Author: fantasyst95

My 2019 Year in Books

In today’s post, I want to take a look back at my progress and achievements against my goals in 2019. If you didn’t see my goal setting post last year, here’s a link to my … post so you can check out what goals I set for myself this time last year.

Of course, if you are also interested in checking out my goals for 2020, I’ve also shared those details and you can find that post here.

 

Goodreads Challenge

Initially, I set myself a goal of 50 books in 2019, but I managed to reach this reasonably early on and so upped it to 70. I’m pleased to say that I managed to beat this target and read 72 books, which is great in its own right. What makes it better, however, is that it’s a new personal best! I’ve beaten my record of 60 books set in 2017 and honestly, I am over the moon!

Across those 72 books, I managed to read a little over 26,000 pages, which is pretty mental when you think about it! Want to make things even crazier? If you work on the assumption that each page has an average of 375 words on it, then I’ve read approximately 9.8 million words… yikes!

Here’s a very quick glance at the 72 books read in the last year: –

 

Read more non-fiction

Last January I set myself a target to try and read a few non-fiction books. 5, in fact. Not many… should have been totally achievable, but no. I’m just not a big reader of non-fiction and so I totally failed this one.

 

Star Ratings

If you are also interested in my review breakdown, keep reading! I had a really good year for reading with no real major disappointment with books. During 2019, I rated my reads as follows: –

5 stars – 30
4 stars – 36
3 stars – 6
2 stars – 0
1 star – 0

To be honest, if I categorise a book as having a two-star rating or less, then I probably won’t even finish reading and reviewing it. Okay, so maybe I am a little biased on my ratings. Even so, there are only a few “it’s okay” 3-star ratings. I’ve had a look back though, and I can’t find any books I didn’t finish.

I plan on publishing a Top Ten Reads of 2019 post at a later date. I feel like that’s a topic that will need its own post entirely just for the amount of content it’ll have!

So, that’s my 2019 in books! I hope you enjoyed this post and I look forward to seeing you again soon!

 

 

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My 2020 Resolutions

A new year and a new decade are upon us! 2020 is finally here, and with a new year comes new opportunities. I’ve been considering my New Year Resolutions for a few weeks now… it’s time to share my plans with you all!

I’ve decided I want to take part in a few challenges this year. I have taken part in one of these challenges since 2017, the year my blog began. That’s not the only challenge I am setting myself, however.

 

Goodreads Reading Challenge

As I mentioned above, this will be the fourth year I take part in the Goodreads Reading Challenge. I will be going into the challenge with a larger goal than previous years though. Every year so far I have massively underestimated myself and set myself a goal that I achieve easily.

Year Original Goal Revised Goal Total Read in Year
2017 20 60 62
2018 40 50
2019 50 70 72

Fair enough, in 2017 I went from reading rarely to almost every day, without fail. Naturally, that goal ended up being really unrealistic and I revised it to 60 books at the end of April that year. That doesn’t really excuse the fact that I have underestimated myself in subsequent years though.

This year, I am going to be more ambitious and set myself a target that I have not reached yet. I came pretty close to it in 2019, but it means trying to set a new personal best.

In 2020, I want to try and read 80 books.

Up until the last couple of days of 2019, I’ve had 75 in my head. However, I think it’s too close to 2019’s final count to pose as a challenge. I don’t want to go too much higher than that; I don’t want to put myself in a position where I feel inclined to deliberately choose shorter books just to complete the challenge. That’s cheating a bit. This is where my second challenge will come into play and prevent that, to an extent…

 

Beat the Backlist

My TBR (To Be Read) list is seriously out of control. Often, I find myself swept up in new releases, blog tours and the like. Consequently, the older books on my TBR get neglected, and they really need some love right now. I’ve been hovering at around 200 books for a long time now and I need to work on that.

That’s why I am taking part in the Beat the Backlist challenge this year. As part of that challenge, I want to take on my TBR by reading, at the very least, the oldest 25 books on it. Sounds very abstract as it is, so to quantify it, here are the 25 books that I am challenging myself to read this year:-

  • Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson
  • City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett
  • The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson
  • Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson
  • Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson
  • Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson
  • The Talisman by Stephen King
  • Good Omens by Terry Pratchett
  • Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
  • The Psychology Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained by Catherine Collin
  • Age of Myth by Michael J. Sullivan
  • The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson
  • Dune by Frank Herbert
  • The Women’s Room by Marilyn French
  • The Thief Taker by C. S. Quinn
  • The Feedback Loop by Harmon Cooper
  • Red Sister by Mark Lawrence
  • The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan
  • Hild by Nicola Griffith
  • The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales by Jacob Grimm
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
  • Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

If I can squeeze in some more recent TBR additions as well as the above list, then that’s great. I want to have a lot fewer than 200 books on the TBR this time next year!

 

Borrow From my Local Library

Despite having a library membership, I’m not that good when it comes to making the most of it. I’ve only borrowed three books/e-books from the library in 2019. Dreadful right?

I want to step up on this in 2020 for two reasons. Firstly, I’m conscious that I am going to have to be mindful of my finances this year. There are some pretty big (and expensive) changes planned for this year and I don’t really want to be careless with my money. I won’t begrudge myself the odd book, but don’t be expecting mass book haul posts because it’s not going to happen.

Secondly, the advantage of using the library is that you can branch out of your comfort zone. I’m only really happy to buy books that I really like the sound of, or those by authors I have read before. However, if you’re only borrowing books you can try something new. There’s no obligation to like it and if you really don’t, you can take it back!

Those are my resolutions for the new year! Have you set yourself any resolutions? I’d love to compare them with mine!

 

 

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Sunday Summary 29/12/2019

It’s been a week since I last published a post, which was last week’s Sunday Summary post! I’ve actually really enjoyed the break over the festive period. I have spent a lot of time with family this week – so much so they must think I have moved in by now!

Have you enjoyed Christmas? Did anyone get any nice gifts? I was very, VERY fortunate to have been gifted a new Kindle as I was looking to upgrade (THANK YOU AGAIN!!!). Also, I received Amazon vouchers to go towards books and a Waterstones voucher too.

I received plenty of non-bookish presents too! From kitchen appliances (I have been eyeing up my parents’ stuff for months) to personal gifts, I have done very well! Thank you to everyone! Of course, presents aside, the best part of Christmas was being able to spend it together!

 

 

Books Read

I’m glad I chose to take a break from blogging over Christmas because honestly, I wouldn’t really have had time for it anyway. As it stands, I only did a cursory bit of reading in the evenings it wasn’t too late by the time I got home.

My main area of progress was in finishing Sixty Minutes by Tony Salter, which I read here and there over the course of the week. I only finished this yesterday evening, having gotten within five minutes of the end at the hairdressers earlier in the day. Typical!

On Christmas Eve I started reading A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I had forgotten how different Charles Dickens’ narrative style is compared to a lot of modern works. Some time ago now I tried a sample of A Tale of Two Cities and didn’t get on with it. I think knowing the story will help me along with it. I’m looking to finish this particular story in this book before the end of the month. I did read one of the other shorter works also included in this book as a curiosity, but that’s not the goal.

This morning I started reading Million Eyes by C. R. Berry. I’m only a few percent into the book but it’s going to be my main focus for the next few days. I have a blog tour post for the book coming up next month, so I should get my skates on!

It’s been so long since I listened to Cilka’s Journey (five days) that I very nearly forgot to add it to this week’s summary! I’ve only listened to about an hour of this; I only commuted back from work a couple of days this week. Not much progress, but it still counts!

 

Books Discovered

I may have been away from my computer screen blog-wise, but I’ve still been browsing social media and picking up emails. As a result, I have seen and added two books to my To Be Read list this week.

The other day I picked up an email with a deal for The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson. I’ve bought this book as I don’t read much in the way of self-help, yet I think this is one such book I’ll get on with. Well. Very well, in fact.

The second book of this week was actually added today. I saw a promo post for The Choice by Claire Wade and fell in love with the synopsis of the book immediately. I haven’t purchased this one yet but I’ll get it nearer the time I choose to read it.

 

Coming Up…

It’s 2020 in a matter of days, which means I have plenty of ideas for blog post material! I have quite a few blog tours planned for later on in January, so for the first couple of weeks, I’ll be taking the opportunity to fit them in.

Kicking off on Wednesday 1st January, I’ll be posting about my 2020 Reading Goals/Challenges for the year ahead. On Friday I’ll be taking a brief break from my regular First Lines Friday/Shelf Control posts so I can review how I fared in my reading challenges for 2019 and discuss my final book stats.

And last, but not least, I’ll be wrapping up the week with my Sunday Summary post next Sunday!

 

Top Blog Post Reads of the Week

Stephen Writer – Top 10 Books I Read in 2019

Maxxes Booktopia – Most Anticipated Reads of 2020

A Whisper of Ink – 2019 worst books

Laury Reads – Top 5 Fave Book Bloggers

That’s a wrap for today’s Sunday Summary post! Have you had a good Christmas? Did you get any lovely gifts?

 

 

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Sunday Summary – 22nd December 2019

Good evening everyone and welcome to today’s Sunday Summary – I hope you have all had a really good week? Mine has been really busy in the run-up to Christmas and I imagine a lot of folks are in the same boat! I can’t believe it’s next week… Before we jump into the excitement of next week, let’s take a look and re-cap the week just gone!

Considering the number of things I have had on outside of blogging, I’ve managed to fit in quite a few blog posts. My blogging week began with a Top Ten Tuesday post. It’s the first I have drafted for about two months now and I really enjoyed a more casual post. I also took the opportunity to look back at my blogging journey by discussing the Top Ten Bookish Changes in my Life since my blog began in 2017.

After looking at my backlog of reviews, I found an outstanding audiobook review for Scythe by Neal Shusterman, which has been outstanding since April. Yes, friends, April – you read that right! I have just finished listening to the sequel, Thunderhead, so it was the opportune time to revisit my thoughts on the first book of the series.

Friday’s Shelf Control post explored an unusual classic feminist fiction novel on my To Be Read list. It’s not generally the sort of material I am in the habit of picking up, however as it explores the history of the Feminist movement I would like to read it!

 

Books Read

I feel like I have taken a bit of a break from reading this week. With appointments, Christmas lunches, family coming home for Christmas and other festive plans, as well as the blogging, I’ve been a busy bee! That’s not to say I haven’t had time, because I have. I think with cramming in a lot of reading last week, I just wanted to do some other things. I don’t even feel guilty about it either. I’ve enjoyed adopting a more relaxed pace with it.

In terms of physical reading, I have only read about 20% of Tony Salter’s Sixty Minutes this week. Mostly today, in fact. I do plan to read more of this before going to bed tonight, now I am back in a reading mood. It’s not a very long book and very easy to read, so I’ll have it finished nice and quickly I imagine.

I have made more progress on Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris, though. More than usual. I had some extra commute time on Monday with an impromptu appointment, and my car share buddy was off work on Friday. It may not seem like much, but it equates to an extra hour and a half of the audiobook listened to. That means I am over halfway through the audiobook now and it feels like I have only just started it. I am really enjoying it. I loved The Tattooist of Auschwitz and Cilka’s Journey is living up to the standard of that book!

 

Books Discovered

So, I have a confession to make.

I got very lucky this week. For Christmas, my company donated 6 x £25 vouchers to a prize draw in which all employees were put into. I won one of those vouchers on Thursday. It never happens to me, but yes, I won! Well, it’s not that I never win anything… I won our Christmas Jumper competition on Wednesday as well! It’s just rare!

I had that voucher spent in about three hours, no word of a lie. That lunchtime I went to my local Waterstones and had a field day! A lot of books I liked the sound off were on offer too, so in all I put about £4 towards this lot!

There are a couple of books by authors I love in here. Stephen King’s Outsider is a reasonably new addition to the TBR, but the premise of the novel sounds great. Some of you may recall that Brandon Sanderson’s novel Starsight has not long been published with Gollancz. I really liked the sound of it, so I picked up its predecessor Skyward to start the series for myself.

There are a couple of new authors here too, because I do like to try new things. I picked up The Silence of the Girls as I enjoyed reading a similar book, Circe, earlier this year. To this day I don’t understand the hype of Circe, but it was still a reasonably good read.

I have never heard of The Ember Blade or its author, Chris Wooding. The synopsis sounds interesting though, and you can’t go far wrong with fantasy novels in my book! I didn’t look at the time, but this book has good reviews on Goodreads. A couple of authors I love, Ed McDonald and Edward Cox have rated it 5* as well, so I have every confidence I’ll enjoy it! It will be nice to try something new.

 

Coming Up…

I don’t think I need to tell you, but it’s Christmas next week! I have a lot of time planned with family, so I have taken the decision to take a brief blogging break for the festive season.

I’ll still be reading and publishing my weekly Sunday Summary next Sunday. I’m going to take the time to chill with the family, recharge my batteries and have a think about some of my plans ahead of the New Year.

That’s all from me in today’s post. I hope you have enjoyed this week’s Sunday Summary post!
What have you been reading this week?

 

 

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Shelf Control #12 – 20/12/2019

Hi guys – Happy Friday and welcome to today’s Shelf control post! Once again I’ll be taking an in-depth look at the next book on my TBR and telling you why I am excited to read it!

As a refresher, Shelf Control is a meme run by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies. It’s a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up!

For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out Lisa’s introductory post.

By using these Shelf Control posts I can look in further detail at the books I have added to the TBR and listed as keepers in my Down the TBR Hole posts. I talk about why I want to keep the featured book; it also acts as a second sweep for anything that I may have changed my mind about. I have actually deleted a few books doing this sweep. I don’t necessarily own all the books (yet), but I will have a reasonable number of them. I’ve also gone on to read a couple of the earliest books on the list, so this mini-series is proving useful!

Shall we check out today’s featured book?

 

The Women’s Room – Marilyn French

Goodreads – The Women’s Room

The bestselling feminist novel that awakened both women and men, The Women’s Room follows the transformation of Mira Ward and her circle as the women’s movement begins to have an impact on their lives. A biting social commentary on an emotional world gone silently haywire, The Women’s Room is a modern classic that offers piercing insight into the social norms accepted so blindly and revered so completely. Marilyn French questions those accepted norms and poignantly portrays the hopeful believers looking for new truths.

 

Purchase Links: – Waterstones     Amazon UK     Amazon US

My Thoughts…

I wouldn’t describe myself as a feminist; I don’t talk about it very often either, but it is a subject that interests me. I think there is a real misconception of feminism now – I almost get the impression that some “feminists” pursue female interests so hard that they promote inequality as a result. By definition, that isn’t true feminism. Feminism is all about equality. I’m of the opinion that if women want to be CEO’s, politicians, or firefighters… great! If men want to be dancers, make-up artists, hairdressers or nurses, that’s great too! You should be able to do whatever you want to do.

As a prominent work of feminist fiction, I can’t wait to read it and learn more about the history of feminism, as well as compare some of the topics covered and compare it to modern-day.

Have you read The Women’s Room or any other feminist fiction? Would you recommend it? Let me know in the comments!

 

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***Please note this post contains affiliate links, meaning that I will earn a small commission on purchases made through them. If you like what you read and are interested in purchasing a copy of the book(s) featured in this post, please consider using these links and supporting a book blogger!

Thank you!***

 

Audiobook Review: Scythe – Neal Shusterman

Happy Thursday everyone! It’s nearly the end of the week – I hope you are having a good one?

Today I am sharing a really, REALLY overdue audiobook review. I finished listening to Scythe in April this year and I have just finished the sequel, Thunderhead. I want to get my review written whilst the story is fresh in my mind. Listening to Thunderhead has been a great prompt to remembering where it all began.

 

Scythe – Neal Shusterman

Goodreads – Scythe

Thou shalt kill.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

 

Purchase Links: – Waterstones      Amazon UK      Amazon US

 

My Thoughts…

I really enjoy dystopian fiction, so having heard great things about it in the blogging community I decided to “read” it myself. Ultimately, I ended up downloading the audiobook. I think it was part of a 2 for 1 sale on Audible. The narration of the audiobook was done really well, so I am glad I have chosen to listen to this book/series as opposed to just reading it.

Citra and Rowan are apprenticed to Honorary Scythe Faraday. It’s a life that neither asked for nor imagined likely, yet that makes them perfect candidates. Scythe Faraday is one of the most upstanding, honourable Scythes of the order and he teaches them the fundamental values. Thou shalt kill. Thou shalt kill with no bias, bigotry or malice aforethought. He is of the old guard, but Citra and Rowan find themselves dragged into political rivalry amongst Scythes with deadly consequences.

The concept of the human race conquering death is a really interesting one; appointing individuals to restore the balance is yet more so. It relies on appointing altruistic people to behave with decorum and dignity… and well, this is the human race we are talking about. This may be a society run to perfection by the Thunderhead (imagine the Cloud… but conscious), but humans are still impeccably flawed. It works as a great conflict point for the novel!

I knew of the very subtle romance element between Citra and Rowan – I’ll hold my hands up and admit I expected annoying, pining teenagers. Boy, I was wrong and I am glad of it. I would have found that really annoying to work through but thankfully it wasn’t a problem at all. It is very subtle. Their dynamic with each other is difficult to place as a lot of it is governed by external circumstances. They bond as a result of training together but extraneous events drives them apart.

The plotline was cleverly written and it was unpredictable, in a good way! Just when you think you know what’s going to happen everything changes. Nothing is sacred, no one is safe. The plot only develops further as the series progresses, but that’s a story for another day!

Have you read Scythe? What did you think of the novel?

 

 

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***Please note this post contains affiliate links, meaning that I will earn a small commission on purchases made through them. If you like what you read and are interested in purchasing a copy of the book(s) featured in this post, please consider using these links and supporting a book blogger!

Thank you!***

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday – Changes in My Bookish Life Since 2017

Hi guys and welcome back to another Top Ten Tuesday post! This is one of the less regular features on my blog – I don’t think I have written one of these for a couple of months or so.

The topic I have chosen is one I saw posted by Jana at The Artsy Reader Girl, published last month. I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the Top Ten Changes in My Bookish Life. Jana begins her list from the commencement of blogging, so I’ll do the same too!

 

Firstly, I read a lot more!

My previous record number of books read in 2017 (60 books) has been beaten; with a couple of weeks to go, I’ll set a new record of 70-something books.

 

I read a greater variety of genres

I used to read a pretty much only fantasy, both before and at the beginning of my blogging adventure. Now I read a lot of genres, often switching between them for variety. I have diversified A LOT since then.

 

…And read new genres too!

I had never read a horror novel until I started blogging. Pet Sematary was my first horror novel, swiftly followed by IT less than two months later!

 

I read less on Kindle than I used to

I used to read nearly 100% on Kindle. However, now I am earning a little more I am buying physical copies of books I love. I also get physical review copies from publishers too!

 

I have a significantly longer TBR…

Perks of being part of a book blogging community: you have lots of amazing people to talk to and discuss books with. Also, you get to hear about all the books and consequently there aren’t enough hours in the day to read them all…

 

I started self-hosting my blog in June 2018

I love the freedom this allows me. Mostly. I have wanted to throw my computer out of the window on one or two occasions with it, but in the grand scheme of things it’s great!

 

I actually have a blogging schedule

When I first started blogging I basically posted when I felt like it. I was far more sporadic than I am now. Now I am drafting and publishing content regularly!

 

I have a community to talk to/with!

I have branched out with a lot of social media and as such, I have a lot more people to talk to. It’s rare I get to have a bookish conversation offline.

 

I’m no longer afraid to ask publishers for review copies

This came with confidence and the growth of my blog. Now I have a bit of a following, it’s worthwhile for publishers to send me books to review.

 

I am very lucky to be on publishers mailing lists

Over time I have gotten myself on various mailing lists, giving me greater access to books and new authors.

It’s fun to look back and consider how you started out and compare it to the present day. How has your reading life change recently or over time?

 

 

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Sunday Summary – 15th December 2019

Good evening everyone and welcome back to this week’s Sunday Summary instalment! Have you had a good week? Between going back to work, getting ready for Christmas and reading/blogging, I definitely haven’t been bored!

My first post of the week was a book review of Moroda for L. L. McNeil. I received a copy of Moroda in exchange for review. After being really conscious that I had promised to read the book in October/November, but finished it earlier this month, I managed to get a quick turnaround on reviewing it. If you are a fan of classic fantasy novels and haven’t taken a look at my review yet, I really recommend it! The book, (and the review) that is.

The next day, Wednesday, I shared yet another book review. This time, my post was for the blog tour of After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks by Nancy Jardine. This is the third instalment of the Celtic Fervour series, which is predominantly historical fiction with the odd element of romance. Thankfully the later books of the series have less romantic emphasis than the first book. If you know me or read my blog regularly you’ll know that just isn’t my cup of tea! I love the history behind the novels as I am a newbie to the history of the Roman invasion of Britain. It’s never too late to learn something new!

Friday’s featured novel in this week’s First Lines Friday post has a little of a festive theme to it. I almost featured the book a couple of weeks ago; however, I decided to save it for December as it does have Christmas ties. This is also a fabulous historical fiction novel. I’d go so far as to say that it’s my favourite Netgalley download ever!

 

Books Read

I have some fantastic news to share with you all – this week… last night in fact, I completed my Goodreads Reading Challenge for 2019! I’ve read 70 books. Somehow, I’ve managed to beat my all-time record and with two-and-a-half weeks to spare! I’m amazed, but I’m also not done yet! If I finish this month’s TBR then my new record to beat will be 74 books. Do you think I can do it?

I also really like that the book that completed the challenge was the conclusion to Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, Dreams of Gods and Monsters. I don’t normally devour books like this, but it was worth it! Her writing is so funny, engaging, entertaining. I just love it! I’ve been reading this all week, pretty much, between everything else going on. Sometimes I put myself down a little if I have spent all week on a book (bear in mind my average is 1 book every 5 days). I shouldn’t though. I think I had read about 100 pages when I wrote last week’s Sunday Summary, so that means I’ve still read 500 pages this week alone!

This week I started a new audiobook – Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris. I listened to The Tattooist of Auschwitz last year. It was fantastically written, yet hauntingly devastating to hear what horrors people had to live through. The reminder at the end that it was a work of fiction but based on a real experience had me in tears. Cilka’s Journey is the same, but focuses on the treatment of women in Auschwitz/Birkenau and also in Soviet Russia after being convicted of assisting the Nazi’s later on. I have listened to nearly three hours of the audiobook already… which is a little more than average.

 

Books Discovered

I have been too busy to be looking for books, however, I have managed to acquire a couple this week. Lauren, the author of Moroda really liked my review published this week and has asked if I will read and review the next two books in the series, Palom and Amarah. I enjoyed the book, the fantasy world and the characters. Naturally, I said yes!

 

Coming Up…

It has been a little while since I drafted a Top Ten Tuesday post, so that’s my first post for next week coming up! For this post, I actually want to pick a topic that The Artsy Reader girl posted a few weeks ago – Top Ten Changes in my Bookish Life!

I have a few book reviews to catch up on and since I am finished with blog tours for the year, it makes sense to get some of those outstanding reviews done! On Thursday I am reviewing Scythe by Neal Shusterman, as I finished listening to the audiobook in April this year. Yep, it’s a late review guys. Sorry! Having just listened to its sequel though, I’m in the right headspace to review this.

On Friday I’ll be taking another look at the TBR pile and telling you about the next book on the list; what it is, what interests me about it and why, overall, I want to read it. I hope you can check-in for this post!

So, that’s all from me in this week’s Sunday Summary update! What have you been reading? Have you set a reading challenge or have you completed it? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

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First Lines Friday – 13/12/2019

Happy Friday everyone and welcome to my First Lines Friday post! I love writing these and either sampling the beginnings of books still to be read or re-reading old ones! Today’s featured book is one that I read in May 2018… I wish I had read it at Christmas. It’s a historical fiction novel that, for reasons that will come apparent, has a very festive vibe.

Can you guess what it is?

 

The Emporium opens with the first frost of winter. It is the same every year. Across the city, when children wake to see ferns of white stretched across their windows, or walk to school to hear ice crackling underfoot, the whispers begin: the Emporium is open! Christmas is coming, and the goose is getting fat…

If, at a certain hour on a certain winter night, you too had been wandering the warren between New Bond Street and Avery Row, you might have seen it for yourself. One moment there would be darkness, only the silence of shops stuttered up and closed for business. The next, the rippling snowflakes would part to reveal a mews you had not noticed before – and, along that mews, a storefront garlanded in lights. Those lights might be nut pinpricks of white, no different to the snowflakes, but they would still draw your eye. Lights like these captivate and refract the darkness. Lights like these can bewitch the most cynical of souls.

Watch out, because here one such soul comes, hurrying out of the night.

 

 

Shall we find out what it is?

 

The Toymakers – Robert Dinsdale

Goodreads – The Toymakers

Do you remember when you believed in magic?

The Emporium opens with the first frost of winter. It is the same every year. Across the city, when children wake to see ferns of white stretched across their windows, or walk to school to hear ice crackling underfoot, the whispers begin: the Emporium is open!

It is 1917, and London has spent years in the shadow of the First World War. In the heart of Mayfair, though, there is a place of hope. A place where children’s dreams can come true, where the impossible becomes possible – that place is Papa Jack’s Toy Emporium.

For years Papa Jack has created and sold his famous magical toys: hobby horses, patchwork dogs and bears that seem alive, toy boxes bigger on the inside than out, ‘instant trees’ that sprout from boxes, tin soldiers that can fight battles on their own. Now his sons, Kaspar and Emil, are just old enough to join the family trade. Into this family comes a young Cathy Wray – homeless and vulnerable. The Emporium takes her in, makes her one of its own. But Cathy is about to discover that while all toy shops are places of wonder, only one is truly magical…

 

Purchase links:  Waterstones     Amazon UK     Amazon US

 

Did you enjoy today’s extract of The Toymakers? Is it on your list to read? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

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Blog Tour Review and GIVEAWAY: After Whorl Donning Double Cloaks – Nancy Jardine

Hello everyone and welcome back to another review post! Two in two days, I know!

I am really enjoying Nancy Jardine’s Celtic Fervour series so far. If you haven’t read anything about the series to date, you can find my reviews for the first book of the series, The Beltane Choice and the sequel, After Whorl: Bran Reborn using the links here. Reading those posts and the synopses will probably go a long way to helping understand where events pick up in book three!

As always, a huge thank you to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for organising the tour and to Nancy Jardine for providing the books and for her lovely feedback on my posts so far!

 

After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks

Goodreads – After Whorl Donning Double Cloaks

AD 73 Northern Roman Britain

Brennus of Garrigill—Bran—monitors Roman activity across Brigantia. Stability prevails till AD 78 when Agricola, Governor of Britannia, orders complete conquest of all barbarians. Brennus heads north, seeking the Caledon who will lead the northern tribes against Rome.

Ineda treks northwards with her master, Tribune Valerius – supplies officer for Agricola’s Britannia campaigns. At Pinnata Castra, she escapes and seeks fellow Brigantes congregating for battle in the north.

The Legions of the Roman Empire and the Caledon allies clash at Beinn na Ciche in AD 84, but where are Brennus and Ineda?

The adventures of the Garrigill Clan continue…

Purchase Link – Amazon

 

My Thoughts…

Events in After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks set the series up for an epic conclusion to the series – one I am really looking forward to reading! Each book is told from different character perspectives. It keeps the narrative really fresh and is done so well that the character relationships allow us to keep track of everyone throughout their gallivanting over the country!

When we met Ineda in book two, After Whorl: Bran Reborn I thought she was a really interesting character right away. I was hoping to get to see more of her role to play in the storyline and Donning Double Cloaks hasn’t disappointed! One of the main focuses of this novel is how her life dramatically changes after she is taken by Tribune Valerius and her new life as his slave.

A fervent anti-Roman woman at the point of being taken, Ineda struggles to adjust to her new Roman life. Years of captivity and scorn for being the Tribune’s “favourite” forge a dilemma in her. She has to grapple with the moral decision and risk of becoming an informant to aid the native Celtic tribes against the Roman invasion. Does she help her native people at risk of her own life and endanger the man she has come to love in her own way? I really enjoyed reading this conflict point and Ineda’s direction of character development as a result of her circumstances.

The narrative of After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks spans a longer timeline than previous books and events start to move quickly towards the end of the novel. The Romans advance further into Britannia the Celts travel further North to temporary safety. There is a definite build-up to the climax expected in the final novel of the series, and I cannot wait to read it! I am caught between my love for the fearless Celts and the knowledge from history that the Romans indeed conquered Britain.

How will the series end and what will happen to the many beloved characters of the series? There’s only one way to find out!

 

Giveaway to Win x1 signed paperback of After Whorl: Double Cloaks to one UK winner; X1 kindle copy worldwide

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494318/

 

Author Bio

Nancy Jardine writes historical fiction; time-travel historical adventure; contemporary mystery thrillers; and romantic comedy. She lives in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, where life is never quiet or boring since she regularly child minds her young grandchildren who happen to be her next-door neighbours. Her garden is often creatively managed by them, though she does all the work! Her husband is a fantastic purveyor of coffee and tea…excellent food and wine! (Restorative, of course)

A member of the Historical Novel Society; Scottish Association of Writers; Federation of Writers Scotland; Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Independent Alliance of Authors, her work has achieved finalist status in UK competitions.

Social Media Links –

Blog: http://nancyjardine.blogspot.co.uk

Website:www.nancyjardineauthor.com/

Facebook: http://on.fb.me/XeQdkG & http://on.fb.me/1Kaeh5G

Twitter https://twitter.com/nansjar

Amazon Author page http://viewauthor.at/mybooksandnewspagehere

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5139590.Nancy_Jardine