by Jina S. Bazzar

Roxanne Fosch had a perfectly normal life at the age of twelve. Cool, popular, pretty, smart. Her dreams of a perfect, successful and prosperous future seemed well within her grasp.
By the time she was twenty-two she had become a commodity. A fugitive. She was being hunted.
As Roxanne embarks on the dangerous quest to search for half-truths about her past, she discovers she’s not just an abnormal human, but a rarity even among her Fee peers.
She is hunted by scientists, keen to exploit her extraordinary abilities, as well as other beings far more dangerous whose plans for her she cannot fathom. (blurb taken from Goodreads)

I read The Curse which is the prequel to Heir of Ashes first and I ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT! The story line was so complex and original, though I did wish for more explanations but since it is just a prequel it works perfectly. We were introduced to this mystical world of supernatural beings and to an unlikely love story which ended tragically. This was the opening to Roxanne’s story and it was by far the best prequel I’ve read.

Heir of Ashes was a wonderful urban fantasy novel though I did wish it would contain more fantasy elements, like the prequel. Roxanne was such a great main character, strong, independent, flawed, but still determined to gain her freedom and lead the life she wanted. I admired her courage and the fact that she didn’t sulk and gave in to self-pity. She knew how to handle herself and exploit her strenghts.

Logan was also a great character though I wish we’d learn more about his past (maybe in the next book? I sure hope so.) and his relationship with Archer and Roxanne’s father. The only thing that bothered me about Roxanne and Logan was the fact that Logan kept rescuing her. I mean she’s way stronger than him, why couldn’t she save herself? I do wish the tables will turn in the next book and that Roxanne will get a chance to save him from a deadly opponent or something similar.

The action scenes were a bit too long for my taste and the book itself is quite long which at times didn’t work so well. But overall I really enjoyed the story and would definitely recommend it to fans of urban fantasy and fantasy novels. The one thing I LOVED about this book was the fact that Roxanne wasn’t a teenager. Finally we get a twenty-something-year-old for a main character! How refreshing!

I am very curious about Roxanne’s next move and her relationship with Logan and about the entire supernatural world. Hopefully we’ll get to see more of that in the next book. The writing style was superb and the story kept moving in a fast pace, so I wasn’t bored. I also felt like a lot of thought went into the dialogue which I highly appreciate because a lot of YA fantasy novels are pretty predictable regarding that.

Thank you Jina S. Bazzar for sending me a copy of your book for review, I thoroughly enjoyed myself while reading it and Logan is probably somewhere in my top ten favourite fictional boyfriends. Roxanne was such a delight and I feel like the story really explored her pysche and her background and we got to know her pretty well. I can’t wait to see where life takes her next!

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Spring fatigue – the real thing

Last week some of my classes got cancelled (and some of them I just skipped) so I ended up staying at home for four days straight. I had this great idea in my head that I will finally catch up on some uni reading and I’ll start writing papers and generally be productive. Well, the reality was the complete opposite.

After giving myself Thursday off to finish reading Guernsey’s Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, I woke up on Friday morning completely exhausted and with absolutely zero energy and motivation to leave my bed. I did eventually get up but I just couldn’t bring myself to do anything that day. The same thing happened on Saturday. On Sunday afternoon I finally mustered enough energy to do what I neeeded to get done for my Monday classes.

I’ve always thought that spring fatigue was just a myth, something that affected other people. Well this year the little elf knocked on my doors as well and on his way out, he took all my energy and motivation. I am left empty and exhausted and in a constant state of worry and anxiety.

Some of this is also directly connected to my unstable mental health and so now I have to deal with draining mood swings which leave me disoriented and fragile. And I hate this feeling of helplessness, of thinking that no matter how much self-love you practice, some days you just wake up and the world crashed down on you and you have to crawl beneath the rubble to find your way back to the surface.

Okay, I’ll stop complaining now. University has been hectic lately and I can’t wait for mid May when things will calm down a bit. I have so many wonderful books on my TBR pile that I can’t wait to read. I’m also super excited to start a book club with a fellow bookblogger – though I don’t know when we’ll find the time to actually start reading what we want, not what we have to.

These past few days I’ve started reading some cheesy romance novels, just to take my mind off everything I have to do for uni. I love the predictability and the fact that my brains can rest for a while. I roll my eyes at the cheesy bits but since I only skim through the pages it’s not that bad. Sometimes you just need something easy and light to keep you company in the evenings. So this is where you’ll find me these days – licking my wounds with a romance novel in one hand and a chocolate bar in the other.

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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb…. 

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all. 

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever. (blurb taken from Goodreads)

 

April is turning out to be a wonderful reading month for me because this was the second book I’ve read and it was spectacular. I cried at times and laughed at the jokes but what this book offers most is the sense of kinship and the importance of stories and kindness and friends. It is a heartbreaking portrayal of wartime difficulties and the devastating consequences that followed. It is one of those books that I think would appeal to a variety of readers, no matter their genre preferences.

The epistolary format was such a fun way to portray the different personalities and to share their personal stories and different ways of seeing the world. Each character was meticulously crafted though of course the story is centred around the members of the society. My favourite character was Isola, I just found her so funny and peculiar.

The historical background was pretty hard to digest, because we are talking about the atrocities that occured during the WWII and you cannot make them into less horrendous than they really were. The book gives just enough (and at the same time far too much) to learn what happened to the people of Guernsey during the German occupation and what happened to those that were sent to concentration camps.

What I loved about this book was the sense of hope that lies in its pages. Despite the fact that we see so much of what occured during the war, we still see hope and the possibility that it will get better. I think that is a strong message and something that the world needed at that time. We see such a love of books that can transcend even decades and the most awful circumstances in which we may find ourselves. Books, stories, are what save us from ourselves.

I would definitely recommend this book to everyone, especially to avid readers who can appreciate the power of storytelling. A word of warning, though: this book will take a piece of your soul and claim it as its own. Bring tissues.

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The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

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At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind–she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed–this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales. (blurb taken from Goodreads)

 

Yesterday morning I set my alarm clock to 7 o’clock so I could finish this wonderful, heartbreaking story about old spirits, a beguiling winter demon and a courageous girl whose eccentricity put fear into the hearts of her fellow villagers. This book is a true jem of fantasy literature and I am already counting down days till the paperback release of the second part in the series. It is filled with magic and love and interesting characters and the language is rich and inventive.

What I love most about this book is the portrayal of family relations and the love that binds siblings together no matter what. Alyosha was probably my favourite character besides Vasya because he stood by her side despite what others said about her. He didn’t let society shape his opinion, instead he had a mind of his own and I loved him for that.

Vasya was such a great main character, unique and resilient and brave despite her fears. The winter demon was the most enigmatic character in the book which I did expect because he is after all the lord of the winter. The scenes in the last third of the book were so wonderful and filled with little hints, I couldn’t help but guess what would happen in the next two books.

Although I like romance in a fantasy novel, I actually didn’t miss it here. I mean, there were some hints of a romance woven in there but it was far from your typical YA love story. I wouldn’t even call it a love story, perhaps just a glimpse into what could (will?) happen. The mixture of old spirits and Christianity was tackled spectacularly and I thought the fear of the unknown was so realistically portrayed, I completely understood why people used to burn witches or so called wise women at stakes.

The characters were layered and not one of them was purely good or bad. Konstantin’s struggles pained me but he got on my nerves because of his fierce piousness and Anna Ivanovna seemed just crazy to me. The overall plot, the battle between good(ish) and bad was very original in its form and I honestly didn’t know what would happen next. I was glad to see the author wasn’t afraid to kill off some of the characters, even the ones I liked.

The story started a bit slow but man it picked up the pace. The last third of the book was so intense, I got freaked out at some parts and was even scared to go to bed, it was that scary. I think the story hinted at a lot of things, but the hints were so well crafted, it’s difficult to say what to expect next. I just know I’ll pre-order the second book and read it as soon as it arrives in the mail.

I urge fans of fantasy and YA literature to pick up this book and read it in one sitting. It’s insanely good and unlike anything I’ve read. It instanly became one of my favourite reads of the year and it’s barely April.

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Wrap-up: March 2018

The sun is shining and it’s finally getting warmer. After a long and bitterly cold winter, I welcome the spring like a cat sunbathing on a tiled roof (which is what I was observing during my classes on Thursday because why would you listen to the professor if you can admire a stray cat sitting on a roof next door?). March wasn’t actually a good reading month for me because I sort of hit a slump. I felt pressured into reading review copies and so I ended up reading what I had to instead of what I wanted to. Plus when I finally got to read what I wanted, the book disappointed me big time and I just became angry and frustrated.

Despite my reading slump I did manage to read 6 books which isn’t at all bad. Besides that I also reread some of my favourite feel-good books but since I only read the parts I loved, not the whole books, I will list them separately. So here are the books I read last month:

  • The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night by Jen Campbell
  • Son by Lois Lowry
  • Happily by Chauncey Rogers
  • Legend’s Legacy by Amanda Witow
  • Mariana by Susanna Kearsley
  • Keepers by Sacha de Black

Rereading:

  • Finding Sky by Joss Stirling
  • Seeking Crystal by Joss Stirling
  • Misty Falls by Joss Stirling

My favourite book of last month was Keepers by Sacha de Black and I actually finished reading it on the last day of the month! So despite the previous disappointments, the month ended pretty good. I posted an entire review of it just this week so I won’t get into too much details here. Suffice it to say I absolutely loved the book and I am (im)patiently waiting for the sequel to come out.

The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night was my second favourite of the month. Jen Campbell is my favourite booktuber and I love watching her videos, her voice has a surprisingly calming effect on me. While I really enjoyed reading her short stories, I was impressed by some and indifferent towards others. This always happens with short stories so it’s hard to rate the entire book. But I would definitely recommend it to fans of fairytale retellings and magic realism.

Next I read two books which were sent to me by the authors in exchange for an honest review and since I already posted reviews on both of them, you can stroll back through the review section on my blog and read more about Happily and Legend’s Legacy. Also, I won’t get into too much detail about the biggest disappointment of the month, Mariana, because I ranted about it in a separate review, so go read that as well if you want to hear my opinion on it. While the story seemed compelling after reading the blurb, the actual writing was just terrible.

I finished a series this month, and although I loved the first three books in the Giver quartet, the final book Son didn’t deliver it for me. I felt like the book could’ve been way shorter, like the others in the series, and some parts were just redundant. The ending was a bit rushed and I would’ve liked to see more of it. Overall I was highly impressed by this series and I totally understand why readers are in love with it, the story is so unique and complex and it offers a lot in merely 200 pages per book.

Last of all, I reread some of my favourite feel-good/guilty pleasure books in my beloved Finding Sky series. I know this series isn’t the best of what YA has to offer but I just adore the characters and the writing and the warm sensations I get when I pick up the books. Whenever I’m feeling sad I reread some of my favourite parts of the books and it makes me feel less alone. And isn’t that the whole reason behind why we read?

My bookish friend and fellow bookblogger Samanta from Samyinbookworld (https://samyinbookworld.wordpress.com/) is hosting a readathon this weekend and I wanted to join her if even for a day but our kitchen is being remodelled and I have a presentation on Monday so unfortunately I had to pass on the offer. I am however thinking of doing a readathon later in the month, perhaps before or during spring break. I do have a lot of books to read so it would be a perfect oportunity to cut down the size of my TBR pile. Even though I am constantly adding new books to it so it’s pretty much a mission impossible to have any kind of control over it.

Have a lovely bookish weekend!

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Keepers by Sacha de Black

Saving the world is easy: all Eden has to do is die.

Seventeen-year-old Eden East’s life is perfect… until her soul is bound to her worst nightmare. Then her parents are brutally murdered, and everyone’s a suspect, including her best friend.

As her world spirals out of control, a charismatic Siren, from a past she can’t remember, returns offering help, hope, and a heap of distractions.

Eden must put aside her grief to solve the mystery of her parents’ murder. In a race against time, can she break the binding to her enemy before he destroys her and her world? 

Three lives. 
Two murdered parents. 
One deadly choice.

(blurb taken from Goodreads)

 

Disclaimer: a free copy of this book was kindly sent to me in exchange for an honest review.

This book was AMAZING. I cannot express how much I loved it and how I wished it were longer. The characters were rich and complex and had such detailed and well script backgrounds (which is not often the case with YA) that I couldn’t help falling madly in love with them. The ending sort of broke my heart a little because there is a HUGE PLOT TWIST but I loved every second of it.

The first thing I noticed while reading this book was how well the author created the world in which the story is set. Basically the country is divided into sections or smaller countries and each has its own peculiarities and they were all intriguing, I loved reading about them and wanted to learn more. I think Sacha de Black did a lot of research and it shows in the quality of her writing.

The characters were so lovable and complex, they weren’t just goody goodies but they also struggled a lot. Trey had a great background story, he was so interesting and I loved reading about him, I started swooning every time his name was mentioned. Eden’s was a very brave character and I really admired her for it. I wasn’t a huge fan of Victor, much less Evelyn but I did love the side characters and felt like they were my new best friends.

The romance, oh, the romance. So sweet and gentle and powerful, I absolutely loved it. I rooted for them all the way (I won’t say who because I don’t want to spoil it for you, just go and read the book, it’s really good!). I think this book offers so much it is a must read for fans of YA and fantasy. It’s the best self-published book I’ve come across so far.

The overall story was well structured and balanced. I didn’t like the whole prophecy bit just because it reminded me a bit of Harry Potter and the identity of the main villain was also pretty obvious. The only thing that bothered me was the length of the novel, I really wished it was longer, more descriptive but since it’s the first part of a series I look forward to finding out more about this wonderful and interesting world.

I want to thank the author for gifting me a signed copy of the book, I will treasure it forever and I hope we’ll get to read more about Eden soon. I know I’m dying to find out what happens next!

 

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Goal setting and monthly challenges – Thanks, but no thanks.

For two months now, I’ve been setting monthly goals for myself to try and be more productive. After watching many Youtube videos and reading articles about the importance of goal setting and how much more likely you are to achieve a certain goal if you write it down, I thought to myself, well, maybe I should try it out.

My monthly goals were focused primarly on books and writing and then I also added a lifestyle section. Last month for example I challenged myself to a two weeks break from eating sugar and I actually managed to do it! This month I focused on my writing and so I challenged myself to write for 30 minutes each day.

When it comes to books and reading, I set a rough goal of how many books I wanted to read in a certain month and I also added some titles. These were mostly the books that were sent to me for review. At first I felt really motivated and whenever I achieved a goal, I ticked it off with a most satisfying feeling.

But then the initial euphoria started to wear off and I became increasingly frustrated and anxious. I kept looking at my to do list and if I took an afternoon off from reading and blogging and reviewing, I felt terribly guilty and I couldn’t relax at all. The list was always in the back of my mind but instead of feeling motivated to tick the goals off, I felt pressured into doing everything that needed to be done.

Even reading became a daily task, a must do, and the fun was sucked out of it. Finally I said to myself, enough, and I stopped looking at the list altogether. What I found works better for me, isn’t setting monthly or weekly goals, but instead writing down the things I’d already accomplished. For example, I keep a list of books I’ve read and reviewed and by adding new titles to it, I feel more productive and therefore have more motivation to continue with the work.

I’m not saying goal setting doesn’t work, it works for some people, but I’ve found that it has the opposite effect on me and only adds to my already high levels of anxiety. My memory serves me just fine and so instead of having an endless to do list, I keep it in my mind because I already know what I have to do. But by writing down the tasks AFTER I finish them, adds to me feeling more accomplished and productive.

I still have a monthly spread in my bullet journal (if you can call it that) to see what things I have to do for uni each week, but instead of writing down my goals, I just try doing the best that I can each day and I don’t feel bad about taking an afternoon or even a whole day off if that’s what I need. Productivity is great but burning out in the hopes of achieving it is not something I would strive towards.

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Mariana by Susanna Kearsley

The first time Julia Beckett saw Greywethers she was only five, but she knew that it was her house. And now that she’s at last become its owner, she suspects that she was drawn there for a reason.

As if Greywethers were a portal between worlds, she finds herself transported into seventeenth-century England, becoming Mariana, a young woman struggling against danger and treachery, and battling a forbidden love.

Each time Julia travels back, she becomes more enthralled with the past…until she realizes Mariana’s life is threatening to eclipse her own, and she must find a way to lay the past to rest or lose the chance for happiness in her own time. (blurb taken from Goodreads)

 

This book is a classic example of a good plot turn wrong. Looking back, I honestly don’t know why I didn’t DNF-ed it at the beginning, I was probably hoping it would improve (spoiler alert: it didn’t) but this was such a waste of my time, I grow frustrated  when I think about it. The plot sounded really interesting to me because it reminded me of Outlander and I saw such good reviews on Goodreads, I thought to myself, this must be a wonderful book. IT WASN’T.

The characters were seriously under developed, even the main two characters, Julia and Mariana. You basically don’t know who these people you’re reading about really are. The book is classified as a romance novel but there is hardly any romance there. Sure, you have the story set in the past, but you basically jump from two people meeting for the first time directly to the you-are-my-true-love part. It didn’t make any sense.

The ending was totally unexpected and again, DID NOT MAKE ANY SENSE. If you choose to encorporate such a big plot twist, then you need to add some hints or at least don’t do it on the final page. Come on. What was the point of everything else then? I always prefered Iain to Geoff but the ending just made me angry.

The historic background is a joke. There is some, but very little, historical descriptions which this book desperately needed. The writing style was plain and simple, nothing special. It ruined the story (which was already bad) for me. The dialogue of Mariana and Richard was just weird. I get you’re trying to be historically accurate, but it came out just plain weird.

The story has so much inconsistencies and loose ends. It held potential but it disappointed me a lot. I was bored while reading it. I wanted to learn more about everything and all I got were vague remnants and impressions. Honestly, I don’t know why this book has such a high rating and why people love it. The story doesn’t work well at all, the characters are flat and boring, the plot line is all over the place and the language is that of a high school writer. This will be the first and the last Susanna Kearsley novel I ever read. Diana Gabaldon is a goddess compared to her.

 

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Happily by Chauncey Rogers (spoilers free)

Happily Ebook Cover

 

If the shoe fits, wear it.
If it doesn’t, make it.

Laure is a teenage street urchin just trying to get away. Where the rest of the world sees an enchanting love story, Laure sees royal incompetence and an opportunity to exploit it. She’ll have wealth and a way out of a life she detests, if she can only manage to hoodwink the royal family and survive to tell the tale.

 

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

While Cinderella isn’t my favourite fairytale, I do like fairytale retellings and I especially love characters who aren’t your typical goody goodies and can perhaps be classified even as criminals (which Laure totally is – I mean she steals stuff). So I was delighted to read Rogers’ take on Cinderella to see his spin on the story we all know (and love or in my case feel like it’s too cheesy).

The book starts off at a fast pace and that never slows down. I loved the fact that we were thrown into the action and there wasn’t time for being bored. Laure was a refreshing character, selfish, yes, but still a good person which is how I think most of us are. Luc wasn’t your typical good guy, ultra handsome and splendidly skilled, he was just a regular guy who tried to provide for his family and he was also extremely kind which I loved.

I laughed on several occasions, I especially liked how the royal family was portrayed. There is no prince charming in this book. King Justin scared me a bit and I was annoyed with him so I was glad to read about where he ended up. The relationship between Laure and Luc grew slowly but surly and alhough you could argue that they fell in love pretty soon, the amount of obstacles they had to plow through in that short amount of time was huge. So I understand why they would feel the way they did so shortly after they met.

What bothered me the most was the ending because it was a bit too sappy for my taste (though it wasn’t really what I expected) and I would’ve liked to see more complexity in the story. Sure, the turns were unexpected and they were far from typical, but at the end of the day it’s a pretty simple story. Fairytales are simple as well, so if you look at it from that point of view, this story works. But I do prefer more dark themes and complex story lines and that’s why I gave this book 4 stars out of 5.

I would definitely recommend this book to fans of fairytales, Cinderella and to those who love to read a fun, fast paced and funny YA novel. You will certainly enjoy yourself a lot.

 

 

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Seasonal favourites: Winter 2018

Winter is almost over (finally!) and I thought it was time to talk about some things I’ve been loving in the past couple of months. Obviously the most important things on this list are books – I’ve had a pretty good reading start to the year though I think that’s starting to change. I’ve also watched some amazing films and TV series and I want to share them with you.

First of all the best books of this winter were (in no particular order) Uprooted by Naomi Novik, La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman and The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. I’ve posted reviews on all of these books so I won’t get too much into details here, they were all wonderful and one of my favourite fantasy books of all times and I can’t wait to read them again. This winter has been great for reading fantasy literature.

The next thing I want to talk about is my favourite TV series (and no, it’s not Arrow). I actually started watching Victoria again and I love Jenna Coleman so much, I think she’s great as queen Victoria. I’m not a huge fan of the actor who plays Albert but maybe he’ll grow on me, I am currently still watching season 1 so perhaps that will change with season 2. This series has reminded me how much I love period dramas. Downton Abbey has got to be my favourite TV series and Victoria is just as wonderful.

I’ve seen quite a lot of films this past months but the one that sticks out is Black Panther. To tell you the truth, I am not the biggest Marvel fan because the stories are too similar for my liking and the films packed with action and not enough character development, but I went to see Black Panther on opening night and I my mind was blown away. IT WAS SO GOOD. Not only was the story more original and complex than in your average Marvel film but the female characters were just amazing. I can’t wait to see more of them in the upcoming Avengers film.

Moving on to my favourite music of this past winter, I actually didn’t listen to any new bands. However, I did listen to a lot of Disney soundtracks. I know, I know, I’m supposed to be an adult. But I learned that listening to Disney songs while studying or writing papers really helps me relax. Even now, I’m listening to a piano versions of the songs on Youtube and I feel surprisingly calm.

I can go on talking about my favourite food of this winter (chocolate cake with red wine infusion), my favourite drink (mint tea) and my favourite piece of clothing (my Harry Potter sweat pants) but I think those are pretty self explanatory. I’m trying to decide about a favourite moment but there were too many of them to choose from (plus I forgot like half of them). For my last favourite category I chose favourite book purchase and it has to be the illustrated version of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them because the illustrations are simply beautiful and I just love browsing through the pages.

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The Giver Quartet

Lois Lowry’s quartet about a utopian society was kindly lended to me by a devoted fan of the series and I binge read the first three books in three days (granted they are pretty short) but I struggled with the last one and it took me about two weeks to finish it. The story is so unique and well thought out, it is a modern classic and I am so glad I read the books because the film does not do them justice.

The first book wasn’t as interesting to me simply because I’ve seen the film and knew the story but I still enjoyed it. The second and the third book were my favourite in the series and I was devastated by the ending of the third one (I won’t spoil it for you, just go and read the books). The last book was a big disappointment to me because I felt like some parts of it could easily have been deleted since they didn’t play a big part in the story.

Overall this series is one of the best I’ve read, though the books are relatively short, they are packed with so many hidden messages and such a depth of emotions. The world potrayed in the books terrified me because I can easily see it as being our future version of reality. The characters were so charming and easily lovable – Gabriel and Jonas and Kira are such complex and wonderful characters, I wish I could read more about them.

The last book sort of ruined the series for me, because I was so impressed by the others but I still gave it a pretty high rating on Goodreads simply because we get to see more of our beloved characters. But I do wish the author would’ve written it diferently. I am tempted to watch the film again but I know it will spoil the book for me so I probably won’t.

The Giver quartet is a true masterpiece and a modern classic and I highly recommend it to everyone, not just to those who enjoy reading YA and distopian novels because it carries a universal message. I only hope that we don’t end up living in a similar world.

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My guilty pleasure reads

Everyone is ashamed of certain books they like. I tend to hide mine and read them at home because if I read them say on a bus, I feel embarrased and I don’t want other people to know I read these kinds of books. In conversations I usually (always) “forget” to mention them because I feel like people would judge me for it, saying “but you are so smart and you read so much, how can you possibly like those sorts of books?” Well, I DO! And I’m done hiding it. So without a further ado here is the list of my guilty pleasure books which I LOVE to read:

  • the Benedicts series by Joss Stirling
  • romance novels, especially authors like Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Nora Roberts, Lisa Kleypas and Julia Quinn
  • some YA fantasy literature, for example the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead

My ultimate favourite guilty pleasure read has to be Joss Stirling’s series about savants, people with extraordinary abilities. Her books are a mixture of romance, YA, crime, science-fiction, adventure and I LOVE THEM. Not all of the book in the series, but especially the first three and the last one (there are six books in total). They are easy to read and funny and I just get this warm feeling in my stomach when I pick them up.

The books revolve around a family of seven sons, the Benedicts, who all have special abilities and they are trying to find their soulfinders a.k.a. soulmates. Despite the fact there are seven of them, each one has a distinct personality and I love how the auhor describes the family relationships, they are so welcoming and warm. Their family is probably one of my favourite fictional families.

In between more “serious” reads I like to occasionally indulge myself by reading a romance novel. My favourite authors are Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Nora Roberts (her old novels, Chesapeake Bay Saga, Born in Trilogy, Dream Trilogy) when it comes to contemporary novels and then there are Lisa Kleypas and Julia Quinn for historical romance. I know, I know these aren’t exactly literary giantesses but I love picking up their novels once in a while because they allow me to simply relax and enjoy the ride because I know everything will be all right in the end.

And my last guilty pleasure books are some YA series. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading YA but I am more picky about which ones I read than I used to be and so I don’t just read anything with a title YA on it. There is some quality YA out there but there is also some pretty average one available to read and when I’m not in the right mood to deal with more serious matters, I pick up the latter one.

For example Vampire Academy is one of these easy breezy books and when I read them, my brain just shuts off and I can read the books with no emotional involvement whatsoever. I’m sorry to say this if you’re a fan of VA but the series is pretty shallow when it comes to emotional complexity. I have yet to read the Bloodlines series (though I doubt I’ll even pick it up) but what I remember most about reading VA is that they are easy to read in one day but when you finish them you can’t really remember what was it that you just read. That’s why I started rereading them and guess what I found out: the reason I didn’t remember what happens in them is because NOTHING HAPPENS.

So these are my guilty pleasure reads (not so guilty anymore though), what are yours? I’d love to find out so please leave a comment below and we can compare our choices.

 

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Without Merit by Colleen Hoover

This review will contain spoilers.

I have severely mixed feelings about this book. While I was reading it, I quite enjoyed it but since then my rating has dropped and I keep finding new things that went wrong in the novel. There is so much going on in this book and some issues are just not represented right.

First of all what is up with this Syria involvement? The refugee crisis is a serious matter and I got the feeling that CoHo only touched the surface and she sort of inserted it in her book but it was just so wrong. So very very wrong. You can’t mention it once and then move on like nothing happened. If you are going to make it a part of a story then you make it a big part because it’s serious business.

The portrayal of depression in this book is horrific. Yes, the symptoms are listed correctly but then again it feels like the author just googled depression symptoms and then inserted them in her book. And the fact that Merit goes from one extreme situation to the next in a matter of two weeks is literally not possible. You cannot go from attempting suicide to feeling hopeful in a matter of week. You cannot! This was just so awfully portrayed that it gives the impression one can simply shake off depression like it’s nothing. Well, it is something, it’s huge and overpowering and exhausting and YOU CANNOT SNAP OUT OF IT AT ALL MUCH LESS IN A WEEK.

Some comments on the sexuality were just off. I get that Merit is trying to come to terms with the changes in her family but come on, she was just mean and again HAVING DEPRESSION DOESN’T EXCUSE HER ACTING LIKE A BITCH. Her comments on Luck’s sexuality were borderline homophobic. It bugged me a lot.

Sagan was actually lovely though the whole family-is-lost-in-Syria part was off, it should have played a much bigger part in the book. Although I liked the romance part of the book, it was so minor that I really don’t understand why this book is classified as a romance novel. It’s more of a coming of age story.

What I loved about this book were the characters and the family drama. Moby was so adorable and I loved how the relationship between the siblings was portrayed. I also found it fascinating how the whole dad-mom issue was dealt with. That being said I did find it too much to occur in only two weeks. I think the book would’ve worked much better if it took place over a course of several weeks/months.

This books contains so much ideas, too much, if you ask me and I just can’t get pass the whole depression and Syria issues which weren’t handled properly. They deserve a much more in depth approach. Also, the book would work much better if it were longer. The characters and their dialogues was what saved this book from giving it a 1 star rating.

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I confess to being a bookworm

For today’s post I was inspired by the lovely Imogen from BookSundays (you can check out her youtube channel and Instagram account) because she posted a video called Confessions of a Reader where she shared some bookish facts about her. I absolutely loved that video and so I decided to share some confessions of my own.

  1. Even though I adore hardbacks and mostly buy books with hardback covers because they look the prettiest on my shelves, I secretly find paperbacks the easiest to hold in my hands and read.
  2. I’m a huge sucker for romance. Not romance novels, just love stories in general. In almost every book I read I try to find that one love story I adore and look forward to seeing how it progresses.
  3. My reading progress is super slow because I love to take my time reading a book and admiring how it is written. Also I want to immerse myself fully into the world of the book I am currently reading which cannot be done if I only skim through it.
  4. I create my own world around every book I read – I have tons of fanfiction inside my head. Tons.
  5. Having too many books on my physical TBR pile makes me super nervous.
  6. I adore fantasy above all but my secret ideal book is a combination of fantasy, drama, adventure and romance.
  7. I have several fictional boyfriends.
  8. When I compare myself to fictional characters I always find my life horrifyingly boring. So what I do is I read more.
  9. I might prefer reading to writing.
  10. Even though I know this only makes me feel bad, I constantly compare my reading challenge to others and it kills me to see other people read more than I do.
  11. Recommending books to my friends is great and I don’t mind lending them my own but whenever they take too much time to return them I tend to get anxious.
  12. I cry a lot while reading. But I also laugh out loud a lot.
  13. When I’m out in public I often feel embarrased by what I’m currently reading, like fantasy books aren’t “good enough” and I should be reading the classics.
  14. I’m not a fan of classical literature. I do understand why it’s important but I find that often people who say they adore classical literature only say that because they want to appear smart and well-educated. And when they say that, I just want to scream at their faces: read what you love, people!
  15. Often when I meet up with friends I don’t have anything to say because I’m practically living in the world of the book I’m currently reading and so that’s all I can think about.
  16. I love buying books for my friends. It’s like the ultimate sign of my affection towards them.
  17. I would love to start a bookclub but my friends either don’t read or they read other genres so it would be hard to pick a book that would suit everyone.
  18. I don’t understand poetry. I wish I did.
  19. When I don’t bring a book with me I tend to regret it so I try to always have a book in my backpack whenever I leave the house. Especially when I have to drive my grandma to the doctors. I’ll only get burned once.
  20. The part I dislike most in books, is the beginning. The first fifty pages are there just to set the mood but the real joy starts after that.
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Wrap-up: February 2018

This months has been legendary for me because I managed to read 10 books. Usually I read about 5 or 6, maybe 7. I’m really proud of myself, I have to say. I didn’t plan on reading this much but then some of my classes got cancelled and some of the books I’ve read are relatively short, which resulted in me finishing 10 novels. Congratz!

Now let’s look at the books I read this month. Here is the list:

  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik
  • The Greatest Cases of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner
  • Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling
  • Power of Three by Diana Wynne Jones
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry
  • Messenger by Lois Lowry
  • Without Merit by Colleen Hoover

Besides reading a lot, I actually read a lot of great books this month. Uprooted was absolutely amazing, the story still plays itself in my mind even though I read it at the start of the month. Sometimes I go to my bookshelves and pick it up and just stare at it for a few minutes (does this make me strange? probably yes).

The biggest disappointment of the month was Secrets of a Charmed Life. The book promised a lot but while the second part of the book was really interesting, the first part dragged on. Kate Morton has set such a high standard for me regarding historical fiction that I just can’t stand other authors who write in a similar way because they just don’t deliver the same quality writing as she does. This was the second book of Susan Meissner’s I’ve read and I am fairly certain it’s also the last.

Because I had exams this month I decided to cheer myself up and I listened to the audio version of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets which is narrated by Stephen Fry. His voice was so hilarious I literally laughed out loud whenever Dobby appeared because his voice was the same as the one in the films. But although I liked Stephen Fry, audio books just aren’t my thing. I prefer to read myself ( and to myself).

Last week I binge read the first three books in the Giver series and they were AMAZING. Since they were also quite short (200 pages each) I managed to read them in three days. I finally understand why people keep complimenting the series, it truly is a modern classis. I also started reading the last book but found it too intense and so I had to stop for a while.

Instead I picked up Without Merit by Colleen Hoover and I’m really liking it! I still have about a hundred pages to go but I know I’ll finish the book tonight. The story is way more interesting than in Slammed and I love all the characters, they are so unique and funny. Moby is adorable and Sagan, agh, Sagan is a dream.

Norse Mythology was also totally amazing but since I reviewed it, I won’t talk about it here. Neil Gaiman is brilliant and always will be.

What’s left to mention? Power of Three was pretty good but it didn’t blow me away. I still prefer Fire and Hemlock and Howl’s Moving Castle. But even though the book wasn’t great, the story still impressed me a lot. Sherlock Holmes was, well, Sherlock Holmes. It’s so surprising to see how his character shows itself through the writing. He’s probably one of the best characters ever written.

So there you go, these are all the books I read this month. I think I deserve a small award for managing to read this much.

(opening book depository in a new tab)

 

 

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Best reading week ever

It’s Saturday morning and I managed to read 2 whole books this week plus finish 2 from last week and I’m planning on reading the fifth one in one sitting today so I start on my number six tomorrow. Did I lock myself in my room or something? Did I move to the middle of the forest or somewhere likewise remote? Nope. I decided to blow off uni for the rest of the week and so I had plenty of time to read.

Funny thing about reading this much – it makes me even more anxious and willing to read. I keep thinking about books (even more than normally) and if I don’t have a book in my hands I literally get nervous. But it’s the good kind of excitement (so far at least). I’m also cat-sitting my sister’s cats Zoya and Oscar this weekend and yesterday little Oscar slept in my lap while I was reading. It was so adorable.

Which books am I binge reading, you ask? The Giver series. I read the first part on Thursday, the second part yesterday and I’m planning on reading the third book today (I haven’t started yet by the way) and so tomorrow I can get to the fourth book. It’s really, really good. They’re not my favourite books and so I don’t adore them (probably because they’re not fantasy novels), but they are still insanely good and the plot twists make my head spin. The only thing that bothers me is the lenght, they are about 200-250 pages long and even though that makes them a quick read, I wish they were a bit longer and more descriptive.

Earlier this week I finished listening to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets on audio and I started missing Hogwarts terribly but since I have so many books on my physical TBR pile I decided to stop there and not pick up the third book. I’m saving it for tough times. Then I finished reading Power of Three by Diana Wynne Jones and again I really liked it but didn’t love it as much as I expected it. I’m afraid I already read all the best of her work and now I’ll only be disappointed by her other novels. I hate this feeling.

Besides reading I went to the cinema twice this past week. Black Panther was totally amazing because the story was a bit different than your usual superhero plot twist. It instantly became my favourite Marvel film although Iron Man still is my sweetheart because I just love Robert Downey Jr. I also watched The Post which was totally different but likewise amazing. Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks are such talented actors, the only thing that bothered me was the fact that I didn’t quite understand all the background of the story, the politics, but I was still able to follow the story.

Since I’m getting anxious again (no book in my hands) I’ll finish here and start reading. Later in the day I’ll visit the cats again and hopefully they’ll be in a petting mood. I might actually manage to read 10 books this month. That would be a first!

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Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

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Introducing an instant classic—master storyteller Neil Gaiman presents a dazzling version of the great Norse myths.

Neil Gaiman has long been inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction. Now he turns his attention back to the source, presenting a bravura rendition of the great northern tales. In Norse Mythology, Gaiman fashions primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds; delves into the exploits of the deities, dwarves, and giants; and culminates in Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods and the rebirth of a new time and people. Gaiman stays true to the myths while vividly reincarnating Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki, the son of giants, a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator. From Gaiman’s deft and witty prose emerges the gods with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to dupe others, and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again. (blurb taken from Goodreads)

Gaiman is one of the most talented writers I’ve ever read. His characters are vibrant, complex, often funny and filled with secret passions that drive them. The stories in his books are magical not just because they talk about fantasy but also because he breathes magic into them. His writing style is rich and beautiful and he never disappoints.

Norse Mythology is Gaiman’s retelling of the old myths and it is absolutely superb. The characters in old myths are often flat but his are lively and funny and human. They are flawed like we are and they are driven by their ambitions and secret desires. Thor is portrayed as a powerful but somewhat simple minded god whereas Loki is beautiful and cunning.

It’s hard to pick a favourite story but I’d probably go with the one where Thor dresses up like a woman – that was hilarious! And the one where Loki transform himsef into a mare and then he ends up with a foal and no one is to talk about it. I laughed so hard at that part. But I really enjoyed all of the stories and I loved how they were connected.

As always, Gaiman’s writing is what makes this book a true jem. His writing style is so illustrative and rich and simply put beautiful. He takes certain pieces of a story or in this case a myth and then he makes them his own. And I really liked the fact that in the introduction he said that this is his version of the norse gods meaning you can picture them the way you want to, there isn’t just one way of seeing them.

If you are a Gaiman fan, you’ll love this book. If you’re a mythology freak, you’ll love this book. And even if you’re not all the above still give this book a try. It’s insanely hilarious and you can easily read it in one sitting.

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Must buy books

I’m finally done with my exams! Hooray! My last exam was on Thursday and it was the most difficult one of this semester. Hopefully I’ll pass and won’t have to take it again in June. Fingers crossed. Classes start on Monday so I only have this weekend to catch up on some reading. Last week I started listening to the audio version of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets which is narrated by Stephen Fry and it’s hilarious! He literally sounds like Dobby and Hagrid and it’s almost like I’m watching a movie but not quite. I absolutely love it.

Since the exam period is over I decided to treat myself and so I bought two books: The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night by Jen Campbell who is my favourite booktuber and The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. Although Instagram is my main platform where I spend most of my time, I got really involved in the booktube community and I keep scrolling down playlists and watching videos. Yes, that’s how I survived this past month. It’s fun to discover new authors but there is also a trick to it.

By watching all these videos about book hauls and wrap-ups and recommendations my TBR list on Goodreads started to grow fast and I suddenly felt bad for not constantly buying books. I literally spent hours browsing on Book Depository looking up prices and deciding which books I’ll order next. This sudden urge to buy more books was obviously rooted in my sudden obsession with the booktube community. The same thing happened with Instagram weeks before: by looking at other people’s profiles and their vast book collections, I’d grown impatient and envious and a voice in my head started telling me: YOU MUST BUY NEW BOOKS.

Now I have around 15 books on my physical TBR pile which are patiently awaiting for me to pick them up plus a couple more on my kindle so the chances of running out of reading material are basically non-existant. Yet I was consumed with this desire, no, NEED to buy more books. I can draw parallels to consumerism and the way most women buy clothes and shoes, but the point is, this is all artificial. By looking at what other people have I immediately started feeling bad for not having as much as they do. It’s all ridiculous, really.

Yes, I do love buying more books but at the same time I get really nervous if I have too many books on my physical TBR pile. So naturally what I should do is first read those books and then buy new ones. That would be the logical thing to do. Still, I was lured into thinking I needed more books and what is even worse is the fact that I felt ashamed for not buying as much of them as others do. Welcome to the land of consumerism and artificially created needs.

From now on I’ll try to be more rational about my purchases and while watching a video on booktube I’ll remind myself that I don’t have to buy books in order to qualify as a booklover. I’ll continue to add new purchases to my book shelves, one book at a time. Slowly but steadily I’ll build my library and even if I only have like a thousand or so books in it (which still sounds pretty impressive to me!) I’ll be happy with it. It doesn’t matter how many books you own as long as you are in love with every single one of them.

I like best to have one book in my hand, and a stack of others on the floor beside me, so as to know the supply of poppy and mandragora will not run out before the small hours.

Dorothy Parker, The Collected Dorothy Parker

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Favourite writing style: Kate Morton

Since I’m tired of writing only reviews and wrap-ups, I’ve decided to start a series of posts where I’ll be talking about my favourite authors regarding their styles of writing. Besides the story and the plot line, writing style is something I highly value in a book and I tend to prefer more lyrical styles of writing though that is not always the case.

So the first name that popped into my head when I started thinking about this post, was Kate Morton. She writes historical fiction and her books always contain two or even three stories set in different eras and the narrative skips from one time period to the other. Five of books of hers have been published and they are (in cronological order of publication) The House at Riverton, The Forgotten Garden, The Distant Hours, The Secret Keeper and The Lake House.

She did as she felt, and she felt a great deal.

Kate Morton, The Forgotten Garden

If I had to pick my favourite I’d go with The Forgotten Garden simply because it was the first book of hers that truly impressed me and left me literally breathless. It’s one of those books that has stayed with me ever since I finished reading it. I was equally impressed by The Distant Hours and The Secret Keeper, they were both equisite.

So why do I adore Kate Morton and her writing? Because she picks up words and strings them on a magical line and they are filled with thoughts and feelings. When I was reading The Forgotten Garden these lines stuck out immediately and I had to write them down because it felt like they were written for me.

Cassandra always hid when she read, though she never quite knew why. It was as if she couldn’t shake the guilty suspicion that she was being lazy, that surrendering herself so completely to something so enjoyable must surely be wrong. But surrender she did. Let herself drop through the rabbit hole and into a tale of magic and mystery …

Kate Morton, The Forgotten Garden

Her books read not like a poem but it’s somewhere near that. She has a way with words, she doesn’t just describe what’s in front of you, she also creates the atmosphere of every single thing that appears in the book. Each page oozes honey and though her stories are nowhere near fantasy, her writing style reminds me of fairy tales.

What I also love about Morton’s writing is her ability to portray complex characters, most of whom are female. She can tell so much about a person, their deepest desires, fearful anxieties, unwanted thoughts. The relationships between these characters are at the centre of the story and I think this is marvelous because we do want to know more about other people and what goes on in their heads. We don’t want to know just what happens to them but also what that makes them feel.

Reading her books transports me to a world where even the darkest things in life are manageable and she does write about pain a lot. But still she can create such a version of the world that it sweeps you off your feet and before you know it, you’re breathing in her words and listening to what they’re saying. Such is the extent of her story telling powers. So I really do urge you to pick up her books and see for yourselves just how amazing she is. (By the way her plot twists are totally unexpected and the word building enthralling. You won’t be bored for even a second.)

I don’t have many friends, not the living, breathing sort at any rate. And I don’t mean that in a sad and lonely way; I’m just not the type of person who accumulates friends or enjoys crowds. I’m good with words, but not spoken kind; I’ve often thought what a marvelous thing it would be if I could only conduct relationships on paper. And I suppose, in a sense, that’s what I do, for I’ve hundreds of the other sort, the friends contained within bindings, pages after glorious pages of ink, stories that unfold the same way every time but never lose their joy, that take me by the hand and lead me through doorways into worlds of great terror and rapturous delight. Exciting, worthy, reliable companions – full of wise counsel, some of them – but sadly ill-equipped to offer the use of a spare bedroom for a month or two.

Kate Morton, The Distant Hours

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Uprooted by Naomi Novik

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Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose… (Blurb taken from Goodreads)

 

How to describe this wonderful jewel of a book? It is filled with singing charms and slowly kindled love and cruel enemies and ignorant princes and unexpected villains. Magic seeps through the pages and after you finish it, you can feel the words of a spell on your tongue. Yes, it’s that good.

The overall plot and the story share some similarities with Howl’s Moving Castle written by Diana Wynne Jones because we have a strong but distant wizard living in a tower/castle and a young girl, unaware of her magical potential, who joins him on his quest to save the kingdom from evil forces. Also, like Howl, Dragon is a grumpy, self-centered, solitary man who enjoys fine clothing and cannot admit when he is wrong. But the similarities end her and Uprooted takes you on a whole new level.

Can I just say how completely brilliant it is that the forest (yes, you heard right), the forest is the villain. I mean who comes up with that? I love walking through forests but this book gave me the creeps (I am now terrified of stick insects) and everytime I see the nearby forest, I immediately wonder if there are some strange creatures lurking around it. Also, the whole magical elements of this book are spectacular. It really makes you feel like you could be a witch/wizard just by singing songs and letting magic slip through the lines.

The romance! Oh, how I loved the slowly burning romance. Dragon was such a fun character, he was grumpy and obnoxious but also sweet and endearing. I loved the fact that the story didn’t concentrate on the romance part but it was still present. And how amazing was the friendship between Kasia and Agnieszka? When Agnieszka put herself on Kasia’s side instead of the Dragon’s, I thought to myself, yes, finally, friends are what’s important!

Agnieszka was such a wonderful lead character, she wasn’t perfect and pretty and helpless, no, she was really brave and she didn’t care what others thought of her and she was strong on her own. She didn’t just wait around for Dragon to help her, no, she went to the forest herself (yes, he did help her afterwards, but still, she fights like a lion on her own). Despite all the troubles she faced, she pushed through and fought for her home. And it is so refreshing to have the lead protagonsit clumsy and messy and not always beautiful like in most YA novels.

My favourite part of the book was the magic and the writing. The book reads like a mixture of a dark twisted fairy tale and a spell book and the two combined makes for an excellent reading experience. Also, even though I would love to read more about Agnieszka and Dragon, I’m glad this isn’t a series because I’m sort of getting tired of them because the quality of the books usually declines within a series.

The only thing I didn’t like was how little we know about Dragon. I want to know so much more about his life, his childhood, the previous girls that stayed with him and why he became so grumpy, because we don’t get to see who he is behind that mask of his. Other than that, this book became my all-time favourite after reading the first hundred or so pages.

It wasn’t that I wanted a husband and a baby; I didn’t, or rather, I only wanted them the way I wanted to live to a hundred someday, far off, never thinking about the particulars. But they meant life: she was living, and I wasn’t.

Naomi Novik, Uprooted

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I don’t feel like reading tonight

I confess – I’m not always in the mood to read. After a long day spent at uni and an even longer drive back home I’m often too tired and anxious to read and I just need something to keep my mind from overthinking. So instead I turn on my computer and watch a new episode of my favourite TV series or I sit in front of the TV and let myself be drawn to that state of numbness which is typical for when you’re staring at the screen. And yes, I love reading, I absolutely adore it, but sometimes I let the book sit in the corner and I turn away from it.

As a new bookstagrammer and bookblogger I often feel pressured to read. I look at other profiles on Goodreads and compare my reading challenge to other people’s and I feel this knot in my stomach and a voice in my head starts whispering ‘you’re not doing enough, you should read more books’. And this little voice puts me in a momentary state of despair because I feel like I can never read enough books and can’t possibly compete with more serious and well-established bloggers.

I do this with other things as well, I compare myself to my friends and then I tell myself I’m not trying hard enough and I should be doing more. Lately however, this pressure has been focused primarily on my reading progress. Goodreads is a fine platform to find new books and keep tabs on your reading progress but since I’ve started using it in connection with this blog, I keep browsing through other people’s updates and I feel like they’re constantly reading and well, I’m not. I then ask myself  how can they possibly have that much free time on their hands to read all the time.

Regarding my reading pace, I do know I’m not the fastest reader but I like it that way. I like to take time with my books, to look at how they’re written and not only what they’re saying. I often admire paragraphs or sentences and look at how they’re structured because I want to understand how the author came to that and why they used this particular style of writing. Reading is as much entertainment as it is research for me.

I asked my friend about her experiences with reading under pressure (she studies literature) and she said that she often feels pressured into reading classics because that’s what you’re supposed to read as a literature student. But she loves romance novels and so she reads mostly that. It’s also true with fantasy – when I say I love Harry Potter and fantasy novels, a lot of people start smirking and saying ‘that’s not real books’. Who says so? I am so tired of people nagging me about my reading choices. If you want to read boring old Tolstoy in order to appear smart and educated (even though you probably don’t understand a word of what he’s saying) then please do that but stop critisizing me for the books I enjoy reading.

There is a certain pressure in this community to constantly be on the lookout for the newest literary trends but I refuse to be affected by it. Too many times I got frustrated by reading a hyped book (bestsellers even) because at the end of the day they just weren’t good, the story was unimaginative, the writing poor and the plot twists predictable. I take time in choosing the books I want to read and that often pays out. But it’s really hard to stay strong under all this pressure and to read the books you want to read and not look at what other people are reading.

Writing this has helped me to accept the fact that I will never be able to read all the books I want. There are so many of them and that’s good because it means there is always a new adventure waiting for me around the corner. Can you imagine running out of reading material and being bored with what your local library has to offer? I hope it never comes to that. In the future I will try to remind myself that if I pick up a book I will do it because I enjoy reading and I want to know where the story will lead me. Some night I’ll be too tired to read and instead I’ll watch TV and that’s okay. It just means that when I’ll eventually start reading again, it will be that more precious to me.

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All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

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Here is a thing everyone wants: a miracle.
Here is a thing everyone fears: what it takes to get one.

Any visitor to Bicho Raro, Colorado is likely to find a landscape of dark saints, forbidden love, scientific dreams, miracle-mad owls, estranged affections, one or two orphans, and a sky full of watchful desert stars.

At the heart of this place you will find the Soria family, who all have the ability to perform unusual miracles. And at the heart of this family are three cousins longing to change its future: Beatriz, the girl without feelings, who wants only to be free to examine her thoughts; Daniel, the Saint of Bicho Raro, who performs miracles for everyone but himself; and Joaquin, who spends his nights running a renegade radio station under the name Diablo Diablo.

They are all looking for a miracle. But the miracles of Bicho Raro are never quite what you expect. (blurb taken from Goodreads)

 

The latest novel from one of my favourite authors Maggie Stiefvater is a bit shorter than I’m used to, it only has 300 pages but the cover is absolutely stunning. It’s probably one of the prettiest covers I’ve ever seen. Sadly (and it breaks my heart to say it) the story inside it wasn’t that great (I’m so sorry Maggie!). After reading The Scorpio Races I had really high expectations of this book and I think that’s probably why I was disappointed by it. Also, I think it needed more volume, at least 400 pages in total.

The language was of course beautiful (everything Stiefvater writes is beautiful) but I felt like the writing style was somewhat different than in her other books. I think she slightly adjusts her writing for each book – for example the Shiver trilogy is written in a very lyrical style and is similar to The Scorpio Races while The Raven Cycle has a different feel to it (but totally heart-wrenching *sob*). This book had yet another music to it and that really shows how versatile Stiefvater is and I love her for that.

The overall story was complex and it contained very interesting metaphors. I loved the character Marisita because she was always rained upon, she literally had her own rain clouds hovering over her head and her body was covered with butterflies who couldn’t fly away because they were soaking wet. This seemed like a beautiful portrayal of depression and I think that’s really hard to achieve. All the other characters were also unique and compelling, I only wish I could read more about them (300 pages just isn’s enough!).

The love story between Beatriz and Pete was really cute though I preferred Daniel and Marisita’s. I guess I have a soft spot for the impossible, die-for-you, intense-all-the-way love stories. Also, I really liked reading about Beatriz’s parents and their relationship, I think it was very realistic because although they were in love, they sometimes couldn’t stand being around each other.

As with every Stiefvater book, the atmosphere is sublime. She can create a world of sensations with her words in a way that makes you feel like you’ve just stepped onto a new planet! Only great writers can do that. And the feels, I had so may of them while reading this book. I highlighted like a dozen paragraphs along the way because they were so touching.

I realise that I’m only praising this book yet I gave it four stars on Goodreads. That’s mainly because I absolutely adored The Scorpio Races and The Raven Cycle and I can’t rate them the same. I really do believe that this story could be better if it were longer. Then again my head wasn’t really in it while I was reading the book so that could also be the reason why I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would.

Still, Maggie Stiefvater remains one of my all time favourite authors and I would be so insanely happy if I ever managed to write half as good as she does. She is amazing and cool and funny and clever and a bit strange but all the best people are. I wish I’ll get to meet her one day and have her sign all of my books. That would be a dream.

“Do you have darkness inside you?”
“Yes,” Tony said.
“And do you want to be rid of it?”
This is a harder question to answer than one might think at first blush. Almost no one would think it’s correct to answer this question with a no, but the truth is that we men and women often hate to be rid of the familiar, and sometimes our darkness is the thing we know the best.

Maggie Stiefvater, All the Crooked Saints

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Wrap-up: January 2018

January wasn’t a good reading month for me but I did read some of the books I received for Christmas. I told myself I won’t buy any more books till I read the ones I have at home and I’m sort of sticking to it (for now). So despite being totally stressed out because of uni and exams, I managed to read five books this months and here is the list:

  • Until by Anna B. Doe
  • La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust 1) by Philip Pullman
  • Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse by Chris Riddell
  • A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones
  • All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

The best book I read this month was without a doubt La Belle Sauvage and you can read my full review here. It was such a great book and I loved going back to Pullman’s worlds and exploring them even further. Pullman is one of those authors who write fantasy as easily as if the magical worlds actually existed and as a reader you dive into their books and wish you could drown in them (well not drown but swim around for as long as possible).  I plan on reading two more books of his this year and of course I am patiently awaiting for the next book in this series.

Until was a romance novel, an easy and entertaining start to the year. The author sent me an ARC of her book and although I read it super fast, it didn’t deliver. I was annoyed with the main character and I hated reading the chapters that were the same as in the first book of this series, because we literally read the exact same conversation just told from a different POV. I found the story to be very typical and filled with cheesy dialogue.

Since I was so stressed out because of school, I picked up a children’s book called Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse which was really funny and hilarious! The illustrations were beautiful and the story far from ordinary. I’ve only known Chris Riddell as the illustrator who works closely with Neil Gaiman so this was the first original story of his that I read. I’ll definitely be picking up more of his books because I am really excited to read about Goth Girl and her future adventures.

As you all probably already know (I do repeat this A LOT) Diana Wynne Jones is one of my favourite fantasy writers and this month I read her novel A Tale of Time City. This book wasn’t as good as some of her other work but nevertheless I enjoyed myself immensely. I love reading children’s literature, especially fantasy stories because the main focus is on magic and happy endings are a must.

The last book I read this month was All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater. Although I am a huge fan of hers, I didn’t like this book as much as I thought I would. Perhaps the timing was off, because when I was reading it my anxiety was all over the place and I couldn’t really relax enough to just enjoy the book. Or maybe it was because I loved The Scorpio Races so much that I set the bar too high. Anyhow, I liked this book (I highlighted a lot of paragraphs) but I didn’t love it as much as Stiefvater’s other books.

I’m currently reading Sherlock Holmes’ Best Cases or something like that (still, I know) and Uprooted by Naomi Novik which is so great, I read like half of the book yesterday evening because I just couldn’t stop. It reminds me a little of Howl’s Moving Castle, at least the main story, the frame of it, but it’s really good and I love the magical elements in it.

Hopefully February will be a better reading month for me but I’m definitely sticking to fantasy because I’m in that kind of mood. One cup of magic for me, please!

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Birthday bookhaul

People keep asking me if I feel older and I hate that question because I always think to myself, “Yeah, I really feel that one plus year, my bones are telling me I need more exercise and my hair is quietly whispering they’ll be turning grey any day now.” Age is just a number and I may be one year older but I’m still me. Different than last year, that’s true, but not by that much.

My mom ordered a cake for me and I managed to eat four pieces of it (not in one day of course!). It was delicious, I even dreamed about it one night. I didn’t do anything special, just spent time with my family and friends. Besides cake which is by far the best part of birthdays, I also got lots of presents. And lots of books. Hooray!

These are the books I got for my birthday:

  • Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
  • Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones
  • Power of Three by Diana Wynne Jones
  • Unexpected Magic: Collected Stories by Diana Wynne Jones
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik
  • The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes
  • The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith a.k.a J. K. Rowling

I’m not sure which book I’ll read first but it’s probably going to be Uprooted because I’m in a serious fantasy mood. I’m currently reading All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater and although I really like the book, I don’t love it as much as The Scorpio Races. It seems quite different than her other books. Still, I highlight quotes from it in almost every chapter, they’re just that good!

This afternoon I’m meeting a friend who lives in Taiwan and it’s been ages (almost 4 months) since I last saw her so I’m really excited to finally talk to her again face to face. And tomorrow my sister and her boyfriend are coming to our house and we’re having a little family gathering. Otherwise I hope I’ll manage to finish All The Crooked Saints tonight and I still have about a hundred pages left in my Sherlock Holmes book and it would be pretty great if I also finish that tomorrow.

My birthday this year wasn’t at all bad though I’m not a fan of birthdays. They remind me of time passing and I always feel like I’m not doing enough, like I should try harder and do more, read more, write more (which is funny because I haven’t written anything in almost two years – but that’s a topic for a new post). Cake and presents cheer me up but I still feel a bit sad about getting older. I keep comparing myself to other people which I know I shouldn’t but we all do that, right? My new resolution is to be kinder to myself and except the fact that I can’t do it all and I need to take things slow. Also, I’ll try not to compare myself to others. Because that will be the death of me.

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A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones

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As a huge DWJ fan I wasn’t all that impressed by this book. I’m not saying that it wasn’t good because it was, it was really good but it wasn’t absolutely amazing like Howl’s Moving Castle or Fire and Hemlock. Since I know what the author is capable of, I was sort of let down by the story. It is still excellent and by far better than most fantasy novels written today but I know what Diana Wynne Jones looks like at her best and this just wasn’t it. It lacked something, just a little something that would make me fall instantly in love with the story.

The novel takes place at the beginning of WWII when children were evacuated to the countryside. One of them was a girl called Vivian Smith who finds herself kidnapped by a boy called Jonathan and taken to Time City which exists outside of history. She is literally taken from the train station where she was supposed to meet her aunt and then she enters Time City by walking through a brick wall (ses, this book was written before Harry Potter). There she teams up with Jonathan and Sam, who is boy genius, and together they try to save the city from ruin. The story cointans lots of time travel, funny dialogues and intriguing characters. Once again the children try to save the world and they end up doing quite the opposite.

Sam was probably my favourite character because he is such a lazy genius; he can invent and do so much yet he craves butter pies and ends up eating so many of them that he gets sick for days (then again he is only eight years old). The plot twist was rather unexpected and so were the villains, I kept wondering who could be at fault but I didn’t guess right, not once! Diana Wynne Jones always surprises me like that. I didn’t love the characters as much as I did in her other novels though and I thinks that is why I didn’t give 5 stars to this book.

The second part of the story which contains visits of different time periods (all of them in the far future) was a bit boring, I wasn’t really interested in the variety of scenarios but the ending was fast paced (perhaps a bit too much) and it kept me on my toes at all times. I would’ve liked to have seen more of that before the final 50 pages which were filled with action and revelations.

The introduction to this edition was written by Ursula Le Guin who passed away two day ago. Like Diana Wynne Jones she was also a queen of fantasy and science fiction and in my opinion both of them deserved more appraisal and recognition. Le Guin herself stated in her articles that being a woman fantasy/science fiction writer meant that you were overlooked and underappreciated in literary circles. I think that is a terrible shame because both of these authors were so talented, prolific and inventive.

 

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La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman

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I’ve been patiently waiting for this book for half of my life and I still can’t believe it’s been published! Not only that but I cannot believe I already finished reading it! I should’ve read it more slowly but it was so good that I couldn’t help myself and I read like 200 pages per day.

His Dark Materials was my second favourite series growing up, right after Harry Potter. To tell you the truth I didn’t really like Lyra that much, I actually found her to be obnoxious in the first book but I absolutely loved Will. To this day he remains close to my heart. I think Pullman did a wonderful job at character building, especially with Lyra and Will, but also with the other character and that’s why I love his books. Plus his writing style is sublime, the story flows effortlessly and that’s hard to achieve.

So my mom bought me La Belle Sauvage for Christmas but I waited till New Year’s to actually start reading it. It took me three days to finish it and I loved it, I really did, but… Yeah, there’s a but. The second part of the book – now, if you’ve read the book you know what I’m talking about – is a bit far fetched and slow paced and there are some things in it that frustrated me because I found them to be totally irrelevant to the overall story.

The book starts off great, we meet Malcolm whose parents are innkeepers and farely simple minded while their son adores books and learning about the big wide world. I loved the relationship between Malcolm and the scholar (whose name I cannot remember) because she let the boy borrow books from her and I found that to be really touching. Anyway, I loved the first part of the book which is set in Oxford and we have loads of references to His Dark Materials.

I actually liked lord Asriel in this book though I had mixed feeling about him in  the original trilogy. All the connections were so beautifully intwined within the story that it actually felt like I was reading a book equal to the trilogy which is what Pullman wished to achieve. Again the church is portrayed as the main villain and I see why some people might resent that but I think they should get pass that and just look at the book as a story (which it ultimately is).

The second part of the book dragged on, there were some references to other literary works, like the Faery Queen (that part seemed totally redundant to me) and since the book sort of ends on a cliffhanger I don’t see how Pullman will write the next two books since they will take place after the events in His Dark Materials. To this day I remain in awe of Pullman’s imagination. I mean how do you even come up with an idea like a daemon? To have your soul exist outside of your body in the form of an animal? How?!

The writing style remains as beautiful as ever, no complaints there. I don’t know how to look at this book really. It is supposed to be an equal but there so many similarities to the trilogy that it’s impossible to separate them. So although I loved the book I didn’t adore it. But I am still looking forward to reading the next two books in the series because I love Pullman’s worlds and his writing. I definitely recommend his books!

Then it started to rain, so she went inside and made some coffee and did what she had never done in her life: tried the newspaper crossword. “What a stupid exercise,” said her dæmon after five minutes. “Words belong in contexts, not pegged out like biological specimens.”

Philip Pullman, La Belle Sauvage

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Books I need to read in 2018

Morning! Since I have too much time on my hands due to procratinating (I’m avoiding papers and reports) I decided it was time to browse through my book collection in order to see which books have been gathering dust for way too long. And then I had a brilliant idea of challenging myself to read at least some of them because if I don’t they’ll remain on my shelves for years and I still won’t get around to reading them. I managed to cut down the list to a few that have been on my TBR pile the longest and then I added one or two books which are just really good/got a lot of positive reviews/just seem fun. So these are the books I have (it would be awful nice of me) to read this year:

  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness
  • Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon
  • Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  • literally anything from Susanna Kearsley
  • Daemon Voices: Essays on Storytelling by Philip Pullman

The Book Thief was one of the first books I added to my TBR pile on Goodreads and last year I even bought a copy of it at the local second-hand bookstore so I really have no excuse to put it off. I’ve heard such good things about it and I also want to see the film adaptation. The main reason why I haven’t read it yet is because I know this will be one of THOSE books that will make me cry. I just have a terrible hunch that it’ll ruin me.

Chaos Walking has also been on my TBR pile for ever and people have been recommending it to me for years. I also happen to own the books, the first one was even signed by the author. But since it’s a trilogy I’m afraid of the emotional attachments that go with it. This isn’t the first Patrick Ness I’ve come across, I already read More Than This which I absolutely adored and read in one sitting. I also liked The Crane Wife but not as much as More Than This. And A Monster Calls was great as well though I think I would’ve liked it better have I read it at a younger age.

As you can tell from my about section I love Scotland and everything connected to it so it comes as no surpise that I am a huge Outlander fan. Jamie and Claire represent my ideal relationship just because they are so in love with each other but at the same time they are both separate individuals. They are both such wondeful and complex characters (yes, I do have a huge crush on Jamie). The end of the second book broke my heart, the last hundred pages were so intense I was afraid to go to the toilet because I didn’t want to put it down! Voyager was sort of a disappointment just because they leave Scotland and travel to Jamaica but I’m hoping in Drums of Autumn they return to my beloved Scotland and stay there (for good).

Neil Gaiman is one of my ultimate favourite fantasy writers and I’ve slowly been reading all of his work. Norse Mythology is his latest book and I’m actually planning on buying it soon (I’m also slowly collecting his books). The first Gaiman book I read was The Graveyard Book and I instantly fell in love with his writing and story building. Since then I’ve read most of his books except The Sandman which I started but didn’t really like. His short stories are AMAZING though, I still think about Feminine Endings (I was afraid to fall asleep after reading it).

Six of Crows is on this list mainly because of the hype surrounding it. And unlike some other books that are talked about I think this one might actually be pretty good. It’s fantasy which is my favourite genre to read and a reliable source (read: my sister’s friend who also raved about Patrick Ness and loved The Raven Cycle) told me it was amazing so I decided to read the Grisha trilogy and this duology. Hopefully these books will be my favourite reads of 2018. No pressure, right?

Susanna Kearsley writes about Scotland and her books involve magic, history, interesting characters and unexpected plot twists. And they are all set in Scotland. That’s pretty much the main reason why she’s on this list. Why, I’m really not hard to please, am I? But seriously I also love her plot twists and story ideas, I’m just afraid I won’t like her writing style because that is really important to me and even if the story is good, I can’t stand bad writing styles (by bad I mean too straightforward, obvious, journalistic sort of writing).

And the last book I want (need) to read is a non-fiction, a collection of essays from Philip Pullman called Daemon Voices: Essays on Storytelling. Since I’m also a writer (or want to be) I love reading about my favourite authors and how they write, why they write, it just sheds some light on them and I tend to find myself in such texts. For example I loved reading Diana Wynne Jones’ Reflections and Virginia Woolf’s Room of One’s Own so I think I’ll enjoy reading these essays.

If I actually do manage to read all these books this year I will be super proud of myself. Realistically speaking however, I only expect half of them will actually end up in my hands. But hey, you gotta set high goals or else you achieve nothing.

 

I do believe something magical can happen when you read a good book.

J. K. Rowling

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The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

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A word of warning: I am going to sing praises to this book throughout my review. Yes, it’s THAT kind of a book. So good and magical and heart-warming and intense and I could probably list a number of adjectives but none would do this book the justice it deserves. It is AMAZING. Yes, I am partial to it since Maggie Stiefvater is one of my favourite authors and the story is set on an imaginative island somewhere near Scotland/Ireland but even if that would not be the case, I would still love this book to the death and shoved it in everyone’s faces (which is exactly what I’ll do tomorrow when I get back to uni).

I took my time with this novel. It took me three days to finish it but I literally went from one sentence to the next and marvelled at each paragraph. That actually happens quite often, especially when I’m reading a particularly interesting story because I don’t want it to end so I go slowly and really try to appreciate what the author has done. It happened with The Raven Cycle as well.

If you ask me what this book is about, I’d have to say that at a first glance it’s about a close-knitted community living on an island where each year a race takes place and in that race jockeys ride murderous water horses who try to eat them and escape back to the ocean. Sounds great, right? But there’s so much more to the story than that. It’s also a story of a family growing apart, a lonely man trying to gain his freedom and independence, a patriarchal community where changes are NOT welcomed and an old religion worhipping the gods of the ocean. It’s a story about love and sacrifice and the importance of family and it’s also a story about killer water horses.

My personal library contains a few collections of fairy tales and folk stories and one of them is a collection of Scottish folk tales which is where I first read about the dangerous water horses called kelpies who pray on innocent victims and lure them into the water. This story takes that myth but bends it substantially. Maggie Stiefvater does that a lot, she takes old myths and makes them work in her favor. She’s brilliant at that. And she is also known to focus primarily on the atmosphere, the feel of the story, not so much on the narrative and the characters themselves. I think this is portrayed beautifully in The Scorpio Races.

If you decide to read this book, you’ll meet two main protagonists. The first is a girl named Puck Connolly (in reality her name is Kate but her friends call her Puck) who decides to compete in the race with her horse Dolly because she wants to help her family. There she meets a four-time-winner Sean Kendrick, a man of few words but with a particular knack for horses. They become unlikely friends and even something more but they both fight their own battles. This was probably one of my favourite things about this book – though there was very little romance in it, the love parts that were included were simply magical and heart-wrenching.

The last 50 pages of this book were so intense I kept whispering to myself oh my God, oh my God, oh my God. I even texted my sister because my heart was beating like crazy. For a few minutes I thought the worst had happened and then came the ending which made me cry so hard. The last page… Brilliant, truly brilliant.

A lot of people on Goodreads have criticised this book saying the pace was too slow but that is THE WHOLE POINT. IT HAD TO BE SLOW. The island life itself is slow-paced so of course you can’t have a million different things happening all at once. And also although it may seem like nothing happens, that nothing is actually EVERYTHING. I mean come on, you just missed the entire essence of this book.

What you can do with this book is you can FEEL IT in every single page. You can literally feel the cold on your skin, you can smell the salt in the air, hear the waves crashing. You feel for Sean who lost his father to the races and is now by himsef. You feel for Puck and Finn and Gabe who also lost both their parents to the sea and are now trying to do the best they can. Puck and Sean together are just, agh, SO MUCH, there really isn’t any other way to describe it, they just make you fell so much, I almost squealled every time they were together.

Just go and read this book. Please. It will change you.

I’ll see you on Thisby.

(Also, this book reads like a poem. It’s THAT GOOD.)

“Does anyone ask you why you stay, Sean Kendrick?”
“They do.”
“And why do you?”
“The sky and the sand and the sea and Corr.”

Maggie Stiefvater, The Scorpio Races

 

 

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Cats and Arrow(s)

Ahoj, dear readers! I just spend five minutes browsing through the photos on my phone and swooning over all the cat photos. Cats are just the best, aren’t they? They are so cute and fluffly and soft and you don’t have to take them on walks, they clean themselves and they purr when you stroke them. What more can you want? True, they can also be arrogant and full of themselves but that’s just because they remember they used to be worshipped in Ancient Egypt and they wonder where the times have gone.

My sister and her boyfriend adopted another cat and named him Oscar. They already have a cat called Zoya but she is very playful and active and likes to run around the apartment a lot so they decided to get her a brother so she won’t be so bored. Well, the idea was good. The execution however… Poor Zoya now feels left behind and she always keeps an eye on Oscar. Just by looking at her face you can tell she’s not happy about the new living arrangements. She seems quite sad, to tell you the truth.

But Oscar is just a cutie pie! He is way cuddlier than Zoya ever was, he just leaps into your lap and immediately starts purring. You don’t have to convince him to stay in your lap like we have to do with Zoya. And he is such an adorable cat, here is his picture.

mde

Poor Zoya has to fight to get her share of attention now. She used to play around a lot and whenever I’d catsit her she’d just get in my way and try to get me to play with her. One time I was really busy with school so I brought my homework with me and when I tried to write it, this happened.

edf

Yeah, I didn’t get anything done. When I was typing an essay, she either jumped on my fingers and tried to bite them or she turned on her creepster mode and looked at the screen like this:

edf

I do hope she and Oscar will learn to live with each other and started to get along. I mean that was the entire point, to have two cats who get along, play together and keep each other busy. In the end they’ll end up being best friends (I hope) and they’ll drive everyone around them mad. One day (hopefully) I’ll also have a cat or two. I really want a ginger cat because they are so beautiful!

edf(I saw this gorgeous cat when I went on a walk near the sea and just couldn’t help taking a photo of him! Isn’t he beautiful?)

In other news I started watching a new TV series, Arrow. When I was in primary school I watched Smallvile and was sort of obsessed with it so I knew the main story of this series. At first I really didn’t like the main character Oliver (the actor I mean) but then he grew on me and now I swoon everytime he does something cute. I binge watched the first two season (well I skipped the flashbacks because I found them boring) and now I’m finally at season three which is where Oliver and Felicity get together! Yes, I googled that and watched a clip of their wedding on Youtube. I’m terribly nosy!

Apart from Arrow, I also sort of started watching Victoria but I’m not really in the mood for historical series so I only watched four parts. I binge watch two season and give up after four parts, that’s me. 😀 Oliver and Felicity will soon become my new favourite TV couple. Can we all agree how refreshing it is to finally get a character who wears glasses? Almost all my friends, including me, wear glasses but almost no one wears them in TV shows and that always gets on my nerves. I know it’s a silly thing but it’s just so unrealistic. Maybe they should film a show where all the actors wear glasses, now that would be something!

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Best books of 2017

I can’t believe it’s 2018 already! My birthday is slowly approaching and I’m freaking out because I don’t want to be old and gray. I’m exaggerating, I know, but still. There’s just something about birthdays that I strongly dislike. Anyway, I decide to talk about the books I read last year and I picked my top five favourites and here is the list:

  • Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones
  • The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
  • The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
  • The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

I just noticed that all these books were written by female authors so hurray for them! Maggie Stiefvater is obviously the winner since the Raven Cycle consists of four books (and they are all amazing). The thing is I really didn’t expect to like the books as much as I did. I thought it would be entertaining but sort of easy going but then I was blown away with the constant plot twists and the beautiful writing from different POV’s. The story grabbed me with both hands and pulled me in, it was so amazing!

Over the past few years I got tired of YA literature because a lot of it is so similar and I almost skipped this series but since I really liked the Shiver trilogy I decided to give it a go.  What really surprised me was the fact that the last book was the best. In so many series the last book was such a disappointment (Delirium, Twilight, Vampire Academy) but this book, THIS BOOK made me scream and cry (usually at the same time) and sigh and just go OMG every couple of pages. It was a great ending of a fantastic journey. It took me a whole month to finish the series and thinking back that was probably wise because if I read all the books in like two weeks I’d probably end up lying on the floor of my bedroom refusing to leave and re-enter the real world.

For Christmas my sister bought me The Scorpio Races and I really liked that book as well. The focus was mainly on the atmosphere that the author created and she did a really good job at it because I felt like I was right there on Thisby riding a water horse. I also took my time with this book (I guess it’s a Maggie Stiefvater thing) and I marvelled at each and every sentence. The characters were so well-written, I loved the slow romance that developed between Sean and Puck and I wished Finn was my little brother. The island life was portrayed very realistically and I loved the blending of magic and reality, I think that Stiefvater is a true master of that because I’ve seen it in the Raven Cycle as well.

The next favourite of the year was Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. Unlike Maggie Stiefvater, Laini Taylor’s writing is more epic fantasy and I adore her for that because her books read as complex fairytales and they are SO GOOD. I adored Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy and I was worried that I wouldn’t like this book as much but I was wrong. The story was beautiful and complex (the final plot twist blew my mind away, I literally started to pull at my hair), the ending broke my heart (I kept shaking my head) and the writing was again so beautiful that at times I just couldn’t continue with the story because I was rereading the sentences that I liked best. The second part is called Muse of Nightmares and I can’t wait for the release day, I’ll probably pre-order the book as soon as possible.

The last fantasy favourite was Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones. I actually started reading this book like a year ago but gave up after the first few pages and then I picked it up again in spring and I was so glad that I did because the story kept surprising me and it never got boring. Jones is one of my favourite authors (I also wrote a blog post about her, you can read it here) and Fire and Hemlock is one of her best works. Howl’s Moving Castle was great but so was this book, perhaps even better, it’s really hard to say! The main protagonists Polly and Tom were such good friends and their relationship slowly grew to become something more. They invented a story together and that appealed to my writer side and when Tom started to sent Polly stacks of books via mail I got so jealous I started complaining about it during class when the professor wasn’t looking at me. I never knew what the story would bring and that is hard to do because I’ve read a lot of fantasy books and they tend to repeat. But then again I never know what to expect with Diana Wynne Jones – she is full of surprises.

Now it’s time to move from fantasy novels to history literature because the last favourite book of the year is The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton. She is also one of my favourite authors because her stories are always so well planned, complex and intriguing, but what I actually love the best is her writing style. It’s very poetic and the way she paints the world is very special – seen through her eyes it gets an almost magical feeling about it. Even the bad things seem manageable and everything has its own purpose. Her books always consist of two or three stories and the focus then jumps from one to the next but this shift is so smooth that you just glide through the story to the end. The Secret Keeper is one of her best works because the plot twist is OUT OF THIS WORLD. I actually sort of guessed it because my friend told me it’s a huge one and so I payed attention to all the little hints in the book and formed several possible theories – one of them turned out to be the one.

So these are the best books that I read last year. The initial list was way longer but I decided to limit it because then this post would never end (it’s still quite long). In case I inspired you to read one of them, I hope you’ll like them half as much as I did.

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Wrap-up: December 2017

Hello lovelies! Only two days remain in this year and so it’s time to check which books I read this past month. I managed to read 6 books which is pretty good since I was busy with school and didn’t publish anything for two weeks (shame on me, I know). So these are the books I read in December:

  • The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud (Lockwood & Co. 1)
  • Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
  • Tisoč in ena noč – za otroke
  • Siva dama by Sabina Štrubelj
  • The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Lost & Found by Anna B. Doe (New York Knights 1)

My personal favourite was The Scorpio Races which was just amazing. I loved the book and it took me a while to figure out that the story actually takes place on an island somewhere near Scotland/Ireland and the story is based on Celtic legends (I wasn’t aware of that when I bought the book, I just knew I needed to own all the books that Maggie Stiefvater has ever written). The biggest thing that you notice in the book is how much work did the author invest in creating the atmosphere. It feels like you are right there on Thisby, you can breathe it and smell it. I took my time with this book, I read it for three days, three whole days because I went slowly from one sentence to the next. No regrets here. It went straight to my top favourites.

The most disappointing read of December was Milk and Honey. You can read my review in the last post. Again I have to say that I’m not a fan of poetry but even I know what poetry is supposed to make you feel and this here isn’t it. I seriously don’t understand people who worship this poetry collection.

Next I read a fairy tale collection in my native language (yes, I do occasionally read in Slovenian). It was a cute book, basically a collection of stories from the Arabian Nights and the illustrations were really beautiful so I was glad to have bought the book on the book fair I went to last month. I read this book in the evenings when I was done with all the school work and it was a nice way of relaxing before going to bed.

Another Slovenian book I read this month was Siva dama (The Gray Lady). This book was actually given to me by the author herself as a Secret Santa present. I was so surprised to receive the book and was super happy to see it signed because I have very little signed books. The story was pretty good but I didn’t really love it so I only gave it four stars on Goodreads.

And the last book I read was Lost & Found, a romance novel which was sent to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. What I love about this book is the fact that it was written by a young Croatian author whose native language is (naturally) Croatian. So she managed to write an entire book in a language that isn’t her first. I also write in English which isn’t my mother tongue so I know how much work it takes to do it and I just have to say congratulations on the job well done. It really doesn’t show that English is her second language and I think that deserves an applaud.

So these are the books I read in December. The Scorpio Races was by far the best and I urge you to read it if you are a fan of YA fantasy literature. It’s really really good. Maggie Stiefvater is such a creative writer, she plays with the language in a way that makes you feel as though you are the character and that you’re basically living inside her books and for me that is what good literature is all about. She is a constant source of inspiration and I can’t wait to read All the Crooked Saints although that will mean I’ve read all of her work and I’ll have to wait for her next book to come out (please let it be about Ronan).

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Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

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Normally I don’t read poetry but since this book has such a hype about it, I decided to make an exception and see what it was all about. To be honest I always consider best-selling books with a certain reserve because I’ve more than once read them and felt like they didn’t deserve the praise they got. The Night Circus for example was one of such books and The Miniaturist. Milk and honey is definitely the next on the list.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I hate poetry, quite the opposite, I think it is magical how poets can express themselves in such a beautiful way but this book just doesn’t feel poetic AT ALL. It’s not the lack of rhymes either, because I love modern poems that don’t rhyme. You can tell a lot in a mere sentence. A SENTENCE. But this here is just, agh, so disappointing.

My friend said to me that the reason why I didn’t like the book is because I’m not in the “right place and time” meaning I don’t know what a break up feels like. Well I also don’t know what it’s like to do magic but JK Rowling made a pretty convincing way of demonstrating it to me. It’s the way this book is written that gets on my nerves.

You probably know what the book is about so I won’t bore you with the synopsis. I absolutely hated how the author kept whining about break ups and men and how she can exist on her own (well obviously not if all you wrote about is men!). You can literally just add music, turn the poems into lyrics and you’ve got yourself a new Taylor Swift album!

Some poems were pretty good, I agree (nothing innovative though, I seriously don’t understand the hype) but most of them were just

mere

(average,

overly-used,

pathetic)

sentences

written

like

this.

Because apparently this is consider poetry.

By the end of the book I got so frustrated, I wanted to flush the book down the toilet! (Which I didn’t because I borrowed it from a friend.) This poetry is supposed to be feministic yet the main theme is problems with men. Could you please stop fixating your entire life on men and start doing something relevant with it? I honestly cannot believe that people actually love this book and feel inspired by it. Please read other poets, Keats for example, and you’ll see what love poetry REALLY IS.

You should see my face right know. Just writing about this book makes me frustrated again.

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The magic that is Diana Wynne Jones

Rezultat iskanja slik za diana wynne jones

Three years ago my best friend decided it was time to surprise me with a book called Howl’s Moving Castle. As a huge Miyazaki fan I loved his film – no, not loved, I adored Howl and Calcifer and Sophie and wished with all my heart that I could live in their world and be a sorceress as well. The film was (obviously) based on a novel but I never gave it much thought, not until I received an actual copy of it for my birthday. I still thank my best friend for buying me that book every once in a while.

I was so nervous when I started reading the book because I was afraid I wouldn’t like it since the film was so good. I was wrong. I ADORED the novel. It was quite different than the film but in a good way. It seemed to me as though Miyazaki and Jones took the core story of the novel but then made it their own. Howl was a superb main character, Sophie became my role model and Calcifer, well, I sort of wished he was my fire demon.

I then read the other two books in the series though the first one remains my favourite. Each novel had a list of all the author’s books written in them and I was shocked to see how many there were! I was puzzled by the fact that this clearly talented writer wasn’t mentioned more often. Where was she all my life? Even today not many people know about Diana Wynne Jones and I’m really frustrated about it because she is a genius when it comes to fantasy writing. An actual genius.

Her Crestomanci series is hilarious and filled with unexpected plot twists. The worlds she creates are entwined with magic in a way that makes you long for them. I almost cried because I wasn’t a part of them. Jones has a way with words that is unlike any other writer I’ve come across. Neil Gaiman speaks highly of her and he also started reading her books when he was a teenager. Her books are mainly written for children but they’re not childish at all. In fact they are rather complex and the language itself is far from being simple and straight-forward.

I just spend an hour browsing through the books I haven’t yet read to see which I’ll buy first. The old covers aren’t as ornate while the newest editions are beautiful but since we do tend to judge a book by its cover I keep wondering whether this is one of the reasons her books aren’t so widely known. But I think the biggest reason is that her writing isn’t mainstream and it’s mostly intented for children and I can’t think of many adults who would willingly admit they enjoy reading children’s literature. Well I do and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

There is a point to my post and I think you might have a clue as to what it is already. I’m not trying to sell you anthing, not at all, though I would be so happy if you could take the time to read one of her books (I suggest Howl’s Moving Castle because it’s a good way to be introduced to DWJ’s worlds). What I won’t to point out is the fact that a lot of good authors who write quality literature are hovering somewhere in the background while the popular writers steal all the show. I’m not saying that all popular novelists are bad, but just because a book is a bestseller that doesn’t mean it’s actually any good.

I am quite sad to find so little written on Diana Wynne Jones and I’ll definitely write reviews of her books because they are my favourite and they do deserve to get in the spotlight. Fire and Hemlock for example is my favourite book of the year and I might even like it better than Howl! Anyhow I’ll stop praising miss Jones now but if you are a fan of fantasy literature please give her books a try. I promise you will not be disappointed.

In case I haven’t been persuasive enough and my word doesn’t mean that much, here is a wonderful post about DWJ that Neil Gaiman wrote after the author passed away. It’s beautifully written but then again everything Neil Gaiman writes is beautiful.

Even if only one person decides to read DWJ novel after reading this post, I would count that as a success (in case you do read it please message me afterwards, I’d love to hear you thoughts on the book!). To great authors who seemingly create magic out of thin air: thank you.

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Greetings, dear readers!

Saying hello to the big wide world of book lovers.

After almost two months of posting bookish photos on my instagram account (@murmuring.letters) I finally started writing a real blog! It took me a while to figure out what WordPress wants from me but alas, I managed to select a theme and publish my very first post! I have a feeling that during the next few months I’ll become quite an expert when it comes to WordPress … at least that’s the plan!

I guess this is the part where I tell you why I started writing this blog and what I’ll be talking about, though I think that’s pretty obvious. But let’s say it again, if not only to satisfy the helpful people responsible for this accesible platform. The why: I love books and writing. The what about: BOOKS!!!

The reason for my writing this actually goes a bit deeper and it has to do with my mental health problems. Basically I needed something that would help me get out of bed but wouldn’t be too demanding at the same time. And since I love writing and reading and talking about books, starting a book blog seemed like the most logical thing to do.

Genre, closest to my heart, is fantasy literature, so I’ll be posting mostly about books which contain magical elements. For example, I am a huge fan of Harry Potter (but honestly who isn’t, am I right?), I adore Neil Gaiman’s novels and the wonderful worlds of Diana Wynne Jones. Also, I love reading YA literature, especially those books that combine fantasy and romance (Maggie Stiefvater’s fan all the way). History and the changing times excite me so I’ll be posting about history literature as well. Even romance novels have been known to wander on my shelves from time to time. Ocassionaly you may also find me reading the classics but mostly I’ll stick to my favourites.

This blog will mostly contain book reviews but I’ll also be updating you about my life, at least the writing part of it (if I ever manage to get through the current writer’s block). Perhaps I’ll occasionally talk about other things, like my studies, my friends and my sister’s cat Zoya, who is just the most adorable cat ever – well, up until the moment she brings out her claws and teeth. Feel free to comment or send me an email (murmuring.letters@gmail.com), I’d love to discuss books and writing (and cats)!