Sunday, 24 June 2018

Summer Crushes

Long time no see bbs! I'll be back with book reviews and other words on stuff soon but for now here's a playlist of songs I am enjoying marching around to in the sunshine this summer. This post brought to you by getting my personalty back and actually listening to music at all ever again! (Yes there are three Sigrid songs on there don't @ me.) Here's a few vids but whole playlist listed below. Ya welcome. 

Spotify playlist link HERE

Apple Music Playlist below:

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Review: The Truth and Lies of Ella Black by Emily Barr

The Truth and Lies of Ella Black is the second book I have read by Emily Barr. The One Memory of Flora Banks came out about a year ago and it was a book I greatly enjoyed, with its snowy remote setting. (You can read my review of that here.The Truth and Lies of Ella Black focusses on teenager Ella, who struggles with her dark side while trying to appear picture perfect to her parents. When she is taken out of school one afternoon completely unannounced and flown to Brazil with her parents, Ella understandably has a lot of questions, none of which are being answered. There are secrets in her past that Ella knows nothing about, but while on the run she begins to slowly uncover the truth. 

We spend much of the book in the heat of Rio as Ella struggles to make sense of her life so far. It's a far cry from the snowy north of The One Memory of Flora Banks, but there are similarities in the unravelling of lies surrounding both Flora and Ella. Both girls' parents have lied in a bid to protect their daughters and both girls end up breaking out on their own, battling against their own brains to figure out what is true and what has been fabricated in their lives.

Much like Flora, Ella's journey is made all the more easy with the kindness of strangers and it seems luck is on her side to keep danger mostly out of her path. This is maybe a little unrealistic, and the same criticism could be applied to Ella's instant falling in love with an American boy from her hotel with whom she spends one night out partying. However the stakes feel high and so all emotions feel justifiably heightened, with the tension and peril of the plot keeping the pace up all the way through. I found myself wanting to get back to the story and quite honestly thinking to myself "right, what is this idiot doing to do next" as Ella went from bad decision to bad decision. 

I really enjoy Emily Barr's writing, so I'm looking forward to what comes next. She was recently in India doing research for the next book so I think we are safe to assume we'll be getting another great use of an interesting location. 

I received a copy of The Truth and Lies of Ella Black from Penguin Random House, which was very nice of them! This is an honest review, promise. 

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Review!: The Sacrifice Box by Martin Stewart

The Sacrifice Box is the second book by Martin Stewart. I loved his first book Riverkeep, the review of which you can read here, so I was very keen to get my dirty mitts on this one! I went along to the book launch in Glasgow, heard Martin speak about the writing process and read from the first chapter, annnd I got my book signed ooh. It was nice to finally meet Martin (he warned me that this one is very different from Riverkeep!) and join in the excitement of The Sacrifice Box.

The Sacrifice Box is set on a small British island in the early to mid '80s. We follow clever teenage boy Sep, who longs to go to boarding school on the main land and leave behind his lonely friendless island life. He is no longer friends with the gang from the halcyon preteen summer of '82; popular guy Mack, dimwitted Arkle, farmer's daughter Lamb, and bully's target Hadley. The gang are brought back together after the offerings they made to a mysterious stone box deep in the woods that summer seem to be coming back to haunt them, along with a pair of scary crows.

This book draws on nostalgia for all things analogue- there are plenty of mixtape cassettes- and teenage horror classics- there is a good portion of biking around through forests. It has been compared to E.T. and The Goonies and to more recent 80s nostalgia horror adventures It and Stranger Things. The Sacrifice Box definitely stands up to these comparisons, delivering a suspenseful, gore-filled, scary teenage gang horror adventure. It reminded me of Trollhunters by Guillermo del Toro and Daniel Kraus too.

Martin Stewart's writing is so vivid in its description that you find yourself right there in the stuffy classroom with Sep feeling the tension gather, or winding along the path deep into the forest with the gang ready for a zombie animal to jump out at you at any moment. The cast of characters are just as vivid and fleshed out, and I rooted for them to make it through the night as a gang without getting said flesh viciously mauled by zombie animals or leaving their powerful friendship behind again. 

I really enjoyed this one and I am intrigued to see where Martin takes his writing next!

A few pics from the Glasgow book launch at the Waterstones on Sauchiehall Street:

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Books I read in December! Superpowerless, Moonrise, The Argonauts, Grief is the Thing With Feathers,Winter Magic, Lumberjanes

Hiya hiya hiya Happy New Year. I've got a nice December reading round up for youuuu ooooh. Up first I read Superpowerless by Chris Priestley, a story of a teenage boy's struggle with grief and escape into his superhero alter ego. There are some very good comic strip pages between chapters too. Next up I read Moonrise by the wonderful Sarah Crossan. I loved one of her previous books, One, written entirely in verse. Moonrise is written in the same way, following the brother of a death row inmate as he navigates his sibling's final weeks. It's safe to say it is pretty intense! I have been reading The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson in my lunch breaks for a little while and I finished it in December. I have a friend who is basically evangelical about it and I thought it was pretty great too. It was about time I picked Max Porter's Grief is the Thing With Feathers off my tbr pile. It was very strange and every bit as good as all the rave reviews said it was. With Christmas approaching I picked out Winter Magic, a collection of short stories curated by Abi Elphinstone, which was perfect festive fireside reading. And to round the year off, I snuck in Lumberjanes Vol. 3 to make it to my reading target of 60 books! 

Superpowerless- Chris Priestley

Moonrise- Sarah Crossan

The Argonauts- Maggie Nelson

Grief is the Thing With Feathers- Max Porter

Winter Magic- Abi Elphinstone

Lumberjanes Vol. 3- Noelle Stevenson

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Books I read in November!: The Amber Spyglass, La Belle Sauvage, Genuine Fraud, Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race

Hiyyyyya! Starting the year by being behind on last year's blogposts woohoo! I better crack on with it so I can get on to the December reads too and then 2017 best of then some individuals reviews eeeek!

So in November I continued my His Dark Materials reread and finished reading The Amber Spyglass, which was brilliant and I enjoyed being back with all those wheel creatures and Dr Mary Malone and seeing Lyra and Will through to the very troublesome end of their journey! I could finally move on to The Book of Dust Volume One: La Belle Sauvage and it was wonderful. I loved Malcolm's world built up around the pub and visiting the nuns and school and on his trusty boat. So much of the plot movement was through the urgency to change the many smelly nappies of a baby and somehow it worked so well. Very much anticipating the volume two! As you might imagine I was a bit stuck with what to read next after 4 Philip Pullman books in a row, but luckily I had the newest E. Lockhart book on kindle. Genuine Fraud was gripping and clever and kept me guessing the whole way through. I also listened to Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge on audiobook, which was immensely educating and an all round essential read for everyone and probably white people in particular!

The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman

Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

See you soon for some December reads and mooooooooore!

Monday, 18 December 2017

Christmas Presents Guide 2017!

Helloooo there! Here we are in the Christmas season once again yippee! Merry Christmas to ye all! I've got a big old list of TEN books to suggest to you for lovely presents for all your lovely friends and family! There's stuff for explorers, garden lovers, a v interesting graphic novel, hard hitting YA, something sciencey, something feminismy, some weird short stories, a dystopian novella, and a whole novel in verse! Without further a do, here are my suggestions for books to give as presents this festive season:

Rolling Blackouts by Sarah Glidden

I found Sarah Glidden's first graphic memoir How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less so compelling and thoughtful and reflective and Rolling Blackouts does not disappoint. It's in a similar style, but with Glidden taking more of an observer's view to the rest of her group, which comprises of two journalist friends and an ex Marine as they travel through Turkey, Syria and Iraq in 2010, pre Arab Spring. I really love Sarah Glidden's artwork. She has such a soft touch- subtle, with really beautiful watercolour washes, and great characters. Super interesting, great storytelling, beautiful artwork.

The Mother of All Questions by Rebecca Solnit

After the popularity of Men Explain Things to Me, which I enjoyed as some lunchtime reading this year, The Mother of All Questions is Rebecca Solnit's new collection of essays on feminism. I have a really nice yellow Haymarket Books edition, but there's a lovely shiny hardback edition which would be perrrrrrrfect as a present or your fave feminist thinker.

Moonrise by Sarah Crossan

Sarah Crossan's wonderful book One was one of my favourites of last year, and Moonrise is also wonderful! Written entirely in verse, it tells the story of a family attempting to deal with their oldest sibling being on death row after being falsely accused of murder.  It really is wonderful and emotional and nuanced and powerful and complicated and quiet and contemplative and juuust great. 

Life in the Garden by Penelope Lively

I listened to a lovely interview with Penelope Lively on Women's Hour and I thought her new book Life in the Garden sounded like a perfect present for a garden lover! It is part memoir and part a look a gardens in literature. I'm giving a copy to one of my garden-loving grannies but I may have to give it a sneaky read first!

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give is a powerful novel by Angie Thomas. An unapologetic look at race based violence in the United States, centred around the aftermath of a police shooting of an unarmed black teenager. Starr is the central character- a teenage girl who navigates the worlds of her hood neighbourhood home and her private school education. After her childhood friend Khalil is shot by a police officer while Starr is in the passenger seat, she has to work out how to find strength to speak out, be a strong witness, and figure out a way to be brave in the face of tragedy. It's amazing and important and has been topping the NYT bestseller list for about a million weeks. If you haven't read it yet then really what are you waiting for.

The Doll's Alphabet by Camilla Grudova

For the short story lover in your life, The Doll's Alphabet by Camilla Grudova could be an excellent present choice. Perfect for fans of Angela Carter, these stories are creepy and interlinked through themes and imagery of sewing machines, strange cities, pregnancy, and dolls. It's a beautiful blue Fitzcarraldo Edition and was just as strange and creepy as I hoped it would be when I read it earlier this year. 

The End We Start From by Megan Hunter

A beautiful hardback novella, The End We Start From is the first book by Megan Hunter. It is set in an apocalyptic England and is sparsely written but somehow with such a vivid sense of place and emotion, dealing with motherhood and family. It's a very intense read, but perfect for a reading in a oner over the holidays. 

Superpowerless by Chris Priestley

I'm just realising how heavy the topics of these books all are... this one is about David who is not handling his grief over the death of his father particularly well. He hides in his inherited comic books, believing he is a superhero himself, with one task. He's also navigating the social circles of high school and relationships with girls, and doing a fair bit of spying on the neighbours out his bedroom window through a telescope. The author's illustrations are featured throughout the book too. This one might be good for a teen type person!

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli

Now for a bit of science! Carlo Rovelli, Italian theoretical physicist, takes you through various monumental physics based moments from this century and the last. It's about black holes and stuff? Gravity? Space and stuff? Basically it's a huge best seller in Italy, and he's got a another one out too, Reality Is Not What It Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravity, in a lovely spotty hardback. I got this one for a sciencey person in my life! 

Wild Guide Scotland by Kimberley Grant, Richard Gaston, David Cooper

Why not give the gift of some adventure inspiration this Christmas! Wild Guide Scotland is the perfect travel guide for the best and most wild places hidden in the nooks and crannies of Scotland. Wild camping, wild swimming, wildlife! It is a beautiful book full of excellent and well research information on how to make the most out of your time in Scotland. The photographs are pretty spectacular too. 

Ho Ho Ho and have Merry Christmas ok byyyeeeeeee xoxoxox

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Books I read in October!: The Invisible Child, Undercover Princess, Girls Will Be Girls, Bonfire, Northern Lights, Turtles All the Way Down, The Subtle Knife

Helloo helloo hellooooo! Wow this is late! Sorry! Ummmmm- Here's the books I read in October! It was mostly His Dark Materials but I squeezed in a few more too! I started off with The Invisible Child, a little two story collection by Tove Jansson from Oxfam and the Moomin company to raise money for women and girls, which is nice! I lovvvve Tove Jansson and the Moomins so I was very keen to get this wee book. I'd read both of the short stories before, but they were well worth a reread! I read Undercover Princess by Connie Glynn, which was fun and princessy but felt pretty unfinished to me, I wrote a review here if you're interested! I listened to Girls Will Be Girls by Emer O'Toole, which was excellent and informative and covers the societal structure of gender identity and feminism and stuff. I got a review copy of Krysten Ritter's first novel Bonfire, which is a thriller set in a small rural American town with a murder mystery and I thought it was pretty good! I reviewed Bonfire herrrrre! I also read the new John Green book Turtles All the Way Down and I raced it through it. I think it's his best one yet. And of course I was doing my reread of His Dark Materials, so I listened to Northern Lights on audiobook, which is an excellent way to do it as it is read by Philip Pullman himself with a whole cast of voice actors. I was so happy to be back in Lyra's Oxford and to discover how much I could or couldn't remember from the series as I was probably about 10 when I last read them. I also got through The Subtle Knife on kindle, which I loved reading too. It has such a different pace to Nothern Lights, and most of the action takes place over the course of a few weeks. I got on to The Amber Spyglass in November and then could finally read The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage too! I might read them all again AGAIN as they are just such wonderful books. 

The Invisible Child

Undercover Princess

Girls Will Be Girls


Turtles All The Way Down

His Dark Materials

Friday, 10 November 2017

Review!: Bonfire by Krysten Ritter

Bonfire is the first novel by Krysten Ritter, star of such excellent television shows as The B in Apartment 33 and of course Jessica Jones. This story takes place in the small town of our protagonist Abby Williams' childhood, where a 10 year old mystery disappearance has plagued the minds of every Barrens, Indiana townsperson. Back in town for the first time in 10 years as a grown up lawyer person investigating the potential water pollution of the local massive plastics firm, Abby digs up both the town's and her own past

While Abby investigates Optimal Plastics' layers of lies and cover ups, she also finds herself unearthing secrets about the decades old scandalous disappearance of popular girl Kaycee Mitchell, striking up romances with former classmates, navigating the complicated relationship with her ageing father, and attempting not to turn to drink as the impact of her childhood weighs down on her all the while trying to keep herself together in front of her colleagues.

Ritter thanks Lauren Oliver in her acknowledgments, and as a fan of Oliver's writing I could really see her influence on this thriller. I love Lauren Oliver's books so this was definitely a good thing. Bonfire is dark, a little depressing, enthralling and gripping. I entirely pictured Abby as Krysten Ritter/Jessica Jones- maybe there could be a new series in this? Badass environmental lawyer with gay black colleague uncovering corporate scandals and solving murders? I'm on board! 

This gripping thriller is perfect to keep you curled up where it's safe and warm indoors this autumn/winter. I'm looking forward to seeing what Krysten Ritter writes next!

I received a copy of Bonfire from the publisher in exchange for an honest review, which this is!

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Review! The Undercover Princess by Connie Glynn

Undercover Princess is the first book by Connie Glynn, noodlerella on youtube, and the first part in The Rosewood Chronicles series. Our main character is the rather cutely named Lottie Pumpkin who earns herself a scholarship/bursary place at Rosewood Hall, a very prestigious private boarding school for heirs and royalty. Lottie has worked very hard to fulfil her mother's dying wish that she go to Rosewood Hall, so she leaves behind her quiet life in Cornwall with her slightly evil, possibly just antagonistic, step mum and best boy-pal, to attend the fancy school.

Lottie is also very into princesses, pink, and tiaras and much to her surprise ends up sharing a dorm room with an actual princess, the mysterious Ellie Wolf, Crown Princess of Maradova. Ellie has not yet been presented publicly as the heir to the throne, so she is attempting to keep her royalty undercover. As gossip spreads about there being a princess at school, Lottie ends up pretending to be the undercover princess, to help her new pal out, and to indulge a little in her fairytale princess dream.

I was really intrigued by the concept of an undercover princess, and as a fan of The Princess Diaries I was right up for the modern-European-princess-at-high-school set up (hello Princess of Maradova/Princess of Genovia.) And as a lover of She's The Man I was all for some undercover at boarding school action. There is a fun gang of friends from day 1 at Rosewood, with various geniuses, heirs to fortunes, snobby posh girls and flamboyant boys. We are introduced to the history of the school, the various teachers, classmates and their bodyguards, various secret passages. There is a lot to enjoy in this book and I found myself wanting to get to bed to read more every night. 

Howwwwwwwweverrrrrr, there was a certain first-drafty feeling to the whole thing. There were various typos and rogue line breaks in my review copy- which is fine, it's an unedited proof- but I rarely see so many in a bound review copy. I felt like certain details weren't given time to be explored or were presented and then forgotten about. We only spend a couple of pages at Lottie's home, so those step mum and best friend dynamics aren't super solidly set up. Lottie climbs through some kind of secret tunnel in an art cupboard and overhears a conversation. I reckon she could've overheard a conversation without a secret tunnel, or let's use that secret tunnel a whole lot more, also why is there a secret tunnel in the art cupboard? Let's talk about that secret tunnel! Lottie also walks through a river and goes underwater to find another secret tunnel with Ellie? They get all wet?? Nobody, including the teachers, knows who the secret princess is, but all the teachers know that Lottie is there on a bursary, so presumably they've figured she isn't the princess after all? Lottie gets her phone back at the Christmas holidays (there's a no-phones-during-term-time rule) but has no signal in her room, and then at the end of the school year talks about finally getting her phone back and making a call in her room. I mean that is pernickety but it bothered me! What was all that code breaking about eh? Was it just about the founder? I thought Binal was letting them know that she knew about the princess thing? No? Also the headmaster taking a back seat and letting his female colleagues be the voice of the school?? Give them the headmaster job then surely?? 

Overall, I actually thought it was a great idea, but I just wish it had felt a little less rushed. Maybe a little bit of restructuring and attention to detail could've ironed out some of the obvious issues. I thought the pacing was pretty good, we raced through the school year so we got a fair bit of development of Lottie's new friendships. I thought the world building of the school and all its intricacies was cool, although I lost sense of this as the book progressed. And naming the role of royal stand in 'Portman' just HAS to be because of Natalie Portman's role as Padme/Princess Amidala in Star Wars riiiiight? I thought that was clever! I'm hoping the next books in this series get more of a polish, and that Connie Glynn gets a bit more practiced at a flowing plot and attention to detail. In fact it made me think about the attention to detail, or lack thereof, in my own novel first draft, so it was a learning experience really!

Undercover Princess is a great concept, but felt like a bit of a first draft to me.

I received a review copy of Undercover Princess from the publisher in exchange for an honest review, which this is!

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Autumnal Reads! Bonfire, The End We Start From, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, His Dark Materials, The Bear and the Nightingale, Comet in Moominland

Hello and Happy Autumn to you! I come to you from the damp depths of October, barrelling fast down its flood waters into the chilly chasm of November's dark embrace. It's been raining a lot, but when the rain stops for a minute you can look around and see the many pretty orange and red and brown leaves all falling from the trees into crunchy/mushy piles. The squirrels are busy squirrelling away nuts and the crows all seem to be up to something... so it's about time we all retreated indoors where the hot chocolate is only 2 mins in the microwave away, the heating is on, the fluffy socks have been dug out from the back of the drawer and a fine stack of Autumnal Reads awaits! 

I may be a little delirious from the v bad cold I currently have, but I'm not letting that hamper my efforts to recommend some cosy reading choices. And with the clocks going back you might as well use your extra hour in bed to enjoy some cosy reading time! 

Bonfire  is the first novel by Krysten Ritter, star of such excellent television shows as The B in Apartment 33 and Jessica Jones. This story takes place in the small town of our protagonist Abby Williams' childhood, where a 10 year old mystery disappearance has plagued the minds of every townsperson. Back as a grown up and a lawyer investigating the potential water pollution of the local massive plastics firm, Abby digs up both the town's and her own past. This gripping thriller is perfect to keep you curled up where it's safe and warm indoors. 

The End We Start From is the first book by Megan Hunter. Indulge those dooms day thoughts with this apocalyptic novella, sparsely written but somehow with such a vivid sense of place and emotion. It's a fairly intense read, but perfect for reading in one sitting while avoiding the howling winds of autumn.

His Dark Materials is the wonderful series by Phillip Pullman. Shroud yourself in the comfort and magnificence of this wonderful world, or should I say multiple worlds. Yes I should. I've been rereading the series in preparation for the return of Lyra's Oxford in the new The Book of Dust series. I've got my copy of part  one, La Belle Sauvage, now but thank the actual lord I decided to reread the others as I had entirely forgotten almost everything. To be fair to myself The Amber Spyglass did get published when I was 10, and I have a signed first edition of it, so odds are that was when I last read it! I really recommend making this series part of your autumnal reading line up.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden is probably more wintery than autumnal given that it is set in winter in the Russian wilderness. There's plenty of exploration in the forest, horse whispering, rubbish step mothers, and most importantly magic and folk tales. Maybe save this one for the autumn to winter transitional period. Best served under blanket with mug of hot chocolate.

Comet in Moomimland is a wonderful moomin adventure story by Tove Jansson. With a comet headed for Moominvalley, much adventure and excitement ensues. I have a lovely new Sort Of Books collectors edition which has the original 1950s/60s cover designs. There are a few new editions which you can gaze at admiringly in between reading! I'm hoping to get my mitts on all of them.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson is a very creepy novella about sisters living in the big house outside of a small town. Their whole family was poisoned to death over dinner several years ago, and the sisters have continued living in the family house, hiding from the gossip and hostility of the people in town. It is so strange and creepy and brilliant and includes a 10/10 cat character. Read this one in candle light with cat on lap or curled up nearby.