2020 Reading Challenge

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  1. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood.
  2. The Wicked King by Holly Black
  3. The Tenant of WIldfell Hall by Anne Bronte.
  4. Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter.
  5. The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens.
  6. Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks.
  7. A Room With a View by E.M. FOrster.
  8. The Quiet American by Graham Greene.
  9. Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb.
  10. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch.
  11. Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett.
  12. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys.
  13. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.
  14. The Tempest by William Shakespeare.
  15. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells.
  16. Flush by Virginia Woolf.

 

Book Review ~ ‘Lord of Secrets’ by Breanna Teintze.

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Lord of Secrets by Breanna Teintze
Series: The Empty Gods #1
Genre: Adult Fantasy,
Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books

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SYNOPSIS

Magic is poison. Secrets are power. Death is . . . complicated.

Outlaw wizard Corcoran Gray has enough problems. He’s friendless, penniless and on the run from the tyrannical Mages’ Guild – and with the search for his imprisoned grandfather looking hopeless, his situation can’t get much worse.

So when a fugitive drops into his lap – literally – and gets them both arrested, it’s the last straw – until Gray realises that runaway slave Brix could be the key to his grandfather’s release. All he has to do is break out of prison, break into an ancient underground temple and avoid killing himself with his own magic in the process.

In theory, it’s simple enough. But as secrets unfold and loyalties shift, Gray discovers something with the power to change the nature of life and death itself.

Now Gray must find a way to protect the people he loves, but it could cost him everything, even his soul . . .

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Yes, yes, yes! ‘Lord of Secrets’ is just the kind of fantasy I love to read, and has stayed swimming at the front of my mind ever since I finished reading it.

To start, I just have to talk about the magic system. Everytime I think about it, I want to punch the air. It is spot on. Teintze has created this amazing world where Wizards can’t just use their magic without a second thought. Magic in this world has side-effects. Our main character Corcoran (or Gray as he prefers to be known) knows this all to well, and in his battle to save his Grandfather and friends, has to fight the various side-effects of using his magic. The smallest spell, first scribed on the skin and then cast, can cause nausea or headaches, the bigger ones causing unconsciousness and more. I LOVED how the magic in this book wasn’t just something that was used without thought, but something that had as many drawbacks as it did advantages.

Character wise, Teintze has it spot on. Gray is not only a likeable character, but a realistic one. He struggles with a physical disability, he can be a sarcastic bugger, and tries to use humour to get himself out of awkward situations, but you really root for him as he grows to accept his faults, and takes responsibility for them. He truly has a heart of gold, and I loved getting to know the man underneath his sarcastic bravado. In turn, each of the secondary characters are so well fleshed-out that you come to care for all of them, even the ones that you disagree with. In this tale of necromancy, noone is evil for the sake of evil, and there is a human side to every character.

What I loved the most about this story was the humour which is flecked thoughout in perfect taste. Necromancy is a huge part of the plot in this book, and as well as drawing on the heartfelt side of raising the dead, there are some brilliant light-hearted moments too, which make you laugh in despair as Gray and his friends have to put up with a cocky necromancer who doesn’t seem to understand why they may be offended with his raising-the-dead behaviour. There were a couple of moments where I was a little confused about some of the mechanics of the necromancy, with some terms being used when discussing it that I didn’t fully grasp, but I still managed to keep level with the story, without feeling too behind.

Overall, this was a strong start to the ‘Empty Gods’ series, with a intoxicating mix of magic, family, friendship and of course, necromancy.  I cannot wait to see where Teintze takes these characters next.

4 Stars. 

* Review copy kindly provided by Jo Fletcher Books in exchange for an honest review*


 

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2019 Reading Challenge

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  1. Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy.
  2.  The Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger.
  3. Ulysses by James Joyce.
  4. The Novice by Trudi Canavan.
  5. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.
  6. The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens.
  7. Silas Marner by George Eliot.
  8. Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally.
  9. A Court of Mist and Fury (ACOTAR #2) by Sarah J. Maas.
  10. The Iliad by Homer.
  11. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf.
  12. Pyramids by Terry Pratchett.
  13. The Regeneration Trilogy by Pat Barker.
  14. The Awakening by Kate Chopin.
  15. The Color Purple by Alice Walker.
  16. A Passage to India by E.M. Forster.
  17. Hamlet by William Shakespeare.
  18. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith.
  19. Villette by Charlotte Brontë.
  20. The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood.
  21. The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman by Angela Carter.
  22. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.
  23. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

2018 Reading Challenge

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To-Read-2
Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood.
The Magician’s Guild by Trudi Canavan
Early Stories by Truman Capote
The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter
The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens 
Middlemarch by George Eliot
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
The Odyssey by Homer
Dark Tales by Shirley Jackson
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett
The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

January
The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials #3) by Philip Pullman 31/12/17 – 02/01/18
Sky Song by Abi Elphinstone – 02/01 – 03/01
The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper – 04/01 – 09/01
La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust #1) by Philip Pullman – 10/01 – 14/01
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell – 15/01 – 19/01
Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1) by Sarah J. Maas – 22/01
Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2) by Sarah J. Maas – 22/01 – 23/01
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson – 24/01 – 26/01
Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3) by Sarah J. Maas – 30/01 – 31/01
February
Witchborn by Nicholas Bowling – 31/01 – 01/02
Shadowsong (Wintersong #2) by S. Jae-Jones – 01/02 – 03/02
The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris – 04/02 – 04/02
The Secret of Black Rock by Joe Todd-Stanton – 05/02
Fergal is Fuming! by Robert Starling – 06/02
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller – 05/02 – 13/02
Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass #4) by Sarah J. Maas – 14/02 – 19/02
Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood – 20/02 – 28/02
March
Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5) by Sarah J. Maas – 02/03 – 05/03
The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air #1) by Holly Black – 06/03 – 07/03
The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter – 07/03 – 12/03
Leaf by Sandra Dieckmann – 12/03
Anne of Green Gables (Anne #1) by L.M. Montgomery – 12/03 – 16/03
The Night Box by Louise Greig – 17/03
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark – 18/03 – 19/03
A Court of Thorns and Roses (ACOTAR #1) by Sarah J. Maas – 19/03 – 20/03
When I Hit You by Meena Kandasamy – 21/03 – 24/03
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman – 25/03 – 30/03
April
The Magician’s Guild (Black Magician Trilogy #1) by Trudi Canavan – 04/02 – 04/04
Daughter of Smoke and Bone (DoSaB #1) by Laini Taylor – 08/04 – 10/04
Circe by Madeline Miller – 11/04 – 14/04
Days of Blood and Starlight (DoSaB #2) by Laini Taylor – 15/04 – 21/04
Superbat by Matt Carr – 21/04
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward – 24/04 – 25/04
The Early Stories by Truman Capote – 26/04 – 30/04
May
The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar – 01/05 – 10/05
Sight by Jessie Greengrass – 10/05 – 12/05
The Idiot by Elif Batuman – 12/05 – 21/05
Home Fire by Kamila Shamie – 22/05 – 23/05
The Ice Palace by Tarjei Vesaas – 24/05 – 26/05
The Surface Breaks by Louise O’Neill – 26/05 – 27/05
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje – 28/05 – 01/06
June
Boy Underwater by Adam Baron – 01/06 – 02/06
Heartburn by Nora Ephron – 03/06 – 05/06
The Breakthrough by Daphne du Marier – 05/06
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden – 06/06 – 10/06
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie – 10/06 – 12/06
Wyrd Sisters (Discworld #6; Witches #2) by Terry Pratchett – 13/06 – 16/06
TBC…

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Where’d You Go, Absent Blogger?

Where’d You Go, Absent Blogger? 
A Year in the Life of a Determined Reader.

‘Where’d You Go, Absent Blogger?’ I hear you ask (or maybe not, but roll with me for a moment.)

‘Does thou not read anymore? To post no book reviews?’

Why no, loyal reader. If anything, I read too much and have too many books and too little time.

It is the year 2018, the year in which I must read the books I have chosen for this 365 days, or wallow in shame for all eternity.

Disclaimer: I blame a fellow bookseller.

A reading journal seemed like a fun idea when the idea first swept by me. I have no artistic talent, so it wasn’t going to be one of those gorgeous, arty, stylish journals no matter how hard I tried (although I was determined to put at least one drawing in there, for the sake of pride.)

A couple of years ago Andy Miller gave a talk on my creative writing course about his book ‘The Year of Reading Dangerously’. A left the talk full of plans – I was going to read ‘The Odyssey’, and ‘Middlemarch’ would not defeat me after the first paragraph.

Alas, life got in the way, ‘The Odyssey’ was put on a back bench until after my studies, ‘Middlemarch’ was put in the loft, and bookselling and blogging introduced so many other books to me, ones that I had to review promptly, that I forgot about that promise I’d made to myself.

That is until this year, when on the 1st January 2018, my Kindle broke.

Now I am a very firm lover of the book in its original form, but for my work as a book blogger, my Kindle was an important part. My reviews came from reading egalleys from Netgalley and publishers, and I never got into reading on the Kindle App on an iPad or phone, so Kindle was the way I did it.

What to do, I asked myself. Debating on whether to buy a new Kindle (after only two years of the last one!), I stared at one of my many bookshelves.

I have a lot of books. Alright, I know people always say that. People come into the bookshop I work in and claim the same. I soon get out of them, that their idea of ‘lot of books’ is actually a pile next to their bed. My ‘lot of books’ I have accumulated in my 25 years of life, and 3 1/2 years as a bookseller consist of 10 full size bookcases double-stacked, dozens of full cardboard and heavy duty plastic boxes in two lofts, the same in a garage, in boxes under my bed, under the spare bed, in my wardrobe, in my locker at work…you get the idea. If me and my bookseller boyfriend put all our books together we’d have a nice little library.

And still I buy more.

So I decided in that moment, 2018 would not be the year of the kindle, but a year of getting through some of the books I have bought and that have sat patiently on my shelf (or in boxes) for longer than they ought to have.

I started with 18 books that I have to read this year – with some others in between, as my Goodreads reading challenge is to read 60 books.

Below is my ‘To-Read 2018’ and my ‘2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge’ when I first started. Follow the link here to see how I’ve been progressing in my journey.

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And as we say at work: Books, Books, Books!

And Happy Reading!

 


 

I Wrote a Poem Once…

What can I say?

Is there any way to explain such a deviation in form?

Especially from one such as me who has avoided writing poetry since the traumatic unearthing of that dreadful Christmas poem I wrote at age 8? (And no, that shall not be posted here, and yes – thanks Mother for scarring me for life with that reminder of my childhood writing.)

Again, what can I say?

Something awoke in me and demanded to be heard.

Write about what you know, they say.

Write what’s in your heart.

So, I wrote about the war.

No, I’ve never been in a war.

No, it’s not something I have any intimate knowledge of.

But yes, it is something that’s close to my heart.

And will I post it here; probably not.

I’m not brave enough for that.

Disclaimer: I blame NaNoWriMo.

Book Review ~ ‘Greatest Hits’ by Laura Barnett.

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Greatest Hits by Laura Barnett
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Music
Release Date: June 15th 2017.

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SYNOPSIS

The new novel from the author of the number one bestseller The Versions of Us.

One day. Sixteen songs. The soundtrack of a lifetime…

Alone in her studio, Cass Wheeler is taking a journey back into her past. After a silence of ten years, the singer-songwriter is picking the sixteen tracks that have defined her – sixteen key moments in her life – for a uniquely personal Greatest Hits album.

In the course of this one day, both ordinary and extraordinary, the story of Cass’s life emerges – a story of highs and lows, of music, friendship and ambition, of great love and great loss. But what prompted her to retreat all those years ago, and is there a way for her to make peace with her past?

Daughter. Mother. Singer. Lover. What are the memories that mean the most?

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Book Review ~ ‘Greatest Hits’ by Laura Barnett ~ 5 Stars!

Laura Barnett’s The Versions of Us was one of my favourite books of 2015; so much so I have a copy in both Hardback and Paperback. So it was with much excitement and a little trepidation that I entered into Barnett’s second novel Greatest Hits. How will she create such a heartfelt story, one with as many twists and turns as she did before? But I needn’t have feared. Greatest Hits is a completely different story, but in it’s own way, just as fantastic as The Versions of Us.

Greatest Hits is an immersive reading experience, which takes us through the life of fictional singer Cassie Wheeler. A famed star, whose music and personal life had been at the forefront of the media for years before she disappeared from view, everyone is wanting to know when her next album will be released. As a middle-aged Cassie returns to her studio for the first time in years, she listens to and chooses the songs that best chronicle her life’s road as she takes herself and the reader down memory lane.

Laura Barnett writes with such an understanding of human emotion that in the space of 400+ pages, as a reader you feel as though you too have experienced all that Cassie has. She no longer becomes a character that you are reading about, but another part of you that you never knew you had. Throughout Cassie’s life, through her loves, losses, successes and failures, all are expressed through Barnett’s powerful prose, and the meaningful lyrics of the songs that Cassie chooses as those that have shaped the person she is.

Greatest Hits  is a reading experience that melds music and literature in a way that few people have achieved before. With lyrics by both Barnett and singer-songwriter Kathryn Williams, readers can also hear the sixteen of Cassie’s records in song on Williams’ album Songs from the Novel Greatest Hits.

5 Stars!


 

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Greatest Hits

~ Amazon UK ~ Amazon US ~

Songs from the Novel Greatest Hits

~ Kathryn Williams ~

OR

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~ Waterstones UK ~


 

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Laura Barnett

~ Goodreads ~ Twitter ~ Website ~

Kathryn Williams 

~ Website ~