Category: book reviews

Goodreads Book Tag

Welcome to my edition of the Goodreads Book Tag! I found this tag on Stephen Writer Blog and I thought it would be a lot of fun to do! It’s been a little while since I’ve shared this kind of post, and it’s a great way to learn a little bit more about me, how I read and how I operate my blog and all that business in general.

I hope you enjoy today’s post and either learn something from it, or even take something away.

 

WHAT WAS THE LAST BOOK YOU MARKED AS READ?

The last book I finished and marked as complete on Goodreads is Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. This is an interesting one to kind of feature here in today’s post, because it’s not something I would describe as a typical read.

This was a recommendation from my sister, after it was recommended to her by a work colleague. It’s about women in the workplace… And in particular in leadership or more senior roles. It discusses various problems that women come up against throughout their careers, including barriers set by other people and themselves!

 

WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

My current read is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows! I last read this book at around the age of 17/18 – I distinctly remember I was doing my A-levels at the time, but I’m not sure which year. My gut instinct is my first year. I wanted to pick up this series again because I loved it as a teenager. In addition, I wanted to see how reading the series as an older and more widely read person to see if my opinion has changed over time.

The crux of it is no, it hasn’t. I’m still loving every minute of it. I have perhaps a slight preference bias towards the later books in the series. The storyline is more sophisticated and a bit darker, which leans away from being a middle grade/YA series in my opinion. Those aren’t genres I read much of.

 

WHAT WAS THE LAST BOOK YOU MARKED AS TBR?

The most recent book on my TBR list is The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman. I’m actually going to be reading this book very shortly, as my sisters boyfriend Chris has loaned me a copy. That’s on March’s TBR, however as of sharing this post I haven’t quite got round to it yet. You can expect that to be carried over and read very soon!

 

WHAT BOOK DO YOU PLAN TO READ NEXT?

The above question answers this one as well, so I’ll expand a little bit to talk about the next couple books I plan on picking up after The Thursday Murder Club. In addition, I would also like to finish re-reading The Raven’s Mark trilogy. I read the first book on a complete whim last month and I have the urge to re-read the series now. They’re just so good, and the best news is that Ed McDonald has a new book being published in June this year.

I’ve also been watching the Lincoln Rhyme series on Now TV recently, which makes me want to pick up The Bone Collector by Jeffery Deaver.

 

DO YOU USE THE STAR RATING SYSTEM?

I do use a star rating system, although I’ll admit I’m a very emotional reviewer. I’m very flexible with it; I don’t have set criteria and I firmly believe that you cannot judge every book by the exact same rules. Every narrative is very different and you can’t possibly apply all categories to every book.

I tend to go by feeling more than anything. If I absolutely love a book and physically can’t put it down, then it’s going to get a better rating than one that was perfectly readable at the time, but also a bit forgettable. Obviously there’s going to be some significant differences between what makes a book okay and what makes it great, but I like not to constrain myself too much when deciding on a star rating based on these criteria.

1 STAR – honestly if I really feel a book is this bad, I haven’t finished it and therefore I won’t rate it.
2 STAR – also a very rare rating for me to give, as I’m very likely to have given up on this book before finishing it as well.
3 STAR – three star reads for me are ones that are ‘okay’. They may not have the best flow or engage me in the best way, but are still readable.
4 STAR – A four star rating would typically be given for a book that I really enjoyed, but maybe I had a slight niggle with it. Maybe I don’t quite like something in the plot, or characterisation could be a little bit better etc. Basically, it’s good, but it’s not quite perfect.
5 STAR – five star reads for me a ones that I either can’t find fault with, maybe have the smallest, tiniest little niggle. These are books that I love completely and would definitely re-read them again in a heartbeat!

 

ARE YOU DOING A 2022 READING CHALLENGE?

I am doing a Goodreads challenge this year! And I’m enjoying it too; I didn’t set myself a challenge last year and honestly I felt a little bit lost.

Goodreads challenges are great for motivation. At the moment I’m currently one book ahead of schedule, so I’m on track to read my target of 40 books this year. Even if you don’t necessarily set yourself an official challenge, it’s nice to have an end goal in my opinion.

 

DO YOU HAVE A WISHLIST?

Other than my TBR, no. Let’s face it, I want all the books! Well, not quite… but you know the kind of girl I am!

 

WHAT BOOK DO YOU PLAN TO BUY NEXT?

I don’t have a set book in mind, because I’m trying to read more of the books I already have and to work on reducing my reading list. I’m of the opinion that if I don’t put myself in a position of temptation, I can’t be tempted! It’s a simple as that!

As a more general goal, I am trying to collect some of the clothbound classics. This is a long-term goal, however. And, if prices of everything keep going up the way they are, then it’s going to be a loooooooonnnnnnggggggeeeeeerrrr  term goal.

 

DO YOU HAVE ANY FAVOURITE QUOTES?

I mark all sorts of favourite quotes, and I really like Goodreads because it gives you the option to share them. I honestly couldn’t tell you how many I have recorded on there and the range of books I have them for years quite significant.

From classics to fantasy, no genre is safe from my highlighting! On my Kindle, of course! I wouldn’t do anything so sacrilegious as to physically mark a physical book. You can find these on my Goodreads profile with this link here

 

WHO ARE YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHORS?

If I had to shortlist my favourite five authors, the list looks like this: –

  1. George R. R. Martin
  2. Brandon Sanderson
  3. Laini Taylor
  4. Ed McDonald
  5. Stephen King

A bit of an eclectic mix I know, but that is only testament to the variety of books I read!

 

HAVE YOU JOINED ANY GROUPS?

I don’t think so no. I used to be part of a Goodreads group, but I never read or contributed to it and so I think I left. I’m not part of any other group of any other kind (social media or in person).

I hope that you have learned a little bit about me in today’s Goodreads Book Tag post. I hope you enjoyed it and if you would like to take part in it yourself and consider yourself tagged! I’d love to see your answers so please link back to me so that I can take a look at your answers!

 

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Book Review: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – J. K. Rowling

In today’s blog post I’m sharing my thoughts on Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s’ Stone, the first book of the series I’m just about to finish reading for the second time! I read this series originally as a teenager and I loved them then as much as I do now! It’s a series for just about anybody and if my reread has proven anything, is that it doesn’t matter how old you are when you pick these up. This first book of the series didn’t seem immature or childish even now. Yes, it’s a lot simpler than the later books in the series, but it’s still just as readable.

If you’re like me then you’re probably also asking yourself, how do you go about reviewing such an iconic book series? Your guess is as good as mine – I’m just going to muddle through as best I can. I know I won’t do it justice, but I can only do my best!

 

Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone – J. K. Rowling

Goodreads – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Harry Potter’s life is miserable. His parents are dead and he’s stuck with his heartless relatives, who force him to live in a tiny closet under the stairs. But his fortune changes when he receives a letter that tells him the truth about himself: he’s a wizard. A mysterious visitor rescues him from his relatives and takes him to his new home, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

After a lifetime of bottling up his magical powers, Harry finally feels like a normal kid. But even within the Wizarding community, he is special. He is the boy who lived: the only person to have ever survived a killing curse inflicted by the evil Lord Voldemort, who launched a brutal takeover of the Wizarding world, only to vanish after failing to kill Harry.

Though Harry’s first year at Hogwarts is the best of his life, not everything is perfect. There is a dangerous secret object hidden within the castle walls, and Harry believes it’s his responsibility to prevent it from falling into evil hands. But doing so will bring him into contact with forces more terrifying than he ever could have imagined.

Full of sympathetic characters, wildly imaginative situations, and countless exciting details, the first installment in the series assembles an unforgettable magical world and sets the stage for many high-stakes adventures to come.

 

My Thoughts…

The thing is I love the most about these books is that it doesn’t matter how old you are when you start reading them. I grew up with these books, and I probably read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone either as a preteen or an early teenager. I read this book again for the first time since then last year. At around twice the age I was when I first read the book, I loved it just as much!

Whilst I would say the intended genre is probably young adult, at the same time it doesn’t feel pigeonholed there. There is so much to this series that there’s something in it for everybody! This very first book is comparatively lighthearted to the rest of the series. It’s a wonderful introduction to a vast and detailed magical world, providing fantasy readers with escapism and a life they would have loved to have lived as a child; to be quantified as special and sent off to a magical school of witchcraft and wizardry.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher‘s Stone is only a few hundred pages long. It’s an easy book to pick up and read because of the length, but also the way in which it’s written. The narrative style is very easily digestible. Personally, I think you could easily pick up and put down the book as you wish. It’s really easy to follow what’s going on and it’s honestly a pleasure to read. I read this book within a matter of days just by doing some bedtime reading. You don’t have to be an avid reader to get through this book very quickly!

I like the pacing of Harry Potter and the Philosopher‘s Stone. Being the first book in the series, there is a lot to take in. We have a lot of the setting of the scene, character and world building thrown into the mix. I find it just right so that even a younger audience could follow what is going on, but equally it’s not slow for more mature readers either. As well as all this, there’s a lot of magical excitement to keep our attention. From a plethora of spells to learn to the wonder of the everyday… such as chocolate frogs (which really do behave like frogs!); there is always something going on and keeping the action flowing in a fun way!

In my opinion, this book is the perfect introduction to the now famous series. It’s fun and exciting whilst also setting the scene for a much wider story. The story unfolds in ways that I didn’t take initially expect when I first started the books. But, I really enjoy that! If you haven’t read these yet then I honestly recommend you do. They are absolutely fantastic and they really are for absolutely anyone!

 

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Blog Tour Review: Son of Mercia – MJ Porter

Hello everyone and welcome to today’s blog tour review of Son of Mercia by MJ Porter! It has been a few months since I last took part in a blog tour, but I knew I wanted to take part in this one as soon as I saw it! Granted, I missed Rachel’s first email about it, but the day she contacted me in the hopes of signing me up was a happy one for us all! As always, I want to say a massive thank you to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources and to the author for organising the tour and giving me the opportunity to take part!

It’s a pleasure to be able to share my thoughts with you today!

 

Son of Mercia – MJ Porter

Goodreads – Son of Mercia

Tamworth, Mercia AD825.

The once-mighty kingdom of Mercia is in perilous danger.

Their King, Beornwulf lies dead and years of bitter in-fighting between the nobles, and cross border wars have left Mercia exposed to her enemies.

King Ecgberht of Wessex senses now is the time for his warriors to strike and exact his long-awaited bloody revenge on Mercia.

King Wiglaf, has claimed his right to rule Mercia, but can he unite a disparate Kingdom against the might of Wessex who are braying for blood and land?

Can King Wiglaf keep the dragons at bay or is Mercia doomed to disappear beneath the wings of the Wessex wyvern?

Can anyone save Mercia from destruction?

Purchase Link – Amazon

 

My Thoughts…

The opening of the novel sets the scene of a turbulent and unstable way of life. Conflict, strife and war are in abundance. Mercia is left, after the death of Beornwulf, to be governed by weak and non battle-seasoned warriors. It does not bode well.

I enjoy how the narrative is shared mostly from the perspective of Icel. In a society where being a warrior or a skilled craftsmen, such as a blacksmith, Icel does not fit in. He detests violence, and instead he feels in himself a calling to heal. It is clear that he does not know something about his past even from the early chapters of the book, as he is frequently scorned by those around him, and not just for shirking his duty to do what’s considered ‘women’s work’. Some of Icel’s background is unveiled to us readers via another perspective in the book, which is a nice touch in helping us understand the circumstances, whilst keeping Icel ignorant.

This tumultuous situation is laid out for the first third of the book, at which point, events come to a point that put young I saw and the rest of Tamworth in danger. This is transformative for Icel. He always retains hatred for violence, but his exposure to danger increases tenfold and forces him to challenge himself in new ways.

I like Icel’s perspective throughout the book because we view the events of the novel through a lens which is not dissimilar to our own. The narrative is set in a time when men are expected to become warriors. Valour, honour, and domination are expected and it is difficult to pull off a narrative from a character of this nature and keep them relatable to the audience. It’s not impossible; I’m a huge fan of Bernard Cornwell‘s The Saxon Stories series (a.k.a. The Last Kingdom), and any fans of those books will really appreciate this book as it offers a similar setting (9th century Britain). It differs in that it focuses on the power struggles within English factions.

If you love history then the world-building in this book is something that you can really get behind. Every care is taken to set the scene of a politically turbulent England. At the same time, this is well-balanced with a wide range of characters that complement the story. There are a lot of characters that come and go throughout the book but I wasn’t confused by this. The author does a fantastic job of reminding us of who is who wherever relevant, which is a great help in following the interwoven storylines!

The pace of the narrative is enjoyable too. There is action and world-building aplenty, so neither is neglected. It makes for a great standalone novel, but if you are as invested as I am after reading it then you will want to follow and continue the series as I do!

 

Author Bio

MJ Porter is the author of many historical novels set predominantly in Seventh to Eleventh-Century England, and in Viking Age Denmark. Raised in the shadow of a building that was believed to house the bones of long-dead Kings of Mercia, meant that the author’s writing destiny was set.

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Book Review: Clockwork Magpies – Emma Whitehall

In today’s blog post I’m sharing my thoughts on a book recently published by Northodox Press. They recently advertised advanced reader copies available for reviewers and the cover caught my eye immediately! From there I went to look up the book and it sounded absolutely fantastic. Northodox Press were brilliant in providing a copy to me at my request and I am grateful to be able to share my honest review based on that today.

 

Clockwork Magpies – Emma Whitehall

Goodreads – Clockwork Magpies

By day, Ida is a quiet, standoffish maid in the employ of spoiled Lucinda Belmote. By night, she is the infamous sneak thief known as the Rat Prince, terrorising the wealthy inhabitants of Loxport; especially Lucinda’s lecherous suitor, Lord Devon Casterbury.

Soon the boundaries between her dual lives begin to blur, as her mask begins to drop around a delightful waitress and a charming jeweller who both insist on befriending Ida. All the while she is thrust into a conflict surrounding new and dangerous materials that could upend the order of the city, land her behind bars or worse: in Lord Casterbury’s employ.

A thrilling romp through the Steampunk city of Loxport, Clockwork Magpies is a story of found family, crimes plotted over tea and scones, and the sinister power of glowing gemstones.

 

My Thoughts…

Clockwork Magpies is a great palate-cleanser read. It’s just over a few hundred pages, so easily long enough to invest into the characters and the storyline. But at the same time, it’s not a huge commitment. And certainly for an avid reader like me, it doesn’t take very long to read at all! I read this within a few days… and the fact that I enjoyed it so much made this even easier to do!

I don’t often read steampunk themed novels, however if done right they blend well into the fantasy genre. Clockwork Magpies does this seamlessly! Industrial Revolution-esque technological advancement is the vibe in Loxport, and coupled with that is an antiquated social class and society that illustrates that there are leagues to go compare to our modern society.

Ida is a maid for a widower of the elite and considered more fortunate than most for that position of servitude. Her background is one much more humble, but her mother’s ambitions and nefarious skills has kept them all alive. These skills have been passed on and perfected by Ida, who is known more infamously for her thievery in the guise of The Rat Prince. She is well placed to choose her next victim, being connected to the upper circle. She has always taken care to keep these two personas separate, but events in the book watch them collide in spectacular fashion.

I enjoyed Ida’s personal character development arc for a number of reasons. At the beginning of the book, she is a focused young lady whose only real drive is to provide for her family still living in relative poverty. She does this out of a serious sense of duty and because it’s the only link she has left to her mother, the woman she loved and revered. But they are toxic to her. They only use her for financial aid and berate the way in which she provides for them.

Over the course of the narrative she becomes less dependent on them and teaches us readers a powerful lesson – that we can still do the right thing by such people, but in a way that removes the suffering from the toxic relationship. I feel like this is something people even today struggle with. It’s nice to have that represented in a book and allows the opportunity to raise awareness of these types of struggles. 

Ida’s focus means she does not permit herself friends. They are only connections that could unveil her secret identity. But, somehow Clem and Edith wheedle the way past her defences with steely determination. They teach her that friendship can offer some powerful allies and support when it’s needed the most.

Identity is a common theme throughout the book, and there are a couple of stand-out quotes I’d like to highlight. I personally really liked them and it’s advice that more people should take: –

“Seriously though, don’t let other people tell you who you are. Or what you are and are not good enough for.”

“My point is, we make ourselves into the people we want to be. Hang the rest, leave it all behind.“

The ending implies that there could be a sequel, and hand-on-heart I sincerely hope so! I feel like Clockwork Magpies lays the foundation for what could be a fantastic series! There is a lot of scope for this series to be taken further; I would love to see more of the dynamic between Ida, Clem and Edith. 

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Book Review: Midnight in Chernobyl – Adam Higginbotham

In today’s blog post I’m going to be sharing a book review for a non-fiction book I read at the very beginning of 2021. I believe I carried this over from December 2020 to finish it, so it’s been quite a while since I read it. However, it made a lasting impression on me! I thought the book was really good and it’s about a subject that I wanted to learn more about as a result of a TV series I watched.

The events around and following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster are harrowing to read, but I think the book does an excellent job of informing the reader in a way that keeps them engaged and entertained. I certainly learned a lot from it!

 

Midnight in Chernobyl – Adam Higginbotham

Goodreads – Midnight in Chernobyl

The definitive, dramatic untold story of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster, based on original reporting and new archival research.

April 25, 1986, in Chernobyl, was a turning point in world history. The disaster not only changed the world’s perception of nuclear power and the science that spawned it, but also our understanding of the planet’s delicate ecology. With the images of the abandoned homes and playgrounds beyond the barbed wire of the 30-kilometer Exclusion Zone, the rusting graveyards of contaminated trucks and helicopters, the farmland lashed with black rain, the event fixed for all time the notion of radiation as an invisible killer.

Chernobyl was also a key event in the destruction of the Soviet Union, and, with it, the United States’ victory in the Cold War. For Moscow, it was a political and financial catastrophe as much as an environmental and scientific one. With a total cost of 18 billion rubles—at the time equivalent to $18 billion—Chernobyl bankrupted an already teetering economy and revealed to its population a state built upon a pillar of lies.

The full story of the events that started that night in the control room of Reactor No.4 of the V.I. Lenin Nuclear Power Plant has never been told—until now. Through two decades of reporting, new archival information, and firsthand interviews with witnesses, journalist Adam Higginbotham tells the full dramatic story, including Alexander Akimov and Anatoli Dyatlov, who represented the best and worst of Soviet life; denizens of a vanished world of secret policemen, internal passports, food lines, and heroic self-sacrifice for the Motherland. Midnight in Chernobyl, award-worthy nonfiction that reads like sci-fi, shows not only the final epic struggle of a dying empire but also the story of individual heroism and desperate, ingenious technical improvisation joining forces against a new kind of enemy.

 

My Thoughts…

Considering that the disaster only took place in recent history, I went into this book with only vague knowledge of what had happened. I had briefly covered the subject in school in terms of its relation to the breakdown of the Soviet Union in my studies of the Cold War. In addition, I had some idea of the lasting effects of the disaster as a friend of mine’s family have previously hosted a child visiting the Island where I live. There is a charity called ‘Friends of Chernobyl’, who give children who live in areas still affected by radiation the opportunity to visit places such as where I live for an extended period for the benefit of their health. My friend’s family used to look after a girl in the summer holidays. Aside from that, the rest of what I knew about the disaster came from the TV series Chernobyl.

That’s not very good really in my opinion, and that’s why I wanted to look into this further for myself. I’m glad I picked up Midnight in Chernobyl to do this. There is a lot of interesting detail in the book, but it’s delivered in such a way that it is entertaining to read as well as informative.

I liked the way this book is written out. Each chapter is documented with a time and date and follows in chronological order, so it’s easy to follow what happens. I enjoyed how the book covers the whole history of the plant and nearby town Pripyat as opposed to just focusing on the disaster. Naturally, this takes up the majority of the book but seeing how and why it was built and the consequences of how Chernobyl came to be the place it was at the time of the disaster was interesting.

If you can also appreciate a little bit of science then I think you will also enjoy reading the explanatory narrative about how the reactors were designed to work. It was a little bit of a technical section, but not horrendously complicated and it went a long way to helping me understand what ultimately went wrong on that fateful day.

I think even if you know what happened, it’s only when you read the intimate experienced of each individual involved, and the loss of their loved ones, that it hits home.

I’m not overly surprised at the events of the disaster given the reasons it happened, but also how it was responded to. There was a ridiculous amount of secrecy around events such as these in the USSR. Chernobyl is one of the most well-known disasters, the truth is that there were a lot of smaller-scale disasters at other nuclear plants throughout the USSR in the period. But, like me, you probably didn’t know about these. Just like the scale of the Chernobyl disaster at the time, the powers that be were determined to hush it up and underplay it as much as possible. It’s despicable really when you think about the human cost.

Midnight in Chernobyl is a great read if you want a balance of information and an interesting read. I think the author does a very good job of informing readers about the event but also doing it in a way that highlights individual stories and personal consequences with dignity, with a view to outing the truth after decades of secrecy.

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Book Review: Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

Since it has been about a month since I last shared a book review I’ve decided it’s time to get my thinking cap on and share my thoughts with you on a previous read. When perusing through the list of books I’ve read I discovered that I hadn’t yet reviewed Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. I confess that my first thought was along the lines of ‘where do I even begin reviewing this?’. But, I’m going to do my best to do the book justice!

Since classic novels are typically taught in school I think a lot of people have the misconception that they’re going to be dry, dull or that no one in a million years would want to spend their free time reading them. After I left school I said the same thing. I have a whole host of opinions on how the education system doesn’t promote reading, but that’s for another day. However, they do need to be given their due. Classic novels can be great reads. I’ve even gone back to books that I read and hated at school and I enjoyed them. I wish they were given more of a chance, and if I were to suggest you pick up any, Brave New World is a great one to start with!

And, if you’re not sure, there is a TV series based on the book on Now TV. You could always give that a try first? Although it’s not 100% true to the book (but covers the main topics and concepts well), I still enjoyed it regardless!

 

Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

Goodreads – Brave New World

Brave New World is a dystopian novel by English author Aldous Huxley, written in 1931 and published in 1932. Largely set in a futuristic World State, inhabited by genetically modified citizens and an intelligence-based social hierarchy, the novel anticipates huge scientific advancements in reproductive technology, sleep-learning, psychological manipulation and classical conditioning that are combined to make a dystopian society that is challenged by only a single individual: the story’s protagonist.

 

My Thoughts…

Not only is the plot of Brave New World interesting, but it’s one of the shorter classic books I’ve read at just over 260 pages. This is why I think it’s a great place to start; it’s not intimidating and it has plenty to offer despite the reduced page count.

Some of the undoubtedly futuristic elements in Brave New World (considering it was published in 1932) are not so wild in the present day. One of the groundbreaking elements of the book is that humans are not born traditionally, but are genetically modified for desirable qualities, fertilised in vitro and are effectively incubated until birth. Whilst we don’t exactly have a designer baby thing going on, treatments such as IVF are now available and can involve an element of this.

Equally, the clinical aspect of birth control was in its infancy in the 1930s. Yes, for thousands of years there have been home remedies and techniques to prevent it. Even giving birth control advice was only allowed in Britain in 1930. It’s strange to consider because prescriptions for it now are so commonplace.

I find it fascinating to compare the ideas that authors had decades ago as to what was futuristic to them at the time and what similar theories we as a society have now about the next few decades. What I wonder the most about is whether the ideas written by these authors have given birth to the reality, or whether they did have an inkling of human capabilities and technological advancements that were within reach of mankind. Kind of like the chicken and egg argument.

There may be similarities between the societies of Brave New World and the modern-day, but there are also very distinct differences. For example, Brave New World has a completely different social class system, based on intelligence, to the one we used to. Citizens are effectively controlled by the use of ‘feel-good’ drugs and activities. There is no such thing as sadness or lack of purpose. Everybody has their role and they fulfil it to the best of their ability. They don’t have to think, they just have to do as they’re told. On the surface that might sound good, but I think it would be hell.

I’ve read plenty of other reviews that suggest this is a good read for anyone who has or has suffered from depression. It emphasises the point that feeling good all the time isn’t where it’s at. To appreciate the highs, sometimes you need to take the lows that go with it. And I can see that. It makes sense. If you always had the same thing you have nothing to compare it against.

Have you ever read Brave New World? Would you recommend it or would you be prepared to read it based on recommendation? As always, you can let me know in the comments or via social media.

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Sunday Summary – 2nd January 2022

Good evening everyone and welcome to my first Sunday Summary post of 2022. I have a lot of optimism and motivation for the year! It has been a couple of weeks since my last Sunday Summary post, and so I have a few updates for you!

After my last Sunday Summary post on the 19th December 2021, I announced that I was going to be taking a short break for the festive period. I had family over visiting and it was lovely to just chill out and enjoy spending a wonderful Christmas with everyone!

That’s not to say that nothing was going on in the background, however. After Christmas I started drafting some blog posts ready for the New Year. In particular, I drafted and shared an End of Year Review post for 2021 and shared that on Friday. In that post I looked back at my goals and resolutions for 2021 and discussed how I feel I got on with them. Ultimately, I achieved what I wanted to, which was to take a step back and give myself break whilst still enjoying my hobby. I’m happy that I managed to do this and I still read a decent number of books, so I’ll take that as a win!

I also drafted and another post which I shared with you yesterday. In that post I talked about my New Year Goals/Resolutions for 2022. The main highlight from that post is that I’m back in the game. I got the break I needed and I’m motivated to start setting myself some challenges again. I’m doing so in moderation because I know that I don’t want to burn out again. Not only that, but I have expanded on other hobbies and interests and I will be continuing with those as well. My aim for 2022 is to achieve balance. If you want to read more you can do so using the link provided above to yesterday‘s post!

 

Books Read

Despite it being two weeks since my last update, I’ll confess that all of my recent reading progress has taken place in the last week. As of my last Sunday Summary update I was around 25% of the way through The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. In the last few days I’ve been making a solid effort with this and I’m now 75% of the way through the book. If you needed proof that I am back and raring to go then take this as a sign! I love all the different facets to the story and the most recent plot developments are really intriguing. At this rate, I’m hoping to be telling you next week that I’ve finished this. It’s a shame I’ll have finished it a couple of weeks late to return this to my sister’s boyfriend Chris, but never mind!

In my last Sunday Summary post I was nearly finished with Traitor’s Blade by Sebastien de Castell; I only had around 30 minutes of audio left. I’m pleased to say that I finished listening to this one whilst commuting home from work one day this week. To be honest I didn’t think I wasn’t going to achieve this. It was only a little bit left and I really enjoyed listening to this audiobook. Sebastien de Castell is a new author to me and I really enjoyed this book! I am definitely continuing with this series (I’ve already purchased the audiobooks ready to go). I also discovered this week is that I’ve had my eye on another series written by him (Spellslinger), but I hadn’t realised that it was the same author. If I go on to love the rest of these books as I have the first then it’s safe to say I’ll be delving into the second series!

For now though, I’ve started listening to another audiobook. It’s a solid favourite and I can’t wait to get back into this series. I have already read the ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series (a.k.a. A Game of Thrones) at least twice but I’m also now listening to the books. They are very long but audiobooks are an easy way to digest them. I’ve already listened to the first two in the series and so I have moved on to A Storm of Swords. This audiobook is over 47 hours long, so I have my work cut out for me to listen to it. My goal however is to make a habit of listening to it regularly. If I can achieve that then I think I can complete this by the end of January. Wish me luck!

 

Books Discovered

I have been very good and not added many books to my TBR for a good few weeks. But, you know, Christmas has been and gone and so that streak ends here.

I was very lucky to receive copies of Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, The Appeal by Janice Hallett and The Promise by Damon Galgut for Christmas. I’m collecting clothbound classics and so the copy of Oliver Twist was very well received for that reason! I’m also really happy to have received the other two books. I hadn’t really read much about them up until I received them, however both books sound really interesting! They were also given to me by someone who has a similar reading taste, so I have every confidence that I’m going to enjoy them!

If that wasn’t enough, I’ve added a couple books to my TBR that I’ve come across as part of completing my CPD for work. I don’t tend to read much in the way of self-help, but I think I could benefit from these two books. The books I have added are Surrounded by Idiots by Thomas Erikson and How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. The crux of both titles is to help the reader develop ways in which to effectively communicate with others, particularly where differences of opinion occur. I’ll hold my hands up and say that I’m not the most diplomatic of people, so I am sure I have plenty to learn from these books!

And then last, but certainly not least, I watched The Imitation Game on New Year’s Eve. It was a fantastic film and all of the actors were brilliant! I don’t watch films very often but I really enjoyed this one. And obviously, we get to the end and I find out it’s based on a book called Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges. So of course, that’s now on the list as well!

It’s a good job I’ve found my reading motivation, right?!

 

Coming Up…

I already have a blog post scheduled for you that is going live tomorrow. If you’ve already read my New Year Goals/Resolutions for 2022 post then you will know that I am setting a monthly TBR for myself again. I’m doing so with a bit of a twist; I’m only setting a couple of books for the month and allowing myself time and space to pick up mood reads as and when those are done. I have shared my fixed list, as well as a couple of provisional titles that I might pick up. But, they may well change once I’ve read the fixed list. If you want to find out what I’m going to be reading in January then check out tomorrow’s post!

I will shortly be drafting the second post of the week, which is a Shelf Control post that will be going live on Friday. I’m working towards drafting my blog posts (with the exception of the Sunday Summary) at least a week in advance and I’m getting there. The book I will be featuring in Friday’s Shelf Control post is an interesting one, because if I remember correctly, my mum says that this is a series that my grandad enjoyed reading. The synopsis of this first book sounds really good, so even without that knowledge I would still be picking this up anyway. If I’ve piqued your interest then make sure to check out my blog on Friday!

And as always, last but not least, I’ll be back with you this time next week for another Sunday Summary update.

Until then, I hope you have a great week full of fantastic books and all the other fun stuff. What are you reading? Have you set yourself a reading goal for 2022?

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Book review: The Burning Land – Bernard Cornwell

In today’s book review I am sharing my thoughts on The Burning Land by Bernard Cornwell. The Burning Land is the fifth book in the Saxon stories series and follows one of my favourite characters to date. Having not explored much in the way of history of the period prior to picking up these books, it has been an education to say the least! Bernard Cornwell has a fantastic way of blending characters and narrative and action in a way that draws the reader in and makes his books nearly impossible to put down!

In addition to the books I’ve also been enjoying the TV series, The Last Kingdom. I’m actually a little bit further ahead with the TV series as series 3 covers both this book and the next one. However, that didn’t hamper my enjoyment in the slightest. Shall we get on with today’s review?

 

The Burning Land – Bernard Cornwell

Goodreads – The Burning Land

At the end of the ninth century, with King Alfred of Wessex in ill health and his heir still an untested youth, it falls to Alfred’s reluctant warlord Uhtred to outwit and outbattle the invading enemy Danes, led by the sword of savage warrior Harald Bloodhair. But the sweetness of Uhtred’s victory is soured by tragedy, forcing him to break with the Saxon king. Joining the Vikings, allied with his old friend Ragnar—and his old foe Haesten—Uhtred devises a strategy to invade and conquer Wessex itself. But fate has very different plans.  

Bernard Cornwell’s The Burning Land is a new chapter in his story of the birth of England and the legendary king who made it possible.

 

My Thoughts…

All my expectations from the previous books were met in The Burning Land. What I really like about these books is that they’re very easy to pick up even if you haven’t read the previous one for a while. The narrative almost recaps itself in a way that refreshes your memory, but also doesn’t insult your intelligence by going over every single thing again. I personally find it to be really nice balance of bringing you up to speed again and then swiftly moving on to the action.

As I’ve said before in my reviews of the previous books, I really enjoy the conflict our main character trait has within himself. Born an Englishman but raised as a Dane, he is constantly warring within himself between these two sides and the loyalties each expect from him. Whilst at heart I feel Uhtred would love to retain his Danish side, apart of him always drag him back to the loyalties of the English and the King Alfred. I feel like this is a conflict we are going to see again and again throughout this series, which suits me just fine! I really enjoy now he is perfectly positioned to inform, educate and entertain us via his unique perspective in the midst of the real history of the Viking invasion of Britain.

This conflict plays an even more integral part in this narrative than the previous books. Pushed the furthest he has been yet, Uhtred defects to the Danes after killing a Christian priest. The people he had just saved turn on him within an instant and he is forced to flee. His resentment causes him to defect to the Danes and reunite himself with his childhood friend.

Bernard Cornwell is exceptionally good at creating and maintaining dynamics between characters. They are consistent between books and also reflective of the events that have happened so far. It’s very immersive to be able to read; it’s naturally free-flowing. Not only that, but the vastly different characters in the book test the ability to be able to juggle all these pieces at once, as well as incorporate new characters and conflicts alike. I have great admiration for authors who are able to do this, especially spanning distance and time – which is certainly done in this book.

As a huge fan of historical fiction I can testify that it is books like these that keep me coming back to the genre again and again. I really can’t wait to continue this series and find out where his loyalties find him next, and what turmoil results.

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Blog Tour Review: The Warden – Jon Richter

Hello everyone and welcome to today’s blog tour review of The Warden by Jon Richter, organised by Blackthorn Book Tours. This is the second blog tour post I’ve shared with Blackthorn, and it also happens to be the same author that I’m featuring today!

When I received the invite to read and review The Warden as part of this tour, it was a no-brainer decision! I really enjoyed reading Auxiliary: London 2039, also by Jon Richter, and I loved the sound of The Warden. Whilst it has similar themes to Auxiliary (on the technological side anyway), it’s a completely different narrative and character set. So, I don’t think you don’t have to have read any books by him previously to give this one a go based on my experience.

There are a few topics in the book that some readers may not be comfortable with reading. These are listed below so you can decide whether you’re interested in the book and also on here in my thoughts. I really hope that they don’t put you off however, because it is a fantastic book. I’m not one to shy away and I’m glad that the case, because this book was a pleasure to read!

 

The Warden – Jon Richter

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Print length: 312

Suitable for young adults? This is an adult book but suitable for mature teenagers 16-18

Trigger warnings: Covid references; homicide with some graphic violence; references to medical experimentation on humans; swearing; brief animal cruelty (goldfish left to die); references to suicide and mental illness

Amazon Rating: 4.5 stars

Purchase link: http://mybook.to/theWardenJonRichter

 

Goodreads – The Warden

The year is 2024, and the residents of the Tower, a virus-proof apartment building, live in a state of permanent lockdown. The building is controlled by a state-of-the-art AI named James, who keeps the residents safe but incarcerated. Behind bricked-up front doors, their every need is serviced; they are pampered but remain prisoners.

This suits Eugene just fine. Ravaged by the traumas of his past, the agoraphobic ex-detective has no intention of ever setting foot outside again. But when he finds the Tower’s building manager brutally murdered, his investigator’s instincts won’t allow him to ignore the vicious crime.

What Eugene finds beyond the comfort of his apartment’s walls will turn his sheltered existence upside down. To unravel the Tower’s mysteries, he must confront James… and James takes his role as the Warden very, very seriously.

 

Praise for The Warden

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ I wasn’t sure I wanted to read a book set during a pandemic – but I’m so glad I did. One of my top reads of 2021 – it grabbed me from the start and didn’t let go till the fantastic ending. Part psychological thriller, part horror story, part crime novel – and there’s even a touch of romance – all brought together by superb writing. Amazon review

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Wow, I loved this book! Set in the year 2024, with flashbacks to 2020, it shows an alternative reality to the Covid situation we’re currently living through. The virus has become even more virulent, and people are shut inside their homes, terrified to go out. Amazon review

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Massive 5 stars. Jon Richter is an author I admire – I loved his Rabbit Hole, and it was my number one book for 2020. This one is definitely in the running for being number one in 2021! It is set in Covid times, with some remarkably likeable characters who prove to be anything but… Amazon Review

My Thoughts…

I love the spin of the world and our current circumstances featured in the novel. We are all too familiar with the pandemic at this point. A number of us have had to make changes in our lives and embrace new technologies to help us through it. In this futuristic novel, Covid has advanced even further than our current circumstances. It is highly contagious and to prevent spread, people are sealing themselves inside their homes. The residents of The Tower are fortunate in that they are looked after by James, a highly intelligent AI system that delivers their daily needs, provides all the entertainment they can want and more besides. What could go wrong?

Well, there’s a question…

The thing that makes this narrative so chilling is that it has a stark resemblance to our recent circumstances. The fact that this could be our lives in the not too distant future is scary and all-too-real. We don’t need to imagine what it is like to have to isolate or stay at home. We’ve done that; The only difference is that events in the book a far more extreme than we have had to experience (thankfully!)

If you like science-fiction then this book has aspects for you as well! Alongside the current narrative in 2024, there are flashbacks to the creation of the AI, James, stemming from the beginning of the pandemic. I liked these snippets from the past as they build on the current storyline, but also they have interesting aspects in terms of The creation of the technology and how it has evolved in the few years between timelines. As someone who has read a lot more in the way of science fiction of late, this appeals to me as well.

I love books that combine different genres, and The Warden certainly does that! I enjoyed how the psychological thriller and science-fiction elements came together. They are both well-loved genres on my reading list and to find a book that melded the two together almost seamlessly was perfect. There is a good balance of both to appeal to readers of each genre; but, if like me you enjoyed both then you should love this book as much as I did!

The Warden was everything I hoped it would be. The writing style is effortless to read and the story flows nicely. Changing between the two timelines was clear and effortless to read. I also enjoyed how different chapters were written from the perspective of different characters. It adds a new dimension to any narrative and it’s one of my favourite elements of books of this kind. Each narrative voice is distinct and even if each chapter weren’t clearly labelled with whose perspective it was from, you could easily tell from the style.

All in all, The Warden was a really enjoyable read. With short chapters and a page count of just over 300 pages, it’s a novel that is great for a wide audience… especially those who enjoy their novels on the darker side…

About Jon Richter

Jon Richter writes genre-hopping dark fiction, including his three gripping crime thrillers, Deadly Burial, Never Rest and Rabbit Hole, his cyberpunk noir thriller Auxiliary: London 2039 and his new techno-thriller The Warden, as well as two collections of short horror fiction.

 Jon lives in London and is a self-confessed nerd who loves books, films and video games – basically any way to tell a great story!  He writes whenever he can, and hopes to bring you many more sinister tales in the future.  He also co-hosts the Dark Natter podcast, a fortnightly dissection of the world’s greatest works of dark fiction, available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcast fix.

If you want to chat to him about any of this, you can find him on Twitter @RichterWrites or Instagram @jonrichterwrites.  His website haunts the internet at www.jon-richter.com, and you can find his books available on Amazon here: https://amzn.to/2OXXRVP.

 

Blog Tour Book Review: Million Eyes II – C. R. Berry

Hello everyone and welcome to today’s blog tour review post. As part of the ongoing tour for Million Eyes II: the Unraveller, I’m really excited to be sharing my thoughts with you on this book!

Having taken part in the blog tour for the first book of the series (Million Eyes), back in January 2020, it was a pleasure to be invited back by the author to read and share my opinion on this second book. It is always nice to know that my thoughts are appreciated and I hope I can convince you in today’s post to give this series a try. I can certainly say from experience that it is well worth it!

 

Million Eyes II: The Unraveller – C. R. Berry

Goodreads – Million Eyes II

Following an impossible discovery in East London, archaeologist Dr Samantha Lester joins forces with software developer Adam Bryant to investigate the events that led to the disappearance of his best friend, Jennifer, and to bring down the people responsible – Million Eyes.

Before long, Lester and Adam are drawn into a tangled conspiratorial web involving dinosaurs, the Gunpowder Plot, Jesus, the Bermuda Triangle, and a mysterious history-hopping individual called the Unraveller, who is determined to wipe Million Eyes off the temporal map.

But as the secrets of Million Eyes’ past are revealed, picking a side in this fight might not be so easy.

Million Eyes II: The Unraveller is the second book in the Million Eyes Trilogy by C.R. Berry.

 

My Thoughts…

If you love science-fiction with themes of time travel and alternate timelines then Million Eyes is a series that you should definitely check out!

Full of action and with twists and turns to keep you intrigued, Million Eyes II picks up from events in the first book. From there, time travel, character actions and consequences all intertwine and develop a sophisticated narrative but in an approachable way. The chapters are nice and concise, keeping the action flowing and the reader involved at different stages of the timeline of the narrative which makes it easy to follow.

Having so many moving parts must be a difficult task for a writer. There is so much going on at any one time and yet C.R.Berry has managed to bring all these together in a fantastic way. The added bonus of the short chapters means we can regularly revisit the certain period in time and keep tab of the events ongoing at that particular moment.

Million Eyes II is slightly longer than the first book of the series, which I enjoyed. The added page count allows the book to explore a more in-depth narrative, but equally it’s still very approachable to pick up for any reader. It also builds nicely upon the foundations set up in the first book. It’s been nearly two years since I read Million Eyes, but picking up this sequel novel wasn’t a challenge at all. Yes, there is plenty of action, but the narrative is well written so that the detail provides a sort of re-cap. I certainly didn’t feel like I had to go back to the beginning as a result, which is in my eyes a great skill for a writer to implement.

By no means would I describe myself as a conspiracy theorist, but I really enjoyed how this was explored in the novel. I’m not going to go into any detail whatsoever because if you’re interested, that’s motivation for you to pick up the book yourself! I loved the topics and particulars of history that were touched upon in the book and how these events may have been shaped by future intervention. No part of the timeline is left untouched and as a huge fan of historical fiction in general, this aspect appealed to me as well. Conspiracy theories and time travel is not something I read a lot of, but I knew I enjoyed this from the first book, so following it through and reading the sequel was a no-brainer!

I hope you like the sound of the Million Eyes series and that I may have just convinced you to give the books a go! Whether you are a fan of science fiction, historical fiction or anything in between, this series will appeal to a broad range of readers. Even if you just want to read something a little bit out there, go ahead and challenge yourself to this one – you won’t regret it I promise!

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