Tuesday, 27 September 2016

10 Books I'm Reading This Autumn

(Top Ten Tuesday is a fantastic meme from The Broke and The Bookish. Check it out here.)

This is dedicated to all Esperanza Spalding fans out there. If you're not one become one. This girl's damn amazing.

Autumn is now upon us and that means - let me just go turn off that Spalding song, it's distracting me - that means that it's time to pick out some badass books to read over the next couple of months. (It also means it's Halloween in a month's time, but that's irrelevant) I've picked this list based on books I have out of the library that I want to read, books to read for the EPQ (Extended Project Qualification) I'm doing at college, and books that I reckon'll have an autumnal feel. I'd fill it full of Halloween-ish books but I'm doing a list of those in October.
Must. Restrain. Oneself.

1. Lost Stars
by Lisa Selin Davis

Lost Stars comes out on 6th October in the UK, an all-day event on my Google Calendar complete with notification. The main character's a female astrophysics nerd suffering from grief after the death of her sister. The cliché of astrophysics being romantisized gets to me, but I can't complain about a female physics nerd of any description. I also love the idea of her getting caught up in teenage revelry and having to recover her love for physics. Yes, I am aware that this book is about a girl bringing herself back up after a traumatic ordeal, but, yanno, physics. All in all I'm really looking forward to this and plan on rushing down to Waterstones in my first free period to buy it.

2. Resistance is Futile
by Jenny T. Colgan

Hey look: another female nerd! This time it's maths, which pleases me greatly. Is maths not the most beautiful and romantic subject ever to be conceived of? I promise this is my last nerd romance of the season. I'm so excited though. I have it next to me on my windowsill as I write. This is gonna be great.

3. The Anchoress
by Robyn Cadwallader

I got The Anchoress out of the library to satisfy an interest in historic religion. "Sarah is only seventeen when she chooses to become and anchoress, a holy woman shut away in a small cell at the side of the village church, renouncing the world with all its risks, desires and temptations, to pursue a life of the mind and soul." Straight from the book's booty! I don't think I'd have picked this up had I not read The Lords of The North by Bernard Cornwell just before, which sparked a bit of an interest in historic religious philosophies and ideals for me. I love getting inside of a mind that I don't understand though, and not being a Christian myself, I'm super excited to find out why someone would do this. I'm also excited to find out actually what this "danger" is that the blurb mysteriously speaks of. Honestly, I have no clue what to expect from Cadwallader here.

4. Sonic Wonderland
by Trevor Cox

I read about half of a library copy of Sonic Wonderland earlier this year but I had to take it back because I was spending too long fan-girling over acoustics and not enough time actually reading the book, but THIS IS THE DAY/MONTH/SEASON! This Autumn guys, I will finish Sonic Wonderland. And will stop feeling so guilty for putting on my Uni application that I read it when, in fact, I only read half of it.

5. Skin
by Ilka Tampke

There's seems to be a bit of confusion on Goodreads about Skin, with the cover I own being under a misspelling of Tampke's name, and the actual listing having a second title, "Daughter of Avalon", under the editions section. Anyway, a spiritual, historic romance about a girl named Ailia in Iron-Age Britain and some guy named Taliesin (one of my favourite names), described as "enigmatic" (my ultimate buzz-word when it comes to books). Sounds good!

6. The White Queen
by Philippa Gregory

Leant to me by a friend of mine because I'm doing an enrichment course on Tudor Women, which includes Elizabeth Woodville. I'm not a huge fan of political history personally, just fricken love Elizabeth Tudor, which is why I chose the course, but I'm hoping this'll get me excited about the political aspect. The said friend is pretty obsessed with the woman and the Wars of the Roses, so I'm trying my best!

7. Trigger Warning
by Neil Gaiman

I. Am. The biggest lover of Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer. I can't believe it's taken me this long to put Trigger Warning on my seasonal TBR; I bought it when it came out! I'm also completely overdue reading "A View From the Cheap Seats", his recent non-fiction book, a collection of essays. I'm ashamed of myself haha.

Books 8-10 I'd like to leave bare. I don't get through the 15 or whatever books that a lot of people do per month, so this is my leeway ;).

Abi Ainley

Friday, 23 September 2016

What do I do if It Was Fantastic But I Couldn't Finish it? - The Magician King by Lev Grossman (Discussion)

The Magician King

by Lev Grossman

Released: 9th August 2011
Publisher: William Heinemann
Genres: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Maybe Romance?
Other books by Lev Grossman:
The Magicians
The Connector (Non-Fiction)
Goodreads Description:
The Magicians was praised as a triumph by readers and critics of both mainstream and fantasy literature. Now Grossman takes us back to Fillory, where the Brakebills graduates have fled the sorrows of the mundane world, only to face terrifying new challenges.
Quentin and his friends are now the kings and queens of Fillory, but the days and nights of royal luxury are starting to pall. After a morning hunt takes a sinister turn, Quentin and his old friend Julia charter a magical sailing ship and set out on an errand to the wild outer reaches of their kingdom. Their pleasure cruise becomes an adventure when the two are unceremoniously dumped back into the last place Quentin ever wants to see: his parent's house in Chesterton, Massachusetts. And only the black, twisted magic that Julia learned on the streets can save them.
The Magician King is a grand voyage into the dark, glittering heart of magic, an epic quest for the Harry Potter generation. It also introduces a powerful new voice, that of Julia, whose angry genius is thrilling. Once again Grossman proves that he is the cutting edge of literary fantasy.


I mentioned The Magician King recently in my “Top Ten Fantasy Books” as my second favourite fantasy book. At this point I was about three quarters of my way through it and confident as hell that it was going to be one of my favourites. Everything about it was perfect: the writing; the imagination; the setting; the ridiculously, amazingly complex and interesting characters. All my friends knew about Fillory and it’s fortune telling hares and islands where everyone was grumpy yorkshiremen. But what happens when I get 100 pages off finishing and just can’t go on any more?

I’d been trying to finish the final 150/200 pages for a week and found myself slowly falling into a reading slump. I don’t regret putting the book down and leaving it be, but how can I possibly review it? Do I give it 5* for the inspiring first three quarters that had me drawing, writing and making music again, that gave me my sadly missed imagination back again, or do I give it 2* because I couldn’t finish it? I could go half way and give it 3.5* but that doesn’t feel quite right. You don’t give such a life-changing book such a small rating, however you also don’t give a book that you couldn’t finish such a high rating.

You might have encountered a book like this before – it’s engaging and exciting for the first three quarters but drags on forever in the later parts – I sure have, but usually the engaging and exciting parts aren’t quite this engaging and exciting. The damn book took over my mind for the couple of weeks I read it over, guarding every move I made. I can’t rate it low! But also… I can’t exactly rate it high. It’s almost as if I read two different books, the first being a fantastic, creative, inspiring fantasy classic, the other being a dull, wannabe urban fantasy. GUYS! I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO!

I don’t know whether to recommend The Magician King or not. Read the other reviews. I have a feeling this will have to be the first instance in which I really can’t supply an opinion, not because I have none, but because I have too many!

Amazon UK
Amazon US

Abi Ainley

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Top Ten: Books for Songs

(Top Ten Tuesdays is a fantastic meme from The Broke and The Bookish. Check it out here.)

About my lack of posts last week: I've been writing a couple of advance reviews for the next few months, I'm not lazying around, I swear! I also have a Goodreads review that I think I might extend and maybe turn into a discussion topic, so that might be coming in the next week or two ;)
Top Ten Five:
Books for Songs

I was so excited to see that this week's prompt was audio. As a huge music fan and acoustics nerd this is my dream prompt. The only problem was I had too many ideas! I narrowed it down to two. For this post I'll be shuffling my 2016 Spotify playlist and assigning a book to ten songs. My second idea was to just do a list of 10 of my favourite music, acoustics, music psychology, music biography etc. books and I might still do this at some point if it takes anyone's fancy? Yep, there's only five here but this is the best I could do with my time. Hope you enjoy! :D

1. Cruel to be Kind by Nick Lowe

Fitting with the light-hearted tone of this song, I took a light-hearted approach to choosing this graphic novel.
I Killed Adolf Hitler by Jason

A fun, creative graphic novel about a rather dire situation. If you haven't read this, I recommend it. You can get through it in little to no time and it's reasonably entertaining. The art, as usual with Jason, is incredibly fun and makes it worth buying. :D

2. Time Warp by the cast of The Rocky Horror Picture Show
LET'S DO THE TIME WARP AGAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIN! (not that we've done it yet but..)
Time to hunt out a book that messes with your mind and includes a hella lot of pelvic thrusts.
The Magician King by Lev Grossman

It's creative, sometimes messed up and has sexual bits. I think this is the closest I'll get without scouring through every book I own.

3. Bagpipers by Béla Bartók

I love this piece but damn it's gonna be hard to come up with a book for it.
Romance by the Book by Jo Victor

The huge historic house and the dusty, classical theme combined with the countryside, folk elements.
See my review: Romance by the Book by Jo Victor

4. Once in a Lifetime by Talking Heads

I can't possibly think of a book magnificent enough to be paired with this song & music video so watch the video again:

5. Stay With Me by Faces
I know your name is Rita, 'cause your perfumes smelling sweeter,

So something with a funky piano accompaniment. Hmm...
Swift by RJ Anderson

There were plenty of books I could've chosen with pianos in but I was scrolling through my "read" list on Goodreads when I suddenly realised that this song epitomises how I read RJ Anderson's books. They really are a one night stand. When I'm needing a lift or I'm in a reading slump, I pick up the first one I see and read it cover to cover, before putting it away not to be read again for a few years.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Top Ten: Favourite Fantasy Books

(Top Ten Tuesdays is a fantastic meme from The Broke and The Bookish. Check it out here.)

(Also, I know some of these books come more under supernatural, but I tend to count supernatural as a sub-genre of fantasy. To me fantasy is essentially everything that's not real or based off science. Enjoy :D)

Top Ten:
Favourite Fantasy Books

As a huge fan of fantasy you'd think it'd be easy as pie for me to come up with ten fantasy books that I love. Well, you'd be slightly mistaken. This is the part where I open up my Goodreads "read" shelf to remember what books I've read.

10. All The Birds in The Sky
by Charlie Jane Anders

The two main characters are an engineer and a magician. Need I say more?

9. The Pygmy Dragon
by Marc Secchia

This guy is one hell of a writer. Sometimes in a good way, sometimes bad. I read and reviewed his book Dragonfriend last year, which I found to be quite confusing despite being a fun read, but The Pygmy Dragon was a completely different kettle of fish. The world and story is beautiful and conquers the topic of social segregation. Secchia is an indie author so if you're into supporting indie authors I recommend picking up this book.

8. Unspoken
by Sarah Rees Brennan

I still need to read the rest of these! I absolutely loved the idea of two people who had been able to speak to each other telepathically forever before finally meeting. The whole development of how they realised that the voices in their heads were each other was done fantastically. I really need to read the other in this series. But then again, I really need to read everything.

7. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
by Holly Black

A devout Holly Black fan, I couldn't not include one of her books in this list, my favourite being The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. I can't say I remember a great deal from this book, but I can't really say I remember a great deal about anything haha. All I remember is reading the damn thing in one sitting at the library and wishing for the life of me it was in a series. It's not. Cri.

6. The Dragon Children: The Prophecy
by Hannah Byrnes

A beautiful telling of two children brought to a world of dragons to fulfil a prophecy. As a lover of dragons, I had to include this. I remember finishing it and being like "No. Can't stop. More pls. No stop. You do me an upset." The dragons were beautifully described. If I were to live in a dragon universe it'd be this one, hands down.

5. The Witchstruck trilogy
by Victoria Lamb

I love Elizabeth Tudor and I love witches. This book was a brief moment of heaven about a witch named Meg who goes to work as a maid for the exiled Lady Elizabeth. Despite its glaringly obvious historical mistake, claiming that Dr John Dee went to Oxford - M8 no, he went to Cambridge - and the dire ending, Lamb creates a story that twists around you as you read it.

4. The Witch's Daughter
by Paula Brackston

Right. Don't get me started on this book. It's sooooooooooooooooo good! The main character is a witch named Elizabeth and the story switches between telling her life story (of 384 years) - which is one of the most beautiful things I've ever read - and present day, in which she's teaching a new witch named Tegan, all the while awakening old memories. The whole structure is beautiful and unmatched. Stunning.

3. The Watcher in the Shadows
by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Very gothic and very steampunk. The writing is breath-taking and the world is creative and mind-twisting. This isn't as character-driven as I usually like, and very much relies on Zafon's masterful descriptions, but it's definitely one of my favourites. Zafon is a favourite author of mine; he knows exactly how to take you away to another world. ;)

2. The Magician King
by Lev Grossman

This is one I'm reading at the moment, but I already know it's going to be influential and a classic in my life. I've done my usual and read the second without realising there was a first here, but DAMNED IF I CARE. I'll read the first one after as a kind of back-story because The Magician King is FANTASTIC! The world is mesmerising. When I'm not reading it, I'm thinking about it, I'm drawing it, or I'm doing maths. I haven't drawn in a long time but Grossman writes characters, things, places that need to be drawn. Plus: The main character, Quentin, has completely unexpected and unprecedented Asperger's. It's great. Can't been a good bit of casual Asperger's in a book.

1. The Half Bad trilogy
by Sally Green

I'm pretty sure I recall writing a review for Half Wild, and if you read that review you'll know exactly how I feel about this series. There was a bit of an uproar about the end of Half Lies (the third and final book in the trilogy), which I won't mention because spoilers and that, but I thought it was beautiful. I thought it was a bit shoved into the end like she'd had an idea that didn't fit with the story so she had to make the story fit with the idea and it didn't quite work, but still: This was a damned good series and ain't no one changing my mind about that.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

The Lords of The North by Bernard Cornwell (*breaths heavily*)

(Quickie: Mild bad language used to express inexpressible feelings)

The Lords of the North

by Bernard Cornwell

Released: 23rd January 2007 (Yeah, it's not the most recent of books but this review had to be done)
Publisher: HarperTorch
Genres: Historical Fiction (Dark Ages), War
Other books by Bernard Cornwell:
The Sharpe novels
The Grail Quest series
The Starbuck Chronicles
Goodreads Description:
From Bernard Cornwell, the undisputed master of historical fiction, hailed as "the direct heir to Patrick O'Brien,"* comes the third volume in the exhilarating Saxon Chronicles: the story of the birth of England as the Saxons struggle to repel the Danish invaders.
The year is 878, and as Lords of the North begins, the Saxons of Wessex, under King Alfred, have defeated the Danes to keep their kingdom free. Uhtred, the dispossessed son of a Northumbrian lord, helped Alfred win that victory, but now he is disgusted by Alfred's lack of generosity. Uhtred flees Wessex, going north to search for his stepsister, who was taken prisoner by Kjartan the Cruel, a Danish lord who lurks in the formidable stronghold of Dunholm.
Uhtred arrives in the north to discover rebellion, chaos, and fear. His only ally is Hild, a West Saxon nun fleeing her calling, and his best hope is his sword, Serpent-Breath, with which he has made a notable reputation as a warrior. He needs other partners if he is to attack Dunholm, and chooses Guthred, a seemingly deluded slave who believes he is a king. Together they cross the Pennines, where fanatical Christians and beleaguered Danes have formed a desperate alliance to confront the terrible Viking lords who rule Northumbria.
Instead of victory Uhtred finds betrayal. But he also discovers love and redemption as he is forced to turn once again to his reluctant ally, Alfred the Great. It is Alfred who sees opportunity in Northumbria's chaos, and Alfred who looses Uhtred and his stepbrother, Ragnar, onto Dunholm, the invincible fortress on its great spur of rock. A breathtaking adventure, Lords of the North is also the story of the creation of England, as the English and Danes fight against each other, but also find common cause and create a common language. In the end they will become one people, but as Uhtred will discover, their union is forged through the white heat of battle.
* The Economist

My Review

First off, I'd like to compliment Cornwell on creating a book that's completely accessibly for dufuses like myself who take it out of the library and start reading it before realising it's actually the third in a series. It would explain why I had a slow start to the book, needing to double check things that happened, but didn't tamper with the quality of reading itself.

Gosh, so much happens in this book I can hardly remember where it started! *flicks back to the first couple of pages*

The story starts with our good friend Uhtred (if you read the first two I imagine you'll already be acquainted else, like me, you'll be best buds by the end) complaining about the King of Wessex, Alfred. We discover that he's just fought in the battle of Ethandun (If you've read the first two, unlike me, you'll know all about this already :p) and, as you will be chanting along with him by the end, he is:

"the man who had killed Ubba Lothbrokson beside the sea and who had spilled Svein of the White Horse from his saddle at Ethandun."


The story follows Uhtred as he runs away from Wessex, up north, finding a slave man in chains claiming to be the king of Northumbria, supported by a huddle of priests. This is Guthred. And I'm not sure where to even start with him. He's god damn adorable. Being a bit lot of a pansy and refusing to take any action unless someone can assure him that King Alfred would do it, he's a surprisingly lovable character. I mean, there's this bit in the middle where he does something that I can't tell you about because it's a spoiler but I assure you it's br00tal, and I spent the entire time up until he returned pleading that when he returned into the plotline, he would return as he was before: that cute king that everyone adores but hates at the same time.

Considering I hadn't read the first two in the series, I was completely drowned in this book, my bus journeys becoming adventures across late first century England; across oceans; through battles. God damn it I loved this book! The imagery is so incredibly intense: you see, hear, smell, taste and feel every single thing that happens, causing real-world-numbing sensations. I don't recall ever being so invested in a book before. I've come out still believing I'm a Dane. It's problematic.

Amazon UK
Amazon US

Abi Ainley

Sunday, 4 September 2016

One by Sarah Crossan


by Sarah Crossan

Released: 27th August 2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's Books
Genres: YA, Contemporary Romance, Free Verse, Feely af
Other books by Sarah Crossan:
The Weight of Water
Apple and Rain
Goodreads Description:
Grace and Tippi are twins – conjoined twins.
And their lives are about to change.
No longer able to afford homeschooling, they must venture into the world – a world of stares, sneers and cruelty. Will they find more than that at school? Can they find real friends? And what about love?
But what neither Grace or Tippi realises is that a heart-wrenching decision lies ahead. A decision that could tear them apart. One that will change their lives even more than they ever imagined…
From Carnegie Medal shortlisted author Sarah Crossan, this moving and beautifully crafted novel about identity, sisterhood and love ultimately asks one question: what does it mean to want and have a soulmate?

My Review

This book is one of those that you can read in less than an hour, but that will stay with you forever. The messages that flow through this book will change the way you see the world. 'One' isn't just about conjoined twins, it's about dependency and dreams and friendship, but most of all it's about living through what someone else might call a "tragedy" with a sparkle in your eyes and hope in your heart.

Crossan uses a unique format to tell the story of two conjoined twins, Tippi and Grace, in a way where the ebb and flow of lines speaks more than the words themselves. Every emotion from panic, to joy, to grief, to love is painted into the lines of this book with the words being a decoration.

The characters in this book are phenomenal. The twins' best friends, Yasmeen, who has HIV, and Jon, who's mother abandoned him with his stepfather, are arguably even more important than the twins themselves. Tiny details of these characters take over the reader's mind and influence the story more than anything else.

I would recommend this book to absolutely ANYONE. It will take you less than an hour to read and will give you a whole new perspective on the world and on people. Whatever you're into, you need to read this.

Amazon UK
Amazon US

Abi Ainley

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Why We Blog About Books

If you followed my blog before, you might have noticed that I haven't posted since near the beginning of this year. And the year before I had a similar length of break. It was all down to stress. I started this blog under the premise that I just had to write about books, to express my opinions, to communicate the ridiculous emotions that thread through my skeletal core after reading almost everything, amazing or terrible. However, as I got into writing more blog posts and made more commitments to the blog, I found reading had become a chore; it had become something that I was doing for the blog, rather than myself, and thus, eventually I ceased reading almost entirely, no longer being able to keep up with posting.

Upon returning to the blog, I feel different: I've matured, I've developed, I now know that this blog is for me to throw all my emotions, joys and tribulations at people who actually care, people who want to read about how a certain person feels about a certain book. Nothing is forcing me to keep an uptight schedule of 2/3 reviews a week, or to participate in Top Ten Tuesdays every week, or to write the most extravagant reviews. Blogs are for feelings. They're for emotions. And that comes naturally, not through force.

With that, I hope to provide well-written, entertaining, sassy reviews regularly, but there is no schedule. They'll come when they'll come. I might do Top Ten Tuesdays on a certain week. Then again, I might not. All I can promise is an outpouring of creative and emotional material to do with books.

Love :)