Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: January 2015

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Every first Wednesday of the month, I’ll be posting a roundup of the month just gone, and writing about what’s to come in the next few weeks.

January 2015

Last month I read a total of eleven books: The Well of Ascension (Mistborn #2) by Brandon Sanderson, Doctor Who: The Shakespeare Notebooks by Justin Richards, Helen and Troy’s Epic Road Quest by A. Lee Martinez, The Dagger in the Desk (Lockwood & Co #1.5 by Jonathan Stroud, Steelheart (Reckoners #1) by Brandon Sanderson, Pawn of Prophecy/a> (The Belgariad #1) by David Eddings, Asylum by Madeline Roux, How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, Breathe (Breathe #1) by Sarah Crossan, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and The Blade Itself (The First Law #1) by Joe Abercrombie.

I’m so glad I finally got to read The Blade Itself, it was well overdue and I loved it. I also finally read Pawn of Prophecy which was a birthday present from and highly recommended by two friends. I’m looking forward to the rest of the series, and the one that follows it! Steelheart pretty much blew everything out of the water though, and The Well of Ascension was a fantastic sequel. BRANDON SANDERSON IS A WRITING GOD.

 

Challenge progress:

  • I read nine books towards the DC vs Marvel Challenge. I managed to defeat the Joker, mwhaha!
  • I have currently read eleven books towards my Goodreads goal.

 

Currently reading:

Assassin's Creed Brotherhood

How was January for you?

Review

Review: The Dagger in the Desk (Lockwood & Co #1.5) by Jonathan Stroud

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4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

I’m never sure about reviewing novellas and short stories. Sometimes I don’t feel I have enough to say about them, or that I will have developed enough of a sense of the book in such a small number of pages. Luckily, I am already familiar with the universe of Lockwood & Co having absolutely loved the two books written by Jonathan Stroud so far, and The Dagger in the Desk just leaps straight into the action.

What I didn’t realise until after I’d read the book is that it was written over six days, with help from members of the Guardian newspaper’s children’s website, who voted on the name, location and the ghost. My initial thought, before reading this, was that it would most likely appeal to the target audience even more, due to being set in a school. It’s definitely something that would have appealed to me when I was younger, having to miss school due to a haunting!

Despite the very short nature of the book, Jonathan Stroud proves that he is a master storyteller by building up the tension in only a few pages. What I’ve always found surprising about this series is that despite being aimed at Middle Grade and above, it is actually genuinely creepy in some places – and this novella was no exception. Even though the case is over and done with rather quickly, Stroud provides some eerie moments and a memorable ghostly foe.

The book was even shorter than expected, with a handy guide to the ghouls Lockwood, George and Lucy encounter through the series, as well as a sample of The Screaming Staircase. Definitely worth checking out for fans of Lockwood & Co who just can’t wait for book number three – such as myself!

Top Lists

Top Reads of 2014

Top Reads 2014

As the title suggests, it’s time to share my top reads of 2014! I read so many good books this year that it’s not a top ten, but a top fifteen… And now, in no particular order:

Lexicon by Max Barry Smiler's Fair by Rebecca Levene Jane Eyre

Lexicon by Max Barry was a wonderful surprise. Sent to me by Hodder, it took a little while for me to pick it up, but I’m so glad I did. It is insanely clever and unique and DEFINITELY worth a read. Smiler’s Fair by Rebecca Levene was another surprise from Hodder (who spoil me!), a fantastic new start to a fantasy series, with a truly gorgeous cover. And Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë… oh this book. I am so SO glad I re-read it!

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) by Brandon Sanderson

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor was one of those books that I’d heard such good things about, bought a copy of and still hadn’t read. Then I finally got to it at the beginning of the year, and was blown away. I even met Laini in April, when the third book in the series was released, but I still have yet to read that one. Perfect for my Borgia fascination, Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant is a wonderful piece of historical fiction that I just devoured. It’s got everything you could ever want in historical fiction – backstabbing, court gossip, murder – and everything you would expect from a book about the Borgias. And The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson, why did I take so long to get to you?? I have the second book in Leiden, and I’m looking forward to reading it in January.

Brideshead Revisited Insignia by S.J. Kincaid 2495562

Another classic I’m glad I tried, Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh is truly wonderful, and completely satisfied my taste for books set in Oxford (yes this is a thing). Insignia by S.J. Kincaid, on the other hand, completely satisfied my thirst for another book similar to Ready Player One. The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss is a fantastic, if rather long, follow up to The Name of the Wind. It is one epic fantasy series I will not forget.

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co #1) by Jonathan Stroud Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud was one of those books that took me completely by surprise; I wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I did and now I recommend the series to everyone. Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes was another wonderful library find, the first in a Young Adult fantasy series that I can’t wait to continue. And when it comes to autobiographies, I’m not sure if you can beat Cash by Johnny Cash. One of my favourite singers, his life was absolutely fascinating to read about and I loved the way it was written too – as if the reader is just sat having a drink with Johnny.

Seraphina Fangirl Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding

A very recent addition to my list, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman is another one that caught me by surprise. At first I wasn’t sure, but as I read more of the book I was utterly enchanted by her take on dragons. And once again showing that I really need to branch out and maybe not always judge books based on genre, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell was an ABSOLUTE treat. I loved Cath and instantly identified with her. And finally, Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding pretty much satisfied my post-Firefly needs. SO GOOD.

What were your top reads this year?

Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: October 2014

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Every first Wednesday of the month, I’ll be posting a roundup of the month just gone, and writing about what’s to come in the next few weeks.

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Last month I read a total of eight books: Debating the Archaeological Heritage by Robin Skeates, The Shunned House by H.P. Lovecraft, A Very British Murder by Lucy Worsley, Miss Peregrine’s School For Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine #1) by Ransom Riggs, TimeBomb (TimeBomb #1) by Scott K. Andrews, An Introduction to Museum Archaeology by Hedley Swain, The Whispering Skull (Lockwood & Co #2) by Jonathan Stroud and The Martian by Andy Weir.

Better than last month, although two of those were for university and one was a very short story! My plan was to read loads of science fiction for Sci-Fi Month, but obviously that didn’t happen… My stand-out book of the month is definitely The Whispering Skull, I really love that series! It’s like Sherlock with a dash of Supernatural, if the protagonists were in their teens. What’s not to love?

 

Challenge progress:

  • I read three books towards the Avengers vs. X-Men Challenge. November’s villain is Apocalypse, hopefully I can defeat him this time!
  • I have currently read one hundred and seventeen books towards my Goodreads goal.

 

Currently reading:

The Time Roads 2495562

 

How was October for you?

Misc.

Horror October: Horror Books Read This Year

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For today’s Horror October post, I wanted to share the books I’ve read this year that fit the theme – some are horror, others more thrillers, others just plain creepy!

Doctor Sleep (The Shining #2) by Stephen King

Doctor Sleep

Doctor Sleep is definitely one of my highlights of the year! I’d been anticipating this sequel to The Shining ever since I first read about it, before the cover was even released. Hodder sent me a review copy earlier in the year, and it was definitely worth the wait. If you’ve already read The Shining then hurry up and read this!

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is not so much a traditional horror, it is really a thriller, but it shows just how horrific humans can be to each other. It’s hard to say much about this book without giving anything away, so I won’t! I’m looking forward to seeing the film of this one too.

  • My rating for Gone Girl: [simple-rating stars=”four-stars”]

The Three by Sarah Lotz

The Three by Sarah Lotz

The Three by Sarah Lotz was an interesting read. It was told entirely from interviews, newspaper articles and other sources of media. Unfortunately its format meant I had no connection whatsoever to any of the characters, and the ending was just incredibly frustrating.

The Quick (The Quick #1) by Lauren Owen

The Quick by Lauren Owen

The Quick was also another unique novel: wonderfully Gothic and rather slow paced. I took a while to read this one for various reasons so I think it might need a re-read at some point, but I enjoyed it a lot. I also had the privilege of meeting the author, Lauren Owen, in April, and definitely made a fool of myself. Oops.

Red Moon by Benjamin Percy

Red Moon by Benjamin Percy

Red Moon by Benjamin Percy had me super excited – it was a werewolf novel with a twist and had such wonderful reviews. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t agree with them. The writing was wonderful but the story just felt… lacking. Also it promised me a good scare and just didn’t deliver!

Midnight Crossroad (Midnight #1) by Charlaine Harris

Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris

Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris was another disappointment. I really love her Southern Vampire Mysteries series (or the True Blood books if you prefer), even if the last few just felt like a chance to make some easy money. So I was hoping a new series would be a new start, and whilst Midnight Crossroad wasn’t bad, there was nothing special about it.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black is another one that’s had great reviews, but I just didn’t get along with. Too many vampires and falling for the bad boy, ugh… The concept of the Coldtowns was original, but vampires? So overdone right now… It does have one of the most horrific opening scenes I’ve ever read though.

Leviathan Wakes (Expanse #1) by James S.A. Corey

Leviathan Wakes (Expanse #1) by James S.A. Corey

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey is hard to explain in terms of the horror genre without giving away some big plot points. I definitely wasn’t expecting the horror element when I started reading it, and it’s definitely a memorable part… I read it with my Goodreads book group and it was pretty well received!

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co #1) by Jonathan Stroud

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co #1) by Jonathan Stroud

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud is one of my stand-out books of the year. I wasn’t expecting to love it so much, but it pulled me right in. It may be aimed at younger readers but it is SO amazing. Think a mix of Sherlock and Supernatural, with teenage protaganists.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? Do you have any horror recommendations based on what you’ve read this year?

Review

Review: The Whispering Skull (Lockwood & Co #2) by Jonathan Stroud

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5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

I first encountered this series at the beginning of the year, the first book being The Screaming Staircase and absolutely loved it. There was no question about whether to request the second book from Netgalley or not, regardless of my ridiculous pile of books to review! And luckily, The Whispering Skull definitely lived up to my expectations.

Set six months after the previous book, The Whispering Skull leaps straight into the action: Lockwood & Co have had a run of successful jobs and things are looking up. More and more clients are approaching them for help and for once they don’t feel like they have to compete with other agencies. That’s until a strange and powerful Source is stolen, and Lockwood, Lucy and George are back in competition with the other agencies, as well as in a race against time, to retrieve it. As before, some scenes were actually genuinely creepy and gave me the chills – but combined with the wonderful sense of humour that I’ve come to expect.

A fast-paced read, the writing just flows off the page – although that may be something to do with the intended younger audience – and the exciting moments just keep coming. I felt that the story was perhaps less atmospheric than The Screaming Staircase, but much of the atmosphere of the first book was created by setting up the story and the changes from the world as we know it.

The publisher describes this book as aimed at ‘middle grade’ readers, but as someone in my twenties I have to say I absolutely LOVE this series. It’s a fabulous mix of ghost novel and detective story, with characters you’ll just love. Lockwood is still an enigma, very much a Sherlock type character, and I can imagine him being a bit of a heart-breaker when he gets older. Lucy is the witty and occasionally sarcastic narrator, with George as the brains but also the comic relief. Were I actually within the age range for this book, I can definitely say that the idea of these teens running their own agencies and living alone, without adults, would be a high point!

If you’re looking for something a little bit creepy, but don’t feel quite ready to delve into some serious horror novels, I would definitely recommend giving Lockwood & Co a try.

Past Features

Turning Off The TV #10: Supernatural

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Welcome to my regular Thursday feature, Turning off the TV! In this feature I recommend books similar to TV shows or films you may have enjoyed, both series and specific episodes.

The TV series this week is: Supernatural.

Supernatural

Two brothers follow their father’s footsteps as “hunters” fighting evil supernatural beings of many kinds including monsters, demons, and gods that roam the earth.

This is the third of this feature covering Supernatural, as I hope to be looking at this series in more detail. So many creatures and urban legends are featured that it opens up a choice of so many more books!

Enjoyed ‘Provenance’ (Season One, Episode Nineteen)?

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co #1) by Jonathan Stroud

This episode is about a haunted painting that Sam and Dean have to somehow obtain from an auction house, and then dispose of. So what would be a better choice than The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde? This infamous story follows the eponymous Dorian Gray, who sells his soul in exchange for eternal youth and good looks. However, his recently commissioned portrait reflects the extent of his sins, whilst the real Dorian remains perfect – at least in appearance. It was a pretty scandalous book when it was released, and there’s also a fairly recent film adaptation starring Ben Barnes which only builds upon and adds to the scandalous moments. And then there’s The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co #1), the first in a brilliant new series by Jonathan Stroud, about young members of a ‘supernatural agency’. Like the Winchesters, Lockwood & Co have to deal with many haunted and possessed objects. I reviewed this book earlier in the year.

Enjoyed ‘Devil’s Trap’ (Season One, Episode Twenty-two)?

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates

After their father, John Winchester, is captured, Dean and Sam along with Bobby succeed in trapping the demon Meg, who reveals that their father is in Missouri. Unfortunately, he has been possessed by Azazel, the yellow-eyed demon that killed their mother. There are countless books on demons, demon possession and demon worship – and quite a few episodes to do with Ol’ Yellow Eyes throughout the show, so I’ll just recommend three books for now. Firstly, there’s the super obvious one – The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty. Do I really need to explain the plot?? A more recent release, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea tells the story of Violet, who lives in a sleepy little town where nothing much happens – until River makes an appearance. It’s a classic tale of that enticing new stranger being not quite what they seem… And finally, The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates describes how a whole town falls under the influence of a supernatural force. Although it’s part of the Gothic Saga, it can be read as a standalone as the series is more a collection of gothic novels by the same author, rather than novels containing the same characters and similar events.

Enjoyed ‘Everybody Loves A Clown’ (Season Two, Episode Two)?

It by Stephen King Joyland by Stephen King Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

The Winchesters investigate a series of murders at a travelling carnival, which turns out to be a Rakshasa (of Hindu mythology), transforming into a clown in order to trick children, before then murdering their parents. Of course, the first book that came to mind linked to this episode was It by Stephen King, which I won’t be reading any time soon thank you very much. Clowns are already creepy enough as it is. Another Stephen King novel with a carnival theme (maybe we should just avoid carnivals and funfairs??) is the more recently released Joyland – now this one I definitely want to read sometime. And now for a non-Stephen King book: Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, in which a creepy carnival (*makes a mental note to avoid carnivals in the future*) comes to town, and two young boys have to save their home from its evil clutches.

Are you a fan of Supernatural? Do you have any recommendations to add?

Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: January 2014

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Every first Wednesday of the month (Tuesday this month, due to the Book of Apex tour!) , I’ll be posting a roundup of the month just gone, and writing about what’s to come in the next few weeks.

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This month I read fifteen books, which as far as I’m aware is a personal record! Admittedly there were a couple of novellas and graphic novels, but I’m happy with my progress. The Death Pit by A.L. Kennedy, Into the Nowhere by Jenny Colgan, Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, Archaeology: the Basics by Clive Gamble (refreshing my memory!), Supernatural: Origins by Peter Johnson, The Bone Season (The Bone Season #1) by Samantha Shannon, The Creature in the Case (The Old Kingdom #3.5) by Garth Nix, Watchmen by Alan Moore, Red Sonja: Queen of Plagues by Gail Simone & Walter Geovanni, Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1) by Laini Taylor, The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, Mass Effect: Foundation by Mac Walters, The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co #1) by Jonathan Stroud, The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells and The QI Book of the Dead by John Lloyd.

Standout books include Brideshead Revisited, Daughter of Smoke and Bone and The Screaming Staircase. I’ve now read fifteen books towards my goal of fifty for this year – so I may have to raise it, but I also have to remember that my reading will greatly decrease from mid-August.

 

Challenge progress:

 

Currently reading:

Mistborn (The Final Empire #1) by Brandon Sanderson The Trojan War by Barry Strauss

 

Reviews on the blog on this month:

 

Other posts:

 

Upcoming:

  • I’m taking part in the Book of Apex tour, organised by Andrea @ Little Red Reviewer. Yay, speculative fiction!
  • I’m also taking part in Insta-love 101, hosted by the lovely ladies at A Novel Idea. Boo, insta-love!
  • And finally: the Review Copy Cleanup hosted by Books, Biscuits & Tea! and Nyx Book Reviews – time to tame that Netgalley ratio!

 

And that’s been my month! Pretty busy I think! How was January for you?

Review

Review: The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co #1) by Jonathan Stroud

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5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

If you are a fan of Supernatural or BBC’s Sherlock, then chances are you’ll love this.

It feels like a mix of the two shows, a sort of supernatural sleuth story, and perhaps if the characters of the shows were in their teens. It is set either in an alternate present, or not too far into our own future, where it has emerged that ghosts are in fact real – and some are pretty dangerous to human beings. Since a yet unknown and unexplained event in the past, ghosts have been visible and active around the country, and as a result ‘agencies’ have sprung up; agencies that are almost like supernatural police. Armed with various implements made of iron, silver and salt (Dean and Sam would be proud), the agencies take on cases to rid houses or areas of supernatural beings. Lockwood & Co is one of these agencies, albeit a small one, and made up of just three agents: (Anthony) Lockwood himself, Lucy and George.

The characterisation in the novel was fantastic. Lockwood is like a teenage Sherlock: inquisitive, extremely intelligent and passionate, whilst also being perhaps a little socially inept and reckless. He is quite a mysterious character, even Lucy doesn’t know all that much about his background. Both Lucy and George are the Watsons to Lockwood’s Sherlock. George is the researcher of the group, studying and writing, whereas Lucy is the down-to-earth one. She is also the narrator of the tale, and to me her voice even seemed reminiscent of Arthur Conan Doyle’s tone of writing.

As for the plot and events – some of the ghosts the trio encounter were incredibly creepy! It’s impressive that a book that had many humorous moments also managed to really freak me out at some points. And it wasn’t done through the sights, but Stroud’s descriptions of the feelings and sounds that come with a haunting, which really captured an ethereal feeling. The classification system of the ghosts was clever and meant the reader could instantly assess just how much danger the characters were in.

A brilliant take on the paranormal genre, with a pretty unique concept, especially for Young Adult fiction where the concentration seems to be on vampires and werewolves. I’ve always been aware of Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus trilogy, but never read it, and after reading this fantastic book I may now have to reconsider that decision.

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It has the Official Castiel Seal of Approval, so it’s got to be good, right?