Calendar Girls January: Most Anticipated 2019 Release

Hello friends!

Welcome to another edition of the Calendar Girls!

Calendar Girls was a monthly blog event created by Melanie at MNBernard Books and Flavia the Bibliophile and will now be hosted by Katie at Never Not Reading and Adrienne at Darque Dreamer Reads.  It is designed to ignite bookish discussions among readers and was inspired by the 1961 Neil Sedaka song Calendar Girl.

Just like the song, each month has a different theme. Each blogger picks their favourite book from the theme and on the first Monday of the month reveals their pick in a Calendar Girls post. 

So without further ado, this month’s theme is…

calendar girls january

…and my response is…

The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

img_20181201_155124.jpg

So even though I’ve already read this book as an ARC, it’s not released until 10th January and I am SUPER excited to see what everyone else thinks about it!!! I even made a Pinterest board to show off how how gorgeous it is:

The novel follows on from The Girl in the Tower, after Vasya has travelled to Moscow from her village where she has been cast out as a witch. There will be thrills, spills – and an explosive conclusion to the series!

I love the Winternight trilogy for many reasons – Vasya is a fearless heroine, defiant about the rules governing her as a woman and strong in a way that isn’t purely based on macho “I’ll fight them at their own game” tactics. The stories are wonderfully written, combining folklore and history to create an utterly immersive world. They don’t shy away from the harsh realities of fourteenth century life but the grittiness lends itself to the starkly beautiful setting. I also adored how dark the books are – just the right side of creepy – giving a deeply atmospheric air to an utterly spellbinding fairytale.

So, what’s your most anticipated release of 2019? Have you read The Winter of the Witch? Let me know in the comments! 

Advertisements

Calendar Girls December: Best Book Set in Winter

Hello friends!

Welcome to another edition of the Calendar Girls!

Calendar Girls was a monthly blog event created by Melanie at MNBernard Books and Flavia the Bibliophile and will now be hosted by Katie at Never Not Reading and Adrienne at Darque Dreamer ReadsIt is designed to ignite bookish discussions among readers and was inspired by the 1961 Neil Sedaka song Calendar Girl.

Just like the song, each month has a different theme. Each blogger picks their favorite book from the theme and on the first Monday of the month reveals their pick in a Calendar Girls post. 

So without further ado, this month’s theme is…


My initial reaction was TheBearandtheNightingaleTheBearand theNightingaleTheBearandtheNightingale!!!! (I really do love that book). However, I mentioned it in my previous Calendar Girls post when I chose the sequel, The Girl in the Tower, as my favourite book in the middle of a series so I thought I’d go for something completely different. Like, completely different.

So, my December pick is…

Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

I have to say – this book is not for the faint hearted. It takes it’s title from the Morissey song “Let the Right One Slip In” and if you thought that was bleak…this probably isn’t the book for you.

Let The Right One In is one of the most creepily atmospheric books I’ve ever read. Set in a run down suburb of 1980’s Sweeden, it’s main character Oskar is a bullied twelve year old with dreams of violent retribution. The arrival of a new neighbour called Eli gives Oskar his first real friend, but there’s something a bit…off about her. Who is the weird guy that she lives with? Why does she only come out at night? And does she have anything to do with the murder of a local teenager who was found drained of his blood?

Everything about the book is creepy, weird and just a bit off-kilter. The characters all seen to be depressed, angry or filled with self loathing. Seeing the book in the Sweedish Winter adds to the bleak atmosphere. There are a series of horrible twists and turns that lead to some really disturbing scenes – none of that sparkly vampire nonsense. It really is graphic and I’m sure a lot of readers will be turned off by that.

HOWEVER…

This isn’t just a cheap shock horror novel. At it’s heart is a slightly twisted but nonetheless sweet, kind friendship between Oskar and Eli – and it’s their relationship that compelled me to keep reading. This isn’t so much a vampire novel as a story of two outcasts finding a mutual bond in the most difficult of circumstances. It’s brilliantly written, well paced and complex and it invoked pretty much every emotion that I possess. I wouldn’t even call myself a horror fan but I absolutely loved it – my friend called it a horror book for people who don’t like horror which I think is pretty accurate. 

So, have you read Let the Right One In? What would be your Calendar Girls pick? Let me know in the comments! 

Calendar Girls November: Favourite Middle Book in a Series

Hello friends!

Welcome to another edition of the Calendar Girls!

Calendar Girls was a monthly blog event created by Melanie at MNBernard Books and Flavia the Bibliophile and will now be hosted by Katie at Never Not Reading and Adrienne at Darque Dreamer Reads. It is designed to ignite bookish discussions among readers and was inspired by the 1961 Neil Sedaka song Calendar Girl.

Just like the song, each month has a different theme. Each blogger picks their favorite book from the theme and on the first Monday of the month reveals their pick in a Calendar Girls post. 

So without further ado, this month’s theme is…

Despite not having finished the trilogy (I’ve just been turned down for the final ARC 😢) I had to choose one of my favourite books of recent years…The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden.


I absolutely adored the first installment of the Winternight trilogy (The Bear and the Nightingale – terrible review from years ago here) but the sequel is where Katherine Arden really hits her stride as an author. 
The Winternight Trilogy is the story of Vasilisa, a young girl living in medieval Russia. She has a quiet life in a rural village, despite the fact that she’s inherited her mother’s gift to see the spirits that protect their agricultural way of life. As Christianity begins to make the villagers forget their old gods, the power of the good spirits weakens and the village becomes threatened. Vasilisa has to flee her home and immediately stumbles into trouble, being dragged ever deeper into the battle between good and evil. Is she strong enough to protect her people?

There’s a bit of everything in this story. Intrigue, romance, magic…The Girl in the Tower has it all. I think that one of the best things about the book is the usage of language. It is just so. beautifully. written. You could turn to any page and get at least one exquisite quote. I loved how descriptive the storytelling was, and because the novel is set in Russia the dark, snowy environment leant itself perfectly to such a magical, dark fairytale. It was incredibly atmospheric and evocative, and I loved how Katherine Arden wove Russian words into the narrative in such a way that you understood their meaning even though they bore no resemblance to their English counterparts. So clever.

I really noticed the development of the characters from book one and I loved how we got to find out more about each of them now that they had grown up a bit. I was initially worried that this novel would be the awkward middle bit, where everything is set up for a big finale but not much happens, but it isn’t at all like that. Instead, The Girl in the Tower could almost be read as a stand alone novel as it has a proper beginning, middle and end and a narrative arc all of it’s own.

There are so many other brilliant things about this story that I could go on for hours – the use of “real” Russian mythology, the family dynamics, the relationship between Vasya and her horse Solovey…but I would literally be here for days. You should probably just go and read it for yourselves 😜

So, have you read The Girl in the Tower? What would be your Calendar Girls pick? Let me know in the comments! 


Calendar Girls October: Best Book With Witches

​Hello friends! Welcome to another edition of The Calendar Girls!

Calendar Girls was a monthly blog event created by Melanie at MNBernard Books and Flavia at Flavia the Bibliophile and will now be hosted by Katie at Never Not Reading and Adrienne at Darque Dreamer Reads. It is designed to ignite bookish discussions among readers and was inspired by the 1961 Neil Sedaka song Calendar Girl.

Just like the song, each month has a different theme. Each blogger picks their favorite book from the theme and on the first Monday of the month reveals their pick in a Calendar Girls post. 

So without further ado, this month’s theme is…

Oooh, topical! 

When I started looking at options for this category I was amazed at just how many of my favourite novels have witches in them. Again, there’s one incredibly obvious choice that I’m not going to go for but I feel like I have to at least acknowledge some of the brilliant books that I didn’t pick. So, honourable mentions go to:

– Terry Pratchett (various books, all brilliant)

– Neil Gaiman for Stardust and possibly The Ocean at the End of the Lane (are the Hempstocks witches?)

– Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett together for Good Omens (highly recommended)

– Roald Dahl for The Witches (which absolutely terrified me as a child)

– Helen Nicoll for Meg and Mog (adorable children’s book)

– Katherine Arden for The Bear and the Nightingale (debatable whether Vasilisa is a witch – I’m guessing this might be revealed in the final instalment of the trilogy)

However, despite the sheer abundance of options my pick is…

The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy


Argh, I have soooo many fond memories of reading this book as a child. I loved the character of Mildred Hubble and reading about how she was literally the worst witch at Miss Cackle’s Academy, making enemies of the smarmy Ethel Hallow and getting witchery totally wrong. The book contains all of the classic children’s book tropes (doing the right thing, perseverance, strict teachers being harsh but fair) but never comes across as preachy or holier-than-thou. There’s a whole series of Worst Witch books and I loved them all for their fast pacing, easy reading style and the sheer likeability of Mildred and her friends.

It was also a great mid 90’s kids TV programme that I weirdly still remember all the words in the theme tune to.

https://youtu.be/YQgW_v9ReDk

Also, check out the Moaning-Myrtle-a-like! I knew I’d seen that witch somewhere before…

So, have you read The Worst Witch? What would be your Calendar Girls pick? Let me know in the comments! 



Calendar Girls September: Best Novel Set in a School

Yay, it’s time for to take part in the Calendar Girls meme again! That came around quick! 

Calendar Girls was a monthly blog event created by Melanie at MNBernard Books and Flavia at Flavia the Bibliophile and will now be hosted by Katie at Never Not Reading and Adrienne at Darque Dreamer Reads. It is designed to ignite bookish discussions among readers and was inspired by the 1961 Neil Sedaka song Calendar Girl.

Just like the song, each month has a different theme. Each blogger picks their favorite book from the theme and on the first Monday of the month reveals their pick in a Calendar Girls post. 

So without further ado, this month’s theme is…

calendar girls september (1)

Books set in a school? Hmmmm…😜

There’s one incredibly obvious choice for this category but I thought (as usual) that I’d be a bit different and choose a book that might be focused around a school but whose main characters are the parents, not the kids. Also, I was shamelessly able to use my own review of the book to write this post (bonus!)

My pick is…

Big Little Lies by Lianne Moriarty


The book is based around three women whose children are all starting at the same school. There’s Madeline, the down to earth, making-it-up-as-she-goes-along mum; Celeste, the beautiful, rich, slightly vacant mum; and Jane, the downtrodden young mum. The three women become friends, but an incident involving Jane’s son and another little girl creates escalating tension between all of the parents at the school. Everyone seems to have their own take on the matter, and as the parents form allegiances they’re forced to act in a way that protects their own secrets from becoming public knowledge. As the parents become more polarised, emotions are heightened until everything comes to a head at a fateful school fancy dress party – the scene of a terrible crime.

Big Little Lies is written partly in the format of a police investigation, so the reader instantly knows that the story is going to end in some kind of criminal incident. I really liked the way that the narrative was often juxtaposed with a witness statement from another parent which put a totally different spin on the situation – it was really cleverly done and showed how perceptions can be so distorted based on our own prejudices and preconceived ideas.

Despite the playground politics and petty bitchiness, there’s a central theme of strong female friendship and loyalty which was really refreshing to read about. I loved how different Madeline, Celeste and Jane were, yet they all found common ground and faced many of the same issues. I also loved how the different family types were shown – the single parent, the blended family and the traditional two parent setup, and the problems and pitfalls of each.

The book is very female-centric and there’s a fantastic portrayal of lots of different female relationships – as wives, friends, parents, enemies, grandparents, step parents, victims…the list goes on. All of the characters were totally unique and I loved watching their lives unfold based on the way that they reacted to each other.

I loved the ending to the book and the big plot twist that I didn’t see coming. I can’t believe the novel is 480 pages long – I tore through it as it was really fast paced and the characters were all really interesting and well developed.

I’m sure that Big Little Lies will get tarred with the “chick lit” brush but this isn’t some silly romance, it’s a really unique psychological thriller – that just happens to be based at the school gates. It reminded me a lot of Desperate Housewives (season one, before it went downhill) so any fans of that will definitely enjoy it, although I think there’s something in it for everyone. 



Calendar Girls August: Best Novel Set in Summer

Well this is very exciting! For the first time ever I’m taking part in a meme…and not just any meme…the Calendar Girls meme!

Calendar Girls was a monthly blog event created by Melanie at MNBernard Books and Flavia at Flavia the Bibliophile and will now be hosted by Katie at Never Not Reading and Adrienne at Darque Dreamer Reads. It is designed to ignite bookish discussions among readers and was inspired by the 1961 Neil Sedaka song Calendar Girl.

Just like the song, each month has a different theme. Each blogger picks their favorite book from the theme and on the first Monday of the month reveals their pick in a Calendar Girls post. 


So without further ado, this month’s theme is…



And my pick is…



The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

I suspect that everyone else taking part in the meme might have chosen a nice light summery read so I thought I’d be a bit different and choose a dark psychological thriller!


I absolutely love Patricia Highsmith and I especially love this book. The Talented Mr.Ripley is an incredibly tense novel that keeps you in suspense from beginning to end. Tom Ripley is a con-man who seizes a fortuitous opportunity to get paid to go to Italy to convince one of his well off acquaintances (Dickie Greenleaf) to return home to America. Upon arriving in Italy and properly befriending Dickie he realises that the life of relaxation, painting and pottering about in Italian seaside towns is one that he’d quite like for himself, but the small matter of finance prevents it. If only his life could be more like Dickie’s…or perhaps if only his life could actually become Dickie’s…


I love the glamorous setting of the book and the juxtaposition of the beautiful Italian coastline with the dark, underhand actions of Tom. I mean, just look at how they shot the film version:



The writing is absolutely excellent and the way that Highsmith builds the suspense is incredibly skilful. Despite being a total psychopath, Tom Ripley is clever, devious and dangerous to know – and despite everything you can’t help but be on his side. It’s not an easy read and it’s certainly not a happy summery story but I think that The Talented Mr. Ripley is a brilliant book if you like your sun drenched stories with a darker twist. 

*Just a quick note – the artwork for the Calendar Girls meme and the monthly pick has been shamelessly stolen by me from Katie’s original post advertising the event. I hope that’s ok ☺