#TheWriteReads Blog Tour – The Beast and the Bethany by Jack Meggitt-Phillips

Genre: Children’s (age 9+)

Similar to: Somewhere between Roald Dahl and Neil Gaiman – it very much reminded me of The Graveyard Book

Could be enjoyed by: Everyone – it’s one of those children’s or “middle grade” books that adults can enjoy too

Publication date: 1st October 2020

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Don’t feed the beast!

Eberneezer Tweezer is a somewhat suspiciously youthful 511 year old with a fabulously wealthy lifestyle. However, he harbours a dark secret… a dark, smelly, hungry secret… known as The Beast.

Feeding The Beast is an ever-more arduous task for Eberneezer. You see, The Beast has somewhat – shall we say – exotic tastes. From Wintlorian Purple-Breasted Parrots to medium sized statues of Winston Churchill, The Beast craves ever more esoteric items for his dinner. Unfortunately for Eberneezer, if he fails to provide these items he won’t be able to maintain his lavish lifestyle – or indeed, his life. So when The Beast asks for the ultimate in nouvelle cuisine… something small, loud and very much child-shaped, Eberneezer faces an extraordinarily difficult challenge…

The Beast and The Bethany is the most darkly delicious book I’ve read in a long time. Very much reminiscent of Roald Dahl or even Neil Gaiman, the book races along with a cast of flawed, utterly amoral characters who are immediately unlikeable and yet somehow still manage to have you rooting for them. Eberneezer is vain, shallow and violently selfish; Bethany is cruel, devious and downright mean. Eberneezer has lived for so long without any difficulties that he’s forgotten how to have empathy whereas Bethany is the kind of little girl who would feed you worms for a laugh. When they’re forced to work together to defeat the truly terrible Beast, it’s hardly plain sailing but it’s truly lovely to see such an odd pair learn from each other to build a friendship – and become marginally better people in the process.

I loved the writing in the book and the immediacy of the storyline – it was non-stop, fast-paced, other-hyphenated-adjectives action from start to finish. As an adult I raced through the novel in a couple of hours and I really liked all of the little jokes and ironies that wouldn’t quite be appreciated by children – a bit like the writing in The Simpsons. The book is quite dark in places but that made it even more likeable for me; after all, no-one wants to read a nice story that doesn’t juxtapose good with evil.

My proof copy only had a few illustrations but they were excellent and really added to the reading experience. Bethany looks like Wednesday Adams meets Jane Lane from Daria and in my head Eberneezer Tweezer looked like a Dickensian fop – somewhere between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Russell Brand (which may go some way to explaining his personality). I was really excited to hear that the film rights to the novel have already been sold (to Warner Bros!) so I can’t wait to see who is cast in screen adaptation (c’mon Jacob, it’ll be good for your likeability rating. Like when Ed Balls did Gangnam Style on Strictly).

I digress.

I would highly recommend this book to everyone – especially those after a bit of escapism from, well, all of the everything that’s going on right now and as a library volunteer I will be suggesting it to exasperated parents who “just want their 10 year old to read something… anything!”




Five “Don’t feed the beast!”s out of five.

Sweet, action packed, gruesomely hilarious FUN!


Please note that I read this free ARC in exchange for an honest review courtesy of The Write Reads Blog Tours. Thanks Dave!

Huge thanks also go to Jack Meggitt-Phillips and Isabelle Follath for creating The Beast and The Bethany and for letting me have a copy! It’s a good job I had a spare cage…

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Viewpoint: How I Came To Love Audiobooks By Speeding Them The Hell Up

Hello Bookworms!

I have recently discovered the joy of audiobooks after a somewhat difficult relationship with them. I used to see everyone on Twitter banging on about how wonderful it was to listen to a book on their way to work or whilst cooking and I would think “how can they do two things at once?” I gave it a go a number of times and came to the following conclusions:

  • It is impossible for me to read a recipe, set an oven timer or do anything vaguely technical whilst also keeping up with a story
  • My life is LOUD and my phone speaker is rubbish – as soon as the kettle started to boil I would be struggling to understand what was going on
  • I have the attention span of a goldfish and as soon as anything vaguely distracting happened (i.e. a phone notification) I would immediately try to read it, resulting in my ears stopping working. I receive about 470,000,000 notifications per day so that was never going to work
  • My god, people reading aloud are S—-L—-O—-W. I found that immensely frustrating.

I hadn’t always been so anti-audio. I have fond memories of story tapes (yes Gen Z-ers, actual cassette tapes) when I was little – I can still remember listening to “Kate Visits the Doctor” on repeat (which was quite a strange choice as it was about a girl with an ear infection… but hey, kids are weird).

So, I gave up. Audiobooks are officially Not For Me I thought, whilst pouring boiling water over my hand as I tried to read Facebook and make a cup of tea at the same time.

(Thanks, high pain threshold.)

But then, I got very, very behind on my reading challenge, I got into a reading slump, it was lockdown and I just wanted to watch Tiger King. I realised that if I were to have any chance of getting back into reading, I needed to find a way of fitting it round my nightly Netflix binges. I needed to be reading in the day. I needed to be reading while I was doing other stuff.

Now, I’m in no way against the idea of stirring a saucepan with one hand whilst reading a kindle with the other but the whole thing is pretty impractical. My scalded hands are testament to this – see above example.

There was only one thing for it. I got out my ironing board, downloaded Dracula and started listening.

It’s at this part of the story that you’d expect me to start extolling the virtues of the spoken word, right?

Wrong.

I hated it. It was just as slow and difficult to keep up with as I’d previously thought. Plus, it was the hammiest, Hammer Horror style reading I’d ever heard – and not in a fun, camp way. It was over-acted to the point I started putting in my own dum-dum-DUMS and fake gasps of terror. I lasted about half an hour before I turned it off to listen to The Bugle podcast.

Now, if I know one thing about myself it’s that I’m not a natural DNFer. I so envy people who can just toss a dull book aside, regardless of how much they’ve read to pick up something more interesting. I decided to do some research, download a few more audiobooks and persevere.

And, as slowly as someone turning a 200 page novel into 12 hours of audio, I started to enjoy myself – with a fair few caveats.

Here’s what I learned:

  1. An audiobook on 1x speed is slow and tedious AF but OH MY GOD YOU CAN SPEED THEM UP TO SOMETHING APPROACHING HOW FAST YOU’D READ A BOOK. This for me was a game changer (as I believe all the cool kids say). After a bit of practice I worked my way up to listening at somewhere between 1.75x – 2x speed, depending on accents (I find Americans harder to understand and they seem to talk faster anyway). I didn’t think I was making much progress until my boyfriend started muttering “hihowareyou yeahimgoodthanks ohmygodwhatishappening HAHAHA” and when I asked him what he was doing said “I’m being one of your gibberish audiobooks”.
  2. The narrator is key. You need someone to really make the characters come to life, not just read out a script. I find comedians and actors are the best for this, or just Neil Gaiman Neil Gaimaning his way through his books. (Ooooh, Neil Gaiman ūüėć) Ahem. Full cast recordings can be great but it can sometimes be confusing about who is talking if there are a lot of similar sounding characters, so download with caution.
  3. Headphones are your friends, especially if you’re doing something else like cooking or cleaning. It’s surprising how much background noise there is in the average kitchen and it means you can do things like hoovering whilst still listening.
  4. Some books work better than others, so choose wisely! You will miss stuff and your attention span is often lower if you’re trying to do something else, so I’ve found that thrillers (because they really grab your attention) and lighthearted rom-com style books (because you can kinda see where the storyline is going) work best.
  5. Be careful if you’re listening on a speaker somewhere you might be overheard i.e. in your car or in the garden. Sex scenes are bad enough when you read them in public (ever tried to bend your paperback round so the guy sitting next to you can’t see what you’re reading?) but in traffic with the windows down? UURGGGGH.

Personally, some of the books that worked great on audio for me were:

  • Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman – I had already read American Gods so was familiar with the jist of the storyline and it featured actors who I was familiar with so I could tell who was talking
  • The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary – an easy to follow storyline with only two characters (male and female) so it was easy to differentiate and there was nothing too complicated (world building, time lapses etc.) to try to get your head around
  • Rest and be Thankful by Emma Glass – I found the book itself very depressing but hugely impactful. The single voice almost train of thought like narration was very easy to follow
  • Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswell – I really like Meera Syal’s voice and appreciated the proper pronunciation of some of the names/words

Books that didn’t work for me include:

  • Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi – it might be that the actual book was complicated and didn’t make sense in print but on audiobook it was just words.
  • The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern – ditto. What just happened?
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker – as previously mentioned, the narrator was bizzare, it was overly dramatic, overly plummy and that made the book super slow and dull.

There are still some downsides to audiobooks – they can be hard to follow, it’s incredibly difficult to skip backwards to find where you stopped listening and a bad narrator can ruin an otherwise good story. However, they’re incredibly convenient, I can download a huge selection for free from my library’s BorrowBox app and they’ve really pulled me out of a reading slump. I’m now having a great time steaming through at least one or two per week.

Oh, and if my lockdown Netflix addiction means I don’t hit my Goodreads target this year, you know whose fault that is?

Carole Baskin.

Until next time,

Lucinda x


Do you enjoy audiobooks? Have you helped you to read more? Do you find some books or genres work better than others? Let me know in the comments!

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The Return of Mid-Month Mini-Reviews!

Hello Bookworms!

For the first time in what feels like FOREVER I’m returning my previous feature – Mid-Month Mini-Reviews! (Gosh, that’s a lot of hyphens, even for me. Emily Dickinson eat your heart out.)

This, um, year..? I’ve decided to try to tackle my appalling NetGalley backlist so that they don’t banish me from the site entirely. Luckily, I’ve had been given ARC’s of some amazing books through the site (sort of) recently so I get to squee and fangirl all the way through the reviews! Today, I’m looking at non-fiction books from queer authors (yes I meant to post this during Pride month but I got waylaid, ok?)

 

happy fat

Happy Fat by Sophie Hagen

I can’t begin to tell you how much I learnt from reading this book. Sophie Hagen has taken one of the final taboo topics – being fat – and spoken so openly and so beautifully about what it’s like to live in a world that’s constantly treating your size like it’s something that you should definitely, absolutely be ashamed of – regardless of how you feel about yourself. She examines the issue from a variety of different viewpoints, providing her own insights and observations along the way; some of them are funny, some of them heartbreaking but it’s shocking at how aggressively, patronisingly or downright rudely Sophie has been treated.

As a non-fat person, I really appreciated the section where Sophie talked about how to be a good friend to someone who is fat, even though I was cringing at some of the things that I have very definitely said or done in the past and how problematic they are in hindsight.

By the end of this book, I can guarantee that you’ll feel like you’ve had your eyes suddenly opened to just how fat phobic the world actually is (unless of course this is just your lived reality, in which case I apologise for being so blind to it all). Once you’ve read Happy Fat you can’t go back – but I guarantee you’ll be a better person for reading it.

 

The Other Mother by Jen Bristerother

I really loved reading about Jen Brister’s experience of motherhood as “the other mother” – the partner of a woman giving birth to their twins. It provides a totally different perspective on the parenting experience and made me laugh, squirm and never, ever want to have children. Jen doesn’t shy away from the grim realities of motherhood and the *quite literal* amount of shit that having children brings.

What shines through the text is the sheer amount of love that Jen clearly has for her family. From seeing her partner as some kind of breastfeeding goddess (aww) to feeling her heart break a tiny bit every time one of her kids wants to be comforted by his other Mum, the text is imbrued with a sense that, even in the most desperate moments, she wouldn’t change it for the world.

As a child-free person I read this book with a certain amount of smug satisfaction, knowing that I can still go out when I want, book a meal out mere hours before I’m eating, drink too much wine and spend a leisurely day nursing a hangover with no need to get out of bed. I genuinely don’t know how anyone copes with TWO babies let alone one (especially when one of them doesn’t sleep for MONTHS) so I was also left with a huge sense of admiration.

Just don’t read it if you’re pregnant!

 

unicornUnicorn by Amrou Al-Kadhi

I cannot begin to tell you how much I loved this memoir – I would have given it six stars if I could. Unicorn is the life story of Amrou Al-Kadhi; growing up in a strict Iraqui Muslim family, battling with the prejudice and racism of public school, dealing with their family’s homophobia to come out as queer and non-binary and finding themselves in their drag alter ego Glamrou (also marine biology and quantum physics seemed to help).

The story has a bit of everything – drama, regret, sadness, anger, love, drugs, loneliness… it’s a real rollercoaster of emotions and my heart went out to Amrou as they were confronted with almost every different type of prejudice that exists – often all at the same time.

As a cis-gendered white woman I found a surprising amount of commonality between Amrou’s feelings growing up and my own (EDIT why do I always write this? I really need to learn that underneath it all, people are all basically the same). In particular, their mother sounds like a Middle Eastern version of my own. I have vivid memories of watching my Mum doing her makeup every morning and tottering round town in stiletto heels and a cloud of hairspray. I could relate to those feelings of power that come from makeup and clothing – the exotic danger of red lipstick and the glamour of an 80’s shoulder pad. Except for me, the thrill of dressing up was seen as cute – for Amrou, it was a shameful betrayal of their culture.

Seeing Amrou battle their own mental health issues to find love and acceptance in the queer drag scene was incredibly uplifting, even though it wasn’t all plain sailing. I loved how Amrou drew strength from the things in their life that they loved to process their own feelings and how this strength formed the basis of a new relationship with their family – especially their Mum. If you’re looking to read an emotional, beautifully written and honest account of how to belong in a world that doesn’t understand you then this is the book for you.

 

Five “Why can’t I be friends with these people?” out of five for them all!

 


Please note that I read these book for free in exchange for an honest review courtesy of NetGalley. Thanks NetGalley!

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Book Review – Keep Them Close by Betty Rose

Genre: Family saga

Similar to: I’m not sure as this isn’t a genre I usually read. Angela’s Ashes maybe?

Could be enjoyed by: Anyone who is interested in multi generational, heartfelt stories

Publication date: 30th January 2020

Full disclosure – I read this book because I met the author at my local library and she was lovely enough to gift me a free copy. So, although Keep The Close is not my usual fare, I decided to give it a go and I have to say was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Thank you Betty!

The book starts with the early life of Robina in her hard working rural Irish family. Robina is a fascinating character – a charming dreamer who is also a tiny bit magical. She moves to Liverpool to study nursing which brings a culture clash so abrupt that innocent Robina is left not knowing which way is up. She meets Moses, falls in love and begins her happily ever after – except that life doesn’t work that way.

I loved the way that although I’ve referred to the book as a family saga, it has a bleaker, more realistic edge which made the story feel more true to life. It could have been quite one dimensional – a tale of two soulmates finding each other and starting a family – but the plot is far more complex and nuanced than that. There’s a lot of elements at play; an interracial relationship at a time when that was very much frowned upon, immigration, poverty, religion, mental health issues, racism… it’s all woven into a storyline which spans a lifetime.

I really liked the characterisation in this novel, especially the main protagonist Robina.¬† Each individual in the book has been really well depicted, so much so that I’d be shocked if it wasn’t based on real life events. I liked how human everyone was,¬†often making bad decisions for good reasons and frequently getting things wrong! What really shone out though was the love that the characters had for each other and the close family bonds which kept them together – even when they were physically far apart.

As the book progressed I became more and more emotionally engaged with Robina and her family. Even though the ending wasn’t what I expected AT ALL it again felt very realistic and tied up all of the loose ends.

The only criticisms I have for Keep Them Close are that the cover is quite misleading – I think it makes it look like a gothic horror story rather than a family saga and I got a little bit annoyed by the use of quotation marks around every colloquialism. I’m all in favour of using dialect but my own personal preference is if it doesn’t have speech marks round it.

Overall though I very much enjoyed reading Keep Them Close and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading true-to-life novels about family and relationships.

 

Four “Is this real life?”s out of five.

Perfect for lockdown reading – heartfelt, comforting yet somewhat unexpected.

 


Please note that I read this book for free in exchange for an honest review courtesy of Betty Rose the author. It was so lovely to meet her and very kind of her to give me a copy of her book. Thanks Betty!

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Author Focus – C. J. Skuse

Hello bookworms!

Long time no see! I’ve been SUPER busy recently so haven’t been blogging much but I’m trying to get back into more of a routine. Anyway, enough of my excuses – let’s crack on.

You know when you find an amazing book and you IMMEDIATELY have to read everything written by them? This happened to me recently when I came across another-book-blogger-whose-name-I-have-completely-forgotten (sorry!) talking about Sweetpea by C. J. Skuse. I thought I’d give it a go and, well, this post is the result.

35720349 I¬† guess there really aren’t that many comedic novels about psychopathic murderers. The whole premise of Sweetpea is very dark but also very, very funny – after all, who hasn’t wanted to stab someone for walking slowly in front of them? The difference is, Rhiannon actually goes away and does these things. Admittedly, she usually has a better reason (like the person is a paedophile) but there’s also plenty of examples of people getting maimed/killed because they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Despite this, I really warmed to her. Rhiannon represents all of the thoughts and feelings that we’re not allowed to have and reading about them was deliciously addictive – a real guilty pleasure. I loved the unkind nicknames that she makes up about people and the way that she absolutely speaks her mind, no matter how offensive. Clearly, she’s a monster and has a huge amount of issues but she’s also hilarious, kind to animals and retains a certain degree of control over her murdering-y tendencies, allowing her to have a pretty ordinary life.

38739384In Bloom continues in the same vein, with Rhiannon pregnant and killing for two. There’s the same high bodycount, murderous urges (made worse by hormones) and inappropriate humour but this time she has more of a moral compass in the form of her very talkative fetus.

I would say that this book would not work as a stand alone – you really need to read Sweetpea first in order to fully understand what’s going on. That’s not exactly a hardship though, as both novels are incredibly fast paced and you can whip through them at a rate of knots.

The conclusion to the book suggests an ambiguous ending and I really REALLY hope that Book Three is in the making. I can’t wait to see where Rhiannon goes to next!

alibiThe final book that I’ve read by C. J. Skuse isn’t part of the same series but a stand alone novel with a different type of vibe. The Alibi Girl follows the “life” (if you can call it that) of “Joanne” (not that that’s her actual name) who has a lonely life in “her” flat (not actually hers) with “her” cats (not her cats)… can you see how this is going to go? The narrator is so unreliable but that’s what draws you in – you can’t wait to find out who Joanne really is and what the hell is going on. The plot was really intricate and there were so many twists and turns that I was kept on my toes throughout.

The dark humour is still peppered through the text but there’s something bleaker and more desperate about Joanne – Rhiannon may be a psycho-killer but you’d never see her cowering in the corner.

The Alibi Girl is, in some ways, harder to get into but it feels like it has far more scope than the Sweetpea books. The flashbacks to a previous life and the multiple points of view make it feel like a more complete novel, more emotionally charged and with greater depth.

If you don’t like gruesome depictions of killing, bad language or black comedy that’s right on the border of acceptability then these books definitely aren’t for you. If, however, you find yourself snorting at a dismembered penis in a Ford Transit being referred to as the “cock au van” then C. J. Skuse will be right up your street. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you!

 

Five “I f*cking love these books” out of five.

Funny, dark and oh-so engaging, C. J. Skuse is my new favourite author – even if I’m now concerned that I might not have fared much better on Buzzfeed’s “Am I A Psychopath?” test¬†


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Blog Tour – Five Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Maurice Barkley

#thewritereads blog tour!

Genre: Short stories, Mystery

Similar to:¬†Classic whodunnits like Agatha Christie, or…you know… Arthur Conan Doyle

Could be enjoyed by: Everyone! I found these stories really enjoyable and suitable for all ages

Publication date: 6th July 2017, according to Amazon (which seems weird but ok)

 

I’m going to say this right at the start – I’ve never actually read any Sherlock Holmes stories before. I’m vaguely familiar with some of the TV adaptations but the actual novel seems to have passed me by. So, it was with some trepidation that I began to read this book.

I have to say, I was really impressed! I found the stories very engaging and I was immediately drawn into the world of Victorian London. All of the stories feel like classic tales of murder, intrigue and suspense and I thought that the overall tone of what I’d expect a Sherlock Holmes novel to be was captured really well. If you’re not familiar with Arthur Conan Doyle’s writing then the nearest thing I could liken it to was Jonathan Creek.

There was no backstory given as to how Holmes and Watson began their partnership or who they even were as people (what is Watson a doctor of? How does Holmes support his somewhat lavish lifestyle?) but even with my limited knowledge I was able to piece together their working relationship. It was nice to see familiar places and phrases pop up, although there was no “elementary, my dear Watson!” which I was waiting for. I did spot one tiny Americanism which I found somewhat jarring but overall I thought that the book was well written and completely evoked the feeling of foggy, repressive Victorian London.

My only real issue was that every time Baker Street was mentioned, that bloody sax solo kept popping into my head:

 

 

Overall, I really liked the Sherlock Holmes short stories. Perhaps the characters could have done with a little more fleshing out and maybe Watson could have done a little more than stand there wetly with absolutely no idea of what was going on but these are minor criticisms. I found the stories to be nicely bite-sized chunks of mystery, murder and suspense, very cleverly written and easy to read. A great little book to dip in and out of if you need to immerse yourself in another world – and let’s face it, we could all do with a bit of that right now.

 

Four “I cannot get this song out of my head”s out of five.

Really well captured, a great addition to the cannon.

 

 


Please note that I read this book for free in exchange for an honest review courtesy of #thewritereads. Thanks Dave!

 

Blog Tour – Kingshold by D. P. Wooliscroft

Kingshold picture

Part of #TheWriteReads Blog Tour!

Genre: Fantasy (possibly high fantasy? I’m not knowledgeable enough about the sub-genres)

Similar to:¬†A bit Assassin’s Apprentice with occasional Terry Pratchett overtones

Could be enjoyed by: People who like multiple POV, political fantasy

Publication date: 17th April 2018

I haven’t written a book review in months, so I think the first thing that I should do is apologise for how rusty I am. As always, life has gotten in the way etc. etc. I’ll try my hardest not to ramble but after the week I’ve had even this opening paragraph is a bit of a stretch!

Soooo, Kingshold. To summarise: the King and Queen get assassinated, there’s a city wide search for someone to run the newly-founded republic.

Chaos ensues.

(This is easier than I thought! Oh no, wait…)

To start with the positives – I thought the book was well written. There was the occasional repetition of a more unusual word and the inclusion of some more modern phrases which sometimes felt a little incongruous but overall the tone was refreshingly light, especially for something as serious as a political fantasy. In particular, I loved how I don’t have a single bad thing to say about sexism – the female characters were likeable, had autonomy and didn’t act as “sexy lamps” (standing around in the background waiting to be turned on by men). One of them even got introduced as Ms! I don’t know a single thing about any of their breasts and there were no bad sex scenes so kudos to the author for not writing like a misogynistic dickbiscuit.

On to the not-so-good bits…

I thought that the characters needed a little more fleshing out as a lot of the time they were somewhat interchangeable. Alana and Petra? Motega, Trypp and Florian? I’m still not exactly sure who was who and I struggled to picture them in my head. I also had some issues with some of the names; Neenahwi… Neena-h-wi? Nee-nah-wi? Neenah-wi? Who knows. I did find that every time that character was mentioned, the pronunciation of her name pulled me right out of the story.

I also couldn’t help but notice some of the – ahem – similarities between certain other books. Now clearly Kingshold is a genre novel so you’d expect certain tropes but in the absence of clear character definitions my mind started to default to, well, mostly the Discworld. We had Rincewind a dodgy wizard, Gimli bearded dwarves, Great A’Tuin a draco-turtle with a town on his back, Inigo, Fezzik and Vizzini a group of three marauding brothers-in-arms and¬†The Luggage some floating luggage.¬†

There was a large cast of characters and plenty of interaction between them all but in terms of action I found it all a bit, well, admin based. I guess the thing about writing a political fantasy is that there’s quite a lot of tedious going-to-curry-favour-with-Lady-such-and-such and although there were plenty of diversions and random events, I found the plot quite slow overall. The events happened in a kind of “oh look, fire!” or “who is that unknown assassin?” type way, with very little tension or build up. There were also some interesting hooks thrown in that weren’t followed up – was Mareth’s singing actual magic? Where on earth did that demon come from – is she banished? I guess we will find out more in subsequent books in the series.

Overall, I liked Kingshold but I didn’t love it. For me, the pacing was too slow, the characters and setting needed better descriptions and I would have like to see a bit more build up and tension to the events that unfolded. I imagine that if you read a lot of fantasy then you’d probably really enjoy this book (after all, I am the woman who found Assassin’s Apprentice quite tedious) but it wasn’t really for me.

 

Three “Is her name Need-A-Wee?”s out of five.

Good writing, an interesting premise but overall just not for me.

 

 


Please note that I read this book for free in exchange for an honest review courtesy of The Write Reads. Thanks Dave!

 

Why I’m Not Doing A 2020 Reading Challenge

Hello Bookworms!

If you’ve read my previous New Year’s resolutions post, you may have noticed that there was something missing. Achievements? Stunning examples of my excellent organisational skills? Well, yes… but also something else.

Reading challenges.

You see, I’m oddly motivated by prescribed reading lists (initially, anyway) so for the past few years I’ve undertaken a number of challenges. Popsugar? Check. Book Riot? Completed it three years in a row, mate. I’ve done chapter-a-day read-alongs, I’ve done recommended reading, I’ve played bookish bingo. And I’m kinda… over it.

That’s not to say that I haven’t gained an enormous amount from reading challenges. I love how they force you to read more widely. I’ve had my eyes opened to genres I’d never even heard of and I’ve found some real gems along the way. I’ve found a previously undiscovered love of food memoirs, I am addicted to non-violent true crime and I’ve discovered a whole host of black, asian, trans, queer, feminist and disabled writers/stories that I may not previously have sought out. The thing is, now that I’m more aware of the sheer breadth of diverse offerings out there, I want to find them for myself. I want to read more Octavia E Butler. I want to hear more about Japan and Mexico and New Zealand. I don’t want to be forced to read poetry, or romance (although the Courtney Milan book that I chose was quite enjoyable) or to ever have to read another adult novel out loud. Ever.

I also don’t want to get to October and think “only ten books left!” then realise that they’re the books that I really don’t want to read. The pressure that I feel¬†every bloody year¬†is immense. And of course, after spending hours checking that the books you’ve chosen actually fit within the criteria (the discussion groups on Goodreads can get pretty spicy) you REALLY don’t want to DNF any of them. That means hours of grudgingly progressing through dull novels (“I need to read 50 pages before I can sleep!”) in the hope that there’s a massive reference section in the back that will knock 10% off your target. For example, one of Book Riot’s prompts for their 2020 challenge is “read an audiobook of poetry” (please God no – if there’s anything worse than the majority of poetry out there, it’s slow poetry) or “read the last book in a series” (soooo… read the whole series first? Or just read the last book like an absolute psychopath and ruin the whole thing?)

One of the problems with reading challenges that no-one ever mentions is cost. If I were to buy a paperback for each of the 24 categories in the Read Harder challenge at an average cost of, lets say, ¬£7, that works out to be ¬£168 per year on books that you may not even want to read. Yes, there’s libraries and NetGalley and your already-purchased TBR but with such narrow categories you’re often left with no choice but to fork out. Think of how many amazing, interesting books you could get for ¬£168. Think how many titles you could knock off your TBR if you didn’t feel forced to read around five books a year that you really didn’t want to and inevitably put you into a reading slump.

There’s also an issue with repetitiveness. I often eagerly check a newly released reading challenge, only to find that many of the categories define books that I’ve already read for a previous challenge. There’s only so much diversity out there that still gives readers a good choice of material and you often find that the only books that you want to read for a specific prompt are ones that you’ve already tackled. If you consider that the main point of a reading challenge is to make you read more widely but you’re already aware of the genres/types of books defined, you have to question its effectiveness. Remember how I said that I love a good food memoir? One of Book Riot’s prompts this year is “read a food book about a cuisine you’ve never tried before”. Hmmmm.

So, I am officially Taking A Year Off. We’ll see how long that lasts.

TBR, I’m coming for you!!!!!

 


Are you taking part in any reading challenges this year? Do you enjoy them or have you found similar issues to me? Let me know in the comments!

 

New Year’s Resolutions

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Photo by Jill Wellington on Pexels.com

Hello bookworms!

Happy 2020! It’s quite hard to be positive when the world is currently on fire/on the verge of war but lets forget about the things that we can’t control and look at our own personal goals for the forthcoming year. Focus!

Firstly, lets check how I did with the resolutions that I made last year. There were ten (TEN! What was I thinking!) of them – clearly I was in a more upbeat mood in January 2019!

Blurb (5)

  1. Make my peace with Goodreads and use it properly. I actually did this one! I’ve logged every single book that I’ve read for the last 12 months on there. Whilst I still hate the site and I don’t understand 9/10th’s of what you can use it for, I have at least accurately tracked my reading. Woo hoo! Gold star!
  2. Smash my NetGalley backlog out of the park.¬†Well, kinda. I did read quite a few books that were on my back list, although there’s still three on there that were released pre-2019 and another five that I’ve missed the 2019 publication dates for. Sooo… half a gold star? I’ll be generous.
  3. Consistency is key, Lucinda. Last year I wrote; “Basically, stop f#*king about with your “unintentional hiatuses” and post according to a proper schedule.”¬†Reader, I failed miserably – to the point where I felt guilty even calling myself a blogger. I have been¬†SO BAD¬†at posting regularly (or, at all). 0/10, must try harder etc. etc.
  4. Keep going with the varied content.¬†I… think I did this? When I posted, anyway.
  5. Branch out into other forms of social media. I’m all over Twitter like a pigeon on chips so that’s a point for me. I tried Pinterest but I just… don’t get it? I’ll have another go this year. I’m not doing Instagram, it’s too depressing!
  6. ¬†Get more involved in other people’s stuff.¬†I started really well with this then tailed off massively… I must get back on it!
  7. Complete Read Harder 2019. TICK!!!!!
  8. Complete the Chapter-a-day Read-along.¬†FAILED MISERABLY DON’T EVEN TALK TO ME ABOUT IT.
  9. Just…try to make a dent in your physical TBR. Well, I certainly tried. Then I started volunteering in my local library and found their bookshop, where all books are 50p and…
  10. Mumbles *something about getting 500 followers*. Achievement unlocked! I currently have 544.

That makes a grand total of… FIVE AND A HALF OUT OF TEN ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!!

Soooo… not great. However, I’ve rolled over some of the important resolutions and ditched the ones that I’ve moved on from. Oh well *shrugs shoulders* life got in the way a bit last year so I’m not going to beat myself up over it.

Moving on!

Blurb (6)

  1. Read 100 books.¬†I tried last year with the Goodread’s challenge and read 87, so I think that with a bit more effort I should be able to achieve this.
  2. Get rid of the final three books that have been on my NetGalley since forever and reduce the 2019 backlog. I’ve come to accept that there will always be a backlog, I just want it to be less intimidating.
  3. Blog more regularly.¬†Note, not more – just at a steadier pace. No more three posts a week for a few months then a four month hiatus. Accept that it’s virtually impossible to blog in the summer (my partner has weeks on end off from work and expects us to Do Stuff) so plan accordingly.
  4. Have another go at Pinterest.¬†I mean, I’ll try. Not holding out too much hope for this one though.
  5. Don’t let the physical TBR get any bigger.¬†I’m planning to read three books a month from my physical TBR – that should get it down a bit.
  6. Translate Twitter friends into blogging friends. Find all of the people that you regularly talk to on Twitter and actually follow their blog content.
  7. Keep up with the bullet journal. Hey Lucinda, you know how you stopped using it and then your reading/blogging plans went out of the window? I think the two things might be related…
  8. Continue to read widely without the help of a reading challenge. Reading challenges are great for making you read more varied content but I’ve done them for the past few years and they’re starting to get a bit repetitive now. They also force you to constantly find new books and my TBR is so big that this year I just want to focus on reading the books that I’m actually interested in.

And that’s it! Ten resolutions were just too many so I’m hoping that eight is a more achievable number. Wish me luck!

All the best for a happy and healthy new year,

Lucinda x


So, what are your bookish resolutions? Have you checked what you resolved to do last year? Did you fare better than I did? Let me know in the comments!

 

Review: Love Punked by Nia Lucas

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Genre:¬†That’s a tough one. New adult (is that really a genre?)/ Romance (of the most down-to-earth, realistic kind – as in “I’ll let your kids be sick on me just so you can have a break”/ General fiction (surely this is too realistic to be anything other than autobiographical?)

Similar to: Nothing. See my previous post about Why I don’t like YA because everyone is too well behaved and middle class

Could be enjoyed by:¬†Teenagers – this book would be brilliant for anyone who found themselves in a situation like Erin’s

Publication date: 21st July 2018

Controversial opinion: I’m not a fan of Young Adult or New Adult books (and yes, I know they’re not strictly genres but everyone else treats them like they are – don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about Karen). So, it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I agreed to read¬†Love Punked. I was swayed by the idea that the central characters did all of the things that I’ve previously criticised YA books for not having enough of -drinking, drug taking and having irresponsible, contraceptive free sex in a totally relatable and realistic way. Finally!

The novel centres around Erin, a feisty teenager who accidentally gets pregnant after having sex on a sun lounger in her Mum’s garage with someone she’s just met at a rave (we’ve all been there). She brings up her twins (yes, TWINS!) with the support of their father and her family, plus lots of help from her friends. It’s cute, sad, exciting, depressing and often downright hilarious to see the situations that Erin gets into and how she uses her trademark temper to forcefully get herself out of them.

Love Punked feels like it’s an autobiography because it’s so beautifully observed.¬†It was great to read about characters who spoke… like they were teenagers. I am SO SICK of reading books where the young protagonists all sound like fifty year olds, debating the merits of da Vinci vs Michelangelo and saying no to literally everything in favour of doing their homework. Dawson’s Creek, this is entirely your fault.

I really enjoyed the characters – I thought that they were all very well fleshed out, believable and nuanced. No-one was perfect – far from it – and in particular it was really refreshing to see a mother who wasn’t saintly, breezing through life or standing in the background, telling everyone off all of time. Erin absolutely had her own agency and it was great to see her hold her own against some really challenging situations.

I liked the storyline and seeing Erin grow into an amazing Mum, whilst still getting to appreciate how bloody hard it was for her. It’s so difficult to find stories from ordinary working class families like my own and I really liked how you could feel the love that everyone in her family had for each other. Awww. My only criticism is that the book was a tiny bit overly detailed in some areas and could do with a little bit of trimming down but that’s a very minor issue.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Love Punked and would highly recommend it to everyone!

Four “You’ve got this, Erin!”s out of five.

Amazing, funny and hugely entertaining, I loved this book!

 


Please note that I read this book for free in exchange for an honest review courtesy of the author. Thanks to the lovely Nia for sending me a copy and for being such a nice human being!