Mini-Review Monday on a Tuesday: The Girls by Emma Cline

I did not read very many books last week, in fact I only read one – there were a number of deadlines to meet at work and I just didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to sit down and read. The one book I did read, however, which I started reading with some apprehension – I was not sure if I would love it or hate it, had me hooked. I am also half way through an audiobook and have just started an omnibus which totals over 1,000 words (I am still debating if it counts as one or three books). Hopefully, my reading this week will be far more successful.

For reference, the way I rate is as follows:

1-Unable to Finish ; 2-Did not enjoy ; 3-Liked ; 4-Really Liked ; 5-Loved

The Girls by Emma Cline

The Girls is a book I have had on my radar since it first came out but took a long time to pick it up. The main reason for this was that I’m normally very good at judging how much I will enjoy a book before reading but I really had no idea going into this – I was either going to really enjoy it or really dislike it. Fortunately for me, it was the former.

Evie Boyd is a fourteen-year-old girl who starts her summer spending time with her best friend and crushing on her best friend’s brother. Soon, however, a strange girl catches her eye and, before long, Evie finds herself involved in the midst of a cult. It’s a coming-of-age novel which explores emotion, sexuality and the desire to find a place in the world. It’s also a look back, partially told from an older Evie’s perspective as she reflects back on her youth.

I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. It did take a little while to get used to how the story was being told (which partly due to me being a little over-tired when I started it), but once I was 50 or so pages in, I flew through it and ended up finishing it in a day. The writing was brilliant and really captured Evie’s character and the experiences she goes through while the pacing kept me reading. I did find the grown-up Evie chapters a little uninspiring to read and the ending did not quite work for me, but otherwise I really enjoyed this book and I’m glad I picked it up.

Rating: 4/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26210513-the-girls

The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/The-Girls/9781784701741/?a_aid=rosienreads

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Mini-Review Monday: Confident Data Skills, Crooked Kingdom, A Secret Sisterhood, On the Other Side, and The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue

It has been a couple of weeks since my last Mini-Review Monday, so there are quite a few books to cover. It has been a mixed few weeks. I have read some fantastic books but have also had a couple of bookish disappointments as well. As there are five books to discuss this week, I’m just going to dive straight into them.

For reference, the way I rate is as follows:

1-Unable to Finish ; 2-Did not enjoy ; 3-Liked ; 4-Really Liked ; 5-Loved

 

Confident Data Skills by Kirill Eremenko

Confident Data Skills was my final book of May and was a very different read for me. While I do occasionally read non-fiction, those are usually on topics like sexism or serial killers rather than data analytics. As a data analyst, however, this book did call to me.

This book offers to beginning to end insight into data science, from the gathering of questions and requirements at the start of a project to the presentation and dissemination of results at the end. While it could easily have gone into a lot of detail and complicated terminology, Confident Data Skills is incredibly accessible and discusses the topics in a manner which anyone interested in data science could understand but without it being patronising or too simplified. While it could have gone into more detail about the different kinds of algorithms used (it only covers a small number) and there were a few diagrams and images about colour that were in black and white, it provided a good introduction, and general resource, for data science.

Rating: 4/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34951858-confident-data-skills

The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/Confident-Data-Skills-Kirill-Eremenko/9780749481544/?a_aid=rosienreads

 

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

If there was ever a duology I would push on anyone, it’s this one.

Crooked Kingdom is the first and last book in the Six of Crows duology, so I can’t say too much about plot. Only that it follows a group of miscreants who plan to pull off an impossible heist in order to gain a lot of money. I love everything about this series. The world-building is exceptional – it feels incredibly rich and alive, almost as if you could step into it. On top of that, the plot is intricate while also being gripping to read. However, the real strength of this duology, for me, is the group of characters. They are so well crafted and rounded that they could be people you know, and indeed they feel like you could easily join them in their escapades and be part of the team. This book builds on that even more, exploring the different relationships between each of them and building on their characters so much so that a character I didn’t particularly appreciate in the first book I thoroughly enjoyed in this one (although Inej and Kaz are still my favourites). I definitely recommend this duology if you haven’t picked it up already.

Rating: 4/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22299763-crooked-kingdom

The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/Six-Crows-Crooked-Kingdom-Leigh-Bardugo/9781780622316/?a_aid=rosienreads

 

A Secret Sisterhood by Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney

The second non-fiction in this wrap up, which is a rarity in itself.

A Secret Sisterhood is a book about female friendships, specifically in the context of four famous female writers – Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot and Virginia Woolf. It explores each of the writers’ careers in the context of their friendship with another female writer (published or otherwise) of the time. While it was an interesting book to read, particularly with finding out about parts of the authors’ lives I had not previously been aware of, I found that the book struggled in making its case properly. Very little of the evidence to back up their descriptions of the friendships were included in the text, which made it very difficult to not see some of the points made as either guesswork or wishful thinking. This was particularly true of the older writers. If a few more diary entry segments or letter extracts had made their way into the pages of the book, it would have been a stronger text and have made more of an impact on me. That being said, I did enjoy the focus the book had on the female friendships, which is not something we often see in either non-fiction or fiction.

Rating: 3/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35464976-a-secret-sisterhood

The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/A-Secret-Sisterhood/9781781315941/?a_aid=rosienreads

 

On the Other Side by Carrie Hope Fletcher

On the Other Side was probably the biggest reading disappointment in a long time. I went in expecting a lot more than I got out of it. The book itself is about a woman called Evie who, on dying, must remove the weights from her life that are preventing her from entering her own personal heaven, which sounded amazing. All of these weights revolve around a year she spent pursuing her passion to be an artist and falling in love with a violinist called Vincent.

Unfortunately, I really struggled to enjoy this book and considered DnFing it at one point. Most of this was due to the fact I could not bring myself to care about the Vincent story-line (and I spent the whole book feeling really sorry for Jim). I loved Evie as a character and would have really enjoyed seeing her fight for her passion to be an artist, but that is only side-lined to focus on her relationship with Vincent. The key conflicts on the book felt contrived and the introduction of the supernatural was a bit left-wing and awkward (although did make the book considerably more interesting for me).

The writing itself was easy to read and I actually ended up reading this book in a day. Carrie has put a lot of herself into this book and her voice as a writer is very strong (I could almost hear her reading the book to me as I read it), not to mention the diversity, however the story itself was not for me, no matter how much I want to support the author.

Rating: 2.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25744542-on-the-other-side

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Other-Side-number-Sunday-bestseller/dp/0751563161/ref=sr_1_1

 

 

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee (narrated by Christian Coulson)

I had no idea what to expect with The Gentleman’s Guide to Vide and Virtue, but I dove straight in with the audiobook. The book itself is a historical fiction about a young man called Henry Montague who sets off on his tour of Europe with his sister Felicity and his best friend Percy in tow. Things are made slightly more complicated given the fact that Henry is head over heels in love in Percy, and then they all end up on a man-hunt across Europe after Henry steals from the King of France.

This book is essentially a lot of fun. It did take me a while to get into, due to getting use to the writing style as well as the fact Henry is quite dislikeable at the start of the book. As the book went on, however, I enjoyed it more and more. The situations they found themselves in were bizarre and entertaining. Not to mention that the fact that Henry acted completely opposite to a typical story protagonist and ended up getting themselves in even worse scraps just added to the fun of the book. It does have its serious moments and handed issues of race, sexuality and disability in the time period really well. The narrator (Christian Coulson) was also fantastic and really captured Henry, and the story, in his narration.

Rating: 4/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29283884-the-gentleman-s-guide-to-vice-and-virtue

The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/Gentlemans-Guide-Vice-Virtue-Mackenzi-Lee/9780062382801/?a_aid=rosienreads

 

Mini-Review Monday: Sleeping Beauties, When Breath Becomes Air, Skald and Jali

The bank holiday weekend is coming to a close and with it I finished the last of the four books I read in the last couple of weeks. I am continuing in my efforts to read a broader range of books in an attempt to avoid falling into another reading slump and, I have to say, I am enjoying it. I feel more excited about the next book I want to pick up because it is so different from the last and I am getting more of a feel for the huge range of stories and writers out there. These last two weeks I read a thriller and a memoir, as well as listened to two short story collections which encapsulated a variety of spaces on the spectrum of the genres they covered. I am very pleased with the books I read and am looking forward to another week of excellent reading.

For reference, the way I rate is as follows:

1-Unable to Finish ; 2-Did not enjoy ; 3-Liked ; 4-Really Liked ; 5-Loved

Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King

Sleeping Beauties is a book I’ve had my eye on for a while and so I was really excited to read it once I got my hands on the paperback. The book is about a strange phenomenon, the Aurora, which takes over the world, causing all women to be wrapped in a cocoon, unable to wake, once they fall asleep. Written from the perspectives of members of the town of Dooling, it follows multiple characters as they deal with life (and struggle to stay awake if they’re female) as the Aurora claims more and more women. The appearance of the mysterious character of Evie also brings a twist on events.

I really enjoyed this book. This was particularly down to the characters, all of whom could have easily stepped from the pages of the book into real life (although, I wouldn’t want some of them to). The variety of people appearing on the pages and how individual they felt was incredibly done for a book with such a large cast of characters. The Aurora proved to be a fascinating story device, allowing an exploration of humanity and the extremity of some people’s reactions as half the world’s population fall into a deep slumber. While I did enjoy it, however, I did think that it was slightly too long. There were a series of background chapters which, while they did contribute to some of the characters’ histories, did end up breaking up the flow of the book. As such, I found the book dragging in places, particularly around the middle. However, the ending of the book was particularly gripping.

Rating: 4/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34466922-sleeping-beauties

The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/Sleeping-Beauties-Owen-King/9781473681286/?a_aid=rosienreads

 

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

When Breath Becomes Air is not a book I would have chosen on my own, but instead it was recommended to me and so I picked it up when I had the chance. It is a book which follows the author as he goes from neurosurgeon reaching the end of his residency to cancer patient trying to find the meaning of life as he approaches the end of his. I read the book in a day and was in tears by the end – something which rarely happens to me in books.

The author is a clear writer, explaining his experiences in a way that is both easy to understand yet also captures the detail of being both neurosurgeon and cancer patient. It was quite difficult to read in places in terms of the experiences Kalanithi narrates but it was also interesting to see how one’s perspective can shift as different circumstances arise. It is a thought-provoking read and while the specific circumstances may not be relatable for everyone, the general themes of the book are.

Rating: 4.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25899336-when-breath-becomes-air

The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/When-Breath-Becomes-Air-Paul-Kalanithi/9781784701994/?a_aid=rosienreads

 

Skald and Jali – Short Story Collections from Audible

Audible have recently released a series of audio shows which are free to Audible members. Amongst these are a series of short story collections: Skald, Jali and Bard, each of which covers a specific genre. Over the last couple of weeks, I have listened to both Skald, the collection of crime/thriller stories, and Jali, the collection of science-fiction stories. As someone who does not often read short stories and only picked these out because I was between credits on Audible, I was quite surprised with how much I enjoyed listening to them. While I did prefer the mixture of stories in the Skald collections more, both provided a broad view of the kinds of stories you can get in each genre. I also found the collections to be a good way to showcase both authors and the narrators. They are a great idea and I am glad that Audible is making these kinds of audio shows for its subscribers.

Skald Rating: 4/5

Jali Rating: 3.5/5

Audible: www.audible.co.uk

 

*I receive a small commission when purchases are made through the Book Depository links.

Mini-Review Monday: Catching Up

These last few weeks I have been a mix of rather busy and on holiday. As a result, I’ve fallen a little behind with these mini-reviews. To get back on track, I decided to write a very quick review for each book I read since my last reading update (of which, thankfully, there are only five). This includes the last book I read for the OWLs Readathon (Heir of Fire) and both the books I read while away on holiday (Something Rotten and Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race). I’m trying to be more varied with my reading lately as I found myself heading towards a reading slump caused, primarily, by the fact that I was reading some quite similar books, either in style, theme or genre. I have already started on this goal with the two books I read on holiday and so I shall endeavour to continue as it began.

For reference, the way I rate is as follows:

1-Unable to Finish ; 2-Did not enjoy ; 3-Liked ; 4-Really Liked ; 5-Loved

 

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

A woman escapes to Essex with her young son following the death of her husband; while there she encounters the legend of the mysterious Essex Serpent and the town’s conviction that it had returned. Written with a strong hand, The Essex Serpent conjures atmosphere with only a few words and really captures the essence of each character. The book is let down by Will Ransome as a character and Martha’s main story-line – I found very little in either that I could particularly enjoy and both seemed a little out of place amongst the mysticism that the Essex Serpent created. That being said, Stella and Francis really shone and were the reason I kept reading, alongside the incredible scene-weaving skills that Perry has.

Rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32075861-the-essex-serpent

The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/Essex-Serpent-Sarah-Perry/9781781255452/?a_aid=rosienreads

The Falconer by Elizabeth May

Lady Aileana is re-entering society following the death of her mother amidst rumours that she was the murderer herself; little do the upper class know that in her free time she builds weapons and hunts fae in the hopes of tracking down the faery who actually killed her mother. With a steampunk mix and a determined lead, The Falconer is different from its cousins – Aileana hunts of her own volition and she has very little intention of trying to balance her two lives. The book does, however, fall into some frustrating tropes (the only romance being one of them) and it ends on such an abrupt cliff-hanger that it feels like you’re expected to buy the next book (a pet peeve of mine – I like a good stand-alone feel to a series starter). I would happily read many books about Aileana, her best friend and the pixie which lives in her wardrobe, although I doubt that would ever happen; it’s also set in Scotland which was a delight to discover.

Rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16046550-the-falconer

The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/Falconer-Elizabeth-May/9780575130425/?a_aid=rosienreads

Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

A non-fiction book which holds no bars as Reni discusses race dynamics across a variety of angles (history, feminism, class) and why, as the title says, she decided to stop trying to have a conversation with White people about race. This book is honest, refreshing and tackles the issues in a clear and unafraid manner, spoken by someone whose voice should be heard above others (read: White people) in the discussion about race and racism. It is a short book and, as such, only goes into broad detail for each of the chapters, so providing a solid introduction to each of the issues and leaving it up to the reader to do further research. This book is eye-opening and really highlights how racism is still prevalent today, especially to those such as myself who don’t experience it in everyday life. While I feel like those who need to read a book like this are unlikely to give it a chance, I think this is a must-read for anyone interested in race relations and the impact that race still has.

Rating: 4/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36494117-why-i-m-no-longer-talking-to-white-people-about-race

The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/Why-I-m-No-Longer-Talking-to-White-People-About-Race/9781408870587/?a_aid=rosienreads

Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde

The fourth and final book in the Thursday Next series – Thursday must continue her adventures as she rushes to save the world, all with a cheese-smuggling scandal under her belt, a minotaur on the loose, and a disgruntled Hamlet eating her mother’s best Battenberg. This book was just the book I needed to read when I read it – after a stretch of relatively similar books, the weird and wonderful world of Thursday Next was a welcome change of scene and I think the book was easily my favourite of the series. It does suffer from being a bit slow in places and I could have done without the Landon story-line which just felt like a distraction from Thursday’s story. Despite that, this was the book that helped me escape an approaching reading slump and really helped me get excited about reading new books, particularly those which fall outside of my default types of book.

Rating: 4.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/828395.Something_Rotten

The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/Something-Rotten/9780340825952/?a_aid=rosienreads

 

Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas (narrated by Elizabeth Evans)

Heir of Fire is the third book in the Throne of Glass series; it introduces a myriad of new characters and expands the world in a wide range of directions. The expansion of this series was well handled – I loved seeing the tendrils reach out into new areas and bring in new people to get to know (Manon in particular), not to mention getting to see the original characters in new situations without each other to rely on. I still do not like Chaol, still struggle to see how Celaena became such a feared assassin and still find it irritating that only pale women with fair hair (or dark hair if the skin is very pale) are described as beautiful in this series. For all its faults, I did find this to be my favourite of the Throne of Glass series so far. I’ve heard mixed things about the rest of the series so am hesitant to continue on, but from what I’ve seen I am happy with the direction the books appear to be heading in so may pick up the next on one day.

Rating: 4/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22914781-heir-of-fire

The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/Heir-Fire-Sarah-J-Maas/9781408839126/?a_aid=rosienreads

 

*I receive a small commission when purchases are made through the Book Depository links.

Mini-Review Monday: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon and The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

I went into last week with a mission; a mission to get ahead with my reading for the OWLs readathon. I come out of it having fallen slightly behind. I only managed to finish two books last week, both of which were YA and around 400-500 pages long. Both were books which have been on my reading list for a long time, probably well over a year (or two!). That being said, I felt like neither really stood out to me – they were both good stories with interesting concepts which were fun to read, but that was it. Perhaps I just wasn’t in the mood for these books last week and the sequels may be the books to reel me in, but who knows?

For reference, the way I rate is as follows:

1-Unable to Finish ; 2-Did not enjoy ; 3-Liked ; 4-Really Liked ; 5-Loved

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

This book fulfilled the challenge to read a book with a symbol on the cover and so earned me the Ancient Runes OWL.

The Bone Season is set in a world where people are born with the ability to connect to the aether, albeit in different ways, but where it is also against the law to do so. Those who have this ability must live in hiding, under the protection of the syndicate, to avoid being arrested and murdered. Paige is one such person, possessing the ability to dreamwalk: detach herself from her body and enter into other people’s dreamscapes. One day she gets caught, and her whole understanding of the world is turned upside down when she meets the ancient Rephaites – beings from the aether itself.

The world in The Bone Season is complex. From the first few pages, you are thrown into a world with a large number of rules for both the social structure and the magic system. That there are so many different types of abilities with different facets and strengths/limits to them is more then enough to get to grips with. As a result, it took me a while to fully absorb it all. That being said, I found the world to be the most interesting part of this book, particularly where the magic system was concerned. The main plot was not really anything new to me and I didn’t really care for the romance. The characters felt alive but those that I wanted to learn more about and spend more time with (Liss, Julian, the whole of the Seven Dials) felt side-lined to make way for Paige and the Warden. I did enjoy the book and found the writing to be quick-paced while still allowing time for character development. The world was an interesting concept and one I am curious to see more of as well.

Rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18594512-the-bone-season

The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/Bone-Season-Samantha-Shannon/9781408836453/?a_aid=rosienreads

 

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

I read The 5th Wave to complete the Astronomy OWL – read a science-fiction novel.

Aliens have arrived, and they’re taking over the world one wave at a time. The 5th Wave is a science-fiction dystopian novel about the days after the aliens invade. It follows Cassie, a girl who made a promise to her little brother and is determined to keep it, and Zombie, a boy who broke his promise to his sister and wants to make amends. To do that, however, they must learn to fend for themselves and to shoot to kill in order to survive a world where the aliens could be anyone and anywhere.

I watched the film for this a while ago so I already knew before going in what the main twist of the book was and what all the other main plot points were (indeed, parts of the book had been pretty much taken scene for scene in the film). Unfortunately, this took out a fair amount of enjoyment for me as I did find myself lacking the excitement as to what was going to happen for the characters. That being said, I really enjoyed the writing style and the manner in which it allowed us to see into each characters’ head, particularly the way that the book revolved around Nugget who, despite having little to do, was very much the heart of the book. The concept of the aliens invading in stages was also interesting, although some of the logic to why certain methods were chosen did not make complete sense. I can see why people love this book and I do wish I had got around to reading it before watching the film as I do think the film did take an edge off my overall enjoyment.

Rating: 3/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16101128-the-5th-wave

The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/5th-Wave-Book-1-Rick-Yancey/9780141345833/?a_aid=rosienreads

Mini-Review Monday: Perfume – The Story of a Murderer, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns and The Pigeon Tunnel

Last week was the second week of the OWLs readathon and the half-way point of the challenge has now been reached. I did not quite read all the books I was aiming to have read by this point but I am still very pleased with all those I did, especially since I was away for three days with very little reading time. I am now five books in and, last week, I read a book about a murderer, a book about an Evil Queen, and a book about a former spy. Each were very different, but on the whole I would say I enjoyed each one.

For reference, the way I rate is as follows:

1-Unable to Finish ; 2-Did not enjoy ; 3-Liked ; 4-Really Liked ; 5-Loved

 

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind

This book involved the mixing of perfumes and creating new scents in a manner similar to alchemy. As such, it fulfilled the Potions OWL which involved reading a book about or with alchemy in its pages.

Perfume is a peculiar book – I had never encountered a book which revolved around the sense of smell before. It is written in a manner which reminded me of Victor Hugo (something which could also be attributed to the setting in France) and follows the life of a man with no scent who has the most powerful sense of smell in the world. This gift gives him the ability to create the most amazing of perfumes and, in the quest to create the greatest of scents, drives him to learn how to take the scent from bodies.

I found this book very difficult to get into; I struggled to continue reading once I started and I didn’t have the urge to pick up the book again once I had stopped. It’s one of the few books I got close to DNFing. And then I hit about 50 pages in. Reading the rest of the book in nearly one sitting, I found myself been completely drawn in. While slow to start, it gradually got more and more intense and the main character gets dragged more and more into the grips of his obsession with scent. It was possible to see the author’s exploration of the relationship between obsession and desire and, merged with author’s take on scent and its influencing powers, made it quite a book to read. Unfortunately, the last few pages were similar to the start. If you do read this book, I don’t think reading it in multiple sitting works as you lose the sense of addiction that comes off the pages. It’s short enough to be read in one sitting, if you’re able to get past the first few pages and get into the writing style.

Rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/343.Perfume

The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/Perfume-Patrick-Süskind/9780141041155/?a_aid=rosienreads

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao

In order to complete the Divination OWL, I had to read a book which features a prophecy. This was one such book.

It is no secret that I enjoy a retelling, especially if that retelling has a twist to it. This book takes the Evil Queen from Snow White and places her in a fantasy world with heavy East Asian influences, then proceeds to tell the tale of her journey to power through her perspective. From her lowly origins, it follows Xifeng as her aunt Guma repeatedly tells of her destiny through the cards, of a future where she is Empress, and as she sets out to make that destiny her own.

Everything about the book worked for me. The world was richly developed and it was brilliant to see a well-loved fairy-tale told with another culture’s influences – it really highlights how books set in parts of the world that aren’t the US or Europe are under-represented in the mainstream market. Xifeng was an excellent lead and it made a great change from my usual reading to get to follow the path of the villain and experience the dilemmas she experienced regarding which path to take. I do feel like Wei’s part was a little understated given the role the prophecy said he would play (although this may be explored more in the next book) and the writing could have been a little stronger in places. That being said, however, I flew through this book and am very much looking forwarded to seeing how the rest of the Snow White fairy tale gets incorporated into this world.

Rating: 4.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33958230-forest-of-a-thousand-lanterns

The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/Forest-of-a-Thousand-Lanterns/9781524741686/?a_aid=rosienreads

The Pigeon Tunnel by John Le Carré (narrated by John Le Carré)

This audiobook fulfilled the challenge for the Muggle Studies OWL – read a muggle non-fiction book. As far as I know, John Le Carré is a muggle and this is his autobiography.

If there was ever a book I was not expecting to enjoy it’s this one. I got this book as part of an Audible deal when all the TV adaptions of the author’s books were appearing, but I never got into the shows. As a result, it took a long time before I decided to pick up this book. I sincerely regret not listening to this book earlier. The Pigeon Tunnel is an autobiography, told through a series of episodic stories from John Le Carré’s life.

One of the reasons why I found myself enjoying this book so much is that, while the books discusses Le Carré’s life in politics, in the secret service and throughout the cold war, it is easily accessible to anyone and very difficult to turn away from – there were always more stories to hear. A large part of this could be attributed to Le Carré’s narration – his voice was clear and personable, not to mention that the fact he’s narrating his own stories meant that there was a certain emphasis and depth to the narration which could not have been achieved with another narrator. I found myself constantly thinking about this book and the life Le Carré led, as well as found myself learning things which I had no idea had occurred. While I don’t know if I would have enjoyed it so much if I read it in print rather than listened to the audiobook, I would still highly recommend it to anyone vaguely interested in the various number of topics covered in this book.

Rating: 4.5/5

Goodreads:

The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/The-Pigeon-Tunnel/9780241976890/?a_aid=rosienreads

Audible: https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/Biographies-Memoirs/The-Pigeon-Tunnel-Audiobook/B016E8URPE

 

Mini-Review Monday: A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R.R. Martin and The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

It is April and with April comes the OWLs magical readathon – a readathon which spans the majority of the month and is based off of the OWLs in Harry Potter (one book per subject/challenge). I decided to take part and so my reading in April will revolve around those challenges, although there won’t be any strict order to them. I have already completed two books and am over half-way through two others. While I did not enjoy one of the two books I have finished as much as I wanted to, I still found it an entertaining read. The other book, however, was just what I needed to kick the month off. As far as I’m concerned, the readathon is off to a good start and you can find reviews of the two books I have finished already below.

For reference, the way I rate is as follows:

1-Unable to Finish ; 2-Did not enjoy ; 3-Liked ; 4-Really Liked ; 5-Loved

 

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R.R. Martin

This book fulfilled the Arithmancy OWL challenge (read a book with a number in the title).

Reading this book was like returning to a well-loved place and discovering new corners and things to see. In A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, the book follows a poor Hedge Knight as he tries to find his way in the world and, in the process, ends up with a future king as his squire. It is a book made up of three novellas, each one following a single one of the pair’s adventures. As a result, it has a much smaller, cosier feel to it compared to the grander-scaled A Song of Ice and Fire and I felt like I was getting a much closer look into what life is like in Westeros.

As one would expect from George R.R. Martin, the world-building was perfect – I went in not knowing anything about Hedge Knights and finished the book convinced I could become one. While the focus was on the two main characters (Dunk and Egg) and their adventures, we also got to see them take place within the context of the larger world, particularly around the Blackfyre rebellions which really helped root the stories in place. While the writing was as good as expected, the novellas did hold to a fairly strict structure which made the final one feel a little repetitive compared to the first.

The characters, from the main to the secondary to the extras, all felt present and realistic in the book. The two main characters were easily likeable and fun to follow. Their friendship, in particular, was a delight to read. That the titular character, Dunk, is no great hero and of no mean skill or intelligence was also refreshing; as was the fact that the future king and main source of knowledge between the two was a precocious ten-year-old.

I may be slightly biased due to my love of the A Song of Ice and Fire world, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was refreshing, engaging and very easy to step into. It adds greatly to the overall world that George R.R. Martin has created and I finished it with the urge to read up on the history of Westeros and re-read the original series.

Rating: 4.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34835283-a-knight-of-the-seven-kingdoms

The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/Knight-Seven-Kingdoms-George-R-R-Martin/9780008238094/?a_aid=rosienreads

 

The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

This book fulfilled the Defence against the Dark Arts OWL challenge (read a book about/featuring a secret society/club)

I will admit, I do love books set in high society especially if there is a fantasy or supernatural spin. As such, I was very much looking forward to reading The Dark Days Club. Set in Regency England, it follows Lady Helen, the orphaned daughter of a perceived traitor, as she starts her first season. At the same time, however, she discovers another society and calling away from the balls, where demonic creatures walk amongst the people and a truly terrible evil is set to rise. What’s more, her blood may be the key to stopping it.

The villains of this book surprised me. Where I was expecting vampires, I got Deceivers, a fairly unique creature which disguises itself as a human and feeds off human souls. This, however, was the only part of the book which felt truly unique. For the most part, I felt like I had already read the book while I was reading it. This mostly came down to the roles of Lord Carlston and the Duke of Selbourn in the book, as they came across as rather cliché (including the love triangle). If their roles had been different, or even excluded, it would have been a very different reading experience. It also did not help that I found Lord Carlston incredibly dislikeable and spent most of the book rooting against him.

That being said, Lady Helen and her maid Darby were a delight to read and I would happily read more of their adventures. It was very easy to see the conflict in Lady Helen’s mind about which path she should take, yet she was also a very strong character – in her wit, body and mind. If she committed to something, she would not stray away from it even if she had her misgivings; something which I found quite endearing. This was also true of Darby, who stood by her mistress regardless of what Lady Helen got them into. They were an excellent pair and if the rest of the series was just focused on their exploits, with or without the titular Dark Days Club, I would likely buy it all.

The writing really captured the time period and, while the pacing was not the best, there were moments where I could not tear myself away from the book. It was a fun, enjoyable read and, even though Lord Carlston puts me off the rest of the series, I would be curious to see more of Lady Helen in the future.

Rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27074515-the-dark-days-club

The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/Dark-Days-Club-Alison-Goodman/9781406358964/?a_aid=rosienreads

 

*I receive a small commission when purchases are made through the Book Depository links.