Tsundoko Tuesday – the series edition

Copy of First Line FridayIn which my unread book collecting has gone beyond shame

There was a time, many years ago, when I promised myself I would never buy a sequel before I’d read the first book in the series. Otherwise, there’s a chance I might not actually LIKE the first book, and then where would I be, with a stack of unread books I didn’t actually want to read any more.

Oh, how present me looks back and laughs. And laughs. And… okay, you get the picture. So here are a few of the offending series.

An Ember In the Ashes

DSC_1008~2Oh dear, I don’t even remember buying book 2. What made me decide to break my policy for it? Was it a present? I have absolutely no idea! And I also have no idea why I haven’t read them yet. Everyone loves them. Sabaa Tahir is hilarious on social media. The fourth book comes out this year so if I don’t read them soon, that’ll be ANOTHER book I end up buying without knowing if I’m committed to a series. And yet, here we are.

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.
Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.
It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.
But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.
There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

Even the Darkest Stars

DSC_0996~2This sounds so good! I got it in a Fairyloot box (ah yes, unread subscription box books. I have a lot of those) over two years ago and I’ve just never got round to it. Then, confronted with a fantastically good value deal at the publisher stall at YALC last year… I caved and bought book 2. But it’s so pretty! It can’t have been a bad decision. Right?

Kamzin has always dreamed of becoming one of the emperor’s royal explorers, the elite climbers tasked with mapping the wintry, mountainous Empire and spying on its enemies. She knows she could be the best in the world, if only someone would give her a chance.

But everything changes when the mysterious and eccentric River Shara, the greatest explorer ever known, arrives in her village and demands to hire Kamzin—not her older sister, Lusha, as everyone had expected—for his next expedition. This is Kamzin’s chance to prove herself—even though River’s mission to retrieve a rare talisman for the emperor means climbing Raksha, the tallest and deadliest mountain in the Aryas. Then, Lusha sets off on her own mission to Raksha with a rival explorer, and Kamzin must decide what’s most important to her: protecting her sister from the countless perils of the climb or beating her to the summit.

The challenges of climbing Raksha are unlike anything Kamzin expected—or prepared for—with avalanches, ice chasms, ghosts, and other dangers at every turn. And as dark secrets are revealed, Kamzin must unravel the truth about their mission and her companions—while surviving the deadliest climb she has ever faced.

The Knife of Never Letting Go

DSC_0997~2Alright, this one I have zero guilt for. It’s a clear violation of my policy – I bought all three at once and hadn’t even read a single book by Patrick Ness at that point. But they were all sitting there together in a second hand bookshop. In near-perfect condition. Matching editions. They were £1 each! What would you have done?

Prentisstown isn’t like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in an overwhelming, never-ending stream of Noise. Just a month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd and his dog, Manchee—whose thoughts Todd can hear too, whether he wants to or not—stumble upon an area of complete silence. They find that in a town where privacy is impossible, something terrible has been hidden—a secret so awful that Todd and Manchee must run for their lives.

But how do you escape when your pursuers can hear your every thought?

Share the tsundoku confessions

Are you a series hoarder? What’s the longest series you own that’s completely unread? Or maybe you’ve learnt the hard way – have you had to unhaul a whole series after disliking the first book?

(thanks to Rachel is Writing for the inspiration!)

Tsundoko Tuesday – lockdown comfort buys

Copy of First Line FridayIn which I confess to a bad habit

Comfort buying of books has always been an issue. When my mental health is particularly poor, I’ve had a tough day, or any number of reasons for feeling a little down, there are all the bookstores of the online world right at my fingertips and… Well, I am weak.

So, as you might have anticipated, the added stresses of our wonderful lockdown situation have not been kind to my bank balance or my TBR pile. I don’t even want to count the number of impulse ebooks I’ve bought over the last few weeks, especially when so many lovely authors and publishers have been holding flash sales to feed the bookworm’s habit. So we’ll stick with a few of my physical purchases for this week’s Tsundoku Tuesday.


DSC_0995_2It’s been ALL OVER book Twitter, and it sounds intriguing and fabulous, and I just couldn’t help myself. Maybe I was dazzled by Ryan La Sala’s liberal application of sparkles to his Twitter feed. Or maybe I know a good book concept when I see one. The synopsis:

All Kane Montgomery knows for certain is that the police found him half-dead in the river. He can’t remember how he got there, what happened after, and why his life seems so different now. And it’s not just Kane who’s different, the world feels off, reality itself seems different.

As Kane pieces together clues, three almost-strangers claim to be his friends and the only people who can truly tell him what’s going on. But as he and the others are dragged into unimaginable worlds that materialize out of nowhere—the gym warps into a subterranean temple, a historical home nearby blooms into a Victorian romance rife with scandal and sorcery—Kane realizes that nothing in his life is an accident. And when a sinister force threatens to alter reality for good, they will have to do everything they can to stop it before it unravels everything they know.

This wildly imaginative debut explores what happens when the secret worlds that people hide within themselves come to light.

Blood Heir

DSC_1000~2This one was deliberate, the timing mere coincidence, I swear! I read an excerpt of the first few chapters before it was published and I was sucked in to this world of Affinities and prison breaks. And it’s a (loose) Anastasia retelling; what more could you want? If that hasn’t convinced you, maybe the synopsis will:

In the Cyrilian Empire, Affinites are reviled. Their varied gifts to control the world around them are unnatural—dangerous. And Anastacya Mikhailov, the crown princess, has a terrifying secret. Her deadly Affinity to blood is her curse and the reason she has lived her life hidden behind palace walls.

When Ana’s father, the emperor, is murdered, her world is shattered. Framed as his killer, Ana must flee the palace to save her life. And to clear her name, she must find her father’s murderer on her own. But the Cyrilia beyond the palace walls is far different from the one she thought she knew. Corruption rules the land, and a greater conspiracy is at work—one that threatens the very balance of her world. And there is only one person corrupt enough to help Ana get to its core: Ramson Quicktongue.

A cunning crime lord of the Cyrilian underworld, Ramson has sinister plans—though he might have met his match in Ana. Because in this story, the princess might be the most dangerous player of all.

Only Mostly Devastated

DSC_0990~3It’s queer Grease. That’s it, that’s my comments done.

Summer love…gone so fast.

Will Tavares is the dream summer fling―he’s fun, affectionate, kind―but just when Ollie thinks he’s found his Happily Ever After, summer vacation ends and Will stops texting Ollie back. Now Ollie is one prince short of his fairy tale ending, and to complicate the fairy tale further, a family emergency sees Ollie uprooted and enrolled at a new school across the country. Which he minds a little less when he realizes it’s the same school Will goes to…except Ollie finds that the sweet, comfortably queer guy he knew from summer isn’t the same one attending Collinswood High. This Will is a class clown, closeted―and, to be honest, a bit of a jerk.

Ollie has no intention of pining after a guy who clearly isn’t ready for a relationship, especially since this new, bro-y jock version of Will seems to go from hot to cold every other week. But then Will starts “coincidentally” popping up in every area of Ollie’s life, from music class to the lunch table, and Ollie finds his resolve weakening.

The last time he gave Will his heart, Will handed it back to him trampled and battered. Ollie would have to be an idiot to trust him with it again.

Right? Right.

Share the tsundoku confessions

Have you been impulse buying, or have you been a model bookworm and used this unexpected time at home to reduce your TBR instead of adding to it? Spill all down below!

(thanks to Rachel is Writing for the inspiration!)

April wrap-up – What I Read

Apr 20 Wrap-upIn which the answer is… not a lot

Reading slumps are the actual worst, am I right?

I mean, given all *gestures wildly at the mess of the outside world* I think I can be forgiven, but I still hate it. Especially this specifically dreadful form of reading slump where I actually want to read SO MANY BOOKS but just can’t focus or motivate myself to do so.

Dammit, world. Pull yourself together.

IMAG39842The highlights

On Wilder Seas was an eARC I requested on a whim from NetGalley and ended up being my favourite read of the month. From the scant facts about the existence of a woman named Maria who travelled on the Golden Hind for part of its voyage around the world, Nikki Marmery weaves an engrossing and evocative tale of hardship, courage and resilience, and a protagonist – a black woman fleeing slavery despite the very real danger she knows awaits – who shines from the page.

DSC_0961~2 (2)

State of Grace is an #ownvoices book for autistic rep, something I try to seek out as it’s still fairly rare in mainstream publishing. This is a quiet YA book, dealing with the trials and troubles of teenage life, friendships and families, rather than any huge drama or danger, and it’s one of the best on-page renditions of autism I’ve come across. It pervades the whole of Grace’s life, but it isn’t her focus or her only characteristic; she’s not a stereotype but a real teenager with autism as an added complication to a life that’s full of plenty of other challenges.

The rest

A Long Petal of the Sea was so lauded, and from an author with such a good reputation – I really wanted to like it. And in sections, I did. It was very powerful where it dealt with the personal impact of war and becoming a refugee. But it’s the second Isabel Allende book I’ve had the same problem with – too bogged down by detailed recitations of the history to be a gripping story – so I have to conclude this is her particular writing style not gelling with me.

In a completely transparent effort to improve my numbers for the month, I ploughed through a few short stories I’ve been meaning to get to. Dolor’s Legs was creepy and definitely whet my appetite for Deeplight (it’s a piece of background lore from that world). Mothmen was erotic romance – or maybe just erotica – with polyam and kink rep and shapeshifters, too short for my liking even if it hadn’t confirmed that this just isn’t my thing. The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky was short and sweet and had Monty and Percy in it; what more do you need to know?

Oh, and I also read a book of children’s poetry. Homeschooling in the time of COVID, folks.

How was your reading month?

Is the lockdown giving you more time to read or too much stress to manage it? What was the last book you picked up on a whim and ended up loving? Tell me all!

Tsundoko Tuesday – and make it Latinx

Copy of First Line FridayIn which I do the blogging equivalent of a sub-tweet

If you’re active in Book Twitter, you’ll know what prompted this post. I’m not going into the politics of it; I’m not the best positioned or qualified to do that, and a few quick Google searches will turn up a much better summary of the whole ugly mess than i could manage.

What I can do is use my platform (small as it is) and privilege to shine a light on some books from the Latinx writing community that’s had such a rough couple of weeks.

More Happy Than Not

DSC_0726~2Adam Silvera’s first book was actually the last of his to end up on my shelves, and though I’ve loved everything else I’ve read from him, I still somehow haven’t made it to this one. The synopsis, for your delectation:

Sixteen-year-old Aaron Soto is struggling to find happiness after a family tragedy leaves him reeling. He’s slowly remembering what happiness might feel like this summer with the support of his girlfriend Genevieve, but it’s his new best friend, Thomas, who really gets Aaron to open up about his past and confront his future.

As Thomas and Aaron get closer, Aaron discovers things about himself that threaten to shatter his newfound contentment. A revolutionary memory-alteration procedure, courtesy of the Leteo Institute, might be the way to straighten himself out. But what if it means forgetting who he truly is?

Contemporary with a dash of sci-fi – it sounds like the sort of genre-crossing mind game of a novel I simply adore. Plus queer, plus with the usual Silvera touch of heartbreak, or so I’ve heard. With all that lining up in it’s favour, the more I write, the more surprised I am that I still haven’t read it! Hopefully, this one will shortly be rectified. And, in the sort of coincidence I’m becoming alarmingly good at, I’d already planned to put it in today’s post when the announcement was made yesterday – there’s a five-year anniversary special edition planned, with a new chapter set a little while after the main story. Hooray!

When The Moon Was Ours

When the Moon Was Ours#2

Okay, this one I have an excuse for! I bought it with every intention to read it, then joined a travelling book organised by a few Instagram friends and now I’m waiting my turn with the annotated copy despite frequent urges to cheat by reading my own version ahead of time. I will be good! Even though this sounds amazing:

To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town. But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

Woven In Moonlight

DSC_0725~2A (very) recent addition to the unread pile – I only got this last month, but it’s too pretty to not be featured! Plus, it’s inspired by Bolivian history. BOLIVIA, people? When did you last see a book with that sort of background? Also, I briefly adopted Bolivia as my second football team during a World Cup in my youth, based on nothing but the colour of their kit and liking the sound of the name, and I have to confess I still have a lingering fondness for the country!

Ximena is the decoy Condesa, a stand-in for the last remaining Illustrian royal. Her people lost everything when the usurper, Atoc, used an ancient relic to summon ghosts and drive the Illustrians from La Ciudad. Now Ximena’s motivated by her insatiable thirst for revenge, and her rare ability to spin thread from moonlight.

When Atoc demands the real Condesa’s hand in marriage, it’s Ximena’s duty to go in her stead. She relishes the chance, as Illustrian spies have reported that Atoc’s no longer carrying his deadly relic. If Ximena can find it, she can return the true aristócrata to their rightful place.

She hunts for the relic, using her weaving ability to hide messages in tapestries for the resistance. But when a masked vigilante, a warm-hearted princess, and a thoughtful healer challenge Ximena, her mission becomes more complicated. There could be a way to overthrow the usurper without starting another war, but only if Ximena turns her back on revenge—and her Condesa.

Share the tsundoku confessions

Let’s keep it on theme this week – share with me a book or two by a Latinx author that you keep meaning to read?

(thanks to Rachel is Writing for the inspiration!)

#FFFebruary is here

spooky reads (1)In which Sapphic books are bursting out of every corner

A couple of years ago I could count on one hand the number of wlw books I knew of – especially if we stick to recent releases instead of the same classics (Fingersmith, Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, The Color Purple) again and again. Those are definitely worth reading, of course, but while mlm was exploding into a hugely marketable subset of almost every genre, wlw was definitely the poor relation, or relegated to token side characters.

It still is, to an extent, but things are definitely getting better. When I came to put together my TBR for the second year of #FFFebruaryReads, I didn’t have any trouble locating enough wlw books from my shelves to fill a pretty ambitious reading list. There were some on there I didn’t even realise were wlw, and had just picked up because they looked so damn cool. There’s too many I want to get my hands on for me to just go buy the whole lot any more.

So let’s launch into a month of celebrating all the books of women who love women.

(#FFFebruaryReads is hosted by Imi and Ellie here)

My #FFFebruary TBR

Now, I’m not reading exclusively wlw books – I’ve got a shrinking but still sizeable library backlog, a couple of buddy reads and ARCs I’m committed to, and as Aro Week also falls in February I’ve been searching out some good recommendations for aro rep too . But here’s the list of books I’m planning to read especially for their wlw rep:

Girls of Storm and Shadow by Natasha Ngan

Chainbreaker and Firestarter by Tara Sim (I’m also rereading the first book, Timekeeper, though the wlw rep doesn’t come in til book 2)

Priory of the Orange Tree#1

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon (this one might take me a fair chunk of the month on its own!)

We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia

Skylarks by Karen Gregory

Black Iris by Elliot Wake

Proper English by K J Charles (another reread, I already know this one is brilliant!)

All Eyes on Us by Kit Frick (assuming my library reservation comes through in time – fingers crossed.)

A few last thoughts

I didn’t want to finish without noting that there’s still a long way to go in getting decent rep for everyone who falls under the wlw umbrella. Where are my books about trans lesbians (or trans bi or pan women, for that matter)? Disabled and neurodivergent wlw (um, hello, I do actually exist!)? Some of the books on my list have POC protagonists, but there’s still an overwhelming array of whiteness on view. Ace and Aro spectrum rep has some overlap, but that’s few and far between as well. Let’s all enjoy the month for what it is, but let’s not forget there’s still work to be done.

Are you reading wlw this February?

Let me know in the comments! And especially if you happen to have some more recommendations for those harder-to-find books I mentioned.

And if you like the idea of joining in but aren’t sure where to start, Imi and Ellie also have an amazing master-list of wlw books to whet your appetite!

Tsundoko Tuesday – surprise sequels

Copy of First Line FridayIn which I am shamefully ill-informed

About everything. But in particular, I cannot keep up with all the new releases and anticipated releases and books I want to read but haven’t.

So every now and again, a book I (often for no good reason) firmly believed was a standalone turns out to, well, to not be.

Generally this revelation comes courtesy of the sequel turning up on bookstagram and me going wait, what? It happens with longer series, too, a trilogy that turned out to be four books long and another that was actually five – and in both cases the final books aren’t out yet so I couldn’t read the series all in one lovely binge to avoid the dreaded cliffhanger scenario.

The most recent surprise sequel

I have a weakness for dystopian. I don’t care if it was overdone to the point of death a few years ago, it never actually flatlined and I’m doing my level best to keeping it ticking over until the inevitable resurgence (sideline – I think we may already be creeping that way. I’ve seen & read a few more recent additions that are stretching the genre beyond its cliches. Maybe that’s another post).

DSC_0603~2So Zero Repeat Forever was a bit of an impulse buy based on nothing more than having seen it around and knowing it was dystopian. And it’s happily sat on my shelf with all the other unread books ever since. Until last week, when I spotted Cold Falling White on a bookstagram feed. Cue also linked revelation that it’s written by a female author called Gabrielle, and not the bloke called Graham I had apparently invented from thin air in my head. I don’t know, there’s no point asking.

So here’s the synopsis of book one, which has jumped right up my TBR list so I can decide whether to buy the sequel. Though, if we’re honest, buying sequels and indeed entire series before I know whether I like the first book is another weakness of mine…

He has no voice, or name, only a rank, Eighth. He doesn’t know the details of the mission, only the directives that hum in his mind.

Dart the humans. Leave them where they fall.

His job is to protect his Offside. Let her do the shooting.

Until a human kills her…

Sixteen year-old Raven is at summer camp when the terrifying armored Nahx invade, annihilating entire cities, taking control of the Earth. Isolated in the wilderness, Raven and her friends have only a fragment of instruction from the human resistance.

Shelter in place.

Which seems like good advice at first. Stay put. Await rescue. Raven doesn’t like feeling helpless but what choice does she have?

Then a Nahx kills her boyfriend.

Thrown together in a violent, unfamiliar world, Eighth and Raven should feel only hate and fear. But when Raven is injured, and Eighth deserts his unit, their survival depends on trusting each other…

Share the tsundoku confessions

What books are sitting around unread on your shelves despite your best intentions? Have you ever been taken by surprise by a sequel, or more than one?

(thanks to Rachel is Writing for the inspiration!)

Tsundoko Tuesday – cover buys

Copy of First Line FridayIn which I have a weakness for fancy fonts

I do try to avoid cover buys. I’m as susceptible as the next bookworm to having my eye caught by a pretty cover (or a pretty spine, or ESPECIALLY sprayed pages). But I do at least glance at the blurb to see if I’m likely to enjoy it. Most times. If I’ve seen it around Instagram and people have been generally positive, a pretty cover might push me over the edge.

There’s a theme, in the covers that tend to catch my eye. Ones that do something interesting with the font, are always begging to be picked up. And sometimes stroked, but we don’t talk about that. Lots of intricate details is another sure attention-grabber, though I have been known to be equally drawn to something boldly simple.

(thanks to Rachel is Writing for the inspiration!)

Excuse me, but are those pink stained pages?

DSC_0481~2Why yes, yes they are. And they were the seal of death to my chances of not picking up this book and buying it. Did I know anything about it? No. I saw an bookshop event for it alongside a number of authors I’ve read and enjoyed before. That’s the limit of my prior exposure to this book. There’s copper foiling on the cover details and PINK STAINED PAGES. What more does anyone need to know?

And here’s the synopsis, which of course I read AFTER having bought the book, but hey, it still sounds like my sort of read!

The house at the end of the lane burned down, and Rita Frost and her teenage ward, Bevan, were never seen again. The townspeople never learned what happened. Only Mae and her brother Rossa know the truth; they spent two summers with Rita and Bevan, two of the strangest summers of their lives… Because nothing in that house was as it seemed: a cat who was more than a cat, and a dark power called Sweet James that lurked behind the wallpaper, enthralling Bevan with whispers of neon magic and escape. And in the summer heat, Mae became equally as enthralled with Bevan. Desperately in the grips of first love, she’d give the other girl anything. A dangerous offer when all that Sweet James desired was a taste of new flesh…

I’m getting serious vibes of The Yellow Wallpaper from that synopsis, anyone else? That was only a short story, a classic we studied in English at school, but it creeped me out very thoroughly, so hopefully a good sign!

And when I say simple and bold…

We set the dark on fire

I mean like this. Seriously, how could anyone not love it? Plus, notice the fancy fonts. Fonts plural, at that. It was never going to be left unbought, really.

The synopsis:

At the Medio School for Girls, distinguished young women are trained for one of two roles in their polarized society. Depending on her specialization, a graduate will one day run a husband’s household or raise his children, but both are promised a life of comfort and luxury, far from the frequent political uprisings of the lower class. Daniela Vargas is the school’s top student, but her bright future depends upon no one discovering her darkest secret—that her pedigree is a lie. Her parents sacrificed everything to obtain forged identification papers so Dani could rise above her station. Now that her marriage to an important politico’s son is fast approaching, she must keep the truth hidden or be sent back to the fringes of society, where famine and poverty rule supreme.

On her graduation night, Dani seems to be in the clear, despite the surprises that unfold. But nothing prepares her for all the difficult choices she must make, especially when she is asked to spy for a resistance group desperately fighting to bring equality to Medio. Will Dani cling to the privilege her parents fought to win for her, or to give up everything she’s strived for in pursuit of a free Medio—and a chance at a forbidden love?

Share the tsundoku confessions

What books are sitting around unread on your shelves despite your best intentions? What was your last cover buy – and have you read it yet? Confess in the comments – we’re all in the same boat here!

The Guilty Reader Book Tag

Guilty readerIn which I’m on a roll

Can’t stop me now with the book tags. I’ve done one, and I’m going to do them all… Well, alright, maybe not. I reserve the right to be selective with my book tags. But I’m definitely going to do LOTS.

This is another one from Anniek’s Library (thanks, Anniek!)

Let’s dive in:

Have you ever re-gifted a book that you’ve been given

Queen and Invasion of the Tearling

Yes, and I refuse to feel guilty!

You may not know that I’m a not-so-closeted environmentalist as well as a bookworm. Buying and giving secondhand is one of the easiest ways to reduce your impact on the world. So if I’ve read a book, and I’m not going to read it again, it gets passed on. Sometimes to a library, a charity shop or a school, but yes, sometimes I wrap it up and include it in a gift.

But I always read it first! I’m not a monster!

Have you ever said you’ve read a book when you haven’t?

I’m pretty sure I have. I have definitely claimed to have read books I DNF’d, mostly classics or super-popular ones that I don’t want to admit to hating. But I think I’ve probably claimed to have read gifted books so as not to hurt people’s feelings, when in fact they’re buried somewhere in my never-ending TBR.

Have you ever borrowed a book and not returned it?

Book, no. Film, yes. Though technically, I still have every intention of returning those, I just haven’t. Yet.

I did once keep a book so long (Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett) that when I returned it to my mum her response was “Oh, I thought that was yours” and then I wished I hadn’t owned up!

Sevenwaters#1Have you ever read a series out of order?

Not deliberately.

But yes.


Have you ever spoiled a book for someone?

Again, not deliberately. But I spoiled Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix for my little sister. We were both reading it on the day it came out and I couldn’t stop myself blurting a reaction to something she hadn’t got to yet. After that, we went and read in our separate bedrooms. At least it wasn’t a major plot point!

Have you ever dogeared a book?

Book crownNooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo




(but then I do this, so maybe that’s worse? I am always VERY careful to flatten them out afterwards!)

Have you ever told someone you don’t own a book when you do?

I can’t remember doing this, but I can’t rule it out. Some people in my life have Strong Opinions about certain authors or types of books, and I would probably claim not to have one if it avoided an argument or a rant. I don’t people well.

Have you ever told someone you haven’t read a book when you have?

Same answer!

Have you ever skipped a chapter or section of a book?

There have been one or two books, no more than that, where I was so not enjoying them that I skipped ahead to see if they improved. Reader, they did not. What’s more, I was able to pick up the story without any problems despite the intervening 200 pages.

And when I’m rereading I’ll often just turn to my favourite bits or a particular scene.

Have you ever badmouthed a book you actually liked?

Maybe? I mean there are books I enjoyed even though I can see objectively that they’re really not very good! So I wouldn’t go recommending them to anyone. And anyway, sometimes it’s fun to have a mutual rant about the things that annoyed you, even if the whole didn’t.

Consider yourself tagged

Oh yes, I want to know all your guilty bookish secrets too! If you take the tag, link in to this post so I can see you answers. Or comment with your bookish confession.

A writer’s history of reading

notesIn which it becomes blindingly obvious why I write fantasy

I was originally planning on listing a few writers who inspire me, but then I realised I was doing a huge disservice to the books I read when I was younger. The authors who first set me on my writerly track. So why not instead track back through my reading history for the writers who’ve had the biggest influence on both my reading and writing since I was a wee young thing whose stories were more along the lines of talking animals and clueless adults.

And what stands out from the list once I’d started drafting it was that it is almost entirely fantasy. All the books that formed me, as a reader and a writer and even as a person, since I was old enough to pick my own, are based firmly in a more magical world.

To be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What mini-me read

DSC_0516~2I went through a phase, from maybe the age of 4 to the age of 10, where I would only read Enid Blyton. Well, that’s a very long phase, and a slight exaggeration. I did read other things, but if given a choice, I inevitably gravitated her way. And with her extensive catalogue, so there was plenty to keep me occupied. Magical trees full of magical creatures and a doorway to strange worlds at the top (hang on, epiphany has occurred – I’m basically describing a very early portal fantasy here!). Children growing up on farms and basically running wild (wish fulfilment, anyone?). Brownies and elves up to mischief, magical chairs that took you wherever you wished, talking animals, running away with the circus. Fast-forward a few years and I devoured Famous Five, the boarding school stories, the Mystery and Adventure series.

As an adult I can see the uncomfortable sexist, racist and classist overtones of a lot of the stories, endemic of their time, but as a child I was simply swept away on adventure after adventure and it’s fair to say that I can thank Enid Blyton for cementing me in a lifetime of readership.

When YA wasn’t really a thing

I’m not kidding; I actually am that old. We did have a small amount of what would now be called YA – teen fiction, as it was called then – but the scope and range of it compared to more recent publishing was, well. Limited.

So what did I read? I had the additional problem of many a prolific reader, that my reading age was too far ahead of me. Books aimed at my age were too simple; I’d blast through them in half an hour and put them down feeling vaguely dissatisfied. Teen fiction and the odd adult book were nudged my way by sympathetic teachers, parents and librarians, and I often loved them. I also often gave myself nightmares, and I suspect if my parents knew exactly what some of my favourite characters were getting up to, they wouldn’t have been so relaxed about supplying my habit.

DSC_0496~2So I turned to another my old favourites, Narnia. And then I discovered Tamora Pierce. (Mum, if you’re reading this, I swear the romance was very understated and the serious stuff happened off-page!). Between the two, I was now officially a fantasy reader. And in Alanna the Lioness, I finally discovered a heroine who I could really relate to. A girl who was badass to the extreme, who dressed like a boy and did boy things, often better than the actual boys, who knew what she wanted and went to get it.

Alanna was the template for the heroines of my early attempts at writing my own books. At the age of twelve, I started an actual full-length novel which was pretty much a cross-over between Narnia and the Song of the Lioness, with a main character who was pretty much me if I was Alanna. Yes, I still have it tucked away somewhere. No, no one will be reading it, EVER.

The lost years

An exaggeration? Actually, no. I gradutated from the children’s fiction and the minimal teen fiction I could find. I was a grown-up now, at the ripe old age of 15 or so. It wasn’t going to stop me reading Tamora Pierce, hell no. But I would have to start reading grown-up books.

DSC_0505~2Trouble was, grown up fantasy wasn’t all that varied, at the time. Raymond E Feist. Terry Brooks. Robert Jordan. Hey, I enjoyed a lot of them. But. They were all variations on the same sort of Tolkein-esque epic quest fantasy. They all had SERIOUS problems with the few female protagonists they included. Basically, young men got to be the hero, and I was left floundering in a world I had loved that no longer seemed to fit me. Eventually I discovered David Gemmell, who at least had a bit more variety, and the occasional woman who seemed like an actual person, even if it was still the Menfolk who generally got to go have adventures. I tried other genres, what was disparagingly known as chick-lit, some historical fiction, a literary thing here or there. Had a feeble attempt to get into classic sci-fi, and failed almost immediately. They all passed the time pleasantly enough, with the exception of the sci-fi, but none of them fired the same enthusiasm as my younger fantastical adventures.

Looking back, I wonder if it’s a coincidence I spent a lot of this time struggling with my writing, putting it on the backburner and thinking of it as a slightly odd hobby instead of remembering it had been my dream.

SJM, The Hunger Games and all the YA

Story time: I was twenty-something. A friend bought me Throne of Glass. I still didn’t know YA was a thing, but it was a fantasy book with a young woman as the protagonist, so of course I was intrigued. But, once a bookworm always a bookworm; I put it on my bookshelf and promptly got on with reading library books and impulse buys and everything else for about a year, before I picked it up again and started reading.

DSC_0449It was okay. It didn’t light up the world, but it was a fun read and I wanted to know what happened next, so I asked for book two for my next birthday. At about the same time, the Hunger Games movie was being massively hyped, and I knew it was based on a book, so I went to my library and found it in the teen section, which was already looking a lot more impressive than the ones I remembered.

The Hunger Games was my entry drug into the world of YA fiction and regaining my love of all things bookish. With a day of finishing the first book, I had ordered my own copy of the entire trilogy, reread the library version, bought and watched the first film and got lost down several internet rabbit holes of fanart, trailers for Catching Fire and bookstagram. Look, I was on maternity leave, ok?

I found more YA fantasy books. I started writing again. I joined the online bookish community, initially as a writer but very quickly as a reader and all-round fangirl, thrilled to have found people who liked the stuff I liked, who wanted to talk and flail and share that love. I plotted out a complicated four-book fantasy series that morphed into the book I’m currently working on (and it’s future sequels). But it was still in the background, something I might concentrate on one day.

And then, after languishing on my shelf for another year or so, Crown of Midnight found its way into my hands.

Now, my relationship with SJM is complicated. Her books are undoubtedly problematic (that’s a whole other post, or maybe several. I’m not getting into it here) and as I’ve read more I’ve realised I don’t actually like her writing style all that much, and the romance tropes she seems to be particularly fond of rub me up the wrong way. But Crown of Midnight didn’t have that sort of romance. It had a glorious, sweeping love affair between two people with every reason to not want to fall in love with each other but who were unable to help it anyway. It was full of action and adventure, danger and heart-pounding scenes. And I fell in love with them too.

It kicked me right up the backside. This was why I wanted to write. This was what I wanted to do. I wanted that magic to come from my mind, my pen, to touch readers the way these books had touched me. Whatever my subsequent views on SJM, however disappointed I was in the way that series turned out, I can’t look back at my reading history without acknowledging the huge impact of that moment.

What I read now

Still fantasy. Still YA, but thankfully adult fantasy has started to catch up and now I know what I’m looking for (thank you again, bookstagram) I can find the ones that welcome me in instead of making me feel like an intruder in someone else’s vision. Add in some (definitely unclassic) sci-fi and historical fiction, the fantastically diverse range of YA contemporary fiction that’s now being published, the odd thing that completely surprises me but comes highly recommended. The writers that have the most influence on me now might not have a lot in common with the ones who got me to this point, and I’ll come back to them in another post, since this one’s got a lot longer than I expected, but I am the product of all these books and authors throughout my life as a reader.

Lifetime-defining books

I’m going out on a limb here to say everyone has them. Maybe not everyone thinks about them in this depth, and maybe some might struggle to put a finger on the reasons, but everyone has that book or two or several that set them on a path. Do you remember yours?

5 books I’m avoiding reading

spooky reads (1)In which it transpires I am a coward

I’m not talking about books I don’t want to read. Ones that will never darken my door or my bookshelf, or ones that I’m completely ambivalent about. And I’m not talking about the ones I haven’t quite got round to yet; they’re on my radar and I will get to them as soon as my mood and availability of time coincide.

No, these are books I like the sound of, usually ones I’ve had on my shelf for several years, and I just can’t bring myself to pick them up. No matter how many times I put them on my TBR, list them in my backlist challenge or take bookstagram pictures with self-deprecating captions about how long I haven’t been reading them. Somehow they’re always the ones to slip.

The reasons might sound like they vary, but in reality they all boil down to the fact that I’m scared of these books.

The Lies of Locke Lamora

Lies of Locke LamoraI may have mentioned a few times that I’ve been intending to read more adult fantasy for the last few years. And I really mean it, every time I say so. I used to read adult fantasy all the time, before I rediscovered the joy of YA. Only now, YA fantasy makes up the vast majority of my diet, and then I come across a book like this. It’s got good reviews. Including from people I know who read a lot of the same YA books as me but somehow haven’t managed to be completely scared off the adult stuff too. It’s even been described as an adult fantasy Six of Crows, I mean, come on!

But it’s So Big. It’s huge. I’m out of the practice of reading books this size. And it’s epic fantasy, so if I don’t seriously concentrate on it while reading, I’ll find myself five chapters in with no idea who half the characters are, what’s happening, what are wordz. And I have this kind of instinctual fear that adult fantasy books will involve Politics, and I can’t keep politics straight in my head if my life depends on it.

King’s Cage (and War Storm)

IMG_20181102_191127_161Right, let’s dive straight into the unpopular opinion. I enjoyed Red Queen and Glass Sword. Yes, Red Queen wasn’t the most original plot around, and Mare wasn’t the most original character. But unlike a lot of people, apparently, I failed to spot the Maven-based plot twist. Possibly because I didn’t want it to be true? And then Glass Sword with Mare in full-on unlikeable protagonist mode. I don’t need my protagonists to be necessarily likeable. There’s plenty of good reasons for her to be unpleasant, after all. And it makes for good conflict.

The thing is, I hardly know anyone who agrees with me! And even less people rated King’s Cage. I’m going to have to re-read Red Queen and Glass Sword before I can move on, because I’ve forgotten too much, and what if I suddenly realise I was mistaken and these books actually are terrible and I don’t like them any more? What happens then? Don’t mind me, just having me whole worldview upended here!

Wuthering Heights

IMG_20180209_221907_415Ooh, the Intimidating Classic. Come on, I bet a lot of you would avoid reading this one too! I do want to read it. It’s a classic for a reason.

But there’s so much controversy around it, whether it should be read as a romantic story or not. Is Heathcliff the ultimate Brooding Hero™ or a seriously problematic arsehole? If I read the book, I’ll be forced to have an opinion one way or another, on this eternally divisive issue.

Plus, you know, it’s big.

The Long Earth

IMG_20180915_195518_147The “I love one of these authors but what if it’s completely different because it’s co-authored” book. Yep, I am a HUUUUUGE fan of Sir Terry Pratchett, and in theory the co-authoring shouldn’t be a problem, because Good Omens was co-authored with Neil Gaiman and that’s one of my favourites of either of theirs.

But this book – this whole series – is more serious adult sci-fi, and what if I don’t enjoy it? Can I still call myself a Terry Pratchett fan? Am I just too emotionally immature for Proper Books? Help!

Strange the Dreamer

Strange The Dreamer#1I actually started this book, within a couple of months of getting it, as well. And it was good, the first few chapters. But the writing style is not conducive to a quick read, and I wasn’t in a place where I could really give it the concentration it deserved. So back on the shelf it went, and now it has morphed into an intimidating blue monster, glowering malevolently at me whenever I catch sight of it.

I mean, pretty much the whole of Bookstagram loves this book, and I DNF’d it! What was I thinking? How dare I? How can I ever recover from such a faux pas?

Tell me I’m not alone!

Do you have certain books you always seem to find an excuse not to read? Are you scared of your own bookshelves? Please help, I can’t be the only one!